Hamas crackdown further limits Gaza’s distractions from the siege

Israel/Palestine
on 26 Comments

I have been watching with disappointment the news coming from Gaza regarding the government’s crackdown on popular attractions where many Gazans plan their staycations. According to a number of Gaza investors, making a large investment in Gaza requires you to be an affiliate of Hamas or partner with one who is. Otherwise, your investment is doomed. One technique used by the local government to discourage non-Hamas businesses is to impose outrageous tax rates (upward of 20%) on those places. If legal and municipal intimidation do not work, then there are always the masked gunmen. Founders of the Crazy Water Park in Gaza learned that the hard way when their new beach resort was set on fire during the night.

If you are stuck in besieged Gaza and looking to find a cozy place to visit, you might be out of luck. Using a number of justifications and excuses the Hamas controlled Gaza government has shut down a number of trendy restaurants. Over the past few months alone a number of Gaza attractions were forced to close their doors. These closures limited the choices of the few Gazans who could actually afford to provide themselves with a brief distraction from the stress of brutal reality.

As you read about popular Gaza places, keep on mind the word “resort” is loosely defined here. Some places labeled resort are nothing more than a couple of shacks and a kitchen. As seen in the to Palpress:

  1. September 2nd, 2010 Gaza Sama coffee shop was closed for three days because of gender mixing and women smoking hookah, an act Hamas banned earlier this past summer.
  2. September 5th, 2010 The Gaza government decided to close down the Crazy Water Resort (the first water park in Gaza) for 21 days. Their violation was having dug their own water well. The same resort was also ordered to close on August 20th of this year for three days because they had the audacity to organize a concert.
  3. September 5th, 2010 Gaza’s only horse club was ordered to close for 21 days for failing to complete some paperwork.
  4. September 7th, 2010 Stopped cultural nights at Alsmak Restaurant (a popular seafood restaurant) the event was banned and the organizers were told to sign papers that they will not hold such events in the future. This was done despite the fact that the organizers have obtained all necessary permits from the Hamas offices.
  5. September 12th, 2010 Hamas security forces banned another cultural night organized by the alumni of a local community college.
  6. September 19th, 2010 Closed the Beach House Cafe and Restaurant for three days because of violation of parties and gender mixing gathering.

Now a few Fatah news outlets are circulating theories to explain Hamas’ recent clamping down on Gaza’s restaurants. One theory holds that the closings are aimed to boost sales and attendance of Hamas backed attractions. The news site reported three Gaza attractions that have visible Hamas links:

  1. Asda’a North. A tourist attraction North of Gaza the brain child of the Hamas minister of interior minister. This spot will feature a zoo, gardens and two Olympic size pools.
  2. The Gaza Mall. The new mall, rumored to be a three million dollar project, opened a few weeks ago with ribbon cutting ceremonies attended by a number of Hamas figures.
  3. Bisan Beach Resort. This resort is run by a front group of Hamas. With a restaurant, a cafe, and fish farms this resort is visited daily by 1,000 patrons. Bisan Beach Resort is rumored to have cost a million and a quarter dollars.

Hamas denies these reports and argues that these places are open for the amusement of all the people of Gaza. While most of these projects have a positive impact on the local economy where they create jobs and provide an outlet for the besieged people of Gaza, I am a bit uneasy about the secret connections and those profiting from deprived people who are caught between a rock and a hard place.

The majority of the people of Gaza know little about these places, as very few of them can afford to visit these types of restaurants. Regulars of these places pay as much as five dollars for a Mocha and four dollars for a cold drink. Real estate investors and NGO employees keep these posh places in business.

Last year, when I was stuck in Gaza, I took my old man to Almathaf a popular beachside Gaza resort. It is a fine place to take someone out on a date. My dad had just retired from his teaching position at the UNRWA. He protested to me that he finds it wasteful to go to those places and order a chicken sandwich and pay more for it than what residents of lower Manhattan pay for a similar sandwich. I kind of agree with my dad’s attitude but, I also know that with very limited movement and increasingly urbanized Gaza, there are very few places people can escape to. The recent actions of government in Gaza are not helping.

Hani Almadhoun is originally from Beit Lahia in the Northern Gaza Strip, where he completed his secondary and part of his university studies. Hani moved to the United States in 2000 and continued his studies. Hani holds an MPA from Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business and currently lives in Washington D.C. where he works for a non-profit that helps promote Palestinian culture and the development of even greater Human rights within Palestine. When Hani is not working nor worrying about his loved ones back in Gaza, he blogs and when given a free opportunity, does standup comedy in D.C. area clubs.

