We Do Not Condemn Hamas, and Neither Should You

We Do Not Condemn Hamas, and Neither Should You

Let us begin at the end: The fight for Palestinian liberation will, without question, succeed. Palestine will be free! When, on that long-awaited day, the people of Palestine look around at who stands by their side, where will socialists find ourselves? Will we find ourselves by their side, having taken revolutionary strides forward to fight for liberation and socialism, to stem the flow of American weapons and hasten the day of their victory? Or will we have allowed things to stay the same yet again, afraid to advance beyond the status quo, leaving us detached from them? Until this point, DSA has been hesitant to declare solidarity with the Palestinian resistance. It's past time for that to change.

The last century of Palestinian history is not unique, nor is it surprising. It’s the same phenomenon we have seen around the world: A settler-colonial power occupies a land, ethnically cleanses the people living there, and declares the land to be their own. In the long run, there are two ways this can go. This power can annihilate the indigenous population, or it can be removed through decolonization. Until one of those things happens, continuous violence is the inevitable result. No one will passively accept annihilation, so the people of Palestine pick up their weapons and they fight, as oppressed people have done and continue to do around the world. From occupation necessarily arises resistance. These are the facts, and much of the contemporary discussion of the “complexities” of Palestine's history exists to obscure this well-known pattern.

As socialists, the entirety of our politics are based upon the struggle of the international working class against the capitalists, and the liberation of oppressed peoples everywhere. In the abstract, that much is easy to agree on. Where the difficulty often arises is in the translation from the abstract and ideal to the concrete and material. Many people support the idea of resistance, and even support real resistance once it is safely in the past and the propaganda has withered away. But in the moment, when the actual resistance is disrupting the status quo, people are dying, and the propaganda machine is in full gear, some people falter, and leave support for the resistance to the historians. But the time when that support matters most is now!

Although some might find a different and more idealized resistance easier to support, when a movement for liberation arises, it arises from the conditions that surround it. In the case of Palestine, liberation movements have been shaped by Israel’s constant attempts to crush them, and by the successes and failures of various resistance groups and their tactics. We cannot bring an idealized resistance into existence without defeating the oppression which led to resistance in the first place—and how can we get there? Only through the resistance which actually exists! So let us examine the real forces that resist, and how they resist, in the context of Palestine.

Unity of the Fields

The media often refers to the Palestinian resistance as “Hamas,” but it’s better described as a popular front involving several militant organizations that coordinate through a Joint Operations Room. Hamas (and their armed wing al-Qassam) are the largest organization in the group, but many other groups also participate. The most important ones are Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Hamas and PIJ are Islamist groups, and the PFLP and DFLP are secular communist groups, but they fight together as a common popular front. They all understand that allowing their disagreements to divide them would only serve Israel’s interests. They work with each other and with external groups like Iran, Hezbollah, and Ansarallah under a principle they call unity of the fields, which entails a loose coordination where any of them can respond to attacks on the others, making escalation risky for Israel.

Palestinian communists’ choice to participate in this alliance is a good thing, and we’re grateful for the good judgment our socialist siblings in the PFLP and DFLP have shown by participating in it. If they had instead chosen not to participate because of ideological disagreements with the Islamist factions, it would have doomed the cause of socialism to irrelevance in Palestine. If socialists were absent from this existential fight for the future of Palestine, it would tell the Palestinian people that socialists are useless when it matters most, and that Islamism is the only way forward. The Palestinian communists are fighting alongside Hamas against Israel, and by doing so they’re building support and legitimacy for socialism in Palestine.

The fight against imperialism is deeply linked with the fight for socialism, because fighting imperialism means fighting its root cause, capitalism. By joining those fights as socialists, we’ll naturally push them towards a socialist horizon (as has happened in many places, like Cuba), but for that to happen we have to actually support them when it counts. If we instead come up with excuses for not supporting them, they will fight anyway—no one will accept oppression forever! But they’ll do so without the influence of socialism, making them less likely to succeed and less likely to end up with a result that builds internationalist working-class solidarity.

