Why the Hamas Victory Won’t Last
Quite suddenly, the Middle East has given birth to another rabidly Islamist state.
That state is the Gaza Strip, now ruled entirely by the terrorist organization Hamas. In terms of radicalism, it is right up there with Iran.
Over the course of only a few days in June, Hamas violently overthrew the forces of the Palestinian Fatah party based in Gaza. Now with Hamas reigning there, and Fatah retaining control of the West Bank, the Palestinians are split into two distinct bodies. One of them doesn’t even pretend to be moderate: It openly calls for Israel’s annihilation.
Why this bold move? Many analysts say it was a blunder: that it gained Hamas little of strategic value and actually cost the organization in terms of diplomatic cover and international legitimacy. Some believe optimistically that Hamas, saddled with full responsibility of governing the Gaza Strip, will crumple under the weight of its own ineptitude.
It is true that, as we will see, the Gaza coup provided a clue as to the demise of Hamas—and that of its most powerful foreign benefactor. But to dismiss the enormous strategic implications of this move is naive. This rash, violent overreaching terrorist organization has just lurched the Middle East closer to sparking a world war.
Palestinian “State” Already Exists
The tiny Gaza Strip was already an unhappy place. On average, over 3,500 people crowd every square kilometer. Three in ten Gazans live in refugee camps. Unemployment generally stands at 44 percent; the poverty rate is about 70 percent. Gaza receives almost all its income in handouts from other nations. Historian Michael Oren calculates that since the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Palestinian Authority “has garnered more international aid than any entity in modern history—more per capita than the European states under the Marshall Plan.” What did all this aid achieve? Rich Palestinian Authority leaders, a host of militias lavishly armed by the pa—and a criminally impoverished Arab populace.
Still, the average Gazan woman bears almost six children. As a result, nearly half of Gazans are 14 years old or younger; the median age is an immature 15.8 years. One in five children under age 5 suffers from malnutrition.
These people need hope. They need positive education and productive work. Sadly, what they get instead is a steady intellectual diet of hate—the cradle-to-early-grave glorification of killing innocent people and committing suicide.
When Israel withdrew from the Strip in 2005, problems grew worse. Under independent Arab rule, living conditions got poorer for locals—and far easier for terrorists. The area became awash in weapons and radicals. Turns out Israel’s presence was the only thing preventing the place from descending into chaos.
The politicians and diplomats who are working so diligently to create a Palestinian state need to recognize this reality: Without drastic steps to prevent it, that state would suffer from the same poisons that saturate Gaza. As Bret Stephens wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “[W]hat the experience of an unoccupied Gaza Strip has shown is the Palestinians’ unfitness for political sovereignty” (June 26). It is a point worth pondering.
But life in Gaza is about to get even worse. Apparently, all that international aid also got something else: a pa that couldn’t hold its position for three days once Hamas decided to take over. Now the hate culture is intensifying. And all those weapons—many of which were purchased with international money intended to make life more comfortable for Palestinians; some of which, foreign powers directly supplied specifically to help Fatah combat Hamas—now belong to Hamas.
Nightmare in Gaza
Hamas is full of thugs—just what you’d expect from an organization full of barely grown children raised in a death cult. When they seized Fatah command centers to gain control of Gaza, Hamas gunmen lined up Fatah supporters and shot them, execution-style, in the streets, horrifying women and children onlookers. They escorted people to the rooftops of tall buildings and threw them to their deaths. They paraded bullet-ridden corpses through the streets. They gunned down patients in hospitals. They ransacked churches and burned Bibles. In a fitting metaphor, many Gazans tried to flee for their lives across the border into Israel.
Though Fatah had more numerous forces with superior weaponry and infrastructure in Gaza, they quickly fell simply because Hamas had fiercer determination and stronger will. Hamas’s success proves an important point: “Fanaticism trumps numbers,” Ralph Peters wrote in the New York Post. “At the height of [the] fighting in Gaza, one Palestinian in 300 carried a weapon in support of Hamas—a third of one percent of the population. Now Hamas rules 1.5 million people” (June 19).
