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Israel, Face New Reality: Talk to Hamas

Author: Ed Husain, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
November 21, 2012


Editor's note: Ed Husain is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "The Islamist." He can be followed on Twitter via @Ed_Husain

(CNN) -- When I visit Jerusalem and the West Bank, I frequently ask young Arabs about their views on Hamas. In almost every discussion, Christians and Muslims alike refuse to label Hamas as a "terrorist" organization. When I raise criticism of Hamas and its targeting of innocent civilians, my comments never register. The responses are some variation of "Israel has taken over our lands and killed thousands of Arab civilians over the years. Hamas is only resisting occupation and fighting for our rights."

I hear similar sentiments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and even non-Arab Pakistan. Al-Jazeera Arabic gives prominence to the popular Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has repeatedly called suicide bombings against Israelis not terrorism, but "martyrdom." He argues that since Israelis all serve in the military, they are not civilians. Even children, he despicably argues, are not innocent. They would grow up to serve in the military. Qaradawi is not alone.

I can name tens of Muslim clerics, important formulators of public opinion in a region dominated by religion, that will readily condemn acts of terrorism against the West, but will fall silent when it comes to condemning Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Put simply, support for violent resistance against Israel among Arab and Muslim-majority countries -- including allies of the United States such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia -- remains popular.

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