Idealism and the Israeli Left

A critical aspect of Marxist practice is dialectical materialism: The observation that the world around us affects the ideas we have, which then in turn affect the world around us. Thinking the first aspect is primary in this process is materialism, and the basis of dialectical materialism; thinking the second aspect is primary is idealism, and the basis of liberalism. This two-way relationship between the material and ideal is what makes it dialectical—each is, in turn, cause and effect. What is important is that, as opposed to pure idealism, we recognize that this means we cannot simply wish something into existence. We must first examine the world, understand the circumstances that exist, and then seek to enact change towards an ideal from that scientific process. We cannot simply demand that the ideal already is.

To support a resistance without Hamas is to support something which does not exist. It is to support no resistance at all. And in turn, to spend our time on criticism of Hamas as an organization validates the widespread opinion that Hamas is an existential danger (too extreme for even the communists!) and lends credence to Israel's justification of its onslaught. When we hear every anti-Palestinian group call for the destruction of Hamas, do we lend our voices to those calls, or stand with Palestine and its resistance?

Idealism comes about when one has not been able to evaluate the real state of things and come to understand them before prescribing a plan of action. And, frankly, those who live in the West do not have access to this information when it comes to the resistance in Palestine. The PFLP, who does have that information by virtue of living under siege and threat of genocide, chooses to ally with Hamas in the fight for liberation. What information could we offer them that would demonstrate a more materialist analysis of the situation when they are in Gaza and we are not? All we could offer are ideas separate from the real world, which are of no value at all in any Marxist frame of analysis. And what grounds are there to say their ideas are less well founded than our own? The only thing that separates the PFLP from their socialist critics is a border—and western chauvinist beliefs that Palestinians are less educated on Marxism as a practice than we are.

Similarly, sometimes people say that instead of Hamas taking up arms to fight Israel, the Palestinian and Israeli working class should rise up together to overthrow Zionism and implement socialism. Should is the crucial word here. If this happened, there would be nothing left to talk about! But this alliance is pure fantasy. It has never existed, and it’s nothing but idealism to insist that it will suddenly spring into existence just because one may want it to. There’s a good reason that it hasn’t existed up until now: The Israeli working class has failed to seek unity with the Palestinian working class.

Palestinians know both from studying history and from harsh experience that you can never reform settler-colonialism. You must defeat it. That means defeating the Israeli state. This should be the obvious goal of any revolutionary socialist in Israel as well, but in practice it hasn’t been. Accepting the defeat of Israel as their goal would mean accepting the end of their privileged status over Palestinians. To be a working class does not imply being the same as all other working classes—until the Israeli occupation is defeated, the Israeli working class finds its interests opposed to those of the Palestinian working class. The Israeli “left” does not fundamentally want the end of the Israeli settler-colonial project, and so they’ve firmly rejected the idea of seeing the Palestinian resistance as their allies and fighting the Israeli state together. For better or worse, this path is simply a dead end.

The path of the PFLP is to treat all forces fighting for national liberation in Palestine as its allies, regardless of ideological differences, and by doing so prove the value of socialism in the struggle against imperialism. The path of the Israeli left is to preserve the status quo at the expense of the people oppressed by it. Which path will DSA take?

Little Gazas: The Students and the Resistance

Nowhere is the fundamental link between our struggle and that of the Palestinian resistance more obvious than in the student movement. As colleges across the country crack down on their students and communities, that connection becomes more obvious every day. Students are besieged and deprived of water. Universities set up permanent military occupations on their campuses. The media creates narratives painting escalation as the result of “outside agitators” in an attempt to divide the movement, suggesting that the people are being led away from some “good” way to protest that the media would accept. Heavily armed cops brutalize students. Capitalist media and politicians tell blatant and absurd lies about protestors. Cops stand guard while Zionist gangs physically attack students, and the media waits for them to fight back so they can paint the students as the aggressors. All of this is familiar to anyone who has followed events in Palestine.

