Opinion by Yasmine Mohammed
(CNN) — Editor’s note: Yasmine Mohammed is the author of “Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam.” She is also the president of the nonprofit organization Free Hearts Free Minds. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. Read more opinion on CNN.
When my father, who was born and raised in Gaza, was still alive, he often spoke out against Hamas, calling it the ugly face of the Palestinian struggle everywhere.
Since Hamas’ attack on Israel, as I have read post after post on social media referring to Hamas as freedom fighters involved in anti-colonial resistance, I have been struck by the devastating weight of this lie. It is an insult to Palestinians to refer to these terrorists as our freedom fighters.
At the hands of Hamas, the Jewish people have endured horrors not seen since the Holocaust. And, like the Nazis, Hamas does not view Jewish people as human beings. According to its 1988 covenant, every Jew must be eradicated from this earth. Its goal is not the genocide of Jewish people in Israel; its goal is the genocide of all Jewish people on this planet, period.
My father hated that Hamas had dominated the conversation and positioned itself as the face of Gaza worldwide. My dad was born and raised in the Gaza Strip and lived there until he went to Egypt to attend university. Although he left Egypt for San Francisco and later moved to Montreal, he always carried Gaza in his heart.
He had a Facebook page and a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing images and videos of a Gaza before it was overrun with terrorists. There is nothing he hated more than Hamas. In words he posted to social media: “May God curse the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, they have brought us nothing but backwardness in our Arab societies.”
He would not be surprised to see the massacres of families, of babies, of the elderly by Hamas because he knew its brutality already. Like many people from Gaza, my father knew that if you spoke up against these tyrannical oppressors, you were swiftly dealt with. And your family, too, for good measure. Hamas has never shied away from violence.
To throw all Gazans in the same bucket as Hamas is a grave insult — one that people on both sides of the political spectrum are committing.
Many people on the left, for example, conflate Hamas with all Palestinians and then deem them all the oppressed — the minority group, the victims, the besieged. Hamas is happy with this misguided and confused perspective because it allows the group to hide under the umbrella of “oppression” to justify its violence. It would rather, of course, be seen as freedom fighters than terrorists.
Among the hard right, many people are conflating Palestinians with Hamas to justify the flattening of Gaza. While cutting power and water to civilians violates international law, cutting water and electricity to terrorists is justified, according to that line of thinking.
The truth is, Hamas is not Gaza, and Gaza is not Hamas. Gaza is an area of land with people who are trying to do the best that they can to survive under abysmal circumstances. Gazans are just human beings, like their Israeli neighbors. They want to live in a peaceful environment where they do not have to be concerned about the safety of their children. While there are many Gazans who say they support Hamas, a poll conducted in July showed that 50% of Gazans agreed that “Hamas should stop calling for Israel’s destruction, and instead accept a permanent two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.”
Hamas stands next to al Qaeda and ISIS in perpetuating deadly terror attacks against civilians. I believe Israel has every right to protect its people from a vicious, violent and ugly terrorist group. Jewish history is fraught, with generation after generation having to face various groups wanting to eradicate the Jewish population.
I am heartbroken, of course, that Gazans will now have to pay the price for Hamas’ depravity. It is brutal and horrific. War always is. It was also brutal and horrific when al Qaeda was responsible for the loss of so many Iraqi lives or when ISIS was responsible for the loss of so many Syrian lives.
Sadly, Hamas will likely continue its destruction. Its funding will still flow in from Iran, though perhaps it will need to rebrand under a different name. Like the mythic Hydra, it will grow two heads when this one is cut off. It is Gazans who will never recover. It is Gazans who will have to give up on their dream of a homeland forever.
If you want to help Gazans, conflating them all with a terrorist group is not the way. Instead, you can help them to get out from under the tyranny of Hamas. Share the voices of peace-loving Palestinians such as activist Bassem Eid. Elevate the words of secular politicians who do not use religion to sow division and encourage hate of the other.
I fear none of us will ever get to see Gaza as an independent state freed from the clutches of terrorists. I will never see my family’s two buildings there that my father so desperately wanted me to visit. They probably won’t be left standing. I will likely never set eyes on his beloved olive trees. They will return to the earth as he has.
It could have been so different. Ignorance and religious zealotry ripped away any chance that Gaza had. Mercifully, my dad died thinking that one day his dream of freeing his homeland from the clutches of Hamas so the Gazan people could breathe and flourish might be realized. He didn’t have to endure the heartbreak of seeing the reality playing out today.
When my dad died, I mourned mostly for what could have been in my relationship with him. Now I am mourning for what could have been for his homeland.
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