In two recent articles, Palestinian journalist Bakir Oweida directed harsh criticism at Hamas for kidnapping dozens of women, children and elderly people during its October 7, 2023 attack in southern Israel. In the first article, published in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Oweida wrote that "kidnapping women, children and elders is clearly forbidden," and wondered how Hamas could have possibly allowed its fighters to do this. He also asked if there was no "wise and reasonable voice" that would demand their release, "immediately and without any excuses." In the second article, in his column on the Saudi website Elaph, he wrote that he had initially refused to believe that Hamas had actually kidnapped women, children and elders, until he saw them being released with his own eyes. This behavior, he said, contravenes the values of Islam, which teaches to treat such people with compassion and respect, and therefore it is inconceivable that individuals who purport to be devout Muslims should perform such acts. He also stressed that Hamas' October 7 attack would bring terrible years-long tragedies upon the Palestinians themselves.
Bakir Oweida (Image: Alarabiya.net)
The following are translated excerpts from these two articles.
It Is Forbidden To Take Women, Children And Elders Hostage; How Could The Hamas Leadership Permit Its Fighters To Do So?
In an article published November 22 in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Oweida wrote: "The discourse about the hostages leads us to reexamine the behavior of the fighters of [Hamas' military wing,] the Izz Al-Din Al-assam Brigades, during the attack. Generally speaking, hostage-taking is known to be an important aspect of warfare. At the same time, taking women, children and elders hostage is clearly forbidden. How did the Hamas leaders allow its fighters to take non-combatants hostage? If there are claims that Israel can use to justify the martyrdom of children at the Al-Shifa hospital as a result of its barbaric war, this [i.e., the kidnapping of the women, children and elders] is the strongest of them. I wonder, is there a wise and reasonable voice that can speak out and demand that all the women and children be released immediately and without any excuses, whether they are detained by the Al-Qassam Brigades or in Israel's jails?..."
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I Refused To Believe The Hamas Fighters Took Women, Children And Elders Hostage Until I Saw Them With My Own Eyes
In another article a week later, Oweida wrote: "Many will probably be puzzled to hear me say that I [initially] refused to believe that fighters of Hamas' military wing, the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, had taken Israeli women, children and elders hostage when they raided the localities near the Gaza border in their surprise attack on Saturday, October 7, [an attack] that turned out to be completely unprecedented in terms of its scope, the gear [used in it], and its success at achieving the main goals of the operation…
"I indeed refused to believe it until Friday, the day before yesterday [November 24], when I saw [Hamas and Israel] beginning to implement the deal for exchanging the hostages with Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in the Israeli jails. My refusal to believe this may have stemmed from two mental states that the human mind is prone to. The first is called denial and the second is called wishful thinking. I apparently had both. But the question that remains to be answered is why."
Our Parents Taught Us Compassion Towards Women, Children And Elders
"One possible explanation for the first [mental] state, [of denial], has to do with the foundations of my upbringing, which are common to other members of Arab society and more broadly to the members of all societies in the Muslim world. Whether Muslim or Christian, we all learned from our fathers, and certainly from our mothers, what they learned from our ancient forefathers, namely the values of compassion towards elders and vulnerable children, [values] of helping children and of behaving honorably towards all women…
"How can a person who claims to be guided by Islam in all his actions, even in his daily affairs, harm a child, a mother or an elderly woman? How can a fighter who belongs to a movement called 'the Islamic Resistance Movement' [Hamas] dare to kidnap mothers, women and grandmothers and take them from their homes into the tunnels of Gaza? It is impossible. It is inconceivable. I started telling myself that all the [reports] buzzing around were nothing but propaganda from the mouthpieces of Israel, which is doing its utmost to blacken the image of the fighters who devote their lives to achieving justice and defending the most just of causes [i.e., the Palestinian cause]."
What Hamas Did Will Lead To Years-Long Tragedies For The Palestinian People
"Later I obviously discovered that my thoughts were just part of my denial, which was itself part of my wishful thinking. It is like a mirror: when you look into it, you may see what your mind hopes to see, instead of the actual reality. That's what reality is like. It can always shock whoever is floating in unreal delusions. What Hamas dared to do by means of its armed [wing], the Al-Qassam Brigades, will lead to tragedies [that will harm] the Palestinians even before the Israelis, and are likely to last long years. All the disasters we have witnessed so far are just the beginning of these tragedies, which are now starting to snowball.
"The people killed on both sides are victims of the extremism that has prevailed for years on both sides, the Palestinian one and the Israeli one. Obviously, there are always those who rush to respond to claims of this sort by saying that the Palestinian victims are 'martyrs,' and that all of them – no matter how many there are – are a cheap price to pay for the liberation of Palestine. Well, I do not have the right to oppose those who say this, and neither does anyone else. But what always confounds me, and perhaps other people as well, is the attempt to understand those who compare the cruel and barbaric behavior of the Israeli occupier… with the behavior of the [Palestinian] fighters, who are supposed to be armed not only with rifles, bombs and guns but also with values like morality, compassion, justice and tolerance, even towards the enemy. These comparisons are always aimed at… justifying what cannot be justified under any circumstances…"