by Yassine Channouf
There is an ancient Greek saying which goes: 'if everyone agrees on one thing, then nobody has really been thinking'. In the case of Hamas' relation to Western media coverage, we really need another Renaissance in Europe. The Palestinian movement Hamas only appears in Western coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict on two occasions; when Israel has pin-pointed and surgically neutralized a Hamas terrorist commander with some minor collateral damage. In plain English this becomes: Israel has yet again murdered a Hamas commander in an illegal act of extrajudicial killing causing the death of several innocent civilian bystanders; or Hamas will receive extended attention when they appear to have applied -let us be honest- a foolish ruling regarding the morals of public life in the Gaza strip. In past weeks Hamas has inexplicably forbidden the smoking of the shisha by women in public places, and has forbidden the usage of bras on plastic dolls. A couple of months ago Hamas issued a ruling which implied that all female lawyers should wear a head scarf whenever they entered court.
These are all foolish rulings which do not fall under the qualification of a resistance movement. But let us pierce the cliches surrounding Hamas and let us consider the environment in which Hamas operates. This mode is generally used to describe strange decisions by different actors in the political world, but in the case of Hamas this need not be done, since our prejudice leads us to conclude that Hamas is de facto an extremist Islamist group, or a terrorist one, which does not fall within the category 'logic'.
The Gaza-strip can only be defined as the largest open air prison in contemporary history. There is no influx of goods, except for those rare commodities Israel allows in. These do not include coriander, soda, soap, shoes, cement, etc. If you ask yourself what Israel allows in, it is a riddle to all of us. Likewise, Gazans do not export anything, except those rare individuals that are close to death, whom on rare occasions are allowed into Israel or Egypt. The entire economy is being strangulated by a blockade that extends its tentacles to the air, see and ground. Egypt, Israels loyal ally since the late seventies is not free from culpability.
This environment is the perfect breeding ground and textbook precursor for Islamic extremism Saudi-style, which creeps more and more into Gaza. Last summer, Hamas fought an intense battle with one of these Islamo-lunatics in Rafah. A Salafi preacher, Abdellatif Musa, proclaimed the infidelity of Hamas, thus legitimizing according to his narrow view of Islam the usage of violence in order to overthrow the Hamas government and create an Islamic Emirate in Jerusalem and its surroundings. The incoherence of these Salafi groups have often been discussed, but their false logic is a sad byproduct of the inhuman catastrophe that is unfolding in front of our eyes, with our silent consent. Of course there will be extremist individuals capitalizing on this momentum of despair, and Saudi-sponsored Islam can be found wherever there is frustration, oppression and intolerance.
Hamas is aware of this, and in order not to reengage in armed conflict with these destructive elements -no doubt an occurrence benefiting Israel- Hamas is trying to show that it is also capable of imposing 'Saudi-style' morality in the Strip, albeit with the limited impact of checking the power of their extreme rivals. An apt way of doing this is yielding to some minor changes, such as the prohibiting of lingerie in windows, and worse, the banning of shisha for women in public places. Seeing the precarious position of Hamas within Gaza, it has to take drastic steps in order to avoid a civil war, one which would pit brother against brother. And if Hamas is really earnest in enforcing such foolish measures, it is digging its own grave concerning their claim of being a resistance organization.
But the bottom point is this: no blockade of Gaza means no disillusionment. No disillusionment means less despair. Less despair means a more open and tolerant environment, one which Palestinian society has exhibited throughout her rich and diverse history.