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Erin Martz

Why We Should ­View Gaza as a Totalitarian Rogue State

[Revision of 10/28/2023 blog posting]

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It is stunning that large groups of people across the world have been protesting on behalf of Gaza, instead of condemning the violent and barbaric terrorist actions of Hamas against the citizens of Israel on October 7, 2023. No doubt some protestors are responding to the images and stories of loss and death in Gaza that occurred after Israel began responding to the terror attacks on its soil; that reactive perspective is understandable from a humane level of not wanting to see more bloodshed, death, and destruction. Others may protest because they justify Hamas’ actions as the work of “freedom fighters” who are resisting occupation by Israel; that perspective is puzzling because Israel withdrew their military presence and settlers from Gaza in 2005. Some may be protesting from an anti-Israel or anti-Semitic perspective and may be aligning with the ideology of Hamas, which involves obliterating Israel (Preamble of the 1988 Hamas charter). One wonders how many of the protestors realize the core nature of the entity that their protests support. Because Hamas promotes an absolutist ideology and uses terrorist actions to achieve its objectives, Gaza could be categorized as a totalitarian rogue state, as will be explained below.

The Palestine National Authority became a non-member observer state at the United Nations in 2012, which was a different category than non-state observers given to international, non-governmental, and inter-governmental organizations. The term “state” is used in the present context when describing Gaza because it has its own political, economic, health-care, and education systems. Hamas has been the de facto ruler of Gaza since 2007 and this ruling authority is distinct from the West Bank’s government that is run by Fatah. A rogue state can be understood as a political entity that does not respect international law. An example of why Gaza can be viewed as a rogue state is that Hamas has repeatedly denied the legitimacy of the sovereign state of Israel (e.g., articles 18, 19, 20 of the 2017 Hamas charter). A rogue state also can be defined as a political entity that supports terrorism and threatens the security of other nations; Hamas has a long history of using terrorism by sending suicide bombers and launching missiles into Israel. Hamas’ 1988 charter (article 13) stated that there was “no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad,” and Hamas’ 2017 charter stated that armed resistance was “the strategic choice for the Palestinian people” using “all means and methods.” Such declarations, coupled with the extensive terrorist activities conducted by Hamas within the state of Israel and the denial of the legitimacy of the state of Israel, suggest that Gaza is a rogue state.

Gaza also can be viewed as a totalitarian state, which is a state typically characterized by a person or group of people controlling education, economic resources, the media, military, and of course, political power (as a one-party state) and is a state driven by a specific ideology. An example of a totalitarian state is the former Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.), which promoted Marxism-Leninism ideology under Stalin until the 1980’s when Gorbachev triggered major changes in that country. We know from many sources and publications by dissidents that dissent against the Soviet Union’s communist ideology could lead to imprisonment or death. One example was Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1973 book “Gulag Archipelago,” which exposed the brutality of the Soviet Union and what happened to people when they tried to protest against or disagree with their country’s policies and ideology; even having copies of Solzhenitsyn’s book could lead to imprisonment for anti-Soviet propaganda. For decades, people in the Soviet Union did not dare to vote against its communist party or to criticize its Marxism-Leninism ideology due to the serious consequences of dissent; instead, many “voted with their feet” (i.e., emigrated if they could) to escape the tentacles of a totalitarian state.

Hamas’ totalitarian control over Gaza has allowed them to divert money from building their economy and social services to strengthening its military capacities. The absolutist, militant, jihadist ideology of Hamas, as evident in its 1988 charter, promotes and justifies the destruction of Israel (Preamble) and killing of Jews (article 7). Its ideology also has permeated the culture; social support and solidarity for jihad has been promoted as the same as being a fighter (Hamas 1988 charter, article 30). Hamas also uses psychological techniques, such as positing Israel as the reason for downward spiral of conditions for the average citizen of Gaza; thus, Israel is vilified as the cause of all of Gaza’s economic and social woes. This technique is a known method by which a totalitarian ideology operates: creating an enemy and then blaming the enemy for having to fight or attack them (i.e., blaming the victim–‘you made us do it’). Further, Hamas promotes a cult of death, framing actions, such as suicide bombings and other terrorist acts, from a religious perspective that promotes these horrid acts as admirable and incentivizes terrorist actions by promises of rewards in “heaven” (after one’s death). Such ideology is potent enough to override an individual’s basic instinct to protect one’s own life. By such an absolutist, multi-faceted ideology, Hamas provides the psychological weaponry that supports its military actions.

Hamas’ ideology, as evident in the 1988 and 2017 charters, eradicates any possible political solutions to its conflict with Israel. For example, the 1988 charter of Hamas states that “Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors” (article 13). And the 2017 charter of Hamas “rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea” (article 20). These ideological declarations do not permit approaches that would allow political negotiation or compromise. Hamas’ absolutist ideology results in rogue actions and violent behaviors that threaten the stability of other states, such as a long-term pattern of terrorist actions inside the state of Israel, rejecting major peace treaties (e.g., the Oslo Accords), and military actions (continual rocket launches into civilian areas of Israel, such as the more than 10,000 rockets launched from Gaza into Israel since October 7, 2023). Viewing Gaza as governed by a totalitarian government can help remind us that Hamas has multi-level control over a population by an absolutist ideology, military power, control over politics, education, and health/social services. Some might view the conflict between Gaza and Israel as a religious war; yet Hamas’ exclusive control over Gaza and continually threatening behavior towards Israel suggests that Gaza, with a government run by Hamas, can be understood as a totalitarian rogue state. If more people, such as those who protest Israel’s actions in Gaza after the October 7, 2023 massive terrorist attacks in Israel, understood the nature of the Hamas beast, they might put down their signs and understand that if a totalitarian rogue state was in their back yard, they might be shouting different slogans.

About the Author
Dr. Martz has a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Education and Research and a M.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling. She currently provides vocational rehabilitation counseling to individuals with a range of chronic conditions and disabilities and serves as a vocational expert in the United States. Dr. Martz was awarded a 2017 U.S. Department of State Fulbright research fellowship in Israel and worked with Israeli researchers on a coping with tinnitus study. She has published 3 edited books on the topic of coping with disabilities, self-management of chronic health conditions, and trauma rehabilitation.
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