Things you do not hear very often, number one: a pro-Palestinian protester denouncing Hamas for the barbarity of its incursion into Israel on October 7, appalled at the savagery of those attacks upon children, grandmothers, etc. It may seem as if, in saying this, I am stating the obvious — because support for that pogrom was, I would suggest, strong among some of those carrying Palestinian flags on marches. Six Arab language journalists were suspended by the BBC when it was discovered that they retweeted messages glorifying in that day’s murder. They were not members of Hamas. Ordinary Palestinians interviewed, cowering in the rubble of Gaza, were not quoted condemning the attacks which led directly to their present misery. And so here we have a big problem, another non-sequitur to pile upon all the others which bedevil attempts to bring peace to a region of the world which shows very few signs of wanting peace at all.
There is some evidence of opposition to Hamas in Gaza, but it seems small to the point of near invisibility
The appropriate line to take right now, assuming you are not one of those out on the streets calling for jihad, is to insist that the hideousness of October 7 justifies Israel’s attempts to “root out Hamas” from the Gaza Strip, while holding that it is only right to provide medical assistance, aid and power to “ordinary Palestinians.” But what if the problem is bigger than Hamas? Where does that leave us? We dutifully regurgitate the line that Hamas predates upon the Palestinians and in doing so make what is perhaps a false dichotomy, believing that the aspirations of Hamas are not shared by the people they govern. But is this true? My suspicion is that it is not quite true and that even if Israel were to destroy Hamas, some similarly genocidal and violent entity — Islamic Jihad? ISIS? Campaign for a Free Galilee? — would spring up to take its place.
We cleave to that false dichotomy, though, because in our wish to be kindly we must exculpate “ordinary” Palestinians. But where are these ordinary Palestinians, drowned out by more extreme voices, who are perhaps not riven with a racial and religious hatred of the state and people next door? The ones who condemn the attacks on Israel and want peace? When will we hear from them?
There is some evidence of opposition to Hamas in Gaza, but it seems small to the point of near invisibility these days. Perhaps that is because those who are opposed stay silent out of fear, sure. But still, there is no great evidence to suggest that this tiny proportion which opposes Hamas does so because of its genocidal wish to wipe Israel and Jews from the face of the Earth: the objections are to Hamas’s bullying and fascistic behavior in its governance of Gaza.
It is certainly true, mind, that in the 2006 Palestinian elections, voters backed Hamas primarily because it was believed to be markedly less corrupt than Fatah and might also afford the enclave better security. Exit polls suggested that while Hamas won, some 75 percent of voters wanted it to drop its insistence that Israel should cease to exist and a similar proportion wished for peace with Israel. On the face of it, this seems to refute directly my suggestion that the aspirations of Hamas are shared by those “ordinary Palestinians.”
But that was seventeen years ago and at a time when a two-state solution seemed if not probable, then at least remotely possible: much has changed. The people of Gaza have since then been absorbing the Hamas mantras of intransigence and hatred on a daily basis. And it is also the case that even then, Palestinians were still willing to vote for a party which wished to kill all Jews and which proclaimed its intention to do so in that infamous 1988 charter which was drawn directly from Nazi propaganda:
With their money, they [the Jews] took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money, they formed secret societies, such as Freemason, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.
Perhaps we might excuse these voters because they didn’t look at the small print. The trouble, though, is that Hamas is hardly unique in its rank antisemitism. Only a month ago, the Palestinian president, the grizzled old thug Mahmoud Abbas, rolled out the Jew-hating stuff in a speech to Fatah Party members. He denied that antisemitism had anything to do with the Holocaust: that had been occasioned, he said, by the roles of Jews in society. He said: “They say that Hitler killed the Jews because they were Jews and that Europe hated the Jews because they were Jews. Not true,” adding that the Europeans “fought against these people because of their role in society, which had to do with usury, money… In his [Adolf Hitler’s] view, they were engaged in sabotage, and this is why he hated them.”
This speech, which received little or no attention over here, mined precisely the same Nazi tropes as those which form the core of Hamas’s belief. Abbas even went on to suggest that the Ashkenazi Jews of Europe who were murdered in the Holocaust were not actually Jews at all.
All of this accords with my many interviews with Palestinians, “ordinary” and otherwise, in documentaries I have made over the past decade: give it a moment and the Jew-hatred stuff will often bubble up to the surface. The only place where I didn’t find this bitter and corrosive loathing was among Israeli Arabs.