On March 23, 2014 Hamas held a rally in Gaza under the heading "Perseverance and Loyalty to the Martyr's Path," marking a decade after the death of the movement's founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, and commemorating other slain Hamas leaders, such as 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Rantisi and Ibrahim Al-Maqadma. The rally was viewed by Hamas as a show of force demonstrating that it has retained its popularity among the Gazans. Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad said that the rally was a referendum on the resistance, which would destroy the Zionist entity within a few years. The chief spokesman at the rally was Isma'il Haniya, Hamas' prime minister in Gaza and the movement's political bureau chief, who criticized the Palestinian Authority (PA) and called for liberating Palestine via resistance and martyrdom. Haniya's remarks provoked criticism from Fatah, which accused Hamas of aggravating the Palestinian schism and undermining Palestinian interests. Criticism was also heard from Tunisian journalist Amal Moussa, who condemned Haniya's statement that "the Palestinian people loved death just as its enemies loved life."
Below are the main points of Haniya's remarks and the criticism they provoked.
Isma'il Haniya: We Love Death As Much As Our Enemies Love Life
Haniya said at the rally: "The siege imposed on Gaza is intended to compel the Hamas movement to abandon its principles and resistance... The masses attending [this] rally constitute a practical response to this, and a symbolic vote [confirming] that all of Gaza is resistance...
"To all those who have plotted against us we say, 'think again.' This language and these methods will not avail [you] against us. If you have decided on a siege, we have resolved on victory... All decision-makers, in Palestine and outside it, must absorb this rally's message: We are truly a people who love death as much as our enemies love life. We love martyrdom, whose path our leaders followed in death, as much as others love their government posts. We do not demand jobs or [government] posts. [You can] take all the jobs and all the posts and leave us the homeland."
Haniya called to formulate a joint national strategy "and enlist all means of power, primarily armed resistance, and all categories of struggle... The Al-Qassam Brigades have launched a new strategy in the confrontation with the Israeli occupation by means of the tunnels. The mujahideen are attacking the Israeli occupation above and below ground to remove it from Palestine's soil."
Addressing Israel Haniya said: "The resistance conceals more than you can imagine. The occupation will pay dearly for any aggression or foolish measure it takes. Oh Zionists, you still have Yassin's blood on your hands... We ejected you from Gaza in the days when we had limited weaponry and when you oppressed us in the solitary confinement cells of the Saraya [compound] in Gaza [once the seat of the Israeli prison, and the site of the rally]. Today we are stronger. We have developed the resistance and it has redoubled its strength."
Referring to the recent clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli military in the Jenin refugee camp, in which three Palestinians were killed, Haniya said: "Self-sacrifice and resistance are the way to liberate Palestinian soil and restore Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa... From amongst the ruins, we will set off an earthquake in Tel Aviv."
During Haniya's speech the public address announcer stirred up the crowd with the chant "oh beloved Qassam [rocket], strike Tel Aviv."
The rally (images: alray.ps, March 23, 2014)
Boy at the rally (image: alresalah.ps, March 23, 2014)
Isma'il Haniya speaking at the rally (image: alray.ps, March 23, 2014)
Fatah spokesperson Osama Al-Qawasmeh sharply criticized the speech and claimed that it sought to foment chaos in Palestinian society in order to impose Hamas's rule upon the devastated Palestinian people and their state. He said that Hamas has "proved once again that it targets the Palestinian brethren and Palestinian society more than it seeks to harm the occupation," and that it wishes to perpetuate the inter-Palestinian rift.
Tunisian Journalist: Haniya's Remarks About Lusting For Death Do Not Represent The Palestinians
Tunisian journalist Dr. Amal Moussa harshly criticized Haniya's statements about loving death and martyrdom. In her column in the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, she wrote that these statements are part of a language and culture that has caused much bloodshed and vast sorrow to Palestinians and Arabs, and that talk about lusting for death is tantamount to "death itself."
Moussa analyzed Haniya's statements from a number of aspects. She argued that, from a psychological point of view, lusting for death stems from "an erroneous defense strategy", because, while the remarks seem to convey self-confidence, "they actually indicate a condition of despair and frustration. Talking openly of lusting for death is a symbolic act of suicide," she added.
From a cultural-religious aspect, she said, Haniya's words betray an erroneous understanding of Islam, because "the concept jihad [is anchored] in [specific] temporal and historical contexts." And on the practical level, the statements harm Islam in world public opinion, since "language that becomes an ideology laden with violence helps to stir up conflicts with Israel and allows Israel [to present] evidence against us and against the Arab and Islamic culture. To what extent can Isma'il Haniya serve as the Palestinian people's spokesperson when he speaks so loudly about his love for death? Does this mean that [all] Palestinians are death lovers? I believe that the Palestinian people, just like all the world's peoples, loves life, for if it didn't, there would be no reason for any struggle or negotiations... The discourse of love of death is [tantamount to] death itself."
From a political aspect, Moussa said, this discourse reflects the sorry state of the Hamas movement : "Usually, those who embrace such discourse are in a state of isolation and siege, and this is [indeed] Hamas' condition... particularly since the crisis that has struck the Muslim Brotherhood movement. It is irresponsible for a politician to deliver a speech so emotional, defeatist and weak in content and message. A politician is [supposed to] offer solutions and surprise his people and his supporters with his composure and political sagacity, rather than proudly write about the [Hamas leaders'] death and martyrdom. In fact, on the anniversary of the assassinations of several Hamas leaders, more than on any other day, there is a need to declare a love for life and the future, instead of marking the assassinations with a speech [celebrating] the love of death."
Amal Moussa wrote in conclusion that Haniya would have scored a major achievement had he declared, "we love life more than our enemy loves it."
 Felesteen.ps, March 23, 2014.
 Felesteen.ps, Al-Aqsa TV (Gaza), March 23, 2014.
 See MEMRI clip no. 4211, "Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza Commemorate Slain Leaders with Militant Parades," March 23, 2014.
 Paltimes.net, March 24, 2014.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, (London), March 28, 2014.