I’m back in but still “out” in any practical sense, so once again let me direct you to another thing that somebody else wrote (via LGM). In this case it’s John Judis on the history that’s brought us to the current state of affairs in Gaza. Judis cuts through the “who started it” issue and get to the heart of the matter: Israel is a colonizer, and while militant groups like Hamas and (to a much lesser extent these days) Fatah may often engage in questionable and downright condemnable behavior, you cannot avoid the fact that the root cause of their actions lies in the occupation, the settlements, the restrictions on the basic elements of human life (like clean water) that Israel imposes on the Palestinians. When you deny a people their own place to live, their own ability to earn a living for themselves, their own access to, at the risk of repeating myself, clean water, you can’t expect them to quietly acquiesce and wait for you to generously provide for them at your convenience.
Defenders of Israel point to Hamas and its charter, which denies Israel’s right to exist, as though this were the end of the discussion. How can Israel find a negotiating partner in an entity that won’t acknowledge that there should and will continue to be an “Israel”? That sentiment isn’t wrong, but it does ignore, as Judis explains, the huge role that Israel has played in putting Hamas in the position it currently occupies. The systematic efforts to undermine the PLO/Fatah, the illegal and dehumanizing blockade of Gaza, Netanyahu’s almost explicit rejection of a two-state project, all of these things have compromised the ability of any Palestinian moderate movement to gain popular support, which a cynical person might suggest is the point.
Let’s not forget that Hamas, which functions as a dictatorship now in the absence of any kind of democratic system in Gaza, was actually elected in 2006 parliamentary elections that the US and Israel insisted must take place. Then both countries slapped sanctions on the Palestinian people for voting the wrong way. Hamas is an abysmal governing power that takes what little aid Israel allows into Gaza out of the hands of the people there and puts it toward its own militant cause, but Israel’s “mowing the lawn” policy suffocates any chance of an alternative to Hamas arising in Gaza. Instead of letting Hamas choke on its own corruption, every Israeli campaign in Gaza just serves to throw popular support back to it, as the only “legitimate” resistance to Israeli aggression.
Then came the Palestinian unity government, the best chance to moderate Hamas that’s ever come down the pike, and how did Netanyahu respond? By doing everything he could to squash the new government’s credibility before it ever got started:
After Abbas announced an agreement with Hamas on April 23, the Netanyahu government tried to get the United States and European governments not to recognize the new unity government. The United States did help to block payments to Hamas public workers in Gaza, but the U.S. and European countries didn’t accept Netanyahu’s plea to shun the new government altogether. In May, the Israeli government took steps in Gaza that seemed designed to draw Hamas into breaking the 2012 ceasefire. It reduced from six to three miles the offshore limit on Gaza fishing (severely limiting the catch) and fired on boats that exceeded the limit and arrested the fishermen. When the new government was sworn in on June 1, the Israeli government countered by announcing 3,300 new housing starts in the West Bank.
So yeah, Hamas is awful, but they’re not working in a vacuum.