The Palestine Entries: Today I saw Hamas for what it’s worth

// Entry #12

No, I am not siding with the Israeli hasbara that constantly denies Israel’s role in occupying the Palestinian people nor am I siding with the crooked Fatah politicians in Ramallah who blame Hamas for the persistent closure of Gaza’s border crossings. I am siding with the people of Gaza, the people of the West Bank, and the people of Palestinian descent who have had enough of Hamas’ petty politics.

Guards in black or green military uniforms dot many of Gaza’s busy street corners. Hamas has maintained a very strong and almost inescapable presence in the Gaza Strip since its election in 2006. Since then, it has made great strides in improving the socioeconomic infrastructure of the Gaza Strip, but it has also redirected its focus, its disorganization, and ultimately, its hostility toward the Palestinian people.

Today my family and I went to a Hamas-operated ministry center to sajjil or register to leave the Gaza Strip. When intending to travel out of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian citizens and foreigners alike must be assigned a date of departure regulated by both Palestinian and Egyptian authorities. Because of the tight restrictions on the single border crossing open to Gazans (Israel has indefinitely closed every other crossing), very rarely will someone be assigned a date of their choosing. The earliest available dates for those seeking to leave today are in mid-September which is far too late for my working mother and for the countless Palestinians hoping to visit family members or hospitals overseas.

After providing receipts for reserved plane tickets and certificates of full-time enrollment in schools, we were surprisingly assigned the date we requested. This is definitely a blessing, considering people spend entire weeks at the center struggling for a more suitable date. And by struggling, I literally mean struggling.

Hundreds of individuals gather at the ministry center every day at 6:30 AM praying to receive a departure date. Already packed like sardines, the crowd grows restless under the heat of the sun. There is no organization; everyone shouts at the tops of their lungs, hoping to attract the attention of a guardsman collecting passports. Hamas-assigned police officers roam around the center in blue shirts and fatigues, shouting back at the frustrated crowd.

It’s an embarrassing sight at first but then you realize it isn’t the fault of the people. We are the ones with manners. We come armed only with patience and unstamped passports every single day. We ask for assistance from the guards and the only response we receive is “How am I supposed to know!?” We ask for directions and we’re given the same reply. We ask for the status of our passports and we’re told that it’s out of Hamas’ control. So we grow frustrated.

The line for women and children is a mess. One officer stands at the top of the line and threatens to leave his post if the women don’t arrange themselves into two lines. But there is no room; the center is not large enough to hold this many people. He nudges women with the muzzle of his rifle, then he pushes with his own two hands. This is an immense sign of disrespect in the Arab culture, and what’s worse is that the crowd of elderly women anxious to leave the disparities that exist within Gaza is always on the brink of a deadly stampede.

The crowd grows larger and the lone guard attempts to redirect men and women to different lines. Unfortunately, these lines are for other services, but the people wouldn’t know because there are no signs. There is total confusion as people try to reclaim their spots in line, as the policemen absentmindedly walk around the periphery, and as men and women hurl insults at the occupation, at the politics, and at every individual who stands in their way.

One elderly man pleaded to one of the armed guards but to no avail. He was second in line three days ago but the authorities behind the barred windows refused to accept his family’s passports for arbitrary reasons. A large group of mothers joined the man. Their passports were taken and not returned. This was their second day waiting in the heat of the summer. Immediate flashbacks to the summer of 2004 when instead of Hamas officials, we were dealing directly with Israeli soldiers.

The guard shouted at them, told them he had absolutely no idea what they wanted, and radioed for backup. He walked away and left the group of women muttering insults under their breath. I became increasingly frustrated just watching the lack of professionalism and respect these guards expressed toward their own people. The women fought their way back into the crowd.

Almost in unison, the crowd of Palestinians curses its luck. This happens every day from sunrise to sunset. The Palestinian people face an Israeli occupation that prevents them from traveling in the first place. And now Hamas’ political imbroglio ensures that the Palestinian people stay put. But the Gazan people especially have had enough. It is a known fact that Hamas’ popularity in the Gaza Strip is steadily declining and today I saw why.

Just like Fatah and most other inherently crooked political movements, Hamas is incapable of establishing and maintaining order. It is more concerned with using the occupation and the oppressed people of Palestine as tools to further their political agenda – an agenda that includes nothing more than bolstering their international ‘rebel’ status and filling their pockets all while hiding behind the illusion of freedom and democracy.

I am not revealing anything new nor am I making any bold statements so this shouldn’t be seen as a “brave” or “revolutionary” post. I will not deny that Hamas is a legitimate government entity but we must separate it from the sha’b el-falasteeni — the Palestinian people — who must not suffer the consequences of the petty politics that serve to provide additional foundation for Israel’s occupation.

If I could be so brazen, I would call for a peaceful revolution against the occupation, of course, but also against Hamas, Fatah, and all the other movements that capitalize on the losses of a people who have already lost enough.

Sami Kishawi

There are 3 comments

  1. Reem Naser

    Although I had a hunch that Hamas’s popularity was decreasing by the day over there, this was truly upsetting to hear. A clean slate is definitely needed, Keep up with the great posts.

    Thanks,

    Reem

  2. AbdUlrahman

    “I became increasingly frustrated just watching the lack of professionalism and respect these guards expressed toward their own people.”

    Salam,

    As I Read this i must say i felt the same frustration just visualizing these rude and somewhat hostile gaurds, and i am aware thatHamas may have lost some of its over tye top support it had not too long ago… However don’t you think it’s a bit too much to say that the whole Hamas political party is at fault for this innefficient office? Yes they are the rulngparty of the west bank BUT they are strained by the lingering occupation…

    Abdulrahman

    P.S. When are you back in Chicago? Toosil bil salam insha’Allah.

    1. Sami Kishawi

      Good comment Abdulrahman. In my opinion, as a political party currently governing the Gaza Strip, Hamas is responsible for maintaining proper, functioning, and available civil services first and foremost. Yes, they are restrained by the occupation and yes, Hamas has shown great strides in improving certain aspects of the civil or municipal infrastructures in Gaza, but within itself, it suffers from immense disorganization and corruption. I am, of course, referring to the political party of Hamas, not its military wing. The corruption is openly known (although not accepted), the disorganization is evident, and it continues to lose support by the day. This is not to abandon Hamas as a strong political entity but it is important to note that Hamas’ governance of Gaza in the last year especially has dwindled its backing and support. While the experience at the ministry office is limited within its own scope and might not represent Hamas as a whole, this happens on a regular basis and with various other government and civil services. Plus, Hamas is primarily concerned with countering the growing Fatah movement (not that Fatah is any less corrupt and backwards). The people have grown weary of the petty politics.

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