Hamas the Palestinian Resistance Front against Zionist Expansionism

  July 06, 2021   Read time 3 min
Hamas the Palestinian Resistance Front against Zionist Expansionism
From the mid-1960s to almost the mid-1980s the PLO-led Palestinian national movement embraced armed struggle as the principal strategy to ‘liberate Palestine’. Arab weakness coupled with continuous international and Western support of Israel made the Palestinians’ mission of liberating their land almost impossible.

In January 2006 Hamas stunned the world by winning the democratic elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council of the limited Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Bringing Hamas into the unprecedented glare of the lime-light, this victory shocked many Palestinians, Israel, the United States, Europe and Arab countries. It also left the defeated Palestinian Fatah movement, Hamas’s main rival which had led the Palestinian national movement for more than 40 years, completely shattered.

Despite the shock and surprise, Hamas’s victory in those elections was in fact almost unavoidable. The cumulative failure over the past years to end a continuing brutal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and people had only deepened the frustration and radicalism within the Palestinian people. Palestinian frustration and suffering has never ended since the creation of Israel by war in 1948. With British collusion and American support and against the will and interest of the native population, the piece of land that had been known for many hundreds of years as Palestine became Israel. In this war to create Israel the Palestinians lost more than 78 per cent of the land of Palestine, including the western part of their capital Jerusalem.

What remained to the Palestinians were two separate pieces of land known as the West Bank (of the Jordan River) adjacent to the country of Jordan, which included a fragment of their old capital city, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean bordering the Egyptian Sinai peninsula. As a result of the 1948 war, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven out from their cities and villages to neighbouring countries by Zionist forces. These ‘refugees’ have become the most intractable problem of the conflict, growing in numbers with their descendants to more than 6 million by the year 2006.

In 1967 Israel launched another successful war, this time not just against the Palestinians but also against all the bordering Arab countries as well. Palestinian losses were nearly complete. With this war Israel occupied the West Bank and the eastern part of Jerusalem, which had been under Jordanian rule, and the Gaza Strip, which had been administered by Egypt since the 1948 war. Israel also invaded Syria’s Golan Heights in the north, and Egypt’s Sinai desert in the South, and staunchly occupied them all in the name of Israeli security. Yet for the Palestinians the losses were multiple. The Israeli army forced another mass transfer of Palestinians refugees, this time from the West Bank cities and villages to neighbouring countries. Many of the refugees who had been uprooted to the West Bank during the 1948 war were moved on yet again, and with even more new refugees because of the 1967 war. The problem of Palestinian refugees had worsened.

Weakened Arab countries, along with the nascent Palestinian national liberation movement, failed in their military efforts to regain the land they had lost to Israel in 1967. Two years prior to that war, Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian activists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and neighbouring Arab countries established Fatah, the Palestinian national liberation movement. Fatah declared a no-ideology affiliation and a secular outlook. Around the same time, and with other smaller leftist factions, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established as a national umbrella front for the Palestinian struggle, with the clear leadership of Fatah. The goal of the PLO was to ‘liberate Palestine’: that was to say, the land that had been occupied in the war of 1948 and which had become known as Israel. Yet after the devastating loss of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, the goal of the PLO had to be reduced. Instead of ‘liberating Palestine’ it focused on the liberation of only the two more recently lost parts of the land, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This goal was seen at this time merely as intermediate phase which would not affect the long-term goal of liberating the entire land of Palestine.