The absolution of Hamas
How the West’s woke radicals became Hamas’s moral spindoctors.
Is Hamas now getting its talking points from Harvard University radicals? Something’s going on.
On 7 October, the day of Hamas’s apocalyptic pogrom against the Jews of southern Israel, 34 student groups at Harvard rushed out an open letter absolving Hamas of guilt for the ongoing horror. We ‘hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence’, said the self-righteous mob from the leafy, luxurious, non-blood-spattered lawns of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Israel is ‘the only one to blame’ for what is happening today, they said (my emphasis).
Got that? Even as the neo-fascists of Hamas were still shooting, stabbing and burning alive hundreds of people for the offence of being Jews in Israel, privileged poseurs at Harvard were breezily decreeing that these monsters were not really guilty of the war crimes they were committing. Guilt laid with the victim. Israel was to blame.
Fast forward two weeks and Ghazi Hamad of Hamas’s political bureau was saying the same thing. Almost word for word. In an interview on Lebanese TV, Mr Hamad said ‘the existence of Israel is what causes all [the] pain, blood and tears. It is Israel, not us’. ‘We are the victims…’, he continued, and ‘therefore, nobody should blame us for the things we do’.
Shorter: Israel is the only one to blame. Sound familiar? We in Hamas might have slit the throats and incinerated the families, but Israel was entirely responsible for it. Ring any bells?
It is indistinguishable from what the preening Israel damners at Harvard said. Though at least the Hamas official waited a fortnight before monstrously blaming Israel for the racist barbarism visited on its people by his organisation – the Harvard lot were doing that before the worst anti-Jewish pogrom in 75 years was even over. You couldn’t ask for a more searing indictment of the academy than the fact that some of America’s cleverest kids at its most Ivy League of universities were quicker to make excuses for Hamas’s anti-Semitic slaughter than Hamas itself.
Of course, we cannot know if Mr Hamad actually read the terrorist apologetics penned by Harvard’s overeducated fools. (I wouldn’t be surprised, though – the letter made waves around the world and sparked a furious debate about who’s to blame for the bloodshed in the Middle East.) And yet it seems unquestionable to me that Hamad’s grotesque opportunism, his self-infantilising disavowal of responsibility for the heinous crimes committed by his own men, was influenced by the chatter of Western elites. The absolution of Hamas, the pardoning of it for its own pogrom, was enacted here before the same shameful utterances were made by Hamad.
It is time to ask ourselves if our woke elites are not just Hamas’s useful idiots, but its unofficial spindoctors. Not just excuse-makers for Islamist barbarism, but authors of the very justifications the Islamists offer up for their barbarism. Beyond the Harvard apologism, we’ve seen commentators ceaselessly provide ‘context’ for the October pogrom. ‘Israeli barbarism begets barbarism’, they snivellingly cry. 7 October was ‘a direct result of Israel’s apartheid regime’, say the Democratic Socialists of America. So not a direct result of Hamas’s own careful planning and execution, but of Israel’s temerity to exist. Your throat is to blame, not my knife. As a writer for Haaretz said, ‘It’s the context, stupid!’ has been the abject howl of far too many in the ‘global left’.
We’ve even had the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, pontificate that the October pogrom ‘did not happen in a vacuum’. Imagine if someone said that about the slaughter at the Bataclan in Paris in 2015. That there was ‘a context’: French colonialism. We’d be horrified. Yet it’s said every day about Hamas’s even more horrific slaughter of youthful concertgoers. Of course the leaders of Muslim-majority nations share in the Western smart set’s fanatical blaming of Israel. The Saudis and the Iranians believe ‘Israel has only itself to blame for Hamas attacks’, as one headline says.
