(To be read in conjunction with our “Overview Position Statement of Sept. 2016”)
Whenever Israeli policy is criticized, its defenders justify it as being necessary to protect Israel’s security. The concern is understandable, as nobody wants to have missiles raining down on their homes. However, such arguments fail to recognize how Israel’s actions are themselves violent and provoke a violent response. The Palestine Authority (PA) eschews the use of violence, and recent stabbing incidents are the work of individuals who are in despair at the failure of the peace processes to deliver them the viable future to which they are entitled. Such random acts of violence are to be condemned, but it should also be remembered that Palestinians have engaged in a vast amount of non-violent protest, often to be met by Israeli violence, and with very meagre results (see for example the film: Five Broken Cameras).
By way of contrast, Israeli Government violence has been both large-scale and devastating, both when attacking targets in Gaza and in using live ammunition and other potentially lethal weapons against demonstrators in East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank. The best prospects for Israelis to live in security will come when Israel removes the policies that incite legitimate anger among Palestinians, recognises the Nakba (‘Catastrophe’) that it inflicted on Palestinians when it chased them off their lands in 1948, and is prepared to make peace.
While Palestinians are entitled to resist the Israeli occupation under international law, we condemn Hamas in the way it has used violence. Suicide bombings and untargeted rocket attacks against civilian areas are war crimes and crimes against humanity. We also unequivocally oppose the grotesque anti-Semitism contained in the Hamas Charter. Despite this, it is important to acknowledge that Israeli propaganda has severely distorted western understanding about Gaza and Hamas.
For a start, Israeli government sources fail to mention that back in the early 80s, Israel encouraged the emergence of Hamas as a counterweight to the secular Palestinian nationalism of Fatah/PLO. More fundamentally, in its haste always to depict Israel as the victim, the Israeli government never mentions how support for Hamas is a reaction to Israel’s brutal occupation and, in the case of the 1.8 million living in Gaza, an oppressive siege by land, sea and air. Nor is there ever any mention of how Israel has been ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their homeland for decades, whether by demolishing their homes, acquiring their land and building illegal settlements, imprisoning them without charge, severely restricting their movement, or resorting to the full horror of military force. In fact, most of the population of Gaza was driven from its homes in other parts of Palestine by the Israeli armed forces and dumped in Gaza to rot. Nor does the Israeli government acknowledge that Israel practices apartheid (as defined in UN documents) in the occupied territories through the domination of one racial/ethnic group over another.
LDFP believes that Western governments’ reluctance to recognise Hamas as the winner of the last Palestinian General Election of 2006 was a major mistake. We see Hamas’s position as rather similar to that of Sinn Fein in Ireland prior to the peace agreements there. It wasn’t until Sinn Fein leaders (ironically under American pressure) were brought into negotiations and then into power sharing, that peace was brought to Northern Ireland. A peace settlement in Palestine without Hamas’s support is unlikely to survive.