Does Hamas provoke Israel to attack Gaza?

Palestinians as a diverse society are neither reducible to Hamas nor can they be denied the right to resist occupation.

Resistance for Palestinians is definitive of who and what they are, writes Dabashi [EPA]

In much of the North American and western European media reporting on the current Israeli carnage of Palestinians, a common refrain is that Hamas has also shot some rockets towards Israel. Given the sophisticated defence system Israel possesses, courtesy of US taxpayers, none of these rockets hit any targets and fortunately no Israeli man, woman, or child has lost any life or limb because of them. This fact has scarcely bothered BBC, CNN, or any other shamelessly pro-Israeli outlet that always seeks to “balance” their reporting on Gaza by mentioning the fact that Hamas has also shot some rockets towards the Jewish state.

In one particularly nefarious example, Diane Sawyer of ABC showed a picture of Palestinians enduring Israeli bombing but told her American audience these were the pictures of Israelis under attack by Hamas rockets.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that Hamas does shoot some rockets towards Israel, and though these rockets scarcely harm anyone does not diminish their intent, which is to hit somewhere or harm someone. So the Hamas operation intends to harm people but they cannot do as they wish for their military wherewithal is not outsourced to the United States.

Thanks to AIPAC and other Israeli lobbies and pro-Israeli billionaires, among them those who encourage US President Barack Obama to nuke Iran on behalf of Israel, Israel enjoys a special relationship with the most deadly military machinery on the planet and partakes in that deadly force at will. Hamas in this regard has lost the bid to its Israeli counterparts and any outside military help they might receive is from countries like Iran that can hardly be compared to that gargantuan deadly machine called the US.

Erratic rockets

Useless as they are, why is Hamas firing these erratic rockets, and why would they not stop them anyway? Why bother? They are hardly any match for the Israeli army. After all, Hamas is David and Israel is Goliath in this contest. Wouldn’t Palestinians be better off without Hamas trying to defend them in Gaza?

Here we need to ask the question in a slightly larger context. Is Hamas not a legitimate Palestinian organisation, with enough grassroots support that it won a major parliamentary election in Gaza back in 2006? I have known, and I still know, many Palestinians who do not like Hamas, disagree with their ideology, and oppose their ways. But these Palestinians of diverse political opinions are as much part of the Palestinian resistance to occupation and theft of their homeland as Hamas is.

Like any other richly diversified society, Palestinians are composed of followers of many religions, politics, and ideologies. Palestinians are Christian, Muslim, atheists, and agnostic. They are nationalist and/or socialists. They are secularists, Islamists, post-Islamists, and post-secularists. They are feminists, modernists, post-modernists, deconstructionists, and they are nativists at times, cosmopolitan at others, unionists, pacifists, militants, you name it. One of them was a founding figure of a school of critical thinking called post-colonial studies.

By far the most consistent and the most definitive aspect of Palestinian resistance to the occupation and theft of their homeland over the decades has been non-violent civil disobedience. Resistance for Palestinians is definitive of who and what they are. They might be a poet like Mahmoud Darwish, a novelist like Ghassan Kanafani, a film-maker like Michel Khleifi, an artist like Mona Hatoum, a feminist like Lila Abu Lughod – but in doing what they do, whatever they do, they oppose and defy the armed robbery of their homeland.

But there are also those Palestinians who have taken arms and opposed villainy by violence. As part of this resistance, Hamas is integral to the Palestinian national liberation movement, but like any other forms of resistance, Hamas is not definitive to Palestine.

Israeli propaganda machinery

What the Israeli propaganda machinery does is to reduce the entirety of Palestine, the rich and diversified tapestry of Palestinian resistance, to Hamas, then demonise Hamas. The strategy works, especially aided and abetted by major state-sponsored or corporate media like BBC, ABC, or CNN. Execute this strategy, and go on a rampage against Palestinians, maim and murder them with impunity. 

Now for the sake of argument: Suppose we wake up tomorrow morning and there is no Hamas to shoot off any useless rockets towards Israel. Then what? The magnificent Israeli benevolence will move into operation and return the stolen Palestine to their rightful owners? Of course not. Suppose Hamas did not even exist since its founding in 1987. Then what? Israel would have by now returned Palestine to its rightful owners? Of course not.    

Palestinians are varied and Palestinians are entirely entitled to resist and oppose the occupation and theft of their homeland by any means they deem necessary – whether it is by a beautiful song by Muhammad Assaf, a magnificent poem by Mahmoud Darwish, a film by Elia Suleiman, a novel by Ghassan Kanafani, a book on Palestinian costumes by Widad Kawar, or another on Palestinian cuisine by Rawia Bishara or by the militant Marxist organisation PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), or indeed through the Islamist ideology of Hamas.

One may not agree with Hamas, may not join them, but one cannot reduce the entire tapestry of Palestinian resistance to Hamas, or tell Hamas to disband, for Israelis are about to return Palestine to its rightful owners.

So the bogus proposition that Hamas provokes Israel to attack Gaza is not only narratively false because Israeli military operations in Palestine always predate any Hamas operation, but also because Palestinians in their entirety are neither reducible to Hamas nor can they be denied the right to resist occupation in whatever form they deem necessary. Dividing these forms of resistance into “moderate” and “militant” will also lead nowhere but the pestiferous Washington think tanks.

A film by Annemarie Jacir, an art installation by Emily Jacir, a poem by Rafeef Ziadah or Dana Dajani, or a moving song by Rim Banna is infinitely more radical than any flimsy rocket that Hamas might fire. The Israeli propaganda machinery does not want the world to know these radically defiant forms of Palestinian resistance that have grabbed Zionism by the throat for generations and do not allow it to swallow Palestine. But they magnify Hamas as the face of Palestine.

Military atrocities

In a future free and democratic Palestine, who knows how many votes Hamas would garner in a given election. But we are nowhere near that moment yet – and Israel and its criminal military atrocities are the principle obstacle why we are nowhere near that point. Until then, Palestinians are perfectly entitled to resist the robbery of their homeland by any means they deem necessary, including, but never limited to, Hamas.

Hamas does not provoke Israel to attack Gaza. Palestinians do. The very name of Palestine, the very fact and phenomenon of being a Palestinian, being a witness to the moral bankruptcy of the very idea of Zionism provokes Israel. The mere existence of Palestinians is the denial of Israel and its dominant Zionist ideology. That is the reason that Golda Meir famously said there are no Palestinians, for if there were any Palestinians, she would be a joke. So she had to say there are no Palestinians in order to be an Israeli prime minister.

So anytime you hear an Israeli propagandist mention the word “Hamas”, substitute for it “Palestinians” and the replaced signifier is far closer and truer to what they mean. They want to level that land from one end to another, continue to ethnically cleanse it, and call it Israel, and wash, as one young Israeli put it bluntly, Palestinians into the sea.

Zionism as a murderous machinery of colonial conquest will not stop until the very last inch of Palestine is taken – and yet the Palestinians persist in their homeland, resist occupation, procreate, sing, dance, compose music and poetry, make films, stage drama, organise acts of civil disobedience, mobilise for BDS … and yes, of course, some of them also pick up a few flimsy arms against the most sophisticated armed robbery of a homeland in history.  

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. 

Follow him on Twitter: @HamidDabashi