The Propaganda Wheels Keep Turning For Hamas
I'm an avid cyclist in one of the most bicyle-friendly cities in the world. So a news item about cyclists pedaling from Pisa to Rome raising money to provide aid for the Gaza strip -- in addition to the 15,000 tons of supplies that reach Gaza from Israel every week -- was bound to catch my attention.
The goals of this cycling fundraiser to go towards Palestinian healthcare projects certainly seem laudable -- hopefully none of these funds will be diverted towards Hamas armaments purchases or other questionable investments. And of course, given that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza -- the terror statelet is already stocked with consumer goods and a living standard higher than that of nearby Muslim states, perhaps these funds might be put to better use in places like Pakistan, Sub-Saharan Africa or Southeast Asia, to actually prevent death from starvation or preventable diseases. But fill your boots, cyclists. You can't argue with money for health care, right?
But one jarring aspect of this story also caught my attention. Actually, it was something missing. Nowhere in the report about cycling for Gaza does it mention that the Hamas terror regime has effectively outlawed cycling for women and girls.
That's right. You can cycle for Gaza outside of Gaza, but if you've got a set of ovaries, you can't cycle in Gaza. This seems relevant to the story, no? At least worth a brief mention?
Attempting to call attention to this bizarre restriction, 28-year-old Palestinian journalist Asmaa Alghoul decided last month to join three of her friends, two Italian human rights workers and an American, on a tour of Gaza by bicycle. The experience was harrowing:
First, a group of young men on motorcycles began following us - me and my friend Chantal especially. They were tailing us closer and closer. They claimed to be Hamas police, but I didn't believe them because they looked much too young and didn't show me ID when I asked for it. So I shouted at them to leave us alone. Then I saw a real police car and pulled it over. I told the officers the men were bothering us, and the police actually helped us! They told the motorcyclists to go away and were very polite to us. Surprisingly, they didn't say anything about us being women on bikes. I think it may be because I was with international people, so the rules are a little more flexible.
The second incident was more unpleasant. Again it involved men on motorcycles. They went past us once, then came back and crossed us again. We stopped on the side of the road because they were passing by us very close and very fast. The second time they passed us, one of the men punched my friend Chantal in the back, hard, and spit in my face.
Perhaps the cyclists in Italy might ask that some of the funds raised go towards sensitivity training and the develppment of a Gaza-wide anti-sexual discrimination program? Hopefully they get the wheels rolling on that.
Jonathon Narvey is the Editor of The Propagandist.