WHEN HAMAS IS OUT OF CONTROL
By Micah Halpern
Monday February 11, 2008
Sometimes, the pen truly is mightier than the sword.
Hamas, in Gaza, has shut down a newspaper called Al Ayyam. A Hamas court ordered that the newspaper cease operations and that the people employed by Al Ayyam in Gaza, there are about thirty-two of them, cease work.
The newspaper was ordered closed on Sunday because of a cartoon that appeared on the back page of the paper last November. The cartoon depicted former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh addressing the Palestinian Parliament. All the men he was addressing looked like clones of the prime minister and they all held photos of the prime minister. The caption on the caricature translates to mean "illegitimate" or "irrelevant."
Haniyeh, to this day, is a strong, mighty and fierce Hamas leader. And Hamas leadership took offense at the portrayal. November, December, January, February. What took Hamas so long to react? That, I can't answer. Maybe they read slowly. Maybe this was a down period, maybe they were just looking for something else to be angry about, another way to prove to us all how un-democratic and non-Western they are in thought and in action.
But this I can tell you. A Hamas court may have ordered the paper closed, but the paper will not close. Ay Ayyam is a privately owned, Fatah leaning, press. And Al Hayyam is homebased on the West Bank not in Gaza. The thirty-odd reporters who write from Gaza may be forbidden from doing their job, and their lives may be in jeopardy if they continue to post their pieces from elsewhere in cyberspace, but those presses will continue to roll. And given the fact that there are over one million three hundred thousand Palestinians living in Gaza and the fact that only 3,400 copies of the paper were distributed in Gaza, I don't think the publishers will even notice the loss. My high school paper printed more copies
And I can tell you that the Hamas declaration ordering the closure of Al Ayyam is another clear and definitive indication of the way in which Hamas is now officially out of control.
Hamas is threatened by the slightest criticism. Hamas, right now, reminds me of the Soviets during the Communist era. We in the West encourage critique and thoughtful dialogue. Freedom or expression, especially freedom of the press, is sacrosanct. Western journalists are willing to surrender themselves to prison in order to uphold that freedom, they are not, as in Hamasland, imprisoned for writing for the "wrong" paper. Hamas feels that freedom of the press should be restricted - and even eliminated.
Hamas' greatest enemy right now is not Israel. As much as Israel applies pressure upon Hamas, the reality is that Fatah and Egypt are applying even more pressure. Hamas is fighting for survival, but ultimately, not survival against Israel. Israel, right now, is a side show. Israel, right now, is a way for Hamas to let our aggression and pent up hostility. The real battle is being waged within, the battle is against Fatah and against Egypt.
A stable Hamas was dangerous. An unstable, out of control Hamas is all that much more dangerous.
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