Our recent blog, the “Numbers Racket,” regarding the “civilian” casualties count in Gaza merits a follow-up. The fanaticism that animates Hamas reflects itself not only in their cavalier treatment of facts for PR purposes, but more profoundly in how they treat their own people who probably pay the largest cost of the ideologically driven and radical leadership.
Emily Harris has been reporting for NPR from Gaza since the outbreak of hostilities. She has primarily focused on the human tragedies without giving a whole lot of context as to what might have been the precursor events to a mosque or other innocent seeming site being hit by a bomb.
That being her method, it’s no wonder that a few nights ago she did a piece about the saddened and diminished celebration in Gaza of Eid al Fitr, the feast at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Predictably, she interviewed members of a family, the el-Masris, who bemoaned the circumstances under which they were “celebrating” Eid.
HARRIS: And in one classroom, a relative who has just lost her son….She calls him a resistance fighter and said, he stayed in the house and died in the shelling. She has nine other children, but with no money, they can't do anything special for Eid. In another classroom, a young father, Rasan el-Masri (ph), says, this year he chose to not mark the holiday. He did let his son pick out a toy. The 4-year-old chose a plastic gun.
It's much quieter than the big guns he's been hearing. Although Rafik el-Masri left his home two weeks ago, he has not slept in a school. Instead, he borrowed a friend's spare apartment in Gaza City.
There are 53 people staying in this three-bedroom apartment, including, the mothers say, eight babies, at least.
HARRIS: The matriarch of the bunch, 84-year-old Amna el-Masri (ph), wakes up from a nap on the floor. She remembers big Eid celebrations.
We used to make cakes and sweets and get dressed up in new clothes, she said. Sometimes, we'd slaughter a cow or a sheep and give meat away. This Eid, she lets fly a dark insult in Arabic. There is no slaughter, no sweets. They'll eat hummus and sandwiches from a local shop. Twenty-eight-year-old Tamer el-Masri remembers Eid traditions like his grandmother had.
TAMER EL-MASRI: My old days - my Eid - it was a beautiful thing. We go to the mosque and pray. And after that, we go to uncles, aunts and my cousins and see them. This day was - it's a nice day for every Muslim in the world. But I'm sorry for my kids. They don't - they don't have the sweet of this Eid - this holiday.
What few listeners might have realized, is that the “good old days” that the el-Masri clan members were recalling with such nostalgia when they could “slaughter a cow or a sheep…give meat away…and go to the mosque and pray” were undoubtedly under Israeli occupation---not under Hamas’ rule.
The young man she quotes is twenty eight years old, the Israelis evacuated Gaza in August 2005 when he was nineteen years old. All of his childhood memories would have been during the previous decades which were under the Israelis.
This is not to hold a brief for occupation and the serious issues of lack of self-government that existed in Gaza from 1967 until 2005—a condition that few but the most extreme would like to return to. But the years under Israel were apparently better in some key ways than the devastation that Hamas has brought upon the Gazans in recent years---including the exploitation and death of their own young children---not just the inability to celebrate a festive holiday.
An article in the Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol.41, no.4---Summer, 2012) reported that in the building of the tunnels that have been so much in the news of late,
…nothing was done to impede the use of children in the tunnels, where, much as in Victorian coal mines, they are prized for their nimble bodies. At least 160 children have been killed in the tunnel, according to Hamas officials.
If Hamas officials own up to 160 child deaths, one can only imagine what the real numbers are. Fanaticism and absolutist ideology have a price---even your own kin will be their victims.