Hamas. They’ve been in the news a hell of a lot lately.
In the last few weeks, we’ve twice seen rockets “accidently” get shot towards Tel Aviv. The most recent destroyed a home, wounding seven inside including two infants and killing the family’s four dogs. While Islamic Jihad may or may have been behind the rockets, the strip is still under Hamas’s control. Hamas says they aren’t interested in escalating and yet they are not ensuring that no rockets already pointing at the Israeli city are repositioned or stored away. The Israeli retaliation is predictable and I would say that while the shooting of the rockets might not have been predicted, they could be an expected possibility, given their very existence and positioning.
Also in the last few weeks, protesting Hamas prisoners have caused much harm. At Ramon prison, they set a fire, torching 14 beds, wounding an inmate and a staff member and more recently at Ketziot prison, they stabbed two guards, one seriously, setting off a riot in which 11 prisoners were reported hurt. The reason for the protests? Because Israeli authorities have now begun jamming the signals of cellphones. Prisoners who illegally smuggle them in use them to conduct terror activities outside of prison walls. What happens inside the prisons affects what happens outside; this article from al-Monitor explains a lot of the dynamics – it is worth registering to read. The riots, by all accounts, could have been predicted.
But what has not been predictable in my eyes, is what is going on in the Gaza Strip. And this element of unpredictability may open up the possibility for a change in the status quo. Or it may not.
On Thursday, March 14, dozens first gathered in both northern and central Gaza to protest the high cost of living and rising taxes. Their rallying cry, “We want to live!” Hamas prevented journalists from filming or taking pictures in the North and arrested protesters at the second location.
On the following Friday and Saturday, they gathered again in Deir el-Balah and Khan Younis. Hamas used live fire and beat protesters, arrested protesters (including many from Fatah) and detained journalists and researchers. The PA asked Egypt to intervene and Qatar was asked to as well.
On Sunday, March 17 it was reported that seven reporters had been brutally beaten, four of them requiring hospitalization, their cellphones and equipment confiscated.
The following Saturday, the Guardian ran a story about Palestinian writer/Fatah spokesperson Abu Seif who had been among those hospitalized; Hamas fractured his skull and broke his leg and the fingers in his right hand. President Abbas visited Abu Seif, telling the writer, who conveyed that 25 Hamas members in masks hurt him, that “The people of Gaza are the ones who started the revolution, and they should be the ones to bring it to completion.” He also was reported as saying that Hamas “should end up in the trash bin of history.”
And only on Sunday March 24, the New York Times first covered the Hamas crackdown on the Gaza protest.
What I would like to see, I fear, is so completely unlikely that it is depressing. First of all, I would like to see Gazans band together to verbalize that their upset isn’t only with the economic situation but with the political one their fractured leadership has created. I would like to see the Palestinians have a unified leadership that wants to work towards peaceful coexistence. I would also like to see Israelis led by the same vision and a coalition that wants to figure out what the future should look like and do what it can to get the country there safely. I would like to see Israelis take the same kind of humanitarian approach to Gazans as they have to Syrians, recognizing that residents are caught in political situations not of their own making, and need aid. I would like to see that the antipathy that Palestinians have towards Trump not prevent them from taking a serious look at whatever peace proposal is brought to them following the Israeli elections – because it is better to have something to talk about than nothing. I would like to see Palestinians and Israelis work together to create a positive vision of what could be if both sides were to believe in the other’s intent, and for that vision to take root. I would like to see some kind of forward-looking grassroots alternative rise up to present its vision and to force elections in both the West Bank and Gaza. I would like none of this to be accompanied by violence. I would like to see Israeli voters go into their elections guided not by fear and scare tactics but by the idea of working together.
And I know all of these are pipe dreams.
How do we ever get out of this mire?