How Israel Played Into The Hands Of Hamas – OpEd


I’ll be surprised if whoever in Hamas planned the attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023 did not anticipate what the latter’s next moves would be. The plan turned out to be better than Hamas could have possibly guessed. With the wrath of a wounded Goliath, Israel turned against a people as brave as David, refusing to give up, and with boundless faith that God somehow is on their side, and that he always was and will be. With its weak and pointless arguments at the ICJ, Israel stands morally denuded and globally discredited for its murderous atrocities against the innocent civilian population of Gaza. If the Palestinian civilians tacitly agree with what Hamas has done to Israel, why blame them! How can a victimizer expect his or her victim to love him? That too, unconditionally? Has anyone met a victim of a holocaust or slavery who loved his or her oppressor? 

Israel has lost the battle of perception. If only Israel waited patiently until the hostage crisis was resolved and then carefully targeted the extremists behind the attack, perhaps the world would see them in a slightly more positive light. Now, of course, that stage is long past. Irrespective of how Israel would respond, it does not take away the brutality of the occupation itself. I wonder if PM Benjamin Netanyahu is either just delusional or a blatant opportunist playing on the feelings of average Israelis, when he makes statements such as, “We will restore security to both the south and the north. No one will stop us — not The Hague, not the axis of evil and not anyone else.” He has already made life as insecure as possible for the average Israeli both at home and outside, especially if they happen to be Jews. If Netanyahu still thinks that the IDF is winning the war against Hamas simply by bombing Gaza and murdering helpless civilians, he can only be looked at with pity bordering contempt. 

None other than the Jewish Holocaust Survivor, Primo Levi, in a short piece, titled, “Who Has Courage in Jerusalem? (1982),” responded to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in the following manner: 

I distrust success achieved with an unprincipled use of arms. I feel indignant toward those who hastily compare the Israeli generals with the Nazi generals, and yet I have to admit that Begin (Menachem Begin, the PM of Israel) draws such judgments on himself…I fear that this undertaking, with its frightening cost in lives, will inflict on Judaism a degradation difficult to cure, and will damage its image. I sense in myself, not without surprise, a profound emotional link with Israel, but not with this Israel.” (My italics) If this is what Levi had to say of Begin, I’m sure, after witnessing the horrors that Gaza is being subjected to, he would not hesitate to call Netanyahu, a ‘Nazi general’. 

Whether Israel’s actions in Gaza should be termed a “genocide” in the strictly legal sense or not is secondary to the fact that colonialism shares some of the most important features of a genocide. Colonialism, is in fact, a form of genocide of vast numbers of peoples and their cultures. In his article, “From republic to empire: Israel and the Palestinians after 1948,” Arnon Degani makes a distinction between colonialism and settler colonialism: “Whereas colonialism is a form of governance materially invested in the existence of indigenous peoples (for if there are none, there is no one to exploit), settler colonialism is premised on their elimination” (354). Without the systematic attempts towards the “elimination” of the Palestinian people, there would be no question of settler colonialism. Israel understands this better than anyone else. Hamas, in its foolish attempts to pull a fast one with its attack on October 7, 2023, provided Israel with the ‘genocidal intent’ to embark on the process of “elimination” of the Palestinian people with impunity and with justification. However, there is no doubt that things have reached a climax and one way or the other, the Palestinian issue must be resolved. Israel’s adamant stand only means that they’re seeing the last days of their colonization of Palestinian Territories following the 1967 Arab–Israeli War. As Sartre puts it in “Colonialism is a System,”: “The only good thing about colonialism is that, in order to last, it must show itself to be intransigent, and that, by its intransigence, it prepares its ruin” (19) Sartre, Colonialism and Neocolonialism (2010). 

The question of the genocide of Palestinian people is an older one than what is being discussed now. In their book, The Politics of Genocide (2010), in the chapter, “Israel: The Gaza Invasion of December 2008–January 2009,” Edward S. Herman and David Peterson point out:

“We believe that the reason “genocide” has been applied to the Gaza Palestinians so often by those who do use it is that the word does in fact fit Israeli plans and actions in Gaza and the West Bank so very well. Israeli leaders have often referred to Palestinians with racist derogation (“roaches,” “grasshoppers,” and “two-legged beasts”); some of them have spoken openly about their desire to transfer Palestinians out of the promised land or make their lives sufficiently miserable so as to move voluntarily; and Cast Lead was but one of many similar operations in which Palestinians are freely killed and their social fabric badly damaged. This is a genocide-in-process, moving slowly but relentlessly, and with the steady support of the Enlightened West.” (81) 

The “genocide-in-process” is an important aspect of the philosophy of elimination that is inherent to settler colonialism. What must be addressed inevitably is that the colonization must end once and for all in order for the genocide to end. The eminent international relations scholar, John Mearsheimer, provides a succinct explanation to the issues surrounding the genocide. One of the items is the complicity of the US in the violence perpetrated against the Gazans. As Mearsheimer notes, “there is little doubt that the Biden administration is complicitous in Israel’s genocide, which is also a punishable act according to the Genocide Convention…Leaving aside the legal implications of his behavior, Biden’s name – and America’s name – will be forever associated with what is likely to become one of the textbook cases of attempted genocide.”

