A little on Hamas

B’Tselem is a well-respected (current Israeli government aside, perhaps) human rights group in Israel. Here it reports on rocket and mortar fire on Israelis by Palestinians from Gaza. Those firing on Israel often do so from heavily populated areas, demonstrating a disregard for Palestinian lives as well as a murderous intent towards Israelis. Rockets and mortars are always illegal, because imprecise.

For southern Israelis there is more danger from missiles since Israel evacuated the Gaza strip. Greens are good at imagining and sympathising with the effects attacks on civilians have on Palestinian politics. It doesn’t take much imagination to work out the political climate which easily arises from indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians. While I have nothing but admiration for those who insist on a Israeli narrative other than fear, there’s no ignoring or excusing these Palestinian attacks on Israelis. Their small scale makes them no less a war crime.

Hamas is a religious nationalist organisation – Muslim Palestinians always come first. Its leadership in exile is based in Damascus. So when the forces of Syrian head of state Bashar al-Assad rampaged through the Syrian Palestinian ghetto of Latakia, Hamas’ subsequent poor display of support for al-Assad alienated the ayatollahs who fund it. Intelligence suggests that Iranian military support for Hamas has dried up. There are reports that it has not paid its employees.

All this is troubling in itself, and also because, as Israeli Green Gershon Baskin observes, Hamas is emerging as a relatively moderate force in Gaza. This is the same Hamas which is ideologically committed to Israel’s destruction and is the opposite of a moderate force by measures we in Britain would like to carry on taking for granted – for example, criminal justice, treatment of minority groups, or separation of religious and legal institutions. However, according to Baskin, Hamas is not ordering the missiles fired on Israel at the current time. They’re not calling the shots.


Surprised to find that this post has been received – at least by a few readers – as an apology for Hamas. Perhaps I put something in the wrong terms. Hamas, being religious nationalist, can never be a force for good. But to flesh out the claim above that it is rivalled by even more violent and fundamentalist groups in the strip, let me refer readers to this 2010 Economist piece on Salafist movements in Gaza. Read it and worry.

9 thoughts on “A little on Hamas

  1. modernity

    “Hamas is not ordering the missiles fired on Israel at the current time. “

    So they are using a proxy? Or just going along with it. There are many possibilities.

    We shouldn’t be naive about Hamas and their ultimate intent.

    1. Mitnaged

      Disingenuous. Hamas is the government in charge and has ultimate responsibility for any terrorist activity which emanates from Gaza. If it can’t keep order in its own house then it should be forced to hold democratic elections and risk being booted out. But it won’t will it?

      As for Hamas being “relatively moderate” what on earth is meant by that, Mira? It aims its rockets to miss Israeli civilians? How much more comforting for the families of those killed or maimed might it be to know that the rocket was fired under the aegis of a “relatively moderate” Islamist entity than by one from, say, Al Qaeda operatives?

      You know as well as I that Hamas treats Muslim Palestinians who disagree with its dictatorial and barbaric regime with often violent contempt and where they do “come first” it is only in the service of the furtherance of Hamas propaganda and power. I can’t believe what I am reading!

      1. Mira Vogel Post author

        Read the final paragraph of my post, and read Baskin’s JP piece. If Baskin’s analysis is correct then Hamas are indeed a relatively moderate force in the strip. This is not, as my final paragraph indicates, because they are moderate by humane standards. If politics of the strip are giving way to murderous factionism, I hope you would agree that some kind of wary partnership with the strip’s more moderate groupings is worth considering. If you are going to argue otherwise, you’d better provide evidence that Baskin is wrong and that Hamas do indeed have full control, and that the other groups firing on Israel are not their rivals.

  2. modernity

    Let’s pick over that article:

    “because of its own current interests. “

    ” He did confirm that it was more than possible that Hamas did not know anything about the attack.”

    “Hamas declared that it did not want to escalate the situation. Hamas did not fire rockets. “

    Hamas, like many politicians and political organisations, do what they perceive to be in their interests, along with the ideological baggage that they carry.

    Simply put, because they haven’t done or instigated something at this particular moment did not indicate that they couldn’t or wouldn’t in the future, or as we know have done in the past, just that it doesn’t suit them at the moment, for a variety of reasons.

    The Egyptian official’s statements are ambiguous, there is nothing directly from Hamas and it is more than possible that they did know, or not.

    Or more simply they may have tacitly approved of it, but couldn’t say so.

    Again, there are any number of possibilities before making the most charitable reading of Hamas’s actions or inaction.

    I would agree that they probably don’t want to escalate the situation as they know the consequences, or at least part of their leadership does, but that doesn’t mean other factions or leaders within Hamas couldn’t have gone along with rockets and missiles for want of doing anything else.

    Let us not forget that a mass of spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on their own internal security organisation, they are armed to the teeth and when faced with opposition they can bring masses of firepower to bear, when it’s in their interest.

    In this instance there seems no good reason to put the most charitable spin on Hamas’s actions or statements, as it suggests a degree of wishful thinking, however should Hamas use all of their considerable military might to stop rockets and missile being aimed at Israeli civilians and do it consistently then it might be time to review what they are doing and thinking, but best not forget their own political imperatives.

    1. Mira Vogel Post author

      Don’t disagree with anything you say Modernity but I can’t really see grounds for thinking the post is charitable about Hamas – particularly given the explanation of why ‘relatively moderate’ does not get Hamas very far by humane standards, but is rather a sign of how bad things may have got in the strip. Things are certainly bad when it is possible to be both the most moderate group in a region and very untrustworthy and generally harmful at the same time. But this is Gaza!

      Nor do I understand why in effect pointing out that Hamas has or risks losing control is taken as charitable, or suggests that Hamas does not have its own realism and pragmatism. I’m mystified about why it’s unclear that this post presents a scenario of alternatives which are awful or worse than awful. I thought it was clear that religious nationalism is a pernicious political position!

  3. Isca Stieglitz

    I got confused by the article too and then the penny dropped. It’s as if one would say “If you think Hamas is bad, you should meet their in-laws!” Or “If you think my brother’s built like a brick kazi, he’s a puppy compared to my dad!”
    I can’t imagine how bad it could be if there’s worse than Hamas. Not good for residents of Gaza, Israel or regional stability.


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