x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Hamas attacks weaken cause of Palestinians

Friday's debacle in Gaza handed the beleaguered Israeli prime minister a needless rhetorical victory, and demonstrates again how senseless violence only plays into Israel's hands.

Benjamin Netanyahu failed to convince the Americans that the Palestinians were the intransigent party in the peace process on his recent trip to the US. It is becoming increasingly clear that Israel's overt provocations are the main obstacle to peace. But Friday's debacle in Gaza handed the beleaguered Israeli prime minister a needless rhetorical victory, and demonstrates again how senseless violence only plays into Israel's hands.

Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip spiked this month. Whether the attacks were committed by rogue elements in the Al Qassam Brigades, Islamic Jihad or were actually ordered by Hamas's leadership, they have ended in the only way they could: another assault on the hapless residents of Gaza, needless deaths and more families left homeless by the Israeli army. We may never know who instigated Friday's violence, but it really does not matter. The world is working towards a peace deal and Palestinian statehood; it benefits Palestinian leaders not to undermine those efforts by engaging in adventurism under the guise of resistance to the occupation.

It was perhaps a sign that the Al Qassam Brigades understood that the attacks damaged the Palestinian position when it immediately released a statement claiming that it acted in self defence. Their justifications ring hollow, especially for the families of the dead and those whose homes were bulldozed in the subsequent Israeli incursion. Israel's reaction was typically incommensurate with the threat it faced from either the roadside bombs it alleged were the instigation for its assault, or the Qassam attacks that it claims threatened its citizens. Its brazen disregard for the safety of the civilian population and its acts of collective punishment are worthy of condemnation. Israel's leaders have the blood of their own soldiers on their hands for prolonging the conflict through their intransigence.

This fact, however, does not excuse Hamas for its role in handing excuses to Israeli hardliners. That Hamas shapes policy more on the grounds of a rejectionist ideology than the dictates of reality only makes their acts more egregious. It is past time that people began working towards peace instead of finding reasons why peace cannot be achieved. The Arab world is an ally, but allies can do little if the Palestinian leadership fails in its duties. Hamas must finally realise that justice is not the same thing as revenge, and that violence is not the same thing as resistance. Until it does, it will be a hindrance and not a help to the peace process.