About Hani Almadhoun

Other posts by .


Posted In:

26 Responses

  1. Pamela Olson
    September 30, 2010, 10:47 am

    This is incredibly depressing. Corruption is the main complaint against Fatah, and Hamas are proving to be just as bad. Will the Palestinians ever have leaders who even pretend to represent them? I know that’s a lot to ask under a desperate occupation, but it’s just so demoralizing.

    • Sumud
      September 30, 2010, 1:22 pm

      Corruption is the main complaint against Fatah, and Hamas are proving to be just as bad.

      I don’t think this is the case Pamela. One of the reasons Hamas came to power in 2006 was that so many Palestinians were disgusted with Fateh, and Hamas were thought of as immune to corruption and very effective in the provision of social services.

      There were reports a few times throughout the last year that the Hamas government in Gaza were just about out of money, and possibly weren’t going to be able to pay wages. They don’t have a line of credit to China. There were complaints from tunnel owners Hamas were jacking up taxes to try and solve their cash flow problems. It’s speculation on my part but if Hamas are muscling in on other businesses it’s probably more about trying to secure funds for the government, rather than buying limos and chalets in Europe for Ismail Haniyeh, a la Fateh.

      There just aren’t visible signs of wealth in Gaza. If there were, Israel would’ve told the world about it. Recall the hasbara-blitz in the week before the flotilla raid; the best Israel could come up with to prove how idyllic life was in Gaza (“there is no humanitarian crisis”) was one fine-dining restaurant serving a population of 1.5 million people. Even Ethan Bronner later wrote about how crappy the little new mall in Gaza was.

      I cringe when I hear about Hamas cracking down on cultural freedoms. Men not cutting women’s hair was another policy they’d been trying to enact. If Hamas had been allowed to govern after the election victory in 2006 they would likely have had to moderate their activity in this area, since they were governing all Palestinians in the OPTs, including non-islamist muslims, christians and seculars. If they introduced policies that were too conservative they would risk alienating voters. [Abu Mazen has solved that one, Mubarak-style.] But as is, Hamas’ authority is confined and the siege has turned Gaza into a pressure cooker.

      • Mohammad Alsaafin
        September 30, 2010, 3:35 pm

        I never thought of it that way. It’s plausible. It’s become obvious that Hamas wants to promote businesses closely linked to it and solving the cash flow problem seems like a reasonable motivation. Hamas’ leadership haven’t moved out of their homes in affluent villas with this money-Ismail Haniyeh still lives in his old home in the Shati’ (Beach) refugee camp, one of the most squalid places i’ve ever seen anywhere.

        What’s not reasonable, and isn’t acceptable at all, is that this should come at the expense of legitimate businesses and institutions. And the crackdown on cultural nights etc is reprehensible. Thanks for this Hani.

    • Chaos4700
      September 30, 2010, 8:10 pm

      This is what happens when foreign countries subvert a nation’s democracy. Just look at the United States vis-a-vis the special relationship we all “enjoy.”

  2. traintosiberia
    September 30, 2010, 11:10 am

    Secular and corrupt or religious and corrupt and always repressive.
    It sucks.

  3. occupyresist
    September 30, 2010, 11:17 am

    Hamas needs to wake up to the fact that if it is to keep its legitimate status in the eyes of its population, it must then provide and not prohibit its population with any outlet, anything that can alleviate their suffering.

    I don’t understand this stupid Wahhabist-like radicalization they’re taking on. It’s stupid, it’s reprehensible, and it is being fought by people who are not even in Gaza. The backlash in the Middle East (ironically, in the last place one would expect: Saudi Arabia), against this sort of thinking is becoming increasingly pronounced.

  4. yonira
    September 30, 2010, 11:48 am

    The new PA government led by Fayyad should be applauded for its crack down for corruption in the West Bank. Not only that, but the West Bank has seen an economic explosion since his plan started in August of 2009. Both the WB and Gaza economies have grew substantially in the first half of 2010.

    link to bloomberg.com

    • potsherd
      September 30, 2010, 1:20 pm

      wrong again as usual, yonira. The PA is cracking down on freedom and dissent in the WB, just as Hamas is in Gaza.

      • yonira
        September 30, 2010, 1:25 pm

        Potsherd what does economic improvement and cracking down on corruption have to do with cracking down on freedom and dissent? If you are going to refute my claims at least try to refute what I said, I get the delusions and the need to respond to every ‘zionist’ on the blog. But at least stay on topic.

        Also while were at it, please reference some of this crackdown on dissent, or you could show us relevant information on how the PA is shutting down establishments in Ramallah which are funded/directly supported by them.

        thanks!

