Nov. 11 marks a significant loss in Palestinian history: the anniversary of the death of the late Fatah and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. Not coincidentally, it also marks the beginning of a series of Gazan protests against Hamas, organized by the grassroots Tamarod resistance movement.
The movement, whose name is borrowed from the Egyptian youth protest group that initiated the recent coup, is seeking to protest against the violence and injustice Hamas has perpetrated against Gazans since its bloody takeover seven years ago. Tamarod spokespeople claim that they can achieve their goals by “spreading the spirit of cooperation and struggle in the hearts of people in Gaza”. They maintain that Hamas is “the one primarily responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” that the Gazans “only get the crumbs of the supplies of food, diesel and gasoline that reach Gaza via the legal routes or through the [illegal] tunnels.” The movement reports that the situation has become so dire that a father resorted to killing his children due to his inability to support them.
The group, which collects signatures through its website, has repeatedly been forced to protect its site from sabotage and hacking by Hamas. Collecting signatures in person is, of course, out of the question—identifying as part of the Tamarod movement will get one summarily arrested. The leaders of the movement are in Gaza and on the run in Egypt, their identities undisclosed.
Through its website, the movement is advising all Gazans to stock up on at least a week’s supply of food and to stay at home in anticipation of the backlash that Hamas officials will inevitably unleash.
Hind al-Arabi, media spokeswoman for Tamarod Gaza, has noted that the movement departs from its Egyptian version. While the Egyptian resistance had the support of the army, Gazans are without an army and are threatened by Hamas with a “massacre and a new war in the Strip.”
Hamas’ threats appear all the more ominous when taking a look at what happened to protestors in Egypt.
Recently, a new report found that at least four Hamas members were arrested for shooting and killing eight Egyptians during anti-Morsi protests.
Of course, to most observers, this kind of response is unsurprising. Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, has repeatedly run to the aid of its Egyptian brothers, most notably during Morsi’s jailbreak in 2011.
For a further reminder of Hamas’ propensity to mete out summary and violent “justice,” one needs to look no further than last November’s Operation Pillar of Defense, during which Hamas militants publicly executed numerous Gazans for alleged “collaboration with Israel.” Some were forced to lie on the street and were then shot dead. One was tied to a motorcycle and dragged through the streets of Gaza City as spectators shouted obscenities.
Despite all these terrifying consequences, the Tamarod movement is pressing forward.
My concern, however, goes beyond Hamas’ historical cruelty and any threat it brings to the movement. What will happen if Tamarod succeeds? If the movement manages to create a regime change like the one in Egypt, what legal framework will replace the current one? Have the current movement’s leaders thought through and prepared an infrastructure that will improve what they are so fed up with? Or are they just throwing together a haphazard protest in hopes of getting the ball rolling?
When looking back at other anti-government protests in the Middle East, the vision of a post-Hamas Gaza seems dismal. Protests in Tunisia and Egypt were successful in their short-term goals, but was what followed really a realistic step towards a serious and responsible democracy?
Neither option for Gaza leadership seems very appealing. There is Hamas, whose obscene human rights violations, terrifying leadership, and terroristic designation cast a dark, murderous cloud on its citizens and Israeli villages near the Strip. On the other hand, a nascent movement whose goals are to remove the current regime but with no real developed alternative, like many reformist regimes before them, does not necessarily pose a better alternative.
In the words of Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hamas founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef who broke ranks with Hamas in 1997, “Hamas was born to destroy. Hamas does not know how to build. I doubt they will be able to build a modern Palestinian state and hope their lies will be exposed to the Palestinian public.” It seems that has finally begun to happen, but will the alternative be much better?