For now, the degree of cruelty and violence is lesser, but that gap is shrinking every day. Tom Cotton called the student encampments “little Gazas,” and the threat implied therein is very real. Gaza is capitalism’s strategy for suppressing resistance in an age of failing empire and accelerating climate crisis. One day, the level of violence inflicted on Gaza will be used in the heart of the US empire as well, unless we unite to fight against it and win.

In practice, the students’ struggle is already merging with that of the Palestinian resistance, regardless of how we feel about it. The Palestinian resistance and their allies praise the students, and the students display the resistance’s flags and symbols at the encampments. To quote a sign from the Columbia University encampments: “Whoever is in solidarity with our corpses but not our rockets is a hypocrite and not one of us.” What would the students gain from distancing themselves from the resistance by condemning Hamas? More clout with “moderate” Americans, Israelis, and the capitalist media, perhaps, but this is of little value in the fight for a free Palestine or for socialism here, since none of those groups share those goals.

Meanwhile, our comrades in Gaza have condemned calls to avoid supporting Palestinian resistance. Just as they say, there is no legitimate support for Palestine in the eyes of the capitalist media. No matter how much we compromise and try to sound “reasonable”, they’ll continue to move the goalposts to call us too extreme. The demand for us to condemn Hamas quickly becomes support Israel’s right to exist and then support Israel’s right to defend itself.

The more the students understand the connection between themselves and the Palestinian resistance, the stronger they’ll be. A statement released by students at the University of New Mexico said, “[S]ince we have been welcomed into the resistance, it’s up to us to decide how we will see this through. How will we escalate for Gaza? How will we stop this genocide? While it feels overwhelming, we are not alone, and we are stepping into the role as the generation that will Free Palestine.” (Emphasis ours.) When the students see themselves as one part of a global fight against imperialism, it gives them strength, because they compare themselves to all of the people across the world who are fighting in even harsher conditions than they are, and understand that they’re all working together towards a common goal.

It also helps them understand the situation better. Who are their allies? Who are their enemies? If they don’t know that their enemy is the US state and its associated tools, like the capitalist media, they’ll choose the wrong tactics. They’ll allow congresspeople who pose for smiling photos with the genocidaire-in-chief to speak in their camps, allowing them to co-opt the movement. They’ll inaccurately gauge the level of violence the state is willing to use to suppress them. We should be horrified when cops unleash massive violence on the students, but if we understand the enemy, we should never be surprised.

Allies and Enemies

In order to make correct choices, we must correctly identify our allies and enemies. We want to see the end of the apartheid Israeli state in occupied Palestine. That means we want victory for Palestine and defeat for Israel. Note that this does not mean we want “equal rights in Israel” or “the fall of the Netanyahu regime.” It means victory for Palestinians, as determined by Palestinians themselves. From this, we can determine our alignment to other forces involved. All forces fighting alongside Palestine and against Israel and its allies are at least temporarily, and at least in this context, our allies. That includes the Palestinian resistance, the larger Axis of Resistance in the region, and all popular movements rising up to support Palestine. On the other hand, all forces fighting alongside Israel are our enemies. Most importantly, that includes its main supporter: the US empire.

So, laid plainly, to support the Palestinian fight for liberation and victory is to either strengthen the Palestinian alliance or to weaken the Israeli alliance. And further, weakening the Palestinian alliance or strengthening the Israeli alliance is, materially, opposing Palestinian resistance, whatever else we may call it. There is no third position to be found here.

But there are certainly attempts to find a third position on this, to separate Hamas from Palestinian resistance broadly, and say that one can support the latter without supporting the former. But this makes no sense by the very nature of the resistance movement! Hamas is at the center of the popular front for resistance, all major parties in the resistance are aligned with it, and all of our enemies (the US and Israel) are against it. There is no way to oppose Hamas—or any other element of the popular front—without standing in stark opposition to the entire resistance movement.

