Two Palestinians killed a guard at the Israeli settlement of Ariel last Friday. Ariel is built on Palestinian land occupied by Israel since 1967 and, like all Israeli settlements, is illegal under international law.
According to Israeli media, the dead man was Vyacheslav Golev, 23, a Russian immigrant who chose to leave his homeland to live and work in a land usurped by a brutal occupier which remains engaged in the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population. Golev’s killers had both served time in Israeli prisons, with all of the pain and suffering that such incarceration entails. Responsibility for the killing was claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, for the first time in the occupied West Bank since 2010.
Hamas has been active across the occupied Palestinian territories ever since it was established in 1987, but it stopped claiming responsibility for its resistance attacks on Israeli targets for security reasons. Why, then, did the movement claim responsibility for this one?
Putting this in context, we need to understand that the right to resist a military occupation by any means possible is enshrined in international law. Moreover, the occupying power has neither the legal right to claim “self-defence” in its responses to such attacks, nor the right to move its own citizens into occupied territory, either to live or to work; settlements and settlers are illegal.
I believe that in claiming responsibility for the latest attack, Hamas is sending a number of important messages. For a start, it is seeking to boost morale across occupied Palestine by letting the Palestinians know that it is still engaged in resisting the Israeli occupation, and that its members are ready to suffer the consequences, including being killed themselves, or being detained and tortured by the Israeli occupation authorities.
Hamas was probably also be seeking to encourage other resistance factions to plan and carry out resistance actions — armed and otherwise — in order to deter the Israelis and stop their ongoing aggression against the Palestinians. At the same time, the movement is letting illegal Israeli settlers know that their own acts of violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem will no longer go unpunished; that Hamas members can reach them and if the Israeli government and international community won’t stop settler violence, then the resistance movement will at least make sure that there is a price to pay. It is turning the tables on the settlers’ own “Price Tag” attacks against Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority and the Fatah movement which controls it will both understand that Hamas is sending the message that the people are fed up of the moribund “peace process” to which the PA-Fatah leadership still clings. The path has been ignored by Israel since 2014, and the PA has to find another way to stop Israeli aggression and protect the Palestinian people from the daily attacks by Israeli occupation forces and illegal Jewish settlers.
This defiant message to the PA flies in the face of what PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has called the “sacred” security cooperation — collaboration — between the PA security services and the occupation state. Such collaboration has been unable to silence the Palestinian voices calling for freedom from oppression and occupation. Hamas is making it very clear that it is alive and well, and still very active and capable of resisting the occupation across the occupied territories, not just in the besieged Gaza Strip.
The mediators who shuttle between the PA and Hamas officials will take note of this, as will the PA leadership in Ramallah and its foreign supporters who fund the bloated bureaucracy and security services dedicated to protecting Israel and its occupation. They will also take note of the fact that the people of Palestine are distancing themselves from a leadership which has no popular mandate (President Mahmoud Abbas’s term of office expired in 2009) and other factions which do not believe in active resistance against Israeli aggression.
Support for Hamas is growing in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, where crowds of demonstrators have been raising the Hamas flag and chanting the name of the top commander of the Hamas military wing. Mohammed Deif is viewed by many as the undeclared chief of staff of the Palestinian resistance.
As long as resistance against military occupation is a right guaranteed by international law and conventions, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement has the right to exist and fight against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, defend the people of occupied Palestine and deter the violations committed by Israel’s government and its illegal settlers.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.