Kfar Aza, site of a Hamas massacre
You wanted a multipolar world? You got chaos
Hamas terror attack was aimed squarely at the global order
13 min read
4 days ago
The Hamas terror attack has triggered war in Gaza, a geopolitical crisis and now — from Sydney to New York City — outbursts of street-level anti-Semitism in the West. Unless it de-escalates quickly, it looks like a strategic turning point both for Palestinian nationalism and Israel.
I covered the 2014 war both from inside Gaza and on the streets with the Israeli peace movement. I’ve interviewed Hamas and seen how they operate up close. So, though I am no expert on the region, I can throw some concreteness into the current battle of abstractions.
Let’s start with the obvious: Israel has a right to defend itself, rescue the hostages, arrest and prosecute Hamas and engage in lawful armed combat with its enemy. But the international community has a right to demand proportionality, restraint, respect for international law, and condemn breaches of it. President Biden last night was right to emphasise the need for lawfulness.
People claiming the Hamas attack is the “violence of the oppressed” are deluded. Hamas rules Gaza like a mafia state: its operatives walk around neighbourhoods in twos, dressed in dark suits, prying into people’s business. They run the place on a mixture of terror, public service provision and the kudos of their fighters.
They are feared but there is widespread disrespect for them, especially among secular and nationalist sections of the population.
Paradoxically, the Western “anti-imperialists” trying to apologise for the terror attack, and the Israeli right calling for retribution against civilians, both need to identify Hamas with the Palestinian population of Gaza in order to justify violence. But there is no basis for doing so.
The fact that a violent action takes place in the context of a wider oppression does not make it either (a) just (b) lawful under international law or © effective in pursuit of social justice. In this case, Hamas’ act of terror looks set to achieve the opposite.