Socialist Worker on Hamas

Submitted by Janine on Mon, 03/07/2006 - 15:48

I am alarmed by an article in the new Socialist Worker about Hamas and its victory in the Palestinian Authority elections. Explaining the background to the election victory, and interviewing Musheer al-Masri, the Hamas MP for the northern Gaza Strip, what is remarkable about the article is that it is entirely uncritical of Hamas. Going by this article, you’d think that Hamas was a laudable national liberation movement, which does good community work and runs local councils ‘efficiently’.

When it mentions their determination to “drive the occupation from our lands”, it does not clarify that by “our lands”, Hamas means the whole of Israel, not just the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And it takes as good coin Hamas’ claim that “Our only goal is to defend our people and drive the occupation from our lands.” Hang on, it also has a goal of establishing an Islamic state.

Socialist Worker quotes Musheer al-Masri that before getting involved in the resistance, Hamas was “primarily concerned with improving the health and welfare of our people.” It does not explain how intimidating women into wearing the veil – Hamas’ first campaign – amounts to “health and welfare”. When I visited the Occupied Territories in 1991, I spent time in a classroom where the girls had to sit at the back and could barely see the blackboard – the explanation given was that Hamas had ordained that it be so. Nor does it clarify that “our people” does not include Palestinian lesbian, gay or bisexual people, who Hamas seeks to attack rather than defend.

Of course, the Israeli government shoulders a lot of the blame for the election of Hamas. Its vicious repression of the Palestinians has driven them into the arms of the Islamist Hamas. And the Israeli right will be celebrating the election result, believing that it will rally Israelis to the idea that you can not make peace with the Palestinians and should therefore carry on repressing them. But that does not change the fact that Hamas is a deeply reactionary movement, that socialists should criticise, not support or paint up. The election of Hamas is very bad news for the Palestinians, as well as for the prospects of a just settlement.

Socialist Worker used to grasp the principle that socialists should stand for working-class interests against whichever regime or movement seeks to repress them, even if those movements hated each other. My enemy’s enemy is not necessarily my friend. Or, as Socialist Worker’s strapline used to read ‘Neither Washington Nor Moscow but international socialism’. OK, so the ‘Moscow’ bit might be out of date, but how about bringing into the 21st century as ‘Neither Washington Nor Mosque’?! (That’s not having a go at everyone who goes to mosque, by the way, any more than it is having a go at everyone who lives in Washington. But socialists reject the government in Washington, and we reject government by the mosque.)

We need to step up solidarity with the Palestinians, but not with Hamas.

Click here to read Workers’ Liberty’s report on the prospects of electoral success for Hamas, and here for background on Hamas and other Islamist groups.

Postscript: It's been weird hearing the likes of Bush threaten to withdraw aid to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas won the election. Anyone would think that the US government has always been picky about who it sends aid to ...


Submitted by Janine on Tue, 07/02/2006 - 13:50

Read Hamas' covenant - its founding document - here.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/02/2006 - 15:03

the left is in bed with the Islamic snake.the self censorship is already in place in the west.the fear is palpable.this will almost certainly not get a viewing on this site.fear has arrived.the beheading of ken bigley and others has worked its poison.cowards invent new forms of language to inhibit the condemnation of calls to murder a cartoonist; a cartoonist, for gods sake!
I am sick of the mealy mouthed nature of the arsewipes of murderers and bigots. Religion is ridiculous at the best of times and little more than fascism at the worst.
william law Manchester.

Submitted by Janine on Wed, 08/02/2006 - 10:44

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Yes, sections of the left are "in bed with" Islamists. But your choice of phrase "Islamic snake" is bang out of order.

There is a difference between practising a religion - being Islamic - and pursuing a goal of imposing your religion as the rule of society - Islamism.

Phrases like "Islamic snake" portray all Muslims - not just that minority who are Islamists, or who are mobilising against free speech or to impose their religion, but all Muslims - as nasty, sneaky, poisonous etc. It's racist.

Submitted by lost tango on Sat, 18/02/2006 - 23:10

In reply to by Janine

Posting Hamas' charter is worthwhile but needs to be qualified. People who study these matters closely suggest that Hamas' stated aim to destroy Israel is more a matter of rhetoric than practical intention. I dare say there is a range of views within the organisation on that as there was within the Labour Party on Clause 4.

However where we should raise the warning flag with Hamas, even if we conclude that two-states is their practical intention, is on the Islamist nature of the organisation. It appears the SWP has entirely failed to do this, perhaps because they are dancing with Hamas' UK co-franchise, the MAB. But I'll go and have a look at what it actually says in Socialist Worker before making a final judgement...

Submitted by lost tango on Sun, 19/02/2006 - 15:44

In reply to by lost tango

...not a word about the reactionary nature of Hamas. A reader's letter the following week does make the point that Hamas has grown out of the Palestinian left's failure.

I checked through some back issues and SW doesn't seem to have mentioned the Holocaust denial remarks of Pres Ahmadinejad either. Perhaps it was there and I missed it. If not, it seems like quite a prominent political event for them to ignore, given their great interest in Palestine...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/02/2006 - 15:45

In reply to by Janine

Well your comment seems fair enough to me. But how come this was "bang out of order" while publishing the anti-Islamic cartoons on this website wasn't?

West Midlands

Submitted by Janine on Sun, 19/02/2006 - 20:44

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

... and I don't particularly want to re-run an argument that has run to 200ish comments elsewhere on this site. That said ...

The first point, of course, is that the comment I objected to *is* published on this site. I could have censored it or deleted it, but chose instead to allow it to appear and to reply to it.

Similarly, the article which accompanies the cartoons on the website criticise those cartoons which have a racist anti-Islamic content.

But most of the cartoons are either not anti-Islamic in any sense other than that they contain pictures of Muhammad, or are "anti-Islamic" only in the sense that they mock the religion of Islam, rather than Muslim people.

There is a powerful, dangerous, sometimes violent campaign to suppress the cartoons *not* because they are racist but because they portray Muhammad and are therefore "offensive" ie. It is an attempt to impose one religion's rules on all people, whether they adhere to that religion or not. Following on from the campaigns against Bezhti and Jerry Springer: The Opera, conservative religious authorities are becoming increasingly confident in demanding the suppression of views they don't like. We have to stand our grounds against this increasingly-confident reaction. There is no such parallel with the comment on this post.

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