June 9, 2011 by IJV
A point or two re ‘support of Hamas’. (This follows our post on the Jewish Chronicle attack on London Citizens for statements by its Deputy Chair about Hamas and JC journalist Martin Bright’s response.)
The first is that it is very unclear what is meant by ‘supporting Hamas’. Hamas is a party and a movement which has become the de facto government in the Gaza strip. It provides and administrates full services to Palestinian citizens including health and education, as well as operating policing and justice services – in parallel to and separate from its use of armed violence against Israelis.
Is working with a public education facility, or operating a municipal orphanage in Gaza ‘supporting Hamas’?
A separate question is the political entity that is Hamas. You should know that the EU is rethinking its policy of 2006, in which it decided to disregard the results of democratic elections in the OPT and join in the US-Israeli ban on funding of Hamas. Today, with the reconciliation deal between HAmas and Fatah, the EU line has been more cautious – it is not demanding the Quartet conditions (recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and respecting prior agereements) of Hamas as a movement – but rather of the unity government and its representatives, and in fact it has even softened these conditions by making a rather vague demand that they ‘demonstrate that they are acting for peace’. This was also repeated by UK Defense Minister Liam Fox and even Obama (in his first speech). These political institutions are rethinking their total boycott of this political movement and thinking rather that it would make sense to engage, in the hope that the movement is in the process of ‘pragmatising’ due to its joining of the political game. If they are doing so, it seems strange to stop working with an organisation which has one trustee who ‘supports Hamas’.
All the above notwithstanding, it’s important to remember that Hamas as a de facto government is repressive, conservative and violent. It employs the death penalty, arbitrarily detains and tortures political opponents (as does the fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank), and employs terrorizing and bullying tactics to exert control over social behaviour (especially mixed gender activities). In my opinion it is important to heed and strengthen the voices of Gaza based human rights organisations and civil society, which are struggling to expose and counter the repression by Hamas as a government, while at the same time upholding its legitimacy as a political entity and working against political fragmentation and for unity, in the hope of achieving a representative government that works to fulfil individual human rights as well as the collective rights of Palestinians.