I Blame Hamas Too
I think we should acknowledge that the Gaza Freedom March was in many respects a failure. Firstly, there was a greater expectation that Egypt would let the protesters into Gaza, and I think an inadequate preparation among participants for a response. That the group could be so easily divided by Egypt’s proposal to let in only 100 activists, in my opinion, reflects strategic confusion. I think things Finkelstein resigning from the steering committee or whatever it’s called was sign enough of things going wrong. Finkelstein’s strategy (based on his Gandhi speech) really had great promise. It was compromised, and the result was that they couldn’t get the kinds of figures they wanted to lead the march.It wasn’t really different from all the other attempts, except for the planned convergence with Palestinians inside Gaza. Other convoys and boats to Gaza have had figures just as prominent and well respected. The “statement of context” probably alienated the kinds of people (Tutu, Mandela) Finkelstein thought might otherwise have joined them.
I think it should also be made plain: the division over Egypt’s offer was in my view incredible. If they were devoted to ending the blockade, Egypt’s collusion and participation is the perfect thing for them to draw attention to, and use their privileged position to target with protests. GFMers complained about being pushed by Egyptian security forces: really, try doing that as an Egyptian. I’m not in any way criticising the bravery of the protesters, which was considerable. But if they went to break the blockade, why participate in it, by letting Egypt determine how many people can go to Gaza? Compromise meant legitimising the blockade in my view. The blockade is as cruel on the Egyptian side as it is on the Israeli side.
However, the real point I wanted to raise was the bigger issue. This protest was going to be different, if not by international participants, then by mass Gazan participation in a demonstration to end the blockade. In the end, it was by one count 500 Gazans who marched with the internationals to the Israeli border. That’s a failure. Is it because Palestinians don’t protest? No. In mid-December, 70 000 Gazans marched waving communist flags and supporting the PFLP. Why didn’t they protest with GFM?
Firstly, it should be noted that the Palestinian left is about as impressive as the Australian left [or pick your country, really] (see Angry Arab on the subject - he says, for example, PFLP is a tool of Dahlan).
But more than this, I think those who support Palestinian rights should think carefully about the politics involved. Hamas undoubtedly could have thrown its weight behind supporting the protesters. Why wouldn’t it? Might it have discouraged protest?
At this point, we should recall that Hamas’s major financial backing is from neither Syria nor Iran: it is Saudi Arabia. Angry Arab follows the Hamas Saudi relationship closely. With contempt. See here, here, here, here and here.
Saudi Arabia of course doesn’t want international leftist protesters challenging Arab (US puppet) regimes. Egypt isn’t just a US puppet: its repression of the Muslim Brotherhood is brutal, if less spectacular than Israel’s efforts. It thinks of Hamas with the same fear and hatred as their own Muslim Brotherhood (read Maxime Rodinson – he called them something like a clerical fascist organisation in Israel and the Arabs). It’s hard to try to estimate whether its stupidity or corruption and cooption by petro-dollars, but the fact is that Hamas is cooperating with collaborationist Arab regimes. As I noted before, they refused to criticise the Egyptian wall. An act about as treasonous as Abbas deferring action on the Goldstone Report. When the GFM was focused on Egypt, Hamas was silent, and wouldn’t support protesters against Mubarak. Protesters should insist that there are three primary parties that we should hold responsible for the blockade: Israel, Egypt and the US. Resistance which compromises on this is not resistance to the blockade. That rules out the Arab regimes, Fatah and Hamas. Palestine should be an issue for leftists.
I forgot to say: The point is, Hamas could easily could trouble in Egypt, particularly with the Muslim Brotherhood, and more generally by stirring anger in the Muslim world against this puppet regime (and others too for that matter). But they don’t. I’ve said before that they’re headed to becoming Fatah with beards and theocratic restrictions.