Israeli troops control a large group of Palestinian woman at gunpoint

A member of the Israeli security forces directs Palestinians queueing at an Israeli checkpoint in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on April 14, 2023.

(Photo: Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images)

Experts Say Israeli Apartheid—Not Palestinian Statehood—Is the Real 'Gift to Hamas'

"What has actually bolstered Hamas is Israel's genocidal slaughter which has allowed Hamas to recruit thousands of new members," said one commentator.

As Israel and its international supporters seethe over Wednesday's announcement that three European countries will recognize Palestinian statehood, Palestine advocates refuted claims that such recognition is a "gift to Hamas" by arguing Israel's slaughter in Gaza, settler-colonization of the West Bank, and apartheid and other oppression in the illegally occupied territories are a recruitment boon for the militant resistance group.

In a joint statement, Ireland, Norway, and Spain said they will formally recognize the state of Palestine on May 28, which will bring the total number of nations that have done so to 145. Almost all of the Global South recognizes Palestine, while just a relative handful of so-called developed nations do—including Sweden, Iceland, and most of Eastern Europe. The United States has actively discouraged countries from recognizing Palestinian statehood and United Nations membership.

"Hamas feeds off of Palestinian hopelessness. Israel's denial of Palestinian rights has functioned as a Hamas recruitment program."

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz responded to Wednesday's announcement by threatening "severe consequences" for the three countries. Katz—a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud party—called recognition of Palestine "an injustice to the memory of the victims of October 7, a blow to efforts to return the 128 hostages, and a boost to Hamas and Iran's jihadists."

The claim that recognition is a "reward" or "gift" to Hamas—whose fighters led the attack on Israel that left more than 1,100 people dead and over 240 others in captivity—reverberated from social media to the halls of the U.S. Congress in the wake of the three countries' announcement. However, some experts weighed in on the policies and practices that they believe are driving young Palestinians to embrace violent resistance.

"Those claiming this 'rewards Hamas' have it exactly backward," said Matt Duss, executive vice president of the Center for International Policy and former chief foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.). "Hamas feeds off of Palestinian hopelessness. Israel's denial of Palestinian rights has functioned as a Hamas recruitment program. Diplomatic recognition offers a credible alternative nonviolent path to liberation."

U.S. political commentator Krystal Ball said on social media that "those saying Palestinian statehood is a 'gift to Hamas,' please take note that what has actually bolstered Hamas is Israel's genocidal slaughter which has allowed Hamas to recruit thousands of new members."

Israel also actively propped up Hamas for years, viewing it as a means of countering and weakening the largely toothless Palestinian National Authority and its leader, President Mahmoud Abbas. The New York Timesreported in December that Israeli security forces helped Qatari officials deliver suitcases stuffed full of millions of dollars in cash to Hamas,which has governed Gaza for nearly two decades and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and the U.S.

According to the Times, Israel allowed billions of dollars to flow from the Qatari government into Hamas' coffers, to be spent on government salaries, infrastructure, and humanitarian endeavors. This allowed Hamas to divert funds previously budgeted for those purposes into armed resistance. The payments continued as late as 2021.

Israeli leaders and their U.S. backers similarly claimed that any cease-fire in Gaza would be a "gift to Hamas" that would allow it to regroup and rearm. As the human toll of Israel's assault—more than 126,000 Palestinians killed, maimed, or missing; nearly 2 million forcibly displaced Gazans; widespread starvation; and lifelong trauma—mount, so too do motivations for Palestinians to join Hamas and other militant groups.

"Killing terrorists too often breeds more terrorism. This is an inescapable lesson of both America's decadeslong 'War on Terror' and Israel's ceaseless struggle against Hamas, Hezbollah, and other violent insurgencies," Matthew Levinger, a professor of international relations at George Washington University, wrote earlier this year for Just Security.

So does killing civilians. As U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has acknowledged: "In this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat."

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.