The Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas in Israel set off a new round of war and reaction. Carrying out massacres at a music festival, towns and kibbutzim, Hamas purposely targeted mainly civilians, from babies to the elderly, and killed mostly Jews but also Palestinians, Thai guest workers and others. The horrors continue to multiply as the Israeli state declared war and rained bombs on the Gaza Strip, again knowingly killing mainly civilians, including babies and children. Genocidal rhetoric is being broadcast by leaders as high as the Defense Minister (“We are imposing a complete siege on Gaza…there will be no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel….We are fighting human animals, and we act accordingly”), while some Knesset members from the Likud Party called for a nuclear strike and politicians openly talked about ethnic cleansing, driving all Palestinians out of Gaza.
At this moment, over 2,800 people have been killed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza, and more than 1,400 people were killed in the initial Hamas attack. Hamas announced that it has 200-250 hostages; most of them too are civilians. Because of the complete siege, the only power station in Gaza had to shut down and hospitals are running out of fuel for their backup generators. Hospitals and schools have even been targeted in air strikes. Food and medical supplies are running short, and a humanitarian catastrophe is beginning. It is sure to be worsened by the expected invasion by Israeli ground forces into the Gaza Strip, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with 2.3 million people in 140 square miles (25 miles long and at most 7 miles wide), an area a bit smaller than Omaha, Nebraska. Despite being warned about dire humanitarian consequences, Israel ordered more than 1 million people to evacuate the northern half of the Gaza Strip within 24 hours, before they were forced to ease the deadline. Many people have nowhere to go, and hospitals cannot safely move patients on life support or in critical condition.
The U.S. responded by declaring “unconditional” support for the state of Israel and sending warships to the Mediterranean, not to monitor Israel but to support its military actions. The U.S. and European allies sent military and humanitarian aid to Israel, but no humanitarian aid to Palestinians beyond some calls for Israel to open a humanitarian corridor for aid to get through the siege.
Clearly the historical and ongoing context is Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, an occupation replete with displacement and violence.
This in no way justifies the way some in the U.S. and world Left celebrated the murderous attacks and hostage-taking by Hamas.
We oppose Hamas atrocities not only because they are atrocities but because these actions are part of its whole attitude, approach, and method that undermines any true national and social liberation movement.
The attack is a gift to Netanyahu, whose regime was shaky, and it immediately undercut the protests against his regime and ended the “strike” of Israeli armed forces reservists. As “The Middle East Cauldron Explodes,” the editorial in the Oct. 1970 News & Letters, put it:
“Wild, mindless terrorism…not only does not wreck ‘the system.’ It provides exactly the fuel needed to stoke the fires of repression….
“Destruction of the kind the bomb-throwers glorify is the type of destruction that leaves all relationships exactly the same—if not worse—when the dust and smoke have cleared….The ‘system’ remains untouched. More important, the terrorists have shown such total disregard for human life, that their actions cannot possibly serve as a focal point for a new social order….
“It is not enough to stop at making clear what we are against, to stand opposed to imperialist war, no matter who is the ‘aggressor.’ It is not even enough to hold high the banner of the totally new society, based on human foundations, that we are for. It becomes of the essence to separate ourselves from those who also claim to be for a new society, but think that a social revolution can be achieved through terrorism….
“Marxist-Humanists work toward the goals of national liberation and social revolution for a totally new society. ‘A plague on both your houses’ is a religious, not a human solution. But a separation from all plague-ridden houses is the only way at this moment to express the truly independent Marxist stand.”
Hamas violence has been aimed at Palestinians as well as Israelis, whenever any truly independent liberatory voice, organization, or spontaneous action arises in Gaza. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are woven into the framework of occupation, which is more obvious with the PA because of its cooperation with Israeli security forces, and because Hamas has a violent relationship with Israel, but in fact its resistance is on the ground of projecting the occupation/resistance forever into the future. Israel even gave support to the formation of Hamas as an Islamist alternative to Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported several recent events where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his allies stated that they had been trying to strengthen Hamas as a counterweight to the PA, in order to keep Palestinians divided. Hamas wants to hold onto the mantle of resistance while suppressing or co-opting any true social liberation movement or spontaneous outpouring.
Where is any revolutionary perspective in Hamas or any of the Left who celebrate it or mildly criticize it? Have any of them tarried over the question of what is Hamas for? Taking the ground of one of two dueling fantasies of extermination can only lead to despair and nihilism. That leaves no way out of the continuing chain of war and brutality: the Bosnian and Kosovan genocides, the Rwandan genocide and “African World War,” the U.S. war on Afghanistan, the U.S. war on Iraq, Russia’s war on Chechnya, the Syrian regime’s counter-revolution, Russia’s war on Ukraine.
This situation once more exposes the retrogression in the Left. Stopping a revolution at a halfway point—or stopping short of revolution—ensures retrogression, so what becomes an absolute necessity is the banner of genuine liberation, and a philosophy of liberation. That must not be put off for another day as we engage in solidarity with Palestinians and oppose both Israel’s genocidal war and oppression and inhuman terrorist actions.
–Franklin Dmitryev for The National Editorial Board of News and Letters Committees
Stay tuned for more analysis that we will issue soon.