From the Mailbag: Ask Aussie Dave

Hiraethin writes:

The media has quite a few stories about the death in Gaza of Akram Al Masri, who was deported from Australia about 6 years ago. I can’t find any local stories on this and some context about *why* he was killed would be nice. Any chance you can shed some light on this? I can’t think where to look beyond Google News, which doesn’t seem to have any Israeli sources on the subject…

The only local story I could find was from the Palestine Press Agency, which mentions witnesses “expected the murder to have occurred  on back ground of a family dispute.”

And if other reports are anything to go by, the dispute began with a mango.

It began with a mango three years ago. A member of Gaza’s powerful Masri clan had stopped to buy fruit at a roadside stall in 2005, but the vendor did not have enough small change to break his 20 shekel note – equal to $5.

The Masri man pulled a gun and killed the vendor, who was a member of the Abu Taha clan.

By the end of last year, the ensuing feud had claimed the lives of 29 people – 10 from neither clan. Sixty had been wounded and homes and businesses on both sides had been torched.

“We want to kill one more to be equal,” a member of the Abu Taha clan told a researcher for International Crisis Group. But then the toll moved to 10 Abu Taha and 11 Masris dead – and the Masris vowed revenge.

This is the feud that is thought to have claimed the life last week of Akram al-Masri, 31, who was denied refugee status in Australia in 2002 and then deported.

There was no need for al-Masri to commit any particular offence to become an assassin’s target in Gaza. His membership of the trouble-prone Masri clan was reason enough.

Tribal clans such as his are powerful players in the inter-factional cauldron of Gaza politics. The mango row was just one of hundreds of feuds caused by the slightest transgression.

In 2006 the Masris went to war with another clan because one of the Masris, while driving a donkey-cart, collided with a car driven by a member of the equally powerful Kafarneh clan.

Six people were killed as neighbours who had lived side-by-side for decades turned guns on each other in the name of clan honour. Houses were sand-bagged and women who had married across clan lines on both sides were locked up while hundreds of gunmen fought it out for two months.

“We fought the Kafarnehs like they were the Israelis,” a senior Masri man said at the time.

Under Yasser Arafat’s rule, the Masri clan had control of the General Intelligence Department, or Mukhabarat, through the appointment of General Mohammed Masri.

Interclan rivalry over the appointment and the power and resources that flowed to the Masri clan as a result has been cited as a cause of the enmity between the Masris and Kafarnehs. Their ongoing feud prompted the Masris to erect a four-metre-high wall around their enclave in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis.

But the clan is fighting on other fronts. It has vowed to inflict death on the Dughmush clan, which was responsible for the abduction last year of the BBC reporter Alan Johnston, and it has made threats against Hamas since the party took control of Gaza last June.

Many clans have struggled to come to terms with the new power structure in Gaza and Hamas is trying to bring them to heel.

“There are about 6000 men in the Masri family, and Hamas knows that if it enters the family quarter it would face a battle far worse than [any] it has already fought,” a senior Masri figure has warned.

The Masri leadership refuses to co-operate with the new state of affairs. A clan leader said it needed to avenge the death of three of its fighters during the Hamas takeover, and said “the vendetta remains outstanding”.

But allegiance is a murky issue in the new Gaza. Another member of the clan complained that some of his relatives had joined Hamas and refused to act by the traditional practice of family loyalty.

Focusing on one of his own brothers who had joined the Islamist movement, he said: “Hamas members are standing with the movement against their family – their loyalty is to their paymaster, Hamas.”

Questions for self-study:

  • Are the palestinians – who don’t even value their own lives, let alone the lives of Jews – really ready to live in peace with Israel?
  • Why don’t these numerous clan murders make “Human Rights” reports, which seem to be preoccupied on so-called Israeli transgressions?

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media