Abdullah Iskandar
Dar Al-Hayat
August 29, 2010 - 12:00am

The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) has been escalating its political discourse against the Palestinian Authority, on the occasion of the latter answering Washington’s call for direct negotiations with Israel. The debate over taking such a step will thus prevail over other issues with the nearing of the date for starting these negotiations on the 2nd of next month. However, and regardless of the political aspect concerned with how to resolve the conflict and what such a solution would entail, such a debate should not obscure the current situation in the Gaza Strip, under the rule of Hamas, and how the movement has been managing this “emirate” it has taken by force.

The main characteristic of such management is that of clashing with everyone else, regardless of political positions. This shows that the movement cannot tolerate any other force alongside it. It may be understandable for Hamas to disagree with the Fatah movement over the solution with Israel, but it is unacceptable for such disagreement to be settled by force of arms. But what can no longer be understood is for Hamas to clash with Palestinian factions that share its political stances. The issue is not limited to secular forces, such as the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and the DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine), which are subject to harassment in their offices and leaderships in addition to their members being arrested, but also reaches Islamist factions, such as the Islamic Jihad, Hamas’s twin movement – this after the eradication of centers of radical Islamist groups in the Gaza Strip.

In this sense, such a practice goes beyond the political aspect, reaching how to deal with other forces, which should be subjected, not allied and enjoying a margin of freedom of movement and action. This also applies to the kind of security being enforced by the police of the Interior Ministry affiliated with the movement, with regard to other factions and forces – sometimes under the pretext of their breaking the law (what law?) and other times under that of their lack of discipline with respect to the ceasefire with Israel practiced in effect by Hamas, in spite of its calls for resistance. Political gatherings, demonstrations or protest movements are often subject to bans and repression, under the pretext of not having obtained a permit from the Hamas government or of breaching security. Many have been arrested within such a framework and have been subjected to demeaning investigations at the hands of the men of the Interior Ministry.

The most dangerous aspect of Hamas’s management of the Gaza Strip is the way it deals with its inhabitants, as it has imposed upon them types of behavior and a way of life which pluralistic Palestinian society had never been accustomed to. Thus, on the occasion of the month of Ramadan coinciding with the summer season, Hamas has pushed this approach to its extreme by hunting down every Palestinian custom under various pretexts, especially religious. It has thus shut down cafés, amusement centers and internet shops, has banned normal and natural practices in the Gaza Strip, and has forbidden those fasting from breaking their fast in public places, in addition to arresting those whom it considered to be encouraging such practices. Even before that, its Education Ministry has, for the coming school year, implemented a series of measures which Gazans had never known before, sometimes in the name of separation between the sexes, other times in the name of decency, and always in the name of religion.

And while Hamas sponsors smuggling through the tunnels and its officials contribute with various consumer investments, it hunts down small-time traders and street vendors in the Gaza Strip under various pretexts. And at time when those who have lost their homes as a result of Israel’s assault have remained outdoors, the movement has undertaken the demolition of houses built by the disaster-stricken, under the pretext of their not having obtained permits (which is reminiscent of a similar pretext which has been and continues to be put forward by Israeli occupation forces).

It has reached such a point that the Hamas movement has come to target foreign humanitarian and medical organizations that offer various kinds of aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, without providing any justification. It has thus become a nearly daily affair for men in civilian attire claiming to be from Hamas’s Interior Ministry to raid political offices as well as cultural or medical centers.

And it seems that Hamas, in its rule of the Gaza Strip, is increasingly heading towards adopting the use of force and coercion against all others, to thus turn into the sole ruling party, with all that this involves in terms of drifting towards social and economic uniformization and political dictatorship.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017