The European Union has a very complex relationship with Israel, characterized simultaneously by strong links and generalized antipathy. This happens, not just because of issues related to the conflict, such as the settlements, the borders, and so on, but because the European Union, enveloped in multiculturalism, Marxism, and postmodernism, still struggles to understand the dynamics of radicalization in the Middle East, which is mostly drawn in Islamist shades.
The case of Hamas is emblematic. The fact that this Islamist organization is still blacklisted by the EU Council as a terrorist entity does not imply by any means a full understanding and consequential rejection of the ideology underpinning the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A case in point concerns anti-Semitism. It is well known that the 1988 Hamas Covenant contains explicit anti-Semitic statements drawn from the Islamic scriptures, including a hadith anticipating a final Holocaust at the hand of believers:
“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.”1
While Hamas attempts to show a more accommodating face with the less virulent “Document of General Principles and Policies” of May 2017, the EU High Commissioner Federica Mogherini has correctly acknowledged that the new statement “clearly does not replace the original founding Charter of 1988.” She continued, “The EU does not see a case for a change in policy towards Hamas nor considers it appropriate to draw a distinction between its military and civilian wings.”2
However, it is necessary to ask oneself what the ideological roots of this anti-Semitism are, as this would clarify the bigger picture. Hamas’ anti-Semitism is no different from the overall ideology of the wider Muslim Brotherhood (MB), to which it explicitly belongs.
The Muslim Brotherhood Origin
The Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), was founded by the Egyptian Hassan al-Banna in 1928. There is evidence of al-Banna’s admiration for Adolf Hitler and Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini, who was Hitler’s ally. Al-Banna declared: “What could Arab youth ever do […] to deserve a hero like you, who challenged an empire, battling Zionism with Hitler’s help? Hitler and Germany may be no more, but Amin al-Husseini will fight on.”3
With Sayyid Qutb (the MB ideologue who is considered the spiritual father of modern jihadism), anti-Semitism made a qualitative leap. In Ma’rakatuna ma’a al-yahud (“Our battle against Jews”), he undertook, according to Bassam Tibi, a total “Islamization of anti-Semitism.”4 In this pamphlet, the struggle for Palestine assumed clear anti-Semitic tones: the enemies are not only Zionists but the very “wicked Jews” against whom the Quran has issued clear warnings that the Umma has forgotten. The text nurtures a list of historical and anthropological stereotypes against Jews, culminating in a conspiracy theory whereby they all have the secret mission of destroying Islam worldwide, and wherever the Islamic renaissance is curtailed, a Jew is maneuvering behind the curtains.5
The anti-Semitic rhetoric is still present today. In 2010, the would-be President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi called Zionists “descendants of apes and pigs,” using a typical Quranic slur for Jews.6 The Al-Jazeera star and allegedly “moderate” Yusuf al-Qaradawi has described the Holocaust as the punishment sent by Allah against Jews for their corruption while expressing the hope that the next one would be “at the hand of the believers.”7 A similar view is expressed in the Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Jews by the Kuwaiti Muslim Brother Tareq al-Suwaidan, while Jews are described therein as the worst enemies of Muslims and the Holocaust is belittled and justified as a reaction to Jewry’s negative actions.8 It is worth mentioning that this individual, inserted in the blacklists of the Schengen Area (26 European states with a common visa policy), was invited to Italy two years ago by the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.9
Failing to frame Hamas’ violence within this ideological/religious context, may lead – at best – to condemning the attacks against civilians as a criminal but not an ideological act. At worst, some condone the violence as a romantic “struggle for freedom” (in a similar vein to how so-called “intellectuals” labeled leftist terrorism in Europe). In either case, a proper understanding of the root causes of terrorism remains out of reach, and so too a counter-strategy.
Europe has long adopted a specific set of lenses to read Middle Eastern conflicts and radicalization alike: Through the Marxist lens, everything can and must be explained in terms of economic and social power; the Third World and anti-colonial lens attributes the ultimate guilt of every worldwide phenomenon to the West and its “vassals.” The third lens focuses via relativistic multiculturalism, a perverted child of pluralism (one of the most precious conquests of liberal thought), deforming the latter to make every cultural behavior acceptable – even as it denies the rights of others and the freedoms we cherish.
It took one of the deadliest waves of terrorist attacks on European soil to start awakening the Sleeping Beauty from its (ideological) slumber. Those who have devoted the best efforts of their lives to massacring innocent people in airports, museums, nightclubs, supermarkets, and restaurants, are not starving and homeless, but often middle class and generously supported by the same states they wish to destroy. They often know nothing of Palestine or Syria, nor are their roots from there; still, they may derive their aggressiveness and frustrations from the situations there, as confirmed to me by first-line practitioners working with problematic youth and inmates in Belgium. A more and more radical Islam, which is supplanting traditional forms of faith among European Muslim communities to the extent that experts talk about mainstreaming of Salafism,10 provides the ideological fuel.
