Two days ago, Palestinians commemorated Land Day, when on March 30, 1967, Israeli forces stormed the towns of Galilee and confronted with gunfire their Arab inhabitants who were protesting the Judaization of their region. This day has represented for the Palestinians a declaration of their attachment to their identity, their freedom and their land, not just their rejection of the occupation and its practices.
Since that day, many developments have taken place – wars, clashes, uprisings, negotiations and invasions. And the cause of freedom, identity and land remained alive, even if it took on new forms, within the green line and in the Palestinian territories, where the issues of sovereignty and independence are added to it.
This commemoration has been the occasion that allowed Palestinians to proclaim the minimum they have in common, but these days it appears that the challenge of freedom and a decent life is no longer only an Israeli challenge. It has become, especially for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, a challenge imposed on them by the authorities that rule them – i.e. the Hamas movement.
The practices of the occupation and the enemy might be understandable, but for such practices to come out of authorities that are supposed to respect the dignity and freedom of citizens not only raises questions about the reasons and the motives behind these practices, but also about the nature of the authorities that are engaging in them.
On a daily basis, Gaza’s Hamas records a new failure in its management, at every level. In fact, failure has become a phenomenon that closely accompanies its management of affairs, especially after it thwarted the reconciliation agreement. The issue here has nothing to do with the nature of negotiations with Fatah and sharing power with it in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but rather is connected to the view Gaza’s Hamas holds of itself and of the people it rules.
The leaders of this movement in the Gaza Strip have accumulated so many political mistakes that they have made it nearly impossible to head towards reconciliation on the basis of the clauses ratified by the Chairman of its Political Bureau, even if this leads to internal division. Moreover, the movement has eagerly engaged in gratuitous rivalry with Egypt, under the pretext of the electricity problem, even if this were to lead to sealing off its only gateway to the outside world.
It might be possible to find justifications, even if they are weak and unconvincing, for such inept political behavior. But all the justifications put forward by Gaza’s Hamas on how it has been managing the Gaza Strip fail to cover the fact that it has been oppressing, tormenting and silencing people.
The movement used to justify its political failure by the practices of the occupation at times, and by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah conspiring against it at others – in other words absolving itself of its responsibility as a ruling power in Gaza by laying the blame on others, on the outside world. And that is what it is doing again today by laying such responsibility on people in the Gaza Strip.
It is arresting journalists who dare to speak of livelihood crises or of the necessity for Palestinian reconciliation, as well as bloggers who criticize the livelihood situation. It has gone as far as to arrest taxi drivers who complain of the difficulties of earning a living to their customers. It refers all of these cases to its prosecution office on charges of spreading harmful rumors and lies. And to support such of course fabricated charges, Gaza’s Hamas discovers a conspiracy to overthrow its power which Fatah is party to.
And here lies the central theme of the behavior of Gaza’s Hamas: power and nothing else. This explains its rejection of the Palestinian reconciliation, because it wants to keep power to itself alone in the Gaza Strip. It also explains its extreme repression of any opposition to its policies in Gaza, and of any opposition to its management of daily life affairs there – affairs which have reached the extent of extreme misery as a result of such management. Indeed, it may fear a popular uprising, the signs of which have been accumulating, as a result of high prices and of the lack of food products, medicine, electricity and running water, and also as a result of corruption and militia-like rule. It is monopolizing power after it neutralized, by force of arms, the remaining factions, groups and Gazan families that would compete against it. It then moved on to conduct a population census and to pursue and arrest all those who object, criticize, engage in activist work in civil society organizations, or demand a decent life that has been lost. The Palestinians rose up in Galilee on March 30, 1967, in the face of the Israeli state which deprived them of the foundations of their life and culture. And after 45 years of commemorating Land Day, the Palestinians are facing a similar situation under Hamas’s rule of the Gaza Strip.
The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in Dar Al Hayat on April. 1, 2012