A New York City Jewish man and a Hamas leader who spoke in secret for 17 years to help end conflicts have ended their friendship over the October 7 massacre.

Gershon Baskin, 67, an Israeli peace activist, and Ghazi Hamad, 59, the deputy foreign minister for the terror group have kept in touch since 2006.

They were originally put in touch to help secure the release of a kidnapped Israeli soldier in return for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

They had since maintained a secret backchannel so they could share their frustrations and learn more about the other side.

But their relationship has been terminated following the sick October 7 attacks after Hamad publicly endorsed the atrocities and called for more. 

Gershon Baskin, 67, a New York City Jew who lives in Israel was in touch with long-time spokesperson for Hamas for the past 17 years

Gershon Baskin, 67, a New York City Jew who lives in Israel was in touch with long-time spokesperson for Hamas for the past 17 years

Ghazi Hamad, 59, the now deputy foreign minister for Hamas, Joined the party when it formed in 1987

Ghazi Hamad, 59, the now deputy foreign minister for Hamas, Joined the party when it formed in 1987

‘I think you have lost your mind and you have lost your moral code,’ Baskin texted Hamad in a message seen by the New York Times. ‘I never want to speak to you again.’

Baskin first got to speak with Hamad over the phone and was charmed by his manner.

Hamad insisted on speaking Hebrew rather than English or Arabic. ‘I like to speak Hebrew,’ he told him.

Their friendship survived rounds of violence between Israel and Hamas and, according to the New York Times, helped resolve several conflicts.

Even after the massacres of October 7 the pair were still talking, but after Hamad gave a hardline interview on October 24 Baskin realized it had to end. 

They were first put in touch when Israel worked to secure the release of a 19-year-old soldier, Gilad Shalit following his kidnap in the summer of 2006.

Baskin first got to speak with Hamad over the phone in 2006 but their relationship continued for 17 years through secret text messaging between the two

Baskin first got to speak with Hamad over the phone in 2006 but their relationship continued for 17 years through secret text messaging between the two

After the October 7 massacre Hamad's views appeared to harden, advocating for similar acts to occur in the future

After the October 7 massacre Hamad’s views appeared to harden, advocating for similar acts to occur in the future

It saw Israel invade Gaza, and when Hamas looked to secure a ceasefire they unable to contact Israeli leaders directly. Instead, they used the services of Baskin, a well-known Israeli peace activist. 

Over the years, the pair became adept at mediation. 

Baskin became familiar with Arab sensibilities, having worked in an Arab village and running a research group that offered solutions to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, occasionally acting as a mediator. 

Hamad, meanwhile, was sentenced to five years in an Israeli jail where he also got to know Israelis learning Hebrew and English. 

Following his release, Hamad wrote and edited various Hamas run newspapers and had a reputation as a moderate. 

Baskin similarly wrote a book entitled ‘The Negotiator’ where he discussed his dealings with Hamas. 

It was through the dialogue between Hamad and Baskin that Shalit was able to be released in exchange for 1,000 Palestinians incarcerated in Israel. 

‘I am quite sure that if Hamad were a much more senior leader in Hamas, he would move toward eventually recognizing Israel and peace,’ Baskin suggested in his 2013 book.

Ghazi Hamad insisted Israel left them 'with no option but violence' and boasted of their slaughter of 1,400 Israelis inside their homes or as they fled a festival 'destroyed the myth of Israel as a military superpower'

Ghazi Hamad insisted Israel left them ‘with no option but violence’ and boasted of their slaughter of 1,400 Israelis inside their homes or as they fled a festival ‘destroyed the myth of Israel as a military superpower’

When Hamad then called for the complete annihilation of Israel, it left Baskin with no option: their relationship was over

When Hamad then called for the complete annihilation of Israel, it left Baskin with no option: their relationship was over

Over the years their rapport strengthened, occasionally buffeted by waves of violence between Gaza and Israel. 

‘Gershon, u r good friend,’ Hamad once texted in the middle of another round of violence. ‘But I’m very sad and upset & sometimes feeling have no words to say.’ 

Eventually five years after being put in touch with one another Shalit was released in October 2011.

Senior Israeli intelligence officer, David Meiden says the soldier’s release would not have occurred without the years of back-and-forth – and trust – between Baskin and Hamad.

Although the two men continued to stay in touch, they were unsuccessful in negotiating further hostage, swaps, or securing any kind of long-term truce. 

