Labour writer warns UK Left about Hamas

By Martin Bright, March 4, 2010

One of the Labour Party's key intellectuals has warned the Left not to make the mistake of considering Hamas a traditional resistance movement.

Writing in a series of essays, Handling Hamas, published by Labour Friends of Israel, Professor Brian Brivati of Kingston University says: "All too often Hamas is compared, by elements of the British Left in particular, to the IRA, the South African ANC or even the Palestinian Fatah movement and, inevitably, from these comparisons comes a call for diplomatic engagement."

But Professor Brivati argues that much of the received wisdom of the Left (that Hamas will not impose its religious will on the rest of the Palestinians; that it is a spiritual and welfare organisation that only turns to violence as a last resort; that it will eventually recognise Israel) is apologetic and over-optimistic.

Professor Brivati concludes: "Even apologists agree that Hamas will never accept the right of Israel to exist. Given that fixed point, each move by Hamas needs to be read as an attempt to find weak points in the defence of Israel and then to exploit those weak points for maximum advantage."

An alternative view in the essay series, launched at the House of Commons this week, is provided by Dr Orit Gal, associate Fellow at foreign affairs think tank Chatham House. She writes: "Opening Gaza up to alternative actors, and the potential of economic growth, is an initial and necessary step towards undermining Hamas's monopoly of power in the Gaza Strip."

Last updated: 4:57pm, March 4 2010