The Left’s Hamas dilemma

It is hard to understand how some on the political Left, including some elements close to the Maltese Labour Party, just cannot get themselves to condemn the killings of innocent Israelis without ifs and buts, and distance themselves from Hamas

What Hamas militants did in the Israeli kibbutz of Kfar Aza is despicable. Children, women, elderly people and men were killed in cold blood by Palestinian militants pretending to be freedom fighters. Ordinary people were butchered in their homes. 

Similarly, the murder of 260 young people who were attending a rave party was a horrendous act of butchery. 

What Hamas militants did was a disservice to the Palestinian cause and can never be justified in any shape or form. The group has lost any legitimacy it may have had to even represent the interests of Palestinians. 

Anything short of an outright condemnation of Hamas’s actions is absurd. What Hamas did was an act of savagery that cannot go unpunished. 

This is why it is hard to understand how some on the political Left, including some elements close to the Maltese Labour Party, just cannot get themselves to condemn the killings of innocent Israelis without ifs and buts, and distance themselves from Hamas. This also holds for a group like Graffitti, which failed to include one sentence condemning Hamas in a press statement calling for justice in the Middle East. 

This hesitation implies some form of justification for Hamas’s actions just like the bigots who argue against equality for LGBTIQ people but start their sentence with the words: “I have nothing against gays but…”. 

The inability to condemn Hamas outright and see the organisation for what it is – a militant group whose ideology is premised on the destruction of Israel and hence has racist overtones – is a stand that flounders under the weight of murder, butchery and indiscriminate killing of civilians. 

The Left has to ditch its ideological hang-ups when dealing with Israel and the Palestinian cause. This also applies to those gravitating around the Labour Party caught in a time warp of Mintoffian nostalgia that perceived Western Europe as the ‘Europe of Cane’ – a derogatory term.    

Resistance to occupation is a legitimate course of action when everything else fails – Nelson Mandela started off as a resistance fighter advocating the use of violence against the apparatus of the apartheid regime in South Africa as did the founders of Israel in the aftermath of World War II – but Hamas does not have the moral legitimacy to carry out that fight. 

Hamas has taken the upper hand because the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority has gone into a deep slumber and become irrelevant to Palestinians. Indeed, it is absurd that the PA, which administers the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, was pushed out of Gaza by Hamas. Unfortunately, this situation has not only split Palestinians but is undermining the legitimate fight for an independent and viable state. 

This leader believes in the Palestinian cause. It is a justified cause and Malta’s foreign policy across the years has been pretty much consistent in seeking a two-state solution. 

But supporting Palestinians and their aspiration to have an independent state should not mean supporting groups like Hamas that harbour an ideology of destruction and violence. Nor should it mean rubbishing or isolating Israel. Indeed, the Palestinian cause has to be unhooked from the Hamas bandwagon and one would think that Leftist politicians and activists can see this clearly. 

The situation in the Middle East is complex and impregnated with deep historical wounds on either side. A lot of what is happening can be explained through history but looking back will inevitably hinder any hope of achieving progress. If the future is to be determined by the past, the prognosis is bleak. 

In this context, there can be no wavering when it comes to condemning the deliberate targeting of civilians as a means to an end, or worse, an end in itself as Hamas’s ideology dictates. 

This also applies to Israel. Its right to defend itself is undisputed. Retaliating to the brutal attacks on Israeli communities is to be expected and justified. But when going after Hamas and the structures that prop up the organisation Israel must do everything in its power to avoid civilian deaths. The ongoing bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip and the inhumane blockade are hurting ordinary civilians who may not even support Hamas and their actions. Collective punishment is in breach of international law and unless Israel controls its fury and takes measures to protect civilian lives it will simply be going down the same murderous path as its enemies. 

There must be humanitarian corridors that allow vital supplies to reach people on the ground in Gaza. 

At the same time, Palestinians in Gaza must realise they cannot continue to lend support to groups like Hamas, whose vision only leads to a dead end. Indeed, Hamas is using ordinary Palestinians as human shields, a situation that will inevitably lead to collateral damage. 

Sure, there is context to what is happening now, which cannot be ignored. Palestinians still have no land to call their own. They still live in a state of occupation where their everyday affairs are disrupted and their aspirations for a better life are destroyed. The ongoing occupation has to be addressed and every effort must be made to kick-start a fresh political process based on clearly defined goals and timelines. 

Hopelessness breeds despair and this inevitably leads ordinary people into the clutches of murderous militants. This is a fact of life that Israel must understand to avoid perpetuating the cycle of violence. 

It is in no one’s interest that the political process remains dead. Everyone loses if the status quo persists but the biggest losers are ordinary people on either side, whose only aspiration is to live normally, raise a family, send children to school, work and earn a decent and honest living, and enjoy life. 

Amidst the complexity that is the Middle East, one thing is certain: Hamas cannot deliver this hope for the Palestinians.