And still European governments and EU institutions struggle to see the connection between the religious ideology and violence. Incredibly, their preventative strategies have repeatedly entailed the empowerment of organizations promoting Islamist ideology, under the banner of their alleged rejection of violence. Such a fallacy becomes immediately glaring with a simple comparison: who could deem nonviolent neo-Nazis our allies in the fight against the violent ones? Let us not be mistaken here: there is surely a substantial difference between promoting radical ideas and turning them into action. Nevertheless, this elementary acknowledgment does not contradict the equally elementary need of using the appropriate means to tackle both heads of the hydra, not pretending to distinguish between a good and a bad.
The European Commission, for instance, has not hesitated to finance a Sharia-based method to prevent religious radicalization within European civil societies” implemented by the Muslim Association of Ireland,11 an organization with strong ties to the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI).12 The last-mentioned is well known for being under the MB umbrella Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) and for hosting Al-Qaradawi’s International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) and European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR).13 After an ICCI member recently promoted female genital mutilations live on TV14 or the ECFR issued fatwas sanctioning death penalty for apostasy,15 one must wonder what the “Sharia-based methods to prevent religious radicalization” look like, and, above all, why the European taxpayer should finance such things instead of liberal Muslim groups advocating for secularism.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of such examples. Another major case is Islamic Relief, a MB-linked organization with close ties to Hamas, which enjoyed EU funding for years before the UBS and HSBC banks closed its accounts for allegedly financing terrorism.16 This is but one of the many European connections between two of the many heads of the hydra, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, evident especially when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the BDS movement.17
Europe and Israel are facing the same monster. The difference is that Israel is more exposed (for now), and has no other choice but to call it by its name. This is certainly not to deny the rights of Palestinians, or the fact that also a Jewish radicalism exists and threatens the Israeli liberal democratic fabric, as happens in Europe with far-Right and far-Left extremisms. But unfortunately the one problem does not remove the other, and we must be realistic in tackling each of them with the clarity of mind and avoiding confusion. Palestinians will not thrive if their future state is an Islamist caliphate, as the daily human rights horrors in Gaza show: protesters brutally killed in the streets, journalists imprisoned, homosexuals tortured and forced to flee to Israel, women secluded under strict morality codes.18 All of this has nothing to do with the war, be it Israeli bombings or Hamas’ use of human shields. Much of the violence emanates from the Islamist ideology underpinning the dictatorial movement. Even the allegedly secular Palestinian Authority, which receives hundreds of millions from the European Union, in recent years has started to approach Hamas’ ideology by injecting religious tones into the war against “the Jews.”19
A powerful and widespread radical ideology fuels social radicalization, which in the presence of the right trigger can easily burst into violence. This is the mortal dynamic we see in Europe and Israel alike. Hamas’ Mickey Mouse TV character indoctrinating Palestinian children toward Islamic domination20 is no different from what Sharia4Belgium did in the streets of Brussels.21
Hence, we must have the intellectual courage of looking in the eyes of the heads of the hydra, identify their connection to the same body, and counter all of them in the name of our liberal democratic values. Appeasement in the hope of being spared, besides being immoral, has never been a particularly brilliant idea.
* * *
- Hamas Covenant, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp
- Hamed Abdel-Samad, Islamic Fascism (Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York, 2016), p. 28.
- Tibi, mentioned in Valentina Colombo, “L’antisemitismo ‘sacralizzato’ nell’ideologia dei Fratelli musulmani,” in Il negazionismo: un fenomeno contemporaneo, ed. Francesco Germinario, (Carocci, 2016), p. 110.
- David D. Kirkpatrick, “Morsi’s Slurs Against Jews Stir Concern,” The New York Times, January 14, 2013. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/15/world/middleeast/egypts-leader-morsi-made-anti-jewish-slurs.html.
- “Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Allah Imposed Hitler upon the Jews to Punish Them – ‘Allah Willing, the Next Time Will Be at the Hand of the Believers,’” MEMRI – The Middle East Media Research Institute, January 28, 2009, https://www.memri.org/tv/sheik-yousuf-al-qaradhawi-allah-imposed-hitler-upon-jews-punish-them-allah-willing-next-time-will.
- Valentina Colombo, “Tareq Suwaidan, Predicatore Antisemita in Italia. Ecco Le Prove Del Suo Estremismo,” Informazione Corretta, April 4, 2016/ http://www.informazionecorretta.com/main.php?mediaId=115&sez=120&id=61964.
- Belgian Parliamentary Inquiry on Radicalization. https://bx1.be/news/commission-attentats-voici-rapport-recommandations-autour-volet-radicalisme/
- http://jcpa.org/the-spiders-web/; https://www.terrorism-info.org.il/Data/pdf/PDF_11_339_2.pdf; https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-ya-alon-outlaws-belgian-ngo-1.5306793?=&ts=_1534851423689
- https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/277489.pdf https://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Report-Hamas-executes-alleged-spies-shoots-protesters-in-Gaza-369331 https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/12496/palestinians-gays