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A Solution to the Tragedy

I’d like to begin today’s article by addressing a problem that I’ve been observing for a long time.

There is no doubt that a human tragedy is unfolding in Gaza. The cause of this tragedy is, of course, the ongoing conflict. This conflict is taking place between two main actors: the terrorist organization Hamas and Israel. However, Hamas also happens to be the governing party in the Gaza Strip, one of the two divided regions of Palestine, in other words, the official government.

The reason behind the division in Palestine is Hamas’ authoritarian and theolo-fascist governance and ideology. It’s a complex issue, but at its core, this has been the main dynamic of the process that has been evolving since 2006. Hamas also determines Israel’s policy towards Gaza. It’s crucial to note that there is not just a single unified Hamas leadership in Palestine. Many news outlets in Muslim countries and media organizations consistently ignore this fact for some unknown reason. The fact that Hamas has derailed the Palestinian issue according to its wishes and bypassed the legitimate Palestinian authority in the West Bank is evident. However, an approach that values short-term gains and expediency is becoming increasingly prevalent in Islamic countries and media organizations, which is concerning. Reasonable and rational Muslims are, therefore, increasingly shifting towards jihadist political positions in line with Hamas’ stance, leading to radicalization. I assume I’m not the only one who sees this danger, and I wanted to draw attention to it.

In connection with this, the example of a hospital attack illustrates that the evidence presented is consistently ignored, and the rhetoric from the first day is still repeated, which should be another cause for concern.

So, what is this evidence?

Firstly, the explosion did not happen in the hospital buildings, as claimed. It occurred in the hospital’s parking area, that’s certain. The photographs also show that the hospital buildings remained intact. This does not mean that we should disregard the loss of life that occurred in the parking area. Any civilian casualties are a humanitarian tragedy. However, this detail is important. Why? Because it shows that the flow of news coming from Hamas sources is manipulative! Yes, the explosion took place in the parking area.

Furthermore, the damage in the parking area indicates that the explosion did not occur through an airstrike (a bomb dropped from an aircraft). This is because the typical craters from airstrikes are not present in the hospital parking area. In the phone calls presented by Israel as evidence, Hamas militants admitted that their own rockets had hit the hospital surroundings after an erroneous rocket launch. These calls serve as substantial evidence, and Hamas could not provide an explanation to refute them (or present counter-evidence).

In addition to this, there are videos taken at the moment of the explosion, and these images show a rocket or rocket part falling near the hospital while a rapid series of rocket attacks were being launched from Gaza towards Israel. In light of all this evidence and indications, there is no visual evidence that the attack was carried out by Israeli aircraft.

Immediately after the explosion, media outlets reported based on the data provided by the Hamas-controlled Gaza authorities, stating that “Israel had struck the hospital!” This could perhaps be understood hastily. However, reputable media organizations retracted and revised their news the next day after this evidence became known. Nevertheless, especially Islamic news websites and organizations persistently continued to report the news just like the first day, claiming that the attack was a massacre carried out by Israel.

Is it possible to say that this was a mistake made in good faith or out of naivety? I don’t know! If there is a mistake, shouldn’t it be openly acknowledged, wrong or incomplete conclusions corrected, and the readers/public informed? Of course, whether the hospital was bombed or not does not mean we should ignore other civilian casualties and atrocities. Violence must be stopped, a ceasefire must be achieved, and civilian casualties must be prevented. Furthermore, a way must be found to provide health and food aid to Gaza. The deepening of the humanitarian catastrophe must be prevented.

Another important issue is Hamas’s ability to control the discourse. As I emphasized earlier, Hamas is not the main governing authority in Palestine. At present, all news coming from Gaza is exclusively controlled by Hamas. As seen in the example of the hospital explosion, Hamas manufactures events for its own benefit, manipulating them. After the hospital explosion, unfortunately, I saw a video on social media where bloody human corpses wrapped in shrouds were piled up around a lecture course area, and Hamas used this as political propaganda! It should not be difficult to say that Hamas, which does not hesitate to turn its dead into political material, is on the wrong path in terms of fundamental humanitarian values and according to Islamic beliefs.

I believe I am not the only one who is disturbed by this; I did not see any criticism of this in Turkish news websites. So, it seems that Hamas determines the discourse completely. If this were only at the local level, it would not be a significant issue. However, on a global scale, Muslims with a clear identity are starting to make comments, perceive events entirely through Hamas’ lens, and, therefore, become instruments for Hamas. In this regard, I must say that Hamas has done better PR than ISIS or Al-Qaeda. Besides the dangers arising from this borrowed power, sensible, rational Muslims cannot ignore the harm this power will inflict on the position and image of Muslims worldwide.

Dangerous Radicalization

So, there is a question that needs to be asked: why did Islamists suddenly embrace Hamas’ rhetoric? Perhaps it would be useful to delve into the archaeology of this issue to solve it. To put it clearly: established anti-Semitic discourses and perceptions among Muslims are at the heart of this. Even before the formulation of Zionism, these anti-Jewish contents were prevalent, both before the establishment of the state of Israel. Muslim scholars and intellectuals themselves should criticize this pathology that is widespread among Muslims. Muslims should formulate a new relationship model with non-Muslims based on equality. In terms of theological content, this may not be an easy task. The dhimmi status views Jews (and Christians) as a separate and inferior category. From a theological and political/historical perspective, this baggage has become a sort of key obstacle and hinders change/progress. Changing this zero-sum perspective is very important. This is not only important for global peace but also vital for Muslims’ current global role, their lives, their integration, collaborations with other societies – in short, for their interests.