        • potsherd
          September 30, 2010, 5:25 pm

          yonira, don’t you read anything on this site?

        • Donald
          September 30, 2010, 9:56 pm

          Yonira–

          This blog linked to an article in the New York Review of Books on the PA’s crackdown on dissent (among other topics) just a day or two ago.
          Here’s the article–

          link

        • Citizen
          October 1, 2010, 2:52 am

          No, his job is just to disrupt the exchange of information withheld by our MSM to the American public. He throws smoke.

        • occupyresist
          October 1, 2010, 8:54 am

          Donald,

          I missed that. Thanks for linking to it.

          Wow, look at this hypocrisy: calling for democratic reform in the Middle East, but subverting it and creating anti-democratic entities when things don’t go the way the USofIsrael wants – what a mess:

          In a reversal of its longstanding policy of pressuring the Palestinian president to give power to the cabinet, the US advised Abbas to issue decrees and make appointments that would limit the new government’s rule, particularly over the security forces. Hamas reacted by establishing a security service of its own. Abbas banned the Hamas force in a decree that the cabinet then declared illegal. During the next year, Hamas and Fatah engaged in a series of violent clashes in which leaders on both sides were assassinated.24

          Dayton, meanwhile, was overseeing the recruitment, training, and equipping of Abbas’s rapidly expanding security forces.Khaled Meshaal, chief of Hamas’s politburo, delivered a fiery speech denouncing “the security coup” as a “conspiracy” supported by “the Zionists and the Americans”—charges Fatah denied. In February 2007, on the brink of civil war, Fatah and Hamas leaders traveled to Mecca, where they agreed to form a national unity government, a deal the US opposed because it preferred that Fatah continue to isolate Hamas. Fayyad became finance minister in the new government, despite, he says, American pressure not to join. The Peruvian diplomat Alvaro de Soto, former UN envoy to the Quartet, wrote in a confidential “End of Mission Report” that the violence between Hamas and Fatah could have been avoided had the US not strongly opposed Palestinian reconciliation. “The US,” he wrote, “clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fateh and Hamas.”

    • Chaos4700
      September 30, 2010, 8:07 pm

      The PA has made itself a willing collaborator in Israel’s unrestrained slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza by blocking prosecution of crimes against humanity. Small wonder you’re lauding a regime which, additionally, has exceeded its democratic mandate and is essentially a military-enforced US-funded puppet.

    • occupyresist
      October 1, 2010, 4:05 am

      Yonira, selectively reading the IMF report to demonstrate a certain point of view is pretty disingenuous:

      EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

      The recovery of the West Bank and Gaza (WBG)’s economy has continued, with real
      GDP growth projected at 8 percent in 2010. In Gaza, growth was boosted by a gradual
      relaxation by the Government of Israel (GoI) of restrictions on imports, culminating in the
      lifting of import controls on consumer goods and inputs for donor-supervised projects. In the
      West Bank, growth has been driven by the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s security and public
      finance reforms supported by donor aid, and the easing of obstacles on internal movement of
      goods and people.

      The economy is expanding from a very low base, especially in Gaza where living
      standards are well below those that prevailed in 1994
      . Gaza’s output per capita is today at
      only 60 percent of its 1994 level, and its unemployment is still above 35 percent, one of the
      highest in the world. The West Bank has fared better, but its recovery started only in 2007,
      following a slump, with Prime Minister Fayyad’s aid-supported reforms. Overall, the WBG’s
      overall growth performance since 1994, as indicated by its general trend and volatility, has
      been weaker than for countries that had a comparable GDP per capita in 1994.

      For growth to be sustained, it is essential that the remaining restrictions on economic
      activity be lifted. Gaza’s recovery will wane unless the ban on exports and on imports of
      private sector capital inputs is removed. Similarly, the West Bank’s growth is bound to
      decline with the persistence of restrictions on movement and access, in particular those on
      exports to Israel and East Jerusalem, and on access by the private sector to about 60 percent
      of its territory (“Area C”). Removing these restrictions is also important for a more efficient
      pattern of output where trade-dependent sectors, including manufacturing, are no longer
      suppressed.

