"One failed Palestinian suicide bomber described being 'pushed' to attack Israelis by “the love of martyrdom”. He added, 'I didn’t want revenge for anything. I just wanted to be a martyr.' Mr. Zaydan, the would-be martyr, conceded that his Jewish captors were 'better than many, many Arabs'… he reminded his interviewer that a martyr gets to pick seventy people to join him in paradise. He would have been sure to invite his family along." - J. Bennet, in the New York Times, June 8th, 2002 (1)
i) Introduction: the Hamas Charter
ii)Hamas: the Middle-Eastern Death-Cult
iii) Suicide Bombing
iv) Hamas and the JewsPart Two: The Far Left and Hamasv) The Far Left and Hamas
vi) Hamas and the Far Left
vii) Defences of Hamasviii) A Class Analysis of Hamas
The problem with the far left, as well as with many Islamophiles and pro-Palestinians, is that they never seem to actually read what the Islamists, and Hamas, actually say. Not what they say to the Western media, or to Red Ken, but to other Palestinians and other Muslims. In the case of Hamas specifically, in its original Charter of August 1988, it explicitly calls for the obliteration of Israel through Jihad; as well as the rejection of all ‘peace initiatives’. The Charter calls for the ‘reinstitution of the Muslim state’, not just in the West Bank and Gaza, but in ‘every inch of Palestine’. As for peace initiatives and compromises, the Charter goes on to state that
"so called peaceful solutions are contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement… renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion".
This lack of equivocation continues. The Charter tells us that the Jews and Christians ‘cannot be trusted’. And, to end:
"There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad."
Now, how explicit can you get? All ‘peaceful solutions’ and ‘initiatives’ are ‘so called’. They are bogus. Why are they bogus? Because they involve Christians and Jews, who ‘cannot be trusted’ precisely because they are ‘unbelievers’ and therefore simply must be the ‘enemies of Islam’ and all Muslims. As for Jihad, it is not the ‘result of occupation’, or oppression, or poverty, or ‘Israeli imperialism’. It is the essence of Islam. Or, at the least, it is the essence Hamas’s Islam. It is through Jihad that Hamas proves it Islamic credentials. Jihad is a ‘Pillar’ of Hamas’s Islam and, maybe, of all Islam too.
What the far left, among others, must realise is that even if Hamas does truly want to end ‘oppression’ and ‘Zionist imperialism’, which it does, it also wants something more than that. Something which is more important than both the ‘death of Zionism’ and the ‘end of oppression’. And I don’t only mean the complete destruction of Israel. Hamas demands an Islamic state in Palestine. Now; how does Islamic theocracy square with Trotskyism, Marxism, etc.?
As Hamas’s first leader, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, put it:
"There must… be prior agreement that after liberation, the state will be Islamic. We opposed the Palestine National Charter because if we had accepted the establishment of a secular state, we would have violated Islam." (2)
Indeed the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Hamas once shared the goal of the destruction of Israel. However, the PLO did not demand the creation of an Islamic state after Israel’s destruction. The PLO wanted to destroy Israel in a secular-kind-of-a-way, whereas Hamas wanted the icing of a theocratic state on top of that cake.
The far left and naïve liberals must get one thing into their minds: Hamas is a death-cult. Indeed there is a lot of room for saying that Islam, or at least large parts of it, is also a death-cult. And if Islam is a death-cult, then Hamas, an Islamic party, must surely be a death-cult too. A former Hamas leader, Ismail Haniya, agrees with me. He said:
"Palestinians have Israelis on the run now because they have found their weak spot: Jews… love life more than other people, and they prefer not to die. So suicide bombers are ideal for dealing with them." (3)
Of Course the inverse of the Jews ‘loving life’ is Hamas loving death. That is the prime motive for suicide bombings, not oppression or desperation (though I concede that desperation enters the picture). Accusing people of ‘loving life’ is a little like accusing people of loving food or sex. That is how deranged the position is. And is it only the Jews who love life? Don’t British people love life too? And the Chinese? The Ethiopians? Doesn’t everyone, except Islamic death-cults, love life?
