Doubling down on slander

June 29, 2011

Sherry Wolf looks at the latest wave of lies coming from those who support Israel--at a time when more and more people are standing in solidarity with Palestine.

BLINKERED DEFENDERS of Israel have run out of credible arguments. To defend their ongoing repression of Palestinians, they have decided to double down on crazy and are resorting to a policy of throwing enough shit at their opponents in the hopes that something--anything--will stick.

These days, defending the rights of Palestinians virtually guarantees that you will be called a supporter of Hamas, the elected leadership of the Gaza Strip. One of many examples is the recent publication of a hit piece on Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in Gay City News, where its pro-Palestine contingent in NYC's Gay Pride parade was slandered for its non-existent "alliance" with Hamas. The same is being written about the courageous Gaza Flotilla 2, which is attempting to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza this week.

No doubt it would come as a great surprise to Hamas that, according to Zionists, they have bands of queer supporters in cities all over the world, some of whom--like myself--are Jewish Marxists.

What the argument lacks in facts, it attempts to make up for in rhetorical flourish. After all, what could be more politically titillating than the suggestion that Jewish queers are marching in the streets calling for our own "destruction"?

Westerners who know little of the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict and even less about Hamas are supposed to wince and run in response to the charge of this stealth alliance. In the media, Hamas is depicted as crazed Islamists who oppose all modernity, aim to destroy Israel, and are misogynistic and homophobic to the core.

The David Project, a pro-Israel propaganda group, trains students in the art of deflecting pro-Palestine arguments by counseling: "don't focus on the substantive arguments they make." Defenders of Israel are told to "name and blame" supporters of Palestinian rights, charge them with anti-Semitism, or attempt to smear activists as supporters of Hamas, which supposedly calls for "killing Jews."

WHILE I am not now, nor have I ever been, a supporter of Hamas, it is worth asserting a few facts about this political party that came to office by winning the elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council in January 2006.

The most basic reality for anyone who supports the right of self-determination is that, unlike George W. Bush in 2000, Hamas won a free and fair election. This is not disputed by independent observers--it is simply a fact to be avoided by those who aim to discredit all things Palestinian.

Featured at Socialism

Hear Sherry Wolf at Socialism 2011 in Chicago, speaking on "The myths of Zionism." Check out the Socialism 2011 website for more details.

In the same vein, it is also worth noting what Palestinian queers themselves say. In a statement written last year in response to another pro-Israel propaganda campaign, queer Palestinians argue:

While Stand With Us is quick to point out the oppression of queer Palestinians under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, it conveniently forgets that those same queers are not immune to the bombs, blockades, apartheid and destruction wrought upon them daily by the Israeli government, and that Israel's multi-tiered oppression hardly makes a distinction between straight and gay Palestinians.

Since its founding in 1987 at the start of the First Intifada, Hamas has combined the aspirations of a national liberation movement with those of modern Islamism. It holds positions that are homophobic and sexist, as do orthodox Jewish and evangelical Christian groups--though unlike evangelical Christians, it is not anti-science.

From most reliable accounts, Hamas' socially reactionary positions are not the basis of much of their support among a large swath of Palestinians. This is not to ignore those positions, but to place them in the broader context of a society fighting occupation, joblessness and brutality at the hands of Israel.

In the wake of the failures of the secular nationalists, led by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Hamas came to represent defiance to occupation and dispossession. In addition, Hamas provides extensive health, food and housing charity, all the more crucial as Palestinian society is strangled by the occupation and siege.

Historian Khaled Hroub explains, "Many Palestinians support the nationalist/liberationist and social work of Hamas, but not its religious ideal...Christians and secular people voted for Hamas side by side with Hamas members and exponents in all constituencies."

Hamas' 1988 charter, rarely cited by them, conflates anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist stances, which is anti-Semitic and cannot be supported by any pro-Palestine progressives. Period.

However, since 1990, historians of Hamas attest--along with anyone who can Google--that the party has made a clear distinction between Zionism and Judaism. "Being Jewish, Zionist or Israeli is irrelevant--what is relevant for me," one Hamas leader explained to Hroub, "is the notion of occupation and aggression."

Today's Zionists conveniently ignore their own history of support for Hamas. Middle East expert Anthony Cordesman explains Israel's reasoning for direct aid to Hamas' earlier incarnation in the late 1970s: "The Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO." One ex-CIA official argued that Israel's support for Hamas "was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative."

For socialists, there are many contradictory elements of Hamas, including its mixed class composition and world view, which limit its ability to act as an effective liberation force for Palestinians. The best hope for Palestine liberation lies in the revolutionary struggles of ordinary people of the Arab world taking place right now.

It is clear that, like the charge of anti-Semitism, which I have taken up elsewhere, this latest ruse is just another attempt by racists to deny the obvious. Of course, you can stand up for the social, political and economic rights of Palestinians without being tied to any political entity.

It is a testament to the diminishing support for Israel's apartheid and growth of Palestine solidarity that Zionists must resort to such vacuous lies.

First published at Sherry Talks Back.

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