      The PA has continued in 2010 to build institutions and undertake reforms as set out in
      its Palestinian Reform and Development Plan, but has been facing serious liquidity
      difficulties due to shortfalls in donor aid. Since 2007, sound and transparent expenditure
      management and enhanced tax administration have led to a decline in the share of wages and
      utility subsidies in the budget, a pickup in domestic tax revenue, and a reduction in the
      recurrent deficit and of donor aid needed to finance it from $1.8 billion in 2008 to
      $1.2 billion in 2010. Fiscal performance during January to July 2010 has been broadly as
      envisaged in the 2010 budget. However, lower-than-budgeted donor aid has led to substantial
      borrowing from domestic banks and the accumulation of payment arrears. There is an urgent
      need to secure additional donor assistance of $0.3 billion to cover the financing gap for 2010.

      To support private sector expansion and further enhance public sector efficiency, it is
      essential for the PA to maintain its solid track record by accelerating key structural
      reforms. These reforms include enhancing the social safety net, privatizing electricity
      distribution, improving the legal and regulatory framework for businesses, restoring the
      viability of the public pension system, and implementing civil service reform.

      Some other excerpts from the report:

      1. The macroeconomic situation continued to improve in the West Bank and Gaza,
      with solid economic growth registered so far in 2010.
      2. The sustainability of the strong growth performance for the remainder of 2010
      and beyond is uncertain due to persisting restrictions on movement and access.
      3. Given the uncertainty regarding its quality and sustainability, the WBG’s real
      GDP growth for 2010 as a whole is conservatively projected at 8 percent,
      4. Unemployment has been declining in the West Bank but virtually unchanged in
      Gaza.
      5. Inflation has been on a declining trend so far in 2010.
      6. Commercial banks have not been significantly affected by the global financial
      crisis and are performing well.
      7. The Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) and the Bank of Israel (BoI) have
      been collaborating closely to facilitate cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli
      commercial banks.

      8. While the PA’s fiscal performance during January to July 2010 has been
      broadly as envisaged in the budget—with the recurrent deficit still projected at
      18 percent of GDP—shortfalls in donor aid have led to domestic payment arrears and
      borrowing from commercial banks.
      9. Serious liquidity problems will emerge in the remainder of the year unless
      adequate donor aid is promptly disbursed.

      10. The PA has continued to strengthen the Public Finance Management System,
      11. The PA is considering a gradual approach toward the issuance of Treasury Bills.
      12. The revised macroeconomic framework continues to assume that all parties
      (PA, the Government of Israel, and donors) pro-actively push the peace process forward and take
      measures to support the WBG’s economic development.
      13. Given the above assumptions and policy expectations, growth—led by the
      private sector—would rise significantly, while under a pessimistic scenario it would
      significantly slow down.
      14. The regional paths of real GDP per capita and unemployment are projected to
      start converging over the medium term:
      ….The early years following the Oslo accords witnessed a steady fall in the
      West Bank’s and in Gaza’s unemployment rates to 10 percent and 17 percent.
      However, since the second Intifada, Gaza’s rate has remained exceptionally high
      at an average of about 35 percent, while the West Bank’s rate has been on a
      broadly declining trend. This divergence reflects the tighter restrictions in Gaza
      on external trade and on the employment of workers in Israel, the higher
      sensitivity of its output to such restrictions given its small domestic market,
      higher uncertainty faced by the private sector due to more frequent hostilities, as
      well as the degradation of public institutions and infrastructure since 2006. In the
      baseline scenario, the West Bank’s unemployment rate is projected to decline to
      11 percent by 2013, while that in Gaza would decline to 22 percent. In the
      pessimistic scenario, unemployment rates would remain high, at 15 percent in the
      West Bank and 29 percent in Gaza by 2013.

      How sustainable is this growth for a people almost literally surviving on donor aid to stimulate ‘growth’ in their economies?

      And this selective aid dispersal seems to be the key driver in economic growth, so really, the West Bank might be fairing ‘better’ under Fayyad economically, but that doesn’t mean much given that it could all stop tomorrow on the whim of donors.

  5. Citizen
    September 30, 2010, 12:02 pm

    Oh THAT mall! The one Glen Beck plastered all over the place to show how the Palestinians are living high off the hog as yonira suggests, not victims at all! For some reason the affable and humble Beck has not discussed the recent cover of TIME and its article inside showing the Israelis living the good life, totally unaware that they are part of poor little spartan Israel, the perennial victim lost in a sea of anti-semite goys. Time for Beck to look beyond domestic socialism lurking everywhere and focus also on Obama’s
    imperial foreign policy.

  6. kalithea
    September 30, 2010, 6:49 pm

    This article is “unhelpful”, divisive and biased. It rings like Fatah propaganda.

    Unity should be the goal! Who cares about material endeavors, bureaucratic squabbles and your petty griping over such when a population of 1.6 million is under siege by a murderous oppressor?

