Commentary Magazine


Is There Something Worse Than Hamas?

Critics of the Pentagon, and indeed of all defense establishments, have often quipped that the term “military intelligence” is an oxymoron. As a general rule, that sort of comment is as inaccurate as it is unfair. But Lt. General Michael Flynn, the outgoing head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, bolstered this assumption by declaring that the destruction of the Hamas terrorist government of Gaza would lead to something worse.

General Flynn warned that if Israel is seeking to either decapitate Hamas, remove it from power, or to eliminate it altogether, that might not be a smart move. He asserted that Hamas would be replaced by something far more radical and, by definition, more dangerous to both Israel and the rest of the world.

As Reuters reports:

“If Hamas were destroyed and gone, we would probably end up with something much worse. The region would end up with something much worse,” Flynn said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

“A worse threat that would come into the sort of ecosystem there … something like ISIS,” he added, referring to the Islamic State, which last month declared an “Islamic caliphate” in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.

Is he right?

It is a reliable rule of existence on this planet than whenever you think things can’t get worse, they often do become even more unbearable. But that piece of general life wisdom aside, the argument that behind Hamas lurks more dangerous groups is not only unsubstantiated; to believe it you have to ignore everything we already know about Hamas.

As far as the possibility of more radical Islamists replacing Hamas, there is no question that the prospect of al-Qaeda-related groups becoming the address for Palestinian “resistance” to Israel’s existence would be scary for the West. Perhaps this fear is based on an assumption that they would not be content with slaughtering Jews as Hamas and Islamic Jihad attempt to do but would instead concentrate on killing Americans. But does anyone in the U.S.—even the spooks in the Pentagon—really believe that al-Qaeda types in the Middle East are not already doing their best to attack America right now?

Any group that replaced Hamas as the Islamist rival to the more secular Fatah would be competing in the same Palestinian political universe that grants credibility to groups that attack Israel, not Western targets. Whatever followed Hamas would not be a freelance Islamist terror group such as those in the Arabian Peninsula or North Africa but a Palestinian entity that would seek to escalate the fight against the Jewish presence in the country, not a scattered campaign against the West elsewhere.

But leaving that issue aside, the problem with Flynn’s thinking is that the more one looks at Hamas’s behavior, the harder it is to argue that there could be something that would be qualitatively worse in terms of conflict escalation or human rights.

For example, it was reported today that Hamas executed 20 Palestinians who had the temerity to launch an anti-war protest in Gaza. The protesters were branded as traitors. Would a successor group seek to repress dissent or govern Gaza with more brutality than Hamas?

Hamas has funneled much of the humanitarian aid sent to Gaza into its “military” infrastructure, constructing an underground city of shelters and tunnels for its armaments and fighters and to facilitate terror attacks on Israelis. As Tablet magazine reported, 160 Palestinian children employed as laborers were killed during the course of the building of these tunnels. Would an ISIS-clone do anything worse than that?

Hamas’s purpose, as detailed in their charter and regularly reaffirmed by both their military and political leaders, is to destroy Israel and to ethnically cleanse it of its Jewish population. Would ISIS or al-Qaeda favor a more gentle form of genocide?

To study Hamas’s actual behavior and its beliefs undermines any notion that its elimination would result in the radicalization of Palestinians and their supporters. Hamas is already so radical in terms of its intransigence against peace and Israel’s existence that any more extreme shift under a successor would be purely cosmetic and result in no tangible increase in the threat level to the region.

More to the point, anyone who truly desires a two-state solution to the conflict must understand that the only hope for that outcome—and, admittedly, it is a slim hope—is for Hamas to be eliminated, giving a chance for the supposedly more moderate Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza and to make peace with Israel.

Given the difficulty and the cost of a campaign that would completely eliminate Hamas or to replace it as the government of Gaza it may well be that Flynn’s nightmare will never be realized. Hamas thinks it is in no danger and statements such as that of the general and the willingness of the U.S. to embrace cease-fire proposals that would grant it an undeserved victory only strengthen their conviction that they can continue to fight with impunity. But using this argument to bolster Hamas’s hold on power is a terrible error. The only way to end the conflict is to demilitarize Gaza. The only way to do that is to eliminate Hamas.

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4 Responses to “Is There Something Worse Than Hamas?”


    I remember when I was studying latin in high school reading a passage about the last King of Rome – Tarquinius. Tarquinius had just overthrown the previous King and there were celebrations in the streets. Tarquinius noticed an old woman who wasnt celebrating and he asked her why. She replied that she remembered the same people celebrating when the last king seized power!
    Maybe General Flynn studied latin in high school!!

  2. CHERYL WALKER says:

    I don’t think you can get anything worse than Hamas. Hamas equals alQaeda equals ISIS equals terrorism at its worst. Name changes only protect the guilty, nothing else.


