Palestinian residents of Rafah, today. “And what can you expect from people who are imprisoned all their lives in a poverty-stricken enclave, cut off from the world, humiliated, when a few hundred metres away their occupiers live in a paradise, on the land from which their families were expelled?” Photo: SAID KHATIB — AFP

As the bombings in Gaza intensify, Palestinians find it difficult to express shock at Hamas

The Palestinians and their supporters consider Israel’s policy of attacking Gaza a genocide, and what is taking place in the West Bank as ethnic cleansing. One day of atrocities, terrible as they may be, unleashed existing plans to complete what Israel failed to accomplish in the Nakba in 1948.

The Palestine Project
5 min readOct 25, 2023

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By Amira Hass [Translated by Sol Salbe]

Among Palestinians and their supporters in the West, there is a whole spectrum of reactions to the 7 October Hamas attack on Hamas:

Justification for the attack with all its horrors; Justification, joy and schadenfreude; justification and lack of interest in testimonies about the murder bacchanalia; justification and pride regarding the military aspect only; justification of the military operation and understanding or explaining its degeneration into a campaign of sadistic massacres as a direct result of long-standing Israeli oppression and dispossession; justifying the military aspect and ignoring the atrocities or suppressing their existence and scope; pride in the military aspect and concentrating on the few journalistic reports that turned out to be inaccurate in order to cast doubt on the other reports; distinguishing between Hamas militants and “the mobs,” and attributing murders and sadism to them; justification of the military aspect on the one hand and shock and aversion of the murder and cruelty; shock and disavowal expressed openly and those expressed very much in private; Assumption that Hamas “did not expect the it would be so successful” and that it lost control. In other words, that the extensive and prolonged attack on civilians was not planned; understanding the background to the attack in all its facets and anger at Hamas expressed in internal conversations; Understanding the processes, shock and disavowal accompanied by a refusal to rank and distinguish between atrocities and cruelty: those carried out from the air and over the years by a military occupation regime and those carried out by groups of the occupied people in response; outrage, but expressing open criticism only on pragmatic grounds (damaging to the Palestinian struggle and its image).

In our binary world, in the eyes of Israelis and their supporters, explaining the atrocities and understanding their political, historical and even psychological background are perceived as justification. This is side-by-side with ignoring and lacking interest in the structural violence of the Israeli regime. On the other hand, public disavowal of the nature of the Hamas attack is perceived by Palestinians and their supporters as absolving the Israeli occupation of responsibility and as an expression of selective shock, which depends on the white skin colour of the murdered and abducted — even if those appalled by the atrocities committed by Palestinians are veteran activists against Israeli control over the Palestinians. It is no coincidence that most of the Palestinians who openly expressed their shock and disavowal are Israeli citizens. Their entire being is anti-binary.

The full or partial justification is anchored in the principle that any oppressed group may resist its oppression by any means. According to this approach, since Israel is one of the manifestations of the historical phenomenon of settler colonialism, it should come as no surprise that the natives react with the kind of cruelty that has been directed against them for decades. The understanding (which does not mean justification) for the massacres was expressed by a Palestinian friend with many relatives and friends in Gaza: “And what can you expect from people who are imprisoned all their lives in a poverty-stricken enclave, cut off from the world, humiliated, when a few hundred metres away their occupiers live in a paradise, on the land from which their families were expelled?”

The justification of the atrocities, the disregard or lack of interest shown by Palestinian supporters among the radical left in the West is reminiscent of the past attitude of communist organisations or liberation movements in the Third World in the face of reports of the methods of terror that characterised the Soviet bloc and so-called socialist countries. In other words, one’s political-ideological location determines the degree of sensitivity and imperviousness to cruelty “on our side.” This is an easier explanation to digest than linking the opacity of some European leftist circles to the fact that the murdered were Jews. The classic leftist view (at least in theory) that national or class liberation movements must maintain a high moral position and not be dragged into terror against civilians seems to have been lost in dwindling leftist circles. The Palestinians today do not have an accepted, popular, strong political and intellectual leadership that can permit itself to publicly draw the line between permissible and forbidden acts of liberation.

As Israeli bombardments of the Gaza Strip increase, as the number of dead and wounded rises every moment and as the destruction expands, it becomes harder to remember the joy and pride of the first day. It is also more difficult to express in public, and even in private conversations, one’s shock and opposition to the massacres. This certainly cannot be expected of the residents of the Gaza Strip, each and every one of whom could be killed at any moment.

The Palestinians and their supporters consider Israel’s policy of attacking Gaza a genocide, and what is taking place in the West Bank as ethnic cleansing. One day of atrocities, terrible as they may be, unleashed existing plans to complete what Israel failed to accomplish in the Nakba in 1948. As Western countries continue to support Israel’s campaign of destruction and killing in the Gaza Strip, renunciation of the Hamas attack is considered collaboration with common white racism, which distinguishes between blood and blood, between suffering and suffering. If there are Palestinian discussions about the logic and path of Hamas, they take place very much in private or are expressed in hints here and there. “This whole attack for 4,000 Palestinian prisoners? I am convinced that they do not want to be liberated on the backs of thousands of Palestinians killed and the destruction of the Gaza Strip,” a friend told me, and even she explained that she could not express her position in public.

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