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Listen to Gaza's quiet dissenters


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Jeff Jacoby
February 2, 2023

MANY YEARS ago I became friends with an Egyptian man who, I was surprised to learn, strongly supported Israel. He had grown up in the 1950s and '60s, a time when the Jewish state was relentlessly demonized as an enemy in Egypt's schools and media. Yet in the early 1980s, he began to doubt the venomous portrait of Israel he had always been exposed to.

What changed his mind was the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, a bloodbath in which Lebanese Christian militiamen slaughtered hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Palestinian Muslims. Israeli troops stationed in southern Lebanon didn't participate in the massacre, but they also did nothing to prevent it. That dereliction of moral duty horrified Israelis, and 400,000 of them — one-tenth of the nation's population — poured into the streets of Tel Aviv in a vast, stunning, furious protest against their government's complicity.

For my Egyptian friend, that was an eye-opener. In his country, such a demonstration would have been unthinkable. He was astonished by the freedom of Israelis to condemn their rulers without fear of retaliation. That revelation transformed the way he thought about a nation he had been taught to hate.

What brings my friend's epiphany to mind is an extraordinary series of animated short videos in which ordinary residents of Gaza speak honestly and bravely about living under the brutal rule of Hamas. Titled "Whispered in Gaza," the project was produced by the Center for Peace Communications, a US-based nonprofit that strives to overcome cultures of intransigence and promote reconciliation in the Middle East and North Africa. The interviews, conducted in 2022, have been posted online in six languages — Arabic, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Farsi — through a collaboration of media outlets that includes Al Arabiya, the global Persian news site Kayhan, and The Times of Israel.

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack — like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night — it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don't rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.



Jan 15, 2023
“Back in the days of the first and second Intifadas, we used to believe in something called resistance,” says “Othman.” “But today, the ‘resistance’ has become a business.” Every tobacco stand and coffee shop is forced to pay Hamas protection money, he says, and when war breaks out, “[Hamas] sit in their bunkers while we have to bear the brunt. And at the end they tell us it’s a victory.”



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