Turn on the news today, pick up a paper, visit your favourite news and view sites and you will see the same storeys from every possible angle. Doom and gloom, death and destruction. Wars internal and external, religious and ethnic. The death toll mounts day by day and all we hear is old problems come back and new problems arriving to join them.
It sometimes seems as if they can be no such thing as peace anywhere. Here in the old west, in civilised France the anti Semites are running riot, smashing shops and homes they think are Jewish without regard for the fact that most Jews in France have nothing to do with Israel. All that matters is that they are dirty Jews and need to be driven out.
The same is said of Arabs in other places and is said of Christians in more distant lands. All this hatred based on which version of which interpretation of a make believe beings teachings they read.
We constantly hear about the actions and atrocities of some terrorist group or another, most of the over one hundred named groups are active in parts of the world that we do not hear about but just look back over the last few weeks of news to hear of ISIS, Al Queda, the Taliban, Hamas, Boko Haram, Hizballah just to pick a few.
In Europe we have what has just been declared a Civil war in the Ukraine by the International Red Cross. Recent European, African and Middle Eastern history is full of civil wars and separatist groups fighting to form their own land or to reclaim their old land.
All this death and destruction. Who is to blame, who is causing it all.
Well sadly, in many of these cases, the people to blame are us. Or more correctly our nations. The old Imperial powers, the new Imperial powers, the victors of the last few wars. The current government, the last one or governments from the last century or two. But the same people with the same arrogance and the same Imperial designs.
A bunch of European types (Including the US here) from the tradition Western Imperial powers of Britain, Germany. France, Italy, even little Belgium got in on the act. Then add Russia and the US and we had a veritable host of Empires deciding that they knew best and making the rest of the world do what they were told or an Imperial military force would be round for a visit.
They redrew maps and forced tribes that hated each other to become part of new nations while tearing apart old nations. Then when the locals got uppity the army went in or more recently to spare the cost of western lives select groups of locals were armed and used to fight proxy wars.
Let us take a look at the history of one of these ‘Terrorist’ groups or organisations that are in the news this week.
Its full name is al-Harakat al-Muqawwama al-Islamiyya, the Islamic Resistance Movement.
Today as I write this Gaza is a war zone, rockets, bombs and shells passing each other in the air as they fly in or out. The Israeli military pounding the region while Hamas launches rockets back at civilian areas. Both sides trying to smash and kill but it’s a rather one sided fight.
Today Hamas is widely regarded as a terrorist organisation, they didn’t start life that way. They started life as a small charitable group helping people in need.
The Muslim Brotherhood originally expressed an ideology of charitable support for believers and it was to support this that Hamas came into being as an organisation known as Al-Mujamma al Islami,. It was founded in the 70s and was, in fact, registered in Israel as a charitable group by its founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
His intention was to unite Palestinians through religion rather than nationalism, by using Islam to bring them together. In this he was almost the opposite of the politically active, secular and left wing Palestine Liberation Organisation which was strongly (and violently) agitating for a Palestinian state.
The idea that Islam would be heavily involved in politics was generally considered ridiculous at the time, very few nations world wide had religious governments, in fact among the Israeli and Western powers the idea of ‘Political Islam’. that is a religious movement also becoming a political one, was of little concern and in fact something of a joke.
Sheikh Yassin led his organisation to build schools and mosques, libraries and a university. They cleaned streets, organised rubbish removal and provided support such as tents, food and clothing for refugees. At the same time they were working to maintain the cultural and educational infrastructure they were also creating a widespread and influential religious infrastructure through the mosques and followers of Islam they were bringing together.
Now at this time the primary Palestinian political organisations were the PLO and Fatah. Both were being hit hard by the Israelis and both were struggling to maintain control of Gaza and the West Bank.
In fact Sheikh Yassin and his followers were pretty much doing the work that the two political groups were failing at. As a result the influence of the sheikh grew while that of the other two began to fall.
Seeing a chance to further weaken the PLO and Fatah the west and Israel began to provide significant funding to the sheikh. Both openly and according to a number of US intelligence releases covertly, the west along with several of the oil states funnelled millions of dollars to this charitable organisation.
Quickly they became the people to go to for help in Gaza and the west bank. If you needed help or support, food or just your electricity and plumbing fixed you went to the sheikh and his people. With this funding they rapidly grew in power and influence and became far more prominent as a result.
They came to be a viable rival to the PLO and Fatah and Israel along with the west continued to send them money. Due to this funding the secular political groups lost power and the religious political group gained in power. People began to notice, political Islam was working, and they certainly had more money and power and weren't being attacked by Israel all the time.
What was happening was that politics was polarising between a religious politic group and a secular political group and it was Israeli and western power and money that was making it happen.
