Emma Watson is Right, Sort Of

Who, exactly, is keeping the Palestinians unfree?

Emma Watson, the actress who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, made news recently when she declared on Instagram “Free Palestine” and declared her “solidarity” with the oppressed Palestinians. Why her opinion should matter tells us something about the mental state of our giddy globe. What’s next? Should we consult Mick Jagger for his views on the expansion of NATO? Or ask Randy Quaid for his thoughts on the IMF? Watson’s sentiment isn’t wrong, writes Stephen Flatow: the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank do indeed need to be free, but she’s sending her message to the wrong address. It’s not the Israelis who are keeping the Palestinians unfree, but their own corrupt and despotic rulers, both those belonging to Hamas in Gaza, and those belonging to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Flatow’s response to Emma Watson is here: “Emma Watson is right about Palestinians being enslaved,” by Stephen M. Flatow, Israel Hayom, January 10, 2022:

“Free Palestine!” says actress Emma Watson.

She’s right.

The territories where the Palestinian Arabs live are indeed enslaved. They deserve to be freed from the tyrannical rule of their oppressors – Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

The actress, best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” films, set off a firestorm in the world of social media this week with her Instagram post showing “Free Palestine!” banners and expressing “solidarity” with them. Hopefully, her declaration will stimulate a serious conversation about the cruel occupation that the international community has been ignoring.

The “cruel occupation” of Gaza has nothing to do with Israel. There has not been a single Israeli in Gaza since 2005. It is Hamas that makes life miserable for the people of Gaza. The “cruel occupation” in the PA-ruled areas of the West Bank where Israel’s writ does not run, is that imposed by the PA leaders themselves; they are the true source of the Palestinians’ anguish.

The details concerning Hamas and the PA, which I cite here, are all quoted from the latest reports by two strongly pro-Palestinian groups: Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. These are not “Israeli allegations.” They are what the Palestinian Arabs’ most vocal supporters are saying about the two Arab regimes that rule over 98% of the Palestinian Arabs.

During the past year, “the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip continued to crack down on dissent, including by stifling freedoms of expression and assembly, attacking journalists and detaining opponents,” reports Amnesty.

Human Rights Watch notes that the PA recently jailed journalist Sami al-Sai for the crime of “administering a Facebook page that had posted information about PA corruption.” Twenty protesters in Ramallah who dared to cry out against PA corruption were likewise jailed. Hamas recently arrested seven citizens for “participating in a video chat where they answered questions from Israeli civilians about life in Gaza.” And other Gazans were jailed for “weakening the revolutionary spirit.”

Both Hamas and the PA rule over their people with an iron fist. Those who dare to criticize the corruption and nepotism of their leaders, exemplified in Hamas by Khaled Meshaal and Moussa Abu Marzouk, and in the PA by Mahmoud Abbas, or to the lack of elections that makes a mockery of their claims to be democratic, are swiftly punished. The lucky ones are imprisoned. The most unlucky, like Nizar Banat, are beaten to death.

Elections? Nothing doing. Mahmoud Abbas is entering the 17th year of his four-year term as President, and he has put his time in office to good use, having accumulated with his sons Tarek and Nasser a family fortune of some $400 million. Abbas briefly contemplated holding elections in 2021, but as soon as he realized from the polls that he would lose the presidency by a wide margin — any candidate running against him would receive at least 60% of the vote — he promptly cancelled them, and hasn’t spoken of elections since.

Hamas is just as ruthless in Gaza. It routinely imprisons anyone who says a word against the terror group. No one dares to complain about the two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Moussa Abu Marzouk, each of whom has a fortune of at least $2.5 billion, stolen from the aid money intended for the impoverished Palestinians in Gaza. In addition there are 600 Hamas millionaires living in lavish villas in Gaza; these are the relatives and friends of the Hamas leaders, enjoying their well-paid sinecures. Hamas has a long record, beginning with its campaign against Fatah, in 2007, of violence in Gaza. In its war on Fatah in 2007 it killed more than 100 members of the group; it also broke the arms and legs of anyone who, though not members, expressed support, however mild, for Fatah. Since 2007 Hamas has carried on inflicting violence to terrorize and crush any critics. It shoots dissenters in the legs, crippling them, or sometimes, Hamas goons break the arms and legs of those who complain about its rule. And every year there have been dozens of extra-judicial killings, in Gaza, of Hamas’ severest critics.

