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Fearing Gazan Spring, Hamas Cracks Down on Dissidents

Gazan "Tamarod" group, inspired by success in Egypt, calls for mass demonstration to oust Islamist group.
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 8/4/2013, 5:01 PM

"Tamarod" activists in Egypt
"Tamarod" activists in Egypt
Reuters

Gaza's Islamist rulers are nervous.

The fall of Mohammed Morsi - the Islamist president of Egypt and scion of Hamas's parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood - has left them isolated.

The current Egyptian government, led by military strongman General Abdel al-Sisi, is decidedly hostile to Hamas, which it accuses of aiding jihadists within Egypt in their efforts to destabilize the country following Morsi's ouster. Sisi's administration has sealed off smuggling tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, and Egyptian military forces claim to have killed dozens of Hamas fighters during recent operations there.

Today, in another move designed to isolate Gaza's Islamist rulers, Egyptian media reported that the government had cancelled a visit by Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan - another Islamist ally of Hamas.

A message on social network Twitter by Ibrahim Kalın, chief advisor to Erdogan, said that the visit was canceled to the “prolonged crisis” in Egypt. However, sources in Egypt said that the reason Erdogan was not welcome was concern over his Islamist positions and his affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Now, to make matters worse, Hamas may have an "uprising" of their own on their hands.

The "Tamarod" youth movement in Gaza has called for mass-demonstrations against Hamas on November 11th, on the anniversary of the death of PLO leader Yasser Arafat. "Tamarod" (or "Rebel") is the name of the popular anti-Islamist youth movement which led popular protests against Mohammed Morsi in the run up to his removal by the military.

Now, the Palestinian Authority branch of the movement is calling on PA Arabs to take to the streets en-mass and demand an end to Hamas rule.

According to the Palestine Press, Hamas authorities have already begun a crackdown on activists suspected of being involved in the movement.

Though an arch-terrorist in his own right, Arafat's legacy is one of secular Arab nationalism, as opposed to Hamas's fusion of Arab nationalism and Islamic extremism. The Fatah party which Arafat founded, and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and PA (Palestinian Authority) which it dominates are seen as not only a rival political force, but a rival political ideology.

However, the Tamarod group has made it clear that they are entirely independent of Fatah - despite claims by Hamas authorities that their secular rivals are behind the movement.

In 2006, following the deportation of the Jewish communities of Gush Katif, Hamas won the Palestinian Authority legislative elections in Gaza. Shortly afterwards, Hamas terrorists consolidated their power through a bloody purge of all remaining vestiges of Fatah/PLO power.

At the time, most Gazan Arabs appeared to support Hamas, having tired of decades of PA corruption and human rights abuses. But since taking control (and not holding any further elections to gauge the legitimacy of their rule), Hamas has become increasingly unpopular for a variety of reasons, including the imposition of Islamic law on many aspects of Gazan life, corruption, and their own long list of human rights abuses against political opponents.

Whether the protest movement will materialize or not remains to be seen. The "Tamarod Palestine" Facebook page has nearly 21,000 likes, but the long period of notice it has given to the Hamas authorities may work against it, granting them time to round up leaders and disrupt its activities. Furthermore, it is unclear how much support it has on the ground, as opposed to cyberspace.

Either way, Hamas appears nervous.

Last week, it shut down two major Arabic media channels - Al Arabiya and Ma'an - for "distributing false news" and undermining the Hamas authorities. This latest crackdown may indicate that the Islamist group, which only a few months ago was reveling in support from its Egyptian allies, is feeling increasingly insecure.