Remember that. Regardless of popular support, a small group can punch far above its weight if it’s gritty and ruthless enough. Even if the West isn’t learning this lesson, Islamist radicals certainly are.
Such violent fanaticism has a historical record of success. Thankfully, however, this success is destined to be short-lived. The facts of history, a clear-eyed look at Hamas today, and biblical prophecy all point toward immediate victories that will soon end in catastrophic defeat for this organization.
Already it is plain that Hamas’s success will not extend into the political realm. Unfortunately for Gazans, under Hamas leadership conditions are virtually guaranteed to go from miserable to intolerable. Hamas is skilled at destroying—but terrible at governing. Its twisted ideology entraps people in poverty and drives them to kill themselves. Hamas couldn’t turn the Gaza Strip into a healthy, thriving, happy community if it ruled there for 500 years.
But it isn’t even interested in that goal. It seeks primarily to destroy and oppress. To pursue those aims, since it is unable to support itself with productive, wealth-building activities, it needs continued sponsorship from an outside source—a source that supports Hamas’s radical agenda and is flush with cash.
Iran fits the role perfectly.
Iran’s Investment in Violence
Shortly after Hamas was elected to power, the Trumpet said this: “Western politicians are optimistic, but realism demands a much dimmer view. The Trumpet expects Hamas to take some decisive, violent action relatively soon.
“Facing pressure from Israel and the West to disarm and embrace a warmer political tone, Hamas will likely seek assurance and comfort in the arms of those of like mind and religion.
“Watch for Hamas to draw closer to groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the government of Syria and, particularly, the Middle East’s most roguish nation—Iran” (April 2006). That is exactly what has happened. The West’s hopes have proved misguided—though it has yet to fully admit that.
The Gaza takeover showed what a valuable investment Hamas is for Iran: It gave an important psychological boost to the forces of radicalism that Iran seeks to lead, and provided a beachhead from which to penetrate both Israel and Egypt. In fact, at least one report showed that Iran directed the takeover—in spite of resistance from some influential and less-radical factions within Hamas!
For Iran, Hamas’s coup in Gaza was an event years in the making. For a long time, Tehran has flooded the Palestinian territories with funding and weapons, supporting a variety of social institutions, political causes and terrorist groups. Both Hamas and Fatah are on Iran’s payroll (both groups seek to eliminate Israel and differ only in strategy). Through Hezbollah, Iran has developed strong ties with and deeply infiltrated both organizations. Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon have directed Hamas operations; to this day, Hamas’s “supreme leader,” Khalid Mishaal, lives in Damascus.
After Hamas won Palestinian elections in January last year, Iran’s ties to the group expanded. When America, Israel and Europe cut off their funding, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood stepped in to try to fill some of the gap; they earnestly wanted to guarantee the ongoing presence of this radical, strategically valuable group in the bowels of Israel. Unsurprisingly, the lion’s share of assistance that poured in from Iran went toward beefing up Hamas’s armaments and war-making capabilities. Thus, the West’s attempt to isolate Hamas economically actually drove it even further into the arms of its Iranian benefactors.
Over that same period, however, conflict with Fatah forces has steadily ramped up. Evidence shows that Iran actually fomented this clash—even sabotaging political attempts to form a unity government—in preparation for the day that the far-more-religious Hamas could take over.
For the Gaza Strip, that day came in June. Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri revealed in the June 20 New York Post that, in order to squash a pending Hamas-Fatah power-sharing deal that Iran feared would loosen its hold over the Palestinian territories, Iran’s rulers pushed Hamas’s supreme leader for “an intensification of the struggle against the Zionist enemy” and encouraged the Gaza plan. The plan was never discussed by Hamas’s Consultative Assembly, and many Hamas leaders didn’t even know about it. Nevertheless, Iran ramrodded it into reality.
Perhaps never before did Hamas serve so directly as an instrument of Iranian foreign policy. Its success in the Gaza Strip was a greater victory for Iran than for itself!
