Ironically, the rise of Hamas has come for the wrong reasons.
Hamas is a terrorist organization that is driven by religious fanaticism and the superiority of Islam over Judaism and Christianity. Its power and popularity has come not from the purity of Islam but from the secular political stumbling blocs that have consistently prevented Palestinians and Israelis from achieving peace.
Those reasons are fundamental to the ongoing conflict.
Palestinians live in despair, disbelieving that peace can achieve true statehood. Israel’s occupation remains brutal and restrictive. Its policies of land confiscation, settler expansion and the basic obstruction of Palestinian life are unbearable and foment emotion-driven resistance.
More importantly, religious faith always remains uncompromising in the face of secular reason and Islamic militants like Hamas continue to insert their religious beliefs as the alternative to the so-far failed secular solutions.
Hamas rings a bell that sounds of reason to the increasingly despondent Muslim Palestinians, especially the growing numbers who see conflict as the only way to achieve their goals. Violence satisfies the human nature for vengeance, a stark contrast to the non-violent peace process that has offered little real satisfaction of any form.
Clearly, some might wonder how an Islamic organization like Hamas can continue to grow in popularity, especially in the wake of Sept. 11. Yet, the reality is everyone has contributed in some way to Hamas’ growth.
The terrorism of Sept. 11 was an Islamic-driven terrorism, an act of immoral violence committed not by true Muslims but by Muslims who hijacked the religion. The terrorists, not the victims, put the Islamic label on the murderous deed.
They continue because despite growing denouncement of al-Qaeda and ultra-extremist Islamicists like Osama Bin Laden, the majority of Muslims in the Islamic World and in the Western World continue to defend or excuse their own religious extremism.
On one hand, the critics are too harsh, denouncing everything, while the defenders are too broad in defending everything. There is a middle ground and Hamas is not in it.
'It's not about disavowing violence'
Hamas was a great distance from being anything like al-Qaeda when it was founded in the despair of the Gaza Strip ghettos in the late 1970s. It was nurtured into existence by the assistance of some Israeli political leaders who hoped to nurture a religious alternative to the secular Palestine Liberation Organization, not knowing their actions would result in the murderous organization’s rise.
But in recent years, the same religious fanaticism that drives al-Qaeda also drives Hamas. Defenders of Hamas insist their enemy is Israel, but the fundamental religious tenets that sustain it are the exact same tenets that drove 19 Islamic terrorists to hijack four airplanes and crash them into American targets, including the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
Instead of stopping Hamas, Israel has continued a policy of punishing not only the Hamas terrorists for acts of violence against Israel, but all of Palestinian society and especially the secular alternative to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority.
When Hamas or one of its sister organizations launched suicide bombings, Israel attacked not only the suspected Hamas leaders but also struck hard at PA political targets.
Israelis have taught Palestinians to not see the difference between Hamas and the secular Palestinian leadership when it comes to achieving their independence.
Some Hamas leaders have hinted to naïve dignitaries from abroad, in the weeks prior to this weeks parliamentary elections, that they might renounce terrorism and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Their goal is transparent, to help ease Israeli pressures that might hold down their numbers in the election Jan. 25, and undermine the already dysfunctional PA government, which is wrapped in a knot of string so tight that the only answer is to cut it completely rather than try to unravel it. It's not about disavowing violence.
The secular Palestinians don’t need Israel’s help. What they need is for Israel to stop interfering in Palestinian affairs and to stop playing politics with “punishment.”
Palestinians need to also look past what might seem a persuasive politicized religious option and re-embrace the secular political option of Palestinian Statehood.
Muslims can both preserve their religious sanctity while embracing a more realistic secular government.
Mixing the two will only delay and possibly preclude their freedom.
An Islamic Palestine will not be an independent state at all, but become another oppressive regime that misuses the reality of life and the peaceful premises of Islam to impose tyranny and fundamentalist dictatorship.
An award winning journalist, author and standup comedian, Ray Hanania writes exclusively for YnetNews.com on serious and humorous issues. He can be reached at www.hanania.com