Photograph Source: International Solidarity Movement – CC BY-SA 2.0
The Islamic Resistance Movement began more than thirty years ago at an historical moment in time which it knew to be fraught with absolute peril for their people. The founders of this national liberation struggle examined the overwhelming military capabilities of Israel, fostered by its global superpower sponsor, the United States. They looked at Israel’s expansionist programs–the Zionist project of illegal settlements erasing their homes and villages, dispossessing mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers–and at the failure of the international community to stop them. They knew then that within a generation Palestinians would lose it all –their motherland and patrimony and their nation–leaving them homeless captives to the whims of another man’s door. In that moment, resistance was not a lifestyle choice or a revolutionary pose. It was existential necessity, just as it is now.
Everything Hamas predicted then has come to pass. Here, a generation later, it should take no comfort reminding the world that they were right in their analysis. Israel has grown only stronger and more rapacious, more intransigent and murderous in its deeds. Its “democracy” did not save it from becoming a racist, apartheid state presiding over a military occupation of millions of Palestinians. Israel’s policy of creating “facts on the ground”– that is, the illegal settlement project – has transitioned from a de facto expulsion and annexation policy into a de jure one, as its prime minister calls for the removal of Palestinians and the annexation of the West Bank, and the American president and congress pre-emptively applaud the crime-to-be. The Golan Heights–sovereign territory of another nation– is now Israel’s by force, cynically annexed, while Syria struggles in the throes of war. And Jerusalem (al Quds) is ringed by new, fortified suburbs and restricted highways demolishing Palestinian neighborhoods and cutting off their city from them. America now calls Jerusalem Israel’s capital–in direct violation of international law. Since 1967, successive U.S. administrations have told Palestinians to trust in their good faith as brokers of a just peace. This has been a lie, as Hamas anticipated then, America was running cover, a stalling tactic, for the slow-motion destruction of Palestinian national aspirations. Tragically, tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed and maimed and many more imprisoned by Israeli state violence since Hamas began. The international community has done little to stop the monstrous crime unfolding.
Palestinians were right to resist then. The world surely can see that now. The tragedy of retrospection should, at the very least, accord Palestinians their due: resistance is morally right, history has proven it so. Yet, even last month, in the pages of America’s official paper of record, the New York Times, the U.S. administration through its craven spokesman Jason Greenblatt, a Zionist real estate lawyer from New York, charged with shepherding the “peace process” for the President as the Special Representative for International Negotiations, heaps insult upon injury, twisting history and recent events in a grotesque parody of a policy statement, adopting the Likud Party platform as the publicly declared U.S. position. None of us should be surprised by the falsifications in the Trump Administration’s official pronouncements. It has proven itself, after all, to be a presidency built on lying. Yet only the most gullible American readers could possibly believe its juvenile “blame Hamas” refrain.
Hamas did not create the thirteen-year siege of Gaza, cutting Palestinians off from the world. It did not commence any of the three wars launched by Israel against Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014 or it’s countless other attacks and outrages since. It did not destroy their industries, their water treatment plant, their power generation, their hospitals, houses, mosques, schools, television stations and roads–Israeli missiles and bombs did that. Hamas does not keep two million people penned in an open-air prison, with a prison economy in tatters–Israel does that. The cynicism of the Administration’s statement is unparalleled: “The countries of the world have attempted to help the people of Gaza,” but their good works have been destroyed by Hamas, according to the Special Representative. Perhaps he had in mind the post-Oslo airport, built by multinational leadership, attacked in 2001 by Israeli air forces, with its runways bulldozed by Israel a few years later? Or the catastrophic damage wrought upon the water system by Israeli air strikes during Operation Cast Lead in 2008? Or the extensive bombing of the sanitation system in Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012? Or Gaza’s only power plant, attacked in 2006, 2008 and finally leveled by Israeli missiles in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge? All of these key infrastructure projects, indeed, were funded by international donors, but destroyed by American jet planes, flown by the Israeli armed forces. Empty-headed slogans, scribbled by a huckster and moral fraud that has no more business posing as a diplomat than he does as a man of sincere religious belief, cannot smother the truth. The continuing tragedy of Gaza, indeed, all of Palestine, is not so easy to conceal… and Palestinian resistance continues. There is no choice.