    This is spot on. If as is popularly proposed, Israel is holding back for fear of something worse than Hamas, that is a mistaken policy.

  4. EMILE TUBIANA says:

    Where Is the Wisdom of Our American President?

    I am disgusted to realize that our President has started action without preparation and without thinking of the consequences and has thus contributed to the great disaster unfolding before our eyes.

    Wanting and believing to create justice, our President, who in my view had not created anything positive since his election, and after causing misfortune in the Arab world with all these revolutions which did not succeed, has recently tried to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis, without weighing the pros and cons and without preparing the fields of action for his envoy Mr. Kerry. Therefore, horrible things have emerged, such as destruction and unnecessary deaths because Hamas placed the rockets in homes, schools and mosques, according to the words of the UN. I think the damage is almost irreparable for both sides, because it includes destruction and deaths, including women and children.

    Although the Israelis have taken the utmost care to warn the people of Gaza to get away, this did not help, because they could not go against Hamas’ orders to remain in place to protect the missiles that were in their houses. Thereby Hamas had created a dilemma for Arabs and Israelis alike and are equally responsible for the death of those they did not let escape. In addition, I think that the Americans and the Europeans acted cowardly by not having intervened to stop both sides from fighting. We have proved again, as in World War II, that human beings were just observers and not guards.

    Already during the kidnapping of three youth, we could have reacted vigorously. I hope that after this horrible episode, Israelis and Arabs will find a modus vivendi to live together and prosper together. Actually, the Arab world and the Jewish world could have very well understood and helped each other. Unfortunately, Obama was elected President, but he is not up to running a world like ours. By choosing an envoy who did not understand either the Arab world or the Jewish world, and moreover, who was not apt for his task and took bad initiatives, Obama has unwittingly contributed, without saying it openly, to what is a disaster for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Based on these facts, the events have exacerbated the situation and will have an impact for generations to come.

    Kerry did not seem to be the man who could create an atmosphere of peace between Abbas and Netanyahu. Instead, he created a constant tension for both parties, and even leaving a door open for Hamas to start provoking Israel. Obama who had already thought to save Hamas, which had financial difficulties, came up with the idea of uniting Hamas with the Palestinian Authority and thus cleaning Hamas of its image of terrorists. Abbas innocently accepted the request of the United States because Obama has made him believe or even hinted that the United States would be there to support him. In fact, Kerry, who sought only his own success, came forward without thinking or knowing what terrorism really is. I thought this was alarming, coming from a former senator and a former veteran of the Vietnam War.

    The former Senator of the United States easily embraced the idea of the union between the West Bank Palestinians and terrorists like Hamas, always trying to please his bosses. I do not think Kerry understood the ramifications of the whole situation. As the son of an arbitrator and having lived with the Arabs, I followed Kerry for years in the USA and I do not think he was the right person for this type of negotiations.

    As Kerry wanted to succeed, overwhelming the Israelis with his so-called advice and believing to convince them, Kerry naively dramatized things, so they seemed more like threats than like advice. I do not think the Israelis need this kind of advice that could only diminish American prestige, and if the Israelis have listened, it was out of politeness and consideration for their ally. All these threats, which were repeated by Kerry, finally gave rise to doubt and made the Israelis that followed the daily evolution, edgy and uneasy.

    Hamas began first by kidnapping and killing three innocent young Israelis. This act could only diminish Hamas and its supporters. Qatar, which is financing Hamas, is not less responsible. Qatar is acting under the pretext of pulling Hamas away from Iran, but in reality, Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader was already living in Qatar and led a majestic life on the account of the poor Palestinians, who were not looking for all this mess. Being familiar with the Arabs, I know that the simple people are careful. They do not like force and violence, or being involved with the affairs of government. I suppose that the Palestinian people in Gaza had no choice but to follow terrorist propaganda.

    Kerry’s words have certainly given the green light to Hamas to start attacking Israel with rockets, eventually challenging the Israeli people, so that despite the wisdom of Netanyahu and Abbas, who knew each other for a long time, Israel had no choice but to respond.

    Abbas and Netanyahu actually got along more or less well for years. But Abbas, who did not want to miss his share of a possible victory of Hamas, joined the arguments of Hamas that had agreed to unite with Abbas, following the intervention of the United States. This had surprised even some people of the Left who eventually reflected upon it and now defend Israel.

    Meanwhile, Kerry met with the Turks and Qatar to formulate an action which, as per Kerry could create an agreement between Hamas and the Israelis. Therefore neither the Israelis, nor the Egyptians, nor the Saudis could be satisfied with the meeting, which demonstrates the inability of judgment Kerry.
    However, the U.S. Congress had not forgotten that Israel is a good ally of the United States and gave it its support in this time of crisis. In contrast, Kerry seems to have forgotten the alliances of the United States and focused only on the other side.

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