When I came across a recent piece from Forbes, a business magazine, about Israeli and Palestinian women working together, I was quite surprised. The article, “Life In Gaza: A Syrian Woman’s Experiences With Hamas And Her Work To Improve Israeli/Palestinian Relations,” not only highlighted peace work emanating from Gaza, but was also critical of Hamas. Both of these are rarities, and even more so in the mainstream press.
This particular piece is about Manar Al-Sharif, a Syrian Muslim raised in Egypt whose family wanted her to attend a college in Gaza. A student in journalism at the Islamic University, al-Sharif saw how journalism had been replaced with Hamas propaganda. But she stayed anyway. The friendships she made and the stories being suppressed each influenced her decision. And so Al-Sharif began freelance writing, “hoping to amplify Gazans’ voices and build relationships between Gazans and people from countries around the world.”
She also began getting involved with the Gaza Youth Committee, an eleven-year-old organization that works towards peace. The article recounted how its founder, Rami Aman, had been jailed for hosting a bike ride with Gazans and Israelis on opposite sides of the fence. Another one of their ongoing initiatives, “Skype with your enemy,” brought Gazans and Israelis together for conversations. After a particularly large call in Spring 2020, Aman, Al-Sharif and others were arrested and put into jail. While she was released after three months, others were there for six. This was not the first time Hamas had arrested her. Not was it the only time Hamas has arrested dissenters.
Hamas later deported Al-Sharif back to Egypt.
Two things about this article struck me. The first is that the business magazine Forbes published this – and as part of a larger series. Completely unexpected. And completely welcome. Previous articles are:
- Israeli And Palestinian Women: The Only Way Forward Is Together (Manar Al-Sharif is the only person in Gaza featured in this list)
- Lama Abuarquob, Palestinian Activist, On Israel/Palestine: Hope Land Will Be For Everybody
- Ashager Araro, Israeli Activist, On Israel/Palestine: ‘The Best Way For Us To Move Forward Is To Listen To Each Other’
- Arab Israeli Educator On Israel/Palestine: We Must Invest In Our Community Inside Israel
- Her Son Was Killed By A Palestinian Sniper. Now, This Israeli Activist Works For Change In Israel/Palestine.
- She’s Suffered Under The Israeli Occupation. But Rana Salman, A Palestinian Activist, Fights For A Better Future For Both Palestinians And Israelis.
- Her Grandparents Helped Pioneer The State Of Israel. Now, Tami Hay-Sagiv Is Working To Create A Better Future For Israelis And Palestinians.
- Her Six-Month-Old Son Died Because Of Israeli Soldiers. Why This Palestinian Mother Chose Peace Over Revenge.
- How Israel Shaped Ruth Mayer And Her Hope For Her Homeland’s Future
The other thing is that Hamas is being publicly condemned for its oppression. This is a rarity. Normally, their actions are ignored or excused. I see this especially with people who purport to want justice for Palestinians. They have no problem condemning Israel but in the same breath dismiss Hamas activity, as if it doesn’t matter. It does. The obstacle to peace and the actual danger they present are both very real.
Never mind that in 2014 the Palestinian Independent Commission on Human Rights itself charged that the PA and Hamas were guilty of oppression or that in 2018, Human Rights Watch said the same or in 2021, multiple Palestinian news sites reported on Hamas’ oppressive tactics.
I struggle to find any of this in English language mainstream media.
I would posit (and I have, in a blog about picking a cause instead of a side) that they are the largest obstacle to moving forward.
I can only hope that Manar Al-Sharif, Rami Aman and any other Gazan involved with trying to work towards peace are able to remain vocal, active…and safe.