Discussions about life in Gaza emphasize the dire economic conditions Palestinians live under. The quality of life is further being eroded by an incremental campaign of harsh religious law by the Hamas government that subjugates women and intimidates people deemed insufficiently observant. We've chronicled some of those restrictions here and here, including the arrest of a female journalist accused of "laughing out loud" and being without a male escort while at the beach.
In the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Spyer details new and disturbing restrictions on individual freedom. Among them:
Creation of a "Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" security force to patrol public places in search of those displaying insufficient modesty in dress and behavior; a special unit with female officers, dressed in full-body niqabs, to enforce limits on women; designated mosque watchdogs who ensure people are praying properly "offer help where insufficient devotion is diagnosed."
Spyer cites this example:
"One source describes how a man wearing shorts while sitting on his own balcony in southern Gaza was spotted and advised that this must not happen again. Rules banning men from bathing topless, and women (who may still bathe separately from men and fully covered) from laughing or smiling while bathing, are also in the process of enforcement."
Islamic financial services are growing dominant, too, and becoming the repository for Hamas charity and social programs "to establish channels of material dependence between the public and the Hamas organization.
Spyer believes this all is the result of a delicate balance Hamas boxed itself into striking. He notes there is pressure from Salafi movements that seek an even more extreme adherence to Sharia law and Hamas can't lose its mantle of religious leadership. In the end, Spyer writes, "without any recognized body deciding upon it, an Islamic mini-state in the full sense is currently emerging in Gaza."
Read his article here.