Do you think that Hamas celebrates death, intends to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible, deliberately fires rockets from populated areas in order to increase Palestinian casualties and to embarrass Israel on the world stage, and forces Gazan civilians to act as human shields? Do you think that if they could, they would wipe out every Israeli man, woman, and child, and that it is only Iron Dome and the primitiveness of their rockets that prevents this outcome? Do you think they built tunnels for this purpose?
If you do, I don’t know why. You don’t have any credible evidence to warrant these claims. And yes, I have read the Hamas Charter, and yes, the movement is anti-Semitic.
Here’s two more questions: Are you a liberal who feels bad about the suffering of the Gazans, but who makes a sharp distinction between them and Hamas? Does it make a difference to you that while some Gazans express reservations about Hamas’ fundamentalist ideology, many, perhaps most of them, support Hamas’s resistance against Israel – and I assume that is also true of most West Bank Palestinians?
Like most insurgent movements with a military wing, Hamas is hardly a paragon of virtue in wartime. There is considerable evidence that Hamas recklessly endangers the lives of Palestinian citizens by firing indiscriminately rockets and missiles. This constitutes a war crime. I really can’t see that they actually endanger the lives of Israelis – they certainly frighten them -- but firing rockets into Israel the way they do should be considered a war crime. An occupied people under a brutal siege has a right to armed resistance. If it were the Jews and not the Palestinians, you would agree. It may not be prudent for them to exercise that right, but they have it.
People ask, “What is Israel supposed to do when rockets are fired at them?” To them I ask, “How are the Palestinians supposed to fight justly when they can’t get close enough to well-protected IDF forces to shoot at them?” These are hard questions but whatever their answers, both sides must take maximum reasonable precautions to spare civilians. Once again, both sides didn’t, and both sides committed war crimes, though not of the same magnitude. I have not yet been entirely convinced that Hamas fought a just war – although political theorist Anthony Burke makes a persuasive argument for the justice of Hamas’s waging war under international humanitarian law and the laws of war. Their demands for a truce are reasonable, and in most cases, Israel has agreed to these demands in the past.
Now here’s a question for me: if I think that the Palestinians have the right to resort to armed resistance as a last resort, why do I detest Hamas? That’s easy. They are a religious fundamentalist political party that opposes all my liberal values. I detest all religious fundamentalist political parties. I shudder to think how the Jewish Home party, or better, the Shas party, would fight a war were they to be in control of the Israeli government, and Israel was under Palestinian occupation for generations, and a decade long-siege. Needless to say I detest Hamas’s anti-Semitism, just like I detest the anti-Palestinianism and anti-Arabism of the Jewish fundamentalist right.
But just because I detest a political party, that doesn’t mean I have the right to interfere with a democratically-elected government, provided that government is not interfering with my country. And when they do interfere with my country, I only resort to war as a last resort, after all other resorts fail. In this case, of course, the Palestinians are not a separate independent country, but a people under occupation and siege.
What I have written makes me a defender of liberal values, not Hamas. In wartime, those values often get chucked overboard by liberals, especially if they feel a need to rally around the flag. Demonizing the enemy is as old as warfare. We shouldn’t do it. Especially when that enemy has been under a brutal occupation for decades.