What does the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas do when it is not firing rockets at Israel or sending Palestinians to clash with Israeli soldiers along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel? It sends its security officers to arrest, interrogate, intimidate and harass anyone who dares to criticize Hamas.
It is not as if anyone was expecting Hamas to act differently. The terms democracy and freedom of expression have never been in Hamas’s dictionary. For Hamas, it is either you are with us or you are against us. There is no third option for Palestinians living under Hamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip, even for those who were previously associated with Hamas, but later changed their minds and dared to express a different opinion or, worse, criticize the Islamist movement.
In the past week alone, Hamas has arrested two Palestinian academics on suspicion that they voiced criticism of the group: professor of biology Salah Jadallah and writer Khader Mihjez.
Jadallah was arrested earlier this week after he posted a comment on Facebook in which he accused the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip of enjoying a comfortable life while Palestinians were wallowing in poverty and misery. In the December 19 post, he wrote: “It’s a life of hypocrisy, lies and quackery when an official lives in luxury while his people are overstrained and impoverished.” He went on to accuse the Hamas officials of stealing funds earmarked for the people in order to build villas and mansions for themselves.