Clearly, Hamas is Not ISIS

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thinks that Hamas and ISIS are the same thing. After ISIS beheaded Jim Foley and Hamas beheaded some “collaborators,” Bibi tweeted a photo that showed both groups performing executions. This replaced a tweet with a photo of Foley just before he was decapitated with a photo of an execution by Hamas in 2012 that also said Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas. It’s become like a mantra for Bibi and many supporters of Israel.

The problem is that it’s just not true.

There are certainly reasons to compare the two groups. But there are too many fundamental differences that separate ISIS from Hamas that the comparison between the two is meaningless.iStock-apple-and-orange It’s comparing apples to oranges.

For starters, ISIS literally wants to kill Hamas. In their eyes, Hamas are worse than Israel. ISIS seeks to eliminate “hypocrites” – Muslims who are not sufficiently fundamentalist – before moving on to non-Muslims. It’s hard to say mortal enemies are one and the same.

But there is a much more fundamental difference between Hamas and ISIS. Hamas is a terrorist organization that also serves the needs of many people in Gaza. The people of Gaza are directly affected by the actions of Hamas and Hamas acts on their behalf. But not all the people of Gaza are Hamas and not all the people of Gaza approve of Hamas. In any battle against Hamas, Gaza citizens are harmed. It is inevitable. Homes are destroyed, families are broken, children are killed. The blame for these deaths can be attributed, at least in part, to Hamas. But blame is irrelevant. Hamas is a functioning government for hundreds of thousands of people. Almost all of whom are innocent bystanders.

Further, the people of Hamas are all from Gaza. They are fighting a war against their enemy on their border. In their eyes, Israel stole their land. In their eyes, they are fighting back. It’s a struggle on behalf of their families and neighbors. It’s their struggle for their own home and their own future. They are local people from Gaza fighting for Gaza. There are women, children, and families that are connected to Hamas militants.

ISIS is more than a terrorist organization. Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization. ISIS is an offshoot of Al Qaeda that doesn’t simply want to harm the West. ISIS is the state version of Al Qaeda and their intentions are clear. ISIS is now a country that rules according to their super fundamentalist version of Islamic Law. They took these areas by force and enforce their laws by the sword. The citizens of ISIS don’t really have a choice about whether they want to support ISIS, but more importantly, the IS fighters are not representative of the citizens of these areas. They imposed themselves on the new citizens of ISIS.

IS fighters come from all over the world. The hoodlum who beheaded Jim Foley is apparently from Britain. An American fighting for ISIS was killed today. The spiritual leader of ISIS came from Belgium. The fighters of ISIS are a ragtag group of degenerates who are fighting for glory and adventure. They have no families. Many brought their sons with them to ISIS so that they could be indoctrinated and trained to be fighters as well. But the war and the cause are the only thing that matters. There are no women and small children. In the entire Vice News ISIS documentary there was literally only one, very brief, shot of a woman in a burqa standing in the background of the frame. IS fighters are not fighting for their families. They are not fighting back against an aggressor. They are a club of men who are wreaking havoc on the region, and they are having a good ol’ time doing it.

So when Bibi says that “Hamas is ISIS” and ignores the crucial difference between the two, he is attempting to justify the collateral damage in Gaza by equating the two in a way that is completely unfair. Hamas might behead collaborators with their enemies. Hamas might indiscriminately fire rockets at civilians. These are terrible things to do. No question. But when returning fire on Hamas, there is collateral damage to people under the rule of Hamas. The battlefield is in their neighborhoods.

The war against ISIS happens on the battlefield. ISIS is trying to capture cities and remove borders. Fighting ISIS in those places won’t lead to collateral damage at all. There are no families in the trenches with ISIS. But there are families in the trenches in Gaza.

Most importantly, Hamas claims to be interested in making an agreement with Israel. Sometimes they say they will fight Israel to the death, and other times they make agreements with Israel. They are far less ideological in their diplomacy. ISIS won’t compromise with anyone. They will kill anyone who does not submit to their rule. Hamas kills collaborators, not everyone that is not Hamas. Hamas does not desire to rule the entire earth. They just want Israel. Saying Hamas is ISIS actually betrays a deep misunderstanding of what the IS is all about.

