Tuesday, 15 March 2011

How to divide an anti-division Palestinian protest?

This is how Hamas intervened in Gaza's 15 March protest in an attempt to hijack it or, better, provoke the demonstrators.

Hamas inserted its own crowd, with their green flags and party paraphernalia, into the dem-  onstration in Gaza's Unknown Soldier square.

This is in spite of the organisers' agreement that only the flag of Palestine would be raised. 

It was also clear that supporters of various Palestinian factions appeared, but not a single faction flag or banner has been seen.

Hamas also set up a parallel stage, with huge speakers, where its representatives started to dictate their conditions for unity with Fatah, which is strong in the West Bank.

The protest has been one of the biggest since Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority in June 2007. 

Around 300,000 Palestinian attended in Gaza, according to local estimates, and100,000 according to Reuters. They called for an end to the political division between Gaza and the West Bank on the way to hold elections.

A Palestinian youth in the news report said: "To cut to the chase, what we say today is that enough is enough."

"Away with the green [Hamas] and the yellow [Fatah] for the sake of Palestine," said another Gazan child.

The protest in Gaza's Omar al-Mukhtar street bore signs of success. Doctors, engineers, students and people from all walks of life attended after a group of activists had spent a cold night in the Egyptian-era avenue.

But it ended few hours later with bitterness, and some violence.  

After using giant speakers to silence other chants, Hamas introduced its ushers.

They directly started to try to control the event. They began to divide and harass the  protesters and push the girls away. 

A Palestinian girl, wrapping a Palestinian scarf round her neck, said: "When we told Hamas's ushers that this protest was organized to call for national unity and not for Hamas, they got rough with us."
Shortly, the harassment grew unbearable and the protestors decided to leave the unknown soldier avenue to Hamas's supporters. They moved the event to Al-Katiba park, around 500  meters to the south.

But then, for Hams's beefed up, baton-yielding security forces, this became an illegal assembly for which they applied their usual dispersal measures.

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