When we say in Israel that the public “got a haircut”, we all understand that we are referring to the dubious behavior of ultra-wealthy businessmen, who succeeded in diluting our holdings in publicly traded companies. When people talk about “public haircuts” in the Gaza Strip, the terminology is understood in a completely different connotation. In Gaza, the government has recently been cutting its citizens’ (actual) hair by force.
The escalation of violently enforcing radical Islamic values by the Hamas police, which began in 2007 when the Hamas ousted Mahmoud Abbas from Gaza’s government, has recently reached unprecedented heights.
About two weeks ago, a nineteen year old young man, who works as a house-painter and lives in Gaza, named Ayman Al-Sayad, was waiting for a taxi service on his way home after work, when suddenly a police jeep pulled up next to him. Palestinian policemen jumped out of the jeep, grabbed Al-Sayad, threw him in the back of the vehicle and sped off to the Police station. Of what crime was Al-Sayad guilty? His hair was so long it reached his shoulders.
The Palestinian policemen stood Al-Sayad on a line with ten other men, including seventeen-year-old Tarek Nakib, who was audacious enough to spike his hair with gel. The policemen partially shaved the heads of the haircut criminals, commanding them to finish the job at a professional barber shop in the neighborhood. According to Al-Sayad, the young men who resisted the head-shaving were severely beaten.
The Hamas Government Police in Gaza recently initiated a violent operation in public areas, which includes assaulting men with long hair, those who use gel, or those who walk down the street with tight or low-riding pants.
Terrorist organizations, by their nature, terrorize not only their enemies, but also those who are subject to their leadership. It appears that to the extent the Hamas government in Gaza receives recognition and rights by the international community, the human rights of the Palestinian people in Gaza are mercilessly trampled underfoot.
Operation Haircut in Gaza started a few days after the Hamas parliament passed a law, which obligates the isolation of boys and girls into separate classes in all schools after the age of nine. The policy of gender separation in schools is also prevalent in the West Bank under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas. It is another symptom of Islamic religious coercion of the Palestinian people. Just last month, the Hamas forbade women to participate in a marathon in Gaza, which was funded by the UN. Because of Hamas’ intransigence in this matter, the UN eventually gave up and cancelled the marathon.
The Canadian Foreign Minister, John Baird, who was an unfamiliar name to me until last week, succeeded in winning my admiration when he innocently held a meeting with MK Tzippi Livni in East Jerusalem, an act which was heavily condemned by the Hamas. Do not fret, Mr. Baird. If the Hamas is upset with you, you must be doing something right.
But the meeting with Livni was not Baird’s only trangression. He offered during his visit to absorb 120,000 Palestinian refugees into Canada, and to grant them irrevocable citizenship. Canada is one of the only nations, which has come to terms with the fact that Palestinian refugees will never return to Tel-Aviv, Yaffo, Haifa, Safed or Be’er Sheva. This generous offer of the Canadian government was intended to put an end to the terrible suffering of some of the Palestinian refugees, who have lived in Arab nations for sixty-five years without receiving full citizenship or civil rights in their places of residence. The Hamas leaders immediately expressed their indignation with this Canadian offer and declared that it was a Zionist initiative to disenfranchise the Palestinians from their right of return.
Hence, the Hamas proved once again that the importance of destroying the Jewish state is far greater in their eyes, than the importance of advancing the quality of life and welfare of the Palestinian people.
In recent days, the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, an organization that I founded, sponsored “Palestinian Human Rights Week”. We organized events and lectures on university campuses on several continents in order to expose and challenge the primary abusers of Palestinian human rights, the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas.
While holding an academic symposium at the University of Toronto last week, I took a question from a person in the audience, who identified himself as a Palestinian refugee. His question immediately turned into harsh accusations towards the State of Israel. When he finished his statements, I answered him, “No one is more critical of the Israeli government than the Jewish people. I, as a lawyer who fights for civil rights, have been challenging the policy of the Israeli government on issues of civil rights and freedom of religion for the last ten years. What have you done, as a Palestinian, in order to advance human rights in the Palestinian Authority?” His answer was short and simple, “The Palestinian Authority is not the legitimate leadership of the Palestinian people.” I think he may be right.
Granting recognition and legitimacy to the Palestinian leadership, both by the Palestinian people and by the international community, must be based on its ability to properly govern its own people, with protection of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. At present, it is based upon the bond of hatred towards Israel. As long as this is the situation, all of us, on either side of the conflict, will continue to suffer.