Monday, February 25, 2008


Hamas Protest Flops, Reuters and AP Shill Anyway


Hamas was predicting 40,000 to 50,000 demonstrators on the border between Gaza and Israel today; they got less than 5,000.

But that’s OK; Reuters Palestinian propagandist Nidal al-Mughrabi calls it a “mass protest” anyway: Gazans stage mass protest against Israeli blockade.

Al-Mughrabi also calls it “peaceful,” which it was if you overlook the rockets fired into Israel and the arrests of 50 stone-throwing “youths.”

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip (Reuters) - Thousands of Palestinians formed a human chain in the Gaza Strip on Monday in a protest against an Israeli blockade that has deepened hardship in the Hamas-controlled territory.

Israel had put troops on alert along the frontier and threatened to open fire if protesters tried to surge across the border. Organizers had forecast 40,000 to 50,000 participants but only about 4,500 people turned out in inclement weather.

Although the event, promoted by Hamas Islamists and allied activists, was peaceful, militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets at southern Israel while the protest was under way, wounding a child.

After the human chain broke up, Palestinian youngsters hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers at Gaza’s Erez border crossing. The Israeli army said it detained 50 stone-throwers.

The Associated Press, on the other hand, doesn’t even mention the rockets or the stone-throwers: Hamas Gaza protest passes peacefully.

Crisis Averted . . .


All I can say is: what a relief — the Israel-Gaza border is calm today. Last night, at almost 10 PM, expecting the worst, the Israeli embassy in Washington took the unusual step of issuing a preemptive statement on what was believed to be an impending public-relations disaster:

Hamas is behind an intentional action that yet again places Palestinian civilians on the front lines. Israel does not interfere in demonstrations taking place inside the Gaza Strip, but Israel will protect its borders and will prevent any violations of its sovereign territory. Israel is acting to prevent any deterioration of the situation but wishes to unequivocally clarify that if this does happen, the sole responsibility lies directly on Hamas’ shoulders.

An Israeli government contact who I spoke with last night was anxious, saying that the IDF and police were anticipating a horrible turn of events: a massive attempt, orchestrated by Hamas, to push civilians by the thousands into Israel. The Israelis would be forced to choose between two terrible options: either contain the incursion through force of arms, or let it through — there would really be no middle choice. Would the IDF and police send rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd that included women and children? Would they have any other choice, short of simply permitting a Hamas invasion of Israel?

All of this was intended by Hamas and its Iranian patron to take the fight to Israel in the most reliable arena that exists for them today: the media. Put images of tear-gassed Palestinian children on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, and enjoy, for a few blissful days, watching Israel get engulfed by paroxysms of false moral outrage. It would have been a brilliant strategy — if only the crowds had shown up. Perhaps today the people of Gaza feel that they don’t owe so much to Hamas, after all.



Today was supposed to be Ismail Haniyeh’s big day. A huge demonstration of Gazans was slated to protest the Israeli blockade. The “longest human chain in the world,” we were told, was going to link arms from Gaza City to Rafiah. Maybe they would storm the border, like they did with Egypt. Hundreds of thousands, maybe even more. Israelis warned that they would respond in force, and sent reinforcements pouring towards the border. Hamas, we were told, was in a “win-win” situation; either they would succeed in breaking the blockade, or they would get such great coverage of Israeli brutality that no one would care if they failed.

But only 5,000 people showed up.

We have no idea exactly what went wrong. But we are left with two possibilities, and two alone: (1) Gazans don’t really care so much about the blockade, or (2) Israel outmaneuvered Hamas in its diplomatic and military preparations, and Haniyeh understood he had little to gain–in which case, we should never again believe that Gaza protests are spontaneous displays of genuine outrage, but rather programmed rallies dictated from above, as we always thought.

Looks like it’s lose-lose for Hamas.

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