“From the river to the sea”

The historian Jeffrey Herf is the Distinguished University Professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. Among the books he has written is Nazi Propaganda in the Arab World (published by Yale, now out of print). Professor Herf takes up the deep meaning of the Hamas charters of 1988 and 2017 in his learned American Purpose column “From the river to the sea.” He concludes:

There is no precedent in modern history in which a movement such as Hamas, with roots in both the racist ideologies of Nazism and in Islamist religious obscurantism, has been so successful in finding supporters or at least excuse-makers among those who regard themselves as secular leftists. For its entire modern history, anti-fascism had been a defining feature of leftist or progressive politics. Beginning in the 1960s, however, leftists in Europe and the United States redefined anti-fascism in a way that severed it from its meaning in the 1940s and, amazingly, turned it against Israel. For the generations who have come of age since the 1960s, the language of anti-racism and anti-colonialism, mistakenly applied to Zionism and Israel, has facilitated the emergence of a kind of magical thinking that transforms Hamas from an inherently racist and antisemitic terrorist force into a member in good standing of the struggle of the wretched of the earth against colonialism and Western domination.

For decades there has been far too little public discussion in the world’s democracies about the echoes of Nazism and persistence of Islamist-based religious hatred that are evident in Hamas’ key documents. The authors of its 2017 charter drew on the secular language of the global left to obscure its reactionary, antisemitic, and fundamentalist essence, but the reality of a religious war against the Jews remained central to what Hamas was and is. All three faces of antisemitism—right, left, and Islamist—are evident in the 2017 charter just as they were in the 1988 one. On October 7, 2023, those religious and secular hatreds exploded with a barbarity that surprised only those who had not looked directly at the truth about Hamas’ war against the Jews, which was sitting in plain sight in these two evil documents.

The whole thing warrants close reading and is accessible here for a click.

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