“Similarly, I think: Yes, understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important.”
— Judith Butler at UC Berkeley on the war between Israel and Hezbollah, 2006.
In 2006, during a UC Berkeley event, an audience member posed a question to Judith Butler regarding whether Hamas and Hezbollah posed a threat to Israel’s existence. In response, she stated the following:
“Yes, understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements. It doesn’t stop those of us who are interested in non-violent politics from raising the question of whether there are other options besides violence. So again, a critical, important engagement. I mean, I certainly think it should be entered into the conversation on the Left. I similarly think boycotts and divestment procedures are, again, an essential component of any resistance movement.”
Seventeen years later, the impact of Butler’s words has endured, finding widespread support for Hamas and Hezbollah in academia, becoming a litmus test within the realm of social justice advocacy.
However, when confronted with the face of violence, Butler herself has distanced from the genocidal groups she once saw as integral members of the Left. On October 13th, Butler issued a statement condemning violence:
“I do condemn without qualification the violence committed by Hamas. This was a terrifying and revolting massacre.”
While her denouncement of Hamas marks a notable shift, her broader statements continue to uphold the scholarship that has led these movements to be perceived as necessary and legitimate forms of resistance against the modern State of Israel.
This perspective is rooted in a framework of non-violence, mirroring her 2006 statement. However, it is important to note that both the original 1988 covenant and the revised 2006 charter of Hamas condone violence against civilians.