September 10, 2014 Special Dispatch No. 5839

Following Gaza Executions, PA, Arabs Accuse Hamas Of Being Like ISIS

September 10, 2014
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 5839

On August 22, 2014, one day after Israel took out three senior commanders from Hamas' military wing, the movement publicly executed 18 Gaza residents who had been sentenced to death by special military tribunals for collaboration with Israel. Hamas dubbed the wave of executions "Operation Chokehold." The brutal and public nature of the executions evoked comparisons to the beheadings recently carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and caused Palestinian and Arab elements, as well as Israel, to accuse Hamas of being like ISIS. Although Hamas objected that the executions had been justified and intended to defend Palestinian security, one day later, on August 23, 2014, it ordered to halt them,[1] apparently in response to the comparisons to ISIS.[2]

Elements in the PA attacked the Hamas for performing the executions without due process and without consulting the PA. Since the individuals executed included Fatah members, Hamas was also accused – particularly after the fighting concluded – of persecuting Fatah members. Commentators speculated that the executions were intended to deter anti-Hamas unrest or protest by Gaza residents.

The following are excerpts from responses to the executions by PA and Fatah officials and columnists, as well as responses by Arab commentators and reactions by Hamas.

The August 22, 2014 Gaza executions (images: Al-Risala, Gaza, August 22, 2014)

Palestinian, Arab Elements: The Executions Were Reminiscent Of ISIS Atrocities

PA elements claimed that the public executions placed Hamas on the same level with ISIS. Senior Fatah official Tawfiq Al-Tirawi said, for example, that there was no difference between those who behead (i.e., ISIS) and those who execute by shooting (i.e., Hamas).[3] The secretary-general of the PA presidency, Al-Tayyib 'Abd Al-Rahim, compared Hamas' actions to the actions of takfiri organizations, hinting at ISIS.[4] The official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida cited legal experts who argued that the manner of the executions "harmed the resistance and the [Palestinian] people, and allowed hostile elements to exploit the executions and associate them with pictures [broadcast in the media] of actions by armed organizations in Iraq and Syria." The experts claimed further that the executions were at odds with the PA's declared intention to join the International Criminal Court.[5]

Similar criticism was heard outside the Palestinian arena as well. Moussa Barhouma, a Jordanian columnist for the Saudi London-based daily Al-Hayat wrote: " Hamas will forfeit much of its popular and national support if it continues to stupidly insist on executing anybody that it calls a 'spy', 'traitor' or 'agent'. The manner of execution was barbaric and resembled actions committed by ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and their ilk in the name of Islam, [actions] that Hamas condemns. Even if Hamas acted out of rage over [Israel's] killing of some of its commanders, this does not mean that it may violate human values, the requirements of the law, and the UN Declaration of Human Rights – [especially] if it genuinely wants to portray itself as the antithesis of Israeli barbarism, arrogance and violence.

"Anger does not warrant stupid behavior and killing people who may be innocent or [are merely] suspects, or may have been led astray, and so on. [Even if] they were really agents and traitors, and complicit in shedding the blood of innocents, destroying homes and wounding children and the aged, the law must still be obeyed. When masked men dole out revolutionary justice in the park of Al-Azhar University opposite the Al-'Omari mosque in Gaza city, this is [moral] degeneration that does not befit a resistance movement but rather a gang or faction that resembles the Mafia, arms dealers and money launderers in its mentality.

"What message does Hamas want to convey to the world? Is this Hamas' understanding of Islam? Is this tolerance and setting an example and a model [of Islam]? Is this the Islam of the Prophet Muhammad [?]…"[6]

Hamas' Response: We Are Not ISIS And We Condemn ISIS's Actions

Apparently perturbed by the comparison to ISIS, Hamas officials set out to defend the movement. Khaled Mash'al, Hamas' political bureau chief, said: "[Israeli PM Binyamin] Netanyahu's comparison between Hamas and 'extremist organizations' is a lie and an attempt to deceive public opinion. We are a liberation movement and not a violent organization."[7] In a press communiqué, senior Hamas official 'Izzat Al-Rishq said that Hamas condemned [ISIS's] barbaric execution of the American journalist James Foley, adding that Hamas was a national liberation movement and its men fight for liberty and to defend the Palestinian people and their rights."[8]

Attempting to justify the executions, a source in the Hamas security apparatus claimed that such security activity "is legally accepted by all the world's countries during battles and wars."[9] One of the special tribunals that had been formed to try the collaborators claimed that they had confessed to gathering intelligence on the movements of senior officials and fighters, their addresses and telephone numbers, and the location of missile launchers and tunnels, and that they had received espionage devices from the enemy and photographed sites, leading to damage and casualties.[10]

