Sunday, March 24, 2019

In Gaza, Hamas Beats and Tortures Those Who Protest Its Misrule (Part One) - Hugh Fitzgerald

by Hugh Fitzgerald

“The crackdown on freedom of expression and the use of torture in Gaza has reached alarming new levels,” said Amnesty’s Middle East deputy director Saleh Higazi….

Hugh Fitzgerald: In Gaza, Hamas Beats and Tortures Those Who Protest Its Misrule (Part One)

In Gaza, it is not Israel, but Hamas that is the great oppressor of the local Arabs. That became clear in mid-March, with spontaneous protests against Hamas erupting all over Gaza.

The story is here:

Hamas is facing the biggest demonstrations yet against its 12-year rule of the Gaza Strip, with hundreds of Palestinians taking to the streets in recent days to protest the dire living conditions in the blockaded territory.
With little tolerance for dissent, the Islamic militant group has responded with heavy-handed tactics. It has arrested dozens of protesters, beaten activists and violently suppressed attempts by local media to cover the unrest….
“There is no political agenda at all,” said Amin Abed, 30, an organizer who has been forced into hiding. “We simply want to live in dignity,” he said by telephone. “We just ask Hamas to ease the economic hardships and tax burdens.”…
Unemployment is over 50 percent and much higher for young university graduates like Abed. Tap water is undrinkable, electricity is limited and travel abroad severely restricted. Hamas’ cash-strapped government recently raised taxes on basic goods like bread, beans and cigarettes.
Protesters accuse Hamas of corruption and imposing the hefty taxes to enrich itself. They used social media to organize protests last week with the slogan “We want to live!”…
“These protests were the largest, the longest and the most violent in terms of Hamas’ suppression,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, political science professor at Gaza’s al-Azhar University….
On Monday, Amnesty International reported that hundreds of protesters have been beaten, arbitrarily arrested, tortured and subjected to ill-treatment. Journalists and human rights workers, including a researcher for the London-based organization, were also roughed up, Amnesty said.
“The crackdown on freedom of expression and the use of torture in Gaza has reached alarming new levels,” said Amnesty’s Middle East deputy director Saleh Higazi….
Other amateur videos have shown protesters burning tires and hurling stones toward Hamas forces. Hamas gunmen can be seen jumping out of vehicles and beating people with clubs. Other videos show Hamas going door to door and carrying out mass arrests….
The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists reported Monday that 42 Palestinian journalists “were targeted” by Hamas forces in the past five days. The abuses included physical assaults, summons, threats, home arrests and seizure of equipment….
Abed, the protest leader, said Hamas has stormed his family’s house and delivered an arrest warrant for him to his father.
“Hamas doesn’t want us to scream. It wants us to die in silence,” he said.
In Gaza, people are visibly fed up with those who have made their lives increasingly miserable. By this they do not mean Israel, but Hamas, which ever since it seized power in 2007, has pushed the Gazan Arabs into poverty, through its mismanagement of the economy, misallocation of resources to its leaders, and staggering corruption. While the Gazan Arabs suffer increasing poverty, and 70% of young Gazans are unemployed, the leaders in Hamas are thriving; some of its leaders have amassed millions and live in seaside villas; two men who have been leaders in Hamas, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa Abu Marzouk, have each managed to  accumulate the astonishing sum of several billion dollars.

In March, this discontent with Hamas erupted in dozens of protests all over Gaza. The Gazans shouted out their fury over their economic situation, the higher prices on basic foodstuffs, the higher taxes, and the much higher levels of unemployment that they are forced to endure. They threw rocks at Hamas men, they set tires on fire in the streets. They were calling for their Hamas rulers to roll back increases in taxes and higher prices on goods, and to present a plan to end Gaza’s sky-high unemployment.

Hamas responded with great violence, rounding up more than 1,000 protesters, beating and in some cases torturing them. One spokesman for Fatah, which as the military wing of the Palestinian Authority, is the enemy of Hamas, had both his arms and both his legs broken by Hamas fighters, in a warning to other Fatah men. Hamas has charged the Palestinian Authority and Israel with collaborating to foment these protests; no evidence has been presented for this claim, and every report from Gaza makes clear that these protests have not been organized, but are spontaneous in nature: unplanned eruptions of anger at an unbearable economic situation. Israel has not had a presence in Gaza since 2005, and has done nothing, from outside, to foment Gazan discontent with Hamas which would likely only backfire, as a Zionist attempt to sow discord among Muslims. While both Israel and the Palestinian Authority would no doubt like to see Hamas’s rule over Gaza come to an end, this uprising was not their doing.

Hugh Fitzgerald


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