Last week, the US Special Envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, took to Twitter to attack the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement — Hamas, the de facto government of the Gaza Strip — for dispersing violent protesters in Deir Al-Balah and Jabalia. The protesters — some of whom were rioters — claimed that they were demonstrating against high taxes imposed by the government which, they alleged, had led to price hikes.
“Hamas continues to exploit the Palestinians of Gaza and to rule by brute force,” claimed Greenblatt. “Hamas abuses the money belonging to the people of Gaza, using these funds for terrorism & other illicit activities to devastating effect, instead of rebuilding Gaza and helping its people.” His words could have been written by the Israeli Ministry of Propaganda.
The less than objective or neutral Greenblatt then tweeted: “Hamas violently suppresses its own people demonstrating against Hamas’ rule & failures today and NOW fires rockets at cities in Israel. OUTRAGEOUS! This is what prevents the world from helping the people of Gaza! We strongly support Israel in defence of its citizens. Always!”
In a third tweet, he wrote: “My words now: So true. So sad. So awful. So scary. Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] etc. is this what you want for your people? You’re the cause of this misery. You choose violence. You’re ruining lives day after day after day. No one else. Time to choose something else!”
Without making any apparent effort to check the facts about the disturbances in Gaza, Greenblatt took aim indiscriminately at the Palestinian factions in the besieged territory. The Israeli-led siege and occupation did not figure in his calculations, of course. Not only did he criticise Hamas, but he also targeted Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, even though both factions are themselves critical of the movement. This suggests very strongly that the “Special Envoy” — for which read “there to advance Israel’s interests only” — was not concerned about the Palestinians or the alleged “violence” inflicted upon them by Hamas; that his sole aim was to demonise the Palestinian resistance factions, including Hamas, because they oppose the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The demonstrations in Gaza are not actually against price hikes or high taxes, as was also claimed by Fatah spokesman Usama Al-Qawasmi in the occupied West Bank. The people on the streets are rioters ordered and paid to be there by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his intelligence chief Majed Faraj, who could find no other excuse for their action against Hamas. Israel’s support for the violent protests was obvious, with Ofir Gendelman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesperson for the Arab media, involved openly on social media backing the riots. Israel’s ambassador to the UK Mark Regev, who is well-known for trying to justify the unjustifiable, was also involved.
The clearest proof that these riots were intended to destabilise Gaza in order to topple the de facto government is that Hamas has actually reduced more than 50 per cent of the taxes imposed by the PA, and prices, when compared with the West Bank, are much lower. The price of one falafel sandwich in the West Bank, for example, is around $2, while in Gaza it is just 25 cents. If you have your hair cut in the West Bank, it will cost you $15, but in Gaza, you pay only $1.50. The rioters were calling for their salaries to be restored and for the siege to be lifted; given that it is the PA which has cut the salaries of civil servants in Gaza, their anger should have been directed at Abbas and the administration in the occupied West Bank as well as the Israeli occupation, not Hamas which has been fighting to lift the siege and get their salaries back to normal levels.
As far as Greenblatt’s accusation that Hamas “exploits” the Palestinians and rules “by brute force” is concerned, as a senior US official he should not forget that the movement won an overwhelming majority on the last occasion — in 2006 — when Palestinians were allowed a “free and fair” election. The result was not accepted by Washington, Israel and the PA in Ramallah, and the siege was imposed. Why? Because Hamas sticks to the struggle for legitimate Palestinian rights and principles, whereas Abbas and Fatah, which controls the PA in Ramallah, is more easily bought.
Greenblatt’s claim that Hamas uses Palestinian money to fund terrorism and other illegal activities instead of rebuilding Gaza and helping the people is pathetic. Resistance to a military occupation is a right guaranteed by international laws and conventions. Instead of asking why Hamas does not rebuild Gaza, he should ask himself who destroyed Gaza in the first place, and who replenished its stocks of arms and ammunition to do so. If he is honest — a big if — he would tell the world that it was Israel and Washington, using US taxpayers’ money, not Hamas.
Even though reports in the Palestinian media run by opposition factions, as well as the Israeli and Arab media, claimed that Hamas used violence to suppress “its own people”, there were actually some incidents where the Palestinian police, not Hamas, dealt harshly with the rioters, very few of whom required hospital treatment. It is alleged that images from Iraq and old videos were used to depict the “beatings by Hamas” in Gaza.
Even Haaretz reported that one of the videos which went viral on social media was not related to the riots. “Viral video of Palestinian man setting himself on fire not connected to current protest, human rights activists say,” the Israeli newspaper pointed out. Not all of the videos were fake, but the depiction of the way that the rioters were treated was not as claimed on social and other media.
My advice to Mr Greenblatt, therefore, is to abandon his one-eyed approach towards the Palestinians; he should not turn a blind eye to Israeli atrocities or the injustices of the US-backed Abbas and PA. “For every Palestinian rocket, Israel commits thousands of crimes,” wrote Amira Hass, Haaretz correspondent in the occupied territories, on Sunday. She pointed an accusatory finger at the Israeli officials who demolish the houses of the Palestinians, who demolish water networks and who prevent Palestinians from having water.
The reality of the situation in Israel-Palestine requires a far more nuanced discourse than posts on Twitter can ever convey. US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt should open both eyes if he wants to have any credibility whatsoever in his role.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.