Israeli and Hamas leaders describe their visions:
Moral equivalents…. or moral opposites?

Published: 27 July 2010
Briefing Number 265

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Summary:  This new Beyond Images Briefing concisely contrasts the statements of Israeli Prime Ministers and leading figures in Hamas, concerning future  relations between Israel and the Palestinians.  We have chosen to compare statements made by each in the summer of 2010, and at the time of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2004-5.

Israel has a vision of long-term peace and coexistence with the Palestinian people – see the statements of Ariel Sharon (2005) and Benjamin Netanyahu (2010) below.  But Israel is forced to use military means to defend itself, and is portrayed around the world as warlike. 

By contrast, Hamas has a long-term vision of confrontation with the Israeli “enemy” – see the statements of Muhammed Deif (2005) and Mahmoud al-Zahar (2010) below.  But it is trying to create the impression of temporary calm, and is increasingly portrayed as moderate, and pragmatic.  It is true that al-Zahar is sometimes considered to be from the so-called ‘extreme’ faction of Hamas.  But this is a fiction.  No-one from the so-called pragmatic wing repudiates a word of what al-Zahar or Deif say.  And in Arabic language media they repeat the same sentiments. 

Increasingly, Israel and Hamas are described as moral equivalents.  This Briefing demonstrates that in their long-term visions of coexistence (or otherwise) they are actually moral opposites.  

Israel and the Palestinians 2010: leaders of Israel and Hamas…

7 July 2010: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu…..

Background: During a trip to the USA to meet US President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin delivered a speech to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations. Here is an extract, taken from the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s press release, dated 12 July 2010:

“We don’t want to govern the Palestinians and we don’t want them to be either our subjects or citizens of this country.  We also want to make sure that they have their own independent dignified life, but that they don’t threaten the state of Israel….” 

By contrast……

15 June 2010: Hamas leader Mahmoud al Zahar…..

Background: Mahmoud al-Zahar is a founder of Hamas and has been a senior figure in the organisation for over 20 years.  He is currently number three, Hamas supreme leader Khaled Masha’al (based in Damascus) and Ismail Haniyeh (based in Gaza).  On 15 June 2010 al-Zahar said the following in an interview with Arab-language Lebanese TV channel Future News (the interview was translated and published in English by MEMRI – – as MEMRI Special Despatch 3080). 

Al-Zahar: “We have liberated Gaza, but have we recognised Israel? Have we given up our lands occupied in 1948?  We demand the liberation of the West Bank, and the establishment of a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with Jerusalem as its capital, but without recognising Israel…..

…. Our plan for this stage is to liberate every inch of Palestinian land, and to establish a state on it.  Our ultimate plan is Palestine in its entirety….. We will not recognise the Israeli enemy….”    

For more: See Beyond Images Briefing 264, 23 July 2010

Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, summer 2005: what leaders of Israel and of Hamas said then….

December 2004: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon…..
Background: In August 2005, Israel ‘disengaged’ from Gaza, removing all its soldiers, destroying all Jewish settlements, evacuating 8000 settlers (most peacefully, some by force), and handing over to the Palestinians an array of hi-tech agricultural facilities.  This is what then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said when announcing the policy of disengagement at an Israeli national security conference in Herzliya, Israel in December 2004:

“We desire a life living side-by-side, in understanding and peace.  We have no desire to rule over the Palestinians, we have no desire to run their affairs.  Our goal is that the Palestinians will be able to live in dignity and freedom in an independent state and, together with us, enjoy good neighbourly relations, while cooperating for the good of both peoples….”

For more: Beyond Images Briefing 127 – 11 January 2005

By contrast…..
August 2005: Muhammed Deif, leader of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades….

Background: Muhammed Deif is the chief bomb-maker and so-called ‘military commander’ of the Hamas al-Qassam Brigades.  In the week that Israel completed its Gaza pullout, Deif published a recorded statement in Arabic on the al-Qassam Brigades website.  Here are extracts:
“I thank Allah the exalted for His support in the jihad of our people and for the liberation of our beloved Gaza Strip, and I ask Him to liberate Jerusalem and the West Bank, Safed, Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth, Ashkelon and all of Palestine…. Residents of occupied Palestine of 1948, in the name of all Gaza Strip residents, I ask for your assistance to us and to our jihad – we shall not rest until our entire holy land is liberated….    

…. To the Zionists who plundered our land….. you conquered our land, and beyond you leave it in disgrace…. Today you are exiting from the hell, but we promise you that tomorrow all of Palestine wil become hell for you, with Allah’s help….”
For more: see Beyond Images Briefing 166, dated 31 January 2006

Some related Beyond Images Briefings

Briefing 264 - 23 July 2010:
Hamas now accepts Israel…’. Really? Mahmoud al-Zahar exposes the doublespeak
Briefing 212 - 9 March 2008:
‘Israel attacks, Hamas attacks: moral equivalence…? A ‘cycle of violence’….?Moral equivalents Briefing?

Briefing 154 - 6 September 2005:
‘Hamas: our aim is to eliminate Israel’

Briefing 127 - 11 January 2005:
‘Ariel Sharon, the disengagement plan, and the Palestinians’