December 31, 2015 Special Dispatch No. 6250

Gazans Slam Hamas Decision To Ban New Year Celebrations

December 31, 2015
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 6250

On December 30, 2015, Hamas' police force announced a ban on holding New Year celebrations in restaurants, hotels and cafes in the Gaza Strip. Police spokesman Ayman al-Batniji explained that the ban was "meant to minimize as far as possible phenomena that contravene the heritage, customs, values and directives of Islam" and also to demonstrate solidarity with the martyrs of the "Al-Quds intifada" by avoiding celebrations. He condemned those who "are planning new year celebrations at a time when the Palestinian people are enduring hardship, a suffocating siege, and the death of martyrs in the intifada."[1]

Gaza restaurateurs expressed displeasure at the ban due to the financial loss it will cause them, especially considering that Hamas recently raised taxes on restaurants.[2] The ban also evoked harsh criticism from Gaza residents, who voiced their complaints on social media, and also from public figures, such as a member of the Palestinian People's Party who advised the Hamas members to put aside their cars and start riding donkeys instead.  

The following are examples of criticism leveled at Hamas for this decision.

In a post on his Facebook page, human rights activist Mustafa Ibrahim accused Hamas of hypocrisy and of disregarding the wishes of the Gaza residents: "Hamas has a new surprise for us every day, and at the end of the year it insists on a new addition to its bad human rights record. Seeking anything that can harm it and us, it cleaves to its customs and heritage which it is trying to impose and to realize in the name of religion, and  attacks the public's freedoms. To the West it says, 'we are a moderate Islamic movement,' while in the domestic arena, it tries to tell many of its members that it governs [the Gaza Strip] based on religious Islamic law, rather than state law, and that, it if could, it might [even] implement the Koranic punishments... Its claim [that it has banned new year celebrations due to] the siege and the martyrs is not true. Hamas is the last one who should talk about the siege. It is the one that is preoccupied with appearances and arrogance and giving no weight to the siege [itself, only] to cries for help. All our lives we have been sacrificing martyrs but [also] celebrating. [Besides], how many celebrants [are we talking about]? Hearing about Hamas' decision [to ban the celebrations], one might think that tens of thousands celebrate [this occasion in Gaza]. By the way, celebrating the new year is not a religious matter, but a global human tradition. It's as though we are not part of the world, or as though we have lost our humanity."[3]

Mustafa Ibrahim's post

Ibrahim's post evoked many responses on his Facebook page. A reader called Mohamed Weshah wrote: "You are absolutely right. Islam has become a [smoke]screen used to justify positions."[4] Another reader, 'Adnan Al-Laham from Egypt, wrote: "Brother, celebrate international heritage as you wish, but stop this exaggerated [criticism of] Hamas. What [bad human rights] record are you talking about?" A third reader responded to Al-Laham's reply, saying: "We don't need the quibbles of someone who lives outside Gaza. Come to Gaza and see how we live under Hamas, and then you can talk."[5]

Responding to Ibrahim's post, some readers posted a photo showing Hamas officials, including Moussa Abu Marzouq, standing beside a Christmas tree and a figure of Santa Claus during their visit the Saint Porphyrios Church in Gaza last year (see below).[6]


In fact, many Palestinians posted this photo on social media to demonstrate the hypocrisy of  Hamas officials, who participated in New Year festivities yet now ban the public and the restaurateurs from celebrating. Posting on the Amad website, an individual named Yasser Al-Najjar asked sarcastically: "Is Santa Claus perhaps a member of the Muslim brotherhood?" Abu Ahmad Al-Dweik criticized the Hamas officials for visiting the church, writing that "it is prohibited to share in the Crusaders' festivities during their holidays, since they claim that Jesus was the son of God and participating in their holidays is an act of supporting their faith."[7]

Palestinian People's Party Member: Stop Making Society Resemble ISIS

Nafez Ghneim, a senior member of the Palestinian People's Party (PPP), accused Hamas of violating collective and individual liberties on the pretext of minimizing Western influence on the lives of Gaza residents, and added: "Why do some people describe certain human [customs] as a Western tradition that contravenes the tradition of [Muslim] society? If such is the case, they should get out of their cars and ride on a donkey, or smash their mobile phones and return to antiquated modes of communication. Also, they should not follow the West or imitate it in their dress. They should burn their suits and ties and return to robes and wooden clogs." He wondered further: "Aren't the insurance companies an imitation of the West? Isn't trading in cigarettes and levying taxes an imitation of the West? What about the tourist resorts that are managed and controlled by all those who govern the Gaza Strip...?

Nafez Ghneim and the PPP emblem

He added: "Modesty will be attained [only] when justice is attained, when the poor can earn their crust of bread in dignity, when people gain freedom of expression in the framework of modern law, and when all men are equal before the law. Only then will celebrations be sweet, whereas today the joy that everyone seeks is but an escape from a living hell, and despite this, [those who wish to celebrate] are being persecuted under the pretext that they are imitating the West and deviating from social traditions."

Ghneim urged the Gaza authorities to leave people in peace and stop molding society, bit by bit, in the image of ISIS. He urged them to seek ways to restore to the Gazans their dignified lives, and address the roots of the poverty, despair and frustration felt in every Gaza household."[8]




[1] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), December 31, 2015.

[2], December 29, 2015.

[3], December 30, 2015.

[4], December 30, 2015.

[5], December 30, 2015.

[6], January 8, 2015.

[7], December 30, 2015.

[8], December 31, 2015.

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