On Condemnation, Complicity, and Genocide
This moment in world history is defined by Israel’s campaign of genocidal atrocities against the Palestinians. This is how our descendants will remember it. For this is a global crime, carried out in full view of the entire world. A settler-colonial apartheid regime, driven by a supremacist ideology of fascistic ethno-nationalism (which is what remains of Zionism) is pursuing its long-standing project of ethnically cleansing the indigenous population with yet another, ferocious escalation. The Nakba continues.
Will the perpetrators succeed? That is another question. Yet their chances are increased massively by the fact that they have the enthusiastic backing of the leading power of the West, the USA, and its EU (and other) vassals. That support makes the leaders of these nations accomplices to the Israeli crimes against humanity. In a saner world, we would have to see them all tried in an international court.
Having read to this point you may ask: “But where is your condemnation of Hamas?” Because that is the Pavlovian response that has been trained into all of us relentlessly: When Israel goes on a rampage, again, make sure everyone condemns the victims, the Palestinians, or at least some Palestinians, namely those who fight. Take a tweet by American public intellectual Sohrab Ahmari, for instance. Ahmari felt he had to “thank God for Jake Sullivan, Antony Blinken, etc. The Biden administration blocks out a lot of crazy on the left.” The “crazy on the left” he was attacking in this case was NYU Law School’s Student Bar Association President Ryna Workman, because, in an interview she had failed to condemn Hamas, making it clear that her focus was on condemning apartheid, occupation and calling for an end to genocide and an immediate ceasefire.
I agree with Ryna Workman. Here is why: Hamas is virtually certain to have committed crimes during its attack on 7 October. Yet we also know for certain that it did attack military targets. As much as dishonest apologists of the Israeli regime dislike it, attacking military targets is a right the Palestinians, organized in Hamas or otherwise, have under international law. This is an incontrovertible fact. (If you doubt this, please read up.) So, point one: A blanket condemnation of Hamas is absurd, because some of its actions are legitimate and simply not subject to condemnation.
Secondly, a point all too few Western observers seem to understand (or want to understand): The fact that Hamas also commits crimes does not mean it or the Palestinians in general then lose their right to legitimate resistance. Think about it: Virtually every major army in this world has a history (in cases such as the US and Israel ongoing) of war crimes. If, therefore, having committed war crimes somehow deprived a nation of its right to the legitimate use of military force, then the US and Israel, for instance would have to abolish their armies, because of their outstanding record of war crimes.
IF, however, even nations whose militaries have committed war crimes still retain the right to use legitimate (as opposed) to criminal force, then that must be true for the Palestinians as well.
Hence, take-away point two: A record of war crimes does not, actually, mean that force as such, if applied legitimately – as in a struggle against occupation and oppression – is either inadmissible or wrong.
Thirdly, there is a horrendous amount of sloppy thinking around: We are asked to simply condemn Hamas as such or, sometimes, to condemn its “violence.” Yet, as shown above, neither condemnation makes sense, intellectually, legally, or ethically. The only thing that one can condemn is precisely that Hamas violence that is criminal. That means, regarding, for instance, the attack of 7 October, it would be reasonable and consistent to condemn Hamas when and insofar as it was deliberately killing civilians or doing so disproportionately with regard to the military objective pursued. Please note that “deliberate” and “disproportionate” matter: Other military forces exerting legitimate violence are also not condemned when they kill civilians, as long as they don’t do so on purpose or disproportionately, as measured against military necessity. If you dislike this logic, your quarrel is not with Hamas, but with the principles applied to all armies in this world.
Also consider that we have mounting evidence that Israeli forces responding to the 7 October attack killed Israeli civilians. Whether they did so deliberately in pursuance of at least the spirit of the so-called Hannibal Protocol or by way of “collateral damage,” Hamas is not to blame for those deaths. In so far as Israeli forces may have killed Israeli civilians deliberately or at least with reckless abandon, they would have committed a crime.
So, why are we so ritualistically asked, urged, compelled to “condemn Hamas”? Clearly, not for good reasons of reason, law, fairness, or humanity. The reality is that this is an ideological test of submission, a sort of loyalty oath. We are supposed to take it, again and again and again, to prove that we are in compliance with the double standards of a West that proactively helps Israel commit genocide. The demand is, put differently, perfectly morally perverse. Masquerading as a test of moderation or good sense (the opposite of “crazy”), it is really a test of corruption: Prove to us that you are, at least, corrupt enough to pay obeisance to the lie that “we” are good and “they” are bad, even while we are committing and abetting the crime of crimes against them. “Crazy” Ahmari says. Who is crazy here? Those playing along or those resisting? Ahmari seems to think “God” wishes to hear his thanks to a set of genocide accomplices. I think THAT is crazy. An old form of “crazy,” called blasphemy.