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A correction on Hamas
My friend Jodie Evans pointed out to me a misleading statement in my last essay. I want to rectify it. I said, “The policies of two generations of Palestinian and Israeli leadership have both brought the very opposite of what they intended to achieve.” Then I went on to mention, as examples of the policies of the Palestinian leadership, “violence, terrorism, and rocket attacks.”
There are two problems with this statement. First is what it omits. Yes, the Palestinian resistance has committed acts of terror going back to the days of Yassir Arafat. However, Palestinians have also launched many nonviolent peace movements, such as the March of Return in 2018 where thousands of youth walked to the border fence demanding its removal and the removal of the blockade on Gaza. All they achieved was hundreds of deaths and many thousands deliberately maimed by sniper bullets to the kneecaps and ankles. By not including this and many, many other nonviolent peace actions in my description of the policies of the Palestinian leadership, I created a false impression that they have only attempted violence.
I was not unaware of this history — in fact I have friends who are Palestinian peace activists. What I wish I had said was something like, “Some of the policies of the Palestinian leadersship — namely, terrorism and violence — have brought about the opposite of what they intend.”
The second problem is that my reference to “the Palestinian leadership” obscures, first, that it is by no means monolithic, and second and more importantly, that it is not entirely the creation of the Palestinians, but has been subject to intense manipulation by Israel for many years. Hamas has received funding and support from Israel from its inception, as a counterweight to the PLO. Israel wanted the Palestinians divided in their governance, and so supported the ascendancy of Hamas in Gaza and the PLO in the West Bank.
As a recent opinion piece in Haaretz states, speaking of Netanyahu,
His life’s work was to turn the ship of state from the course steered by his predecessors, from Yitzhak Rabin to Ehud Olmert, and make the two-state solution impossible. En route to this goal, he found a partner in Hamas.
‘Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas,’ he told a meeting of his Likud party’s Knesset members in March 2019. “This is part of our strategy – to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank.”
So, we cannot speak of the Palestinian leadership as if it exists in a vacuum.
Nor (to expand the point) can we speak of the Israeli leadership in a vacuum either. My larger point remains intact. Israel’s actions cannot be separated from the sweep of history, the pogroms, the Holocaust, as well as the machinations of a US imperial state that has used Israel as its pawn and fomented hatred against both itself and Israel through decades of coups, CIA assassinations, and support for brutal regimes across the region.
My larger point was about the futility of blame and the cycles of vengeance it launches. We will never exit the thousands-of-years morass if our explanatory template is always to look for who is right and who is wrong, who is innocent and who is guilty, who is good and who is evil. It is not that such concepts are invalid. It is that they do not give us the understanding we need. So, instead of blame, let us seek to understand. Some readers of my last piece seemed to think that to try to understand means to take no action. That compassion means inaction. No. Understanding is what allows action to be effective; it is what liberates us from ignorant stuck patterns.
Tomorrow I’ll post a video that goes deeper into the psychology and politics of it. Title: “If we really want it to stop…”
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