Gaza’s religious hardliners

I don’t need to remind most Green readers about the effects of the blockade of Gaza on life in Gaza. Gisha’s Freedom of Information request to the Israeli government has revealed more about this policy. B’Tselem has been testifying before Israel’s Turkel Commission to investigate May’s Gaza flotilla incident.

“Punishing a million and a half persons because some of them voted for Hamas is not legitimate. At any rate, the siege policy has not achieved its declared purpose: toppling the Hamas government and bring about the release of Gilad Shalit. There is, in fact, evidence that the opposite is true: in the absence of controlled foreign trade via Israel, a Hamas-controlled economy of smuggling via tunnels has developed, through which many kinds of goods are brought into Gaza, including weapons. Both the injustice and the futility of the siege policy are exemplified by the fact that, following international pressure in the wake of the flotilla incident, the government of Israel immediately announced that it would ease restrictions on entry of previously prohibited materials, including items that had been defined as potentially dangerous to state security.”

What we hear less about, because it complicates the dominant stories about Palestinians as barely-surviving victims of Israel alone, is this kind of thing about Gaza City’s Crazy Water Park from Guardian correspondent Harriet Sherwood. Despite its popularity and political correctness – in Gaza this means sex segregation, with only girls aged below 12 permitted to swim – it became the target of religious hardliners with tacit government support.

“The theme park, on the fringes of Gaza City, had suffered a previous arson attack on 20 August during Ramadan, following false rumours that it was hosting mixed-gender parties, and had to close for three days because of the damage.

Then, on 5 September, the Hamas attorney-general ordered the resort’s closure for another three weeks. “We were informed there was an unlicensed water whirl,” said Ala’aeddin al-Araj, one of the park’s five investors. “But it was not the real reason, because there are about 20,000 unlicensed water whirls in the Gaza Strip.”

On 19 September came the biggest attack. Despite the lockdown that Hamas security forces have on Gaza City, a large group of gunmen moved unhindered through checkpoints and, according to Araj, spent considerable time setting fires at the resort. “It was well organised,” he said. “We know the attack took place under government eyes.””

Most people accept that the isolation of Gaza (as distinct from other possible enactments of security, which most of us who purport to care should take the trouble to understand better) exacerbates the problem of religious extremism. Palestinian Centre for Human Rights representative Hamdi Shaqqura:

“The broader picture of isolation in Gaza – international sanctions and closure – is a recipe for extremism to flourish,” said Shaqqura. “We are gradually moving to a monolithic society as interpreted by the ruling party. Their ideology flourishes in poverty and isolation. You can see the impact of this clearly.”

The Green Party has policy on liberating and emancipating Palestinians from Israelis but not from other Palestinians – in other words, building Palestinian civil society. And despite its avid interest in Palestinians, Green Party policy doesn’t acknowledge the threat posed by religious hardliners to women and regional minority groups such as Jews at all.

See also Playing Politics: Gaza’s Summer Camps.


6 thoughts on “Gaza’s religious hardliners

  1. Aliya Korn

    I am not sure of the purpose of posting the article on sex segregation in Gaza. It doesn’t surprise me to hear there is widespread segregation of girls and boys in that society. It is a universal fact of life that females are discriminated against and that men and women are treated differently in every society. It is also quite a common practice among Israeli’s, especially very frum Jews. I have frum relatives in Jerusalem who its very difficult to stay with because of all the do’s and don’ts I am expected to follow which are so many I get confused. And here in the UK, I see many more religious Jews than I, also have strict religious rules on the sexes mixing, the same as strict religious Moslems. They seem to have more in common with each other than I have with fundamentalist other Jews. It is certainly something I had some less intense experience of in a Liberal Jewish home in the UK, when as I child and teenager, my brothers were allowed to go out and have freedoms I was denied as a girl growing up in Harrow. It definitely turned me into a feminist!

    1. Mira Vogel Post author

      Hi Aliya, putting aside the comparison of religions (and I have drawn attention to the sex segration on Jerusalem buses in an earlier post here), in this post I’m drawing particular attention to what this government is doing or permitting to occur. Would you agree that the government of Gaza should be held to different account than the ordinary people you are bringing up here, who have no power beyond their immediate family?

      1. Aliya Korn

        did you say, “gov’t of Gaza”? I thought the elected gov’t of Gaza had been kidnapped by the IDF some time ago? I think the correct term should be “interim gov’t”. But let’s not split hairs. From what I hear, there is nothing exceptional about the way girls and women have to live under patriarchal rule in Gaza. It is common in a great many other places on the planet. What makes life exceptional for them is to live in a mass prison society. Thats the exceptional circumstances that Israel has imposed on Gazans. Patriarchy, well thats so common isn’t it? What Israel does, thats exceptional. There are few other places like it. Can you think of any current examples where a whole people have been imprisoned by an occupying force?

        1. Mira Vogel Post author

          Aliya, the post is an attempt to interfere with the simplistic view of bad aggressors / good victims. It didn’t try to whitewash the containment of Gazan, but quoted from B’Tselem’s testimony about the damage this has done before moving on to discuss arson against Gazan water resorts under Hamas’ nose, and finally closing with a quotation that implicates Gaza’s isolation in the state of affairs.

          But you are trying to change the subject entirely, and you seem to have adopted the simplistic view Greens Engage is trying to disrupt, that only Israel should be held to account for its policies.

          Arson against a cherished water resort on the basis of rumours about mixing of the sexes is a damning indictment on Hamas, the political party which indeed controls Gaza.

  2. Pingback: What Others Say. « ModernityBlog

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