Interview with Daniel Pipes about the Gaza War: „Perversity wins Hamas global sympathy“

Interview with Daniel Pipes about the Gaza War: „Perversity wins Hamas global sympathy“

Global Review has the pleasure of another interview with Daniel Pipes, the American historian and expert on Islam, about the Hamas attack. Born in 1949, he is the president of the Middle East Forum and publisher of its Middle East Quarterly journal. 

After graduating with an AB and PhD from Harvard, Pipes taught at Harvard, Chicago, Pepperdine, and the U.S. Naval War College. He worked in the State and Defense departments before serving as director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. His 2003 nomination by U.S. President George W. Bush to the board of directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace was opposed by Islamist groups.

Pipes has written eighteen books. The most recent, Islamism vs. The West: 35 Years of Geopolitical Struggle (New York: Wicked Son) was published in October 2023. His next book will be on Israel Victory. 

For Daniel Pipes‘ writings and videos, see

Global Review: The Oct. 7 attack and raised again the idea of a Palestinian state. How do you assess this issue?

Daniel Pipes: The Government of Israel conditionally accepted a Palestinian state in 2009; in fact, Benjamin Netanyahu himself took that step. The U.S. government also conditionally accepted a Palestinian state, in its case in 2002. I urge Israelis to stop trying to take back what they have already conceded and I urge Americans to focus on those many conditions, not a single one of which has been at all fulfilled.

Global Review: Gazans are clearly suffering. How do you assess the humanitarian situation?

Daniel Pipes: Hamas discovered a perverse secret to success: make Gazans suffer as much as possible to win global sympathy for itself. It continues to that now, stealing food from Gazans, forcing them into exposed places, and promoting fictional statistics that get repeated worldwide.

Global Review: On Feb. 22, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published a plan that stated in Gaza “Civil affairs and responsibility for public order will be based on local actors.” What do you think of this approach?

Daniel Pipes: I am enthusiastic. It opens the door to Israel working directly with anti-Hamas Gazans to establish a new administration in the territory. As I wrote recently, “A decent Gaza will require tough Israeli military rule, overseeing a tough police state along the lines of what exists in Egypt and Jordan. In those countries, citizens can lead normal lives so long as they stay out of trouble and refrain from criticizing the ruler. Under such conditions, Gaza could become decent and economically viable.”

Global Review: Do you have a sense of what a re-elected Donald Trump might do vis-à-vis the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

Daniel Pipes: I do not. He has stayed mostly silent about the Hamas-Israel War and has a record of unpredictability. His fury at Netanyahu for having recognized Joe Biden as president will likely harm Israel should Netanyahu be Israel’s prime minister in January 2025. Contrarily, Trump’s wanting to reverse every Biden policy might lead him to support Israel more.

Global Review: What is your reaction to David Friedman’s “generational plan” that gives sovereign control of the West Bank, seeks funding for its Palestinian residents from the Persian Gulf states, gives them “maximum civil autonomy,” and provides them with Israeli documents which permit voting in local but not national elections?

Daniel Pipes: That’s a variant of Caroline Glick’s one-state solution which calls for Israel to annex the whole West Bank, extend Israeli sovereignty over it, and apply Israeli civil law throughout. This establishes a two-tier body politic that opens Israel to credible accusations of apartheid. Friedman compares the West Bank to American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the U.S. system, but those examples are misleading and irrelevant. The consequence would be catastrophic for Israel. Domestically, it would tear apart the body politic. Internationally, it would provoke massive hostility. Do Israelis want to go the way of South Africa?

Global Review: Some Democrats demand that Biden impose an arms embargo on Israel. Might he do their bidding?

Daniel Pipes: Biden finds himself in a dilemma. He cares for Israel but wishes it were still the pre-1977 Israel with the Labor party in charge. He also has a left-wing constituency that despises Israel and wants to harm it. Attempting to reconcile these three elements – pro, critical, anti – leads to an incoherent policy that pleases no one and provokes criticism across the political spectrum. I see no remedy ahead.

Global Review: The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) was launched in Sep. 2023 as a reply to China´s Belt and Road Initiative. What are its prospects and how has the war in Gaza affected it?

Daniel Pipes: It has excellent prospects because the geography makes sense and the countries involved are relatively stable. The war in Gaza has prompted the Houthis of Yemen to turn the Red Sea into a conflict zone, making ships go around Africa rather than traverse the Suez Canal. This gives a big boost to IMEC.  

Global Review: There is now talk of Hamas joining the Palestinian Authority (PA). Does that have a chance of succeeding?

Daniel Pipes: Such talk has taken place many times but not succeeded because the two organizations share methods and goals but differ in ideology and personnel. That explains the temptation and also the failure, so far. Union could happen if the PA becomes so weak that Hamas can arrange a hostile takeover. So, yes, there is a chance.

Global Review:How do you understand the fact that Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza, did not inform his counterparts in Turkey and Qatar about the plans for Oct. 7?

Daniel Pipes: I see two reasons for this: the need for operational secrecy and tactical differences. On the latter point, Sinwar is more violent than his foreign counterparts, so he probably wanted to avoid their veto. By the way, seizing hostages was the primary goal of Oct. 7; the murders were secondary. I think that, if Sinwar could redo that day, he would minimize the murders and increase the number of hostages; less outrage, more bargaining power.

Global Review:American urban warfare specialist John Spencer argues that “For the first time in the history of tunnel warfare, … Hamas has built a tunnel network to gain not just a military advantage, but a political advantage, as well. … Destroying the tunnels is virtually impossible without adversely impacting the population living in Gaza.” Do you agree?

Daniel Pipes: Very much so. Spencer’s insight confirms the larger point that Hamas is the first governing authority in history, so far as I know, that purposefully arranges for its civilian population to suffer and placing tunnels under residences, schools, and hospitals exemplifies this tactic. As noted above, that perversity wins Hamas global sympathy.

Global Review:  How do you assess Iranian strategy since Oct. 7, with Hezbollah semi at war with Israel, the Houthis disrupting global trade, and Iran itself launching an attack on Pakistan?

Daniel Pipes: States are most dangerous when they foresee decline and therefore act aggressively to take advantage of their current capabilities. Russia, China, and Iran all fit this pattern. Vladimir Putin has already struck in Ukraine, Xi Jinping might invade Taiwan, and Khamene’i is moving aggressively. The Iranian attack on Pakistan must ranks as the most surprising geo-political event of the twenty-first century.

Global Review: Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan actively supports Hamas and clearly wants to have a greater role in Palestinian politics. What do you make of his efforts?

Daniel Pipes: He is effective. Erdoğan helps Hamas in many ways: hosting its personnel, funding its actions, sending materiel (recall the Mavi Marmara), and presumably helping it with intelligence. Türkiye’s economic size, location, and NATO membership make it an important ally for Hamas. So far, Erdoğan has not paid a significant price for this evil behavior.

Global Review: Why are South Africa and Nicaragua bringing legal accusations against Israel, and not governments of Muslim-majority countries?

Daniel Pipes: I presume Tehran put them up to the job because prosecuting Israel carries more weight when distant countries with only small Muslim populations take the lead.

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