As with all cults and religions, Hamas catches the bombers young. Give me a child at nine years of age, and I will give you a suicide bomber at 11. That is, it is known that Hamas recruits suicide bombers as young as eleven years old. That is not a speculation or theory. It is almost official Hamas policy. Salah Shehadeh, a leader of Hamas in Gaza, said, in May 2002, that children were being recruited into a special branch of Hamas. In addition to Shehadeh’s own words, a well-known Muslim professor, interviewed on Al-Jazeera TV, defended what he called ‘the children bomb’ (4). Let me say again. These very young suicide bombers, like the older ones, are not primarily motivated by feelings of poverty, desperation and oppression. They are motivated by the cult of death and the promises of Paradise. Indeed the emotions of desperation and oppression do not sit well with 11-year-olds - though trauma does. However, trauma is not the right mindset for becoming a suicide bomber. And let us not forget that if suicide bombing is all about desperation, oppression and poverty, then there would be non-Islamic suicide bombers springing up throughout the world. There would be Christian and animist suicide bombers in the south of the Sudan. There would be suicide bombers in southern Thailand. The Muslim Kurds, indeed, would have become suicide bombers. So why is suicide bombing the sole preserve of Palestinians and a few other Muslim groups throughout the world? Why is suicide bombing almost exclusively an Islamic phenomenon (except for the Tamil Tigers, which, incidentally, had close links with the PLO and, more recently, al Qaeda)? Because Hamas is a death-cult. Because Islam is partly a death-cult. Indeed Hamas and Islam are death-cults primarily because they are also killer-cults. The two fit together very well.
The biggest lie (I won’t say ‘myth’ because that word if a far-left favourite) is that suicide bombings are a ‘cry of desperation’ against Israeli occupation and oppression. The thing is, Hamas knows that this is not true. It knows it is not true because it explicitly states that it wants to destroy the whole of Israel. Full stop. So when Israel pulls out of the West Bank, Gaza and anywhere else, Hamas will still have its biggest job to do – the destruction of the whole of Israel. I suspect that many far leftists know that the occupation-then-violence relation should really be the violence-then-occupation one. However, the latter scenario doesn’t pay any political dividends for the far left.
Take the situation which occurred straight after Hamas’s election in 2006. After it, Israel ended its occupation of Gaza and removed all of its settlers. What did Hamas do? It immediately began firing rockets at the civilian centres of southern Israel. Not only that, but its ‘brothers’ in the form of the Palestinian Authority were also thrown out of Gaza. (More and more Muslim ‘brothers’ will die and be imprisoned the longer Hamas has power.)
The problem is that even if Israel permanently stayed out of the West Bank, Gaza and wherever, this would be disastrous for Hamas. It would have the result that their fellow Palestinians would start to forget about the obligatory Holy War against the Jews and their sacred duty to destroy the whole of Israel. Not only that, but media-savvy Hamas knows it would help lose the attention of all those pro-Palestinian Westerners if there weren’t enough Palestinian mothers crying for the camera. Thus it would be Fatah-time again.
And just as suicide bombings weren’t always the result of occupation and increased Israeli violence, so Hamas’s increasing of assassinations of soldiers and civilians didn’t (always) correspond with increased mass demonstrations and revolt. For example, 1992 saw a real decline in the Intifada, yet it also saw an increase in Hamas’s assassinations of civilians and soldiers. Indeed it has been said that these increases in assassinations and suicide bombings occur precisely to egg on, as it were, the Israeli army's defensive and incursive actions, which would hopefully in turn regenerate the Intifada and reignite Western outrage against the Israelis. This reverse process has happened many times since Hamas’s inception in 1987.
Hamas, in its hatred of Jews and desire to annihilate Israel, is simply reflecting the position of its prophet, Mohammed. Hamas, and many, many other Muslim groups and individuals, say that Mohammed predicted a final war to annihilate the Jews. Mohammed actually said:
"The hour [i.e., salvation] will not come until you fight against the Jews; and the stone would say, ? O Muslim! There is a Jew behind me; come and kill him."
Proof that all this is not just a question of defeating Israel and the Israelis comes in the form of Hezbollah rather than Hamas. Hezbollah, like Hitler, wants to get rid of every last Jew on earth. Hezbollah, or at the least some of its members and leaders, has said this. One example of this occurred in 1994 in Buenos Aires. In July of that year there was a bomb attack on the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association. Eight-four people lost their lives. Hundreds were wounded. Who or what was responsible for this crime? The Islamic Republic of Iran was. Well, not quite the state itself. Iran directed Hezbollah to carry out the deed.
How did Hezbollah know that everyone at the Jewish Mutual Association was a Zionist or a supporter of Israel? It didn’t. But it did know that every member would be a Jew, even if a Jewish anti-Zionist.