What was Iran’s motive? “The battle in Gaza was something more than a local struggle for power between rival Palestinian factions,” Taheri concluded. “It was dictated by [Iranian] strategic imperative that could affect the broader region as the Islamic Republic and the United States intensify their rivalry over who sets the agenda for the future of the Middle East” (ibid.).
Some may dismiss the idea, but it is becoming clearer all the time. The Hamas coup was part of a sequence of recent brash, belligerent moves by Iran. In recent months Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen, in addition to capturing 15 British seamen and imprisoning four Americans, were caught delivering weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and—in a first—directly killing British soldiers in Iraq. In Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon, in the Palestinian territories, even in Egypt and smaller Gulf states, the same Iranian-inspired or Iranian-funded revolutionary forces are at work, actively agitating for a war.
The leaders of Iran plainly view now as the moment of opportunity for their radical religious worldview to triumph.
Nurturing a Fantasy
“God willing, in the near future we will witness the destruction of the corrupt occupier regime,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad predicted June 3 at ceremonies marking 18 years since the death of the Islamic Revolution’s father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Citing last year’s Lebanon war, he said, “With God’s help, the countdown button for the destruction of the Zionist regime has been pushed by the hands of the children of Lebanon and Palestine.”
Most Westerners dismiss such statements as bluster. But events show that Tehran is growing increasingly brash, even reckless, in pursuing its ambitions and converting such rhetoric into action.
Many in Israel and the West see weakness and rot within the world of radical Islam. The Gaza Strip under Hamas rule, for example, is a squalid, impoverished refugee slum. Iran is plagued by economic problems and popular resistance against the religious ruling class. It is true that in these weaknesses lay the seeds of these entities’ destruction.
However, it is a common mistake to assume that these radicals, given time, will simply flame out.
Hamas, Iran and their ilk view the world through the distorted lens of their Islamist ideology. They see themselves as being on the cusp of defeating Israel and the West and bringing about a new golden age of Islam. The West’s continuous backpedaling provides plenty of evidence to support their belief, and thus this dangerous fantasy grows more vivid in their minds; as it does, it increasingly trumps reality and logic.
This explains why economic punishments will not prevent a war. Religious zealots simply do not act according to the same economic incentives that Western nations tend to. Yet Israel and the U.S. continue to use them as a primary weapon. Addle-headed European leaders recognize that sanctions haven’t worked—and want to “solve” the problem by re-funding Hamas, hoping that will wheedle the group into becoming more moderate! This is first-class idiocy. Hamas and Iran cannot be bribed or talked out of giving up the fundamental principles and ambitions that define them.
Sensing deep down the fruitlessness of these approaches, Westerners fall back on the hope that eventually the radical forces will somehow implode. They look at Iran, for example, and see an isolated regime doomed to collapse. The problem is, this thinking overlooks the enormous damage Iran can do in the short run. Going back to Ralph Peters’ point, “The people of Iran want change, but the fanatics have the guns. And sorry, folks: Fanatics with guns beat liberals with ideas” (op. cit.).
True, these fanatics do not have the wherewithal to sustain themselves successfully over time. But they have more than enough determination and religious fervor to cause a heap of trouble in the immediate future. And clearly, that is just what they intend to do.
Iran is the ringmaster of the radicals, aggressively pursuing its plan to surround Israel, demolish it, and take its most precious prize: Jerusalem.
To Israel’s north, Iran has deluged Hezbollah in Lebanon with money and weapons. This group is now as strong or stronger than it was before it waged war against Israel last summer—a war Hezbollah officials have since publicly acknowledged Iran authorized. With Hamas now in control of Gaza, Tehran could ignite another conflict on Israel’s western and northern borders at any moment.
Iran is also opening another front in its effort to encircle Israel: the West Bank. Its next move will likely be to take over this area, including East Jerusalem.
The West Bank already crawls with zealots sympathetic to if not in the pay of Iran and its hawkish pursuits there. Israel is deeply concerned that Hamas’s success in Gaza foreshadows a similar putsch in the West Bank. It has good reason to be.