I’m sorry if this sounds like small difference. But small differences can have really massive consequences. The greatest of these consequences was today’s news.

A truce was signed today. Hamas agreed to a truce. Is ISIS signing any truces? Clearly, Hamas is not ISIS.

In light of today’s news, I urge the Israeli Prime Minister to tweet a photo of Hamas shaking on the truce with a caption that says “Hamas is not ISIS.”

  • Arie Schwartz

    It’s a bit early to be using that last point, considering Hamas’ history of using ceasefires as a military strategy. Are they really interested in making a deal with Israel, or are they more interested in catching Israel off-guard? Only time will tell.

    • I actually wrote this before the cease fire. I added the final point just for emphasis.

  • RAM500

    Hamas and ISIS leaders share a set of principles that includes killing us all. Their differences are more incidental than essential, or are matters of scope.

    • The differences about whom they represent and where they are fighting might be incidental, but they still matter.

  • quietfellow613

    Rabbi Fink:
    I find this post most disturbing, even more so than your others. Take a look at the photos of Hamas sumamrily executing the “collaborators”. The havoc (to put it mildly) that Hamas dealt to thier own citiiznry was awful- and they couldn’t care less. And more will come out about this in the weeks to come. I sense an ounce of jsutification from your writing for the bombing campaign that Hamas perpetrated over the last 9 years. Shame on you for putting this into print. Further, the people of Hamas are all from Gaza. They are fighting a war against their enemy on their border. In their eyes, Israel stole their land. In their eyes, they are fighting back. It’s a struggle on behalf of their families and neighbors. It’s their struggle for their own home and their own future. They are local people from Gaza fighting for Gaza. There are women, children, and families that are connected to Hamas militants.

    • David West

      Try to remember that Fink’s religion is liberalism. He just happens to be Jewish.

  • Hamas may not be ISIS, but they haven’t joined the Boy Scouts yet and never will. The difference I see is that Hamas is led by bought and paid for fat cats, while ISIS are purist who are much less likely to be compromised or controlled.

  • David West

    Fink, you are so stupid that you would be doing the Jewish people a favor if you never wrote anything again.

  • Yisrael Saperstein

    Rabbi Fink,
    Every blogger picks the topics he/she decides to devote time to writing about, selecting from a virtually inexhaustible supply of current (and non-current) political and cultural events, statements by politicians, religious leaders, athletes etc.
    It’s probably true that the actions of Hamas (who’s capabilities are very limited, compared to ISIS) have not been quite as barbaric and bloodthirsty as those of ISIS. It is also factually correct that geographically, Hamas are fighting from their home. However, when a blogger who posts, on average, a few times a week, feels the need to take the time to call out the Israeli PM on this matter, then this is pretty telling.
    I enjoy your posts and agree with most of them. This one, while for the most part factually correct, is a misfire.

  • DF

    What exactly is the point of this post? Are you insinuating now that you’re also smarter than the Prime Minister of Israel?
    And even if, purely for the sake of argument only, there are differences between ISIS and Hamas – so what? Does that give one license to speak of Hamas in the tones that you do? You make it sound as though they’re nothing more than Arab patriots fighting for their home land. Only someone so young, thousands of miles away in La-La-land could write such a thing.
    And mixing in the business of Hamas being a “men’s club” – that made me a smile. Only a real liberal could find a way to inject his democrat politics into Israeli-Arab affairs. Tell me, were the Founding Fathers of America a “men’s club”? Is OPEC a men’s club? How about the Moetzes Gedole Hatorah of the Aguda or the RCA? “Men’s club” is another way of saying “life.” The only places where that’s not the norm is the current generation, in America and others places that have followed them in enacting forced feminization legislation. Even in the business world, read Forbes magazine and find me more than a handful of women among the richest people in America that didn’t inherit or marry their money. (And that’s with all the laws unabashedly stacked in their favor!) Go back and read your Genesis, and play the long game. Within two generations even here things will be back to normal. Don’t be on the wrong side of history.

  • ParisParamus

    OK, strictly speaking Hamas is not IS….? But since both share genocidal aspirations, are they more similar or different?