Hamas police in Gaza. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

Resident of Gaza derided Hamas’ ban on New Year’s eve celebrations as hypocrisy and a sign of continued strict Islamic rule in the Strip.  

Palestinians living under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip condemned the terror organization’s ban on public celebration of the New Year.

Police spokesman Ayman al-Batniji explained on Thursday that that the ban was “meant to minimize as far as possible phenomena that contravene the heritage, customs, values and directives of Islam” and condemned those who had planned celebrations.

Gaza restaurateurs expressed displeasure at the ban due to the financial loss it will cause them, especially considering that Hamas recently raised taxes on restaurants.

According to a report published by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the ban also evoked harsh criticism from Gaza residents and public figures who voiced their complaints on social media.

In a post on his Facebook page, Gazan human rights activist Mustafa Ibrahim accused Hamas of hypocrisy and of disregarding the wishes of the Gaza residents.

“Hamas has a new surprise for us every day, and at the end of the year it insists on a new addition to its bad human rights record. Seeking anything that can harm it and us, it cleaves to its customs and heritage which it is trying to impose and to realize in the name of religion, and attacks the public’s freedoms. To the West it says, ‘we are a moderate Islamic movement,’ while in the domestic arena, it tries to tell many of its members that it governs [the Gaza Strip] based on religious Islamic law, rather than state law, and that, it if could, it might [even] implement the Koranic punishments,” he wrote.

“How many celebrants [are we talking about]?” he asked. “Hearing about Hamas’ decision [to ban the celebrations], one might think that tens of thousands celebrate [this occasion in Gaza]. By the way, celebrating the new year is not a religious matter, but a global human tradition. It’s as though we are not part of the world, or as though we have lost our humanity.”

hamas christmas

Widely posted photo of Hamas members at a Christmas celebration. (Courtesy of MEMRI)

Ibrahim’s post evoked many responses on his Facebook page. Some responders posted a photo showing Hamas officials, including Moussa Abu Marzouq, standing beside a Christmas tree and a figure of Santa Claus during their visit the Saint Porphyrios Church in Gaza last year.

Posting on the Amad website, an individual named Yasser Al-Najjar asked sarcastically: “Is Santa Claus perhaps a member of the Muslim brotherhood?”

Another reponder, Abu Ahmad Al-Dweik, criticized the Hamas officials for visiting the church, writing that “it is prohibited to share in the Crusaders’ festivities during their holidays, since they claim that Jesus was the son of God and participating in their holidays is an act of supporting their faith.”

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Nafez Ghneim, a senior member of the Palestinian People’s Party advised the Hamas members to put aside their cars and start riding donkeys instead if they wish to distance themselves form Western customs.

He accused Hamas of violating collective and individual liberties on the pretext of minimizing Western influence on the lives of Gaza residents.

“Why do some people describe certain human [customs] as a Western tradition that contravenes the tradition of [Muslim] society? If such is the case, they should get out of their cars and ride on a donkey, or smash their mobile phones and return to antiquated modes of communication. Also, they should not follow the West or imitate it in their dress. They should burn their suits and ties and return to robes and wooden clogs.” He wondered further: “Aren’t the insurance companies an imitation of the West? Isn’t trading in cigarettes and levying taxes an imitation of the West? What about the tourist resorts that are managed and controlled by all those who govern the Gaza Strip…?

Ghneim urged the Gaza authorities to leave people in peace and stop molding society in the image of the Islamic State (ISIS). He urged them to seek ways to restore to the Gazans their dignified lives, and address “the roots of the poverty, despair and frustration felt in every Gaza household.”