Ten Things Hamas Got Right in Gaza
Like many organizations Hamas is not a one unified group and it seldom speaks with one voice. In Gaza, there are few reasonable men and women who are in leadership positions in Hamas Gaza government. Those Hamas leaders, many educated in the West have no military background and that’s why many in the international community do not mind working with them. However, since those leaders have no militant connection, they are often weak in the ranks of Hamas and its decisions making. The bands of tugs and militant groups that is commissioned with protecting the establishment of Hamas and its leaders are the dangerous one. Most Hamas militants do not mind breaking into people’s homes and even kill individuals of interest. As long as you are away from the Radar of those Hamas militants, you are safe.
The reasonable and educated Hamas leaders often has no leverage with those groups, as the militants only answer to the Hamas leader in Damascus. I have seen countless graphic images of Hamas brutality against individuals in Gaza. Having spoken of Hamas’ brutality does not take away the few dozen of accomplishments that Hamas government has put in place. Anyone visiting Gaza will feel that with the entire negative image Hamas has, they remain defiant and strive to govern and to improve life in Gaza. Here are ten accomplishments Hamas working against many odds, has delivered to the people of Gaza.
1. Traffic in Gaza is better managed since the Hamas police force gives people the appearance of toughness and willingness to do anything to enforce the law. Drivers and cabbies now respect the traffic laws. They complain too much, but the city is a lot easier to navigate for pedestrians and drivers under the control of the bearded officers. It’s true they have few random control checkpoints here and there and guns on every corner, but the fruits of their labor are enjoyed by all Palestinians in Gaza. This often the reason Hamas supporters share to credit the Hamas government.
2. Markets are better organized. Trying to go to the market before was at your own risk–too many vendors, crowded and narrow streets, constant fights between street vendors…chaos. Hamas police forces took control of the markets and anyone who does not obey the law, they beat them up on the spot. They made examples of a few vendors and since then everybody does what they are told. Under the previous administration, if a policeman roughed up a guy for violating the law, then the guy could get his family to beat up the officer and no one would care. Try beating up a Hamas officer and see if anyone will ever find you.
3. In Gaza large families who intimidate others have been broken and subdued. In the past, and during Fatah control of Gaza, large clans in Gaza bragged about how many weapons and ammo they could get ready if a fight broke out with a member of their clan. In other words, those few families even intimidated the government. Hamas said, “We are not going to take this!” In the first faceoff with those clans, Hamas threw whatever guns and man power they had to break the will of those clans and they did just that. Since most leaders in Hamas come from small families, the assault on large clans makes sense. Now size no longer matters in Gaza. Said Syyam, the former Hamas Minister of Interior successfully spearheaded this front.
4. Dubious financial transactions and frauds are kept to a minimum. As my dad and siblings own several businesses in Gaza, I can tell you that in the past people can write you a check with no credit and once the check bounced, you weren’t able to collect your money because they legal system did not enforce the law it made. Hamas now says if anyone of those guys does not pay you the money, come to us and we will make sure you get your money. My dad tells me that if he takes a returned check to the proper authorities, the first thing they will do is put the person who issued the check in jail for 21 days. It gets worse after that.
5. Debt collection is easier under the new government. Dad tells me that if a member of the Hamas government does not pay when he says he will pay and dad files a complaint against him/her then the government will garnish the debtor’s paycheck and pay the debt collector right away. If the person is not affiliated with the government, the Hamas guys will call him and ask him to pay. If he does not pay, they ask him to come in. By then most people pay up. Dad brags about how he uses this service regularly. He says most people who like to be seen with Hamas guys are afraid of being punished by Ramallah government who fires and cuts the salaries of any employee of theirs who has contact or has been perceived as such dad does not mind it as he is retired and frequently disses Hamas.
6. Taxi services function 24/7 due to the increased security. This is the one service I enjoy the most in Gaza. Taxi offices are spread all over the narrow Strip. Now we can spend all day and night on the beach or visiting family and know that we can get a ride anytime. This service would not flourish if the sense of security and safety did not exist. Under the previous government, this taxi service late at night was not an option. Random gunmen were seen throughout the night and fear was all around.
7. Random killing is kept to minimum because any unauthorized use of firearms is investigated and punished. In the late years of the previous government, Gaza was a replica of the Wild Wild West. People get killed for no reason and no one knows who fired. People used to lose their lives for being in the wrong places the wrong time or for just being themselves. Nowadays, every time one uses a gun, it gets reported to the police who take it seriously (I suppose Hamas does not want Fatah guys carrying firearms). If you shoot a gun you better be a policeman or have a compelling reason for doing so. The only people who have arms other than the police are the Palestinian resistance groups–mainly Islamic Jihad.
8. The Gaza beach is now a place where families can actually enjoy themselves, as opposed to the past where a few jerks harassed any female that went into the water. It used to bother me to see young men changing their clothes in public in front of kids and women. This is no longer a major problem. For example, I swam last summer with my fiancé and no one harassed us–maybe because it was dark. In the past we would have more personal freedom, but that also means others would have had more personal freedom to harass us–mainly her. Now, anytime you complain of the improper conduct of the youngsters, they take it seriously. To be honest, we had to take our IDs and rings in case an extremist element of Hamas wanted to make sure we are Halal.
9. Hamas has done a better job in embracing technology in governing. In Gaza, many government services can be done online. No need to stand in a long line, eliminating the uncertainty and promoting transparency. There are few government services that can be delivered to cellphones to save people the commute where limited gas is a problem. It seems that smaller groups are quicker to embrace new technologies. That perhaps explains why Hamas has a superior and an extensive media arm than Fatah.
10. Favoritism is kept to minimum, or so it seams… Gaza is like the rest of Palestine and like the rest of the third world. An area where people count on friends and relatives to push their case on their behalf. Hamas has managed to stay above the fray by simply ignoring requests to play favorites. Obviously not all Hamas officials are saints, there is abuse, but anytime an abuse is reported people lose their jobs. I think this is largely due to religious convictions and to a lesser extent Hamas’ intentions to be different than Fatah. I had a young Fatah activist tell me about Fatah “In the past, they used hire women who do not have many work related experiences”, “they only need to show some cleavage and legs and they are hired Manager C level”, “Now, this does not fly with them” This is true to a certain degree, but I think now a mosque connection can help get you a job with Hamas.
To be fair, those accomplishments do much to make life better in Gaza, however, they do little to ease the brutal siege placed on Gaza. Hamas remains unable to govern effectively because they fail to secure food supplies for their population, and worse they feel to secure freedom of movement for an entire people. Weather Hamas agrees to form a unity government or not, this has to be seen in the next few weeks For now, I am hoping the people of Gaza will finally see a light at the end of the tunnel, pun intended.