The Hamas organ Al-Risala cited positive responses to the executions by Gaza residents.[11] The website, which is close to Hamas, even published a communiqué by the Popular Resistance Committees expressing support for the executions: "Securing the internal front, defending the resistance rear on all levels, and pursuing anyone who attempts to create breaches though which the occupation [can harm us] are the most important factors behind the failure of the Zionist enemy and its intelligence apparatuses during the recent aggression against Gaza…"[12]

A Hamas-affiliated Facebook page posted the following poem and cartoon under the heading "Chokehold": "You [traitors] have sowed betrayal and reaped death, exile and [a noose] around your necks. You have sold your conscience and betrayed your people, and now we are punishing you severely. We are leading you like sheep to the slaughter. This is the reward of a traitor who cannot be trusted. The [serpent's] head is in Tel Aviv, and we shall chop if off, while our hammers crush its tails [the collaborators]."[13]

Some associated the collaborators with the PA and Fatah. For example, Hamas spokesman and Legislative Council member Mushir Al-Masri wrote on his Facebook account: "Whoever carries out security coordination with the occupation deserves [to share] the fate of the collaborators who were executed yesterday in Gaza." He claimed that the PA's position on the executions was "shameful, irresponsible and in contradiction to national values and the Palestinian street's support for the measure of executing collaborators."[14]

Arab Commentators: The Executions We Meant To Prevent Unrest Within Gaza

Several Arab commentators speculated that the Hamas executions were intended to intimidate the Gazans in order to prevent anti-Hamas unrest and criticism of its war with Israel. Lebanese journalist Khairallah Khairallah, the former editor of the London-based daily Al-Hayat and a columnist for the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai, wrote: "[The executions] were part of an attempt to sow fear in the Gaza Strip. Gazans were beginning to grow restless and question the missiles fired from Gaza and Hamas' conduct, [asking]: 'Will these missiles cause the siege to be lifted, or will they cause homes to be destroyed over the heads of civilians just so Hamas can remain in power? What is more important, the civilians' homes and lives or Hamas remaining in power?'"[15]

Former Kuwaiti information minister Sami Al-Nisf wrote in his column in the daily Al-Anba: "The public execution of 18 young Palestinians was intended to intimidate people in the Strip so that no one would [dare] complain or rebel… It was intended to prevent anyone from questioning the nature of the victory and what it means in [the context of] the attack on Gaza, when the number of Israeli dead is 50 and the number of Palestinian victims is 2,100…"[16]

PA, Fatah: The Executions Were Cold-Blooded, Illegal; Hamas Persecuted Our People During The War

'Abbas: Even Collaborators Deserve Due Process

Senior PA officials condemned the manner in which the executions were carried out. PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas, who, under Palestinian law, must approve all death sentences, referred to the executions only after the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians had been attained. In an August 28, 2014 television interview, he said: "Hamas tried and executed [the suspected collaborators] on its own without consulting anyone, and the [Palestinian] Authority let it go and remained silent because the entire country was in danger." He expressed opposition to executing people in the streets, and said that if a collaborator was apprehended he must be tried, and executed only if this was legally warranted."[17]

One of the few to criticize the executions during the fighting itself was the secretary-general of the PA presidency, Al-Tayyib 'Abd Al-Rahim, who called them illegal, despicable and unacceptable, and added that Hamas had aimed its weapons at the PA: "The executions were carried out for dubious reasons, illegally and without court [procedures] guaranteeing fair trials. Therefore, they are unacceptable to our people, which condemns them… These executions were carried out in cold blood based on Hamas law, which states that whoever is not with [Hamas] is against it. Hamas' provocative actions prove that it acts as an authority within an authority and that it is insincere regarding the [intra-Palestinian] reconciliation and its commitments to the national consent government, which alone has the right to rule over all parts of the homeland… Hamas dared to shoot in the legs many [Fatah members] who demanded that it agree to a calm [tahdiya], and also placed many [Fatah members] in the [Gaza] strip under house arrest.

