Monday, December 31, 2007

How the Ruling Party Rules in Democratic Gaza

Baruch Gordon

A report released Sunday by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) documents multiple cases in which the ruling Hamas party in Gaza is using its police to silence the Fatah opposition. In January 2006, Hamas won a landslide victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, and officially became the government for the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. In a mini civil war in June 2007, Hamas cemented its rule over Gaza violently. Hamas took over rival Fatah party locations and killed several Fatah leaders. Judea and Samaria remained under the rule of the Fatah party, headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

PCHR strongly condemned Hamas's attacks against offices and institutions of the Fatah movement and demanded that the ruling party respect Fatah's right to freedom of speech.

PCHR reports that on Saturday night, the Hamas police raided an office of the Fatah movement in the al-Remal neighborhood on the west side of Gaza City. They confiscated a computer, a photocopier, a fax machine, a scanner, documents, photos, and flags of Palestine and the Fatah movement. They also arrested six people in the office and only released them after the six signed pledges not to participate in activities related to the anniversary of the Fatah movement. Failure to comply with the signed pledge would carry a $4,000 fine.

Later on Saturday night, the Hamas police, accompanied by masked gunmen in civilian clothes, raided Fatah offices in the al-Daraj neighborhood on the east side of Gaza City. There, too, they confiscated furniture and equipment and destroyed photos and flags of Fatah.

An hour later, the Hamas police, again accompanied by masked militants dressed as civilians, simultaneously raided the Fatah headquarters near the Ansar security compound and the office of the Executive Committee of Palestine Liberation Organization, both in Gaza City. In both places, the police broke down the door and confiscated equipment.

On Friday evening, the Hamas police raided the campus of al-Azhar University in Gaza City and arrested 35 students who were preparing for the celebration of the anniversary of the Fatah movement. The detainees were taken to the al-Abbas policestation and were forced to sign documents pledging not to participate in any activity related to the anniversary. Punishment for participation in the Fatah celebration was set at a $4,000 fine and a 15-day jail term.

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