In an earlier book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007), John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt point out the direction which the US should take with regard to Israel:

“Treating Israel as a normal state means no longer pretending that Israel’s and America’s interests are identical, or acting as if Israel deserves steadfast U.S. support no matter what it does. When Israel acts in ways that the United States deems desirable, it should have American backing. When it does not, Israel should expect to face U.S. opposition, just as other states do. It also implies that the United States should gradually wean Israel from the economic and military aid that it currently provides. Israel is now an advanced economy, and it will become even more so once it achieves full peace with its neighbors and reaches a final settlement with the Palestinians.” (341)

This is probably the one and only way to curtail Israel’s aggression. However, for a long-term solution, we need to go back to the proposal made by Peter Buch in his Introduction to Israel: A Colonial-Settler State (1973) by the prominent sociologist and historian Maxime Rodinson (whose Russian-Polish Jewish parents were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz). Buch says:

“Revolutionary supporters of the Palestinians, do not, of course, “incite” them to violence…A capable political leadership, unlike the desperate and misguided practitioners of terrorist violence by a few martyrs, will know how to expose the real source of violence among the oppressors. It will know how to mobilize the Arab masses and world public opinion to hold back the unlimited violence that Israel, with its nuclear capacity and American hardware, is prepared to unleash. A key factor in halting this violence will also be the development of a sizable revolutionary movement among Israeli Jews who reject Zionism and who see Jewish survival linked to a new socialist Palestine.” (24)

What choice do Israeli Jews and Muslim or Christian Palestinians have but to live together in peace and harmony. Neither is Israel disappearing from the map nor are Palestinians going to ever be eliminated. Israelis should stop imagining that they are western Europeans when in fact they are west Asians; their present and their future is with the Arabs, not with the Americans, British, Germans or Austrians. Treating the Arabs as their social and political equals is a step in the right direction. It is also high time that Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular accept and live with the idea that the Israeli Jews are their neighbors and Israeli civilians are normal people like people everywhere. Since peaceful coexistence is the only meaningful alternative, both Palestinian and Israeli civilians and politicians should know that it is as futile as futile could be, to perpetuate this situation without an end in sight. As of now, the leadership, both the Israeli and definitely the Palestinian, has failed miserably, and the stupid cruelty of Hamas that did not think through the consequences of the October 7th massacre, is an instance of such a failure. 

Serious resistance, in the form of protests that are putting pressure on western governments not to support Israel, is happening more or less in other parts of the world, outside the Middle East. Whatever little respect should be given, it is to those brave and honest Jewish men and women both in Israel, US, UK and everywhere else who are daring to take a stand by opposing Israel’s colonization of the Palestinian Territories in the name of Jews from all nations. Individuals, who stand up to unethical actions of members of their social group or acts of injustice perpetrated against others by governments of the countries they belong to, are the true heroes of the modern world. The world desperately needs people who will not hesitate to call out the ones in power when the latter are clearly in the wrong.

In my own country, India, the political party in power and the media, notorious for toeing the official line, are busy running a campaign against a small country like Maldives simply because the latter chooses to be with China and does not wish to be with India. People have a right to choose partners. People have a right to change partners. Likewise, the government of every nation-state has a right to choose who its ‘friends’ are going to be. They have to prioritize their own interests. This is a political party in Maldives that won the elections through fair means. I cannot but agree with the Maldivian President, Mohamed Muizzu, when he says: “We may be small, but that doesn’t give you the license to bully us.” No. By no means does it give India the license to bully Maldives.

Bullying and harassment of individuals, social groups or nations in any form is a terrible thing. It must be globally resisted. Kapil Komireddi’s thought-provoking article “Bullying Maldives is India’s latest gladiator sport. It’s not how strong nations behave” made the point only too well: “The Maldives may be small, but its people are as proud of their country as Indians are of theirs. They don’t deserve to be penalised as a whole for the sins of a handful of wretches.” (I am also thankful to Kapil for his “pick of best books” which included Philip Short’s Putin: His Life and Times and Stone Dreams by Akram Aylisli, who he called “the greatest living Azerbaijani writer”.) Strong nations like strong men cannot do whatever comes to their mind. What is meaning of such a strength, if it is to be defined as bullying, harassment, torture or murder? That’s more like abuse of power.


Prakash Kona

Prakash Kona is an independent scholar from Hyderabad, India.

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