‘Enemies’ in our midst

Few things could be more hypocritical than an accuser ignoring his and his group’s own misdeeds. This is precisely the case with the leader of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that long ago announced its avowed goal to exterminate Israelis, just like Nazi Germany under Hitler tried to do during World War 2 in many gas chambers like the one in Auschwitz, Poland.

After killing thousands of Israeli civilians in an attack that started last 7 October, Hamas now claims Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza with its retaliatory airstrikes. While prudence dictates that the international community investigate any claims of wrongdoing, it’s equally essential to scrutinize the accuser’s own track record.

It’s appalling how Hamas can raise such accusations given its own extensive history of violence and brutality, not only against Israelis, but their fellow Palestinians who are now caught in the middle of this deadly war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken with distressing images of babies purportedly killed by Hamas militants. The photographs depicted a dead infant in a body bag and the charred remains of another baby. It’s an undeniable tragedy, and the world should indeed be outraged.

One Israeli soldier, during an interview with an American news network, told the distressing story of one pregnant woman slowly cut open to get at the unborn baby, which naturally resulted in the death of mother and child.

Now, what war crimes was Hamas’ leader, Ismail Haniyeh, talking about? What audacity by Haniyeh while ignoring the mountain of evidence against his own organization that had been tagged by many countries as a terrorist group.

According to news accounts, Secretary Blinken was visibly shaken by the images presented to him by Netanyahu. One can only imagine the horror of seeing an infant riddled with bullets and the grim scenes of soldiers beheaded and young people burned alive in their cars.

It is indeed “beyond almost anything that we can comprehend and digest,” as Blinken accurately pointed out. The images serve as a stark reminder of the brutality of Hamas, whose fanatics machine-gunned revelers at a music festival before taking hostage about 150 people, including several foreigners.

So far, three Filipinos have been killed by Hamas, with three others still unaccounted for, according to officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs. In the midst of these horrors, US President Joe Biden expressed his outrage over the images and confirmed his shock at seeing terrorists beheading babies.

As Blinken pointed out, “It’s obvious what Hamas has proven it is willing to do to innocent Israeli citizens,” to the lengths to which it would go in order to achieve its goals, even if it means decapitating babies, children and the elderly.

This is not warfare; it is a display by Hamas of depravity and inhumanity that goes against the most basic principles of humanity.

From rockets launched into Israeli territory to suicide bombings that targeted civilians in the past, the organization’s track record is replete with violence and indiscriminate attacks on innocent people. The use of human shields, a tactic that puts civilians at risk, and the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and civilians further demonstrate a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law.

Moreover, within the Gaza Strip, where Hamas holds power, allegations of human rights abuses abound. Reports of political dissent being suppressed and restrictions on the freedom of speech and assembly have raised concerns about the state of human rights under their rule.

This paints a grim picture of a group that seeks to establish its own version of authority, often at the expense of the rights and well-being of the people it purports to represent.

Hamas’ actions are inexcusable and should be met with condemnation by the international community. They cannot hide behind accusations of war crimes when they themselves have been responsible for countless acts of violence against civilians and have shown a callous disregard for human life. The bitter irony is that they cry foul while failing to acknowledge their own dark history and ongoing brutality.

It is against this backdrop that apprehensions are being aired by many Filipinos over reports that many of our countrymen who are trying to get out of Gaza, mostly women married to Palestinians, want to bring their supposed spouses to the Philippines.

Some may call it paranoia, but it is a valid concern that some of the Palestinians who are married to Filipino women may themselves be members of Hamas. We cannot have a situation where Hamas would be allowed not only safe passage into the Philippines, but to be afforded safe haven here.

The Philippines has had more than its share of foreign terrorists, like the bombmaker Marwan for whom 44 members of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force gave up their lives to neutralize. Then then was the Daesh-inspired Dawlah Islamiya, which linked up with the local Maute Group to undertake the siege of Marawi.

Certainly, there’s a need to thoroughly look into the identities of the Palestinians who would be allowed to come into the Philippines purportedly as spouses of Filipinos. The last thing we need is Hamas in our midst.

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