Here’s what happened:
Eighteen suspected collaborators were killed by Hamas on Friday as the group announced a crackdown on Palestinians alleged to be working with Israel.
Seven men were shot dead in front of a mosque by men in Hamas military uniforms after Friday prayers, witnesses said.
The Hamas-affiliated al-Majd website said they were killed after legal procedures were completed against them. Suspects accused of collaboration are taken to “revolutionary military trials” presided over by security and legal experts, the site added.
Earlier, eleven Palestinians were killed by Hamas for allegedly collaborating with Israel.
Now, what I don’t understand is why Ali Abunimah, who runs the fairly influential Electronic Intifada website, feels the need to justify or excuse what Hamas has done. Leaving aside the problem of executions in general, in this case of executing “collaborators,” there’s no actual judicial process being followed here. Even Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who is often seen by suppoters of Israel as being far more lenient on Hamas than on Israel, has "described the judicial process for death sentences in Gaza as ‘deeply flawed.’" This could very well be some members of Hamas executing people who disagree with them. Abunimah doesn’t know; no one knows.
So, it’s very unsettling to see Abunimah make the argument that “collaboration” is seen by “every society” “as the most heinous crime” and thus that executing eighteen “suspected collaborators” isn’t unique to Palestinians — who thought it was? — or particularly problematic.
Abunimah apparently feels a need for Hamas to be seen as pure and clean in their resistance to Israel, and he takes it to be his role to defend them from anyone who might suggest otherwise. What he’s actually doing, though, is defending human rights violations … and it’s not as though these are isolated incidents, either. He does the same when he posts a comedic take on the death of Israeli civilians or belittles the effect of indiscriminate rocket fire on Israeli civilians.
I know a fair number of people who view Abunimah and his website as a credible source for information on Israel/Palestine. I don’t share their view. This is why. Supporting the desire of the Palestinian people to live free of repression, occupation, and blockade is exactly right; however, insisting that resistance movements can do no wrong — in the face of obvious human rights violations — borders on the fanatical.
LTMC: It seems like Abunimah is mirroring the argument of Israeli boosters who complain that critics of israel are trying to make Israel a special case. As the argument goes, Israel is obviously not perfect, but neither is any other country on earth. In the U.S., for example, wartime collaboration is treason punishable by death. So I think Abunimah does have a point when he says that Hamas isn’t doing something that any other government on the world would do if its citizens were giving aid and support to an actively hostile nation.
That being said, it is a legitimate concern to wonder what Due Process protections these people actually had. I for one am immediately suspicious of any legal entity with the word “Revolutionary” in its title, given the poor track record of such bodies throughout history. This isn’t the first time Hamas has killed collaborators under questionable circumstances either:
According to the Congressional Research Service, Hamas admitted to having executed Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israeli authorities in the 1990s. A transcript of a training film by the al-Qassam Brigades tells how Hamas operatives kidnapped Palestinians accused of collaboration and then forced confessions before executing them.
Presumedly, the means used to “force confessions” out of the accused collaborators didn’t involve an intimate conversation over coffee.
As a person who follows Electronic Intifada, I think I would agree that Abunimah shows a little too much deference to Hamas, and gives them the benefit of the doubt far more than he should. By doing so, he conflates Hamas with the Palestinian people, which is a problem, because it feeds into the widespread feelings of Israelis who believe that Palestinians deserve collective punishment for voting Hamas into office. But I do think he has a point about punishing war-time collaborators as being something that nearly every country in the world does. The question is whether Hamas’s “Revolutionary Court” actually provides Due Process, or is rather more akin to a kangaroo enclosure.