Astonishment and horror at the extreme barbarity of the medieval and bloody raids perpetrated by Hamas on 7 October, the 50th anniversary of the “Yom Kippur War”, with the macabre aim of reviving the traumatic memory of that 1973 war, which almost shook the very existence of the State of Israel, then barely 25 years old.
No cause or political motivation can justify or excuse the horror of these attacks, which saw the fanatical hordes of the Islamist Movement massacre, without restraint or distinction, the civilian populations of around twenty Israeli villages near Gaza. Hundreds of young people were machine-gunned during a rave party organised as part of the Tribe of Nova festival, in the middle of the Negev desert; entire families were decimated in Sderot, Ashkelon and Ofakim; sometimes they were burnt alive, as in Nir Oz. And most staggering of all, children massacred, their throats slit, decapitated and disembowelled, as in the martyred kibbutz of Kfar Aza.
More than a “Pearl Harbor” or an Israeli “9/11”, the most traumatic aspect of these odious attacks – not only for the Israelis, but for every humanist soul – is to see the resurgence of a word that we thought, hoped, had been banished forever: pogrom! How else to describe these crimes orchestrated in a planned and systematic way, with the aim of coldly and deliberately eliminating, for 48 hours, civilian populations whose only “fault” – in the eyes of their executioners – was to be Jewish?
However, despite the unbearable horror that these acts of violence inflict on us, is it any wonder that a fanatical movement with overtly fascist credentials (see Screen Watch, #27 – November 2022) like Hamas is involved?
In a television interview he gave me in 2014, when I was broadcasting on the Arabic-language service of France 24, the leader of the DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine), Nayef Hawatmeh, drew up – even then – a chilling account of what he called “Hamas’s occupation of Gaza”: a “terrifying political and religious dictatorship, which suffocates the Gazan population and crushes any political, trade union, social or charitable organisation not affiliated to Hamas”; a monstrous systemic corruption born of “the total control by members of the Islamist Movement over the administration, the police, education and commerce” ; and a mafia economy based on “the tunnel business [smuggling] rather than production and development”, which “impoverishes the people of Gaza as much as it enriches Hamas dignitaries”.
These are the reasons why Nayef Hawatmeh, one of the historic hawks in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, who – with Yasser Arafat and Georges Habache – formed the founding trio of the PLO, and therefore unsuspected of complacency towards Israel, concluded that, for the Palestinian populations of Gaza, “the Hamas occupation is worse than the Israeli occupation” that preceded it!
Indeed, since the secession of Hamas, which established de facto power in Gaza following a coup de force in 2007 (previously, the Gaza Strip was divided into 5 districts forming part of the 16 governorates that made up the Territories administered by the Palestinian Authority since the Oslo Agreements of 1994), this tiny territory of 360 Km2, crammed with more than 2 million souls, has become not only the most overpopulated place on Earth (5,935 inhabitants/Km2, in 2022), but also – and above all – an “open-air prison”, to use the expression of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is not a fervent supporter of Palestine and even less so of Hamas.
For 15 years, the world has known about and turned a blind eye to the terrifying theocratic dictatorship inflicted by Hamas on the Palestinian population of Gaza: compulsory veiling, even for Gazan women of the Christian faith, punitive raids against “non fasters” during Ramadan, forced Islamist indoctrination of children, repression and extrajudicial executions of opponents belonging to Palestinian factions competing with Hamas, under the fallacious pretext of intelligence with the enemy…
The four Israeli wars of 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021 have done nothing to weaken Hamas’s hold in Gaza. The extreme distress and inhuman living conditions of the civilian population have only worsened. While paradoxically – but is this really surprising? – Hamas has become considerably richer. It has even become the 2nd richest terrorist movement in the world, after ISIS, according to a ranking by Forbes magazine!
In the long run, it was inevitable that a fanatical movement that had inflicted the worst abuses on its own people would unleash its hatred on Israel as soon as it felt strong enough to do so.
Now, in order to break the infernal cycle of violence and hatred that Hamas feeds on, Israel needs the foresight of Golda Meir who, in the midst of the trauma of the Yom Kippur War, had the audacity to state that while waging war, the time will inevitably come when it will be necessary to talk peace.
However, for the friends of Israel, as for the supporters of the just Palestinian cause, there is one prerequisite today for the emergence of a new hope for peace: putting an end to the occupation of Gaza by… Hamas!