Sometimes, on happier days, I like to comment on the remarkable similarities between Singapore and the Gaza Strip. Both are self-governing city-states located at key crossroads of world trade on the opposite ends of the Continent of Asia. Both combine density of population with a significant urban buildup and dramatic natural advantages, including a high-quality harbor. And yet, due to differences in civil culture and governance, Singapore has been built into the trade hub of East Asia. Gaza, as Saturday’s events have demonstrated to the world, has chosen another path: becoming a terrorist dystopia like the benighted lands formerly under ISIS.
What is Gaza like under the rule of the terrorist group Hamas? Hamas’s Taliban-like mini-emirate is a brutal tinpot dictatorship where LGBTQ+ people and anyone living other than a strictly Islamic lifestyle lives under terrible repression. This reality may help us understand the insanity and brutality of the organization that just conducted a wild, self-destructive raid into southern Israel, leaving a horrific trail of rape and torture in their wake as they perpetrated the worst massacre of civilians in the history of Israel.
During this Saturday’s attack, Hamas’s monstrous tactics included killing indiscriminately in the towns they occupied, using rape as a weapon of war, and taking hostages—including young women, the elderly, and young children. Many have drawn comparisons to ISIS tactics in Iraq and Syria, where women from non-Muslim communities like the Yezidis were parceled out as sex slaves to fighters; thousands of those women were trafficked and remain unaccounted for to this day.
Similarly, at a huge dance-all-night “Peace Festival” outside Kibbutz Re’im, at least 250 young Israelis were murdered, while dozens of young women have been taken captive. In one widely-shared video, the half-stripped body of an unconscious female was driven around the streets of Gaza in an open-bed truck with one leg splayed at an unnatural angle as men disgraced and spat on her.
This is the violence that Hamas has implicitly sworn to commit in its very founding charter, which states, “[Hamas] strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine… Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it.”
It bears repeating that there is no moral equivalency between a nation that targets murderous terrorists and a terror group that targets civilians.
One obvious difference between Hamas and Israel is that Israel could never attack a music festival in Gaza—because music in public is illegal there. More importantly, Israel goes to a great deal of trouble to avoid causing civilian casualties or harming the mosques, schools, and medical facilities where Hamas hides military targets.
In contrast, just listen to the chilling message of 22-year-old paramedic Amit Maan, hiding in the clinic where she worked, with automatic fire in the background, before her phone went dead: “Please make it stop, please make it stop… Where is the army?”
What kind of consequences will Hamas’s actions bring to Gaza? Israel has vowed a “mighty vengeance,” and there is already discussion of a long war and a possible Israeli ground invasion of Gaza. Some have even suggested that Israel end the rule of Hamas over the strip.
We have seen this movie before. As Israel clears the remaining terrorists from its territory and pushes forward into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Hamas plans to use their own people and the surviving Israeli hostages as human shields as they have done time and again. Callow media personalities may start to forget the horrors of yesterday and return to simplistic tropes about the “cycle of violence.”
Israel, a thriving democracy with vigorous internal debates, is now staunchly united to bring its citizens and family members home. In Gaza, the opposite is true: Free speech is vigorously crushed, and the people yearn to breathe free of Hamas rule.
For the sake of both the Israeli victims and he Palestinian people, I urge you, dear reader, not to forget the faces of the fallen and the kidnapped.
Bassem Eid is a Palestinian human rights activist.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.