August 5, 2021

Gaza’s justice of the peace, families’ first resort

By Louis Imbert

Posted today at 06:44

Time seems to pass more slowly than elsewhere in the office of the “great mokhtar” of Gaza. Hosni Al-Moghani, 79, stands under a cracked-glass clock and a yellowed map of Palestine. At the end of spring, the main representative of the great Gazan clans receives the grievances of families of all extractions, rich and humble. They are seeking his help, as the latest war between Hamas and Israel ended on May 21, killing 260 in Gaza, according to local authorities, and 13 in Israel.

Read the report: In Gaza, a strange atmosphere of celebration and mourning

This man of high stature, affectionately nicknamed “Abu Salman” (“Salman’s father”), is not a civil servant, nor a politician, but an intercessor with the power, in other words the Islamists of Hamas. This notable is also a justice of the peace, a marriage counselor, a speedy arbitrator in commercial disputes and the families’ first recourse in murder cases. It is he who negotiates the price of blood, when it comes to preventing an isolated drama from degenerating into a vendetta. He masters the genealogy of the Gazan families at his fingertips, theurf (customary law) and the art of negotiation.

A woman, on May 25, 2021, comes to seek advice from Al-Moghani, in an office of the High Commission of Tribal Affairs.  The

Abu Salman is the most influential of some 1,200 mokhtars (the “chosen” in Arabic), very conservative heads of families who, in the days of the Ottoman Empire, already represented their neighborhoods and villages to officials. He heads the High Commission for Tribal Affairs, and his authority is complementary to that of the judiciary and the police, held by Hamas. “The Islamists arrogate to themselves the monopoly of violence in Gaza, but they also need the mokhtars to maintain social peace, Judge Jean-Pierre Filiu, author of a History of Gaza (Fayard, 2012). These are effective and legitimate with the people, two qualities that are so lacking in Palestinian institutions. “

On all fronts

Abu Salman’s office is therefore a good place to take the pulse of Gaza, to see how its two million inhabitants have emerged from this fourth conflict in fifteen years, after those of 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014. “During the war, the problems disappear: people have nothing to do but pray at home. Today, everything is resurfacing ”, said this sly and fatalistic man. The euphoria of the end of the bombing has passed. It remains to assume daily survival in this coastal strip subjected since 2007 to a blockade by Israel and Egypt.

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