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Warning: Ideology is not for sale.
The West, Israel included, has long operated with the faulty assumption that you can just throw good money at bad problems.
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“Allah is Hamas’ goal, the Prophet is the model, the Qur’an its constitution, jihad its path, and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”
This is not a quote from some pundit, talking-head, or agenda-driven activist.
This is Article 8 of Hamas’ charter, originally published in 1988, following the year it was founded.
Another article from its charter describes Hamas as “one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders” and references a hadith (a statement or endorsement of Muhammad) which states that the Day of Judgment would not come until the Muslims fight and kill the Jews.
Article 13 reads: “There is no negotiated settlement possible. Jihad is the only answer.”
For those who aren’t aware, jihad is an Arabic word which literally means “striving” or “struggling” especially with a praiseworthy aim. In an Islamic context, it can refer to almost any effort to make personal and social life conform with God’s guidance, such as struggle against one’s evil inclinations, proselytizing, or efforts toward the moral betterment of the Muslim community (Ummah). It is also most frequently associated with war and armed struggle against unbelievers.
Yet, for years, Israeli leaders thought that Hamas and its hellbent, rampaging ideology could essentially be bribed to not inflict too much destruction on Israel and its citizens. More specifically, the Israeli government reportedly allowed Hamas to receive monthly installments of $30 million from Qatar, and Israeli officials also issued some 18,000 work permits for Gazan residents to work in Israel.
Everyday Israeli citizens are also guilty of thinking all or even most Palestinians want to abide by play-for-pay rules. You’ll often hear certain Israelis say things like, “Most Palestinians just want to put food on their table and take care of their families.”
As someone recently commented to me, “Yeah, most Palestinians want to put food on their table and take care of their families. Just probably not while living next to a Jewish state.”
This is because Hamas, and other heavily religious Palestinian factions such as Islamic Jihad, are immensely driven by ideology: a set of beliefs or philosophies held for reasons that are not purely epistemic (relating to knowledge), in which practical elements are as prominent as theoretical ones.
Hence why Hamas likely justifies spending so much of its $300 million1 budget on weapons, underground tunnels, and other military infrastructure — to prepare itself for the aforementioned “Day of Judgment” — while consequently depriving Gazan residents of what we in the West might call “opportunity,” “prosperity,” and other Western-world desires.
One could deduce that this ideology is also why many Gazan residents are willing to accept poor and arduous living conditions; as Article 14 of the Hamas Charter says, “The liberation of Palestine is the personal duty of every Palestinian.”
What’s more, Article 20 adds calls for action “by the people as a single body” against “a vicious enemy which acts in a way similar to Nazism, making no differentiation between man and woman, between children and old people.”
And Article 21 promotes “mutual social responsibility” and urges members “to consider the interests of the masses as their own personal interests.”
Since Hamas took control over Gaza in 2007, you can unequivocally be sure that the Hamas Charter and ideology is well-ingrained in Gaza’s education and social systems, indoctrinating residents from a young age.
Recent analysis tends to posit that ideology is a coherent system of ideas which rely on a few basic assumptions about reality — assumptions that may or may not have any factual basis. Through this system, ideas become coherent, repeated patterns through the subjective ongoing choices that people make.
And ideologies can come from any side of a political spectrum. Fraudulent liberalism, for example, comes from the far left. And Israeli settler ideologies have at times put the State of Israel in precarious positions, irrespective if you agree or disagree with the need or desire for Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank).
The reality is, many of us subscribe to some form of ideology — no matter how positive they are. This makes sense because ideologies can also be used as coping mechanisms. Since they are patterned clusters of normatively imbued ideas and concepts, including particular representations of power relations, these conceptual maps help people navigate the complexity of their political universe.
One of the problems with ideology is when its system of presentations explicitly or implicitly claim to be the absolute truth. And it’s this type of thinking that leads to presumed “universalism.”
