No one wants the violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories to continue. It must stop for peace and democracy to have a chance to flourish. The prospects for peace and democracy, however, remain bleak as long as Hamas, a radical terrorist group, stays in power in Gaza. The real assault on peace and freedom for Palestinians, as well as Israelis, comes from Hamas.

Hamas, an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, is a terrorist organization. Hamas suicide bombings, shootings and mortar, rocket and missile attacks have killed and wounded thousands of Israelis. The Hamas charter denies Israel’s right to exist and seeks to destroy Israel, kill Jews and replace Israel with an Islamic empire. There is no prospect for productive negotiations between Israel and Hamas until Hamas recognizes that Israel deserves to exist and ceases all of its violent tactics.

The United States, European Union, Japan and Canada recognize that Hamas is a terrorist organization and have no ties with it. As a result, none of these countries provide aid to the Hamas government. This means that the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza depend on the United Nations Relief Works Agency to deliver food staples, clothing and medicine. Thanks to Hamas’s violent, reckless behavior in the last week, that aid stopped.

Last Thursday, Feb. 5, Hamas men from the Ministry of Social Affairs seized 200 metric tons of rice and 100 metric tons of flour right after they entered Gaza from Israel. Two days earlier, Hamas police broke into a UNRWA distribution center and stole more than 3,500 blankets and 406 food packages at gunpoint. As a result of Hamas violence and its refusal to stop other groups’ violent behavior, UNRWA suspended all aid shipments until Hamas returned the stolen goods and guaranteed the safety of the shipments. Without the aid they depend on, Palestinians suffered for four days before Hamas complied with the UNRWA. If Hamas wanted to make life less miserable for Palestinians, they would denounce violence and not contribute to it.

Not only does Hamas make life for Palestinians terrible today, it ensures that life will be worse for the next generation. Al-Aqsa television, Hamas’s station, broadcasts ‘Pioneers of Tomorrow,” a children’s series that indoctrinates Palestinian children with Hamas’s hateful, revolting ideology. On the show, people in Mickey Mouse, bumblebee and rabbit suits have taught young, impressionable Palestinian viewers to hate the West especially America, Denmark and Israel and to kill Jews. This is what Hamas really wants, regardless of what Khaled Meshaal says. If Hamas wanted peace and freedom, it would teach Palestinian children to aspire to peace and freedom, not to hatred and murder.

To say that Hamas engages in armed resistance against Israeli occupation is an ignorant, distorted view of the situation. This armed resistance sniper, mortar, rocket and missile attacks does not target an occupying force. It targets hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians living in undisputed Israeli territory. This is terrorism. Since Hamas violently seized control of Gaza in June 2007, 2,046 rockets from Gaza have landed in Israel. In December 2008 alone, 361 rockets and 241 mortars were launched at Israel from Gaza. Hamas’s military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, has claimed responsibility for many, though not all, of these attacks. Ultimately, Hamas is complicit in all of these attacks against civilians, because it allows them to continue.

And Hamas does not limit its killing to Israelis. Hamas kills Palestinians as well. During the recent war, Hamas rounded up scores of Fatah members, alleged Fatah members and others suspected of collaborating against Hamas and shot them in the legs, tortured them, executed them or made them disappear. Some were taken from hospital beds at gunpoint and others were dragged away in front of their families. Anyone who resisted Hamas has faced brutal consequences.

Hamas’s terror killed 51-year-old Palestinian Hicham Najjar on Jan. 4. Gunmen came to Najjar’s home and executed him in front of his family. Next, the killers shot and wounded 10 members of his family, ages 7 to 70, as they came downstairs to see what was happening. Sadly, he is one of many victims. Torture, disappearances and executions are standard practices for Hamas.

Legitimate governments with prospects for meaningful diplomatic relations do not target their neighbor’s civilian populations with thousands of mortars and rockets and strive to destroy them. They do not ignore cease-fire agreements. They do not steal aid that the UN provides to their citizens. They do not teach their children to hate and to kill. They do not execute political opponents in front of their families. Hamas does, and diplomacy will not change Hamas.

Fleming is a member of
the class of 2010.

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