Last month, the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Land Authority in the Gaza Strip "removed" three houses, bulldozed about 30 dunums (7.4 acres) of agricultural land, and notified several farmers that it will confiscate their land for the purpose of expanding the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Pictured: Hamas militiamen at the Rafah border crossing in Gaza, on February 1, 2021. (Photo by Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images)
On January 3, 2021, the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Land Authority (PLA) in the Gaza Strip "removed" three houses -- one of which had been inhabited by a family of three -- and bulldozed about 30 dunums (7.4 acres) of agricultural land in the as-Salam neighborhood west of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
The decision to bulldoze the houses and fields -- which came on short notice and did not include direct notifications to those affected by it -- inflicted financial damage on farmers and displaced several Palestinians from their houses, according to the Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.
"The decision also sparked public outrage, with some protesters clashing with [Hamas] police," the center said.
"Nine protesters, including three women, sustained injuries after being beaten by the police, and 16 others were arrested. In addition, six police officers, including a chief law enforcement officer, were injured, as the crowd, largely made of up affected persons, threw stones at them."
The PLA also notified several farmers of its decision to confiscate their land for the purpose of expanding the Rafah border crossing.
The incident in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, not the first of its kind, did not attract the attention of human rights organizations and media outlets around the world. Such human rights violations are regularly ignored by the international community because they are perpetrated by Palestinians against Palestinians.
Had the bulldozing of the houses and fields and the confiscation of the lands been carried out by Israel, many human rights organizations and foreign journalists would have shown massive interest in the plight of the Palestinian families and farmers.
It is not uncommon for Hamas to commit human rights violations against the two million Palestinians living under its rule in the Gaza Strip. Since its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, has been ruling with an iron fist, consistently cracking down on its political opponents and critics and suppressing public freedoms.
In the past few years, Hamas has demolished and confiscated the houses of several Palestinians. Last year, Hamas bulldozers demolished the home of Mohammed al-Astal in the southern Gaza Strip on the pretext that it was illegally built on "state-owned" land.
Last year, the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank revealed that Hamas was planning to confiscate large areas of privately-owned lands in the Gaza Strip. According to the PA, Hamas formed the Palestinian Land Authority in the Gaza Strip to facilitate "land-theft."
After seizing the land, Hamas intends to offer it for sale to the same owners, the PA said. "Hamas will collect tens of millions of [Jordanian] dinars if it succeeds in implementing its plan," the PA added. "Since its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, Hamas has been stealing land and giving it to its officials and supporters."
The alleged Hamas "land-theft" has been totally ignored by so-called pro-Palestinian groups around the world, as well as the international media and human rights organizations. If human rights abuses do not contain an anti-Israel angle, many in the international community choose to look the other way.
A recent report by the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, also ignored by the international media and human rights groups, details a series of human rights violations in the Gaza Strip during 2020.
The report calls on Hamas to work to control the use of weapons and their spread, prevent the storage of weapons and explosives in densely populated areas and respect the right to form civil societies, and protect the right to peaceful assemblies and freedom of expression.
The Al Mezan Center report also documented the death in 2020 of at least 30 Palestinians in various "internal violence" incidents in the Gaza Strip, including six children and four women. Another 155 Palestinians were injured, including 17 children and 19 women.
Referring to a Hamas ban on public gatherings, the report pointed out that this was a "clear violation of the Palestinian Basic law."
Also during 2020, the report revealed, at least 23 Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip fell victim to various incidents of violence and intimidation, including arrests, summons' for interrogation and confiscation of their equipment.
Moreover, two Palestinians reportedly died in Hamas-controlled prisons in the Gaza Strip in 2020 as a result of torture and cruel inhuman treatment, the report noted.
On January 13, Hamas arrested Palestinian journalist Omaya al-Kahlout after he had posted a statement on Facebook in which he criticized Hamas measures against poultry farmers.
Two days later, Hamas detained Palestinian activist Sabah Karibeh for organizing an online protest against a local mobile phone company. Hamas officers seized his mobile phone and laptop before releasing him on bail.
The ongoing human rights violations by Hamas show that the Islamist movement does not care about reports issued by Palestinian human rights groups such as the Al Mezan Center. The Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip know that they can continue doing anything they want there because the international community only pays attention when there is way to blame Israel.
Now that the Palestinians are talking about the possibility of holding new presidential and parliamentary elections -- in which Hamas leaders have indicated their desire to participate -- it is important to pay attention to Hamas's practices in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, which won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election, has a good chance of scoring another victory -- if and when the elections take place.
In 2006, the US and European Union made a mistake by allowing Hamas, whose charter openly calls for the annihilation of Israel, to participate in the parliamentary election. If the Americans and Europeans repeat the same mistake, Palestinians in the West Bank will join their brothers in the Gaza Strip and find themselves also living under Hamas's repressive Islamist regime, which has no respect for human rights.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.