Why jointly condemning Israel and Hamas is wrong

This is a very difficult time to write about the war in Gaza. Not that it is easy at others times. But to write (or speak or comment or take a position) about an event where scores of people are being killed or wounded requires a huge effort to emotionally detach oneself and take a cold view of a human tragedy. Moreover, biases are surely heightened here. Anyone writing about Gaza today already has a position on Hamas or Israel. One may think that the best position is to refrain from taking any side and instead talk about the mistakes and the rights of both sides. But that does not always work. Sometimes, one needs to be more critical of one side over the other.

Personally, I am not a fan of Hamas. I have criticized the militant movement to the point where I am now accused of being an ‘Arab Zionist’ and my name and picture are circulating – along with some 30 other writers - in what some have dubbed “a list of shame” or a list of “Zionist tails.” But I must say something against placing Hamas near Israel when it comes to accusations of war crimes; not in defense of Hamas per se but to reject equating two fundamentally different forms of crimes.

Amid the fog of this war one thing is always clear in my eyes: Israel is the abuser

Abdullah Hamidaddin

On July 23, the U.N. Human Rights Council voted to establish an inquiry to determine whether crimes against humanity and international law have been committed in the latest war on Gaza. The position of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was that both Israel and Hamas may be committing war crimes.

The United States took the staid position of voting against anything that condemns Israel. As far as it was concerned this was one-sided, targets Israel, imbalanced and needless. The EU decided that the resolution was unbalanced and that it “did not condemn the firing of rockets into Israel.” Israel was concerned about “naming and shaming” Israel and insisted that it had shown restraint and that Hamas was the aggressor.

Not so surprising stands

The American position is not surprising. In my view, the U.S. has a habit of reminding the people of the region that Arab death and suffering does not matter. Israel has a record of disregard for international law and human rights when it comes to the treatment of Arab civilians in the territories it occupies; yet it worries about tarnishing its image! The EU’s reason to abstain was odd: imbalanced and not mentioning Hamas? I read the resolution a few times. And each time I would find this sentence: “Condemns all violence against civilians wherever it occurs, including the killing of two Israeli civilians as a result of rocket fire, and urges all parties concerned to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” I believe that’s enough condemnation in a situation where more than 1,300 people are dead, around 7,000 wounded – many with life-long injuries – and the effective destruction of an already devastated economy! True, Hamas was not named in this resolution, but any human watching the situation, I believe, will see that the crimes being committed are not by Hamas. To demand a “balanced” resolution about an absolutely imbalanced human tragedy is a farce!

I am not absolving Hamas of responsibility. Though Hamas did not start the war in my view, it had a chance to stop it. Hamas did target civilians, it seems. And Hamas did store weapons amongst civilians, and in hospitals and schools. Hamas made mistakes and must be held accountable for them. But the mistakes of an occupier should never be made equal with those of the occupied. I believe that the resolution was balanced and fair. It condemned both sides, but shed more light on the side that committed a few thousand more crimes. It also focused on Israel, which is justified, in my mind, as it was the stronger party and because it was not suffering from a siege that choked its citizens, pushing many of them to prefer a suicidal Hamas to a more rational leadership.

A week later, Pillay came out and said: “Hamas militants in Gaza have also violated international humanitarian law by firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel, sometimes from densely-populated areas” and that “by placing and firing rockets within heavily populated areas both sides are committing ‘a violation of international humanitarian law, therefore a war crime’”. So now Israel and Hamas are equally accused of committing war crimes. It is as if she is taking into consideration the European criticism and decided to openly accuse both sides of war crimes. Perhaps she hopes that by doing so she would seem more balanced.Whatever her reasons for mentioning Israel and Hamas jointly as perpetrators of war crimes, I feel it is immoral. In my view, it equates the perpetrator with the victim; the one who started the crime and the one who crossed the line in self-defense. In my understanding, Israel started the war. More importantly, Israel is an occupier.

I have nothing against the principle of accusing a resistance movement of a war crime (and as it turns out most resistance leaders and movements have committed crimes of one sort or another). Hamas has a lot to answer for. But picture an abused woman who broke the law while avenging herself, imagine her reading a statement that combines a condemnation of her abuser and a condemnation of her illegal response! Amid the fog of this war one thing is always clear in my eyes: Israel is the abuser.


Abdullah Hamidaddin is a writer and commentator on religion, Middle Eastern societies and politics with a focus on Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He is currently a PhD candidate in King’s College London. He can be followed on Twitter: @amiq1

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:44 - GMT 06:44
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