“If we’re not willing to pledge our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the cause of freedom, we risk losing all three anyway.”
In an exclusive and thought-provoking interview, Robert Spencer, the Director of Jihad Watch and a renowned author of 27 books, including multiple New York Times bestsellers, unveils the religious underpinnings of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Spencer’s deep insights shed light on the complex dynamics, religious ideologies, and the misreported threatening slogans that are chanted in demonstrations in support of Palestinians and Hamas. From exploring the concepts of ‘Dar Al Harb’ and ‘Dar Al Islam’ to the U.S.-Israel alliance and the contentious issue of so-called ‘Islamophobia,’ Spencer’s extensive expertise and meticulous research provide a critical lens through which to understand these pressing global issues.
The Religious Nature of the Israel-Hamas Conflict
Spencer emphasized that the Israel-Hamas conflict is fundamentally a religious one. It has been mistakenly framed as a territorial or geopolitical dispute for decades, leading to misguided analysis and unfruitful attempts at peace. Israel has made numerous territorial concessions to various jihadist groups, yet the conflict persists. Spencer succinctly summarized the basis of the entire conflict, highlighting Quranic verse 2:191, which commands believers to “drive them out from where they drove you out.” This verse forms the foundation for the Palestinian propaganda that alleges Palestinians were driven out by Israelis, even though historical evidence suggests otherwise. This narrative fuels a sense of religious obligation to drive Israelis out of the land, regardless of the size of Israel.
Spencer further explained that in classic Islamic theology, the House of Islam (Dar Al Islam) must continually expand at the expense of the House of War (Dar Al Harb). The green flags of many Islamic countries symbolize this perpetual growth. Muslims believe that any land that was once part of the Islamic domain must return to it, based on the Quranic principle of “drive them out from where they drove you out.” Hence, even if Israel were as small as a suburban front yard, it would not be acceptable to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or other Palestinian groups. The conflict is rooted in the religious duty of Muslims to regain any land they consider historically theirs.
Understanding Key Terms: Dar Al Harb and Dar Al Islam
Spencer explained the key terms “Dar Al Harb” (House of War) and “Dar Al Islam” (House of Islam). These terms illustrate the Islamic concept that the House of Islam must expand at the expense of the House of War, with warfare being the means of achieving this expansion. The green flags of Islamic countries represent the continuous growth of Islam, in contrast to other ideologies that diminish over time. This ideology fuels the belief that Israel must be reclaimed for Islam, irrespective of its size or any concessions made.
Why the U.S. Supports Israel
Spencer clarified the reasons for the United States’ strong support for Israel. He pointed out that Israel faces the same jihadist threat that led to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Therefore, forming an alliance of nations threatened by jihad should have been the logical response, as it would create a more coherent and effective web of alliances than the remnants of Cold War-era alliances.
The United States was one of the first countries to recognize Israel’s independence in 1948, and Israel remains the only free society in the region, guaranteeing equal rights to all its citizens. Given that the U.S. and Israel uphold the values of freedom and individual rights, it is only natural to support Israel, which is its most reliable and like-minded ally in the region. Spencer emphasized that Israel serves as the United States’ most reliable and like-minded ally in the region, a partnership that enhances the interests of both nations.
Widespread Support for Hamas and “From the River to the Sea” Chant
Spencer addressed the widespread support for Hamas among Palestinians, dispelling the misconception that most Palestinians reject the organization. He referenced a poll indicating that a significant majority of people in Gaza still support Hamas. Even more extremist groups, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, enjoy even greater support among Palestinians.
Spencer delved into the provocative chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” explaining that it is a call for the complete destruction of Israel. The chant represents a fundamental rejection of Israel’s right to exist.
“Khaybar Khaybar ya yahud,” Chant
The interview also covered the chant, “Khaybar Khaybar ya yahud.” Spencer provided historical context, explaining that the chant is a threat that recalls a massacre carried out by Muhammad and his followers in the town of Khaybar against the Jews. This chant is intended to instill fear and symbolizes a call for violence against Jews.
