The useful idiots of global Jihadism

Dan Perry
7 min readNov 6, 2023

Hamas scuttled Palestinian statehood, oppresses millions of Gazans, and crushed regional hope for peace. Its Western backers are imbeciles.

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The progressives rallying for Hamas on US campuses are missing something simple: Supporting the Palestinians, whose cause is noble enough, obligates a rational person to not support Hamas. Hamas is the enemy of Palestine, and a genuine scourge to all humanity.

Hamas opposes any accommodation with Israel and seeks its destruction — that is the meaning of “from the river to the sea” — and its imams have spoken of war to the finish with all Jews based on genocidal interpretations of Islam. Thus it has devoted huge efforts to preventing a two-state solution for Palestine. Preventing — not furthering.

Its favorite tactic, since the 1990s, has been suicide bombings meant to sow hatreds, discredit peace efforts and move Israelis rightward politically. Hamas correctly assumed that the Israeli right, led for most of that period by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would be its useful idiot — a phrase often applied last century to naive and ignorant critics of the West who unwittingly assisted the communist cause.

In this case the Israeli right indeed did the bidding of Hamas, torpedoing the peace efforts from the Israeli side, ramping up Jewish settlements on occupied land, and oppressing the Palestinians in creative ways.

So, when bad things happen to Palestinians — when independence is denied them, or when civilians are killed in an Israeli strike against Hamas, the group is happy, not sad. When Hamas places a command center in tunnels under the main Gaza hospital, that is a feature, not a bug. If Israel loses patience and bombs the hospital, Hamas would consider it a win.

If it succeeded in destroying Israel, the country Hamas would establish in its place would be a benighted Islamist theocracy which, as in the Gaza version, would be modeled after its main sponsor, the Islamic Republic of Iran. There would be no room for the queer and gender non-binary there, even if they chanted Hamas slogans at some Manhattan rally. Nor for Jews, Christians, or impious Muslims.

When Israel pulled all its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, it wanted a good relationship with the people there, not a bad one. It sought quite open borders and was willing to provide employment for Gazans, because it was happy with the cheap labor.

Everything about the current reality in which Gaza is described as the largest open-air prison in the world occurred because Hamas staged a coup against the Palestinian Authority and seized control of the strip in 2007, vowing to use the territory as a base to attack Israel. That brought on a blockade by Israel and Egypt, increased poverty and created a happiness level you’d expect when a violent mafia is in charge and having a beer is illegal.

Persistent Hamas rocket fire sparked mini-wars with Israel in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2021, and 2022. All ended the same: death and destruction in Gaza, and Hamas agreeing to stop the rocket fire until next time. Israel took some heat for its military response, much of it justified — but none of the critics had brilliant ideas about how to handle Hamas.

Israel seemed prepared to tolerate this, because its Iron Dome interceptors were effective against the rockets. Some reckless politicians, like Netanyahu himself, actually saw benefit in the arrangement, as it weakened the moderate Palestinian Authority and reduced pressure on Israel to enter a two-state process.

That equation was blown up on Oct. 7, when thousands of Hamas terrorists busted into an oddly undefended Israel and rampaged for hours, massacring more than 1,200 people with a level of barbarism that ends the discussion. They shot parents in front of their children, burned and dismembered babies, celebrated before the bodies of women they gang-raped and murdered, and hauled back to Gaza infants and Holocaust survivors. This is what imbeciles at Harvard called a “military action.”

Now Israel is determined to get rid of Hamas at any price, despite its human shields. Which will be is as ugly as it sounds.

How can anyone sane in the world support the group that causes all this misery, to Palestinians first and foremost? Contrary to some lazy journalism, Hamas was never elected to govern Gaza, and if it didn’t have 50,000 armed thugs to protect them its leaders would be thrown into the sea by the people of the place.

I have been writing for years that the situation in Gaza is unsustainable. I have urged the Israelis to put the two-state option back on the table even as they fight Hamas. If you criticize Israel’s colonization project in the West Bank, I’m with you. If you ask tough questions about Israel’s day-after plan for Gaza, I hear you. But the world should stop playing games on Hamas.

