*This interview was edited for clarity and brevity
In your interviews of members of Islamic Jihad, Al Qaeda and Hamas, what did you find motivates these terrorists?
There are many answers to that and 2 levels of answers.
One level is political: they are brainwashed. These terrorists actually believe Islam must prevail and conquer the world. But I was more interested in their personal stories. Most of them were suicide bombers who were unsuccessful in their mission. But there was one who succeeded, but his life was saved in an Israeli hospital. I wanted to know what motivated them to want to kill themselves like that.
Also, I sent a team to Japan to interview former kamikazes and see what they thought about Muslim “kamikazes.” The Japanese kamikazes were ashamed because they acted out of honor and would only target military personnel. They were not like the Palestinian terrorists, whose main goal was to terrorize, to target women and children. The terrorists would avoid the army and the police; they just wanted to target as many women and children as possible.
In a promotional excerpt of Rehov’s Path To Darkness on YouTube a former kamikaze relates
I was angry that terrorists used our tactic to carry out such dirty acts. Then people started calling them “kamikaze.” I could not stand it.
I asked the Hamas prisoners why they did that — what would it do for them? They described their actions as nationalistic and in terms of duty. I realized that I was talking to people with a high level of frustration, living in an oppressive society where they would have no real chance of going out with girls and getting married. Without this outlet, these kids were prime targets for the local imam or leader who encouraged them to kill themselves, a few Jews — and end up in heaven.
And if they fail in their mission and end up in prison, they will receive a stipend from the Palestinian Authority and their families will be honored as a family of heroes. It is a whole society built around a hatred of Jews. It is not by accident that they become terrorists.
Have you seen any differences in the motivation among different terrorist groups?
No. Hamas made a big mistake. Most of the massacres on October 7th were committed not by Hamas people but by Gazan civilians they allowed to follow them in. Hamas had orders to commit a certain number of crimes, tortures, and kidnappings, but they were followed by over a thousand civilians from Gaza who were more than happy to torture, set people on fire, kill them, and call their families. Hamas did not expect them to then film themselves because they were so proud of themselves. Those videos are now all over social media.
In the past, Hamas always had the same strategy. They would attack Israel, Israel would retaliate, and then Hamas would hide behind civilians and use them as human shields. When Israel would then bomb Gaza, Hamas would show pictures that the media, especially the left-wing media, would be only too happy to publish. They would call the Israelis “murderers” and everyone would be on Hamas’s side.
This time, the Hamas atrocities can be found all around the Internet, and they cannot lie about it anymore. They thought things would turn out the same way as in 2014, that Israel would retaliate, followed by another ceasefire and demands that Israel stop.
This time it is not going to work. Also, they thought with Israel’s anti-government protests, left-wing vs right-wing, people protesting in the streets against judicial reform, religious vs non-religious, and everyone fighting against each other — that Israel was divided and weak. But on October 8th, Israel woke up. It is not going to give up on getting back the hostages and it is not going to give up on getting rid of Hamas. No matter the cost.
Why is it that this time around, with all the brutal murders, there are still sympathizers with the Palestinian terrorists?
Lenin had a phrase for people like this: “Useful Idiots.” Those brainwashed kids know nothing about history, like the kids in the 1970s who followed Che Guevera and Castro because it was so cool to be against capitalism. Today, the new hero is the Hamas terrorist who continues to attack Israel after all the Arab armies were unable to defeat it, so Palestine became a big symbol. You also have the communists, whose goal is to destroy capitalism and the West. Remember, the Palestinian cause was invented by Yasir Arafat in 1964 with the help of the KGB. Arafat wanted to pull the Arab countries together against Israel. The Soviet Union allied with the Arab countries because they opposed the US. Another factor in the creation of the Palestinian people is that between WWI and WWII you had the Grand Mufti who tried to inspire the Arabs with a sense of nationalism against a Jewish state.
The history of pre-Israel Palestine, especially the developments between WWI and WWII is complicated. How can you explain that to a kid 20 years old, when you can just give him a Palestinian flag and tell him to go with his friends in the street and sing “Palestine Will Be Free!”
Meanwhile, antisemitism is back big time. I would say we are back to where we were in 1938, having another Chamberlain trying to make peace with Hitler, the same way that Obama tried to make peace with Iran. Iran was aware of what Hamas was going to do. In fact, Hamas was originally supposed to attack on Passover. Iran asked them to hold on and wait because they were in the middle of a deal with Biden who was going to give them six billion dollars. Iran wanted to get the money first, and then Hamas could go ahead and attack Israel. Not all of the details are clear.
Iran and Hamas did not anticipate that Biden would send the USS Gerald Ford and USS Eisenhower to the Middle East to protect Israel. If the Gazan civilians had not been filming all those atrocities, maybe Biden would not have felt forced to act so strongly on the side of Israel. Any human being, whether you are on the left or the right, Democrat or Republican, would have to be a soulless person to not be shocked or disgusted by what happened.
Besides being known for their terrorism, Hamas is also known for its propaganda. Do you think that Hamas has been as successful in its propaganda as it has been in the past?
No. A lot of people woke up, especially the Jewish community in general and the Jewish community in America in particular. Even someone like Bernie Sanders said there should not be a ceasefire. How shocked must he have been to realize at a certain point that this was not the Palestine he was dreaming of, to realize that here was a Nazi type of organization, with the goal to conquer the Western world — but with Israel in the way, they cannot go ahead with the rest of the plan.
As far as the pogroms of the Jews are concerned, in the Muslim world you had Morocco in 1907 when sixty-five Jews were murdered in the same way. There was Hebron in 1929, when the Grand Mufti Hussein claimed Jews wanted to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque. There was the Farhud in Iraq in 1941. But it was not just Jews. Look at Yasir Arafat, the PLO and Fatah. When they were in Lebanon, they completely destroyed the Christian city of Damour in 1976, a few weeks before Sabra and Shatila.
You have said that to interview Hamas terrorists in Israeli prisons, you need the permission of Hamas as well as of Israel. Why would Hamas give permission to speak to Hamas terrorists in prison?
First, there is the propaganda value of the interview. Also, for the terrorists, having a reporter with a movie team, a translator, a soundtaker, and a cameraman — it’s kind of fun in the middle of the boredom.
Remember, they think differently than a Westerner. They took pictures of themselves committing massacres. Even the Nazis did not do that; they tried to hide everything they did. These terrorists did not try to hide; they posted what they did on social networks. They are proud of what they did and believe they are right. They want to convince me. My only goal was to expose them and try to understand them on a personal level.
Do you think this time Hamas will again get a ceasefire?
This time will be totally different. If the government of Israel stops or allows a ceasefire without getting rid of Hamas and getting back the hostages, the people of Israel will hang Bibi. Nobody in Israel wants a ceasefire. Everyone in Israel wants to go all the way. The leader of Israel has to do what the people want. It is a trauma beyond anything that anyone in the world can fathom at this point. It is a repetition of the Shoah. It is in our DNA. We will not forget what happened in the Holocaust. We will not forget the pogroms in Russia and Poland. We will not forget the Inquisition, the Crusades and the Warsaw Ghetto. This time it is one time too much. There is a big difference.
This time our enemies are dealing with a country with a very powerful army.