Hazem Saghieh

Hamas is not Gaza, and Gaza is not Hamas

In defending the people of Gaza and condemning the collective punishment that Israel is brutally subjecting them to, we all repeated the argument that Gaza is not Hamas. It is a very valid point. Neglecting the array of distinctions that underpin it would lead to the destruction of all civilization, culture, and sense of humanity: civilians are not the same as combatants, and children are not the same as adults... Beyond this, the difference between Hamas and Gaza is also evident from many Gazans' political positions and their protests against the way Hamas governed them, which reflected its indifference to their lives. However, Israel, with its savage acts and their long duration, has suggested that Hamas and the people of Gaza are the same; at the very least, they are facing the same hardships from the same source.

It is not new for the Jewish state to impose collective punishment that does not spare hospitals and children, taking the crime further than we can imagine. Every collective punishment, in this case, stems from a conscious or unconscious ideological premise. Inflicting pain on others blindly assumes that these others are seen as a single compact unit and that combatants and civilians, even children, thus deserve the same fate. Zionism, like every extreme nationalist movement, views the world as an absolute 'us' and an absolute 'them', presenting human beings as masses that unite and divide according to religion, culture, or ethnicity.

However, we must tell ourselves that Gaza is not Hamas in response, not contenting ourselves with merely repeating this phrase to others. We must be convinced of it and its implications rather than merely using this argument to win debates around the war and push back against propaganda trying to circumvent Israel's actions and statements.

Hamas can harm Gaza militarily; it has done so repeatedly and continues to do so. In turn, Gaza could harm Hamas politically, should the opportunity to do so electorally or rhetorically present itself. However, Israel’s violent assault suppresses the voices of the tormented in Gaza, leaving affirmations that it and Hamas are one and the same to prevail, and this unity and fusion serve as a pretext for claims of representation and denials of a distinction.

Nevertheless, it is not only popular to equate Gaza with Hamas or even the ‘Axis of Resistance.’ It has become commonplace to blend everything and anything together. Thus, figures like Che Guevara, Rosa Luxemburg, Hassan al-Banna, Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden (who was recently rediscovered as a hero on TikTok), Saddam Hussein, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and others are dragged out of their graves and brought together over the lap of Abu Ubaida, "the spokesman of the Ummah" per a banner put up by some supporters in a Beirut street. As the Paris Commune, the Caliphate, and the immortal message of the Baath converge, the post-nation-statehood that accelerates history in pursuit of absolute and immediate equality among people of all races, genders, and cultures, celebrates pre-nation-statehood, with its imperial world that glorifies impenetrable boundaries between races, groups and ranks, and between 'free women' and 'slaves'. This 'alliance' can’t be understood without the assumption that it is based on a mixture of pity, ignorance, and delusion.

And if those behind each 'project' believe they are employing Abu Ubaida to serve their project, we have already seen how tragically previous similar attempts ended, turning those ‘employing’ the leader into employees who are powerless and helpless in the face of their idol.

What is the point of the differences between one idea and another, indeed what is the point of ideas themselves, when all paths lead us to Abu Ubaida, with those carrying these many ideas not distinguishing themselves, even the slightest, from the disguised 'conscience of the Ummah?' If this is justified by the fact that Abu Ubaida is the only one on the battlefield today, those mentioned above, who had occupied this position before him, left their followers enduring only misery and disaster.

The harm of this 'alliance' does not only stem from its limited coherence and its standing on land whose plains and mountains are in conflict. Because of its incoherence, it needs sustained catastrophic conditions to survive. Meanwhile, the negative ramifications of this incoherence add to the burdens that the actions of the fighters impose on innocent civilians, just as it is now adding to the burdens paid by Gaza and its people for the actions of Hamas. And in Arab and Islamic countries, but especially in Western countries, this rag-tag bloc could implode, creating negative repercussions for Gaza, its people and their rights, and for the 'image' of Arabs and Muslims, and also the 'image' of their minds

As the xenophobic European right-wing lurks and Israel lurks with it, legitimate fears are reinforced by a sweeping tendency that goes beyond lumping Gaza with Hamas, as well as lumping all kinds of ideas with one another and with Abu Ubaida, to lumping all of us with one another. As though we are in a prison, whereby no prisoner is distinguished from another by the individuality he enjoys, we are currently veering towards speaking with one voice and behaving in the same way, only engaging with those who totally agree with us and then calling our exchange a discussion or dialogue. Those who do not show solidarity in the manner that they are expected to become ostracized, whether they do so in a university, on a television screen, or anywhere else.

Nonetheless, some will continue, despite this, to insist on expressing solidarity as they see fit, standing with Gaza against Israel, and with Gaza against Hamas and its Abu Ubaida.