This sort of thing had already happened in Buenos Aires. In 1992 it was the Israeli Embassy’s turn to be bombed. This time 29 people were killed and 242 injured. One may wonder why Argentina was chosen on both occasions. It had at least something to do with the many former German Nazis and new Nazis who had chosen to live there. You see? The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Nazis and the Jews… Is it all fitting together yet?
Back to Hamas. Despite everything I have just said about Hezbollah, Hamas, on the other hand, does rationalise (if that’s the right word) the killing of civilians in Israel. As Gilles Kepel explains, Hamas suicide bombers (in 2001)
"blew themselves to death in Israeli pizzerias and bus stations, killing as many Jews as they could, while Islamist religious authorities called for jihad. They claimed that Israeli civilians, including women, were legitimate targets because Israel was a military society where everybody, regardless of gender, performed military service". (5)
One wonders if these legitimate targets also included Jews who were anti-Zionists (as in the Buenos Aires example), as well as the many immigrants from Ethiopia and other parts of Africa, Russia and elsewhere who now live in Israel. More to the point. One wonders if the legitimate targets also included the Israeli Arabs, of whom there are very many. (The Arabs do not always have perfect equality with Israeli Jews, but they have more freedom and prosperity than there fellow Arabs in the Islamic countries which surround Israel and beyond.)
A couple of months ago, Red Kenneth Livingstone interviewed the leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashal, for the New Statesman (6). This is Khaled Mashal speaking at that interview:
"Before Israel dies, it must be humiliated and degraded. Allah willing, before they die, they will experience humiliation and degradation every day... Allah willing, we will make them lose their eyesight, we will make them lose their brains."
No it’s not! This is not from that rather soft and sycophantic interview! But it is Hamas’s leader, Khaled Mashal, speaking. Yet Red Kenneth surely must know that this is what Hamas and Khaled Mashal really think about the Jews and Israel. If he doesn’t, he bloody well should do! He must do. Judging from the interview and the general attitude of the far left to Hamas, it is as if they have no idea that Hamas is an anti-Semitic party which wants to annihilate the Jews. As indeed its leader, Khaled Mashal, more or less says in the passage above. As for the grammar. Mashal mentions ‘Israel’ at first. But then he talks about ‘they’ and ‘them’. A state is an ‘it’, not a ‘them’ or ‘they’. Thus it must be the Israelis - no, the Jews, who will be ‘humiliated and degraded’. It is the Jews who will ‘experience humiliation and degradation every day’. It is the Jews who will ‘lose their eyesight’ and ‘loose their brains’. Not Israel. And not even the Israelis.
There are other left-wing and liberal apologists for the civilian-killers Hamas. The Guardian, for example, greeted Hamas’s election victory by saying that it was ‘the best news from the Middle East for a long time’. This is not that surprising when one remembers that this despicable and hypocritical newspaper regularly employs at least six Islamists. These include Dr. Tammini, Salma Yaqoob, Inayat Bunglawala and others. Over the water, the American magazine CounterPunch celebrated that very same victory by writing that it was time ‘to reinforce Hamas resistance [to Zionist ideology]’. Not only that, but Hamas is apparently full of ethicists. Hamas sent out an ‘ethical cry to the world’. Is this some kind of sick joke on CounterPunch’s part? The only cry the Israelis can hear is the cry of their women and children being blown to pieces by Hamas shells and suicide bombers.
Then there is the Right Reverend John Pilger, who adds his own little take on this love-fest from middle-class infidels towards the brown exotics of Hamas. He said that the ‘vote for Hamas was actually a vote for peace’. Is that like Islamic ‘peace’? That is, the peace which is achieved when the whole damn world submits to Allah? Or is it the ‘peace of the grave’ which Hamas loves so much? I suppose, in a sense, or even literally, if Israel is annihilated there would be peace – at least until the various Islamic groups started killing each other (as they have been doing since Mohammed’s death). Just as there was a kind of peace in Hiroshima after the nuclear bombing, so, perhaps, there would be peace in Israel after Iran, or its surrogate Hezbollah, nuked Israel.
And now the man you’ve all been waiting for. Of course Chomsky has gone down on Hamas, as well as Hezbollah. One would not expect anything less from this Jewish anti-Semite. This political simpleton (he’s a good at linguistics though) actually kissed Hezbollah’s arse on its own TV station, Al-Manar. He did so by denouncing America, which is something he rarely does.
