x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 September 2017

Hamas violence undermines the real resistance

The occupation of Palestinian lands must be fought in political, public and legal arenas, where Israel is weak. The battlefield plays to its strengths.

The violence that has plagued Gaza over the past four days may be ended by a truce offered to Israel by the military wing of Hamas. But the group is using tactics from an outdated playbook. The occupation of Palestinian lands must be fought in political, public and legal arenas, where Israel is weak. The battlefield plays to its strengths.

The recent round of violence to make the headlines - distinct from the daily low-level violence experienced by Gazans and often ignored by the global media - began after rockets were fired into Israel by Hamas's Izz Aldin Al Qassam brigades; Israel responded with air strikes.

Hamas appeared to have broken a ceasefire that had held for a year. But firing rockets into Israel will not end the occupation. Instead, it provokes a violent response, which Israel justifies as self-defence. The stranglehold that Israel imposes on Gaza - blocking land and sea borders to starve people into submission - does require resistance, but violent resistance is counterproductive. As columnist Jonathan Cook writes today, Israel's settler extremists are conducting a terror campaign against Palestinians that is meant to harden opinions.

Israel has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to react to the slightest provocation, while demanding that Palestinians endure daily brutality. For Hamas, this is the dilemma of governing: as the authority in the Gaza Strip, the group is responsible for the welfare of the population, and cannot conduct half-cocked militant campaigns to score political points. If Hamas was playing politics, making itself relevant in regional calculations, it was doing so with Palestinian lives. A teenage boy, Momen Al Adam, was killed in an air raid on Wednesday, bringing the death toll in this round of violence to eight.

Hamas is wasting an opportunity in Gaza. The organisation has struggled to come to terms with running a government while being a "resistance" organisation. Coupled with gains made by other Islamist organisations in the region, its inability to make peace with Fatah is a glaring failure.

The occupation is being challenged in Israel's courts; the international movement to sanction Israel is growing in reach and support; and the rise of new, responsive governments in the Arab world means that public support for Palestine will filter into policy. Hamas is not part of any of this.

Hamas needs to adapt to the reality around it. The group's behaviour gives support to Israel's false narrative, while doing nothing to end the Gaza crisis or pressure Israel. If Hamas feels it has no partner with whom to make peace, it is wrong: the Israelis may not be willing to talk, but the Egyptians are and the world is listening.