The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Its Fight Is Not the Revolt of the Oppressed

Nov 27, 2023

This article is translated from the November 23 issue, #2886 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Among the population of Arab countries and beyond, Hamas’ October 7 Operation al-Aqsa Flood was seen as a historic victory for Hamas. Despite the atrocities committed, it gained in popularity.

Faced with an Israeli state protected by the imperialist powers, which has expelled and oppressed an entire people with impunity and perpetrated massacres, many in the Arab world have felt a sense of revenge. With the new war in Gaza and Israel’s declared determination to eradicate Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood has succeeded in restoring its tarnished reputation after seventeen years at the head of the Gaza Strip.

At the Head of a Mini-state

Israel decided to evacuate the Gaza Strip in 2005. The following year, taking advantage of the failure of the Oslo Accords and the discredit of the PLO and Fatah, Hamas won the elections there. Western leaders, unwilling to recognize the success of an organization they classified as terrorist, urged Fatah to challenge the election. A bloody battle ensued between the militias of the two rival organizations, culminating in Fatah’s ouster from the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Hamas found itself at the head of a mini-state with its own administration, taxes, military, and repressive apparatus. To enable it to pay its civil servants and play its role in maintaining order in Gaza, funds came from Qatar and Iran, with the agreement of Israel, which had a vested interest. "Anyone who wants to thwart the creation of a Palestinian state must support our policy of strengthening Hamas and transferring money to it. This is part of our strategy: to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from those on the West Bank," Netanyahu cynically declared in 2019.

While Israel and the imperialist powers have always presented Hamas as the enemy to be destroyed behind the scenes, they have never ceased to maintain direct or indirect relations with it. As for the Gazans, they were disappointed. They have been confronted with the daily difficulties of a permanent economic and military blockade, multiple wars, unemployment affecting 50% of the population, power cuts lasting more than twelve hours a day, barely drinkable water, and unlimited taxes. Although Gazans hold Israel and Egypt responsible for the blockade, their criticism has not spared Hamas. Its leaders control the enclave’s economy, imposing heavy taxes on everything from building permits, informal businesses, and cigarettes to bail bonds on release from prison following arbitrary arrests. Many criticize the corruption of Hamas cadres, who do not seem to suffer from the electricity shortages.

Against the Masses

The population lives under the surveillance of Hamas agents in civilian clothes, called Zanana in reference to the Israeli army surveillance planes that fly over Gaza. Yet, in recent years, mobilizations have repeatedly emerged via social networks. In March 2019, for example, the hashtag "We want to live" went viral. For three days, thousands of young people mobilized against taxes and poverty. Thinking that the protests would only be directed against Israel and Fatah, Hamas initially let them go before discovering that it was the target of the demonstrators and violently repressing them.

For almost twenty years, the permanent state of war between Israel and Gaza has enabled Hamas to consolidate its power and silence all dissent. It has also been an opportunity to divert and profit from revolts that did not start, notably in the spring of 2021, when Israeli forces stormed the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, triggering an uprising by a whole generation of young people. The youth of occupied East Jerusalem and the refugee camps of the West Bank were joined for the first time on this scale by young Israeli Arabs. Hamas fired rockets into Israel, forcing a military confrontation and stifling the youthful revolt, while Israel bombed Gaza once again. In Israel itself, the growing protest of young Arab Israelis against the vexations to which they were subjected was also suppressed.

Hamas’ policies do not serve the interests of the region’s oppressed masses. The people of Gaza pay a high price for its cynical maneuvers. On October 7, Hamas willfully started the bloodbath that claimed the lives of thousands of civilians. It is clear that the Hamas leadership knew it would provoke a response from Israel, which has turned Gaza into a field of ruins. Its warlike posture and radicalism are aimed at asserting itself as the exclusive representative of the Palestinians and imposing itself as the sole interlocutor with the major powers and Israel, whatever the price paid by the population.

Hamas does not want to express the revolt of the oppressed masses and, in fact, fears it. Yet it is this revolt that can open up a future if it seeks to overthrow the imperialist order, which, using all religious, national, and political cleavages, drags peoples into barbarism and endless conflict.