Why you should not condemn Hamas

19 Nov

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a red line for me. Voices I respect – from Alexander Mercouris to Vladimir Putin (though not, I gather, Xi Jinping) have been forthright in condemning the October 7 attacks even as they condemn the Israeli response and the culpability of its US backer.

In any case I think there’s rather too much red line drawing in countercultural circles. It smacks to my mind of a purism more interested in virtue signalling club membership than in effecting change for the better.

Nevertheless, I myself refuse to condemn the attacks. Why?

… because I didn’t set up steel city scribblings to offer redundantly asinine endorsement of the hypocrisies our corrupt media and politicians spew out without let or hindrance – and assuredly without need of any assistance from yours truly.

A way forward for Palestine? Part 1

As for rapper, journalist and warrior for justice Lowkey, the entire fourteen minutes forty-two of his exchanges with Piers Morgan, featured in my previous post, pinpoint with consummate accuracy the dishonesty – or at best breath-taking ignorance paired with self-serving credulity 1 – underlying that shrill demand.

Then there’s the answer given by Yanis Varoufakis, at 10:50 of an Al-Jazeera interview two days ago:

To those who ask this I say, “you lost your opportunity to ask this question the moment you failed to condemn the killing of journalists – Palestinian journalists, non Palestinian journalists , Israeli journalists – Israeli Jewish peace activists, children, women, old men …”


But these responses all make, and rightly so, what we might call a negative case for refusing to condemn the October 7 attacks. It fell to Jonathan Cook, on his blog nine days ago, to make in that calm and closely reasoned way of his the positive moral case  for so refusing. That post merits reading in its entirety but let me summarise its three arguments.

First, those demanding condemnation seek to impose the dangerous consensus that “the atrocity clock started on Oct 7”.

They would have us forget decades of Israeli ethnic cleansing and massacre, apartheid, 2 and siege. They seek and to large extent have won control of the narrative. In condemning Hamas we cave in on their terms because:

In western societies, pro-Israel sentiment is baked in, articulated constantly by our politicians and media. Anyone who condemns Hamas has no control whatsoever over the ends to which their condemnation will be put … condemnation of the kind demanded of everyone about Oct 7 has been weaponised to drive out context, to erase Palestinian suffering and Israeli oppression, and to simplify and distort history.

Second: those demanding condemnation do not seek a better and safer world. They seek to legitimate ongoing war crimes:

If Hamas’ actions need to be singled out for special condemnation (while Israel’s decades of crimes do not), then Hamas’ actions must be an order of magnitude worse than anything Israel has ever done.

Third, under international law, Palestinians have a right to resist:

Implicit in the demand for condemnation is an intention to strip Palestinians of the right to any  kind of resistance to brutal military occupation by Israel.

International law is clear on this point, even if western politicians and the media are not. Palestinians have a right to resist.

There are plenty of things Hamas did on Oct 7 that were legitimate under international law, such as attacking Israeli military bases that have been enforcing the siege of Gaza for 16 years. That is the main reason why such large numbers of Israeli soldiers died that day. 3

But the demand for condemnation intentionally seeks to blur the distinction between what Hamas had every legal right to do – attack the Israeli army – and what it did not have a right to do, which is kill civilians and take them hostage. Instead, all of the day’s events are painted as illegitimate, all of the day’s events are blended into one giant atrocity. 

Jonathan closes his post with this:

Condemnation of October 7 is what the West’s war machine wants from you. It is what ensures that Palestinian children keep being killed, and that Palestinians never get their freedom or dignity.

Condemn if you wish, but understand that Palestinians will pay a heavy price for your words.

* * *

  1. As I never tire of saying, journalists who know what’s good for them please editors, while editors who know what’s good for them please – on matters vital to power – proprietors. Proprietors not only crave seats at the high table. More importantly they need advertisers and/or wealthy sponsors. This tells us not quite all we need to know about the systemic corruption of corporate media. Just a big and important slice of it. As to my never tiring of pointing this out, well, that’s because I’m used to being quietly cancelled by folk who are not innately stupid or ignorant. Rather, they have been rendered so by the assumption – understandable but hugely and perilously misbegotten – that mainstream media, at least the ‘quality’ sections, are capable of being truthful on matters critical to ruling elites.
  2. There is a consensus among NGOs – Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to name but two – plus UN human rights experts and even a former head of Mossad – that Israel meets all the criteria of an apartheid state. Noam Chomsky disagrees. Israel, he insists, has a more sinister agenda. Apartheid South Africa did not seek to eradicate black people, he notes. On the contrary, it needed their labour. Israel by contrast shows by word and deed, not just since October 7 but since 1948 and accelerating in the late 70s, that it desires – by ethnic cleansing if possible, genocide if not – the eradication of an entire nation from the vision, of those who for decades have held the reins of power, of a Greater (Biblical) Israel.
  3. We might add at this point the mounting evidence that many may have died on October 7 at the hands – if we’re being charitable – of a panicking IDF. To which we can add two caveats. One is that, as noted by Lowkey in his Piers Morgan interview, there is evidence of Israel opting to kill its own rather than have hostages taken. The other, as Alexander Mercouris has said, is that we cannot know the truth about ‘friendly fire’ claims until we have an independent inquiry with full access to the facts.  (I say don’t hold your breath – think 9/11 and the denial of Truth Commission access to key documents and witnesses.) See also the comment – beginning “Whoops!” – by Dave Hansell on my previous post.

