By Joharah Baker
Every society has them and most likely, there are many who want to shut them up – those arrogant, cocky politicians that do more harm than good when they open their mouths.
In the Palestinian arena, at the risk of sounding cynical, it would be hard to enumerate them all. But there is one man who stands head and shoulders above all, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar.
Zahhar makes lots of statements that most Palestinians basically ignore. He is one of Hamas’ hardliners who tend to reject any proposal, regardless of how reasonable it may be, and would rather remain cooped up in his Gaza emirate thinking he is king (or at least prince).
But last week, Zahhar’s tirades took a treacherous turn. “Gaza is free of occupation, and contiguity with the outside world is easier as visitors from all over the world visited the coastal enclave,” he told the Palestinian news agency MAAN. He went on to say that the economy had improved considerably since Hamas’ takeover of the Strip in 2007 with the Gazan’s becoming self-reliant from a number of aspects. “People in Gaza receive full salaries, and all the money the Ramallah government transfers goes to Fatah supporters only,” he said.
Such statements are for one, false but more importantly are extremely dangerous. The Palestinians, leadership and people, have and continue to stress that Palestine is still very much under occupation, including the Gaza Strip. The people cannot freely leave the Strip because of Israel’s siege, unemployment is soaring in addition to the social restrictions imposed by the Hamas-run government that are strangulating to say the least. Scores of Gazans are trying to find a way out of the country and into a better life while the Hamas government continues living an illusion that they are kings of the mountain without once considering that this mountain is occupied and controlled and its resources usurped by Israel.
Zahhar’s statements are dangerous, not only in their arrogance, but in the fact that he is in total disregard of the Palestinian discourse on maintaining the unity of the Palestinian homeland. For him, and for other Hamas leaders apparently, the idea of a mini-state in the Gaza Strip is far more appealing than joining forces with the rest of the Palestinians to work towards a state along the 1967 borders. The only silver lining to such nonsense is that many see through Zahhar and understand his motives enough to really listen to him.
For the sake of the Americans, the hope is that not many will listen to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney either. Another extremely arrogant and often inaccurate politician, Romney puts his foot in his mouth time and time again because he thinks he is over and above just about every other American politician, including President Obama.
But he did not do himself any favors when a leaked video taken last May went viral with Romney dismissing those Americans less fortunate.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. And the government should give it to them…These are people who pay no income tax,” Romney said to a group of private fundraisers in Florida.
“My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Such statements come from a place of arrogance and righteousness, two characteristics that don’t sit well with voters or with beleaguered Palestinians stuck in Gaza. It is up to the American people whether they want such a self-righteous president who could care less about half of the population that is less fortunate. But for us Palestinians, we cannot afford irresponsible leaders who give confused messages to the world that Gaza is liberated territory and prospering under Hamas rule. People like Mahmoud Zahhar or any other leader who does not put the national interests of the Palestinians before their personal gains should not be given a public forum of expression.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at [email protected].