Rami Aman, a Palestinian journalist and founder of the Gaza Youth Committee in 2010, is a longtime peace advocate. On September 22, he spoke on a Middle East Forum Webinar (video) in an interview with Cliff Smith, director of the Middle East Forum's Washington Project. The following is a summary of Aman's comments:
The many peace projects Aman initiated through his organization over the past three decades empower Gazan youth through non-violence. It is this youth to which Aman is "looking for good leadership and Palestinian reconciliation [because] Hamas [and the] Palestinian Authority (PA) failed [to] do any sustainable plan for our [lives]." In 2015, Aman connected Israeli and Palestinian peace activists through video chats in a "people-to-people" initiative labeled "Skype With Your Enemy."
Expanding his initiative in 2019, Aman organized an internet video chat to the US, connecting with American Muslims, Christians, and Jews to dispel the illusion that Hamas reflects the will of all Gazans. "It was hard in the beginning to let the Israelis believe that there [are] people inside Gaza [who] believe in peace after Hamas [took] control." There is no "independent media" in Gaza, only a "fake media," where Hamas controls all international and local reportage.
The video chats gained popularity with the Israeli left, and in April 2020, a Zoom video conference with hundreds of participants included opponents of "normalization" with Israel. One such opponent was Hind Khoudary, a worker for Amnesty International. Khoudary alerted Hamas on social media, which promptly arrested Aman. The terror group, which had seized power in the Gaza Strip in 2007 and banned all communication with Israel, charged Aman with "treason." He was detained for many months and faced an even longer prison term.
In September 2020, Hamas prosecuted Aman for conducting the call and "weakening revolutionary spirit," but later that month, seventy non-governmental organizations (NGOs) formally complained to the UN and demanded Aman's release. Exposed to negative publicity from foreign news outlets and under pressure from the UN watchdog NGO UN Watch, Hamas released Aman the following month.
Foreign countries, including Qatar, send millions of dollars to prop up Hamas and the PA leadership, but do nothing to advance reconciliation between the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians. As for the Gazans interested in making peace with Israel, if the media were to "check the number of Gazans who apply for . . . Israeli permits to work in Israel. Just collect how many Palestinian patients [are] getting . . . treatment inside Israel. Just check the number of Palestinian businessmen inside [the] Gaza Strip who are . . . in contact [daily] with Israelis to import and export . . . products. They'll find thousands of Gazans," but the media gives them little attention. Consequently, their peaceful exchanges receive scant publicity or encouragement.
"Hamas knows . . . if any election[s] happen inside Gaza, no Gazan will vote for Hamas." Aman continues his activism, despite Hamas's continued efforts to make life difficult for him. "I believe, one hundred percent, that the majority of the Palestinians [now] want to start the negotiation[s] with the Israelis or with the [Jews]. I'm still continuing my way."
"The majority inside Gaza, that is looking for good leadership and Palestinian reconciliation, believe that Hamas or the Palestinian Authority failed to do any sustainable plan for our life. . . . So this is the main reason to create a new kind of leadership from a new kind of generation."
Marilyn Stern is communications coordinator at the Middle East Forum.