Everybody in Gaza is under suspicion...
McCarthyism reaches the Gaza strip...
A secretive Hamas campaign to catch Palestinians spying for Israel has ensnared some prominent Gaza residents, drawn unusual criticism and highlighted the Islamic militant group's deep fears about being penetrated by agents of the Jewish state.
Though action against accused collaborators is always popular in Gaza and tensions are hardly new in the seaside strip — a crowded and impoverished place that endures a three-year blockade that has kept key supplies scarce and made travel out for most people virtually impossible — this time seems different.
There is widespread shock at some of the well-respected names among those thought to be detained — including two prominent physicians and a respected engineer, alongside members of Hamas itself.
And mostly, there is concern about the extreme secrecy surrounding the arrests. Hamas refuses to say who has been arrested, a policy that has sparked a furious rumor mill since the arrests began earlier in September.
"Everybody in Gaza is under suspicion," said Mukheimar Abu Sada, a Gaza-based political scientist widely known for his independence, describing an atmosphere of fear in Gaza, where collaborators are widely loathed and the preferred method of their punishment is death — either through the courts or vigilantes.
Hamas feels "the government has been completely infiltrated, that Israel knows more about Hamas than what they know of themselves," Abu Sada said.
The Iranian-backed militant group seized control of Gaza from the rival Palestinian Fatah movement in June 2007. Hamas' initial crackdowns were political, targeting Fatah supporters but eventually the net widened, absorbing lawless tribes, human rights groups and extremist Muslims opposed to Hamas' rule.
Along with the crackdowns, Hamas has steadily imposed its strict Muslim lifestyle on traditionally conservative Gazans — banning women from smoking water-pipes, warning cafes not to allow men and women to mix in public, and pressuring women to wear the Muslim headscarf.
Human rights workers who are in frequent touch with security officials estimate that more than 20 low-level Hamas operatives have also been rounded up as suspected collaborators in the September arrests. Detainees have been denied access to lawyers or family visits.