Nonviolent Struggle Necessary; Hamas’s Oct. 7 Atrocity Blasphemed against Islamic Values

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Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – They don’t often get a lot of attention in the US media, but the 2.1 million Israeli citizens of Palestinian heritage, 21% of the population, have also been victims of Hamas’s October 7 atrocities and of the subsequent political fallout. They are furious and outraged at Hamas, whose terror gangs harmed members of their community, as well. They also feel, however, an increased surveillance and restrictions by the Israeli state.

Most of what I call Palestinian-Israelis (on the model of “Italian-Americans”) are relatively secular-minded people. The community produces a disproportionate number of medical and other professionals. Some estimates suggest that 47% of Israeli physicians are of Palestinian heritage, 48% of pharmacists, and 17% of nurses. There is also a Muslim fundamentalist current, exemplified in the Israeli parliament by the United Arab List, led by former dentist Mansour Abbas. Although many of its members can trace their intellectual heritage to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, they have no formal ties with it and are autonomous. (Hamas also started out, in 1987, as an offshoot of the Brotherhood, but it has veered toward an idiosyncratic form of radicalism.)

The United Arab List is the only Palestinian-Israeli party that has been allowed to serve in an Israeli government. The Israeli channel i24 reported that Mansour Abbas said, “I and the rest of the party members condemned the horrific massacre in the south from the first moment. There is not and will never be a place among our ranks for any party that denies or downplays the seriousness of deeds that contradict our values and our Islamic religion. The United List strongly opposes targeting innocent people regardless of their identity, Arabs or Jews alike.” When one member of his party questioned allegations that Hamas guerrillas had slaughtered children and raped women, Abbas ripped the bark off her in public and asked her to resign. The member, Iman Khatib Yasin, apologized profusely.

In mid-November Abbas gave a BBC interview laying out his position, denouncing October 7 as a crime against civilians and as a horrible mistake. He called for an about-face: “Even though it is impossible to bring back the civilians who were killed, then at least return the civilians who were kidnapped, especially children, women and the elderly.”

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He said he recognized that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been going on for decades and that the issue had been ignored under the Netanyahu-led governments of Israel, but said that the long duration of the struggle was no justification for murdering innocents.

The leader of the United Arab List, the BBC reported, called on Palestinian factions to reevaluate their performance and the path they had chosen. He said that what happened on October 7th constituted a major blow that harmed the justice of the Palestinian cause and even “put the entire Palestinian people into great danger, the price of which the children of Gaza are now paying.”

Abbas argued that the Palestinians inside Israel, who speak both Hebrew and Arabic, are best positioned to proffer wisdom on possible future solutions to the conflict.

Abbas has consistently called for a ceasefire and political negotiations.

On Thursday, Mansour Abbas sat down for an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, in which he called on Palestinians to give up the model of armed struggle, which he said has brought catastrophe to Gaza. He called on the fighters in Gaza to throw down their arms and to seek peaceful and political means of joining with the PLO to achieve a Palestinian state side by side with Israel. (Although the PLO recognized Israel in the 1993 Oslo Accords, Hamas has never done so.) He reiterated that the butchery of October 7 contradicted basic Islamic values. (Muslim jurists do not allow the killing of innocent noncombatants in warfare.) He said violence by Palestinian armed groups had failed, and that the Palestinian people had been sacrificed as a result.

Abbas’s position provoked heated exchanges and controversy on Arab social media.

As Israel began bombing again on Friday, Abbas posted to his Facebook page, “Sadly, the truce is over and the war has returned and civilians of children and women will pay a heavy price. In the past days and weeks we have had dialogues with several local, regional and international political and media parties aimed at conveying an essential message, to urge and invite the different parties to launch a real political vision and initiative, addressing the demand for a ceasefire, an end to the conflict and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is wrong to continue conversations and whispers about future solutions in closed rooms. Instead, it is necessary to put forward political initiatives that address the complex situation and give practical and realistic solutions to the war situation and the demand for peace. The Israeli leadership must propose a political path alternative to war, even if it insists on its same declared goals. This is a moral demand and also in the interest of Israel at the level of international public opinion. It is also the duty of the Palestinian leadership and the duty of the faction leaders to set out their vision clear and move from the reaction stage to the initiated political action, which carries out its moral and national responsibilities. The Palestinian people have paid and are paying a very high price in the lives of their children and women, further away from their ambition of independence and peace with Israel.”

Abbas, however, seems to be pretty representative in this regard of the Palestinian-Israelis. Asked in a recent poll if they feel part of Israel, 70% of Palestinian-Israelis answered with a resounding “yes!” This percentage was an over 20-point increase from last May, when only 48% felt that way. If offered citizenship in another country, 60% of Palestinian-Israelis replied that they would reject it to continue to live in Israel. The number of Israelis who want to leave has fallen to about 20%, down from 30% in some earlier polls. That there is only a 10% to 20% spread on this issue between Palestinian-Israelis and Jewish Israelis is pretty surprising.

If the extremist Netanyahu government had united the Palestinians across borders by its attacks on the al-Aqsa mosque complex during the past two Ramadans, Hamas has driven a massive wedge between them. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that Hamas by its adoption of brutal ISIL-type tactics has driven a wedge between its militants and ordinary Palestinians everywhere, including in Gaza, where people are desperate for a new leadership. They are hobbled from working toward one by Israel’s campaign of ethnic cleansing, displacement, and indiscriminate bombardment, all of which strengthen Hamas.

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