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The Hideous Face of Hamas Rule in Gaza

“You can only imagine what would happen if Israel dealt with its internal political enemies or dissenters in such a fashion,” writes Richard Cohen of a new Human Rights Watch report detailing the appalling abuses of human rights entailed by … Read More

By / April 22, 2009

“You can only imagine what would happen if Israel dealt with its internal political enemies or dissenters in such a fashion,” writes Richard Cohen of a new Human Rights Watch report detailing the appalling abuses of human rights entailed by the continuing rule of Hamas in Gaza.

“Of particular concern is the widespread practice of maiming people by shooting them in the legs, which Hamas first used in June 2007, when it seized control inside Gaza from Fatah,” says the HRW report. And there’s this too: “Abductions and severe beatings are another major concern. According to ICHR, unidentified perpetrators physically abused 73 Gazan men from December 28 to January 31, causing broken legs and arms. Human Rights Watch documented three such cases of Fatah supporters assaulted during and after the Israeli offensive, as well as one case of what appeared to be a politically motivated house arrest.”

This particularly harrowing story does not, thusfar, appear to have inspired any demonstrations from the “We Are All Hamas” crowd who took to the streets to protest Israel’s invasion of Gaza earlier this year:

In the case resulting in death, at around 6 p.m. on January 4, 2009, members of the al-Najjar family were sitting outside their home in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City when four men wearing masks and carrying AK-47 assault rifles approached the house. Two family members who were present told Human Rights Watch that the gunmen wore unmarked black uniforms and ammunition vests, but the family did not identify them as Hamas. When the gunmen ordered everyone to stand up and raise their hands, the head of the household, Hisham al-Najjar, age 55, protested, the two witnesses said. An argument ensued and one of the gunmen fired a shot, hitting no one. At least five women inside the house came rushing out, and in the chaos the gunmen opened fire, killing Hisham al-Najjar and wounding ten members of the family and a family friend. The victims ranged in age from a 12-year old girl, Ahlam Hisham al-Najjar, who was shot in the leg, to Zakkia al-Najjar, 70, Ahlam’s grandmother, who was shot in both legs. Human Rights Watch observed the bandages on both her legs.

“After the gunmen left, I saw a sea of blood,” said Amar Hisham al-Najjar, 25. He told Human Rights Watch that the gunmen shot his father Hisham in the chest, the abdomen, and the legs.”There was no electricity and no ambulances because of the war, so we tried to stop the bleeding and got our friends to drive the wounded to al-Shifa hospital, where my father died,” he said. “The Hamas police at the hospital questioned me about what happened, and they said they’d get back to me, but there’s been nothing. I’m not accusing anyone, but we demand a real investigation.”

Human Rights Watch is hardly regarded as a friend of Israel. Many Israel advocates view them as a foe, pure and simple. I’ve always thought that take is too crude. Of course, HRW’s reports should not, a priori, be regarded as beyond challenge or reproach. But to portray them as a mere cog in the Israel demonization machine is, as this new report demonstrates, deeply unfair. What’s really interesting here is whether HRW’s documentation of the hideous character of Hamas rule will compel at least some of those who regard the Islamists as a resistance movement to think again.

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