One should not have any illusions about how much the far left loves the exotic killers Hamas. Take a big name in the Socialist Workers Party, John Rees. He not only simply adores Hamas, he also has a soft spot for the other killer-group, Hezbollah. Oh, I nearly forgot, he is on speaking terms with the Muslim Brotherhood (out of which Hamas grew) as well. He met them all, in fact, at a single conference. This is how he documented his little tête-à-têtes:
"Where else can you sit down in a single evening and listen to senior people from Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, people from the revolutionary left and the antiwar movement from around the globe?" — Cairo Anti-War Conference, April 2007
Hamas itself, and other Islamists, borrow much from the hard left (despite Sayyid Qutb’s denials). The title Hamas gives its group is the ‘Islamic Resistance Movement’, which is resonant of the Marxist and Maoist movements of the 1960s and beyond (as is ‘the Palestine Liberation Organisation’). It is partly because of this that far leftists seem to forget that Hamas is a thoroughly religious ‘movement’. Either that, or it believes that when it comes down to it, Hamas members ‘basically think like us Western leftists’. Its religious rhetoric is seen as a mere epiphenomenon above the hard material realities which engender it. When push comes to shove, with enough 'struggle', ‘class action’, etc., Hamas will transform itself into a far-left party. It may even become part of the Socialist Workers Party – the Palestine division. Joking aside, the far left seems to either ignore the religious component of Hamas, or simply disregards it. Indeed it must do. The far left basically follows Marx’s analysis of religion. So even though Hamas expresses everything in religious terms, the far leftist must interpret than language in terms of Marx’s 19th century analysis (with a few 20th-century trimmings tagged on). So when the Hamas Charter states that
"when the Jews occupied Holy Jerusalem in 1967… they shouted with joy, 'Muhammad is dead, he left daughters behind'…"
the Trotskyist or Marxist must look deeply, or shallowly, into this text and extract some kind of Marxist-friendly interpretation. In other words, the religious aspect must not be allowed to stand on its own two feet. This begins to resemble a Marxist square shape being banged into an Islamic circular hole. It doesn’t fit! Perhaps this would be a Trot interpretation of the above:
When the Zionist imperialists occupied Jerusalem in 1967, the Zionists shouted with joy at the land and capital they had gained. ‘The Arab workers’ movement is dead!’
That is a joke. But is it radically different to John Molyneux’s, of the Socialist Workers Party, take on this? -
"[t]he vast mass of workers will be liberated from their religious illusions not by arguments, pamphlets or books, but by participation in the revolutionary struggle, and beyond, in the building of socialism. In such a situation it is incumbent on the party to ensure that religious differences, or differences between the religious and the non-religious, do not obstruct the unity of working class struggle."
And Salma Yaqoob, the leader of Respect, writes about the specifically British context of Islamism and leftist ‘radicalism’:
"…the dominant character of Muslim radicalisation in Britain today points not towards terrorism or religious extremism, but in the opposite direction: towards political engagement in new, radical and progressive coalitions that seek to unite Muslim with non-Muslim in parliamentary and extra- parliamentary strategies to effect change…."
Does Yaqoob sincerely believe that ‘Muslim radicalisation’ will lead British Muslims to Trotskyism or other forms of far leftism? She seems to be seeing the world from the very limited perspective of her own political party, Respect, which is almost exclusively made up of (Pakistani) Muslims and Trots. Outside that group, things are very different for the majority of British Muslims. In fact, Muslims, if ‘radicalised’, are far more likely to become stronger Islamists than Trotskyists. In addition, any movement between Trotskyism and Islam is likely to be in the other direction. That is, there will be more non-Muslim Trots embracing Islam and Islamism than the other way around. In fact, this is already happening.
I suppose that Hamas has got the fact going for it that it was democratically elected. So too was the Nazi party of Germany in 1933. The Nazis soon got rid of any semblance of democracy. So too will Hamas. Indeed they have already started that very process. This should be no surprise anyway because Hamas has always spoken out against ‘secular democracy’ and ‘human government’. In any case, how fair was the election? What would your life-chances be if you voted for peace with Israel in contemporary Palestine? What would your life-chances be if you formed a gay party or a Christian party? As for the last example. Hamas and Palestinians generally are already giving Christians a hard time. So there is a small, oppressed people within another larger oppressed people. This is a little like Tom and Jerry. That is, the Palestinians complain about their oppression while oppressing Christians, Jews, gays and everybody who is not a Muslim. More likely. Everybody who is not an Islamist or pro-terrorism.
