Hamas’s Other Hostages

As Israel continues its assault on Hamas targets, diplomats in Cairo and Qatar are trying to persuade Hamas to free the 240 hostages held in Gaza. While the Israeli media have focused understandably on the civilians and soldiers Hamas seized, the terror group also holds another group hostage: the Strip’s 2.2 million Palestinians.

Just as Hamas is using the Israeli hostages as leverage in negotiations for aid, a cease-fire, and the release of Palestinians in Israeli prisons, it also exploits the Palestinians it governs. The militant Islamists are using Gaza’s Palestinians as human shields to deter Israeli bombings, and, should the Israeli air force strike civilian targets, as evidence of Israel’s indifference to Palestinian suffering and of the country’s alleged war crimes.

In some respects, Hamas seems to care even less about the people it rules than the Israeli hostages it holds. And it surely does not care at all about creating a Palestinian state. While polls show that most Palestinians yearn for an independent homeland, Hamas does not. As Hamas’s Mahmoud al-Zahar has said, Palestine is only “a toothbrush in our pocket.” What Hamas and virtually all militant Islamists seek is a theocratic Islamic empire throughout the region and, indeed, the world, governed according to their dark interpretation of Islam.

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