Why I will not condemn Hamas for the October 7 attack on Israel

Gaza Palestine 13

Ever since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023, there has been a huge hue and cry about labelling them as terrorists in the Indian media space. “But you do agree Hamas is a terrorist organisation, don’t you?”, is the question posed to every supporter of the Palestine cause in the TV debates.

No, sir, Hamas is not a terrorist group! No way!

First of all, this conflict didn’t start on October 7th, 2023, but on May 15th, 1948. That day, Zionist military forces expelled nearly 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and lands and occupied 78 percent of historic Palestine. The remaining 22 percent was divided into what are now the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip. In this operation, nearly 15,000 Palestinians were killed by Zionists. This war never ended.

In 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. This illegal occupation continues to this day in the West Bank, while East Jerusalem has been effectively annexed and the Gaza Strip has been turned into the world’s largest open prison.

It’s difficult to put into words what Palestinians undergo under Israeli occupation. They are humiliated and discriminated against on a daily basis and denied even the most basic human rights. 9262 Palestinians in the West Bank were displaced due to the demolition of their homes by Israeli authorities in the decade starting in 2010 and ending in 2019. More and more settlements keep coming up in the West Bank, where Jews from Western countries are allowed to take over Palestinian land and even houses while the original inhabitants are thrown out mercilessly.

Night raids, arbitrary arrests, checkpoints on the way to schools, offices, and hospitals, and separation walls that drastically restrict the freedom of movement of Palestinians are a few examples of the apartheid-style discrimination that Israel imposes on Palestinians on a daily basis. Apart from this, there are unlawful killings that the Israeli state indulges in. More than 170 Palestinians, including 30 children, were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2022 alone.

In the 2006 election to the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hamas won 74 of the total 132 seats. But the result was unacceptable to Israel. Israel colluded with Fatah to oust Hamas from power. In the ensuing power struggle, Hamas’s rule was confined to the Gaza Strip and Fatah’s to the West Bank.

Israel and Egypt then blockaded Gaza, preventing the movement of goods and people from and to Gaza. This inhuman blockade continues to this day.

The blockade has impoverished over 61 percent of Gaza’s population of over two million people. The siege of Gaza has gravely impacted the work of 47 percent of workers, and 53% of Gaza’s population faces food security. All this was before the hostilities surged on October 7, 2023.

The blockade of the Gaza Strip has destroyed its economy, killed its industries, seriously impacted its health sector, and shattered the education of its children. Water supply and sanitation deteriorated to intolerable levels, and a huge energy crisis that resulted in unheard-of hours of power outages became part of the daily life of the Gaza population. In short, what has happened in Gaza since the beginning of the siege is nothing short of the caging of an entire population.

The international community’s engagement in this conflict since the start of the occupation has been both biased and insincere. The US always supported all the deplorable acts of Israel, but every other country in the West and the UN itself have not been any different. All the peace processes, deals, and accords were nothing but a sham.

The Abraham Accords started the process of normalising Arab-Israeli relations. Though only United Arab Emirates and Bahrain initially signed the deal, it was evidently clear that all the Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, would soon be signatories to this accord. All this time, Israel kept on building more and more illegal settlements. Palestinians obviously felt abandoned, betrayed, and alone.

And Hamas struck!

One pertinent question that arises here is: does Hamas have the right to represent Palestinians? The fact is, they won the last legitimate election that was held in the West Bank and Gaza, and they are also the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip. An equally important question is: do the Palestinians have the right to seek their independence in any way they deem fit, including through armed struggle? United Nations General Assembly Resolution 37/43 states that a people struggling for independence and liberation from colonial rule have the right to do so using all available means. The United Nations has not designated Hamas or any part of the organisation as a terrorist group.

As an Indian kid growing up in the Eighties in India, Gandhiji, Nehru, Abdul Kalam Azad, and all the other leaders of our unique freedom movement were my heroes. But the freedom fighters who didn’t subscribe to non-violence were no less admired. Those heroes included Subash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, and Udham Singh. Those eulogised by us in those wonderful days also included leaders of the first war of independence, the armed rebellion of 1857.

How could someone celebrating the lives and achievements of Bahadur Shah Zafar, Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, Tantya Tope, and Subash Chandra Bose denigrate the heroic struggle for the independence of Palestine as terrorism? That would be hypocrisy of the highest order.

For these reasons, I refuse to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Shakeel Mohammed is a social activist based in Kochi. He is  a Trustee of Manav Migrant Welfare Foundation.

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