Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: If You Like ISIS, You'll Love Hamas.

The excruciating primacy of twisted faith.
Published: Friday, August 15, 2014 9:09 AM


Special to Arutz Sheva.

Watching the latest ISIS (now known as IS)-inflicted horrors in Iraq, one core conclusion is overriding and unassailable. Throughout the Islamic world, a primary link exists between violence and the sacred. This indissoluble link, insidious as it is pervasive, will prevent peace from ever "breaking out" in the Middle East. It is, moreover, the real reason why a Palestinian state - any Palestinian state - would inevitably pose an existential threat to Israel.

A “Two-State Solution" would degrade both U.S. and Israeli security. Ironically, after so many years of bearing witness, even the most well-intentioned supporters of Palestinian statehood still miss the fundamental point, the one concerning vital intersections of violence and faith. It is that a 23rd Arab state, a Palestinian state carved out of the still-living body of Israel, would only accelerate and enlarge Jihadist terror in the region.      

As with the current conflict in Iraq, such faith-based terror-violence would have little to do with any normal military calculations of strategy or tactics. Rather, it would represent an "irrational" expression of force that lies latent above ordinary war and politics. In essence, it would express the ritualistic and rhythmically primal expressions of Islamist religious sacrifice.

If you like ISIS, you'll love Hamas. The Gaza-based Islamic Resistance Movement, still striving lasciviously to incur mass civilian casualties as a desired consequence of its rocket attacks upon Israeli civilian populations, would likely dominate any future Palestinian state. Then, in keeping with the organization's inherently primary commitment to terror, it would quickly launch expanded forms of "freedom fighting" and "national liberation," thereby slaughtering "unbelievers" (Israelis) with predictable enthusiasm, and without reservation.  

Also, because such "sacred" violence would express Shahada, or Death For Allah, there could be absolutely no room for entering into any further peace negotiations with Israel.

Arab maps are open and unambiguous about the expected boundaries of "Palestine." The unhidden objective of any new Palestinian state would be a complete end to "Occupied Palestine" ( Israel), and an irredentist Palestinian sovereignty that extends "from the river to the sea." Under international law, this objective could correctly be taken as a cartographic  expression of genocidal intent. To be fulfilled, Palestine would require assorted crimes against humanity.

Links between sacrifice and political violence have a long and relevant history. They are not unique or historically distinctive to the Islamic world. For example, Plutarch's Sayings of Spartan Mothers identified the exemplary female parent as one who had consciously reared her sons for civic sacrifice. This mother was always relieved to learn that a son had died "in a manner worthy of his self, his country, and his ancestors." Those Spartan sons who had somehow failed to live up to this communal sacrificial standard, however, were humiliated and reviled.

Resembling ongoing ISIS executions in Iraq,  Jihadist terror in any new state of "Palestine" would stem from cultures that embrace similarly crude views of sacrifice. In these particular cultures, the rationale of sacrifice always goes far beyond any mere expectations of civic necessity.  Here, sacrificial practice becomes a profoundly sacred expression of religion. Even more specifically, such sacrifice derives from an always-hoped for conquest of personal death.

There is no greater power in world politics, especially in the Middle East, than power over death.  This key point is not really all that difficult to understand. 
Our recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, justified from the start as carefully calculated forms of counter-terrorism, were actually beside the point. Utterly beside the point.
After all, various promises of immortality underlie virtually every form of human religious belief.   

Everywhere in the Middle East, whether in ISIS-dominated portions of Iraq, or Hamas-dominated Gaza, the Jihadist  proudly claims to “love death."  But this claim is an evident lie. Paradoxically, this terrorist-murderer kills himself/herself, and innocent others, to ensure that he/she will not die.

The so-called “death” experienced in any such  “suicide” is transient and temporary. It is merely a momentary inconvenience, a way station on the "martyr's" expectedly ecstatic trajectory toward eternal life.

Martyrdom operations have always been connected with Jihad. These meticulously orchestrated explosions of violence draw upon  a long-codified Islamic scripture. Unequivocal and celebratory invocations for such operations can be found in the Koran (9:111), and, often, more explicitly, in the canonical hadith.

For the U.S. and Israel, the security implications of any enemy doctrinal fusion involving religion and violence warrant especially careful consideration. Convinced that Shahada violence against the U.S. or Israel will lead to martyrdom, the ISIS or Hamas terrorist will "normally" not be deterred by any ordinary threats of military reprisal or retaliation.

It follows, inter alia, that our recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, justified from the start as carefully calculated forms of counter-terrorism, were actually beside the point.

Utterly beside the point.

For Palestinian Jihadists in Gaza, as for ISIS executioners in Iraq, killing unbelievers offers nothing less delightful than a full pardon from personal death. Understood in more narrowly psychological terms, for these aspiring "martyrs," the death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the sacrifice, of the "other." This incomparable diminution is best captured by Ernest Becker's oft-quoted paraphrase of  Nobel laureate Elias Canetti: "Each organism raises its head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good."

A Palestinian state could become conspicuously lethal to Israel, and also starkly injurious to America. Beginning with a much greater understanding of prospectively pertinent linkages between violence and the sacred, both Jerusalem and Washington must now acknowledge that any emergent "Palestine," even one that had previously agreed to its own "demilitarization," would regard the entirety of Israel's remaining territory as "Occupied Palestine." In consequence, Arab demands for additional Israeli territorial surrenders would continue even after a bestowal of full Palestinian sovereignty.

Unrequited, such essentially cartographic demands would generate endless cycles of additional anti-Israel terror. Over time, these cycles could even come to include mass executions, and certain weapons of mass-destruction.

If you like ISIS, you'll love Hamas.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and publishes widely on world politics, terrorism, and international law. Born in Zurich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945, his latest articles have appeared in the Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; Parameters: Journal of the U.S. Army War College;  The Brown Journal of World Affairs; The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs; and Oxford University Press Blog. Professor Beres' popular writings have appeared in Israel National News; The New York Times; The Washington Times; The Christian Science Monitor; Ha'aretz; U.S. News & World Report; The Jerusalem Post; and The Atlantic.