Hamas and Political Legitimacy
We are always told that it is better to deal with “the devil you know than the devil you don’t”. Put another way, given the example of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq or civil war in Syria, the known is always preferable to the unknown?
It is a statement too often expressed. I don’t understand why.
HAMAS is a reactionary Muslim fundamentalist political entity. It has what I call a “Hitler Complex”.
This means that HAMAS is so sure of its own theological infallibility it is willing to sacrifice its own population in a destructive war to first humiliate its enemy and then, to destroy it, utterly. It does not view the suffering of its people as an issue nor is time a factor for consideration in how long is needed to achieve victory. The only possible issue that may make HAMAS pause, but never stop, is the possibility of being overthrown. In order to achieve victory HAMAS must retain control, which is why they executed dozens of ordinary Palestinians for protesting against the war being waged from their front yards.
Ben Caspit, writing in Ma’ariv on the 14th of August explained the HAMAS strategy thus: No agreement is possible unless it is on their terms, no deterrence will affect their goal. The Islamic nation must govern Palestine “From the River to the Sea”. It’s supporters in the West are often heard in demonstrations chanting this genocidal slogan. Ben Caspit concludes by stating that “The only way to break the cycle of conflict is by removing the irritant completely.”
HAMAS have fought a war of attrition (with mortars, missiles and terror attacks) against Israel since their consolidation of rule in Gaza in 2007. Between the Palestinian Authority and HAMAS there was little choice. The PA was and is a racist, misogynistic and hate driven organisation fuelled by greed. It has received billions of dollars in aid since its formal return from exile. Exchanging a secular but corrupt government with a theocratic but corrupt government was at best, unfortunate. Major-General (res.) Giora Eiland (former head of Israel’s National Security Council) writing in an Op-ed that was published in Ynet news on the fifth of August stated that Gazans are to blame for their situation just like Germans were to blame for electing Hitler.
It is certainly sad but true. And the PA is no more deserving of trust now than when it lost control of Gaza to HAMAS.
The issue for Israel is that it seems incapable of fighting this war with any strategy that extends beyond the next military flare up. Its international Hasbara efforts are barely discernable and its professional cadre of PR people are almost incapable of scoring points in the propaganda war when dealing with hostile news agencies or journalists.
Israel’s victory in Operation Protective Edge must be absolute. HAMAS must be overthrown. Israel has to address the psychological war being waged against all of us, and not only the war being waged against Israel. The threat of an expanding boycott is meant to ensure that Israel’s military victory is a pyrrhic victory. By demoralising Israel’s supporters and demonstrating the steadfastness of opposition to the Jewish state it is a reminder to Israel and all of us in the Diaspora of our vulnerability.
Resurgent antisemitism? This is our punishment for ‘disobedience’. There is much criticism on the Left about Israel’s own issue of religious intolerance and the ‘Settlements’, and not just outside Israel. Israel has its fair share of near-sighted policies. By not confronting religious intolerance, by not rejecting any attempt to impose a narrow particularistic template on society we encourage social exclusion, not diversity. But by ignoring religious issues in the greater Near-East we do ourselves no favours. Islam is a deeply hostile, colonialist faith and unless we draw attention to this fact we cannot negotiate as equals.
Dealing with the political issue first will not defuse the religious issues because they are intertwined. When Jews, as Israeli’s, are informed that Jerusalem is a Jewish fiction, that they have no rights other than as ‘paying tourists’ then this is more than a negotiating tactic. It is contemptuous disregard for over a thousand years of persecution under Islam and three thousand years of Jewish history.
In historical terms Judaism is not a colonialist faith, nor is Zionism. Zionism was guilty of incredible naivety in thinking that a Jewish-Arab Utopia was possible or that radicals on the Arab-Muslim political-religious continuum would ever accept Jewish self-determination. But after 47 years in Judea and Samaria the lack of political will in policing the settlement enterprise has demonstrated to both Israeli’s and the outside world that the radicals are allowed to control the agenda. That is not colonialism. It is political cowardice and an unforgiveable ignorance of history. Whether territory is disputed or occupied loses relevance as a legal term when the political will to control unregulated settlement is completely absent. That is when the term ‘colonialism’ becomes difficult to argue against.
Israel has failed to address the centrality of an antisemitic narrative to Muslim – Arab negotiations. When it is clearly an everyday part of social discourse it is inevitable that it will seep into and inexorably suffuse the negotiating position of Israel’s enemies. Under circumstances such as these an enemy negotiating from a position of perceived international political advantage can not be trusted.
What is important is how we behave within our separate societies. Trust has to be developed. If we cannot explain the injustice that we have internalised how can we explain it to the doubters within the international community?To return to the question of HAMAS, I can only repeat what Ben Caspit expressed. When an enemy is determined to break you, negotiations become no more than an interim tactic as part of an overall strategy of fighting an unequal war. To this there can only be one reasonable response. You break them. The question of what may replace them becomes irrelevant. Of greater importance is how quickly, to quote Caspit, can we safely excise the irritant?