Hundreds of users have used the hashtag #خطفوا-غزة (“They Kidnapped Gaza”) to share posts denouncing the party’s governance of the coastal enclave.
“Thieves can’t build a state that takes care of the interests of its people, just as they can’t liberate an occupied homeland,” Sad Abdalah tweeted, referring to the Hamas leadership.
The Gaza-based activist Amin Abed posted on his Facebook page: “…Gaza is the only place in the world where, when you go forward, you go backward thanks to its rulers.” He said that the campaign is intended “to make the ruler [Hamas] aware of its responsibilities after reaching an unbearable level of injustice and deterioration in all aspects of life.”
“Nothing can describe the cruel reality in Gaza. How can you justify the latest demolishing of beach kiosks in Jabalia [in the northern Gaza Strip], the only source of livelihood for desperate young [college] graduates who have lost hope of finding a job! How can you justify the unjust taxes extracted in return for no services! The skyrocketing unemployment! The extreme poverty!” he said.
People in Gaza are trying to communicate their problems to the media in order to put pressure on the rulers, “who must solve them or else go to national reconciliation [with the Palestinian Authority] that returns our dignity,” Abed stressed.
Many critics of the campaign, mainly Hamas supporters, accuse it of being based on political agenda, rooted in opposition to Hamas as a political party.
Amer Balosha, one of the initiative’s organizers, denies this. “This [online] campaign, which is an extension of the 2019 [“We Want to Live”] movement, is entirely based on basic living standard demands such as solving the crises of electricity, crossings, unemployment, taxes, and the health and education systems, and has nothing to do with Hamas as a political party itself,” he said.
Balosha, a 29-year-old law school graduate, lives in Istanbul after being arrested by Hamas police for his role in previously organizing similar movements.
Economist Mazen Alijla said that since Hamas’ 2007 takeover of Gaza, the residents of the strip have experienced dire living conditions because all economic and social indicators have been in continuous sharp deterioration.
“According to reports from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the actual unemployment rate in Gaza has reached more than 55%, and nearly 65% among [college] graduates,” he claimed.
The Al Mezan Center For Human Rights reported in October 2021 that international institutions expected the poverty rate in the Gaza Strip to rise from 53% in 2017 to 64%. The rate of food insecurity has already increased, to 62.2%, and about 80% of the population has become dependent on international aid for basic necessities.
This serious decline in basic living standards, Alijla noted, is a major reason for the fading of the middle class, whose consumer role is largely important in keeping the economy going. Unfortunately, the majority of this group has descended into poverty.
Alijla attributes the worsening economy to the policies of the de facto government in Gaza. “All measures taken by this government are in one direction, that is collection of money without providing any public services,” he said.
“As an economist,” he continued, “I can say that there is a huge problem in accessing information needed for economic assessment and analysis. The government doesn’t provide any statistics or information regarding the revenues collected or the expenditures. However, we know from the available general data that the level of money collected could be enough to produce a better economic situation.
"The fact that youth receive no support from the government explains the outrage on social media platforms", Alijla said.
However, Hamas may not be the only party responsible for the people’s misery in Gaza. Balosha believes there are three parties to the “crime,” saying that “Hamas should be blamed for this situation, given the fact that it’s the controller of the geographical space. The Palestinian Authority [in the West Bank] is guilty as well, after imposing sanctions on PA employees in Gaza since 2017.”
In addition, he continued, “the Israeli occupation bears the primary and greatest responsibility for all the Palestinian suffering, through its suffocating blockade, the recurring wars, and the inhuman practices and measures against the strip.”
Mansour Abu Krayem, a political analyst, agrees, claiming that “each side has played its role in deepening the Palestinian wounds, but Hamas’ insistence on holding on to power and the rule of Gaza for strategic leverage in the Palestinian internal equation makes it the direct factor behind the deadlock.”
On the contrary, Mustafa al-Sawwaf, also a Gaza-based political analyst, says Hamas is not at fault: “Hamas is not the one responsible for this suffering; Israel, the PA and the international community are. In fact, Hamas is trying to break the siege and mitigate its devastating impacts, while the PA is continuing to cooperate with the Israeli occupation and increase the burden on Palestinians in Gaza,” he said.
Sawwaf considers the #TheyKidnappedGaza campaign to be an attempt to demonize Hamas and cover for the PA’s “violations” in the West Bank. “This type of campaign is absolutely created by the PA intelligence in order to destabilize the situation in Gaza and to whitewash the PA’s page,” Sawwaf claimed.
According to Balosha, there is a good chance that the online movement develops into a ground protest like those of 2017 and 2019.
“Despite the suppression, Gaza’s people don’t waste opportunities to make their voices heard in a civilized and democratic way, through the legal demonstrations guaranteed by the law and all international constitutions,” he said.
The article is written by Sanaa Alswerky and reprinted with permission from The Media Line