Why Hamas “Loves Death”—And Cease-Fires

Following the cease-fire announcement, Palestinian Muslims danced in the streets of Gaza, chanting, “People of Gaza, you have won.”

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By Andrew Bostom

No less than 20 rockets were fired into Israel Wednesday (11/21/12) night within the first three hours after the cease-fire understanding between Israel and Hamas ostensibly began at 9 p.m. local time. Despite inauspicious beginnings, following an overnight calm, by Thursday morning (11/22/12), senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officials maintained they believe Hamas and Islamic Jihad intended to implement the cease-fire with Israel, and prevent other jihadist factions from firing into Israel.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak clarified that the cease-fire was not an agreement with Hamas, but rather a document of “understandings”—between Israel and Egypt, on the one hand, and Egypt and Hamas, on the other. During an interview with Israel Radio, Barak insisted,  “There is no agreement. I am holding the paper in my hands.” Moreover, Barak and the IDF believe that despite Hamas’ public triumphant crowing, the Gaza regime was privately aware of the significant level of damage its jihadist infrastructure had sustained during Operation Pillar of Defense.

Hamas’ renewed jihadist violence against Israel was punctuated, initially, by messages extolling their “love of death” to terrorize and demoralize the Israelis, then suing for a cease-fire when the Israelis retaliated with devastating effectiveness. These actions epitomize the archetypal jihad tactics of Islam’s founder Muhammad, idealized as the eternal model for behaviors that all Muslims should emulate.

Nearly six decades ago (in 1956), Arthur Jeffery, a great modern scholar of Islam, reviewed Guillaume’s magisterial English translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, the oldest and most important Muslim biography of Muhammad. Jeffery’s review included this trenchant observation:

Years ago the late Canon Gairdner in Cairo said that the best answer to the numerous apologetic Lives of Muhammad published in the interests of Muslim propaganda in the West would be an unvarnished translation of the earliest Arabic biography of the prophet.

W. H. T. (Canon) Gairdner, in 1915, highlighted the dilemma posed by Islam’s sacralization of Muhammad’s timeless behavioral role model, revealed in such pious Muslim biographical works:

As incidents in the life of an Arab conqueror, the tales of raiding, private assassinations and public executions, perpetual enlargements of the harem, and so forth, might be historically explicable and therefore pardonable but it is another matter that they should be taken as a setting forth of the moral ideal for all time.

As recorded by Palestinian Media  Watch, Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades—named after the murderous 1930s jihadist Izz al-Din al-Qassam—issued a November 18, 2012 message  addressed to Israeli soldiers, which stated:

From the Al-Qassam Brigades to the Zionist soldiers: The Al-Qassam Brigades love death more than you love life. [emphasis added]

Such macabre, hideous sentiments are intrinsic to Hamas’ ideology, and deeply rooted in Islamic theology.

The Preamble to Hamas’ 1988 foundational covenant plainly affirms its abiding,  ancient commitment to jihad “martyrdom,” in the context of re-conquering all of historical Palestine:

[Hamas] joins arms with all those who wage jihad for the liberation of Palestine. The souls of its jihad fighters meet the souls of all those jihad fighters who sacrificed their lives for the land of Palestine, from the time when the Prophet’s companions conquered it until the present.

And the specific motif of Muslims as “loving death” more than infidels, especially perfidious Jews, love life, also dates back to the advent of Islam.

According to Islam’s seminal early historian, al-Tabari (d. 923), during Abu Bakr’s reign as Caliph (i.e., immediately after Muhammad’s death), his commander Khalid b. al-Walid’s wrote a letter in 634 to a Persian leader in Iraq identified as “Hurmuz,” warning of a prototypical expansionist jihad campaign, spearheaded by Muslim warriors enamored of death.

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