The Palestinians in Gaza:
Anguished self-criticism by leading Palestinian spokesman

Published: 5 November 2006
Briefing Number 185

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Summary: In this Briefing we publish extracts from two impassioned articles recently published in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam. They are both written by Dr Ghazi Hamad, who is spokesman for the Palestinian Authority Government. He calls for the Palestinians to uproot their “culture of violence” and stop blaming others for their mistakes. And he warns that the Palestinians risk losing their freedom in Gaza .

Who's responsible for the Palestinian situation in Gaza ?

Statement: “….. Israel is to blame for the Palestinian plight. The Palestinians situation is forced upon them.”

This belief is almost universally held among those who support Palestinian rights, and by Palestinian and other Arab leaders.

Just occasionally, a different voice emerges, challenging this mindset and demanding that the Palestinians face up to their own mistakes and their culture of violence, and calling for them to take responsibility for their own situation.

This has just happened with a senior figure in Palestinian society – Dr Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority Government.

Hamad's criticisms are set out in two impassioned articles which appeared in the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam , on 27 August 2006 and 17 October 2006 . While Hamad calls for continued “resistance” to Israel , he also places responsibility for the Palestinian situation on the Palestinians themselves.

Below we publish verbatim extracts from the articles. Translations are by MEMRI ( ) and appeared as MEMRI Special Despatch 1268 and 1339, respectively.

We on Beyond Images take no joy in publicising these statements.


The following extracts are from Hamad's article of 17 October 2006

Our culture of violence is leading us into an abyss…

“Do we believe that all our problems cannot be solved except by violence: by the bullet, the shell, the flyer calling for aid, and by harsh language? Has the violence become a culture implanted in our body, in our flesh, and in our bones, to the point where it clings to us in sleep and in waking? I fear that we have surrendered to it, and it has become the master that we obey everywhere – in the home, in the neighbourhood, in the family, in the tribe, and in the organisation or the university – and no place remains safe from it.

The violence toys with us, leads us, and drags us into the abyss!! Even our children have lost their innocence and become filled with both fear and violence…..”

Masked gunmen are the heroes of our age….

“When we are angry at the electric company, we have no solution but to shatter its equipment and break its furniture. When we are angry at the municipality or at the governor, we call in a group of masked gunmen – the heroes of our age – to climb on the rooftop and draw their weapons in front of the satellite TV reporters…..”

Turning non-violence into violence

“With the smallest battle cry, non-violent marches become marches of stones, gunfire and clashes. Instead of strikes having a civilised and legal nature, they have sometimes turned into violence that damages schools, public institutions and roads.

When a man is angry at his wife, he comes with a group of gunmen ready to block roads to travellers. A referral to medical care abroad is obtained by force of arms and strong-arm tactics, and you can hold your place at the Rafah crossing [out of Gaza ] with a line of gunmen…..”

How the hospital has become easy prey

“The hospital has become easy prey, and doctors are forced to work with weapons drawn in their faces. We have destroyed the schools with our violence, attacked the Legislative Council with our weapons, set fire to Government offices and drawn weapons on members of Parliament, ministers and other senior officials…..”

Moving from violence to a language of peace

“The violence is not only a party or political phenomenon, but is culture, education and behaviour. It should not be dealt with solely by means of a government office or laws…. When the home sows violence, and when the establishment and the organisations sow violence, when there is violence in the street, at weddings and at funerals, who is responsible? Do we all bear responsibility? Yes…… We must talk among ourselves in a calmer, more reasonable language that will be better received. We must teach coming generations the language of peace, mutual understanding and civilised debate…..”

The following extracts are from Hamad's article of 27 August 2006

We are afraid to own up to our own mistakes…. Why did we not keep Gaza 's freedom?

“I want to make a reckoning and own up to our mistakes. We are always afraid to speak honestly about our mistakes, as we have become accustomed to placing the blame on other factors. The anarchy, the chaos, pointless murders, the plundering of lands, family feuds…… what do all of these have to do with the occupation? We have always been accustomed to pinning our failures on others, and conspiratorial thinking is still widespread among us….

We exhausted our people time after time with errors in which everyone played a role.

The question is: why did we not keep Gaza 's freedom? In the past we said, time and again, that we are in favour of the liberation of every inch of land. Today we have thousands of inches – 365 square kilometres [the entire Gaza Strip – Beyond Images] and nonetheless we have not succeeded in keeping this great blessing, and we have begun to lose it…..”

Indescribable anarchy in the streets of Gaza

“When you walk around Gaza, you cannot but help avert your eyes from what you see: indescribable anarchy, policemen that nobody cares about, youth proudly carrying weapons, mourning tents set up in the middle of main streets, and from time to time you hear that so-and-so was murdered in the middle of the night, and the response comes quickly the next morning. Large families carry weapons in tribal wars against other families…..”

The government cannot do anything, the opposition [Fatah] looks on from the sidelines, engaged in internal bickering, and the president has no power…. We are walking aimlessly in the streets. The reality in which we are living in Gaza can only be described as miserable and wretched, and as a failure in every sense of the word…..”

Our elections were a step backwards

“We applauded the elections and the unique democratic experience, but in reality there has been a great step backwards. We spoke of national consensus, but it turned out to be like a leaf blowing in the wind….”

Attacking crossing points and sabotaging efforts to make life easier….

“It is strange that when a great effort was made to reopen the Rafah crossing [out of Gaza] in order to make life easier for the residents, somebody fired a missile towards the crossing, or that when there is talk about the need for tahdiah (‘calm') somebody fires another missile…..”

Gaining minor profits through kidnapping foreign journalists….

“The kidnapping of foreign journalists has become a desirable trade for gaining minor, trivial profits, and it is no longer of importance that the Palestinians cause is being harmed, or that its image has been damaged in the eyes of the world, so long as a certain faction gains first place in the media, is in the spotlight of the cameras, and on the news….”

I wish only to give hope to the people of Gaza ….

“Have mercy on Gaza . Have mercy on it, and save it from your rule of the streets, from your chaos, from your futile weapons, and from your gangsters. Have mercy on it, and save it from your bitter quarrels and your verbal extremism… Have mercy on it by giving precedence to the homeland over a party or faction.

Many will accept my words, and some will not accept them, or will not want to hear them. Some will look for flaws and may find what they want, but Allah is my witness that I write these words only out of concern for Gaza and its citizens (out of concern for my homeland) and out of a persistent desire to give hope to our people, and to give it a strong sense that we stand alongside it…..”

Some related Beyond Images resources

Briefing 147 – Palestinian gunmen rampage through Gaza medical centre (July 2005)

Briefing 85 – Palestinians call for a “peaceful intifada” (March 2004)

Briefing 37 – Palestinians admit intifada was a mistake (January 2003)