Khaled Abu Toameh
Khaled Abu ToamehJNS Photo

Khaled Abu Toameh is an award winning Arab and Palestinian Affairs journalist with the Jerusalem Post. He is Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs/

The aftermath of Hamas's Oct. 7 massacre at a music festival in southern Israel, where hundreds of young people were murdered and and kidnapped (Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90.

(JNS) The Hamas terrorists who attacked Israel on Oct. 7 did not kill only Jews. The terrorists also murdered and kidnapped scores of Muslim Israelis, including members of the Bedouin community. The terrorists’ murder spree made zero distinction between young and old, Israeli Muslim and Jew.

More than 1,200 Israelis were murdered in the massacre, while another 240 were kidnapped and taken to the Gaza Strip as hostages. Scores of Arab Israelis were murdered, wounded or taken hostage. Among the kidnapped is Aisha al-Ziadna, a 16-year-old Muslim citizen of Israel.

The first wave of Hamas’s attack hit a music festival at Kibbutz Re’im which had an estimated 3,500 young people in attendance.

The magnitude of the onslaught became apparent as bloodied and panicked people staggered into the medical tent screaming for help.

Finally, the medical staff was ordered to flee along with everyone else.

Awad Darwashe, 23, an Arab-Israeli paramedic, remained behind, refusing to abandon the wounded. “I speak Arabic. I think I can manage,” Darawshe said. Perhaps he thought the terrorists would not harm a fellow Muslim Arab. He was wrong.

Hamas mercilessly beat, humiliated, abducted and murdered their fellow Muslims, including Darawshe as he was bandaging the wounded. After Darwashe was murdered, his ambulance was stolen and driven into the Gaza Strip.

Abed al-Rahman Alnasasrah, 50, was murdered by Hamas terrorists when he attempted to rescue people from the music festival. He was married and a father of six children.

Fatima Altallaqat, 35, from the Bedouin village of Ar’ara, was also murdered, while working with her husband near the city of Ofakim in southern Israel. She was a mother of nine children, the eldest nine years old and the youngest six months. Her brother said that Hamas terrorists shot 40 bullets into her.

Her husband, Hamid, recounted:

“We’re a religious Muslim family and she wore the traditional headdress of a devout woman. It is inconceivable they [Hamas terrorists] could not see who was inside [the car]. They were five meters away from her as they passed. She said she could not feel her legs. Her head was opened and I could see her brain. I knew she was close to death.”

Suleiman Zayadneh, brother and uncle, respectively, to four of the Arab-Israeli hostages, describes himself as proud to be a Palestinian Arab and Muslim. He vehemently rejects what he views as Hamas’s negation of both identities:

“What national pride? What religion? The people who came to shoot and kill—they know nothing of religion. These [Hamas] people came and killed left and right.”

[Ed. note" The Alziadana family resides on the outskirts of the city of Rahat. Their two daughters were freed on Thursday, November 30, after being held hostage in Gaza. Bilal, 18 and Aisha, 17 were kidnapped from Kibbutz Holit on the morning of October 7th along with their father Yousef and their older brother Hamza. The family had gone as usual to work on the dairy farm in the kibbutz. Uncharacteristically, that day Aisha joined them. Their father Yousef and their older brother Hamza are still held captive by Hamas.]

Lt. Col. Wahid al-Huzeil, an IDF liaison with the Bedouin community, noted:

“The fact that Hamas abducted innocent civilians, including women and children, shows that this organization doesn’t represent Islam… [which] opposes the murder of women, children and the elderly…. this incident shows how much… their struggle isn’t a religious one…. Israeli society must realize that its struggle isn’t against Arabs, it’s against Hamas.”

Asked in early 2023 about their general quality of life in Israel, many Arab Israelis responded positively. A hijabed young woman replied:

“We live in a country that gives us many things, from the perspective of the laws, benefits, and everything else. It is the best. In comparison to other countries, it is really good. I study, I work, I enjoy life.”

Ibrahim, a middle-aged man, was unequivocal when interviewed in 2014: “I never felt that I’m deprived in any way.” Asked if he felt inequality in treatment between Arabs and Jews, he retorted:

“Stop the nonsense. It is empty whining. I don’t believe in that. Everyone here can get where they want. What—the country doesn’t let them study? Y’allah, be a lawyer, be a teacher. Does anyone stop you? Even in prayer. Does anyone stop you praying? We pray five times a day, five times no one stops us. Whoever wants to be successful can be successful. Whoever doesn’t want to be successful blames the country, the government.”

Where in the Middle East are Arabs thriving throughout society, not just in a privileged world of favors and nepotism? Israel.

Two days after the Oct. 7 massacre, Nuseir Yassin, a video blogger with 65 million followers, posted:

“I realized that… to a terrorist invading Israel, all citizens are targets. More than 40 of them [the murdered] are Arabs. Killed by other Arabs. And I do not want to live under a Palestinian government. Which means I only have one home, even if I’m not Jewish: Israel…. So from today forward, I view myself as… Israeli first. Palestinian [Arab] second. Sometimes it takes a shock like this to see so clearly.”

There have been many stories about reciprocal inter-communal generosity and heroism in the aftermath of this national tragedy, and they create hope for the future.

The family of Darwashe, the paramedic who would not abandon the wounded, stated:

“We are very proud of his actions… This is what we would expect from him and what we expect from everyone in our family—to be human, to stay human and to die human.”

Ali Alziadna, whose four family members are currently held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, is touched by the outpouring of support:

“People from all over the country come to hug and support the family. The entire nation is one family now.”

Arab citizens of Israel serve as IDF officers and policemen, risking their lives for their fellow Israelis. Many have created life-saving medical innovations. Many are serving at the front lines, saving lives.

Undoubtedly, one of the objectives of the Hamas massacre, in addition to slaughtering as many Israelis as possible, was to thwart normalization between Israel and Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia. Hamas may also have aimed to damage relations between Jews and Arabs inside Israel.

The terror group was, without doubt, hoping that we would witness another cycle of violence between Jews and Arabs inside Israel, similar to that which erupted in May 2021. Then, Hamas succeeded in inciting a large number of Arab citizens of Israel to take to the streets and attack their Jewish neighbors and Israeli police officers.

This year, however, the Arab-Israelis have not heeded the calls by Hamas. One reason is that Arab-Israelis saw, with their own eyes, how Hamas terrorists make no distinction between Jews and Muslims.

Hamas has repeatedly demonstrated that it cares nothing for the well-being of Arabs and Muslims. From their luxury homes and hotel rooms in the safety of Qatar and Turkey, Hamas leaders give the orders to attack Israel and then sit back and let the world weep over the destruction they wrought upon their own people.

On Oct. 7, Hamas metaphorically shot itself in the foot by showing the world, with unfathomably ghoulish pride, by way of Go-Pro cameras and other self-documentation, that it has neither a religious nor a secular-humanist set of values. Perhaps the Palestinian Arabs in the Gaza Strip should look at the Arab citizens of Israel and note how they enjoy equal rights, democracy, freedom of speech and a free media. If Palestinian Arabs wish to live well, like the Arab-Israelis, this is the time for them to get rid of Hamas and all the terror leaders who, for seven decades, have brought them nothing but one disaster after another.

Originally published by The Gatestone Institute.