Despite its efforts to rebrand itself as a legitimate government and potential negotiating partner on the world stage, Hamas is unable to abandon its entrenched culture of violence, revenge and intimidation. Its recent self-congratulatory press conference in Qatar and the media’s captivation with the enacted amendments to the Hamas Charter are starkly undermined by the group’s continued extremist policies and brutal practices in the Gaza Strip. The summary execution of three suspected “collaborators” with Israel last week, before the ink on the new charter amendments had dried, speak loudly to Hamas’ current state of affairs, hypocrisy and intentions.Hamas talks the talk, internationally, but it is still far from being able to walk the walk.
On Thursday afternoon, May 25, Hamas publicly executed three Palestinian men its security forces allege had conspired with Israel to assassinate the commander of its armed wing, Mazan Faqha, two months earlier. The executions come as Hamas is waging multiple media campaigns globally to change its image; it recently published an addendum to its charter in an effort to recharacterize its blatant antisemitism and stated goal of killing Jews world over as merely a political tactic to achieve an independent Islamic state. In recent days it has also orchestrated a widespread hunger strike among imprisoned terrorists in Israeli jails in an attempt to portray these convicted criminals as victims.But Hamas’ execution of the three detained suspects was not meant for international consumption – it was instead another ruthless, internal message aimed at Palestinian residents of Gaza.Hamas is facing increasing pressure from the population of Gaza, where life has only gotten worse under Hamas rule and there is no longer any hope for improvement. The terrorist government cannot pay its bills and cannot provide residents the most basic commodities and services. It continues to utilize its budget, provided by Iran and foreign aid from a naïve international community, to spend lavishly on infiltration tunnels and rocket stockpiles.Against this backdrop, Hamas took what for it was an unusual step: it convened a show trial for the three accused collaborators, with extensive coverage in Hamas’s Arabic social media channels in Gaza. In the past, Hamas has merely rounded up those accused of collaborating with “the enemy” (Israel) and had them shot in groups in the public squares. Others who had fallen into disfavor with the terrorist leadership or its armed wing were simply shot in the street and deposited in dumpsters to rot in the Gaza heat.Indeed, in 2014, our organization, Shurat HaDin, submitted a complaint in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague seeking the indictment of Hamas leader Khaled Mashal for the summary execution of 38 suspected Palestinian collaborators in Gaza without trial in violation of international humanitarian law. The 38 were murdered by Hamas during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The slow-moving ICC is still deciding if it will actually investigate these well documented and plainly evident crimes against humanity.With public support waning and Hamas’s recent attempt to gain legitimacy internationally, its terrorist leadership decided, this time round, to at least give the appearance of a trial to these three Palestinians. However, by all accounts, including those of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and the European Union, the “trial” afforded to the three did not comply with international norms of due process and human rights. Shockingly in a capital crimes case, the staged trial consisted of only four short hearings, and the outcome was already certain. At the end of the last hearing on Wednesday, May 17, 2017, the Palestinian Authority’s Interior Ministry in Gaza, a Hamas-controlled agency, publicly announced that the verdict would be released on the following Sunday, and an official added that the sentence would be death and there would be no right of appeal.When the executions were quickly carried out this past week – two defendants were hanged and one was executed by firing squad – Hamas’s Arabic- language social media outlets gave repeated updates and one even live-streamed the gruesome event on Facebook. Only after the execution did Hamas’s Interior Ministry release what were claimed to be video confessions of the three defendants (with their faces and voices disguised). In addition, the ministry published ominous pictures of gallows and a noose with the phrase “Destiny of Traitors” featured as the Arabic social media hashtag. The message was clear – Hamas will kill any Palestinian who displays disloyalty.The world must not be fooled by Hamas’s international media campaigns, or by its attempts to whitewash its reign of intimidation over Palestinians in Gaza. The terrorist organization has not changed from the violent extremist movement it has always been and it continues to deprive its own people of justice, prosperity and hope. Gaza today is indeed occupied by a brutal enemy of the Arab residents there, and the sooner the international community stands up to Hamas and reasserts the rule of law with a zero-tolerance policy for extrajudicial murder, terrorist rocket fire and revenge killings, the sooner a sense of security and of stability can be reasserted in the region.The author is an Israeli human rights lawyer and the president of Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center.
Hamas sentences three Palestinians to death over commander"s killing (credit: REUTERS)