|This grizzly image came from Youtube via Getty Images|
In a sad twist of fate, a pro-Palestinian activist from Italy named Vittorio Arrigoni has been brutally murdered by Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. His captors wanted a prisoner released in exchange Arrigoni’s life, but Palestinian medical sources say he was killed 24 hours before the deadline was set to expire.
Although Al Jazeera decided not to cover this story, The New York Times considers the crime a challenge to Hamas’ control over the coastal-enclave, and the robust editorial staff at AndrewBruss.com agrees.
If this crime was committed in Israel, politicians would clamor for justice, and the Palestinian Authority would surely do the same in the West Bank. Hamas has said they plan to bring those responsible to justice, but Hamas differs from the Israeli government, and Palestinian Authority for that matter, in the degree to which they’ve used violence and intimidation to enforce their will over those they govern. Given the lack of democratic restrictions on Hamas, their means of preventing crime is far greater than those of Israel, or their political rivals in the Palestinian Authority.
When rockets have been fired at Israel, often resulting in retaliatory air raids that cause civilian casualties, Hamas has proven they can reign in other militant groups when it is in the best interest of the Hamas government (and presumably the civilian population of Gaza). Given their history of keeping both civilian and competitive militant factions under their thumb, the murder of a friendly, Western activist is more than an insult: it is a challenge.
Hamas is not a peaceful organization. Even if you disagree with Israel, the UN and the United States’ assertion that they are a terrorist organization, it is widely understood that within the confines of the Gaza Strip, the Shia organization regularly resorts to violence and intimidation to silence political opponents, critics and business owners whose enterprise could be considered to be “Western.” I’m pretty comfortable going on record saying that if I lived in the Gaza Strip, my fear of being murdered would will me to do everything in my power to stay on Hamas' good side.
Regardless of who is behind the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni, it is clear his killers were not worried about embarrassing Hamas on the world stage, or the way Hamas would respond to this embarrassment. Therein lies the challenge. Hamas has relied upon fear and intimidation to ensure their populace remains obedient, and if Gazans no longer fear Hamas, then Hamas will gradually lose their control.
If these killers get away with their crime, what motivation is there for Islamic Jihad to abide by Hamas-imposed cease-fires? Hamas is currently managing an unofficial cease-fire with Israel that other militant organizations are abiding by. If these organizations were to continue their rocket fire against Hamas’ wishes, the likelihood of a large-scale military conflict with Israel would greatly increase. Thus, the more militant organizations act without fear of reprisals from Hamas, the more likely Hamas will be to find themselves in a damaging conflict with Israel they cannot not predict or control.
Fortunately for Hamas, the likelihood of copycat murders is pretty minimal because the number of Western activists “fighting the occupation” in Gaza is sure to plummet.
UPDATE: 2 arrests have been made.
UPDATE: 2 arrests have been made.