Another significant issue is what Hamas wants. Hamas, unlike moderate players in Palestine, does not desire a two-state solution. From the perspective of Hamas’ values, we face an Islamist/jihadist terrorist organization that wants to erase Israel from the map, has declared “jihad” against all Jews, and views life as a zero-sum game. This organization is no different from ISIS or Al-Qaeda.

I’ve mentioned the dangerous rise in anti-Semitism and hate speech among Muslims. The increase in hate crimes and acts of terror, such as attacks on synagogues in Tunisia, attacks on Israeli and U.S. diplomatic missions in Turkey, and marking places where Jews live in Germany with the Star of David, is alarming. This dangerous radicalization will not harm Israel or Jews. Just like the old saying “as you sow, so shall you reap,” this will be the cost that impoverished and well-intentioned Muslims will pay.

Especially Muslim families living in Western countries will start to face serious problems. Visa processes will become more complicated, deportations will increase, discrimination and prejudice will rise. Populist parties will gain more votes. The position of Palestinians, not only in Israel but also worldwide, will become more negative. The liberal policy of Muslim-majority communities immigrating to Western countries will be abandoned. Instead of integration, assimilation policies will be implemented, and there will be restrictions on the activities of Islamic culture and religious organizations. In other words, this dangerous radicalization will impose a heavy price on Muslims. So, what is the solution to this dangerous situation?

Supporting Peace without Supporting Hamas

There is a significant difference between defending the rights of the Palestinian people and supporting Hamas. You can advocate for a two-state solution and peace without embracing the radical rhetoric of Hamas. However, it is crucial to find a balance that does not compromise the neutrality of your religious and cultural background while doing this. This is not easy in the current environment, I am aware of that. But there is no alternative. The distinction between opposing all forms of violence and war and adopting a one-sided view based on cultural background should be highlighted. An approach that sees Israel and Jews as suspects in every incident, regardless of the situation, promotes a perception that exists even more in the Judeo-Christian world. In other words, your bias escalates the biases of the other side. Your radicalization makes the other side more radical.

Today, the Western countries are the first places Muslim populations turn to when faced with any human rights issue. Who among Muslims goes to Muslim-majority countries seeking asylum or immigration? There is no demand for migration from Western countries to the Islamic world. The liberal policies of Western countries regarding the immigration of Islamic communities will be abandoned. Instead of integration, assimilation policies will be implemented, and there will be restrictions on the activities of Islamic culture and religious organizations. In other words, this dangerous radicalization will impose a heavy price on Muslims.

One of the main reasons for not making enough progress in building bridges is the existence of organizations like Hamas. Of course, there are also extremist and toxic groups in Western societies. However, these groups are not considered legitimate by mainstream religious groups. Right-wing extremist groups, Evangelicals, anti-immigrant movements, etc., are rejected by large mainstream churches and their followers.

Another inconsistency is about double standards. How should we interpret the fact that Muslims cannot receive the same level of attention that Palestinians receive from Muslim-majority societies, the fact that the significant humanitarian tragedy in Yemen is almost never discussed by Muslim-majority societies, or the fact that after the people killed in the Halabja massacre by Saddam, neither Muslim countries nor the Organization of Islamic Cooperation initiated any rights struggle? Why do concerns about the rights of some Muslims only come to the fore when it comes to the Palestinian issue? Why are those who raise these questions accused of hypocrisy, corruption, or betrayal? Why aren’t the rights of other Muslims ever brought up? Because Muslim countries are responsible for all these massacres and injustices. In other words, the approach of “it’s not a problem when we do it” prevails. Let alone at the level of states, why don’t literate Muslim individuals bring up these problems? Why don’t civil society organizations with Islamic sensibilities ever sail in these “dangerous waters”? Isn’t this a hypocritical attitude?

Inevitable Two-State Solution

Now, let’s talk about which position is the “right position.” What is the ideal solution? It’s a tough question. However, we must emphasize some key points. A two-state solution is inevitable if real peace is the goal. Both Israel and the Palestinian side must acknowledge the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and the Palestinian side must recognize Israel’s right to exist. Without these, any thought of peace is unimaginable and unrealistic. I’m talking about a solution that guarantees the freedom of Jews and Muslims (and of course Christians) to worship freely at the places they consider sacred. In Europe, historical nations like France and Germany, who had fought wars against each other, have united through the European Union process, even using the same currency today.

Shouldn’t we learn lessons from these peace and integration processes? Can we not establish an understanding where Muslims and Jews live together in peace, work in the same workplaces, eat together on their holy days, practice sports together, students participate in mutual exchange programs and establish friendships, and an understanding that values life over death? A process that promotes collaboration instead of conflict, a win-win approach instead of a zero-sum game? To achieve these ideals, both sides need to adopt them, and a stance that consistently rejects violence without exception is required

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Dr. Mehmet Efe Caman is a Scholar of Politics at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). Dr. Caman’s main research focuses on Democracy, democratization and human rights, Turkish politics, the Middle East, Eurasian politics and post-Soviet regions, the European Union. He has published a monograph on Turkish foreign policy, numerous book chapters and scholarly articles in English, German and Turkish about topics related to his research areas.

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