Hamas also frequently executes citizens after “trials” that are “marred with due process violations,” reports Human Rights Watch.

How do the PA and Hamas regimes treat those whom it arrests? “Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza routinely used torture and other ill-treatment with impunity. … Security forces in both areas used unnecessary and/or excessive force during law enforcement activities.”

What about women’s rights in Occupied Palestine? Amnesty: “Women and girls faced discrimination in law and practice and were inadequately protected against sexual and other gender-based violence, including so-called honour killings.” Last year alone, “nineteen women died in the West Bank and 18 in Gaza as a result of gender-based violence.”

The men who commit these “honor killings” of female relatives in order to “restore the family honor” are seldom punished, and when they are, they can expect only a short time in prison. Wives and daughters are commonly viewed as chattels of their male relatives, who can treat them as they wish. The situation for women is better, but not by much, in the West Bank, where the strictures of Islam have been loosened; in Gaza the fanatical believers hold sway.

Human Rights Watch points out that the PA “has no comprehensive domestic violence law.” Keep in mind that the PA has been ruling for 27 years. Nearly three decades in power and still no comprehensive domestic violence law….

A domestic violence law, meaning a law punishing husbands for disciplining their wives, would likely be seen to conflict with Qur’an 4:34, which allows husbands to “beat” their wives If they even suspect them of being “disobedient.” The PA chooses not to risk opposition from fanatical Muslims; it keeps postponing consideration of a “domestic violence law” and will almost certainly continue to do so. In Gaza, the subject simply never comes up; such a law, limiting the freedom of husbands to discipline their wives, would be unthinkable for Hamas, the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Homosexuals in Gaza can be imprisoned for up to ten years for committing homosexual acts. The PA has not legislated for or against rights for homosexuals. But it forbids homosexual rights groups from meeting. The PA police keep close tabs on homosexuals, and blackmails them – threatening to tell their families about their homosexual activities – unless they become informers for the police.

Any expression of dissent or criticism of the leaders, in Gaza and the West Bank, is immediately shut down, and the dissenters arrested. Nonviolent protests, whether over price rises or are broken up with extreme violence in both Gaza and the West Bank. There is no freedom of the press; any criticism of Hamas in Gaza or of the PA in the West Bank can cause a newspaper to be temporarily closed. Palestinian courts have ordered shutdowns of websites and social media pages which contained criticism of President Mahmoud Abbas, or were affiliated with opposition groups, or focused on combating corruption.

There have been no elections, either presidential or for the legislature, in the West Bank since 2005, when Mahmoud Abbas became president of the PA. There have been no elections, either presidential or for the legislature, in Gaza since 2006. Both Gaza and the PA territories are despotisms, where public protests, no matter how peaceful, are violently suppressed, social media sites are shut down, and critics imprisoned or killed.

The Palestinians are ruled by grasping despots – in Gaza by the leaders of Hamas, in the West Bank by the leaders of the PA – who have blighted their lives. In mid-December, the telling results of a poll taken by Palestinians themselves were made public. Ninety-three percent, or 1,116 of the 1,200 Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem who were queried, said that they preferred to continue living under Israeli rule rather than be transferred to the rule of the Palestinian Authority. They’re no fools.

Emma Watson, if you care about the Palestinians, turn your gaze on the real villains of the piece and focus the attention of your 61.3 million followers on Instagram not on Israel, but on those who are the Palestinians’ true oppressors: in Gaza, not Israel, but Hamas; in the West Bank, not Israel, but the Palestinian Authority. If only they could speak freely, the Palestinians would thank you for it.


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