Opinion: Hamas, not Israel, commits war crimes in Gaza

It is the leaders of Hamas, and only Hamas, who are committing war crimes in and around Gaza – against Jews and against their own people.

By Bassam Tawil, The Gatestone Institute

Hamas has again proved that it really is a terrorist group that oppresses its people and prevents them from expressing their opinions. It has also shown that when it is in trouble, it will do its utmost to divert attention from the problems it is facing at home.

As far as Hamas is concerned, one of the best ways to divert attention from the growing frustration with its rule is by attacking Israel and Jews. Then, Israel is forced to respond to defend itself. That will allow Hamas to tell its people that there is no room for internal fighting and disputes “because we are under attack by the Jews.”

No Palestinian would dare to criticize Hamas while Israel is supposedly “attacking” Hamas. Anyone who did so would be accused of being a “traitor” and “collaborator” with the “Zionist enemy.”

That is exactly what happened this week, when two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv. The rocket attack came shortly after thousands of Palestinians had taken to the streets of the Gaza Strip to protest the horrific economic situation there — that funds intended for them had apparently been diverted to finance terrorism — and demand an end to Hamas’s repressive measures against its people.

The leaders of Hamas were apparently disturbed by the large protests that took place in the Gaza Strip. Hamas leaders also seemed disturbed by the photos and videos showing Hamas members beating, shooting at and arresting hundreds of peaceful Palestinian protesters whose only “crime” was to demand a dignified life, jobs and a better future for their children.

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Hamas leaders would probably love to see Israel retaliate in the Gaza Strip for rockets launched at Tel Aviv: such a move by Israel would silence the growing anger among Palestinians towards the Hamas terrorist organization that has been ruling them since the summer of 2007.

The rockets that were fired at Tel Aviv, and the ensuing Israeli military strikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip, have indeed eclipsed the news about the clashes between Hamas and Palestinian protesters. Suddenly, everyone was talking only about the rocket attacks on Tel Aviv, and Hamas seemed to have gotten away with its beating and shooting at peaceful protesters.

In the past few days, thousands of Palestinians had taken to the streets of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to protest the wretched economic situation, exacerbated by a Hamas decision to impose new taxes on them. The unprecedented protests, which were carried out under the banner “We Want to Live!,” apparently caught the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip by surprise.

The leaders of Hamas apparently had not foreseen the mass protests. Hamas leaders seem to have reckoned that their repressive measures against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were so harsh that no one would dare publicly protest against the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation there.

That may explain Hamas’s response to the mass protests, which by all accounts, was hysterical and extremely violent. Within 24 hours, Hamas militiamen and security officers opened fire on hundreds of Palestinian protesters, who chanted: “We are hungry!” and “Save Gaza from starvation!”

Palestinian eyewitnesses said that Hamas used hundreds of militiamen from its military wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam, as well as security officers to crush the demonstrations. “Al-Qassam fighters assault, arrest, threaten, suppress, besiege and impose restrictions on freedoms,” reported Mohammed Bassouni, a resident of the Gaza Strip.

Photos of wounded Palestinians (broken arms, bruises all over the body) have surfaced on some social media sites, showing the brutality of the violence that Hamas used to disperse the protesters. It is also worth noting that many of the Palestinians who were brutally beaten by Hamas were children.

Hamas holding 2 million Palestinians hostage

The violence on the streets of the Gaza Strip is probably the worst since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip 12 years ago. Since then, Hamas has been holding nearly two million Palestinians living there hostage to its oppressive regime. Hamas has turned the Gaza Strip into a dictatorship where public freedoms are assaulted on a daily basis. Hamas has dragged the Palestinians there into a number of wars with Israel that have destroyed the lives of countless residents of Gaza.

In the view of many Palestinians, what Hamas is doing in the Gaza Strip is tantamount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, the international community, specifically the United Nations, continues to allow itself to be deceived. Instead of calling out Hamas for its war crimes against its own people, the hypocrites at the UN, the international media and other international forums are continuing to point an accusatory finger towards Israel for simply defending itself against rockets and missiles that are fired towards Israeli civilian centers on an almost daily basis.

Recently, in a grotesque allegation, U.N. human rights “experts” claimed that Israel may have committed war crimes by shooting at Palestinian demonstrators who tried to breach the Gaza-Israel border fence and infiltrate into Israel. The demonstrators who were shot were mostly Hamas and Islamic Jihad members, as both organizations have openly admitted. In other words, Israel is being accused of war crimes for defending its border against terrorists attempting to infiltrate it in order to murder or kidnap Israelis.

Perhaps a small step, such as viewing easily available material, would set the record straight. These UN human rights “experts” might, for a change, glance at the videos and photos coming out of the Gaza Strip to see who is really responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity: Hamas. Its members are opening fire at peaceful protesters, who are taking their lives in their hands to end the harsh economic conditions created by their rulers’ catastrophic policies in the Gaza Strip.

It is the leaders of Hamas, and only Hamas, who are committing war crimes in and around Gaza. They are committing war crimes against Jews, and they are committing war crimes against their own people. It is time for the human rights “experts” and foreign media to wake up to facts.

Hamas is now trying to cover up its crimes against its people by firing rockets at Israel. Instead of denouncing Israel for defending itself, the U.N. should immediately send a commission of inquiry to investigate Hamas for its war crimes. If the UN chooses not to do so, it, too, might benefit from taking a small step and viewing easily available material, such as the definition of “aiding and abetting” the commission of a crime.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.