And there is much more that could be done without putting any more lives in danger.

Even though the United States and much of Europe considers Hamas a terrorist group, there was never a serious effort to block funding and neutralize its leaders.

The funding for this criminal outfit is murky — though a substantial portion comes from aid meant to feed Gaza’s people. Far more can be done by bodies like the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which in theory sanctions providers of funding to Hamas and can squeeze it at the source.

Critically, the West has leverage on two of the three main culprits: Qatar, which provides funding to Hamas and hosts key leaders; and Turkey, which Israel accuses of allowing a command center to operate on its territory and suspects of funneling explosives to the group. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently declared Hamas is not a terrorist group but rather that it fights for “liberation.”

Hamas leaders Khaled Mashal and Ismail Haniyeh live lavish lives in Qatar, shamelessly condemning their people to misery from a comfortable faraway perch. And Qatar has since 2007 sent hundreds of millions of dollars to prop up the Hamas regime, in recent years with the acquiescence of Israel, which was clearly a mistake.

Just now Qatar is seen as useful in efforts to negotiate a release of the 230-odd hostages Hamas seized on Oct. 7 — who include babies. That’s because the petrostate has such good relations with the group. The world must demand of Qatar that these good relations end. The other Sunni nations of the region should demand this first and foremost, for Qatar has meddled in their affairs as well with support for Islamist causes.

Qatar wishes to be a normative country and to be seen as a desired investor in Western marquee firms. It hosted the World Cup. It has a great airline, a reasonable all-news TV channel and decent tourism. It hosts the Al Udeid Air Base, the largest US military installation in the Middle East, and does a brisk trade with the United States, too.

Qatar needs to be made to understand that this profile and its general ambitions in the world do not align with support for a genocidal group and the crimes described above. A similar message should be delivered to Turkey, in theory a NATO ally, which also hosts a US air base. As to anyone flirting with Hamas.

The message needs to be that Hamas is beyond the pale of civilization, and any dealings with it invite immediate and extreme pariah status.

The main culprit, Iran, is of course a different story. There is no alliance there to preserve. Iran should just receive the most severe economic sanctions imaginable from both Europe and the United States, not only over funding Hamas but arming Hezbollah, which has brought misery to Lebanon. Iran has natural gas which it hopes to find markets for, and it has succeeded in dulling the impact of past sanctions, but that doesn’t mean don’t try.

Which brings us to the “progressive” US supporters, who are the second and perhaps primary instance of useful idiots in our tale. The type of society global jihadism seeks rejects all versions of “the other” and has no overlap with the goals of Western progressives. It would undermine everything progressives actually seek. It would hesitate not a second before offending them of providing them with unsafe spaces. And yet, in their ignorance, absurd narratives of decolonialization, obsession with narratives of oppressor versus oppressed, and malice toward the society whose freedoms they exploit, they find themselves condoning backwardness and inhumanity.

The absurdity of it all was skewered to perfection in an Israeli skit from the show Eretz Nehederet (an upgrade on SNL, if you ask me — see it here) in which a pair of clueless gender fluid (and “racist fluid”) students ask a Hamas “freedom fighter” Abu Fatwa by video call: “How are you? Are you safe?” and are rewarded with “Inshallah, God will kill you all, infidels.” Which they mistake somehow for “inclusiveness.”

The US has the First Amendment, but not all expression is protected: Incitement to violence is illegal, and individual states and municipalities have hate-crime laws and regulations that might apply. There is absolutely no reason for university administrations to tolerate rallies for Hamas on campus, or expressions of support for Hamas by any organization or individual affiliated with their institutions. It should be akin to supporting ISIS, or the Nazis. It is not akin to supporting the oppressed.

Progressives, please learn from Barack Obama: Don’t do stupid shit.

(A version of this story appeared in Newsweek)

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Dan Perry

Journalist and comms professional who led the Associated Press in the Middle East, Africa, Europe & Caribbean. Author of Israel & the Quest for Permanence.