Israel daily blocks some 650 basic goods from entry to the Gaza Strip for alleged “security” reasons, including medicines, hospital equipment and even some types of baby formula. Israel denies fishing nets to Gaza’s fishermen, or materials to repair boats. Infrastructure materials– from pumping equipment to water and sanitation piping, to electrical supplies and cement– are all but forbidden. Communication supplies and the technology of the internet (server and switching equipment) are embargoed, leaving Gaza lagging behind in poverty and despair, cut off from the world. A United Nations-approved system instituted after the cease-fire in 2014 exists for monitoring so-called “dual use” materials, yet, Israel continues to ignore it as it stifles the free flow of goods needed to rebuild Gaza… in a deliberate policy of attrition. Hundreds of Palestinians die annually, per the World Health Organization, because they cannot travel for medical treatment and the health care infrastructure and supply chain is destroyed.
Gaza suffers, but not because of Hamas and its administration. Hamas has done everything in its power to spare the Palestinian people in Gaza the devastating effects of the Israeli siege. It opened the doors wide to facilitate international support reaching Gaza’s residents. It accepted that infrastructure and public health projects should be implemented under full international supervision in coordination with government agencies. It has sought to ensure the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt will be open in both directions as an alternative to the dehumanizing caged passageway at Beit Hanoun (Erez). It has worked in coordination with the United Nations and Egypt to reach understandings that can achieve calm with the occupation and avoid escalation, a step on the road to lifting the siege and alleviating the hardships facing the people in Gaza.
At the strategic political level, Hamas has made great efforts to bring about Palestinian reconciliation, achieve unity, end the division and form an internationally recognized Palestinian unity government. But these efforts have been thwarted by the American veto and Israeli sabotage. Moreover, Hamas has worked with all its Palestinian partners to reach a consensus and internationally recognized formula on the national vision, in order to find a way out of the current crisis, as expressed most recently in May 2017, wherein it again accepted a state configured upon the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, while simultaneously preserving the right of return for the millions in the Palestinian Diaspora.
Hamas is a national liberation movement, democratically elected by a majority of Palestinians in 2006 under the watchful eye of the world community. At its core it promotes and fights for the fundamental right of Palestinian self-determination fueled by full equality, independence and return. It does not embrace gratuitous violence. Nor, however, does it leave the people of Gaza defenseless at the mercy of an occupation force that has proven itself unworthy of trust and unwilling to exercise even a modicum of respect for international law. A long settled tenet of that law is the right of the occupied to engage in resistance, that includes armed struggle. Palestinians continue to resist legally. They do not owe their occupier passive surrender.
Not long ago, Israel sent an assassination-squad surreptitiously into Gaza to kill Palestinian leaders. In the weeks since, it has repeatedly attacked civilian targets and infrastructure. It has been met by Palestinian defensive measures; and Israel responds, predictably, with F-16 attacks and tank shelling throughout Gaza, killing some two dozen including three children and two pregnant women, one who was clutching her 14 month old in her arms as both perished. More than a hundred and fifty other civilians were wounded over several days of Israeli attacks. Almost a thousand civilian housing units, schools and businesses were damaged or destroyed. This latest assault does not yet have an operational name to sell it to the world–marketing Israel’s “bravery” narrative–but surely they’ll think of something catchy to disguise the carnage.
This past year, the Palestinian people, with all its factions and vital forces, including Hamas, took part in peaceful demonstrations… as affirmed by UN monitoring, along the separation fence at the eastern part of the Gaza Strip, demanding the lifting of the siege on Gaza and the right of return. How did the occupation respond? With live ammunition and sniper fire intended to kill and maim. Approximately 280 Palestinians have died and more than 28,000 have been wounded during this time, many of whom will live the rest of their lives disabled. Not one Israeli on the other side was killed because of the demonstrations. These protests also persist on a smaller scale in the West Bank where Israel continues to steal Palestinian land, destroy Palestinian homes and imprison Palestinian women and children at a pace second to none.
To the Greenblatts and Trumps and their Zionist choir, no amount of campaign sloganeering in puerile public statements can rewrite the palpable facts of Israeli aggression and its deadly occupation or recast Hamas from a lawful indigenous defense force into a mercenary political outlier. Nor can the soon to come US “deal of the century” entice millions of Palestinians to surrender an age-old history and tradition to the cheap ring of a common real estate cash box.
Hamas is no rogue militant group, with anonymous, shadowy operators. It will not disappear or shirk its leadership responsibility. It remains an authentic and powerful part of the Palestinian experience, for over thirty years, much older than some of the current Israeli political parties in the Knesset. While many of its founders, all those years ago, have been killed by Israel, Hamas continues to speak on behalf of the dignity and hope of millions of Palestinians worldwide. Like them, it carries the kindle of resilience and self-determination of a People rendered stateless but neither hopeless nor powerless by a European colonial project. Like them, it will not cease to exist or fade into silence.