Sunday, June 20, 2010

What About Hamas's Siege of Gaza? (by Khaled Abu Toameh)

This article appeared in Hudson NY, a ThinkTank

As Israeli naval commandos raided the flotilla ship convoy that was on its way to the Gaza Strip, Hamas security officers stormed the offices of five non-governmental organizations, confiscated equipment and documents, and ordered them closed indefinitely.

Ever since it seized control over the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007, Hamas has imposed a reign of terror on the local population in general and its critics in particular. Hamas has brought nothing to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip other than death and disaster.
The raid on the NGOs in the Gaza Strip, which received little coverage in the media, is seen by many Palestinians as part of Hamas's ongoing crackdown on political opponents and human rights organizations.
Further, Hamas's recent decision to ban municipal elections in the Gaza Strip is yet another violation of one of the basic rights of its constituents.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested by Hamas's security forces for daring to speak out against the state of tyranny and intimidation in the Gaza Strip. Over the past three years, dozens of Fatah officials and members have either been thrown into prison or killed.
Under Hamas, the Gaza Strip is being transformed into a fundamentalist Islamic entity resembling the regimes of the Ayatollahs in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

While there is no ignoring the fact that Hamas originally came to power in a free and democratic election in January 2006, this does not give the movement the right to impose a social, intellectual, political and economic blockade on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Instead of searching for ways to improve the living conditions of the 1.5 million Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, Hamas is busy enforcing strict Islamic rules on the population, such as Hamas policemen, for example, often stopping men and women who are seen together in public to inquire about the nature of their relationship.

Since the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit in 2006, more than 3,500 Palestinians have been killed, many of them during Operation Cast Lead which followed the firing of rockets at Israel.
The kidnapping of Schalit and the rocket attacks have made the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip pay a very heavy price.
If Hamas were really serious about ending the blockade on the Gaza Strip and helping the poor people living there, it would have accepted at least shown some pragmatism in dealing with the outside world.
Hamas could have, for instance, accepted the international community's demand to renounce terrorism and honor all previous agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel. Moreover, it could have allowed representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Schalit.

Hamas, however, is more interested in clinging to power than in serving its people; and in light of increased calls for lifting the blockade following the flotilla incident at sea, the movement's leaders in Syria and the Gaza Strip are now convinced that they are marching in the right direction.
The flotilla incident came at a time when Hamas appeared to be losing its popularity among Palestinians, largely due to the deteriorating economic situation in the Gaza Strip. It also came at a time when even some of Hamas's supporters were beginning to criticize the movement, especially over its decision to demolish scores of "illegal" houses in the southern Gaza Strip and the execution of criminals and "collaborators" with Israel.

It is one thing to help the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but it is another thing to help Hamas. Those who wish to deliver aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip can always find better and safer ways to do so - either through Israel or Egypt. But those who only seek confrontation with Israel in the sea are only emboldening Hamas and helping it tighten its grip on the people of Gaza Strip.

This piece is written by: Khaled Abu Toameh

Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades.

He studied at Hebrew University and began his career as a reporter by working for a PLO-affiliated newspaper in Jerusalem.
Abu Toameh currently works for the international media, serving as the '€œeyes and ears' of foreign journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Abu Toameh's articles have appeared in numerous newspapers around the world, including The Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report and The Sunday Times of London.
Since 2002 he has been writing on Palestinian affairs for The Jerusalem Post and has also been working as a producer and consultant for NBC News since 1989

Day Opening - June 20

Sandstone Symphony, by Marc Adamus