Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Abbas threat of more sanctions on Gaza met by Twitter storm of derision

Asmaa Tayeh | 23-03-2018

Gazans took to the street in protest. The poster reads, "The devil promises you poverty" (with Mahmoud Abbas as the devil)


Project director's note: We Are Not Numbers does not take a stand on the Fatah vs. Hamas conflict. However, we are against collective punishment. 

Frustration, anger and black humor are raging among Gazans on social media in the wake of threats by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to take unspecified "national, legal and financial measures" against the Strip’s already-suffering population in retaliation for a failed attempt to assassinate his prime minister.

The reconciliation agreement signed in October by Palestinians’ warring political parties, Hamas and Fatah, failed to take form, and Abbas refused to lift the crippling sanctions designed to force Hamas to give up control of Gaza. These include withholding of salaries for thousands of Hamas employees, a sharp reduction in permits for residents of the Strip to access medical care outside and refusal to pay electricity.

Abbas is burned in effigy

Abbas upped the ante even further with his vague, but menacing, threats after the motorcade of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and security chief Majid Faraj was attacked March 13 shortly after entering Gaza. They were uninjured, but Abbas immediately blamed Hamas for attempting to foment a civil war. (Hamas later killed a man identified as the main suspect.)

The result was a firestorm on Twitter and other social media platforms. And although both Hamas and Fatah came in for sharp criticism, Abbas was urged to leave his position. Instead, say many Gazan youth, new elections must be held.

Meanwhile, the prospect of more punishment for all 2 million people of Gaza simply to retaliate against Hamas inspired a rush of outrage and sarcasm. Quickly trending on Twitter was a hashtag call for creative punishment suggestions to send on to Abbas. 

 "I think preventing Gaza from getting oxygen is the best punishment the PA can apply," one Gaza youth tweeted. Another posted: "If I were the president, I would collaborate with Iran and attack the Strip with a nuclear bomb, leaving us as food for the Zionists. Better yet, though, I would quit my position and let us poor people live!" Two other suggestions: "Limit our view of the sun to only 15 minutes a day" and “Prevent us from eating corn flakes!"

One fearless young man criticized the president himself, saying: "Our greatest punishment is you (Abbas) being the president." Another commented, "Today's speech by Abbas is more intense than the speech he delivered when Trump declared Jerusalem Israel's capital. He seems to hate us more than Trump!" (This takes courage, since Abbas recently issued a decree allowing his government to jail anyone on charges of harming "national unity" or the "social fabric.")

Other “tweeters” took a more analytical approach, such as this one: "Abbas' charge that Hamas is responsible for attempting to assassinate the prime minister is unacceptable. It is not based on any evidence and serves only the Zionist enemy. It also departs from any attempt at national reconciliation."

Another form used by Palestinians for their objections was caricature. The headline for the image is, "Abu Mazen (Abbas' nickname) threatens Gaza with new punishments/sanctions." A man on the bridge represents Abbas as offers a drowning man, who represents Gaza, a block of iron as a lifesaver, with two words on it: new sanctions. Meanwhile, the drowning man is surrounded by killer sharks representing other challenges faced by Gaza, such as the Israeli blockade and closure of the crossings out of the Strip.

No matter what the punishment, the Palestinians of Gaza retain their sense of humor. They don’t have much else.

Posted: March 22, 2018

Mentor: Pam Bailey

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