A response to “Sorry, Hamas, I’m Wearing Blue Jeans”, an article in Mother Jones written by Ashley Bates, currently doing journalism in the Gaza Strip, talking about Palestinian feminist Asma Al-Ghoul’s “defiant” confrontation with her Muslim society and dreams of building a secular one instead: I have particularly been offended—as are many Palestinian readers who are more aware of what is going on in Gaza and whose knowledge of the factual current situation is far deeper than any foreign journalist–by the grotesque language Bates used in this article.
I have encountered this critical phenomenon in most international printed and online media. It tends to take the Israeli narrative for granted while ignoring accuracy and truthful reporting. “Sorry, Hamas, I’m Wearing Blue Jeans” is one example, in which the writer misrepresents and shows a great deal of partiality in narrating the facts.
In her diatribe against Hamas, Bates clearly dedicates most of the article to talk about Hamas’s “new restrictive laws”, but uses only one single word to describe the siege—“devastating”. Was there not any more space to talk about the impact of the siege on the lives of more than 1.5 million people incarcerated in extreme poverty and inhumane conditions?
According to Bates, Gaza has been under siege “for three years.” That’s not true. The siege had literally started when Israel implemented the “disengagement plan” or “Gaza expulsion plan” in August 2005.
As documented in all international and local organizations’ reports and investigations, the siege was never “aimed at isolating Hamas”, but rather a systematic war policy, collectively plunging a whole population into slow-motion genocide. Plus, what happened between Hamas and the PA in 2007 was not a “civil war”, but violent infighting in which Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip and the PA retreated to the West Bank; it was the result of a well-defined “divide and rule” tactic which Israel uses and has unremittingly continued to use to maintain a perpetual state of chaos within Palestinian life. And unfortunately the Palestinians fell for it: to date, there is little or no progress towards reconciliation, and efforts to end the split and establish a national unity seem as complicated as the so-called “peace process.”
By calling the Israeli massacre in which nearly 100 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, were killed for each Israeli soldier, the “2008-2009 war between Israel and Hamas militants” the writer rescinds the findings of the famous Goldstone report, as well as of those other international human right organizations, which concluded that Israel had committed war crimes and human right violations against hundreds of civilians during the 23-day full-blown Israeli conflagration. So it was absolutely not a war against Hamas, but a premeditated pogrom to kill and destroy as much as Israel could.
Logically speaking, the vast majority of Gaza’s population is civilians; and supposedly, if the war was intended to target Hamas fighters–who Israel claimed were hiding in civilian densely populated areas—what chances did each rocket stand of avoiding killing civilians in this situation, in light of “a deliberately disproportionate attack” which, according to Goldstone’s report, was designed to “to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”
I thought the endeavor of doing journalism was to accurately cover the “statu quo” in the Gaza Strip and put much effort into getting the right message out to the broader world, but it turned out that some journalists manipulate the facts and, intentionally or unintentionally, are becoming agents of the Israeli propaganda.
Now as for Bates’s specific claims of restrictions. Bates said: “Since then [control of Gaza], Hamas has introduced restrictive new laws, including prohibitions against women using male hairdressers or smoking hookah in public. Hamas police have shut down musical concerts and interrogated suspected couples. Principals at government schools have reportedly pressured even Christian girls to wear the Islamic headscarf.”
This is not true, actually. Hamas didn’t immediately start imposing its restrictions right after taking over. For example, it banned women from smoking hookah in public places in Sep. 2010. And, technically, this law is not as tight as often viewed in the media. If you dropped by any coffee shop in Gaza, you will find the number of women smoking water pipe even bigger than men themselves (I can let you talk to some women going to such places). Plus, I have never heard of a Christian made to wear the hijab. On the contrary, many Western countries, like France, have banned hijab. The Islamic University is the only place in which girls are equally required to put it on. You know…their education system. The Christian community is respected in Gaza. However, I’m not saying there haven’t been bans by Hamas, but Bates obviously used hyperbole.
Mohammed Said AlNadi lives in Gaza. He last wrote for this site to ask What would you do if…?