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The Palestinian Condition: Luxury For the Rulers, Misery For the Ruled



That most reliable and intrepid truth-teller about the Palestinian condition, the journalist Khaled Abu Toameh (who is based in Jerusalem), has just written a report on the misery in which most Palestinians live, while their leaders, both in Hamas and the PA, live in luxury. His report on the wretchedness of ordinary Palestinians is here: “Palestinians Commit Suicide as Their Leaders Live in Hotels and Villas,” by Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, :

It has been 15 years since the Islamist Hamas group seized control of the Gaza Strip, home to some two million Palestinians. Since then, the residents of the Gaza Strip have been reminded on a daily basis of the failure of the Iranian-backed group to provide them with decent living conditions.

Instead, the repressive governance of the Hamas leaders only brings the Palestinians in Gaza more misery.

The situation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has become so bad that an increasing number of young people have been committing suicide by self-immolation, throwing themselves from rooftops, swallowing large amounts of medicine and hanging.

This sudden rise in suicides reflects the total despair of the Palestinians in Gaza, and the near-total despair of those in the PA-ruled parts of the West Bank.

Many residents of the Gaza Strip undoubtedly regret the day they voted for Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election.

And to make matters worse, Hamas has not held an election since 2006. Nor in the PA-ruled territories in the West Bank has the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, allowed such elections. He is now in the 18th year of his four-year term.

Many residents also undoubtedly regret the day they supported the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, a process during which the Islamist group killed dozens of members of their rivals in the ruling Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Other reports claim that Hamas killed not dozens, but hundreds, of Fatah members in 2007, and expelled many others, who fled to the West Bank. And ever since, whenever Hamas has uncovered supporters of Fatah in Gaza, it arrests, or expels, or even kills them.

To express their discontent with Hamas and its failed governance, Palestinians have in the past launched protests, both on the streets and through social media, demanding an end to the economic and humanitarian crisis that has plagued them since the Islamist group seized control of the Gaza Strip.

The last protest, which took place in 2017 under the slogan “We Want to Live!”, was brutally crushed by Hamas’s security forces and militias.

Hamas quells all political protests with violence, including live fire. There has been no way to dislodge its rulers, whose brutal methods keep them in power, and will continue to do so, until the numbers of disaffected, and their willingness to face down the power of the Hamas goons, becomes too large to suppress, as happened in so many Arab countries – Syria, Libya, Egypt – during the soi-disant “Arab spring.”

Recently, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip decided to resume their protests against Hamas. The decision came after a spate of violent crime and suicide cases.

The Palestinians in Gaza now feel they have nothing to lose. They live in a state of misery that has nothing to do with Israel, but is the result of their rulers’ corruption, mismanagement, and grand theft.

In one instance, a Hamas security officer, Jibril Karmout, shot dead his father-in-law and sister-in-law, and wounded 15 others, because of a “family feud.”

Human rights organizations have documented 49 cases of homicide and suicides since the beginning of this year.

Just last week, an unemployed 25-year-old man from Shati Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip died days after pouring gasoline on himself and setting himself on fire. The man, who was later identified as Husni Abu Arabiya, was unable to provide for his pregnant wife and his parents, who all lived in the same house, according to Palestinian sources. His mother was injured when she tried to put out the fire.

“My son set himself on fire because of debts,” Abu Arabiya’s father said. “He did not have a home or a job. He set himself on fire because of poverty and hunger.”

Abu Arabiya’s sister said that the family lived in a rented house and was unable to pay the rent for the past seven months. “I appeal to the Palestinian governments of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to save the rest of the family,” his sister said….

For Husni Abu Arabiya, his inability to provide for his family — for he was without a job, and had been living with his parents — was a source of humiliation and despair. Neither he, nor his parents, had been able to pay the rent for seven months. Abu Arabiya broke under the strain of poverty and hopelessness.. Meanwhile Hamas leaders have been living in luxury, some of them in villas in Qatar and Turkey, indifferent to the misery of those they rule.

Just two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal (who lives in Doha) and Moussa Abu Marzouk (who lives in New Cairo, Egypt), have each amassed fortunes of $2.5 billion. This is money that they stole from the aid meant for the Palestinians in Gaza. The PA’s Mahmoud Abbas has also been no slouch; he and his two sons Tarek and Yasser have a family business empire worth of $400 million. While it is doubtful that ordinary Palestinians are aware of just how much their rulers have managed to accumulate, they know in a general way that the continuous theft of aid money continues to be enormous. They also are aware of the nepotism that characterizes the rule of both Hamas and the PA, with well-paid government sinecures made available to the relatives of the ruling elites in both Gaza and the West Bank.

There are 600 Hamas millionaires living in Gaza. These are people just below the top echelon; the members of that echelon prefer to live outside Gaza, where they need not hide the spectacular luxury in which they and their relatives now live. Khaled Meshaal lives in Doha; Moussa Abu Marzouk lives in New Cairo, and Ismail Haniyeh lives in Istanbul. This physical distancing reflects the gulf between the multimillionaire leaders of Hamas and the impoverished people over whom they rule. 

It is maddening to ordinary Palestinians, who are not members of, or otherwise connected to, the ruling elites – whether of Hamas in Gaza or the PA in the West Bank – when they realize how their rulers live, while they endure the misery that those very rulers brought upon them.

It remains to be seen whether the renewed Palestinian unrest in Gaza against the rapacious Palestinian leaders will attract any notice from the international community — or if more young Gazans will need to set themselves on fire before the Hamas-created desperation in the Gaza Strip becomes a story worth covering. After all, the media only like stories where Israel is the villain, and this is not such a story.

The PA and Hamas control the traditional media of press, radio, and television, but cannot control the social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — where tales of the rulers’ lavish living, their net worth, their villas in Istanbul or Doha, their children studying in Western universities, have all been spread, more fodder for fury. Now the Palestinians in despair kill themselves, but once that despair moves from anger turned inward, resulting in self-immolation, into anger turned outward, the enraged masses of Gaza and the PA-territories will be impossible for their rulers to subdue.