Hamas - Sharon's Palestinian allies

Ariel Sharon's bloody occupation of territories in the West Bank and Gaza - supposedly controlled by the Palestinian Authority - is an act of open war against an oppressed people. It is a war in which socialists and communists cannot be neutral bystanders. The so-called Israeli Defence Force is an army of occupation carrying out an ethnically-based tyranny which resembles some of the crimes of European fascism. Our opposition is based on the fundamental idea of the equality of peoples - that the Palestinian people have as much right to their own national existence and territory as any other people, and certainly as much as the Israeli people, whose state currently deprives them of that political right, and much else besides. This is fundamentally a question of democracy, of the right of a people to resist tyranny and oppression, of the fight against all forms of national oppression and injustice that is an integral part of the struggle for a socialist international order in which such forms of oppression will become a thing of the past. We support all that is democratic and progressive in the content of the programme of Palestinian resistance, all that is effective, all methods that actually aid the struggle for liberation. However, the question immediately arises as to what our attitude is to the Palestinian suicide bombings that have mushroomed into a more-than-weekly phenomenon in the last few months. Long the favoured tactic of Hamas - a Palestinian muslim fundamentalist group which not only seeks the destruction of the state of Israel but, shades of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an end to the international jewish "conspiracy" to "control the world" - as the conflict with the Sharon government has become more desperate, it has even been emulated by sections of the secular Palestinian nationalists, such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an offshoot of Yasser Arafat's Al Fatah guerrilla movement. The fact that the brigade is named after the victims of a particularly vile Israeli atrocity - the massacre by an ultra-Zionist settler of dozens of worshippers at islam's third most holy site, the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, during the early period of the Oslo peace process under Labour prime minister Rabin - reflects the extent to which Hamas is setting the ideological and tactical agenda among elements of the Palestinian resistance. Yet in reality Hamas, and those who are being sucked into imitating its methods, are actively helping Sharon to maintain the support of the Israeli population for his war, and are thus, in political terms, facilitating his butchery of the Palestinians. There is no way to avoid this conclusion. We support all methods of resistance that actually helps to defeat the Sharon government and its armed aggression, and that actually therefore lead in the direction of the liberation of the Palestinians. But we cannot support, or in any way excuse or fail to condemn a reactionary programme and the actions designed to promote that programme which create a climate of fear amongst the Israeli workers and the middle class and lead to a situation where Sharon can point to ordinary bus passengers, or those attending a wedding or a bat mitzvah, being blown to smithereens, as a justification for his murderous actions. He is able to advance his own far-right agenda, which in its logic points toward the expulsion and/or massacre of the Palestinian population, with the support of the Israeli population on the basis of perceived self-interest and its own safety. Recently, Chris Bambery, one of the key leaders of the Socialist Workers Party, has taken it upon himself to denounce the CPGB for allegedly equating the violence of Hamas suicide bombers with that of the Israeli state. The aim being, of course, to cement the disapproval of the many SWP members whose attitude to essentially political questions such as the Middle East is heavily determined by considerations of liberal guilt: 'How dare I, as a white British person, criticise these poor oppressed people?' The SWP is currently suffering from a sectarian bout of close-mindedness, making their stubborn opposition to any hint of a two-state solution in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian question a point of honour. It seems to be determined to bow before inchoate militant rejectionist sentiments among Palestinians. The fake, and blatantly undemocratic, nature of the now-deceased Oslo accord, with its circumscribed blueprint for a Palestinian semi-bantustan riddled with armed Jewish settlers, of course feeds this sentiment. Yet this spontaneous rejectionism, which generates mass support for the actions of Hamas among the Palestinian population, is being directed in a way that threatens disaster for the Palestinian people themselves. One crucial programmatic point that Hamas has in common with Sharon is opposition to any kind of solution involving mutual and peaceful coexistence of Palestinians and Israelis. Sharon, and even more the overtly fascist formations on his right flank, want a greater Israel, with the Palestinians either massacred, driven out or subjugated, or possibly a combination of all three. Hamas also wants a single state - with the Israeli jews likewise massacred and/or driven out and/or subjugated. Hamas is quite prepared, in the pursuit of its goals, to aid Sharon in the achievement of the destruction of the Palestinian Authority and the Kosova-style mass expulsion of the Palestinian people, in the hope that this too would call forth a terrible retribution against 'the jews' from the surrounding Arab peoples. Given Israel's possession of a fearsome nuclear arsenal, this is a suicidal, apocalyptic strategy for the Arab peoples. Thus Hamas's tactics over the past several years have been deliberately designed to create the political conditions for the destruction of Arafat's administration, dovetailing exactly with the schemes of the Israeli far right - without Hamas itself being seen to fire a single shot against Arafat. It is no accident that Hamas was originally, in the 1970s, promoted - and, some say, financed - by the Israeli right as a counterweight to the secular and left nationalists. For the likes of Sharon, such support has paid off handsomely. So those on the left, such as the SWP, who turn a blind eye to the reactionary manifestations of Hamas influence are deluding themselves. What is worse, they are abstaining from the duty to point out to the oppressed the truth about the reactionary consequences of Hamas's activities. In political terms, they are helping to shepherd the Palestinian people toward another 1948-style historic disaster. Ian Donovan