Demolishing Palestinian homes has long been Israel’s modus operandi, whether it’s the built-in discrimination of the occupation is meant to crowd out Palestinians and expand settlements, or as a means of collective punishment targeting the families and neighbors of individuals who committed terrorist acts, either inside Israel or against the Israeli military and settlers.
This by itself constitutes a war crime. However, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, “not only did Israel demolish houses of persons suspected of carrying out attacks or of attempting to carry out attacks, it also demolished the house of Palestinians suspected of planning, dispatching, or assisting in the commission of attacks.”
It’s precisely this kind of action – among others – that fuels resistance against the occupation. The resistance took many forms, including Islamic fundamentalism, the best known of which is Hamas. Hamas swept parliamentary elections in 2006 because of their seemingly uncompromising stance against Israel and because they were free from corruption, as opposed to Fatah. In a stunning betrayal, however, the “Islamic Resistance,” as they like to call themselves, acted as if they’re an occupying force.
The BBC reported on Monday that the Islamic fundamentalist group demolished dozens of Palestinian homes in the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza strip because “people living at the edge of the town of Rafah had built their homes illegally on government land.”
The article goes to report that “Club-wielding Hamas policemen – and some female police officers wearing face-covering veils – forced people from their homes and then brought in bulldozers.” As if that weren’t enough, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights has charged that the government “plans to raze another 180 Palestinian houses” to make way for an Islamic Center. The Stalinist-Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine reportedly called for an uprising against the Hamas government’s new decrees.
Why would an Islamic fundamentalist Palestinian resistance that’s known for suicide bombings and rockets against Israel … behave like Israel does towards Palestinians? It’s not so shocking when one considers the little known – yet important – fact that Hamas once collaborated with Israel.
But Hamas didn’t demolish Palestinian homes for Israel’s sake. They did so out of self-interest because they’re in charge – of Gaza, anyway – and like all governments, they act out in self-interest, which often go against the interests of the people they rule. This is true no matter who holds the reins of power, whether it’s the colonial occupier or the those who fight it.
An example of this is Hamas’s chief rival – Fatah, which ran the Palestinian Authority in the autocratic tradition of Arab nationalist regimes. For example, in 2001 while the intifada raged, the PA cracked down on press freedom, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“A huge Palestinian bureaucratic system began to emerge in the Palestinian Authority,” according to the Alternative Information Center, that created a system that “became known for granting employment on the basis of political loyalty” while torture of detainees was widespread. According to one report in 1997 by the Palestinian Human Rights Monitor; “Torture is used by nearly all of the security services of the PA.”
Hamas’s actions don’t change the political-military equation of oppressor/oppressed:
According to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions estimated that between 1967 and 2007 that 19,000 Palestinians homes in both the West Bank and Gaza were demolished by the Israelis. Gaza has seen its fair share of destruction; in May 2004, for instance, the Israel Defense Force “left 254 houses destroyed and nearly 3,800 people homeless; another forty-four houses were razed in the Rafah area during the same month in smaller operations,” according to Human Rights Watch.
During the 2008-09 Gaza war – in addition to thousands of Gazans killed – HRW noted “the Israeli army wantonly destroyed civilian property in the Gaza Strip, even if there was no military necessity,” as reported in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.
So, in addition to Israeli assaults on their property, Gazans now also have to deal with Hamas taking their property as well. The numbers are miniscule compared to the Israelis – Hamas claimed seven homes were destroyed, while eyewitnesses put it at 40 (I believe the latter) – it’s worse in many ways because it’s one thing for the oppressor to do this; it’s quite another for a group that claims to be your liberator to engage in the behavior of your oppressor.
Especially when the ideology of the so-called “liberator” promises anything but freedom; Hamas is a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, the first Islamic fundamentalist organization founded in 1928.
The group describes its ideology in its 1988 covenant this way: “The Movement’s programme is Islam.” Article Eight puts it this way: “Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”
Since taking power, Hamas has yet to implement a full blown theocracy – for the sake of international recognition, according to the NYT, yet that may be changing; the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported that the vast tunnel system Gazans depended on to circumvent the Israeli blockade is suffering because of Hamas’s own “legal “tunnels,” which are hurting the business of “illegal” tunnels.
In other words, Hamas has its own economic pipeline circumventing the blockade, which is funneling money – and self-confidence – into the regime. This means, in addition to Israeli atrocities, we’ll see a more strident Islamist regime establish an Iranian-style theocracy running roughshod over the rights of ordinary Palestinians.