The news is often full of accusations by the different Arab spokespeople deriding and accusing Israel of breaking the ceasefire and indignantly rejecting that their firing of rockets earlier, to which Israel had responded, was a breach of the ceasefire. Whenever this is explained by the myriad of Islamist “experts”, they always go back to the same responses that the Arabs had in full faith kept the ‘hudna’ or ‘tahadiya’ but Israeli military response had broken the ceasefire. What is being done here is using very particular differences in the definition of ‘hudna’ and ‘tahadiya’ from the accepted definition of the English semi-equivalent of ceasefire. The truth is that these are actually very different terms and the difference when applied to any confrontation between Arabs and anybody else will always result in only the non-Arab side being responsible for breaking the ‘hudna’ and ‘tahadiya’, and thus the so-called ceasefire.
So, what is the difference between a ‘hudna’ and a ‘tahadiya’ that makes the accusation of breaking the ceasefire only apply to the non-Arab use of force? We pretty much understand that a ceasefire means that both sides stop hostilities and a quiet calm is imposed on the field of battle. In the case of either a ‘hudna’ or a ‘tahadiya’ the rules are slightly different and will seem borderline absurd and completely unfair to the Western understandings of honor and equal treatment, but then the Arabs are not playing by Western rules of war, they are using the rules of war from the Koran which give the Muslim side a few benefits not allowed for their enemies. It really is an ingenious way of tilting the field of battle to give their side every advantage and allow them to make their opposition appear to be breaking all the rules of war while they get to pretend their actions are perfectly proper. In the case of ‘hudna’ and ‘tahadiya’ the Muslim, or in this case the Hamas, side calls for the stop in hostilities. Like a ceasefire, this stoppage is temporary and not meant to be permanent.
This is where the definitions part company in a small technicality that has immense consequences. A ‘hudna’ or ‘tahadiya’ allows the Muslim side to call off the application of the agreement and then call for it to be reapplied at any time they choose. Thus, Hamas calls for a ‘hudna’ or ‘tahadiya’ and Israel agrees to a ceasefire. The next morning some Hamas or related forces prepare to fire a salvo of rockets and mortars into Israel. They call back to their commanders who then basically call ‘time in’ and the ‘hudna’ or ‘tahadiya’ is set aside and they launch their strike. Immediately thereafter they call their commanders and inform them they have finished firing for now and then the ‘hudna’ or ‘tahadiya’ is reinstated. This power to alternately turn on and off hostilities is reserved solely to the Muslim side of the conflict. Thus, Israel does not have the same right to suspend and then reapply the ceasefire because Israel agreed to a ceasefire in the Western understanding and is honor-bound to stand down. The Koran also denies this small tactical advantage to the non-Muslim forces and reserves it solely for the Muslim fighters. But there is another law that is imposed as a limit on the Muslims, the ‘hudna’ and ‘tahadiya’ can only last for a fixed time before all hostilities become allowed, usually this time limit is one decade, ten years.
So, what is currently in effect between Israel and Hamas is a situation where there can be no fighting except when Hamas is firing at Israel. If Israel can also attack during those same instances, then their attacks would be allowed, but it is not required to inform Israel when time in is being called but they are always informed immediately thereafter that time out has been reimposed and Israel may not respond as the opportunity has passed. This is why Hamas is able to constantly, and in what they feel is good faith, honestly claim they have not violated the truce, the ceasefire, well, actually the ‘hudna’ or ‘tahadiya’ despite the numerous launchings upon Israeli towns and cities. They hold that every attack they make is completely legal and has full authority in their ideas of the laws of war while any attack upon them is definitely forbidden by those same rules of law. They are simply following the Koran and the examples set forth by Mohammed who used these same tactics in his initial wars with the Jews and others when he led his forces out in conquest from Medina.
For those keeping track, these rules were not part of the initial Koran which was written in Mecca; it is part of the second part of the Koran which contradicted and countered many edicts of the first Koran written in Medina thus superceding them in Islamic Law. I would hazard a guess that when you have few followers and are afraid for your very life, as Mohammed was initially in Mecca, you write very pleasing and passive verse that touts cooperation. My next assumption was that being forced to run for his life with a few followers from Mecca gave Mohammed a different view on life and probably set a flame for revenge in his heart. Once in Medina, Mohammed was much more successful in gaining followers and built a large force with which he could now take a position of strength. This probably led to the writing of a completely different set of laws in the Koran, laws that would allow him to set to right those slights that had been imposed upon him earlier in Mecca. Mohammed did return triumphantly to Mecca at the front of his army and achieved his revenge and imposed his will in Mecca as he had already accomplished in Medina. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Beyond the Cusp