"We want to live!" What recent protests reveal about Gazan politics
“We want to live”! A powerful cry emanates from the people of Gaza, brutally suppressed by the ruthless terror group that is Hamas. Amid the rising cost of living, economic deprivation and appalling living standards, it is of little surprise that Gazans have turned out in their thousands in the strip’s largest protest in recent years. The totalitarian regime’s brutality was demonstrated in their response, by open firing on unarmed protestors, chasing people into their homes and arresting innocent demonstrators. What does this latest clash reveal about the state of the ruling Hamas regime?
Sporadic protests against Hamas rule have occurred ever since the militant group established rule over Gaza in 2007, winning a fierce civil war against Fatah, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority, at the expense of hundreds of civilian lives just over two years after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the strip. The consequences of Hamas’s corruption and misrule are felt daily by the people of Gaza. Tap water is undrinkable, electricity is scarcely available, people face rolling blackouts and nearly half the population live in poverty. Recent tax rises on imports and cigarettes have merely reignited economic frustration that has been building up for many years. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, unemployment in Gaza reached 52% in 2018, an increase of more than 20% since Hamas gained control of Gaza in 2007. Women’s unemployment stands at 74.5%. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the people of Gaza are crying out for change.
It is Hamas that must be held directly and individually responsible for the dire economic state of the Gaza strip. As the residents of Gaza endure dire standards of living and deprivation, their government, rather than investing in infrastructure, education and welfare in an attempt to drastically develop their economy, are intently focussed on financing their programme of terror against the State of Israel. Indeed, according to estimates by both Israeli and Palestinian sources, Hamas spends over $100 million per year on their military wing, approximately 20% of their annual budget. It is not unusual for governments to fund a military, particularly in such an unstable region as the Middle East. However, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades are a terrorist organisation. Indeed they have been proscribed as such by the UK since 2001. They spend millions of dollars, much of which is provided by the Iranian government, on financing rockets frequently fired indiscriminately into Israeli territory, on digging terror tunnels with the sole purpose of infiltrating into Israeli territory to kill Israeli civilians and on funding and rewarding Hamas terrorists who carry out acts of terror against Israeli citizens.
Particularly troubling, yet predictably unsurprising, has been the noticeable silence of the international community amid the brutal repression of Palestinian protestors peacefully demonstrating against Hamas’s oppression in Gaza. Despite damning footage surfacing on social media showing Hamas security forces viciously beating demonstrators with batons, indiscriminately shooting at protestors and arresting those attempting to cover Hamas’s quashing of the protests, there has been little condemnation of the terrorist regime. The failure of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Friends of Palestine and others to speak out for the people of Gaza at a time when they need them most speaks volumes to their motives. Seemingly, if Israel cannot be blamed, the welfare and security of Palestinians is no longer a priority.
It is in this vain that it was of little surprise to see Hamas attempt to shift the blame for the widespread protests onto Israel, with several members of the terrorist organisation accusing protestors of being agents of the Israeli state. One Hamas member went so far as to exclaim that Hamas riot police were “the unit to repress the tails of the Jews”. The failure of Hamas to accept the existence of the most sustained uprising against their tyrannical misrule since 2007 is extremely telling.
The brutality and ruthlessness of Hamas is epitomised by the lengths the terror group are prepared to go to shift responsibility away from themselves. With rhetoric alone failing to shift the blame onto Israel, Hamas launched a heavy-payload rocket against an Israeli community in Mishmeret, not far from Tel Aviv, intent on murdering innocent Israelis and provoking an Israeli response. Hamas specifically targeted a densely populated area likely outside the Iron Dome Defence System’s coverage zone, destroying a house and injuring many. Having failed to quell protests in Gaza with a violent crackdown, Hamas attempted to turn attention back onto Israel through what would be an entirely justified heavy Israeli response. Up to 30 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza in just a single day. It is Hamas’s utter disregard for both Israeli and Palestinian life that is so telling, targeting innocent Israelis and treating their own citizens as political pawns. Israel will do all they can to prevent civilian casualties throughout the region, but Hamas hopes they fail.
Hamas’s brutal repression of children, the elderly and journalists alike protesting against the violent regime has not stopped Gazans from standing up for a better life. Any attempt by Hamas to divert attention by attacking Israel should be internationally condemned without equivocation. The lives of Palestinians and Israelis matter, even if Hamas shows complete contempt for both.