The past few weeks have seen the emergence of the so-called Tamarod movement in the Gaza Strip. It is a popular movement aimed at ousting Hamas’ rule in Gaza, accusing Hamas of repressive practices against the Palestinian people in Gaza and of damaging relations between countries with regard to the Palestinian cause.
In preparation for Nov. 11, the day to bring down Hamas, according to Tamarod, Azzaman interviewed Hind al-Arabi, media spokeswoman for the Tamarod movement in Gaza. The interview was conducted in Cairo.
Azzaman: First, we want to know how Tamarod Gaza was formed. What are its goals? Was it inspired by the Egyptian Tamarod movement?
Arabi: Tamarod is a youth movement that was born from the violence and injustice practiced by Hamas against the Palestinian people in Gaza since the movement took over the Strip seven years ago through a bloody coup carried out against the legitimate authority. We had to act to expose these crimes. We announced our existence before the Tamarod movement in Egypt, but after the Tamarod movement in Egypt, we adopted its name for our movement because it is a “centrist” name. We cannot use the word “revolution” or “intifada” except against the Israeli occupation. But we do communicate with the Egyptian Tamarod movement and they support us.
On July 1, we announced the Tamarod movement in Gaza. We declared our goals: removing the injustice from the Gaza Strip, which can be achieved by spreading the spirit of cooperation and struggle in the hearts of our people in Gaza. So, we formed the movement’s administration inside Gaza without announcing its members’ names, so that they don’t get arrested.
Azzaman: How is the suffocating siege imposed on the Gaza Strip affecting the Palestinian people?
Arabi: Unfortunately, Hamas is the one primarily responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians only get the crumbs of the supplies of food, diesel and gasoline that reach Gaza via the legal routes or through the tunnels. The situation reached the point where a father killed his children because of his inability to support them.
Azzaman: Has the Tamarod movement been greeted by the Palestinian people and by the factions that reject Hamas’ methods?
Arabi: Tamarod in Gaza doesn’t belong to any faction or party, be it internal or external. Rather, it stems only from young people. The movement was greeted by the Palestinian people, whether in Gaza, the West Bank, the Arabs of 1948 or the Palestinians in the diaspora. And there are factions that wish to join us because they refuse Hamas’ injustices.
Azzaman: How do you collect your signatures?
Arabi: We collect our signatures via email through a website we have set up for that purpose. But Hamas was able to sabotage the site, and we are now trying to create a new, more secure site that Hamas can’t hack. We do that because it is difficult to collect the forms manually because we will be arrested. Tamarod’s administrators are in Gaza and their identities are kept secret. Only three of its members have been identified and they are all abroad. So far, we have been able to collect 600,000 forms.
Azzaman: Do you expect to repeat the scenario of Egypt’s Tamarod after they reached a certain number of signatures?
Arabi: It is difficult to repeat the scenario in Egypt because the army in Egypt stood with the people. In Gaza, there is no army. Hamas has threatened anyone who protests with a massacre and a new war in the Strip.
Azzaman: How does Hamas deal with Tamarod’s supporters?
Arabi: The supporters have been arrested just for putting the Tamarod symbol on their sites or for writing that the people of Gaza are subject to injustice or that every week children between the ages of 7 and 12 are arrested. The supporters get summoned to sign pledges not to go out on Nov. 11, the day of protest against Hamas.
Azzaman: Do you get threats from Hamas while in Cairo?
Arabi: Yes, I have received death threats on my mobile phone and my family was attacked in Gaza.
Azzaman: What do you say to Hamas when it claims that Tamarod is the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and of Egyptian intelligence services?
Arabi: As I said, we are a youth movement that does not follow any faction, including the PA. We don’t receive support from any party and we communicate only with members of human rights organizations in Egypt and the Arab world to demand the prosecution of Hamas for the crimes it committed against the Palestinian people. We do not interfere in the affairs of Egypt and reject Hamas’ interference in Egyptian and Arab affairs. Because of this interference, the king of Saudi Arabia has announced cutting off his relationship with the Palestinian cause.
Azzaman: Do you expect Tamarod to eventually succeed in ousting Hamas from the Gaza Strip?
Arabi: It is the people who will do that task. Our role is limited to stimulating the spirit of struggle in the Palestinian people to get them to break their silence and revolt against the injustice we are facing.
Azzaman: How true are the Egyptian government’s accusations that Hamas is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt despite Hamas’ denials?
Arabi: The Egyptian army, or the Egyptian government, would not claim that Hamas is interfering in Egyptian affairs unless it had evidence to prove it.
Azzaman: How are the tunnel closures affecting the lives of the people in the Gaza Strip?
Arabi: Opening the Palestinian crossing is a matter to be agreed upon between the legitimate Palestinian government and the Egyptian army or with the Palestinian government. Regarding the agreement, Hamas has set up a special government apparatus that it controls for its own interests and not for the interests of the people. Closing the tunnels is in the interest of the Palestinian people because they helped allow the entry of weapons that were used against the Palestinian people and not against the Israeli enemy.
Azzaman: But Hamas claims that it’s a resistance project against the occupation, while the PA is offering concessions to the Israeli enemy.
Arabi: The opposite is true. The PA is negotiating for the return of the Palestinian territories while Hamas is responsible for the state of Palestinian division. Hamas is preventing the resistance fighters from attacking the Israeli enemy. When we requested permission to resist the occupation, Hamas refused and told us that we should stay with the ambulances to transport the injured.
Azzaman: What is the nature of the relationship between Hamas and Iran?
Arabi: Iran has participated, by means of a number of officers and members of the Revolutionary Guards, with Hamas in the implementation of the coup against the legitimate authority in Gaza. But that relationship soured somewhat because of the events of Syria. Iran is now trying to restore relations with Hamas by providing them support.
Azzaman: You held a vigil in front of the League of Arab States last Friday [Oct. 4]. What were the goals of that move?
Arabi: Our vigil was to draw attention to what’s happening in the Gaza Strip, to request that the Qassam Brigades take over the administration of the Gaza Strip on Nov. 5, and to request that Arab states pressure Hamas to stop the killings against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.
Azzaman: What will be your steps in the next phase?
Arabi: We are mobilizing our efforts at home and abroad in preparation for mobilizing the masses to get out on Nov. 11, the day of Yasser Arafat’s martyrdom, against Hamas and to bring Hamas down.