This week marks a year since Hamas bludgeoned their way to power in Gaza. It has been a hell of a year here, with Israel sealing the entire Gaza Strip and imposing a crippling siege on 1.5 million people, whilst the so-called ‘International Community’ shamelessly continues to look the other way. It’s easy to forget that, before they took over Gaza, Hamas was democratically voted into office because the previous Palestinian Fatah Government was rotten with corruption, and Palestinians wanted a new political era.
But instead, the Fatah Government now rules in the West Bank, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. As well as the daily struggle just to secure fuel, decent food and medicine, Gazans also have had to contend with Hamas, who, as a Gazan friend of mine brilliantly puts it, ‘Imposed law without order when they took over us’.
The majority of people that I know here have a complex relationship with Hamas: they hate the bloody way in which Hamas took over Gaza, and they also hate the Islamic agenda being imposed on them. Hamas police regularly haul people (usually young men) in for questioning about whether they pray, have American friends, and fast on religious holidays. People who are arrested are regularly beaten, and, depending on which faction they belong to, they’re also tortured. There is no effective opposition to Hamas, because it is a political dictatorship. But nonetheless, Gazans are massively relieved that, under Hamas, there are fewer guns and bombs and marauding masked gunmen. People feel much safer than they did a year ago.
So, paradoxically, this year in Gaza has not been all bad. But Hamas have just made themselves supremely unpopular with most of us by rigging a HUGE filter on the local internet, as part of their Islamic agenda to protect us from our own morals.
So you can’t download porn in Gaza now, or log onto websites that even mention you-know-what. But it’s also a real struggle to send emails, or to use skype, because the connection is now appallingly slow – and when you live somewhere as isolated as the Gaza Strip, that sucks. People desperately want to be in touch with the outside world. I’d welcome comments and feedback about this blog… just don’t mention S** and the City.