On July 30, thousands of Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip took to the streets to protest harsh living conditions and a shortage of power and gas. The protests, held under the banner "We want to live!", reflected growing discontent among the Palestinians against the Iranian-backed Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip through a violent and bloody coup in the summer of 2007.
At the same time as the Palestinians were demonstrating in the Gaza Strip, armed clashes erupted in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, where at least 11 people were killed, including a senior Palestinian security official, and several others were injured.
The two events -- in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon -- received little attention from the international community and media, most likely because Israel was not involved. Needless to say, the United Nations Security Council was not asked to hold an emergency session to discuss the crimes committed by Palestinians against Palestinians.
According to Palestinian sources, several protesters were wounded, some critically, when Hamas security officers used force to disperse the protests in the Gaza Strip. The protests erupted in several areas there, including Nusseirat, Khan Yunis, Jabalya, Rafah, Bani Suheila, and Shajjaiyeh, the sources said.
A statement issued by a group, the Unified Command of the Intifada in the Gaza Strip, noted in response to the protests that "the time of silence over oppression and the exploitation of religion to kill has ended." The group was referring to Hamas's continued repressive measures against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including a crackdown on journalists, political rivals, and human rights activists. It was also referring to Hamas's use of Islam to justify its policies and measures against the residents of the Gaza Strip.
The group urged Hamas to release all those who were arrested during the protests and bring to trial the security officers "whose hands were stained with blood." Among those arrested by Hamas security officers was Batoul Abu Salimeh, a 14-year-old girl from Jabalya. A 15-year-old boy from Rafah, who asked not to be identified, said Hamas thugs beat him in the leg and that he is afraid to go to hospital for treatment.
The protests in the Gaza Strip were organized by local Palestinian youth movements to put pressure on Hamas to solve the problems of poverty and unemployment. The protesters also demanded an end to the shortage of electricity and gas.
It is no secret that Hamas has been investing millions of dollars in building tunnels and manufacturing weapons to attack Israel, while ignoring the dire economic crisis in the Gaza Strip. Consequently, many Palestinians have been fleeing over the past few years in search of work and a better life in Europe and other countries.
Reports from the Gaza Strip -- almost completely ignored by the international media -- said that Hamas security officers stormed the Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah and abducted three Palestinian men who were wounded during the protests: Midhat Daoud, Nizar al-Liddawi, and Wissam Rasras.
Hamas officers also physically assaulted Palestinian journalist Walid Abdel Rahman, a correspondent for the Palestinian Authority's Palestine TV, while he was covering the demonstrations in Jabalya. Abdel Rahman said he was beaten by officers who identified themselves as members of Hamas's Internal Security force.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate condemned the assault on Abdel Rahman as a "flagrant violation of freedom of the press" and urged human rights organizations to intervene to halt such attacks and hold those responsible accountable.
Hamas security officers also arrested journalist Ehab al-Fasfous while he was covering the protests in Khan Yunis.
Rami Farajallah, member of the International Federation of Journalists, criticized Hamas for cracking down on Palestinian journalists who were reporting about the peaceful protests in the Gaza Strip. He called on Hamas to respect public freedoms, including freedom of expression, and to stop its repressive measures against journalists and those protesting against economic hardship.
A Ramallah-based Palestinian NGO, the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) called on Hamas to release all those who were arrested during the protests. ICHR revealed that Hamas security services detained 43 Palestinians from all areas of the Gaza Strip. It said that at least 15 Palestinians were wounded, with injuries including bruises, cuts, abrasions and fractures, as a result of being assaulted with kicks, punches, knives, clubs and iron bars.
ICHR called on Hamas to respect and promote the right to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly, and halt any measures that affect the right of citizens to organize public gatherings.
In an appeal to human rights organizations, Palestinian political activist Hamzeh al-Masri wrote:
"We, the people of Gaza, ask you to look into the crimes of the Hamas organization... and mention those crimes. We call on you to protect us from this organization that does not stop kidnapping and torturing citizens inside Gaza. And on this date 7/30/2023 there was a peaceful demonstration in Gaza calling for an improvement in the living conditions and [an end to] the severe injustice that we are exposed to in terms of poverty, hunger, permanent power outages, the imposition of heavy taxes on us, and the lack of jobs.... Hamas beat demonstrators, shot at their homes, and threatened them with weapons.... We call upon you once gain to protect us and rescue us from the Hamas organization as soon as possible. Watch all these crimes on this channel https://t.me/hamza20300"
Meanwhile, in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, at least 11 Palestinians were killed and 40 wounded in armed clashes between rival gangs, and at least 2,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes during the three days of fighting. The clashes erupted after the assassination of Fathi al-Armoushi, a senior Palestinian security officer, and three of his bodyguards.
The same international media that have been reporting obsessively about Israel's counter-terrorism operations in the West Bank over the past 18 months, have totally ignored Hamas's brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters and journalists in the Gaza Strip. The same applies to the bloody clashes in the refugee camp in Lebanon, where more than 2,000 Palestinians have been displaced as a result of the fighting. When Palestinians beat or kill Palestinians, the international media choose to look the other way.
The voices of the anti-Israel activists around the world who regularly rush to condemn Israel for seeking to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism have gone silent when it really comes to protecting Palestinians. The activists, who describe themselves as "pro-Palestinian," do not actually care about Palestinians, especially those living in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon's refugee camps. If Israel cannot be blamed, the world does not care.
The silence shows that the "pro-Palestinian" messaging is just dressed-up antisemitism. The alleged distress of "pro-Palestinian" individuals and pressure groups has nothing to do with a genuine concern for the Palestinians -- and everything to do with a racist hatred of Jews.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.