Hamas’s actions are hideous but the occupation has to be challenged

There can be no justification for killing hundreds of people in a rampage which makes a mockery of dignified resistance to a brutal occupation

The site of the music festival in southern Israel attacked by Hamas militants
The site of the music festival in southern Israel attacked by Hamas militants

In 2023, nobody should be living under military occupation or in a large besieged prison camp like Gaza, often denied of food, electricity and clean water.

Nobody should be subjected to daily humiliation at checkpoints on their way to and back from work. Nobody deserves to live in a permanent state of collective punishment.

Like a badly run oppressive prison, Israel has turned Palestinian territories into festering breeding zones for gun totting fundamentalists. That is why I have always supported the Palestinian cause and why I still do.

I also believe that resistance against this military occupation is legitimate and an expression of human dignity.

Yet, something has changed profoundly in the past days. The rampage carried out by Hamas militants made me more aware of the insecurity felt by normal Israeli citizens in their daily lives.

For a day, my only thoughts were for the victims of this act of terror; an act which made a mockery of dignified resistance. Rather than a heroic struggle it had all the attributes of a rampage after a prison break. 

The brutal execution of 260 partygoers has all the hallmarks of war crimes and has to be condemned as such. 

For sure I am a western armchair liberal socialist writing from the comfort of my sofa, who like most decent Europeans, feels pangs of conscience for both colonialism and the Shoah. Sure, I do not suffer from the daily humiliation of occupation and no bombs are falling from the sky above me.

But it is all too easy to say that Israel is reaping what it has sown over decades. I would be disrespectful towards my Palestinian friends if I do not call a spade a spade.

The nature of the attack itself is symptomatic of a dangerous ideology of hatred which pervades Islamo-fascism. These are the kind of fundamentalist bigots/fascists we normally fight against on a daily basis not some misguided heroes.

And ironically this could end up justifying the very logic of the occupation. For Israel justifies occupation in reference to the existential threat it faces. This attack seemed purposely intended to show that this threat exists. And yes, I have to admit that for the past years I underestimated this threat.

Yet, despite the revulsion I feel at Hamas, it is the Palestinians who are facing the greatest existential threat. With any hope of a two-state solution shattered, the only prospect they are facing is subjugation, expulsion or permanent occupation. As the far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich – a self-described ‘fascist homophobe’ – had put it: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian nation. There is no Palestinian history. There is no Palestinian language.”

Still, by outdoing the oppressor in terms of brutality (at least in the short term), Hamas have opened the door wide open for the infliction of a collective punishment on their own people.  

And while it is difficult to argue against Israel targeting Hamas, we should never forget that bombs falling from the sky also kill innocent civilians including children.

But some would ask what can Palestinians do except give Israel a taste of its own medicine?

Some would say, terrorism is inevitable in an asymmetrical war between an unofficial nuclear power and bands of armed guerrillas whose only power is that of causing maximum disruption. Ask the founders of Israel who had waged their own terror campaign to win independence.

But while Israel is indeed the colonizing force, Hamas are not reckless Davids facing a mighty Goliath but a pawn in a geo-political game where Iran, which repeatedly calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, plays a big role.

What is sure is that for now the attack has scuppered the Saudi attempt to normalise relations with Israel. And while the US-sponsored Saudi plan would have further sidelined the Palestinians, denying them the last bargaining chip –peace with the entire Arab world for Israel in return for an independent Palestinian homeland – Hamas’s action effectively reinforces the view that the Palestinians lack a respectable interlocutor to represent them.

Many like me in the west are still waiting in vain for the Palestinian Mandela, often forgetting that all potential Palestinian leaders are rotting in Israeli jails while the sitting president Abbas is completely impotent.

There are some reflections to be made by the US and the EU who have understandably stood behind Israel in this difficult moment but who in past years have neglected the simmering conflict leaving an old wound to fester and breed sordid monsters.

The reality is that we are only talking about Palestine and Israel because of the horrid spectacle performed by Hamas.  

How much has the EU and the USA done to placate the (now moribund) Palestinian Authority after it gave up the armed struggle following the Oslo agreement? Practically nothing. They did not even manage to stop Israel from building more illegal settlements thus making it clear that the two-state solution is a pipe dream which will simply never happen.

There is now a vacuum which Hamas is filling in Palestine and the far right in Israel. Both are stronger now. Honestly, the scenario looks very bleak and from now on things will probably get worse.

But that should not stop Malta from making its voice heard by joining the EU in firmly condemning Hamas while calling for restraint, and opposing moves to deny the Palestinian Authority much needed humanitarian aid.

One can condemn Hamas without ifs and buts without reneging on support for the rights of Christian and Muslim Arabs living under occupation who are entitled to enjoy the same rights as Israelis.

Unfortunately, instead of granting these rights to the occupied Palestinians, the far-right government in Israel is slowly eroding the rights of Israeli Arab citizens living in the pre-1967 borders.

It may be the hardest time ever to support the Palestinian cause, but Hamas’s criminal actions and the ongoing collective punishment in Gaza makes it all the more vital to keep calling for a lasting solution based on respect of human rights.