In May, during the Palestinian factional fighting in Gaza, Hamas successfully infiltrated Fatah’s West Bank strongholds, with more than 40 percent of the members of Fatah’s military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, revolting against Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. debkafile reported that these defectors formed a new pro-Hamas terrorist group that takes its orders from senior Hamas leaders in Gaza and receives explosives and funding from Hezbollah. “The result, our counter-terror experts report, is a Hamas launching pad on the West Bank, previously controlled by Fatah, for a mass suicide bombing offensive against central Israel, projected by the Iran-backed Hamas as the next stage of its missile campaign from Gaza. The new Martyr Abu Amar Brigades have been given orders to gear up to stage multiple suicide truck bombings, Iraq style, in Israel’s main cities. … It affords Hamas a prime strategic asset for escalating its violent campaign against Israel” (May 30, emphasis mine). This mutiny gives Hamas strike force and terrorist networks stretching from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip to Jenin in the northern West Bank!
(This chilling development shows the utter stupidity of the West’s efforts to pump funding and weaponry into Abbas’s Fatah in order to check Hamas. Just watch: As in Gaza, eventually it will all end up in Hamas’s hands.)
Israel should hardly be surprised. This is precisely what Palestinian terrorists have threatened to do from the moment Israel vacated Gaza: to take the fight to the West Bank to claim Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
In fact, one of Hamas’s plans to take Jerusalem itself has already come to light. July 2, Israel’s security agency revealed Hamas attempts to gain control of the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem. Hamas had been gaining footholds in the area by investing in charities and religious institutions, underwriting construction projects and organizing activities like post-fast Ramadan meals to recruit support. This represented only the first of more such attempts—as many as it will take to secure the area under Muslim control. Biblical prophecy suggests that such efforts will eventually succeed: Jerusalem is prophesied to be split in half in a spasm of violence and the Temple Mount most likely transferred to Palestinian control.
Meanwhile, amid these mounting threats, the Israeli government lies in disarray, presided over by one of the most unpopular politicians in history (Prime Minister Ehud Olmert currently has about a 3 percent public approval rating). Could the hopeless and divided Jews soon face a three-front war in a battle over the Holy City?
A Short-Lived King
The Trumpet often points to the pivotal end-time prophecy of Daniel 11 revealing the soon-coming war between “the king of the south,” a radical Islamist power led by Iran, and “the king of the north,” a European superpower led by Germany. It is worth picking up a couple of important details from this prophecy.
“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him,” begins Daniel 11:40. That push describes the foreign policy—plainly evident today—of the Iran-led power: It is a pushy, provocative policy that dares other nations to retaliate.
There will come a point when this policy will backfire, with catastrophic results. Verse 40 continues, “and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.” The European power will launch a blitzkrieg attack that will utterly overwhelm its enemy and grind it into the Middle Eastern sand.
One conclusion we can draw from this prophecy is that the king of the south is a power with extraordinary weaknesses. Other prophecies indicate that it could play a significant role in damaging Israel, America and Britain through terrorist acts (these are expounded on in our free booklet Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet). But the king of the south appears in end-time prophecy for only a blip—not so much as a power in its own right but more as a catalyst to the rise of a far more formidable power, the king of the north.
It is easy to see how easily—and how rapidly—Iran, supported by its growing collection of protégés in the region, could step into this role. It embodies what Hans Morgenthau called a “policy of bluff”—a policy built more on the appearance of power than the substance of it. The current Iranian president’s repeated announcements of his nation’s attainment of nuclear capability fits this pattern.
The king of the south is simply not a superpower that will dominate the world, or even the region, for a generation or better. It is going to be a loud, pushy, violent entity that will create enough havoc and stir up enough alarm that it provokes a real superpower to rise up and wipe it out. When the moment comes that it faces a determined and ruthless enemy unconstrained by the absurdity of political correctness, it will be crushed—soundly, swiftly and decisively.
Though the demise of the delusional zealotry of Iran and its allies will introduce a brutal period of world domination by that European superpower, even that empire will meet its end after only a few years. All of these events presage the imminent introduction of a King whose empire will never be destroyed—a King who will restore the hope of the oppressed peoples of the Middle East and around the world as He ushers in the prosperity and peace that eludes them today. That is Jesus Christ, the King of kings!