Another thing that far-leftists and liberals said about Hamas is that it was less corrupt than Fatah. That is no doubt true. Many Fatah leaders were greedy and corrupt. But why is corruption worse than Islamic extremism, virulent anti-Semitism and more suicide bombings? However, Fatah practised all these things too, but not to such a degree as Hamas. And Hamas has not had real power for that long. Give them a few years of real political power and see again if they are still pious and incorruptible Islamists. Again, I would still rather have the small-time corruption of our own Parliamentarians than the psychotic policies and beliefs of Hamas. Was Hitler corrupt? I don’t think so. Nor Pol Pot. I don’t think that even Stalin was that corrupt in the Fatah sense. Give me Jeffrey Archer any time – even though we all hate the bastard.
The most important point one can stress to leftists is that Hamas oppresses (to use that oft-abused word) other Muslims. Even the PLO and Fatah killed more Muslims than the Israelis. Hamas will get there soon. This far-leftist support of Hamas is a little like the Bradfordian Pakistani youth who supports the Iranian against its own workers and students. How would he like to live in a country which banned his alcohol, his crack and cannabis, his downloading of pornography, his having sexual relations with infidel working-class girls, his ‘decadent’ musical taste for gangsta rap and all the rest? He wouldn’t last a minute. Then again neither would a far leftist, unless on a political mission to Iran or Palestine. And then he would be given ‘special dispensations’. Otherwise, how could the far leftist live without his Chardonnay, Coldplay, and a free(ish) tabloid press to criticise? And any Pakistani youth and far leftist support of the Taliban, for example, is almost surreal. Then again, Trots literally support anyone or anything that is against ‘the Government’. Remember its support for ‘Serial Killers against the Tory Government’ and ‘Paedophiles For Freedom’?
Since we are talking about Trots, let’s do a class analysis (as the SWP might put it) of Hamas, bearing in mind that the Intifada and suicide bombings are often said to be ‘the last cry of the poor and oppressed’. For a start, Hamas has never had a working-class leadership – a bit like British Trotskyist groups really. Indeed the stressing of class would not go down that well with Hamas. But the words ‘oppressed’ and ‘Zionist imperialists’ are words it seems to state every now and again. You will have noticed how much political jargon Hamas and other Islamist groups have borrowed, or stolen, from the far left. This goes back to the Arab nationalist movements, which Qutb and later Islamists reacted against
When Hamas was first formed, in 1987, its most prominent leaders included someone on the staff of the Islamic University of Gaza, a physician, a pharmacist, a teacher, and a schoolmaster. Not exactly aristocracy. But not exactly the unemployed or ‘grassroots’ either. The leader of Hamas at this time, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, came from a prosperous land-owning family.
Not only that, but the genuine poor and oppressed who do sacrifice themselves for Allah and Palestine, in the form of suicide bombers, often need to encouraged to do so by Hamas. Hamas instructs the suicide bombers and guides them. The family of the dead bomber is also recompensed by Hamas. On a larger scale, the ‘spontaneous’ Intifada of 1987 needed a lot of organising by Hamas and others.
Again, in terms of this class analysis of Hamas, we can turn to the events of 1992. After Yitzhak Rabin’s crackdown on Hamas in 1992, in which 418 Hamas leaders and activists were rounded up and deported to a mountain village in southern Lebanon, and which was followed by riots in the occupied territories, the world’s press, as per usual, got on its bike and headed for the Lebanese mountains. I’ll let Gilles Kepel continue with the story:
"There, the television cameras of the international news organisations found themselves filming not terrorist jailbirds but university students and teachers, doctors, engineers and imams, many of whom articulately explained, in English, the political positions of Hamas, its hostility to Israel, and its defiance of the PLO." (7)
We can say, then, that the relation between Hamas and the Palestinians, or, more correctly, between Hamas and the Palestinian poor and oppressed, corresponds which the relation between the SWP (and other Trotskyist groups) and the British working class. That is, the former, in both cases, are made up almost exclusively of middle-class professionals and students intent on being the ‘vanguard’ of the Palestinians and the British working class respectively. And just as the leaders and activists of the SWP have not experienced real poverty or hardship, so most of the leaders and activists of Hamas are not from the Palestinian poor and oppressed.
Notes and References
(1) Quoted in Sam Harris, The End of Faith, 2004
(2) Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, May 2nd, 1989
(3) Quoted in the Washington Post
(4) ‘Hate Goes High Tech’, Frontline magazine, Winter, 2003, pg. 5
(5) Gilles Kepel, Jihad: the Trial of Political Islam, 2008, pg. 333
(6) Click here for the interview.(7) Gilles Kepel, ibid., pg. 327