It should surprise no one that Israel and Hamas are at war again. Though many are following the tactics of this war -- drones deployed, rockets intercepted, and arrests made -- we should also focus on the words that made this war inevitable. Hamas incitement and hate speech have silenced Palestinian moderates, distanced human rights, and dramatically increased the chances of war.
In 2007, Hamas took power in the Gaza strip, imposed a brutal dictatorship and systematically repressed free speech. Palestinian bloggers have been arrested, social media conferences shut down, and dissidents routinely tortured. Meanwhile, what speech does Hamas advocate? Genocide of all Americans and Jews.
On August 10, 2012, the deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament in Gaza, Ahmad Bahr, shouted: "Oh Allah, destroy the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, destroy the Americans and their supporters. Oh Allah, count them one by one, and kill them all, without leaving a single one." Yussuf al-Sharafi, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, echoed, "Allah, take the Jews and their allies, Allah, take the Americans and their allies ... annihilate them completely and do not leave anyone of them." It's hard to take these words as anything but an incitement to genocide, plain and simple.
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What makes this incitement particularly dangerous is that they are broadcast live on Hamas TV throughout Gaza. Rwandan radio broadcasts once set the stage for the genocide which killed 800,000 people in one hundred days. Today, senior Hamas leaders are using even more powerful technologies, including social media, to incite violence and extremism against their neighbors and their own citizens. Inexcusably, this outrage has been largely ignored by the United Nations and many in the human rights community. It should be among the top priorities.
There are many lessons to take from the Holocaust. Perhaps the most important one is that when someone (especially a government) threatens to annihilate you, it's best to take them seriously. Incitement to genocide is always the precursor to genocide. It was so in Rwanda, Germany, and nearly every other instance of mass slaughter.
There are differences between Hamas and Al Qaeda, but the language they use in almost every consequential category is identical. Both groups use racist speech and preach genocide. Both glorify suicide bombing and praise the use of civilian shields. Both silence free expression and openly call for the destruction of a member state of the United Nations.