What I learnt about Gaza

 Just a few days after the recent war between Hamas and Israel had started, Ha’aretz prominently featured on its homepage an article under the title “Israelis are completely misled about what’s going on.” The author, Abeer Ayyoub, is a young journalist from Gaza, and Ha’aretz subsequently published several additional articles by her. Obviously Ayyoub’s mission was to describe the impact of the ongoing fighting from the perspective of people in Gaza, and even though I was put off by her apparent willingness to follow the guidelines for social media users issued by Hamas, I started to become curious about how young educated people in Gaza felt about the terribly difficult situation they were facing.
I therefore checked out not only Ayyoub’s published work and her social media activity, but also compiled a list of several young Gaza residents who were very active on Twitter and posted mainly in English. While putting together this list and looking at their pictures and what they said about themselves in their Twitter profiles, I felt a strong sense of regret: they all seemed to be attractive young people, well-educated and eloquent, some with a wonderful sense of humor, others touchingly hopeful and happy in young marriages, and it was just such a tragedy that they had to endure the terrible consequences of the misrule and aggression that Hamas and other jihadi terrorist organizations so proudly stand for.

I was fully aware that these young people are not really free to express themselves since they live under the rule of a totalitarian fascist terror group that disdains individual freedoms and requires those it rules to submit to the requirements of “jihad” and “resistance.” I also didn’t expect them to feel friendly towards Israel given that they had to endure terrifying bombardments that resulted in much death and destruction.  However, the fact that these people tweeted mostly in English obviously also means that they do not depend only on the news fed to those who must rely on Hamas propaganda and a perhaps limited range of Arab media.

But my eagerness to see them as people just like me, my family and friends, soon gave way to the realization that most of these young Gaza residents seemed willing to enthusiastically back the Islamist terrorists who ruled them and had turned their neighborhoods into jihadist bases for their counterproductive “resistance” to an occupation that had ended almost a decade ago. The most chilling examples of this attitude I found – and already discussed in previous posts – were the tweets of Belal Dabour, a young Gaza doctor who gained tens of thousands of Twitter followers during the war. Dabour and other popular Gaza-based tweeps were featured in a recent Al Jazeera documentary; the probably most popular of all Gaza tweeps – the naïve 16-year old daughter of Gaza neurosurgeon Dr. Basil Baker, who offensively describes herself on Twitter as “the modern Anne Frank” and who managed to attract more than 200 000 followers during the war – was already featured previously on Al Jazeera America.

 Al Jazeera America described Farah Baker as “a voice for Gaza’s youth” and explained that

“she prays for Hamas rockets to hit their targets in Israel. And she’s unafraid of using strong images to convey her point and the anger she feels. One of her tweets, for example, depicts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu feasting on a Palestinian child with blood dripping from his mouth.”

Indeed, Farah Baker obviously didn’t see any reason to hide her enthusiasm for Hamas and freely expressed her sometimes bizarre views, confident of the immunity bestowed by her new celebrity status: google her name and see for yourself that she was uncritically featured by countless media outlets all over the world. Hamas must have been very happy to have such a popular spokesperson – all the more so since she doesn’t cover her hair, making it easy for young people outside of the Muslim world to identify with her as a teenager “just like us.” The fact that Baker’s own conduct also showed other young people that it’s OK to post antisemitic material will certainly be seen by Hamas as an added bonus.
While it is perhaps understandable that the media would gloss over the half-baked radicalism and racism of a privileged but immature teenager from Gaza, it is arguably quite revealing that a supposedly progressive publication like Ha’aretz would feature a supporter of reactionary theocratic fascists like Hamas to make the case that “most of the Israelis are totally misled about what’s going on in Gaza.” Coming from Abeer Ayyoub, this is indeed downright Orwellian, for she herself has been working hard to mislead people about what’s going on in Gaza.

When I first reviewed some of her past work, I thought I detected hints of criticism towards Hamas, but either I was mistaken or she has become more radical. Richard Behar notes Ayyoub’s work for the New York Times in his recently published analysis of the “Media Intifada,” pointing out that some of her Facebook posts not only show a longstanding hostility to Israel, but also clear support for Hamas.  If I or anyone else was still in doubt about that, Ayyoub recently took the trouble to make perfectly clear how she feels.
Behar also highlighted one of Ayyoub’s Facebook posts that is a sad reflection of her views about the work of journalists: Ayyoub not only passionately denied that Hamas was in any way trying to control the media coverage of the situation in Gaza, but also insisted that Hamas had every right to do so, though she claimed there was no need for that because “WE THE LOCALS, tell the foreign journalists what cant be reported, such as the places where rockets are fired from.” Ridiculously, she also asserted in this post that “no Journalist in Israel can report about the real number of causalities, the reactions of the people.”

It seems Ayyoub writes for Ha’aretz, but never ever reads the paper.

Since Ayyoub apparently now also works for Gisha, an Israeli NGO that promotes freedom of movement for Palestinians, I remembered that I recently used a quote from a Ha’aretz article that cited Sari Bashi, the founder and former executive director of Gisha, as saying that “Gaza is not Hamas.” Perhaps Bashi should once talk to Ayyoub who obviously feels that Gaza is Hamas. And while I was reluctant to rely on my arguably unrepresentative sample of Gaza tweeps for sweeping conclusions, the indeed confirm that the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are now supporting Hamas.

The poll results make grim reading for anyone hoping for a peace agreement – not just because they confirm once again that terrorism and the targeting of Israeli civilians has massive support among Palestinians, but also because they illustrate dramatically that Palestinians enthusiastically embrace views that are completely divorced from reality. After they spent weeks protesting the death and destruction that the fighting inflicted on Gaza, 79% of Palestinians now believe that “Hamas has won the Gaza War.” Even more bizarre is that “63% believe that the ceasefire agreement satisfies Palestinian interests” and “59% are satisfied with the accomplishment gained in the agreement compared to the human and material losses sustained by the Gaza Strip.”

In other words, clear majorities of Palestinians believe that Hamas won a war that killed over 2000, wounded more than 10 000, entailed massive destruction in some Gaza neighborhoods and ended with a ceasefire that was on offer for weeks, long before the casualty count and property damage mounted. A cynic might be tempted to conclude that it would perhaps take comparable losses to convince the Palestinians that the peace agreements they rejected in the Camp David and Annapolis negotiations were a worthwhile deal.

While there have been many analyses tackling the question if Iran’s ruling mullahs are rational actors, the reactions to recent events arguably illustrate that it’s time to ask how rational Palestinian public opinion is and what it means for the prospects of peace that over and over again, Palestinians are willing to enthusiastically embrace terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.