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The distinction between Hamas and “ordinary” Palestinian Arabs is largely spurious

By Melanie Phillips published at January 18, 2024.

In the current war in the Middle East, it’s a given that a distinction must be drawn between Hamas and the “ordinary” Palestinian Arab residents of Gaza.

This distinction, however, is largely spurious.

An article in The Washington Free Beacon that drew upon interviews given to Israeli TV by freed hostages has confirmed that ordinary Gazans were deeply involved in the Oct. 7 pogrom and subjected the hostages to cruelty, abuse and starvation.

Nili Margalit recounted how Gazan “civilians, regular people” took her hostage at knifepoint in the Oct. 7 attack. Margalit said a “boy … 17, maybe 18 years old” and an “older man with the knife” broke down the door of her home in Kibbutz Nir Oz and forced her, barefoot and in pajamas, into a stolen golf cart.

Margalit said she saw a “mob, thousands of people,” including “women and children,” pouring across Israel’s breached border with Gaza less than two miles away. (There are photos, ed.)

She saw two boys, one “no more than four or five years old” and the other 15 or 16, riding an all-terrain vehicle that belonged to her father, a cattle breeder who was among those murdered that day. The boys had apparently already made one trip from Nir Oz to Gaza and were returning for another round of carnage.

A number of the freed hostages said they spent part of their captivity in family homes, hospitals and other civilian sites in Gaza where they were locked into rooms, starved and ill-treated.

Mia Schem, who was shot in the arm and abducted from the Supernova music festival, said her captors brought her directly to a hospital in Gaza as she was bleeding to death.

Schem then received no further treatment or even pain medication. She was taken to a private home where a man and his family held her captive with “pure hate,” forbidding her to speak, cry or move. She would go days without receiving food and was never allowed to bathe.

Bad as their conditions were, the hostages’ captors repeatedly told them that their lives would be at risk if they were discovered by ordinary Gazans. The hostages hardly needed any such warning.

Sharon Aloni Cunio recalled how she and her twin three-year-old daughters were mobbed on Oct. 7 as terrorists brought them into Gaza on a tractor from their home in Nir Oz. “People start beating everyone who was sitting on the tractor—just beating us, from all sides. It was horrific,” she said.

The testimony of the freed hostages carries particular weight because these aren’t extreme nationalists. They are Israelis who, in general, were until Oct.7 the most fervent believers in peaceful coexistence with the Palestinian Arabs, ferrying Gaza residents to hospital in Israel, employing them and establishing many bonds with them.

They believed that whatever the failings of Palestinian leaders, the Palestinian Arabs just wanted to live alongside them in peace and security. Now they say something very different. “I experienced hell. Everyone there are terrorists,” said Schem. “There are no innocent civilians, not one.”

Agam Goldstein-Almog, who was abducted with her mother and two younger siblings after Hamas murdered her father and elder sister in their homes in Kfar Aza, said: “If we previously believed that there was a chance for peace, we’ve lost all faith in these people, especially after we were there and among the population.”

Nor are most Arabs living in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria any different. Between Oct. 7 and Jan. 15, Rescuers Without Borders recorded more than 2,600 attacks targeting Israeli civilians and soldiers, including 760 cases of rock-throwing, 551 fire bombings, 12 attempted or successful stabbings and nine vehicular assaults.

The IDF has been fighting heavy battles in these territories to thwart attacks and destroy terrorist infrastructure. In recent weeks, it’s been investigating possible infiltration tunnels discovered near Jewish communities in the Hebron Hills in Judea and Shiloh in Samaria’s Binyamin region.

The Palestinian Authority has never condemned the Oct. 7 pogrom; on the contrary, its main party, Fatah, has repeatedly extolled the atrocities. A poll published by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed support for Hamas in Judea and Samaria more than tripled after Oct. 7, with no fewer than 82% of Arabs there supporting the attack and 70% of them supporting the “armed struggle” against Israel.

In any moral universe, a set of people bent upon exterminating another would be treated as pariahs by the international community and their rights would be considered forfeit.

Yet America is even now insisting that the “route to peace” is through a Palestinian Arab state that must be ruled by a “revitalized” and “reformed” P.A.

There’s zero chance of any such reform. Such a state would merely revitalize the capacity of the Palestinian Arabs to inflict yet more genocidal attacks on Israel.

America and Britain remain wedded to the “two-state solution” because they refuse to acknowledge that this conflict is not over a division of land. Instead, it is a war of annihilation against Jews and the Jewish homeland that has lasted for almost 100 years.

Moreover, the reason the conflict still endures is the behavior of the West itself.

Led by Britain in the 1930s, the West has consistently rewarded and incentivized Arab aggressors bent on destroying Israel, while it has prevented Israel from taking the measures necessary to see off the threat once and for all.

The essential prerequisite for any solution is for the West to withdraw support for Palestinian Arab aggression and unequivocally back Israeli self-defense. Deprived of both Western funding and validation, the Palestinian agenda would fall apart.

Instead, the West continues to promote the murderous fiction that there are “good” Palestinian Arabs who deserve a state of their own—which would be a terror state with Israel at its mercy.

The West’s lethal error goes even deeper.

America and the U.K. have failed to realize that, just as Hamas can’t be divorced from the Palestinian Arabs but are part of the same genocidal entity, so the war against Israel is merely the most neuralgic element of a civilizational war between the Muslim world and the West.

That war was declared in 1979, when the Islamic revolution in Iran galvanized and radicalized Sunni as well as Shi’ite Muslims across the world, helping to create al-Qaeda.

The new Iranian regime declared war on the West and has prosecuted that war ever since with virtually no pushback. Instead, Western appeasement has helped finance and bolster Iran’s terrorism, proxy wars and quest for hegemony.

That catastrophic strategy, combined with the West’s continued financing and support of the Palestinian Arab agenda, enabled the Hamas pogrom and onslaught on Israel from multiple fronts in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Judea and Samaria.

This already metastasizing conflict is feared to presage a world war in which Russia and China join Iran against a West which has shown such lamentable enfeeblement in the Middle East.

Britain and America do not only insist that “bad” Hamas is different from the “good” Palestinian Arabs. They similarly claim that al-Qaeda, ISIS and other radical Islamists are merely rogue actors in an otherwise unthreatening Muslim world.

Both Britain and America have accordingly failed to recognize how jihadis intent upon conquering the West for Islam—as Hamas has said is its own ultimate aim—have tunneled into British and American democratic structures and institutions as devastatingly as they have tunneled into Israel from Gaza and Lebanon.

As a result of myopia, muddled thinking and moral cowardice, America and Britain are not just aiming to ensure that an Israel they protect from outright annihilation will nevertheless continue to twist in the murderous Islamist wind. They have also advertised to the enemies of civilization that the West itself is ripe for conquest.

Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London. To access her work, go to: