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July 24, 2013 12:46 pm

Hamas Fears Egypt’s ‘Tamarod’ Protest Movement Will Challenge its Gaza Rule

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Hamas militants hold a poster of Mohammed Morsi as they celebrate his 2012 election in Gaza City. Photo: Front Page Magazine.

Recent events in Egypt are causing Hamas officials to worry that a similar uprising could take place among its disenfranchised population. Since protests, precipitated largely by the grassroots Tamarod (rebellion) movement, led to the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the beginning of the month, Hamas has “worried that the Tamarod experience will be replicated in Gaza, particularly after pages began emerging on social media sites calling for similar protests in the Palestinian territories,” writes Middle Eastern news website Al-Monitor.

Fearful, Hamas has overcompensated, moving to break up any and all public gatherings. Al-Monitor reports that, in mid-July, Hamas security forces dispersed protesters demonstrating against the Israeli Brawer-Begin Bill, which affects Bedouins in the country’s south.

Ibrahim al-Talaa, 24, the creator of a Facebook page calling for the protest against Israel’s Brawer plan, told Al-Monitor he was interrogated by Hamas security forces.

“They called my dad asking him to let me know that I should go to internal security for an interrogation. I spent the whole day of the demonstration there,” Talaa told Al-Monitor. Talaa said that most of the interrogation was about Tamarod in Palestine, whether he was a member and if he knew any of those involved with it.

“I told them that I’m not a member and that I’m not convinced of such movements in Palestine at present, due to the sensitive security issues with Egypt today,” Talaa explained.

Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli scholar of Arabic literature and a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, told The Algemeiner that, beyond it being simply an Egyptian movement led by activists, Tamarod is a concept—one that oppressive regimes fear.

“The Egyptian idea of ‘Tamarod’ went also to Tunisia, and maybe other places as well. No wonder that in Gaza it also has an echo,” Professor Kedar said. “It became a fashion.”

Analysts, however, told Al-Monitor that Tamarod is unlikely to gain serious traction in Gaza despite the obvious weakening of Hamas that has come with Morsi’s fall. Atef Abu Sef, lecturer at the Gaza-based Al-Azhar University, said that the circumstances of Gaza are unlike Egypt.

Abu Sef pointed to systemic differences such as the role Egypt’s army plays in the political process as well as other political figures who influenced events in Egypt. Political figures in Gaza, however, mostly acknowledge that there are not many alternatives to Hamas if it were removed from power, Abu Sef argued.

“I believe that what happened in Egypt will absolutely affect life in Gaza at least in the long term, especially if Hamas isn’t wise enough to deal with all these changes in Egypt,” Abu Sef told Al-Monitor.

Samah Ahmed, a 30-year-old activist who has always been engaged in opposition to Hamas, said that she doesn’t feel the timing in Gaza is right for such protest movements. She says that divisions between secularists and Islamists highlighted by unrest in Egypt would be magnified in Gaza and the West Bank, where the two respective ruling parties, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, have established very clear differences.

“I’m not against forming a real Tamarod movement because we all need it, but I’m against repeating the same problem of division by having different goals,” Ahmed said.

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