Reflections from Gaza on anti-Semitic language

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One of the most controversial issues raised lately in Gaza is the relationship between Palestinians and Jews, sparked after an improvised speech by a senior official in Hamas who called for Palestinians diaspora to “attack every Jew in the world through slaughter and murder” in July. The speech further claimed that Hamas has a factory churning out explosive vests for Palestinian women to detonate along the border fence with Israel during Friday protests. 

To its credit, Hamas promptly condemned the speech in a statement that stipulates it does not have “a conflict with Jews in the world or with Judaism as a religion.” As well, senior officials in Hamas excoriated the speech over social media. 

About two weeks later the speech circulated again when Ofir Gendelman, the Arabic spokesperson for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted a series of clips of the video with English subtitles. 

Watch: Senior Hamas leader Fathi Hammad calls on 7 million Palestinians all over the world to murder Jews, exposing once again that Hamas is a genocidal anti-Semitic terrorist organization,” Gendelman wrote on July 15. “Hamas tries to fool int’l public opinion. Fathi Hammad shows Hamas’ true terrorist colors,” he said naming the Hamas official. 

Gendelman’s current pinned tweet is the most problematic, because he uses Fathi Hammad’s wildly inaccurate and much renounced speech to justify the very real killings and shootings of Palestinians at Gaza’s Great March of Return. Gendelman wrote, “Now you know why we protect the border with Gaza from Hamas.”

A closer look will show there is a propaganda machine at play. No suicide vests were ever used at these protests. In the course of the demonstrations, the United Nations reported Israeli forces killed 206 Palestinians and shot almost 8,000 with live ammunition.

Israeli activists post pictures on the fence between Israel and Gaza of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli soldiers while protesting during the Great March of Return, June 2018. (Photo: Return)

In fact, the most effective form of resistance that has succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of all Palestinians and the endorsement of the overwhelming majority of Palestinians civil society is the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel, or BDS. It is premised on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which explicitly stipulates that all human beings are equal regardless of race, religion and sex. The Boycott National Committee, known as BNC, is the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society sectors and political forces, has emphasized more than once its rejection of all forms of racism including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

The Palestinian people have been facing a multitiered system of orientalist, colonial and imperialist oppression over a two-century course. Therefore, as victims, they cannot adopt any immoral rhetoric flirting with anti-Semitism since justice and equality are two central goals in the Palestinian national struggle. The great majority of our factions, intellectuals, syndicates and campaigns have over the past century emphasized that our struggle was never against Jews or Judaism as Zionism insists on falsifying it. On the contrary, our struggle is against Zionism as a European settler-colonial movement that aims at emptying the land of its indigenous population and replacing them with new European societies.  

Any anti-Semitic language, therefore, lacks the clear-cut vision of our struggle and goes hand in hand with colonialism and imperialism in perpetuating the Palestinian Nakba, and worse, denies us international solidarity with our just cause. In addition to its immorality, anti-Semitic language obscures the fundamental role of imperialism and colonialism in destroying Palestine, ethnically cleansing its people, and sustaining the current multi-tiered system of oppression, namely occupation, apartheid and settler-colonialism– let alone the fact that it alienates solidarity movements.

Palestinians have repeatedly expressed appreciation for the very important role played by progressive and anti-Zionist Jews in supporting their struggle for freedom, justice and equality.  The intervention of organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) and Boycott from Within in not only heeding the BDS call made by Palestinian Civil Society, but actively promoting BDS has touched every Palestinian heart. Our struggle for liberation has always been inclusive, and that is a principle that will not change until we have an egalitarian society where all are equal regardless of race, religion, and sex.


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What strikes me is that Hamas was not comfortable in explaining the nature of anger that build over a lifetime of abuse nor feeling in a position to note the rage of many Israeli Jews that is constantly expressed in the denigrating racist language often used and the physical abuse they feel entitled to mete out with impunity. And never a statement of contrition from the power structure of Israel or even from international Jews… Read more »

Excellent commentary.

Canadians will not even consider accepting the “right of return” as long as Palestinian political leaders, like Mr. Hammad call for killing Jews around the world.

When he made essentially the same comments at a funeral a year ago, i did not see any other Palestinian leaders objecting.

The fact that Hamas responded this time, disowning his remarks, is an encouraging development.

Speaking of Gaza: http://www.palestinechronicle.com/clear-and-decisive-win-why-netanyahu-needs-a-war-on-gaza-more-than-ever-before/ “‘Clear and Decisive Win’: Why Netanyahu Needs a War on Gaza More Than Ever Before” The Palestine Chronicle, August 1/19, by Ramzy Baroud. “Media reports of an impending Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip are now a regular occurrence. The frequency of these reports fluctuates based on Israel’s own political landscape. “Empirical experience has taught us that when Israeli leaders are in trouble, they wage a war on Gaza. Now… Read more »

It’s all nice and dandy to use accurate speech and correct expressions but not everybody can afford them. Especially if the clear majority of the people who call themselves Jewish do support the Zionist invasion, theft and genocide. That statistical fact doesn’t disappear by ignoring it. If the Zionists themselves insist that they represent all Jews and acy on their behalf, and that their illegitimate genocidaire state is the Jewish state, it’s not their victims’… Read more »

I went to Venice for my 75th birthday 2 weeks ago. The Biennale arts festival was in full swing. The theme of Palestine was quite strong. The Danish exhibit was a film by Larissa Sansour set amid the blasted rubble of an Israeli bombardment. I then went to see the Israeli exhibit – you may say I shouldn’t have, but I wanted to know what they were saying to the world. The exhibition concerned the… Read more »