The Fallacy of the “Occupation”
Spencer dismissed the notion of Israel’s “occupation” as a fallacy. He clarified that no occupation existed, historically or at present. To be occupied, someone must own the land first. Spencer highlighted the history, beginning with the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate for Palestine, which was created to establish a Jewish national home in the region. He underlined that Israel is the only rightful claimant to the land, and its concessions for a Palestinian state prove its commitment to peace, even if reciprocated by violence.
The Myth of “Liberating Al Aqsa Mosque”
Spencer debunked the myth that Al Aqsa Mosque needs liberation. He explained that Al Aqsa Mosque is open to all Muslims for prayer, and there are no restrictions on access. It is a falsehood propagated to incite violence and advance the Palestinian propaganda machine’s narrative that Israel is attempting to destroy the mosque.
Spencer elaborated on the term “Islamophobia,” highlighting its relatively recent coinage in the 1990s. He emphasized that the term is employed to stigmatize criticism of Islam, creating an unwarranted sense of bigotry, racism, and hatred around it. While the concept of “Islamophobia” is often used to denote vigilante attacks on innocent Muslims, Spencer underscored that there is no corresponding phenomenon of irrational hatred or persecution of Muslims throughout history. It is a deceptive strategy to silence criticism of Islam and its ideology.
The Ongoing Threat to Critics of Islam
The interview also delved into the safety of individuals who criticize Islam in the West. Spencer admitted to receiving death threats over the years and narrowly escaping assassination attempts. He pointed out that freedom fighters throughout history have faced threats and violence, yet they stood up for their principles and paved the way for the free societies we enjoy today.
Spencer’s insightful interview with RAIR Foundation USA shed light on the deep-seated religious nature of the Israel-Hamas conflict and the misrepresentations surrounding it. His extensive knowledge and commitment to truth underscored the importance of standing up against intimidation and threats to ensure that free societies endure.
A complete listing of Robert Spencer’s books:
1. Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter Books, 2002)
2. Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery Publishing, 2003)
3. Inside Islam (with Daniel Ali) (Ascension Press, 2003)
4. The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims (Prometheus Books, 2004)
5. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (Regnery Publishing, 2005)
6. The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion (Regnery Publishing, 2006)
7. Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t (Regnery Publishing, 2007)
8. Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs (Regnery Publishing, 2008)
9. The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran (Regnery Publishing, 2009)
10. The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War On America (with Pamela Geller) (Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster, 2010)
11. Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry Into Islam’s Obscure Origins (ISI Books, 2011)
12. Not Peace But A Sword: The Great Chasm Between Christianity and Islam (CA Press, 2013)
13. Arab Winter Comes to America: The Truth About the War We’re In (Regnery Publishing, 2014)
14. The Complete Infidel’s Guide to ISIS (Regnery Publishing, 2015)
15. The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran (Regnery Publishing, 2016)
16. The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Free Speech (and Its Enemies) (Regnery Publishing, 2017)
17. Confessions of an Islamophobe (Bombardier Books, 2017)
18. The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS (Bombardier Books, 2018)
19. The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process (Bombardier Books, 2019)
20. Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster (Bombardier Books, 2020)
21. Mass Migration in Europe: A Model for the U.S.? (Center for Security Policy Press, 2020)
22. Islamophobia and the Threat to Free Speech (Center for Security Policy Press, 2021)
–. Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry Into Islam’s Obscure Origins — Revised and Expanded Edition (Bombardier Books, 2021)
23. The Critical Qur’an: Explained from Key Islamic Commentaries and Contemporary Historical Research (Bombardier Books, 2022)
24. The Church and the Pope (Uncut Mountain Press, 2022)
25. Who Lost Afghanistan? (Center for Security Policy Press, 2022)
26. The Sumter Gambit: How the Left Is Trying to Foment a Civil War (Bombardier Books, 2023)
27. Empire of God: How the Byzantines Saved Civilization (Bombardier Books, coming Nov. 21, 2023)