It's nice that so many people around the world care so deeply about the Palestinians. One could almost — almost — get misty hearing the passionate outcry and the dramatic actions their advocates take in the name of helping Palestinians.
There's a reason, however, why even Palestinians themselves are often suspicious about the motives of their outspoken supporters. That's because one can easily detect the stench of hypocrisy wafting in their midst. A closer look at their efforts reveals a peculiar pattern: Those who become so outraged about the plight of Palestinians at the hand of Israel quickly forget their cause if the suffering is inflicted by anyone else.
How is it possible that if anyone besides Israel mistreats Palestinians, their kindhearted defenders don't seem to notice?
Palestinians are indeed victims of mistreatment. But you won't hear much about what they endure, unless someone can pin the blame directly on Israel. Conditions in Gaza, for example, have made for a tough existence there. But human-rights activists have turned a blind eye to the systematic assault on individual freedom that has beset the population ever since the Islamic militant movement Hamas took over in 2005.
Never mind the assassinations of political opponents that paved the way for Hamas to consolidate its rule. Gaza, once a relatively liberal, free-thinking territory, has slowly moved along the path to full Islamic law in the past five years. All movie theaters and bars, for example, have been closed. Dozens of Internet cafes have been bombed, as have churches, monasteries and Christian schools. Earlier this summer, masked Hamas militants set fire to United Nations children's camps, which competed with Hamas-run indoctrination activities for children. The regime has been busy shutting down NGOs that provided aid to Palestinians, but we haven't heard much about that.
As in Iran, Hamas rule is slowly interfering with the tiniest decisions of daily life. The Interior Ministry recently declared that, "It is inappropriate for women to sit cross-legged and smoke in public." The government banned women from smoking the popular and harmless water pipes and banned them from riding even as passengers on motorcycles, a common means of transportation. As freedom disappears at the hands of Hamas, nobody outside Gaza seems to care.
After a recent flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists challenged the Israeli blockade, a Gaza art gallery director declared, "Thanks to all of you democratic people from all over the world, who are fighting the Israeli embargo of Gaza. But please, at the same time, could you also denounce the Hamas repression of intellectual freedom?"
Intellectual freedom is the least of it. Members of the rival Fatah party say Hamas is gradually adopting the tactics of Iran's infamous Basij militias to impose oppressive social norms and destroy the opposition. Hamas rivals say beatings and torture are common.
All those Western activists that cry out for freedom and democracy, and who never tire of reminding us that Hamas was democratically elected (although militiamen threw rivals off rooftops, not so democratically) somehow ignored that Palestinian municipal elections, which were supposed to happen in July, mysteriously disappeared from the agenda after Hamas prevented voter registration.
All those Arab activists, who shed tears for the suffering of Palestinians, are also curiously unmoved by the plight of Palestinians in their own countries. In Lebanon, for example, where pro-Palestinian groups are working to launch another convoy towards Gaza, Palestinian refugees are treated like third class non-citizens. Even those born in Lebanon are not allowed to own property and are banned from many professions. Palestinians are not allowed to work as journalists or doctors or lawyers or any of 50 professions. And yet, those who sound as if they spend sleepless nights suffering for their Palestinian brethren remain curiously quiet about these terrible, inexcusable injustices. They also remain mysteriously silent about unjust restrictions placed on Palestinians in just about every other Arab country.
Legitimate concern for Palestinians demands examining Israel's actions, and determining if Israel's need to stop rocket attacks from Gaza, for example, justifies the naval blockade. But the curious one-sided outrage betrays the real agenda of their avowed advocates.
The true agenda is attacking Israel, not defending Palestinians. If their supporters really cared about Palestinians, they would work to help them no matter what the source of the injustice. Watching the charade, one's eyes can get misty -- from the stench of hypocrisy that fills the air.