In the Western world, much of human civilization has been transformed from a culture of particularism (i.e. tribalism, nationalism, religion) to a culture of universalism — in which a “universalistic ideal” dominates and particularism is viewed as inferior.
This “universalistic ideal” is also what protects dangerous ideologies from be propagated, thanks to Western ideals like freedom of speech and the right to protest.
“It is always interesting to note that only Western liberal democracies tolerate and give succour to the most heinous arguments and positions in public protests,” wrote Gareth Cliff, a South African radio personality and television host who says he is not Jewish and has no ties to Israel.
“You couldn’t picket on the side of quite laudable things like education for girls in Taliban Afghanistan, gay rights in Syria, or against the death penalty in Saudi Arabia,” he added. “The Ayatollahs of Iran wouldn’t allow women to protest the hijab there under threats of violence. But London, New York, Sydney and even Johannesburg will embrace marches where people actively call for genocide.”
The historical roots of this “universalistic ideal” can be traced back to the rise of industries in the late 19th century, before which a culture of particularism dominated, and after which a perfect storm of big business, urbanization, and mass immigration changed Western societies — including who we are, whom we admire, how we act, what we look for in friends and acquaintances, and how we court our mates and raise our children.
Universalism searches for what is systematic and tries to impose the rules, laws, and norms on all of its “members” so that things can run more efficiently. Particularism searches for what is different, unique, or exceptional to create something that is incomparable or of special quality.
This is one of the reasons why Judaism is deteriorating in the West, despite the extensive and meaningful contributions that Judaism, the Jewish People, and Israel have gifted the Western world.
Our culture of materialism and individualism — rooted in capitalist, industrial modernity — has caused many of these trends, because this culture, in many ways, directly undermines Judaism (and, as an extension, Israel), both past and present.
Where universalism loses major credibility is in its core premise: Universalists are, in reality and after all, particularistic. The rules, laws, and norms that one thinks should be imposed on others are not necessarily the same as those that different groups prefer, inherently making each group’s desired impositions particularistic.
“Any claim to the universal validity of specific beliefs is itself a form of particularism (our belief and not yours),” the late, great Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks wrote. “And any notion of special revelation, quite apart from the idea of special election (of a people or a group), likewise cannot avoid being particularist.”
The universalism-particularism quagmire is one of the reasons why so-called liberal Jews have a nauseating time stomaching their liberalism (universalist) and their Jewishness (particularist). This puts them at incredible psychological and emotional odds, and makes them feel insecure about their liberalism or their Jewishness. In a heavily liberal Jews’ head, it’s almost impossible to be both deeply liberal and deeply Jewish.
Even the Dalai Lama struggled with this quagmire, saying: “When I was a boy in Tibet, I felt my own Buddhist religion must be the best and that other faiths were somehow inferior. Now I see how naïve I was, and how dangerous the extremes of religious intolerance can be today. While preserving faith towards one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire, and appreciate other traditions.”
In addition, the universalism-particularism quagmire is also one of the reasons why the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict has not been solved; Israel is a relatively Western country and backed by many other Western nations, while something like 40-percent of Palestinians live under Hamas rule in Gaza. As we know, Hamas is supported by anti-Western countries (currently Iran and Qatar).
Plus, the Hamas Charter makes its anti-Western ambitions loud and clear:
Hamas is an Islamic Resistance Movement with an ideological program of Islam.
Its roots and connections are to Salafism (Sunni Muslim) and the Muslim brotherhood, respectively, with Islam as its official religion and the Koran as its constitution.
And yet, the West — Israel included — has long operated with the faulty assumption that you can just throw good money at bad problems, and they’ll somehow go away.
If we didn’t know before, now we do: Ideology is not for sale.
“Who funds Hamas? A global network of crypto, cash and charities.” Reuters. October 16, 2023. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/hamas-cash-to-crypto-global-finance-maze-israels-sights-2023-10-16.