Hamas′ military intentions are not only risky, they are also likely to endanger the lives of dozens of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Let us not forget that the Hamas military wing summarily executed dozens of civilians without trial or serious interrogation during the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza. Similarly, during the first Intifada, dozens (if not hundreds) were executed for minor offences such as using drugs, working on Israeli farms, working in the Israeli civil service, or owning pornographic videos. In many cases, the allegations turned out to be personally motivated and baseless.

Palestinian people hold banner during the #SavePalPeople social media campaign in Gaza, April 2017 (photo: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/M. Faiz)
Beware the cyber crime law: social media – a lifeline for the Palestinian people is under attack. Waved through by President Abbas, the new legislation bears a strong resemblance to similarly restrictive laws passed by other authoritarian regimes. In the first few days following implementation of the law, the PA blocked more than a dozen of websites, including several relating to Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority is putting personal whim before the national will of the Palestinians. Abbas and his security apparatus have transformed the Palestinian Authority into a state instrument designed to cement the status quo, which implies serving and prolonging the occupation.

During the first week of August, the Palestinian Authority arrested five journalists in the West Bank for allegedly ″leaking sensitive information″. Intended in retaliation for the arrest of a Fatah journalist and activist Foad Jarada two months previously, the arrest of the five journalists merely sealed a swapping deal with the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip.

Undermining fundamental freedoms

The arrest took place under the new Palestinian cyber crime law. The latter was approved by the Palestinian president without consulting civil society or seeking public justification. Contrary to what one might expect, the law limits freedom of speech and intensifies arbitrary arrests. In the first few days following implementation of the law, the PA blocked more than a dozen of websites affiliated with Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan. The new legislation is that of an authoritarian regime. It aims to curb freedom of speech on social media and online platforms that have proved effective in spreading information and raising awareness.

As a result the Palestinians are facing two different regimes that undermine their freedom of speech, imposing harsh measures that restrict their national aspirations. This is likely to be the norm for the next few years, with both parties doing their best to maintain the status quo to serve their own interests.

The Palestinians will continue to suffer, not only because of the Israeli occupation, but also at the hands of their own governing bodies and political parties. Instead of coming up with new solutions and strategies to tackle the currently worsening situation, which merely benefits Israel, those in power apparently prefer to rule their own people with a rod of iron.                                                     

Abdalhadi Alijla

© Qantara.de 2017

Abdalhadi Alijla is a research fellow at the University of Milan and the executive director of the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies Canada (IMESC). He serves as the regional manager for Gulf countries at Varieties of Democracy Institute, Gothenburg University, Sweden.

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