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`The front line is none of your business`
Martin Lejeune

Gaza City, 1st August 2014

“Hamas is giving up a lot to defend its homeland` says Iyad, 23, Student of
economics at the Al-Azhar University in Gaza-City, Iyad is a supporter of
Fatah and his university is closely associated with the movement but, says
he, `all people in Gaza are proud of the fighters belonging to the Hamas

Since the beginning of the attacks on the 8th of July, more than 1400 people
have died in Gaza, of whom 80 percent are civilians according to the United
Nations. The number of completely destroyed residential buildings is over
10.000. All supply of electricity, water and telecommunication has long
ceased. In spite of all that, Palestinians are still not war-weary. “We will
support the resistance of the fighters, no matter how many civilians Israel
will kill for doing so”, mentions Hassan (surname known to the author), 42, an
engineer from Gaza-City. He also is a supporter of Fatah. Unfortunately, it
was impossible to talk to members of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. “Currently we do
not provide any interviews”, is being answered upon personal inquiries in
Gaza. For public statements, one is referred to Hamas’ political wing in
Qatar. There, Osama Hamdan spoke with Al Jazeera, condemning the high number
of civilian casualties.

Hassan, who just like any other Palestinian follows the news from morning to
evening, recognizes the military success of Hamas in this war. “The number of
Israeli soldiers killed in this battle demonstrates that the fighters from
Hamas are well trained and equipped.” He assures that the claim that Hamas is
using human shields to defend against Israeli attacks is Israeli propaganda.
Islam prohibits doing so. “In fact it is exactly the opposite: Hamas fighters
are standing in the first row of the front between the advancing Israeli
forces and the civilian population. The fighters from Hamas fighters are
risking their lives to protect civilians from the fire of the advancing
Israeli army”, explains Hassan. Over 250.000 people have already left their
homes at the frontlines to flee from the fighting. Ibrahim, 39, a refugee,
explains: “When we returned to our houses to get clothes, Hamas fighters
reacted harshly and send us back. They said: The front line is none of your
business. They were happy when we left, so they could concentrate on the

“Propaganda from Hamas is omnipresent in the Gaza Strip in all its forms.
Posters and billboards on the streets and videos on TV that glorify violent
forms of resistance, speak the truth and show the successes of the
resistance”, believes Iyad. “During the past few weeks we have seen quite
often that the announcement of military successes by Hamas were true, despite
Israeli communiques refuting them for at least two to three days until they
couldn’t deny them anymore. This is why we believe the statements of Hamas
more than those from the Israeli army”. Many also talk, or even glorify the
tunnels in Gaza Strip. “These tunnels are a wonderful achievement of the
resistance and a very useful instrument to inflict great damage on the enemy”,
says Hassan. “These tunnels provide Hamas with strategic advantages and the
Israeli army has not managed to neutralize them until now. They still have not
identified an appropriate means against them. The attacks carried out through
the primitively dug tunnels are a heavy blow to Israel, claiming to be one of
the best and most modern armies in the world”, admires Hassan the skills of

On foreign policy, the engineer is a more sceptical about Hamas’ record of
accomplishment, as he believes the group committed two major errors. Hamas has
lost the support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and broken its good relations with
the regime in Syria. As a result, their leaders, who have lived in Damascus
for decades, are now residing in Qatar. The relationship between Hamas and
Iran are at a low point, but still exist. Hassan further criticizes that Hamas
has hooked up with Qatar and Turkey: “This is the strategically wrong
direction. The good relationships with Qatar and Turkey serve the short-term
interests of these countries. Both States will not stand by Hamas to reach its
final goal, the liberation of Palestine”. As long as Qatar is a close ally of
the United States, housing the commanding centre for the US army in the region
and Turkey remains a member of NATO, thereby being a strategically important
partner of the United States, one cannot trust them, because the United States
supports Israel. “Iran, Hezbollah and Syria are our only reliable partners for
the armed resistance against Israel and would stand by us until the bitter
end”, analyzed Hassan.

Many voices in the Gaza Strip accuse Hamas of a disastrous economic policy.
Poverty is sky-high, unemployment at 80 percent and an improvement of the
conditions not in sight. Even in domestic politics, there have not been any
new impulses from Hamas for a long time. Although their rule is relatively
stable and crime rates low, this can be attributed to the strong social
control mechanisms in the society and the high discipline of people during war
times, rather than Hamas. Especially, concerning the fight of the expanding
drug trade in Gaza Strip, that civil society initiatives jointly carry out
with the security apparatus of Hamas, shows the weakness of the movement. “The
drug trade has become a serious threat to the entire society”, explains the
student Iyad. For many Palestinians the sorrows and hardship since the
beginning of the embargo eight years ago find some relief in the use and abuse
of drugs. Especially the trade with Tramal is flourishing. Hamas is powerless,
even though it prides itself in speeches that it is fighting the drug trade.
In addition, there are too few therapeutic facilities or a commissioner for
addiction prevention. “How is Hamas supposed to fight the underlying reasons
that lead to drug abuse, such as poverty, unemployment and living without
having real prospect in life, while suffering from the embargo?”, asks Iyad.
However, openly voiced criticism within Gaza’s civil society at Hamas’
internal and external politics is secondary during times of war.

The war creates tight bonds between Hamas and the civilian population and the
opposition of the Gaza Strip. The Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine (PFLP) is the strongest opposition party against Hamas, since Fatah
and Hamas have created a unity government in June this year and called for
renewed elections. A few months ago, some opposition parties, such as the
PFLP, demonstrated in the streets of Gaza against Hamas. Since the beginning
of the Israeli military offensive on July 8, armed members of the PFLP and
other parties are fighting side by side against the Israeli army. “During such
attacks from Israel, the population decides to stand together and resist in
unity”, explains Mahmoud Abu Rahma, Director of the independent Al-Mezan
Center for Human Rights in Gaza City. The center bravely records human rights
violations of all warring factions in the Gaza Strip.

Aside from the PFLP and Hamas, other armed groups such as Party of the Islamic
Jihad and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine are fighting
against the Israeli army. The Marxist-Leninist PFLP and the Leninist DFLP,
that has split after heavy infighting with the PFLP in 1968, possess much
smaller combat units than Hamas or the Islamic Jihad. Moreover, there are also
groups fighting in Gaza that have pledged allegiance to the socialist Fatah.
The PLO and Fatah leader, and president of the Palestinian National Authority,
distanced himself firmly in Ramallah from groups that are fighting in the name
of Fatah.

Martin Lejeune
German Freelance Journalist from Berlin in Gaza
Mobile: +972 59 230 6392 or +970 59 230 6392
Twitter @Martin_Lejeune


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