I am being interviewed about the socialist perspective on Israel's war in Gaza on Radio New Zealand National next Monday (August 4) at 8.45pm.
Eric Ruder makes the important point
that: "Those who stand for democracy and against colonialism must reject
the 'blame Hamas' rhetoric and put the blame where it belongs--on the
colonial settler state of Israel and its loyal supporter, the U.S."
Socialists advocate a one state solution, which is the view that Israel is a profoundly racist state that has been developed through the violent dispossession of the original inhabitants of Palestine, and that what is required in future is the creation of a democratic and secular Palestinian state with equal citizenship rights for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Once it's done I will post a link to the interview here.
A listener suggested that I should have been critical of Hamas. I replied as follows:
Fact: the Israelis have killed over 1900 Palestinians, while Hamas
has killed 67 Israelis, only three of whom at last count were civilians.
Any sane person who takes the time to look at the history and recent
facts pertaining to the Zionist colonisation of Palestine, will readily
acknowledge that Israel started this war. So if you care about what is
happening in Gaza, it is vitally important to reject the 'blame Hamas'
propaganda of Israel and its American backers. It is a question of
intellectual and political priorities.
There were all sorts of
other things that I didn't have time to say in that 15 minute interview. What I
did say was that socialists, meaning the socialists who clearly and
consistently side with the people of Gaza against the Israeli slaughter
of innocent people, adopt a position of "unconditional but critical
support"- meaning that we have no right to impose conditions on our
support of the Palestinian people, including expecting a certain degree
of conformity with our political outlook, but that we reserve the right
to be critical of political Islam.
In this respect, it is
important to note that from 1947 to the 1970s the bulk of the Palestinian
resistance to Zionist colonisation was secular. The rise of Hamas is largely
due to the failures of the secular left to provide effective leadership in the
struggle against the Israeli occupation. As Mostafa Omar observes:
"The failure of the
PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] and its left wing over the past 30
years to provide a clear, effective leadership in the national struggle or to
win any of the rights that Palestinians desperately await has hurt the
credibility of secular organizations. Moreover, the anti-democratic and corrupt
practices of the Palestinian Authority [which runs pockets of territory in the
West Bank not occupied by Israeli settlers and armed forces] have turned many
... Palestinians against it. These conditions explain why, in recent years, a
large section of Palestinian society has looked to the Islamic Resistance
Movement (Hamas) and, to a lesser degree, the Islamic Jihad, to resist
Hamas's formal opposition
to the Olso accords [that sought to establish a two state solution on the basis
of the PLO’s recognition and acceptance of the legitimacy of the state of
Israel] and Palestinian negotiator's endless concessions resonate with people
who recognize the futility of negotiations. Its insistence on the liberation of
the whole of Palestine connects with the aspirations of Palestinian refugees to
return to their own country." In Lance Selfa (ed), The Struggle For
Palestine, Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2002, p.195.
Although the growing
popularity and influence of Hamas may be understandable, this does not,
however, mean that it should be interpreted as a positive development for the
Palestinian resistance. Indeed, as Omar also observes, "for the
Palestinian movement, which has been historically secular and left oriented,
increased support for Islamist politics marks a big step backward." (2002,
p.197). It marks a step backwards for at least seven reasons.
Firstly, Hamas is
committed to the creation of an Islamic state in Palestine. This is a one state
perspective that will never bring peace to the Palestinian people, fails to
acknowledge the important role that Palestinian Christians have played in the
resistance movement, and leaves no place for those Jews (albeit a small
minority of the Israeli population) who oppose Zionism and the state that it
has created on Palestinian soil.
Secondly, related to
this, Hamas is not an anti-capitalist organisation and also promotes
reactionary and sexist ideas with respect to the position that women should
occupy in Palestinian society. It considers the creation of an Islamic
capitalist society governed by an Islamic state to be the solution to the major
problems faced by the Palestinian people. Socialists fundamentally reject this.
Thirdly, "due to its
conservative ideology, Hamas is unable to challenge the different Arab regimes
that ally themselves with the U.S., especially the right-wing Islamic
monarchies in the Gulf, such as Saudi Arabia" (2002, p. 197).
Fourth, "Hamas's own
characterisation of the struggle against Israel as a continuation of an age-old
struggle between Muslims and Jews mirrors Israel's own propaganda. … Hamas's
anti-Jewish propaganda, while a reaction to Israel's crimes against the
Palestinian people, diverts attention from Israel’s real role as a
watchdog for U.S. imperialism in the area (2002: 198).
Fifth the leadership of
Hamas is largely drawn from the middle class and it advocates a class alliance
of all Palestinians in the struggle against Israel. In practice, this means
that the interests of workers must be subordinated to those of Palestinian
Sixth, “Hamas’s backward
social positions, especially regarding women, Jews and Christians, constantly undermines
the struggle against Israel” (2002: 198).
Finally, Hamas subscribes
to an elitist conception of the struggle for the national liberation of the
Palestinian people. Rather than focusing on mass action from below being the
key to defeating Israel, instead “it substitutes the actions of a tiny minority
of militants for the struggle of the majority. Its reliance on individual
military attacks against Israel, although popular, fails to involve the
majority of ordinary Palestinians in the struggle against Israel” (2002,
For a more current critical assessment of Hamas from a socialist perspective see: http://socialistworker.org/2014/08/05/how-do-revolutionaries-view-hamas
Despite these obvious limitations, there is, however, plenty of evidence that Hamas, for all of its
faults, is leading the struggle of the Palestinian people in Gaza to
defend themselves against Israeli aggression, and that it is widely
supported by them for doing so. For
more detail see this article: http://socialistworker.org/.../why-resistance-is-justified
This is not, however, to suggest
that socialists adopt an uncritical position or turn a blind eye to the
failings of Hamas, which are undoubtedly real. As socialists we are
critical of political Islam as a strategy for progressive change, and
where an Islamic organisation clearly is thoroughly reactionary and using terrorist tactics, as is the case with ISIS, we don't support it in anyway.