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The Israel-Hamas War: Operation Iron Sword
Arab/Muslim and Palestinians Supporters’ Reaction

(October 7 , 2023 - Present)
By Mitchell Bard

Hamas hoped its usual rhetoric about “defending the al-Aqsa Mosque” and its “courageous” attack on the “Zionists” would engender support from Muslims worldwide and provoke an uprising of Palestinians in the West Bank and Israeli Arabs within Israel. It did not.

Israel was not engaged in any activity on the Temple Mount, and many Muslims were horrified by the atrocities committed by Hamas, which they saw as a perversion of Islam. Israeli Arabs were equally appalled when they saw that Hamas did not attack soldiers of the “occupation” but civilians. They murdered indiscriminately, killing Arabs, Thai workers, and peace activists, dragging away infants, women, the disabled, and the elderly to tunnels in Gaza.

Arab Knesset member Ayman Odeh said: “Any call for militant actions and igniting a war between Arabs and Jews inside Israel is something we will not accept.”

Similarly, Mansour Abbas, Knesset member and leader of the Islamic Ra’am Party, wrote to his followers: “I call on Arab citizens and all Arab and Jewish citizens to maintain restraint and behave responsibly and patiently, and to maintain law and order.” He also called on Hamas to “release the captives in your hands. Islamic values command us not to imprison women, children, and the elderly.” 

Haaretz reported that “most leading media outlets in the Arab world have ignored the attacks on Israeli civilians. They haven’t reported on Hamas’s atrocities and haven’t mentioned the 240 or so hostages that were taken.”

Anti-Israel demonstrations have taken place throughout the Middle East, but leaders have expressed a range of views.

The United States pressured Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn Hamas, which is also his enemy. Using almost the same language that President Joe Biden expressed in his call with him, Abbas said Hamas’s actions “do not represent the Palestinian people.” He subsequently backtracked.

Meanwhile, Fatah’s Central Committee sent “greetings of appreciation and pride” to the  “martyrs” and congratulated “the forces of heroism” who massacred Jews. It also called on the Palestinian public to “answer the calls to confront” Israel and escalate the situation on the ground “in every conflict area and throughout the homeland” to aid the Palestinians in Gaza.

Fatah also released a video showing members of its Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades participating and bragging about their role in the massacre. In a video posted on Telegram, a terrorist says they broke into the Nahal Oz kibbutz, plundered it, “killed soldiers, and stepped on their heads.”

Egypt, which is mostly concerned with Palestinians crossing its border, urged restraint, as did Jordan. Israel’s peace partners from the Abraham AccordsBahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, condemned Hamas. Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa said the massacre of Israelis was barbaric and horrific and called for the release of the Israeli hostages. Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, chairman of the Defense, Interior, and Foreign Affairs Committee of the United Arab Emirates Federal National Council, made clear that his country would not withdraw from the Accords. “The Accords are our future,” he said. “It is not an agreement between two governments, but a platform that we believe should transform the region where everyone will enjoy security, stability and prosperity.”

IranIraq, Qatar, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon cheered the Hamas attack. Other Muslim and Arab states that could not bring themselves to condemn Hamas offered only minimal support for the Palestinians. Saudi Arabia blamed “the continued occupation.”

Some individuals were willing to go against the tide. One journalist, for example, wrote on X, “Any Kuwaiti who forgets the treachery of the Palestinian leadership is ignorant. My solidarity is with the Palestinian and the Israeli people. We want to uproot Hamas and the PLO.” Expressing his disdain for their corruption of the religion, he said, “They killed an Israeli woman, took offer her clothes, smashed her, and marched around in victory…but victory for what?! Are these the principles of Islam?!”

Another Kuwaiti expressed the view of other Muslims and Arabs. Sheikh Yasser al-Habib said, “Who among us does not enjoy the revenge against the Zionist enemy? We were all excited by the news when it first reached us.” Even he changed his view when the atrocities were uncovered. “Where have the ethics of warfare gone?” he wrote. “What was the reason for these atrocities that were committed?”

Amjad Taha, a Saudi influencer and an expert in politics and diplomatic strategy with almost half a million followers, tweeted in Hebrew: “In the Arab, Muslim, and free world, we support Israel and condemn the Palestinian terror attacks. As you can see in today’s videos, it is a struggle between a civilized nation and barbaric militias.”

Other social media influencers have expressed support for Hamas. The Qatari-backed al-Jazeera propaganda network is also stoking anger toward Israel.

Meanwhile, large demonstrations outside the Middle East supported Hamas. Some of the most vocal support came from pro-Palestinian groups on college campuses. At Harvard, for example, 31 student organizations signed a statement praising Hamas. Students for Justice in Palestine chapters across the United States expressed support for the massacre, sometimes with the backing of other campus groups. Some faculty also sided with Hamas. Supporters of Israel put up posters with pictures of hostages, many of which were torn down.

The hostility toward Israel, especially across the Middle East, increased exponentially after an explosion at the Al-Ahli Hospital killed dozens of people sheltering there. Hamas and much of the media immediately blamed Israel, setting off riots in the West Bank and elsewhere. Riots also took place outside Israeli and American embassies in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, and a synagogue in Berlin was firebombed. 

Just as ties had begun to improve, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Hamas is a “liberation group waging a battle to protect its land.” He also canceled a planned trip to Israel, later recalled his ambassador, and declared, “Netanyahu is no longer someone we can talk to. We have written him off.”

Leaders from the Gulf, Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Syria called for an end to “Israeli aggression against Gaza,” more humanitarian aid, and a freeze on international arms exports to Israel at an  Islamic-Arab summit in Riyadh. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Israel bears responsibility for “crimes committed against Palestinian people.”

Nevertheless, the Saudis and the Abraham Accords signatories blocked a resolution to prevent the transfer of U.S. military equipment to Israel from American bases in the Middle East region, suspend all diplomatic and economic contacts with Israel, cut back oil sales to the United States over Washington’s support for Israel; stop Israeli air traffic over the skies of the Gulf and send a joint delegation to the United States, Europe, and Russia to push for a ceasefire.

Mohammed bin Salman called for a global export ban on arms to Israel, but this was probably just rhetoric to satisfy his public as he knows Israel gets most of its arms from the United States, which will not stop the transfer of weapons.

Jordanian King Abdullah II, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi signed a joint op-ed in the Washington Post on April 8, 2024, calling for an immediate ceasefire and insisting that a two-state solution is the only way to bring peace to the Middle East (ignoring all the unrelated causes of turmoil in the region). They called for the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 2720 and 2728 and the release of all hostages while also warning of the consequences of an Israeli offensive in Rafah. It also veered into unrelated matters, such as the status of Jerusalem, with an emphasis on recognizing Jordanian custodianship over Muslim holy sites.

Relations with Turkey continued to deteriorate in May 2024 when Turkey stopped all trade with Israel and Erdogan ratcheted up his criticism of the Israeli prime minister, saying “Netanyahu has reached a level that would make Hitler jealous with his genocidal methods.”

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