With the fall of the Shah and the rise of Iran as a Theocracy political Islam suddenly noticed that religion could run a country. The effect of this rippled across the middle east
Sheikh Yassin was arrested in 1984; a cache of weapons was discovered and linked to him and his movement. It seemed they had been arming themselves. However they told the Israelis that the weapons were for use against the PLO and Fatah in the increasingly violent fight for power between the groups. The Sheikh was released a year later, and in the meantime there were numerous reports of Israeli security forces turning a blind eye to attacks launched by the sheikh’s followers, even according to some reports allowing groups of them to pass checkpoints so they could attack PLO or Fatah strongholds.
The result of this was that support for the PLO and Fatah continued to fall and support for the Islamic movement grew stronger.
Things change in 1987 with the first intifada. Here the Sheikh and his allies declared the formation of a military wing of his organisation, Hamas. The organisations charter released later was highly anti Semitic and praised Jihad or holy war.
After Hamas carried out its first attack the sheikh was arrested again, this time sentenced to life. However he was released some years later, the official reason was given as humanitarian grounds.
Just before Sheikh Yassin was released the Oslo accords had been signed and a significant international effort was underway to bring peace to the region. Israel is on record as being reluctant to participate in this but a significant number of Palestinians said they were against terrorist attacks and wanted peace. The PLO was involved in these negotiations toward peace, Hamas openly refused any attempt to end the fighting and stated it would not accept the existence of Israel.
Just before the Oslo accords were to be signed Hamas struck, a wave of attacks against civilian targets. Arafat looked either deceitful or weak. There are rumours that even at this stage Israel was still supporting the sheikh to further undermine the PLO.
In the face of these attacks negotiations failed. A right wing militant government was voted into power in Israel and the sheikh was released from prison and exiled to begin his tour of the middle east, a triumphant parade of countries that greatly increased in influence, bought in large numbers of new supporters and hundreds of millions of dollars in donations that flowed into Gaze unrestricted by the new Israeli government.
Over the remaining years to today Hamas has defeated and driven out Fatah, the PLO which became the Palestinian Authority has steadily become all but powerless, and then there is Hamas.
Where the PLO recognised Israel’s right to exist as a nation, Hamas declares they will drive the Jews into the sea and destroy the nation. Where the PA is secular and favours no religion Hamas is blatantly Islamic and openly uses religion and fanatical Muslims to launch its attacks.
What had been the great threat to Israel now accepts that Israel has a right to exist and live in peace while the organisation that Israel grew from a small charity into a major power in the region to weaken the PLO now stands as the main enemy.
Even now we see a complex political situation where Israel is its own worst enemy. The PLO, now the PA, uses negotiation and not violence; many agreements are made and yet very little seems to happen. The PA talk and make agreements, people watch as one by one those agreements fail and fall away. So the PA is seen as weak and powerless and people turn away from it and to the likes of Hamas.
Hamas is involved in a bloody campaign of death and destruction. They became the defacto government when the PA and Fatah were all but driven from Gaza. They are fighting their ongoing campaign to destroy Israel, an impossibility for them, they cannot possibly achieve this aim, all they can do is threaten and kill civilians. But by continuing to launch such attacks Hamas creates the justification Israel needs to act.
No nation can stand back and do nothing while its civilian population is under attack, no western nation would sit back and allow such attacks. So Israel can justify its attacks and so civilians on both sides continue to die. Every rocket launched one way justifies a bomb or shell launched the other way. Every death on either side justifies a death on the other side.
Every failed talks or broken deal simply makes any other deals or talks less likely and in the mean time millions of civilians on both sides of the border live in fear. Why negotiate when any brokered arrangement will not be fully honoured or will be ignored latter on.
So the violence continues, Hamas, the organisation bought to power by Israel, now blindly launching its fanatical attacks and in doing so justifying Israeli retaliation. Hamas exists today to fight against Israeli oppression of Gaza and is kept in power by the continuation of such things as the blockade. Hatred and fear feeding on hatred and fear. Hamas uses violence to demand the end to the blockade. Israel will not accept the demands of 'Terrorists' and so the blockade will not be lifted when to do so would look like a Hamas victory.
Round and round and round it goes, a self sustaining circle of violence that neither government seems willing to break. Each justifies itself by the existence of the other and so remains in power.
While men, woman and children hide in shelters or crouch in the rubble of their homes.
Just politics, nothing to see here, move along citizen.
There is a saying about having to lie in the bed you made. For the men and woman who are trying to survive here, for the children who are growing up in the ruins, playing in the streets and watching the bombs or rockets fall, they did not make this bed. Politics did.
But it’s not the politicians that have to live there.