I've been keeping a Gaza death toll: as of today, 765 (230 kids) killed by the holy forces of good and light in self-defence; 7 (0 kids) killed by the bloodthirsty terrorist forces of evil and darkness.
A friend interpreted this to mean that I actually thought Hamas to be the holy forces of good and light, and the IDF to be the bloodthirsty terrorist forces of evil and darkness. He made an inference that is not unfounded, but is logically flawed. Of course I was being sarcastic. So I wasn't seriously asserting those moral assignments - good, holy, evil, bloodthirsty - as true. No one would, because the very numbers belie them. But it does not logically follow that I must believe the opposite. Just because I put the needle of sarcasm through the balloon of IDF righteousness and propriety, doesn't mean I inflate an equivalent balloon for Hamas.
Hamas can lick my balls. (I wouldn't enjoy it, but it would serve those homophobic fucks well.). A large percentage of their actions comprise charitable work, which is essential for the brutalized population, but their ideological bent is disgusting. In the context of the Palestinian struggle, the emergence of Hamas is comparable to a hypothetical ultra right Catholic reactionary group beating out the IRA in Ireland during the Troubles, and instituting Canon law in an over the top fashion, for instance executing women suspected of being "loose". Hamas is not too terribly different, in ideological essence if not particulars and position, from ultra right Jewish reactionary groups, like the ultra ultras in Jerusalem who use violence to enforce their religious norms. In fact, religious-militant Zionists like those who supported Rabin's assassination are much like Hamas, but in addition to their different religion they occupy a better power position and have disproportionate influence in a state with far superior weaponry. (Before his assassination, Rabin put it well, pithily criticizing reactionary rabbis "for whom perhaps the name ayatollahs is more fitting than rabbis.") Note that I am comparing here, not equating; and it is quite a revelatory comparison too, for those without oppressive ideological blinkers. To see the truth it reveals, one need only recall the immortal line of the Algerian resistance fighter in The Battle of Algiers, who, when asked by a French journalist to admit cowardice for using bombs hidden in women's baskets and such to kill innocent people, responded: "Of course, if we had your airplanes it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets." (Hamas head Khaled Meshal actually paraphrased this line in a recent interview with Counterpunch, to be published online soon.)
There can be no doubt upon any serious evaluation that if ultra-Orthodox Jews were living under the boot of a foreign occupier on their own land, that they would resort to the very best weapons they had at their disposal; likewise that if Hamas had access to bombers and tanks, they would immediately announce that they will attack solely military targets, and that heretofore any civilian deaths will be purely accidental and tragic. In fact, the religiousity of the two groups is nearly superfluous; just as the Stanford prison experiments demonstrated that anyone can become vile and violent under the right circumstances, any weaker group under the domination of a more powerful group will resist, often violently, with what they feel to be the most effective tactics available. Even suicide bombing is not the sole province of poor, religious fundamentalists; the most comprehensive study of its kind found that pre-2005, the “data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world’s religions. . . . Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.”
At any rate, if one considers Hamas to be an enemy, the first step (advised by Sun Tzu in his Art of War) is to know it. Ideologically, Hamas and other violent Islamic fundamentalist groups are heavily influenced by the Egyptian intellectual Sayyid Qutb. In 1949, Qutb spent some time in the United States, and came away with the impression that Western culture - already massively influencing his native Egypt - was cold, heartless, materialistic and permeated with alienation. (True, there is a lot of alienation in Unitedstatesian society, but that has economic, not religious roots. If you look up "alienation" in an encyclopedia of intellectual history, you will find mention of Marx, not Mohamed. Qutb was also disgusted by what he saw as the oversexualization of the United States. In 1949. Idiot.) The movements Qutb inspired throughout the Muslim world from Afghanistan to Algeria had as a common goal the removal of Western cultural influence and political and military dominance. Like all conservatives in their various ways, these movements desired a return to an imagined golden age - that never existed.
Hamas emerged from cells of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, of which Qutb was a leader in the '50s and 60s. (The Muslim Brotherhood is Hosni Mubarak's sworn enemy, hence his brutal refusal to let even doctors cross the border to Gaza, which is controlled by Brotherhood offspring Hamas.) There is some evidence that the Israeli government actually supported Hamas in its early days as a divide-and-conquer technique to harm the secular nationalist PLO; at the very least, the Israeli government did little to impede Hamas in its early days, (a former Shin Bet chief put it this way: “We did not create it, but we did not hinder its creation”) while clamping down with its full force against the PLO.
Hamas and similar groups are adherents of fundamentalist Islam, which, despite its name, is an ideology in conflict with traditional Islam; different still is modern or liberal Islam. (Those interested in the differences between the three might look here.) The vast majority of the world's Muslims adhere to either traditionalist or liberal Islam (to illustrate by means of generalization, traditionalist Islam is dominant in Karachi and liberal Islam may be dominant in Dubai). As detailed in Adam Curtis' documentary The Power of Nightmares (downloadable here and streamable here), this adherence to traditionalist and liberal Islam both infuriates and confounds Islamic fundamentalists, who think that by overthrowing the venal, nominally Muslim leaders of the dar al-Islam (Islamic world), they will shake Muslims out of their theological slumber and usher in a new golden age of wise and just male religious leadership and chaste, clitoris-less women.
To paraphrase Chris Rock, I am not saying that I support Hamas. But I understand. As in, I understand why Palestinians support them. If it were the imaginary ultra right Catholic nutjobs who were the most viable fighting force against British occupation of Ireland, and I were Irish - I'd be conflicted and lukewarm - but I would support the Irish ultra-Catholic nutjobs as against the Brits. Add to this comparison the fact that Hamas has proven to be more effective than the Palestinian Authority in providing basic services to the population - and the fact of hundreds of noncombatants killed by Israeli bombs, bullets and shells - and you have a potent recipe for widespread Palestinian support of Hamas. Which, while I despise Hamas, I understand.