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Palestinians: A Story You Have Not Heard in the West
By Bassam Tawil
Originally Published by the Gatestone Institute.
A Palestinian mother of five just spent 23 days in prison. During her incarceration, she was held in unspeakable conditions and denied family visitations. She was also prohibited from consulting a lawyer.
This is a story that no one has heard in the West.
Why? Because the Palestinian woman, Samah Abu Ghayyath, was detained not by Israel, but by Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules the Gaza Strip.
Abu Ghayyath would have been “fortunate” if she had been arrested by Israel. Then, the case would have reached the pages of major media outlets around the world and “pro-Palestinian” activists would have staged demonstrations and online campaigns to support her and denounce Israel.
By contrast, for instance, consider the example of Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian teenage girl from a village near Ramallah in the West Bank. In December 2017, Tamimi was detained by Israeli authorities for physically assaulting an Israeli soldier. After agreeing to a plea bargain, she was sentenced to 8 months in prison.
Tamimi has since become a symbol of the Palestinian “struggle” against Israel. She is glorified by many in the mainstream media in the West and advocates of Palestinian human rights around the world, who have turned her into an icon.
Tamimi has won all this fame and glory because she and her family members have long been staging skirmishes with Israeli soldiers in their village of Nabi Saleh. The teenager and her parents have made it a habit to invite journalists — or anyone carrying a camera — to document their provocative actions against the soldiers.
Abu Ghayyath, however, the woman from the Gaza Strip, has been less fortunate than the golden girl from the West Bank.
Unlike Tamimi, the arrest of the mother of five in early May by Hamas did not spark an international outcry. Western journalists and human rights organizations did not endorse Abu Ghayyath, as they were quick to do with Tamimi, a girl who hit an Israeli soldier.
Had Abu Ghayyath been arrested by Israel, her name would have appeared on the front pages of The New York Times and in the broadcasts of the BBC and CNN. The only ones who picked up her ordeal and demanded her release, however, were a few Palestinian women’s groups and, of course, her family.
The children of Samah Abu Ghayyath appeal for her release on television. (Image source: Wattan video screenshot)
Predictably, only a handful of Palestinians — and no Westerners — dared to denounce Hamas for arresting the woman.
Even after Abu Ghayyath’s release, it remains unclear why Hamas’s security forces arrested her in the first place. Some Palestinians speculated that she could have been taken into custody because of her affiliation with Hamas’s rivals in Fatah, the secular faction headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. Others believe she may have been arrested because of her activities on behalf of women’s rights in the Gaza Strip.
Abu Ghayyath still has not been formally charged with committing any crime. Hamas will not say why she was held in detention for 23 days. She herself appears to be too afraid to talk about the hard days she spent under interrogation in Hamas prison. In addition, her personal computer and mobile phone were confiscated.
Abu Ghayyath’s friends and family claim she was tortured physically and psychologically during her incarceration. They say they cannot understand the silence of many Palestinians and the international community towards Hamas’s action against a mother of five (her youngest child is only 8 months old).
During the time Abu Ghayyath was being held by Hamas, her children, some in tears, appeared on a Ramallah-based television station to appeal for the release of their mother. Hamas clearly did not care about these children, who were left at home alone, especially during the fasting month of Ramadan where the older girls (aged 13 and 11) had to prepare food and look after the younger ones.
Abu Ghayyath’s friends in Fatah have denounced her arrest as a “stain of shame on the forehead of Hamas.” But who said that Fatah’s human rights record is any better?
Fatah is the dominant party of the Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank. Its members and supporters also make up the largest percentage of the PA security forces, responsible for suppressing public freedoms and cracking down on political rivals and dissent.
Abu Ghayyath may have been the latest victim of the 11-year-old power struggle between Fatah on one side, and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the other. Both Fatah and Hamas have been arresting and harassing each other’s supporters for more than a decade.
The rivalry between Fatah and Hamas has resulted in a situation where the Palestinians have two separate mini-states — one ruled by Fatah in the West Bank and another ruled by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The two mini-states are both failed entities run by vicious and corrupt leaders who are blocking the emergence of new and younger leadership and clamping down on public freedoms.
These two mini-states have spared nothing in their struggle to throttle each other, from throwing Palestinians from rooftops and lynching them in public squares, to cutting off medical supplies, as President Abbas has done to the Gaza Strip.
This is the real tragedy of the Palestinians: failed leadership that has deprived them of international aid and a good life in favor of hating and killing Jews. Their leaders have dragged their people from one disaster to another — from Black September in Jordan in the ’70s to the civil war in Lebanon in the ’80s and ’90s to the Second Intifada during the 2000s to wars in the Gaza Strip that have claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinians.
But let us return to Abu Ghayyath. Where was Western sympathy or even attention while she was languishing in Hamas prison? Why was no one in the West interested in her story? Because she was not the victim of Israel. She was targeted only by her own people, by Hamas.
As such, Western journalists covering Palestinian affairs could not care less. The same way they do not care about repressive measures taken by Fatah and Hamas against Palestinians. The same way they see no wrongdoing on the Palestinian side. The only stories foreign journalists are interested in are those that reflect negatively on Israel.
This is yet another reminder of the dangerous double standard of the international community. Where all those who claim to be “pro-Palestinian” and are spewing hatred against Israel and Jews at college campuses in the US and Canada? If they really want to help the Palestinians, let them stand up and shout about the rights of women and gays living under Hamas’s repressive regime, and journalists who are being harassed and arrested by Mahmoud Abbas’s security forces.
Yelling lies about Israel and Jews does not make one “pro-Palestinian.” It only makes one an Israel-hater. Hating Israel does not improve human rights conditions for Palestinians living under Hamas and Fatah. Instead, it serves as a distraction and even facilitates Fatah and Hamas in suppressing public freedoms and human rights.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.