"Therefore I implore the civil society organizations, the legal institutions and those dealing with human rights in the [Palestinian] homeland and particularly Gaza not to remain silent but to condemn these actions and activities that harm our steadfast people and families. This, in order to preserve the [Palestinian] social fabric and national cohesion."[18]

Fatah: The Individuals Executed Included Fatah Members

Though Hamas did not publish the names of those executed under the pretext of protecting their families, they are known to include Fatah members. It has been suggested that they were innocent and that Hamas used the opportunity to get rid of them. However, only after the ceasefire did any Fatah official explicitly accuse Hamas of executing members. In a September 1, 2014 television interview, Fatah official Tawfiq Al-Tirawi said that those executed had been former officers in the PA security apparatus.[19]

The Gaza-based Tamarrud movement, which seeks to topple the Hamas regime there, published an alleged Hamas document in which Hamas' Internal Security chief in Gaza, Abu 'Abdallah, instructs his deputy, Abu Khaled, to execute "security prisoners" (i.e., collaborators) and adds: "It is permissible to add to them criminal prisoners from the Fatah movement who are suspected of morality transgressions."[20] 'Omar Al-Ghoul, who was an advisor to former PA prime minister Salam Fayyad, said that these instructions by Abu 'Abdallah showed that Hamas had taken the law into its own hands.[21]

Alleged Hamas document permitting to execute Fatah prisoners (, August 24, 2014)

Following the executions, accusations regarding Hamas' persecution and attacks on Fatah members in Gaza increased, and Fatah members charged 'Abbas to establish a committee to investigate the matter.[22] The spokesman of the West Bank security apparatuses, 'Adnan Al-Damiri, reported that Hamas had fired on Fatah members during the war and that ten of them were hospitalized.[23] The Fatah Central Committee pointed to "crimes by the armed Hamas militias" against Fatah members in Gaza, claiming that Hamas had shot dozens of Fatah members in the legs, and act which revealed their disinterest in national unity.[24]

A pre-ceasefire editorial in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida said: "Some 'resistance fighters' began persecuting their blood brothers, who share their religion, homeland, struggle and fate, and all this under [the Israeli] shelling, just because they were from the Fatah movement. One of them had eight bullets pumped into his body from the gun of a 'resistance fighter,' and now he is hospitalized in the Jordanian capital of Amman. Will such violent acts, which we [prefer] not to describe right now, help defeat the Israeli aggression [?!]…"[25]

In response, Hamas Political Bureau deputy head Moussa Abu Marzouq denied that Fatah members had been persecuted, clarifying that a few suspects were merely placed under house arrest.[26]

A fitting summary is provided by former PA minister Ziad Abu Zayyad, who made several observations regarding the August 22 executions and about executions of collaborators in general.

He argued that, while the Palestinian man in the street approved of the execution of collaborators because they hurt the Palestinians, legally executions were problematic because they could not be reversed if the victim turned out to be innocent. He also claimed that the attitude towards collaborators over the years had been mistaken, because it allowed any person who sought revenge on another to accomplish this by accusing him of collaboration.

Abu Zayyad also pointed out that Hamas' enemies often managed to recruit collaborators close to the organization's innermost circles, such as the son of Hamas official Hassan Yusuf, or a woman who was close to a Hamas official and who was executed recently by another organization, and even former Hamas movement spokesperson Ayman Taha, who was also killed recently, apparently for collaboration or perhaps just in order to silence him. He implied that the information leading to Israel's killing of the three Al-Qassam commanders had been supplied by senior collaborators like these, not by the individuals who had actually been executed. Therefore, he said, Hamas should focus on finding these prominent collaborators instead of executing small fry. He speculated that Hamas may have executed the small fry in order to cover up its failure to find the real culprits, or perhaps "in order to settle accounts with somebody." This made it difficult to assess whether the people executed had been guilty, though one could not automatically assume they had been innocent, either, he said.

Finally, Abu-Zayyad mentioned that Hamas recently persecuted Fatah members in Gaza, disarmed them, beat them savagely and even shot them, including Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade spokesman Farouq Al-Adgham, who is now hospitalized in critical condition. This, he said, cast further doubt on the nature of the recent executions.[27]




[1] Al-Hayat (London), August 23, 2014;, August 25, 2014.

[2], August 23, 2014; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 24, 2014.

[3] Al-Awda TV (PA), September 1, 2014.

[4] August 23, 2014.

[5] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA) August 27, 2014.

[6] Al-Hayat (London), August 27, 2014.

[7], August 23, 2014.

[8], August 22, 2014.

[9] Al-Risala (Gaza);, August 22, 2014; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London); August 23, 2014.

[10], August 22, 2014.

[11] Al-Risala (Gaza), August 22, 2014.

[12], August 23, 2014.

[13]\paldf, August 24, 2014

[14], August 24, 2014.

[15] August 25, 2014.

[16] Al-Anba (Kuwait), September 3, 2014.

[17] Al-Risala (Gaza), August 28, 2014.

[18] August 23, 2014.

[19] Al-Awda TV (PA), September 1, 2014.

[20], August 24, 2014.

[21] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), September 8, 2014.

[22], August 19, 2014;, August 23, 2014.

[23] August 19, 2014.

[24], August 30, 2014;, August 31, 2014.

[25] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), August 24, 2014.

[26], September 1, 2014.

[27] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), August 24, 2014.

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