What the Western political class and its media demand of the Arabs and Muslims is acceptance of the unacceptable status quo in Israel-Palestine. To resist the status quo is to be troublesome, destabilising and irrationally violent. Resistance arises from the inadequacies of a culture and religion given to antisemitism and hysteria. In order to develop, these backward folk must give resistance up.
For the Lebanese, this means that they must forget the brutal 22-year occupation of their country and the 1982 siege of Beirut as well as the 2006 assault on the country’s civilian infrastructure. They must forget the endless chain of massacres perpetrated by Zionists and their allies on Lebanese territory. They must smile when Israel violates their air space on a daily basis and threatens to send them “back to the stone age” on a weekly basis. They must disarm and label as terrorist Hizbullah, the principled defender of their country.
Syria must smile at the illegal occupation and annexation of the Golan Heights and the theft of its essential water supplies. It must repress the refugees from the Golan and the half million Palestinian refugees and their political organisations. It must not buy or build weaponry that might give it minimum protection from Zionist terrorism. It must grin stupidly when Israel chooses to bomb its territory.
The Palestinians must be modern and democratic. They must do this by fighting the winner of democratic elections and by supporting an unelected and corrupt bunch of collaborators.
As for Western sympathisers with the Palestinian cause, they must preface their criticisms of Israel with such statements as “Of course, Israel has a right to exist in security,” or “Of course we don’t support Hamas,” or, in the case of the passengers on the Rachel Corrie (whose courage and commitment I salute), “We will not resist.”
It’s time we stopped playing this game. To recognise Israel’s ‘right’ to exist in security is to deny Palestine’s right to exist in security. No state which occupies other states’ territories has a right to security. Did Hitler’s Germany have a right to security once it had invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland? And apartheid states don’t have a right to exist at all. There’s nothing anti-Semitic about this, just as there was nothing anti-white or anti-Afrikaaner in arguing that apartheid South Africa didn’t have a right to exist. A state established by massive ethnic cleansing and perpetuated by occupation and repeated massacres is not a normal state like any other. Israel will earn its right to exist when it allows the refugees to return home and when Jews, Muslims and Christians enjoy equal rights.
What are the arguments used to demonise (rather than critically engage with) Hamas?
Firstly, Hamas doesn’t recognise Israel. True, Hamas believes that Arafat made a major strategic blunder by officially recognising Israel before Israel allowed the Palestinians minimal rights. In this Hamas is only being logical. Hamas certainly knows that Israel exists, and even if Hamas drank enough whisky to forget Israel’s existence (which isn’t likely) Israel would still be there, with its Merkava tanks, its checkpoints and its nuclear bombs. Hamas has repeatedly said that it will stop fighting if Israel leaves the territories occupied in 1967. It still won’t recognise Israel as a Jewish state on 78% of Palestine, because this would be to recognise the ‘justice’ of the theft of Palestine in order to build an ethno-state. In any case, Israel doesn’t recognise Palestine. Its failure to recognise Palestine has immediate and practical ramifications, like the occupation and the ethnic cleansing.
Secondly, Hamas doesn’t recognise the two-state solution. But again, neither does Israel, whatever its propagandists say. If Israel supported two states, it wouldn’t have spent the last decades, under Labour and Likud, building settlements on the West Bank and in Jerusalem. And Israel is the occupier.
Thirdly, Hamas has attacked civilians. This is surely the most hypocritical of reasons for isolating the movement. Since September 2000, Palestinians have killed 1072 Israelis. In the same period, Israelis have killed 6348 Palestinians (not including those who died as an indirect result of the occupation, for instance critically ill people who died in ambulances held up for hours at checkpoints). So Israel is far more guilty of killing civilians. And I would say that the violence of the occupied struggling to liberate themselves is more justifiable than the oppressive violence of the occupier. The people who cry over the fate of Sderot should consider not only the far, far worse fate of Gaza and the West Bank, but also the fact that the inhabitants of the bombed and starved refugee camps in Gaza come from the destroyed villages on which Sderot is built. If your home is stolen and neither the law nor the conscience of the thieves will give you restitution, you are entitled to fight the thieves. Hamas also holds one prisoner of war – not a civilian but a stormtrooper of the occupation. It is grotesque that the world knows the name of this captured terrorist but not the existence of at least 10,000 Palestinian prisoners in the Zionist gulag, many of them children.
Even if we could establish that the Palestinian side has been more violent than the Israeli side – which we can’t – Hamas, unlike Israel, has shown itself capable of sustaining ceasefires. And anyway, many of the Israeli victims have been killed by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to Fatah.
Fourthly, Hamas aims to establish an Islamic state. True, in theory. But it knows that it was elected for its resistance agenda and its freedom from corruption, not for Islamic reasons. There are signs that Hamas has recently tried to impose some of its moral code on the people of Gaza – and I oppose this – but given the circumstances, it’s been a gentle Islamism. It is in fact a bulwark against the more offensive Salafi nihilist groups which are now appearing among Palestinians in their desperation. And of course Israel is not a state for its citizens, still less for the people under its control, but a Jewish state. The fact that some of its people define Jewishness ethnically rather than religiously does not change this fact.
My main quibble with Hamas is its constitution’s reference to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an antisemitic Russian text discredited by anti-Zionists such as Abdelwahhab el-Messiri. (I’m not as outraged as I am by European anti-Semitism – if anyone can be excused for generalising about Jews, it’s the victims of the self-proclaimed Jewish state). Hamas leaders frequently say they do not oppose Jews for being Jews, but Zionists for being Zionists. If this is the case, I wish they’d remove the Protocols reference. So Hamas is not perfect, but neither was the Communist Party, which dominated resistance to Nazi occupation in Europe. Had I been around, I would have supported the anti-Nazi resistance as I support Hamas – critically but unconditionally.
As for the brave passengers on the MV Rachel Corrie, I wish they had not said, “we will not resist.” I wish they had said, “We are unarmed and we have no desire to come to blows with Israeli soldiers. However, if we are hijacked by armed men in international waters or near the shore of Gaza – over which we do not recognise Israeli jurisdiction – we will resist as best we are able.” Unwittingly, the activists handed Israel ammunition for its propaganda – ‘when civilised, peaceful activists arrive we deal with them peacefully. When mad Islamist Turks attack us with sticks when we board their ship, we have no choice but to shoot them many times at close range in the back of the head.’
The passengers on the Mavi Marmara should be congratulated for resisting piracy and the illegal, barbaric siege. We should never be ashamed of resistance – in occupied Europe, in South Africa, in Iraq, in Vietnam, in Palestine, in Lebanon, or on the Mediterranean sea. Resistance is beautiful. Resistance proves the existence of the human spirit amid a vast sea of inhumanity.