In addition to governing by kidnapping and torture, Hamas controls hundreds of tunnels that admit goods through Egypt into Gaza. Hamas gives the best to its own and sells the rest at black market prices to Palestinian families, half of whom are unemployed. It steals international medical aid and sells it in its own pharmacies. Hamas even bulldozed the homes of nearly 200 families and stole their land to build an Islamic religious center, similar to the proposed 9/11 mosque in New York City.
Last year, the UN was forced to stop all aid to Gaza because Hamas stole blankets and food meant for my people. This summer, Hamas broke into the offices of nongovernment charities, including United Nations partner organizations, and shut them down, cutting off resources to 80 percent of Gaza’s residents.
When Hamas campaigned in 2005, one of its two planks was to clean up PA corruption, especially the gangster rule of Fatah strongman Mohammad Dahlan. But Hamas is just as corrupt as the PLO was under Yasser Arafat and his cronies and the PA is today under Mahmoud Abbas.
During an interview with a Middle Eastern journalist, Abu Mohammed, a secular businessman with close family ties to the old Fatah security services, said, “After the takeover, people thought it might get better if the religious guys were in charge of the money, that security would improve and corruption would end. But they’re just as corrupt. If you’re not in Hamas, you get nothing. If anyone does anything, they are arrested, tortured or killed. Just like with the Israelis. Except the Jews always give you a lawyer.”
Yet, in an interview September 27 with CNN’s Nic Robertson in Damascus, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal shamelessly told the world that, “Hamas’ strategy relies on reaching a way of determining our own destiny, taking back our land, defending our people against the occupation and the settlements and then working on establishing a true Palestinian state that will have true sovereignty.”
Is this how you defend your people? By destroying their homes to build your mosques? By stealing their international aid to line your pockets? By kidnapping and torture and forcing your religion on them? Is how you allow them to determine their own destiny?
When Meshaal is not blaming Israel for everything bad in Gaza, he blames the international community who he accused of “stand[ing] in silence and do[ing] nothing while the Palestinian people suffer, while they get killed, and they get oppressed.”
The Israelis have a word for that. It’s called chutzpah!
Hamas doesn’t get it. It cannot see what lies ahead if it continues along its present course.
For 14 centuries, the Arab world has been a major contributor to the world in mathematics, astronomy, medicine, architecture, horticulture, philosophy, art, music, literature. But Hamas, now that it has its opportunity to show the world how it can govern, is using Islamic sharia law to crush the life, soul and creativity out of the people who gave it their trust.
Women are forbidden to ride on motorcycles with men. Male hairdressers are not allowed to work in women’s salons. “Modesty patrols” check cars for men riding with unrelated single women. A female Palestinian journalist was arrested at the beach for laughing in public and not wearing a head covering. Female lawyers are banned from courtrooms, unless they wear a hijab. Hamas has shut down Internet cafes, movie theaters and bars where young people hang out, as well as a hotel and restaurant whose owners refused to enforce the new law against women smoking nagilas (water pipes).
One reporter from Abu Dhabi wrote that people in Gaza “seem to be losing any sense of hope and increasingly, according to social workers, smugglers and even the police, turning in massive numbers to cheap narcotic tablets smuggled through tunnels from Egypt. A sense of lethargy and hopelessness now pervades almost every aspect of life here.”
If a government oppresses its people, if it makes a big deal out of petty things like this, how can it work together with the community to resolve bigger issues of health, education and the future of the Palestinian people?
Hamas has become the Taliban of Gaza. Since its emergence in 1994, the Taliban battled Afghan warlords and the Afghan government to gain power. But when it finally attained its objective, it was unable to build any society. Its culture was non-culture. Its modus operandi was to oppress and destroy. Its GNP was drugs and terrorism.
Even under the best conditions, Gaza will remain a hot spot on the Mediterranean, like Somalia in the Horn of Africa. Sunni Islam filled the void created by the revolutions and counter-revolutions that plagued Somalia since the early 1990s. Last year, the Somali parliament approved sharia law nationwide. As a result, the Islamists will control the country beyond the foreseeable future. And they too will produce only fear, hatred and destruction.
My next blog posting will examine the key issues in the Middle East. And they are not the ones you read in the daily headlines.