Israel officially proclaimed itself an independent state in 1948. This happened in the aftermath of World War Two when several million Jews were deliberately assassinated by the Nazis all over Europe. (Arabs were far away and had little hand in the massacre.) Before that date, there had been about 70 years of more or less haphazard but peaceful settlement in Palestine by Jews coming mostly from eastern Europe.
Israel was established as an explicitly Jewish state, as a potential refuge for for Jews from everywhere. Shortly after its establishment, Israel did serve as a refuge for a million Jews fleeing Arab countries where they had lived forever. “Zionism” is a political movement whose purpose it to bring Jews to live in Israel.
There is no separation of “church” and state in Israel. Nevertheless, there exists there a large Muslim minority and a smaller Christian minority. Both enjoy full political rights including representation in the national parliament. In other words, there are elected Muslim reps in the parliament of this explicitly Jewish state. Complete freedom to exercise one’s religion is the policy of the Israeli state.
Hamas is a Palestinian Arab organization founded in 1987 with the explicit goal of destroying the Jewish state. It does not seem to have any other stated goal . (I would be glad to modify this line if someone show me it’s factually wrong.) Hamas has done enough over the years to earn official US classification as a terrorist organization. (There is no current proposal in the US to change this classification as I write.) It’s also considered a terrorist organization by the European Union and by Jordan, next door, among others.
In 2007, the people of the Gaza strip, wedged between Israel and Egypt, elected Hamas to govern them. This was done in regular elections closely monitored by Western observers. (I think this is an important detail from the standpoint of moral judgment regarding the current deaths of Gazan civilians under Israeli strikes.) Hamas does not seem to have any friends among the region’s government except sometimes Turkey, usually the Arab absolute monarchy of Qatar, and the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran, a Shiite theocracy, supports Sunni Muslim Hamas with weaponry for not discernible reason except hatred of Israel.
Personal digression: Hamas is a Sunni Muslim jihadist group. Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim jihadist organization. I wonder what would happen if the two organizations were actually in contact given the deadly persecution of Shiites by Sunnis in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Although it considers Hamas government a terrorist organization, in past years, Israel has been collected customs duties on its behalf. (That is, it has been resupplying periodically the coffers of the Hamas government of Gaza.) It also provides Gazans with electrical power from plants in Israel. (It has not cut off power as I write.)
Hamas ‘ program and its collective mentality are easy to access because its “charter”, its constitution, is posted on the web. Here are some samples:
“Article Eight: The Slogan of the Hamas
Allah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Qur’an its Constitution, Jihad its path and death for the case of Allah its most sublime belief.”
From Article Twelve: “…Nothing is loftier or deeper in Nationalism than waging Jihad against the enemy and confronting him when he sets foot on the land of the Muslims. And this becomes an individual duty binding on every Muslim man and woman; a woman must go out and fight the enemy even without her husband’s authorization, and a slave without his masters’ permission.” (Bolding mine.)
“Article Thirteen: Peaceful Solutions, [Peace] Initiatives and International Conferences
[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement.”
Postscript about “prejudice.” I am not Jewish. None of my forebears was Jewish as far as I know. I have only liked one single Israeli of the dozens I have met. (I find Israelis rough and often downright rude.) I have liked almost all the Arabs I have known since early childhood. Arabs are easy to like on a personal basis. That’s because of their courtesy and warmth, not because of their attachment to logic.