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Hamas Arrests Palestinian Comedian Who Lambasted Gazan, Qatari Gov’s - Reports

© AP Photo / Bernat ArmangueA Palestinian demonstrator waves a Palestinian flag.
A Palestinian demonstrator waves a Palestinian flag. - Sputnik International
On Wednesday, Hamas security forces arrested prominent Palestinian comedian Hussam Khalaf for “misusing technology.” A writer told Sputnik that while Hussam certainly had much to criticize in Hamas’ administration of Gaza, suspicions that his criticisms of Qatar got him booked “are far from illegitimate.”

Sources in the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip told the Jerusalem Post Thursday that Hamas security officers took Hussam in for questioning the previous day in his native town of Rafah, at the southern tip of the tiny autonomous territory.

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"They took him in their car, and since then we haven't heard from him," his brother told the Post.

Khalaf, also called "The Brain," was known for criticizing both Hamas and Qatar in satirical videos posted online — something the Jerusalem Post notes is covered by the term "misusing technology."

In one November Facebook video, Khalaf sings, "I'll write on dollar papers, this support is from Qatar. Young people lost their limbs, so that we receive some diesel."

Journalist and author Daniel Lazare told Sputnik Wednesday that "suspicions that Qatar is somehow behind his arrest are far from illegitimate."

The Jerusalem Post also describes Khalaf as "collaborating with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority security forces in instigating unrest and chaos in the Gaza Strip, spreading rumors and fake news about life under Hamas, inciting Palestinians to demonstrate against Hamas and chanting slogans against it."

His songs were also critical of new taxes by Hamas and the high rate of unemployment, which the Palestine Bureau of Statistics reported reached 52 percent last year.

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However, Lazare said that there's much for Hussam to criticize about the Hamas regime, describing it as "a double or even triple dictatorship — that of Israel, Hamas and the Gulf states that use them as pawns in their endless internecine warfare."

For example, since November, Doha has offered Gaza $150 million to pay the salaries of government employees, but Hamas has refused those money transfers, which Tel Aviv must approve, in protest of the fact that Israel has such veto power over Gazan affairs.

"Israel is the worst, of course, since, with the help of Egypt's [President] el-Sisi, it has locked up some 1.85 million people in what is little more than an open-air prison," Lazare said, referring to the besieged Gaza Strip itself, the borders of which Israel polices with deadly force.

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"But Hamas is a close second," he said. "The group is little short of fascist. In its notorious 1988 Covenant, for instance, it calls for an Islamic theocracy, denounces everything and everyone from the French Revolution to the Rotary Club, and quotes from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on the subject of Jewish world domination. This may be of no concern to the Palestinians themselves, but such ultra-reactionary attitudes harm ordinary Gazans by all but eliminating political freedom," Lazare said.

One Gazan woman exclaimed last month that "Hamas officials' children drive in luxurious cars, but I have 4 unemployed sons. All of Gaza are unemployed because of Ismail Haniyeh & Yahya Sinwar. These officials care nothing about the poor people's necessities. We have the right to live."

​"When massive economic protests broke out in March, Hamas sent its police into the streets to beat up protesters and make dozens of arrests," the journalist told Sputnik, noting that the group has sought to defuse protests in the past "by organizing a rival demonstration in support of an attack by a West Bank Palestinian that killed two Israelis."

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Hamas has claimed the protests, collectively called the "Great March of Return," are part of a conspiracy led by rival Palestinian party al-Fatah to undermine its rule of the Gaza Strip. However, Khalaf's friends denied that he was affiliated with any party.

"It is the sort pointless act that strengthens [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, deepens the isolation of the Palestinians and… allows the Hamas dictatorship to continue. The group does far more damage to the Palestinian cause than it does to Israel," Lazare said.

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