It can be all too easy, wrapped up as many of us are in the warm glow of the Commonwealth Games and the referendum campaign, to ignore the terrible slaughter that is continuing in Gaza. For weeks now the Israelis have been pounding that tiny enclave with all kinds of bombs and missiles. That brave, moral army of Israel has by now succeeded in killing over 1,600 Palestinians, nearly all of them civilians, including women and children. Not quite sure what the legal definition of terrorism is, but this kind of wholesale slaughter must come pretty close to it. Yet our governments and most of our media still praise Israel for its restraint and its self-defence.
All the very serious people continue the refrain – Israel has the right to defend itself. But hardly any bother to ask, self-defence against what? The standard Israeli response if ever asked, is self-defence against Hamas. And of course Hamas is always qualified as a terrorist organization. And Israelis then plead, who in their right mind would negotiate with a terrorist organization? Well just about every government in the world as it happens. Including the Israeli, when it suits them, which is very rare, to be true.
But is Hamas a terrorist organization? A little bit of history here. Hamas is a Palestinian organization. It is not just limited to Gaza. Indeed Hamas won a majority at the last Palestinian parliamentary election across the whole of Palestine, including the West Bank. This was in 2006. Israel responded to this democratic election by refusing to recognize the new government and instead launched a series of raids in Gaza and the West Bank and arrested 33 of newly elected Hamas MPs. The USA and the EU supported Israel in this and imposed sanctions on Palestine. As a result Hamas was effectively restricted to Gaza. However Hamas remains popular across Palestine.
Secondly, Hamas is primarily a religious organization and was founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. As part of its religious work, Hamas provides most of the social, health, welfare, cultural and educational services in Gaza. This in large part explains its continuing popularity. Hamas workers are also regarded as generally honest and free of corruption.
Thirdly, Hamas is a resistance organization. This of course is the bit that Israel does not like one little bit. The USA, the UK and the EU also do not like all this resistance. While Israel has the absolute right to self-defence, this right it seems does not apply to Palestinians. Palestinians obviously have no rights, only duties. And that duty above all is to know their place and to do everything to please and appease Israel. However, no matter what the Palestinians do in terms of recognising Israel, maintaining the peace, Israel never finds this enough. In the West Bank for example, Fatah has done just about everything that Israel has asked of it, yet this has not stopped the Occupation and its continuing encroachment into the West Bank. Appeasing Israel brings no rewards, only further humiliation and loss of territory. Resistance, it would seem, is the only option remaining to Palestinians.
Resistance of course does not have to be violent. Gandhi in India led a non violent resistance to British rule. But let us be clear, resistance to Occupation is natural and enshrined in International Law. People living under occupation are entitled to resist, using any and all means at their disposal. This includes military resistance, using home made rockets and anything else at hand. People who resist occupation are always regarded as terrorists by the occupiers. The British have centuries of experience of this. Most of the now independent countries currently participating in the friendly Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, were once upon a time led by resistance fighters whom the British were quite happy to condemn as terrorists. Even when it was not directly involved, Britain was more than willing to regard just about all resistance fighters as terrorists. Remember Nelson Mandela anyone – that well known terrorist who was part of the military wing of the ANC and who never renounced the right of Black South Africans to use violence as part of their struggle for freedom.
In many countries in Europe, the popular memory of the 2nd World War is heavily dominated by recollection of the various resistance or partisan movements that engaged in some very bloody actions against their German occupiers. At the time the Germans regarded these actions as terrorism and enacted even bloodier reprisals, often against the civilian population. Now these resistance fighters are national heroes.
Palestine now is no different. Palestinians are living under a brutal occupation which continues to confiscate their land and which controls almost all aspects of their lives. Palestinians have the right to resistance this occupation. They have the right to use whatever means they deem appropriate and at hand. Hamas is not a terrorist organization, it is a legitimate resistance movement and we should support all those who bravely resist the Israeli occupation, including Hamas. Just take a look at the numbers of civilians who have been killed and maimed during this recent onslaught and work out who is indulging in a bit of terrorism.
It is important to remember that not all Israelis or all Jewish people support the current Israeli onslaught. Here is a very good example of reporting and analysis from Noam Sheizaf, an Israeli journalist, who points out to his fellow Israelis just what this fighting is all about – Freedom for Palestine. Finally here is a beautiful poem, based on the Jewish Lamentations, written by Rabbi Brant Rosen. Remember, if you want peace, work for justice.