16 Replies to “Why you should not condemn Hamas

    • Thanks Dave. Chris Hedges and Max Blumenthal are always worth listening to. I’m only half way in but this is excellent. In the fog of war much remains unclear but Max’s graphic yet unsensational setting out of known facts advances our understanding.

      (One point. Around the 24 minute mark, Max comments that Israel propaganda may have been “boneheaded” but managed to convince US and EU leaders. To which I’d point out that it’s easy to convince those who desire – in fact need – to be so convinced. See my review of Israel: a beachhead in the middle east.)

      The Hannibal Directive is controversial even on its own terms, as a double edged thing. An opposite principle operated in WW2 for Yugoslav partisans led by Tito. All wounded partisans were to be rescued, even at risk of greater losses. This was not just a moral imperative but a practical one of morale. (In my teens I was struck by the close proximity of those two words.) Given the appalling consequences of being taken alive, partisans – “terrorists” in the eyes of the German Occupier – had to know they’d not be abandoned in the event of being wounded.

      The controversy rises exponentially when application of the Hannibal Directive kills not just IDF combatants, to prevent a hostage situation forcing release of prisoners in Israeli jails, but civilians too. And that’s before we get into the way western media – aided by Biden’s claim, echoed by Blinken, that he’d seen photographic ‘proof’ – cited blatantly ludicrous IDF propaganda on beheaded babies, rape and the rest.

  1. I’ve reflected on my own aversion to the requirement for public condemnation. Apart from all the other arguments ably put forward, my question is – how does it serve anyone? I guess when people are pressured to condemn an atrocious act they feel the need to show they are on the side of the righteous against the bad guy. And I guess that the victims of the atrocity want some acknowledgement for the pain and suffering it has caused them. But I doubt these public condemnations have much lasting effect in that regard. Any successful conflict resolution begins with listening and trying to get behind positions and strategies to the needs that are wanting to be met. Condemnation can only block that path, which is why it is unhelpful to require it. I will empathize with my whole being with anyone suffering. My refusal to condemn the immediate perpetrator of that suffering has no bearing on that. My attempts to encourage listening, connection, empathy, understanding will be so much more useful I think

    • Thanks Sue. I agree on the importance of asking – how does our condemnation serve anyone? – in a context of critical self reflection. My opening comments on there being “too much red line drawing” imply that question, albeit in inverted form. The easy path of condemnation absolves us, as you say, from the tedious business of having to listen.

      For a different reason, I’m not all that interested in condemning Israel and its Western backers either. Not for the (good) psychological reasons you advance but because it’s useless to do so – we can damn them to hell and back; it changes nothing – and, in my no doubt overly proud way, rubs our noses in our impotence in the face of genocide.

      Don’t get mad, they say. Get even!

      Then there’s the practical wisdom of the much quoted Godfather: “don’t hate your enemy. It clouds your judgment.”

      What this whole business has started for me is a train of thought which gradually and not so gradually takes shifts and turns but has as its focal point the question: how do we find a way forward. As for the strands of an answer, I try to rule out nothing: psychology … economics … domestic, regional and global realpolitik … the multipolar world expedited by this and by Ukraine … and, yes, the balance of armed force too. I’m not a pacifist but do try to be a realist.

  2. Yanis Varoufakis added further thoughts on his refusal of the call to ‘condemn Hamas’ in the Al Jazeera interview, declaring that Europeans have created this problem through centuries of anti-semitism, and colonialism…’I refuse to play the European game .. to look down upon and condemn Hamas.’ His words direct us to focus on how the Jewish Holocaust was weaponised as the rationale for the establishment of a zionist colonial entity , after the war in 1945, through violent displacement of the indigenous population.

    • I agree Lily. I’m listening to a discussion from eleven years ago, on America’s powerful Israel Lobby, featuring John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.

      Walt opens with analogies. It’d be pretty daft, he notes, to discuss energy policy without referring to Big Oil, gun control without citing the NRA. Both are powerful lobbies but, unlike the Israel Lobby, do not have the power to shame and/or economically pressure critics into silence.

      He follows (at 02:50) with the observation that any discussion of this “takes place in the shadows” of Europe’s appalling record of antisemitism. This should neither be forgotten nor used (cynically or naively) to justify the blank cheques given to Israel not because of – see Israel: a beachhead – but legitimated by what Norman Finkelstein, a fierce critic of Israel whose family on both sides was almost entirely exterminated by the Nazis – calls The Holocaust Industry.

      The Holocaust must not be forgotten, nor the facts of (a) its weaponizing by Zionism, including antisemitic Christian Zionism, and (b) the fact Palestinians had no role in it, nor in the preceding centuries of vicious pogrom.

