Who were those masked idiots?

It’s well known by now that the 2008-09 Israeli attack on Gaza known as Operation Cast Lead killed 1400 Palestinians, including hundreds of children as well as having  caused billions of dollars in damage to an infrastructure distorted by an Israeli blockade since 2007 meant to destabilize the Hamas-run government.

So, thank goodness that masked men struck … at a U.N.-sponsored summer camp?

That’s right. And according to witnesses, the men were masked Muslim extremists who burned the tents at the camp’s location on the beach near Gaza City because – horror of horrors – they objected “to boys and girls going to camp together.” Given the dire situation Gaza faces from Israel and a complicit outside world (especially the U.S. and the EU), it’s good to know that some “freedom fighters” have got their priorities straight.

It’s unclear who exactly was behind the attack. One possibility are the ultra-rightist Salafist groups like the Warriors of God that have sprouted in recent years and are impatient with Hamas’s slow imposition of Shari’a law in the tiny strip. These groups and Hamas have fought each other largely that – due largely over Hamas’s concerns for international legitimacy – as well as what direction Jihad should take ; local (Hamas) vs. global (Warriors of God.)

Either way, prospects for freedom in Gaza aren’t good, especially if you have Israel against Hamas, on the one hand and on the other, Hamas versus Al-Qaeda allied groups. Both groups want to establish theocracies; the difference is that a Hamas-run government would probably resemble that of their chief benefactor – Iran – while the latter would probably mimick the Taliban. The difference is in degree not substance, and it’s the Palestinians that will ultimately suffer.

We should remember that it’s the Israelis – both through its oppression of Palestinians, and it’s past support of Hamas against secular Palestinian groups – that largely contributed to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism there, and that the wars and sanctions against Gaza are continuing to fuel that rise. Ending that colonialism is a priority, not just so that Palestinians can live, but also live free from the forces of darkness, be they racist occupation or Islamic theocrats.

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