No doubt Benjamin Netanyahu could barely contain his glee when he learned last month about the violent attack in San Bernardino, California. Even though the murderous husband and wife team seem to to have been only “inspired” by ISIS over the internet, Netanyahu must have so happy that he sent out for more of his favorite pistachio ice cream. The tragic killings let him once again hammer home one of his major talking points: Hamas is ISIS.
Unfortunately for him, a brave journalist named Sarah Helm who regularly visits Gaza has just written a remarkable article in the New York Review of Books that destroys his view. “ISIS in Gaza” is a detailed report that should put the New York Times and much of the mainstream media to shame.
In fact, ISIS is starting to emerge in Gaza — but as a sworn enemy of Hamas. Sarah Helm explains,
Hamas members are seen as infidels by ISIS since they place the nationalist battle for a Palestinian state before the campaign for a caliphate.
She goes on to explain that ISIS sabotages Hamas efforts to negotiate cease-fires with Israel:
ISIS supporters inside Gaza have shown their opposition and tried to break the cease-fire by firing rockets into Israel, thereby angering Hamas and risking heavy Israeli retaliation.
Helm includes a fascinating interview with a Salafist Sheikh named Omar Hams, who uses theological arguments to oppose ISIS. He points out that ISIS is not some inevitable consequence of “Islam” but that it was in fact created by the West,
by the thousands of bombs dropped on the heads of Muslims, and by the rejection of democratically elected Muslim governments, such as in Egypt, and by the support for the state that is oppressing us here in Gaza, and that is Israel.
Sheikh Hams warns that ISIS is growing in Gaza, among disillusioned and hopeless youth. His own efforts to oppose it have apparently gotten him condemned as a collaborator by ISIS in Syria, which could jeopardize his physical safety.
Israeli intelligence services are not stupid, and they surely know that Hamas is not ISIS. But instead of trying to negotiate, Benjamin Netanyahu would rather continue his dishonest and dangerous rhetoric. He prefers to see Palestinians — and Israelis — continue to die so he can use the ongoing crisis to hang on to political power.