    Get over it, stop this petty griping and get with the program! Stop adding fuel to the fire. The enemy is Israel and the IDF – remember them??? They killed thousands of Palestinians and they don’t give a damn whether they’re Hamas or Fatah? So why should you discriminate?? Sheesh!

  7. kalithea
    September 30, 2010, 6:55 pm

    One more thing to add to my previous comment: Stop giving Israel, the REAL enemy, amunition! Your article is divisive. I’m sure Shin Bet is grinning…because you’re doing Palestinians no favors with this griping against the government in Gaza.

    • Chaos4700
      September 30, 2010, 9:13 pm

      I beg to differ. And I’m sure the Palestinians that Hamas are attacking in this effort would beg to differ too.

      There’s no reason we can’t be honest about Hamas. That doesn’t diminish in any degree the atrocities Israel inflicts, any more than documenting dishonest practices by a handful of Jewish business in the early 20th century would diminish the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

      • Citizen
        October 1, 2010, 2:54 am

        I agree, Chaos, even if it was more than a handful.

    • Shmuel
      October 1, 2010, 12:52 am

      Kalithea,

      Two things came to my mind reading your comments. One is the discussion we had here a while ago about criticising attacks against settlers, and the other is a heartfelt appeal by a relative not to criticise Israel abroad, because “it helps our enemies”.

      The enemy is abuse and oppression, and it does not come in a single form with a single return address. As long as one does not lose a sense of proportion, there is no reason to accept or shut up about any form of oppression. To give an example, Amira Hass, who has lived in Gaza and currently lives in Ramallah, has written scathing articles about both Hamas and Fatah, but devotes the bulk of her columns to shedding light on Israeli brutality and responsibility. Is she unhelpful? Does she harm the cause? Or do her words about Israel ring truer because she has a single standard of justice?

      Palestinian unity is vital, and Israel – with the help of the Quartet – has worked hard to undermine and sabotage it, pursuing a clear policy of divide and conquer. What sort of unity will be achieved however, if it is based on hiding, ignoring and accepting – not ideological differences – but internal violence and cronyism?

      I don’t remember whether you are a Palestinian, and if you are, please excuse my “butting in”, but unity based on dividing the spoils and oppressing the people will only bring further misery.

    • potsherd
      October 1, 2010, 9:23 am

      Kalithea, arguments like yours are the first step on the road to totalitarianism – supress the facts in the service of the cause.

      Total honesty is the only way to win a war of ideas. A single lie, a single coverup of the facts can blow your credibility forever. Zionist apologists are always coming here to whine, “Why are you always criticizing Israel and covering up the crimes of Hamas?” Following your tactics only hands them ammunition. Honest criticism of Hamas excesses is an absolute refutation.

  8. eljay
    September 30, 2010, 9:39 pm

    >> There’s no reason we can’t be honest about Hamas. That doesn’t diminish in any degree the atrocities Israel inflicts …

    I agree. To avoid criticizing Hamas when criticism is deserved is to engage in the sort of hypocrisy used by “humanists”.

  9. Citizen
    October 1, 2010, 3:10 am

    Yes, it’s not divisive so long as one keeps perspective; the ammunition fed to the enemy is really weak–so Hamas is not all a boy scout troop, that makes
    Israel a state of lambs and the Palestinians are the predator wolves? The facts on the ground speak for themselves here on this blog. Phil and the regulars here are not Fox news show puppets.

  10. homingpigeon
    October 1, 2010, 7:17 am

    We can go back to the human fetish for armed struggle in wondering why Hamas and Fatah reached this stage. It is astonishing how many people take for granted that organized violence is a worthy means to achieve one goal or another. (I’ve heard all the excuses, spare me please). But what societies result when after “liberation” they are run by people whose main skill is shooting people and blowing things up? Of all the wonderful Palestinian people I know doing so many great things, – where did these creeps leading their two governments come from? Yet the acceptance of “armed struggle” meant that their human refuse rose to the top, whether Hamas or Fatah. Little development of conflict resolution skills or really the ability to do anything useful.

    And what sinister vile slime came to lead the Jewish people with this ghastly Zionist experiment that occupies Palestine!

    Hey as a Yank I am well aware of the war criminals George Washington and Abraham Lincoln among others. Evil mass murderers of native Americans, (among others) both of them. Time to be up front about our silly myths and historic frauds.

    Vote Libertarian.

    • Donald
      October 1, 2010, 8:50 am

      ” But what societies result when after “liberation” they are run by people whose main skill is shooting people and blowing things up?”

      I strongly agree with that. More to the point, I think history shows you’re right in most cases.