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June 16, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9398

Lebanese Journalist: Palestinian Authority's Weakness, Hamas' Extremism Will Cause Palestinians To Lose Gains In World Public Opinion

June 16, 2021
Lebanon, Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 9398

In his June 2, 2021 column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, titled "The Missing Link in Palestinian National Action," Lebanese journalist Hazem Saghiya questioned the Palestinians' ability to take advantage of the global sympathy they gained following the recent round of fighting with Israel. The problem, he explained, is that no element in the Palestinian arena is able to dialogue with the international community, for Fatah and the PA are too weak, while Hamas is too radical and does not share the world's values. Although it often tries speak in terms that the world likes to hear, Hamas is actually an extremist Islamic force that oppresses the Gazans and can spark a civil war at any moment, said Saghiya, and added that the Palestinians deserved a better leadership.  


Hazem Saghiya (Source: Alarab.com)

The following are excerpts from Saghiya's article:[1]

"The immense accomplishment of the Palestinian cause – in the form of changes in world public opinion [regarding it] – is impressive and inspires optimism. Optimism not only regarding the Palestinian rights but regarding the fairness of the world we live in and its capacity for change. But this accomplishment requires there to be someone in the Palestinian arena who can  capitalize on it, react to it, understand the aspect of fairness and anti-racism within it and build on it.

"Is there any such element in the Palestinian [arena]?

"Although Hamas leaders used to speak on the European and American media in terms 'that the West likes to hear,' on Sunday [May 30, 2021] Hamas held a rally in northern Gaza titled 'Honoring the Families of the Martyrs,' in which the speaker was Fathi Hammad, a member of Hamas' political bureau and its interior minister in 2009-2014. Hammad spoke in terms that 'we [Arabs] apparently like to hear.' He said that the [recent Gaza] war began predominantly a religious war, and that the only thing he had for the Zionists was the sword.[2] The word ['sword']   was accompanied by a slight but precise gesture of passing his finger across his throat… He stressed the treachery of the 'Jews' and then swallowed his tongue and started using the word 'Zionists.' The local news agencies omitted his reference to the Jews, but this man has a record of brutal antisemitism: In a 2019 speech he called to 'kill the Jews everywhere,' although he soon took back his words and Hamas renounced them as well.[3]  The satellite channel Hammad founded, Al-Aqsa TV, is incapable of speaking even to Islamic [organizations] other than Hamas, such as the [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad, not to mention speaking to global public opinion. His record as interior minister is replete with 'accomplishments'… Here are some of them:

"–There was an remarkable increase in  violations and attacks against journalists in Gaza at the time.

"–In 2009, a ban on young women riding bicycles behind men and a ban on women dancing.

"–In 2010, women were forbidden to smoke hookahs in public, in order to 'end the steady rise in divorce cases.' Women were also forbidden to have their hair styled by a male hairdresser, on pain of imprisonment. Widespread protest thwarted [this] plan by Hamas, [but] there was [nevertheless] brutal pressure on hairdressers to refrain from [serving women], and… many women's hair and beauty salons were bombed. The same year, the security apparatuses shut down a hip hop party one night, on the pretext that its organizers had not obtained a license. After [Hamas] accused UNRWA of teaching schoolgirls 'physical fitness, dancing and licentiousness,' an UNRWA summer camp was attacked: [its] large plastic tents were torn and its storage units burned down. The head of UNRWA in Gaza called this 'an attack on children's happiness,' while human rights activists added that Hamas was 'increasing its efforts to impose strict Islamic norms in Gaza.' One of Gaza's recreational parks, Crazy Water Park, was closed for allowing [men and women] to swim together, and was later torched by 'anonymous' armed groups.   

"–In 2013, UNRWA canceled its annual Gaza marathon after Hamas officially banned women from participating in it. The Arab Idol competition was branded contrary to Islamic moral norms and as 'a crime against our national cause.' 

"–In late 2014, Fatah personally blamed Fathi Hammad of being behind the bombing of homes of its officials in Gaza.

"These incidents and others caused people to compare Hamas' rule in Gaza to that of the Taliban in Afghanistan, because it kept Gazans from enjoying themselves. Some suspected Hammad of having ties to ISIS in Sinai.

"Therefore, statements uttered on Western media [in language] that 'the West likes to hear' are not reliable, and cannot liberate the Gazans from a jailor [i.e., Hamas] who is no less cruel than any occupier, and who can spark a civil war at any moment, the likes of which [even] the occupier cannot spark. What is [true] is that Hammad and his ilk are not elements who can speak to world public opinion and who share [the world's]  values. They are elements who attack the Palestinian public and who threaten its beautiful values and its women, academics, journalists and middle class – anyone who does not share their political opinion and anyone who yearns and longs for a measure of freedom.  

"This is the large [problem] facing by Palestinian national action, which has caused every [achievement] to slip though its fingers. What makes the disaster worse is that Fatah and its [Palestinian] Authority have been completely powerless, and that their future recovery depends solely on external elements giving them a shot in the arm. That is, we are again faced with two sides: a governor [i.e., PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas] who loves talking [but is] slow and helpless, and a [Hamas] extremist who has nothing [to offer] his people but the whip, [extremist] ideology and a large prison. The more senior of the two [i.e., 'Abbas] congratulated Bashar Al-Assad on his 'reelection' as Syria's president, while the other thanked [Assad] for his support.

"This is the missing link, [the gap] between the global changes [regarding the Palestinian cause]  and [Palestinian] performance that can respond to [these changes]. The big question is addressed to the [Palestinian] people, who deserve much more than their leaders and spokespersons can [give them]."    

 

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