Brave Gazans Risk Their Lives To Speak Out Against Hamas Brutality

On August 11, 2023, Mike Fegelman, our Executive Director, was published in The National Post about how despite facing tremendous threats to stay quiet, Palestinians in Gaza have begun taking to the streets to protest against Hamas and the territory’s difficult living conditions.

Since taking over the Gaza Strip in a short but bloody conflict with its rival Fatah in 2007, Hamas has been the undisputed ruler of the small coastal enclave on the Mediterranean Sea.

Ever since the 2007 Battle of Gaza, Hamas has ruled the region and its population, today numbering around two-million Palestinians, brutally and with an iron fist.

Freedom of association and expression are severely curtailed, and limitations on women are particularly severe: in 2021, a Hamas judge ruled that women required a male escort in order to leave the house.

Most Palestinians living in Gaza suffer extreme economic hardships: more than 60 per cent of the population is unemployed, and about two-thirds live below the poverty line.

Rather than meaningfully addressing the population’s living standards, Gaza’s Hamas rulers have instead siphoned international aid to fund their lavish lifestyles.

Worse yet, Hamas has redirected limited resources to perpetuating war with Israel, firing rockets at the Jewish State, while building and maintaining an elaborate web of tunnels used for smuggling weapons into Gaza and carrying out terrorist attacks.

Now, it seems as though many Gazans have had enough. Despite the government’s brutal crackdown on dissent, in recent weeks, people have been increasingly airing their grievances in public.

On July 30, and again on Aug. 4, thousands of Gazans took to the streets to protest living conditions under Hamas rule. The protests are among the largest and most public of their kind since similar demonstrations in 2019.

Demonstrators were heard chanting, “We want to live,” and demanding accountability from Hamas for the territory’s horrific standards of living.

Unlike Israel, where citizens — Jews and Arabs alike — have the freedom to demonstrate against their government, Hamas accepts no such opposition. According to news reports, Hamas officials threatened protesters when they attempted to arrive at the rallies.

“Whenever two people were walking together, they were forbidden to stop on the street. After not even a minute, (security forces) would go up to them and tell them, ‘Get out of here or we will take you with us,” a source inside Gaza told the Times of Israel.

While anti-Israel detractors often claim that Israel is responsible for Gaza’s economic problems, such allegations overlook Israel’s absence from the area.

In 2005, Israel forcibly withdrew all its citizens from Gaza — soldier and civilian alike — in a painful process known as “disengagement.” Since then, despite repeated rocket attacks from Hamas and other Islamist terror groups operating out of the Strip, the Jewish state has never sought to re-seize the territory.

While Israel is often used as a punching bag and is blamed for all of Gaza’s ills by critics around the world, Palestinians in Gaza often have a far clearer view of who the true culprit is.

Despite facing tremendous threats to stay quiet and avoid criticizing the Hamas regime, Gazans have spoken out in protest, not just of Hamas’ economic mismanagement and graft, but of the group’s unabated conflict with Israel.

Yet doing so has been easier said than done. Earlier this year, a series of videos from Gaza shed light on Hamas’ disturbing but unsurprising practice of suppressing opposition to its rule, and to its anti-Israel priorities, in particular.

“If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war, and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor. It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war,” said a Gazan in one of the videos.

For a western audience, it may be difficult to fully appreciate the extent of Hamas’ oppression of its people, and consequently the significance and impact of people putting their safety at risk in order to speak out against the regime’s brutality.

Nevertheless, that is exactly what thousands of Gazans have done in recent weeks, and their actions demand coverage by the news media — not only because of the courageousness of the protesters, but because of the newsworthiness of their actions in their own right. Sunlight, after all, is the best disinfectant.

National Post

Mike Fegelman is the Executive Director of HonestReporting Canada, a non-profit organization ensuring fair and accurate Canadian media coverage of Israel.


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