Monday, August 28, 2006

The "bacteria of stupidity"

A Gaza government spokesman has second thoughts
August 28, 2006
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH

"When you walk in the streets of Gaza City, you cannot but close your eyes because of what you see there: unimaginable chaos, careless policemen, young men carrying guns and strutting with pride and families receiving condolences for their dead in the middle of the street."

This is how Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority government and a former newspaper editor, described the situation in the Gaza Strip in an article he published on Sunday on some Palestinian news Web sites.

The article, the first of its kind by a senior Hamas official, also questioned the effectiveness of the Kassam rocket attacks and noted that since Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip, the situation there has deteriorated on all levels. It holds the armed groups responsible for the crisis and calls on them to reconsider their tactics and to stop blaming Israel for their mistakes.

"Gaza is suffering under the yoke of anarchy and the swords of thugs," Hamad wrote. "I remember the day when Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and closed the gates behind. Then, Palestinians across the political spectrum took to the streets to celebrate what many of us regarded as the Israeli defeat or retreat. We heard a lot about a promising future in the Gaza Strip and about turning the area into a trade and industrial zone."

Hamad said the "culture of life" that prevailed in the Strip has since been replaced with a nightmare. "Life became a nightmare and an intolerable burden," he said. "Today I ask myself a daring and frightening question: 'Why did the occupation return to Gaza?' The normal reply: 'The occupation is the reason.'"

Dismissing Israel's responsibility for the growing state of anarchy and lawlessness in the Gaza Strip, Hamad said it was time for the Palestinians to embark on a soul-searching process to see where they erred.

"We're always afraid to talk about our mistakes," he added. "We're used to blaming our mistakes on others. What is the relationship between the chaos, anarchy, lawlessness, indiscriminate murders, theft of land, family rivalries, transgression on public lands and unorganized traffic and the occupation? We are still trapped by the mentality of conspiracy theories - one that has limited our capability to think."

Hamad admitted that the Palestinians have failed in developing the Gaza Strip following the Israeli withdrawal and in imposing law and order. He said about 500 Palestinians have been killed and 3,000 wounded since the Israeli pullout, in addition to the destruction of much of the infrastructure in the area.

By comparison, he said, only three or four Israelis have been killed by the rockets fired from the Gaza Strip over the same period.

"Some will argue that it's not a matter of profit or loss, but that this has an accumulating effect" he said. "This may be true. But isn't there a possibility of decreasing the number of casualties and increasing our gains by using our brains and making the proper calculations away from demagogic statements?"

The Hamas official said that while his government was unable to change the situation, the opposition was sitting on the side and watching and PA President Mahmoud Abbas was as weak as ever.

"We have all been attacked by the bacteria of stupidity," he remarked. "We have lost our sense of direction and we don't know where we're headed."

Addressing the various armed groups in the Gaza Strip, Hamad concluded: "Please have mercy on Gaza. Have mercy on us from your demagogy, chaos, guns, thugs, infighting. Let Gaza breathe a bit. Let it live."

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