While some insist on the right to critique the Palestinian resistance, we choose to focus on whether a critique is helpful or harmful. No one is forbidding anyone from making those critiques, but just because they can do so doesn’t mean it’s productive. What concrete outcome do we hope to gain by writing critiques of Hamas? If the goal is to isolate ourselves from Palestinian resistance and solidarity movements, then the action is precisely aligned with the goal. In all other cases, perhaps one should have the wisdom not to do so.

Information Warfare

Every imperialist war in history has been accompanied by an extensive misinformation campaign in the imperial core. This one is no different. For the better part of the past century, Western media has shaped the story of Israel and Palestine into one where Israel, the settler-colonial aggressors, are “victims” of the indigenous resistance. This phenomenon has deeply shaped how Americans view the situation. DSA members are not immune to that, and this type of propaganda has been very effective at making people hesitant to support Palestinian resistance. Because the maintenance of Israel is a key part of the US’s imperialist goals, our capitalist media supports Israel completely, and cannot be relied on at all to get an accurate picture of the situation.

To correct for this, everyone should learn some basic history of the struggle as a whole and add some reliable news sources into their media diet. For basic history, a good place to start is Zionist Colonialism in Palestine by Fayez Sayegh (a text Red Star read together back in October of 2023). Sayegh’s text is a bit out of date, being written in 1965, but it’s an incredibly useful basis for learning about the origins of the Zionist colonial project, its complicated relationship with the larger Jewish community of the early 20th century, and the basic political premises on which the project is built. A slightly shorter text called Zionism and Imperialism: The Historical Origins by Abdul-Wahab Kayyali is also a good starting place for much of the same information.

For news outlets, the best sources are going to be ones that are either based in or focusing on Palestine or the Middle East, or have an established history of covering stories that are otherwise suppressed by imperialist-aligned media. Good options include:

  • Al-Jazeera (Middle Eastern news outlet, funded by the Qatari government)
  • Al-Mayadeen (pan-Arabist newspaper, operates in the Middle East)
  • Quds News Network (youth-run news outlet based in the West Bank)
  • Democracy Now! (Left-wing US news outlet with a long history of speaking out against imperialism)
  • Middle East Eye (International digital news outlet focusing on the Middle East and North Africa)
  • Electronic Intifada (longtime platform for Palestinian resistance and a source for on-the-ground reporting from Gaza by Gazans)

However, the most important news outlet for news on this issue is not a website, but a channel on the Telegram service called Resistance News Network. This channel can serve as a one-stop shop for news about the Palestinian resistance, but also is the only place to reliably get English-language translations of statements from resistance factions themselves (most news outlets that circulate statements from the Axis of Resistance will use the Resistance News Network translations if they don’t translate themselves). Who runs the RNN channel is unclear (presumably because the RNN folks would prefer to avoid being shut down by the occupation, as happened to Associated Press and Al-Jazeera). However, RNN is consistently the first to report on news in the Occupied Territories, often receiving statements from the various resistance factions and live footage just minutes or hours after it happens.

Forward to Victory!

The road from an idealist view of resistance to a dialectical materialist view is, at times, a difficult one to travel. But it is crucial for us to embark on this road with revolutionary intent if we are to win victories of our own against the capitalist empire in which we live. We must recognize what our struggle for socialism entails, and who our allies are. Those allies will be the resistance movements which actually exist, the opponents of capitalism and imperialism around the world! This is not a fight that we can win alone, isolated from everyone else in pursuit of an ideal resistance which can not exist under capitalism. When we fight, will we doom ourselves to failure, or will we look to the resistance in Palestine, and those like them, and know we are in the same struggle?

DSA has historically vacillated on our support for Palestine. Now, as Israel’s assault on Gaza is in its eighth month, and students and communities are rising up all around us, we must firmly choose to support victory for Palestine, and to align ourselves with the people courageously fighting to make that victory real.

Further Discussion

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