September 1, 2007

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Hamas has found governance significantly more difficult than agitation, now that it owns the Gaza Strip. When confronted with unrest, they resorted to beating protestors, armed and unarmed, and threatened the Associated Press if they took pictures of the proceedings:

A protest against Hamas rule by thousands of Fatah supporters turned violent yesterday when Hamas forces began dispersing the crowd, firing in the air and beating demonstrators.

The clashes broke out after worshipers held a Friday prayer meeting outside a mosque in a Gaza City public square. Fatah has urged its backers to stay out of mosques, which it says are being used by Hamas to provoke factional fighting among Palestinians.

About 20 people were injured in the clashes, including children, according to doctors and witnesses.

Two journalists were beaten by Hamas supporters, although neither was seriously hurt. Two other French journalists suffered minor injuries from a small explosion.

Fatah didn't exactly follow the Mohandas K. Gandhi playbook, either. After conducted prayer services outside of Hamas-controlled mosques in Gaza City and Rafah, the protestors in some cases finished their supplication with the traditional pipe-bomb toss that the Palestinians have made so popular. Most of the demonstrations were not violent, however, until Hamas decided that they had tired of dissent.

One of the reasons Hamas lost patience was because of an interesting taunt. Fatah loyalists starting yelling "Shi'ites", a reference to Hamas' Iranian ties. Those apparently cause more grief than commonly known in the Palestinian territories, and Hamas -- which is nominally Sunni -- has a little sensitivity to the charge. The protestors also referred to their Hamas masters as "mercenaries", another reference to Iran.

Hamas also has a sensitivity about free speech, as in they don't like it. While meting out the beatings, Hamas took the time to pay the Associated Press a visit in their offices. They told the AP not to film the outside of their security offices from the AP balcony or roof -- and they brought their guns to underscore their point. They had arrested over two dozen "subverters", and apparently didn't want images of the detainees to make it to the wires.

It doesn't sound as if Hamas is enjoying their power grab. Certainly the people of Gaza haven't found it palatable, and the example it sets for Islamist rule has to be bracing for moderates in the region. If the beatings don't improve Gaza morale soon, what will Hamas do next?


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