It was only when the two discussed what happened following last month’s massacre that Baskin realized something had changed in Hamad, who in the past, had been capable of criticizing the terror group. 

Two weeks on from the terror attacks and Hamad appeared to justify the attacks as simply the logical result of years of continued Israeli aggression. 

Hamad boasted that the terror group ‘demonstrated that Israel is beatable’ and that the killing of Israelis inside their homes or as they fled the festival ‘destroyed the myth of Israel as a military superpower’.

He dismissed the heartbreaking number of people killed in the Israel-Hamas war – the deadliest and most destructive of the five wars fought by the two sides since 2007 – as a ‘necessary price in blood’. 

A man carries the body of a child killed in Israeli air strikes in Khan Yunis, Gaza earlier this month

A man carries the body of a child killed in Israeli air strikes in Khan Yunis, Gaza earlier this month

Above, a group of Israeli soldiers are seen inside the Gaza strip in photos released by the IDF

Above, a group of Israeli soldiers are seen inside the Gaza strip in photos released by the IDF

Hamad claimed that ‘everything [Hamas] do is justifiable’, declaring that ‘we are the victims’ as he vowed to remove Israel from what he claimed is Palestinian land.

He declared that the terror group is ready to pay the ultimate price, saying ‘we are a nation of martyrs, and we are proud to sacrifice martyrs’.

He bragged that the slaughter of 1,400 Israelis was a ‘victory’ for Hamas. 

‘October 7 was a victory: we have destroyed the myth of Israel as a military superpower,’ Hamad said.

‘There are counties willing to enter into security pacts with Israel because they are convinced it will be able to face Iran or other threats,’ he continued. 

‘Instead, Hamas has demonstrated that Israel is beatable. We couldn’t do it for free, but we are ready to pay again.’

In an another interview Hamad said that ‘we need more’ from allies, including Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. 

It was through the dialogue between Hamad and Baskin that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was able to be released in exchange for 1,000 Palestinians incarcerated in Israel. Pictured left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense minster Ehud Barak. Right, his father Noam Schalit

It was through the dialogue between Hamad and Baskin that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was able to be released in exchange for 1,000 Palestinians incarcerated in Israel. Pictured left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense minster Ehud Barak. Right, his father Noam Schalit

Eventually, five years after being put in touch with one another, Baskin and Hamad worked to secure the release of Gilad Shalit in October 2011

Eventually, five years after being put in touch with one another, Baskin and Hamad worked to secure the release of Gilad Shalit in October 2011

Footage shows IDF destroying tunnels in Beit Hanoun, Gaza

Footage shows IDF destroying tunnels in Beit Hanoun, Gaza

View of a burnt-out area at a destroyed home in Kibbutz Kissufim, southern Israel following the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip

View of a burnt-out area at a destroyed home in Kibbutz Kissufim, southern Israel following the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip

‘Hezbollah now is working against the occupation,’ Hamad said, speaking from Beirut. ‘We appreciate this. But … we need more in order to stop the aggression on Gaza … We expect more.’ 

He criticized what he said was hypocrisy of the international community, which has widely condemned the killing of Israeli civilians in the initial Hamas attack but, in Hamad’s view, had given Israel a ‘license to kill’ civilians in Gaza in response.

Hamad said that Hamas, which has so far released four of more than 220 hostages after mediation by Egypt and Qatar, was ‘very open’ to discussions for the release of others.

He made no apologies for the high number of civilians killed by Hamas militants in Israel or the soaring civilian death toll in Gaza.

Hamad said that it had brought back the world’s attention to the Palestinian cause and revealed the cracks in Israel’s ironclad facade.

‘There is no space now to talk about peace with Israel or about a two-state solution or to talk about coexistence,’ he said. 

Hamad then called for the complete annihilation of Israel leaving Baskin with no option: their relationship was over.

Although there has no been any specific reasons as to whey Hamad suddenly hardened, historian Azzam Tamimi, who knows Hamad said he believes that the Hamas spokesperson may have lost family members and friends in the recent Israeli attacks.

‘Suddenly, he lost family members, he lost many of his friends. Probably that’s the issue,’ Tamimi said. 

‘He was really expressing sincere feelings. Nobody should be under the illusion that someone that senior in Hamas is willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist,’ he added.

He may have been shocked by the destruction wrought by the Israeli counter-attack – and maybe, Hamad was never quite as moderate as Baskin wanted to believe.



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