Friday, November 16, 2007

Hamas: Between Oppression and Salvation

I spoke to Jamal and his family on Skype today. Abdallah is learning new songs in Kindergarten and was practicing them with me, Mohamed invited me for lunch and Maysa, the oldest and always chipper, was summing up conditions in Gaza.

Flour prices are up from 80 to 200 shekels a bag. Cigarette prices are so high that Jamal has reduced his smoking drastically, at least one good side effect of a choking siege.

“All things have become expensive in Gaza, except for humans, they are still cheap,” Jamal added with his typical manner of hitting the hammer on the nail.

Since the big Fatah parade on Monday in anniversary of Yassir Arafat’s death, Jamal told me Fatah members are being continuously arrested by Hamas. Aljazeera cited 100,000 participants at the rally. “People walked to Gaza City from all directions,” Jamal said, “they came from as far away as Rafah in the South and here from the North.”

Next to Jamal’s Skype username is an image of his name etched into
the sand of Gaza’s beach with a short phrase next to it: “Sa-asbir hatta yanal al-sabr mini, I will be patient until patience overcomes me.”

Haaretz’s Gideon Levy gives Jamal’s fears of Hamas an interesting twist. Gideon recently interviewed Israeli soldiers returning from a military mission to Gaza. Here are some excerpts,

“The group of reservist paratroopers returned all astir: Hamas fought like an army. The comrades of Sergeant-Major (Res.) Ehud Efrati, who fell in a battle in Gaza about two weeks ago, told Amos Harel that "in all parameters, we are facing an army, not gangs." The soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces were impressed by their enemy's night vision equipment, the tactical space they kept between one another—and their pants even had elastic bands to make them fit snugly around their boots. This is good news from Gaza...

Furthermore, the fact that an army has arisen in Gaza, if this assessment is correct, is liable to prevent another large-scale, ground-based military operation with its many casualties and futility. Perhaps the reservists' reports will dissuade the defence minister from carrying out his plan to conquer Gaza and will motivate Israel to try, for the first time, a different approach with Hamas—negotiations. Only the recognition of Hamas' strength is liable to persuade Israel to be cautious about another operation, and only its military build-up will make us understand the full stupidity of the boycott policy that was designed to weaken Hamas.”

Hamas’ lack of tolerance for internal opposition to their authority is horrible news, six demonstrators were killed during clashes with Hamas security forces on Monday. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned,
the excessive use of force by the Palestinian police to disperse the participants in the Fatah rally in Gaza City yesterday. The Centre condemns the use of gunfire that resulted in the death of 6 civilians, including a 12-year old boy, and injury of more than 80 others. The Centre calls upon the Palestinian government in Gaza to immediately investigate these attacks, prosecute the perpetrators, and take serious steps to prevent their recurrence.
But good news, as Gideon points out is that Hamas’ increased military capacity also raises the potentiality of Hamas to represent the rights and the needs of Palestinians on an international platform. Although such military logic seems skewed to me personally, it is the same logic that allows for some form of stability between Pakistan and India by the fact of both of them owning nuclear weapons. Relative military equality creates a form of stability between two powers. If this is the case in Gaza it is one thing all Palestinians, both supporters of Hamas and Fatah, can be grateful of Hamas for.