Thin end of the wedge
We should oppose both the banning of Hamas and its leftwing apologists, writes Eddie Ford
On November 27 Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (the ‘Islamic Resistance Movement’, Hamas) was banned in its entirety in the UK under the Terrorism Act. This means that Hamas members or those who “invite support” for the group could be jailed for up to 14 years. The European Union, the US and Canada have already proscribed Hamas as a terrorist group.
The British government released a statement, saying it now assesses that “the approach of distinguishing between the various parts of Hamas is artificial”, as it “is a complex but single terrorist organisation”. This is a reference to the fact that Hamas’s military wing (the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades) was banned in March 2001. Revealingly, the policy change was outlined a few days before a speech by home secretary Priti Patel in Washington DC. She explained that Hamas is “fundamentally and rabidly anti-Semitic”, arguing that the banning “will strengthen the case against anyone who waves a Hamas flag” in Britain - “an act that is bound to make Jewish people feel unsafe”. For her, “this is an important step, especially for the Jewish community”.
In response, Hamas declared that, “instead of apologising and correcting its historical sin against the Palestinian people”, Britain “supports the aggressors at the expense of the victims”. Of course, they are referring to the Balfour Declaration and its support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, regardless of the wishes or democratic rights of the people already living there. The “national home” became the colonial-settler state of Israel and the Nakba for the Palestinians. Hamas added that “resisting occupation, by all available means, including armed resistance, is a right guaranteed by international law to people under occupation” - though whether the upholders of “international law” really recognise that right is debatable, to say the least.
Patel’s ban is clearly part and parcel of the pro-Zionist political campaign to delegitimise support for the Palestinians. Hence the disgusting, yet unfortunately successful, slander campaign that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism, directed against Jeremy Corbyn and the left of the Labour Party. It was justified in Keir Starmer’s wretched speech to Labour Friends of Israel, where he claimed that opposition to Zionism “denies the Jewish people alone a right to self-determination” - a blatant lie. As if ‘core’ Jewish people worldwide - ie, those in America, Canada, France and Argentina - want, need or should have the right to self-determination, when they do not, after all, constitute a nation of any sort. No, globally, ‘core’ Jewish people - that is people who first and foremost identify themselves as Jewish - constitute at most a loosely linked culture, with historic roots in a common, if highly fractured religion. But for Zionism the “right to self-determination” is the right to colonise, take away another people’s land - an ongoing process that is still uncompleted: after all around half of the population of Greater Israel are Arabs, who have to be driven out if the Zionist project is to be completed. That is something no democrat, no anti-imperialist, no anti-racist can countenance.
As for Priti Patel herself, she has form. Most readers will remember that she was forced to resign as Britain’s international development secretary after she failed to disclose meetings with senior Israeli officials during a supposed private holiday trip to the country - followed by revelations about more undisclosed contacts with Israeli officials in Westminster and New York.
Clearly, the proscription order is an attack on democratic rights and should be vehemently opposed. But remember, Hamas was actually once actively promoted by the Israeli state in order to counteract the influence of the secular Palestinian forces of Fatah, the PLO and the left. Now Hamas is in power in the Gaza strip - effectively the world’s largest prison house. But, unlike Fatah, Hamas refuses to recognise Israel and the entirely bogus ‘two state solution’ (in reality a one-state solution and two ‘self-administered’ Bantustans). To show its defiance, to maintain popular support, including on the West Bank, Hamas fires off the occasional, largely ineffective, rocket and organises protest marches to the border with Israel (from where Israeli sharpshooters gun down young and old alike).
What does “support” for Hamas mean in this context? It is a step in the direction of outlawing demonstrations, organisations, events designed to express solidarity with those resisting colonial oppression. Revealing the true anti-democratic nature of the Hamas ban is the case of Feras Al Jayoosi. He appeared in court on November 12 charged with wearing a T-shirt featuring Hamas’s military wing and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (banned in the UK in 2005). On three occasions in June, the court heard, he wore the T-shirt in the Golders Green area of north London, which has a large Jewish population. Provocative, doubtless. But no less than wearing a pro-Israel T-shirt in Bethnal Green. If people are going to be prosecuted for wearing ‘politically incorrect’ clothing, carrying flags or wearing symbols associated with ‘undesirable’ political organisations, then the courts are going to be very busy indeed. Where will it end?
Another aspect worth mentioning about the ban is that it was obviously intended to put the squeeze on the Labour Party by forcing it to take a position on Hamas - a invitation to the Starmer leadership to launch yet further attacks. After all, Labour’s rank-and-file membership is strongly pro-Palestinian - as witnessed by this year’s conference resolution.
Not surprisingly, Nick Thomas-Symonds, representing Labour’s front bench, supported the Hamas ban - with former shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy telling Jewish News that the ban was “absolutely the right thing to do”. Expect no change with David Lammy (despite him being regularly promoted and featured by Stand up to Racism).
In last week’s Socialist Worker we read that Hamas is a “Palestinian resistance group” (November 22). Yes, but Hamas is more than that. Surely revolutionaries should point out that it is an Islamist organisation that has a thoroughly reactionary agenda - both within Palestine and the wider region. The victims of this agenda would be women, gays, democrats, atheists, trade unionists, socialists, communists, religious minorities …
Hamas does nothing to divide the Israeli population along class lines. Quite the opposite: its existence helps to consolidate that population behind the Zionist state and its own ruling class.
Socialist Worker also states that “in its charter, Hamas says its enemy is the Israeli state, not Jews”, so it is not anti-Semitic. Sorry, comrades, Hamas is anti-Semitic. This is absolutely explicit in its 1988 charter. In article 22, we read that “the enemy has been planning for a long time in order to achieve what it has [effectively] achieved”:
... it stood behind the French revolution, the communist revolution, and most of the revolutions we have heard and hear about, here and there. It is with this money that it has formed secret organisations throughout the world, in order to destroy societies and achieve the Zionists’ interests. Such organisations are the Masons, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, B’nai B’rith and others.
True, the 1988 charter was 'updated' in 2017, but it has not been superseded. Hence, it still stand and is still worth quoting, not least when it says this: “... in regard to local and world wars, it has become common knowledge that [the enemy] was the trigger behind the [outbreak of] World War I, in which it realised the abolition of the Islamic Caliphate” - meaning the Ottoman empire.
We also learn that “the Zionist scheme has no limits, and after Palestine it will strive to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When it has digested the region it has consumed, it will look to further expansions, and so on”. How does Hamas know all this? Because the “plan outlined in the Protocol of the Elders of Zion and [Zionism’s] present [conduct] is the best witness to what is said there”. In other words, while the charter uses the term ‘Zionists’, rather than ‘Jews’, it makes clear that “the enemy” are Jewish people everywhere.
In a 2012 interview with Al-Aqsa TV, Marwan Abu Ras, a Hamas MP, was more open: “The Jews are behind each and every catastrophe on the face of the Earth”. On the same theme in an interview on Lebanese television in 2014, Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan came out with the blood libel myth: “We all remember how the Jews used to slaughter Christians, in order to mix their blood in their holy matzos ... It happened everywhere”. If the SWP does not think this is anti-Semitism, they have a big problem.
Hamas also envisages Jewish colonists going back to their country of origin. That might have been technically practical in 1940s and 50s, although hardly a progressive demand. But nowadays the vast majority of Israelis were born in the country. They have constituted an Israeli-Jewish nation or a Hebrew nation. That is why in the regional, working class-led, Arab revolution, envisaged by communists, it is more than correct to highlight the right of the Israeli-Jewish nation to decide whether or not to join some sort of socialist federation.