Hamas’s focus on power does not serve the Palestinians
There are 2 million angry, frustrated, humiliated and poverty-stricken Palestinians living in dire conditions in Gaza. These people, who have been oppressed and isolated from the outside world for 12 years, live in a narrow 360 sq.km strip of land without significant natural resources and besieged by Israel from all sides.
Israel is in full control of the Gaza Strip and its border crossings, as well as its economic resources and infrastructure. In addition, the Gaza Strip is under the unilateral and exclusionary authority of Hamas movement, which took over power by force in 2007 following the legislative elections of 2006, with no success in its struggle against Israel and failing to establish better governance than Fatah for the West Bank.
Despite this, Hamas has taken a harsh stand against all forms of popular protests by questioning the moves of the opposition and responding with violence and total disrespect for people’s dignity.
This was illustrated by its recent handling of the protests led by young Gazans voicing dissatisfaction with their living conditions after the increase in food prices because of heavy taxes imposed by Hamas.
Hamas claims it took the decision because of a decrease in its external financial resources but it is aware of the poor living conditions of the people and the high rate of unemployment because of the Israeli siege and three devastating wars that cost many Palestinian lives.
What is happening in Gaza is worrisome and dangerous. It poses numerous issues.
The first issue is the weakened role of national movements that can distinguish between liberation and freedom as values or value land more than humans.
A second has to do with Hamas’s practices that reinforce the impression that the movement has simply used democracy and elections as a tactic to seek power and not to practice democracy as a political system.
Third, governments that take power by force are always ready to use force and violence against their people to stay in power.
Fourth, this situation proves that Hamas has relinquished its role as a nationalist militant movement to become a power-seeking movement. The same can be said about Fatah in the West Bank.
Fifth, this change meant that Hamas is not concerned with the social and economic development of Palestinians and the building of strong and dynamic institutions that can face the Israeli threat. Its objective is only focused on power.
Sixth, what is happening in Gaza proves that Hamas has been incapable of achieving better results compared to Fatah in the West Bank, especially in the area of democratisation and people empowerment.
Seventh, the claims by Hamas that Fatah has not been cooperative in security matters cannot justify its violent repression of legitimate popular movements in Gaza. On the contrary, Hamas should have accepted and supported such actions as a sign of strength and social dynamism that can be used in the Palestinian struggle against Israel in Gaza and in the West Bank.
Several conclusions can be made based on the recent events in Gaza, the most important of which are the following:
First, the Palestinian people are in the hands of political powers rather than liberation and resistance movements fighting occupation. These movements have become a heavy burden for the people instead of being supporting forces confronting occupation in Gaza as well as in the West Bank.
This reality must be changed by redirecting the political powers’ focus towards serving the people’s needs and expectations for better living conditions rather than serving their own ideologies and political ambitions. Fatah and Hamas both must regain their original nationalist foundations as liberation forces to help the people continue their resistance.
Second, Palestinians were much stronger, more liberated and more united against occupation before the establishment of a Palestinian government in Gaza and in the West Bank. The first intifada (1987-93) is a perfect example. The current situation is alarming and needs greater attention. We must work hard to change it.
Third, weakening the Palestinian society serves the occupation more than the Palestinian national movement and more than Fatah or Hamas. Palestinians have the right to criticise the government, including Hamas and Fatah. They are entitled to take to the streets and protest. They have the right to even call for the downfall of the governing powers when they are corrupt and dictatorial or when they fail to fulfil their mission towards the people, as long as protests and demonstrations are peaceful and organised.
Fourth, “resistance” will remain a mere slogan if people are not part of the equation and if people’s freedom of expression is denied and if their demands are not listened to. Resistance is carried out by people.
Resistance is a well-thought-out responsible effort. It must serve the national interest of the Palestinian people, not the interest of factions or external powers. It must work on weakening the enemy, not Palestinian society, making it easy prey for continued Israeli attacks.