Gazans shocked at how many neighbors, coworkers, officials are 'spying' for Israel
An intelligence source says that the number of Gazans arrested by Hamas for collaborating with Israel are in the 'high hundreds.'
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What has shocked people, and caused worry, was the arrests of doctors, engineers, and even members of the Hamas government, who are reported to be collaborators.
“I don’t trust anyone anymore,” says Ihab El Helu, a nut seller in Gaza City’s market. “After this campaign we discovered some of the most respected people in society were collaborating with Israel. So who can we trust anymore? If the elite and intellectuals are involved, who else? Who is not involved?”
In Pictures Palestinian smugglers on the Egypt Gaza border
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Concerns about due process, treatment of detainees
Rumors and panic reached a fever pitch over the summer when the government began arresting people while shrouding the campaign in secrecy. Because officials wouldn’t say why anyone was arrested, people arrested for other crimes were sometimes falsely branded collaborators, a charge that carries a high price in Gazan society.
Issam Younis, director of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, says government officials were inept at managing the crisis of public opinion, contributing to the rumors and fear that peaked several months ago. He downplays the social effects of the campaign, saying that distrust has subsided and is not epidemic. But he does have other concerns, including due process and humane treatment of detainees.
Many of those accused of collaborating are tortured, and Mr. Younis says confessions extracted by coercion or torture are common. Additionally, collaborators are tried in military, rather than civilian courts, which Younis says deprives them of rights. And the Hamas government’s execution of collaborators is done technically outside the law, since the law requires a death sentence be authorized by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. That hasn’t been obtained because of the split between Hamas and Fatah.
Because of the secrecy surrounding the campaign, it is also unclear whether the government is using it to punish political enemies. Younis says he has not heard complaints of this, though the intelligence source said many of those arrested belonged to Fatah.
A father pressured by Israel over his ill daughter
One of those is Emad Tanani, who has been detained in the Central Rehabilitation and Reform Center, Gaza City’s main prison, for 17 months while awaiting a decision on his case. Although he was arrested before the current campaign began, he said in an interview at the prison that his sympathy for Fatah likely played a part. He lives with 35 other men accused or convicted of collaboration in a cell smaller than a tennis court.
Mr. Tanani says he is innocent. Two years ago, his young daughter was gravely ill and needed medical treatment that was not available in Gaza. When he tried to take her to Israel, Israeli intelligence agents told him he must agree to work with them in order to allow his daughter to cross.
“What could I do?” he asks. He told the agents that he agreed, and took his daughter for treatment. But he never gave the Israelis any information, he says. He told a friend about the incident, and his friend turned him in as a collaborator. “I don’t trust anyone now in Gaza,” he says. “Anyone. There is no trust in our society anymore.”
IN PICTURES: Palestinian smugglers on the Egypt Gaza border