The Western absolution of Hamas also takes the form of not mentioning Hamas at all. The open letter from Artists for Palestine UK, signed by Tilda Swinton, Steve Coogan and other cultural figures keen to big up their virtue, doesn’t say the H-word. Not once. There’s no mention of 7 October. What, those slain Jews aren’t worthy of your celebrity sympathy? This is the memory-holing of a massacre. Just as the Soviets would doctor photos to erase inconvenient commissars, so woke influencers now hold forth on ‘Israel’s war’ while erasing the inconvenient fact that the war was started by Hamas.
That the pro-Palestine preeners of the arts world are reluctant even to whisper the word ‘Hamas’ is perhaps not surprising. On recent anti-Israel demos we’ve seen how much flak you can get for daring to mention these pogromists whose atrocity plunged the Middle East into its present crisis. A man was rounded on in London this weekend for holding up a sign saying ‘Hamas is terrorist’. An SNP politician was heckled and silenced by the crowd at a ‘pro-Palestine’ gathering in Dundee last month for the offence of condemning not only Israel’s actions, but Hamas’s too. ‘Say genocide! Condemn Israel!’, a member of the mob cried. Just talking about Hamas is risky now. That’s how fully the Jew-murderers have been absolved.
The pardoning of the pogromists is clear in the global rage with Israel everywhere from NYC to London to Stockholm. The marchers never make demands of Hamas. Israel must lay down its arms but Hamas, apparently, doesn’t have to do anything. It doesn’t have to release the hostages, stop firing missiles and disarm in order that it can never again murder Israelis. Hamas isn’t even called out for its horrifically cavalier attitude towards Palestinian lives. For putting Gazans at awful risk by building tunnels under refugee towns, storing weaponry near hospitals, spiriting its leaders around in ambulances. We know Hamas doesn’t give a damn about Gazans. Ghazi Hamad said as much. ‘We are proud to sacrifice martyrs’, he said. Hamas is the lowest of the low. Its leaders live luxuriously in Qatar while ‘proudly’ allowing Gazans to perish in the vain, demented war they started. Yet even for this, Hamas is not condemned. Its forgiveness is complete.
There is an ironically neocolonial feel to the cultural elites’ absolution of Hamas. It is their indoctrination into the politics of identity that leads them to view Israel as the culpable adult in this relationship and the Palestinians as blameless children. Critical-race-theory narratives about white privilege and brown victimhood have led to a situation where not only are whites demonised as powerful and destructive but also non-white people are patronised to an obscene degree as non-powerful and pathetic. This hollow, pat explanation for every political event has now been cut-and-pasted on to the Middle East (despite the fact that Israel is not a ‘white’ country). The end result? Both Israelis and Palestinians are denuded of their humanity, the former damned as the conscious authors of all ills, the latter reduced to the moral infants of world affairs, whom ‘nobody should blame’ even ‘for the things we do’, in Hamad’s words. The anti-Israel elites take a far more racially paternalistic view of Palestinians than Israel does.
There is a serious danger in the neo-racist absolution of Hamas. It serves as a green light to further terror. For if you are never held to account for what you do, you can do anything you like. Hamas now knows, from the global fallout from its pogrom, that it will always be absolved. That it enjoys a kind of moral impunity among the opinion-formers of the West. That its mass slaughter will be contextualised, explained, forgiven. That even its use of civilian buildings and civilian vehicles to store and transport the machinery of its war crimes will not bother the consciences of those who pose as pro-Palestinian. Our elites have done something even worse than blame Israelis for their own deaths – they have signalled to Hamas that if it were to do the same again, there would be no moral consequences. Its blamelessness would remain intact. The failure of our intellectual elites to condemn the Hamas pogrom is an implicit approval of future pogroms.
We can now see the moral commonality between Hamas and the woke. Both are in thrall to the cult of victimhood. ‘We are the victims… everything we do is justified’, said Ghazi Hamad, in a clear, chilling echo of the deranged narcissism of so many Western activists. Self-pity is the motor of radical agitation now, everywhere from leafy Harvard to blood-stained Sderot. 2023 might prove to be the year we finally discovered just how devastating to liberty and life the cult of the victim can be.
Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy
Picture by: Getty.
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