Which is perfect for the Israelis. Hamas, with its iron grip and rocket attacks, is the ideal hook on which to hang all blame. Its popularity has declined since 2006, though that has been buoyed lately — but that, too, actually is irrelevant. What Palestinians think of Hamas has nothing to do with what they think of the right to a legitimate resistance. And most of us believe in the latter. Who wouldn’t in our position?
We knew that the rickety rockets shot from Gaza were all that the Israel Defense Forces and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needed to redirect public attention on Israeli self-defense and away from the harms inflicted on Palestinians. This isn’t Hamas’s first rodeo. And the provocation that started all this, the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, wasn’t just a provocation. It was an attack on the very last stand of everything Palestinians have ever fought for: home.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live in refugee camps, many elsewhere in the Middle East, often forgoing citizenship rights in that second country and passing on their statelessness to their children and grandchildren in the name of one thing. Home. No elected Palestinian government at this point is going to forget that and simply roll over just because some wannabe international peacemaker wants them to, for their career-boosting photo op in the Rose Garden. That’s been done already.
If any party other than Hamas were in power in Gaza right now, it might have tried to lobby for international support for the Palestinians of East Jerusalem a few days or weeks longer before launching rockets on Israel. But seeing its fellow countrymen and women made homeless, time and time again, would ultimately have forced the hand of even a non-Hamas government in Gaza, either drawing it into the fight or making it so unpopular for not getting involved that it’d be forced out of power. That’s why to focus on Hamas is to miss the point, and to reinforce the myth that the conflict is, in some fundamental manner, about the group. The conflict is about the Israeli occupation.
To focus on Hamas is also to sanitize the conflict, and in that way become complicit in it. It allows people to express sympathy for ordinary Palestinians while blaming a few people at the top of the Palestinian leadership. But the right to self-defense against Israel’s continued aggression belongs to all Palestinians; legitimate resistance cannot be a right only for those Palestinians who believe exclusively in nonviolent self-defense — not in the face of the violence we endure. We, Palestinians, are in this together.
For others to pretend that Israel is waging a war against Hamas, rather than against all Palestinians, is what allows the kinds of attacks and crimes of recent days to be repeated every few years.
And now, if the cease-fire does hold, the spectacular violence of the last two weeks will slip out of the news cycle as Palestinians go back to suffering, largely out of view, the slow-motion violence of Israel’s continued oppression — its blockade of Gaza, its militarization of the West Bank, more evictions of Palestinians.