      If we want to get theological, we can look to the fact that of the three Abrahamic faiths, only Judaism permitted usury. (Though of course the other two found ways round that!) And if we want to turn from theology to political economy, we can look to the fact that in the early civilisations of Sumer a new king would start his reign by cancelling debt. Why? Because interest on debt rises exponentially while wealth production, from which debt is paid, can at best rise logarithmically. The inexorable logic is therefore for power to accrue to a creditor oligarchy. On this I’m indebted to Michael Hudson, who explores it not in a context of Israel or antisemitism but of the West’s dysfunctional hyper-financialisation.

      One other thing not to forget, though it’s really an extension of point (a) in my last but one paragraph, is that as Lowkey points out to Piers Morgan, the outlets most shrill in their current condemnation of “antisemitism” are those, like the Daily Mail, which cheer-led Hitler’s rise as a bastion against communism and now, with a shamelessness born of wilful amnesia, come valiantly to the defence of Jews.

  3. I’ve been thinking about the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (something I usually try to avoid thinking about!). Those who prepared to fight knew that they were going to lose, the reprisals would be horrific, and the genocide would intensify. So were they wrong to fight? My own pacifism, deeply held, sometimes feels insular, privileged, and glib.

    • The Warsaw Uprising analogy is good, and should be drawn more often.

      I’m not a pacifist but do you judge yourself too harshly? It matters little what people think; only what they do. We are not in a situation where fighting can make any difference. Why beat ourselves up about whether our ideas would stand up to imaginary tests?

      In any case arguments of the “it’s easy for you” kind can always be flipped:

      If it’s easy to be X, and X is a Good Thing, there’s no excuse for not being X, is there?

      Theoretically speaking, that is. Since when all is said and done you did try to teach me philosophy at Sheffield Uni, circa 1972!

  4. Out of Mr Ed’s mouth as it were:



    “A candid interview with a senior Israeli Defence Force (IDF) reserve pilot corroborates reports from eyewitnesses that Israeli forces were responsible for most deaths in the 7 October kibbutz raid – and not Palestinian resistance group Hamas…..

    …..Erez, speaking to Israeli media outlet Haaretz and translated by Asian news magazine The Cradle, said that the absence of any Israeli forces on the ground at the time ruled out any chance of ground coordination of the air assault – meaning that the helicopters would have been shooting at any target that moved:”

    Whatever the claims and counter claims the fact remains that without any corroboration or testing with evidence of the original claims The Official Narrative and its lynch mob Wild West mentality has once again gone off half-coked with real life consequences.

  5. In addition to the above, it is worth citing “The October 7 Hamas assault on Israel: the most successful military raid of this century”, and “Why I no longer stand with Israel and never will again”. Both were written by Scott Ritter, one of Philip Roddis’ “gamekeepers turned poachers” and are available on his substack at scottritter.com, dated 13/Nov/2023 and 14/10/23 respectively.

    It cannot be over empasised that, as an ex US Marine, he is an ex Us government insider. Thus, in relation to Hamas, he cites actual US military manuals on strategy and tactics and makes clear that they are not the thugs and religious fanatics they are too often assumed to be, by the mainstream at any rate. In other words, they have to be recognised as a body that has to be negotiated with. In practice, it seems, this is what happens, even it is not readily admitted. This should come as no surprise to anyone, since, in 2006, Hamas became the elected civil authority in Gaza.

    Furthermore, the kibutzim set up in proximity to Gaza acted as redoubts for the IDF. As such, they were not innocent farmsteads and were legitimate miltary targets. Housing had what were euphemistically called “safe rooms” built into them. That is to say their inhabitants were tacitly admitting that the “barbarians” on the other side of the side of the fence would, one day, come seeking vengeance on people whose ancestors had expropriated their land and forced them to become exiles in their own country. The kibutzim, also, according to Unherd, provided the bedrock of the support for Netanyahoo. As such, they are roughly equivalent to the pieds noirs that is the French settlers who lived in Algeria when it was a French colony. When Algeria became independent, in the early 1960’s, they were forced to leave and plunged France into civil war.

    I accept that I am pretty summary, but I am not sure about what word counts are deemed appropriate here.

    • Thanks Glenn. The second of your Scott Ritter reads was linked from footnote 2 of a post I wrote 8 days after the Hamas attacks – The public grief of Howard Jacobson. It shows another side of Scott (who came to prominence in the run up to the Iraq invasion) and I was mightily impressed with it.

      Although it’s bad form, literarily speaking, to do so, I almost always pair the “gamekeeper turned poacher” metaphor with another – “canary in the coalmine”. I’m on my 72nd spin round the sun but this past decade or two have furnished more examples of men and women, hitherto fully signed up servants of empire, speaking out in disgust than I can ever recall.

      Word limit? I don’t operate one! As long as they’re more or less on topic – though even this criterion is but loosely applied – more or less sane and free of vile bile, I’ve no problem with long comments.

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