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What checks to corruption (if any) are there to the Hamas regime in Gaza, and how effective are they?

Per Wikipedia quoting the World Bank, corruption "is a form of dishonesty or a criminal offense which is undertaken by a person or an organization which is entrusted with a position of authority, in order to acquire illicit benefits or abuse power for one's private gain."


Related: Checks against corruption in the Palestinian Authority and their effectiveness

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  • What do you mean by “checks to corruption”? Are you asking how Hamas investigates and punishes corruption?
    – divibisan
    May 23, 2021 at 22:59
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    @divibisan Not specifically Hamas. If in Gaza there was a "free parliament, free press, and civil society organizations" that could hold the Hamas government accountable, then those would certainly be part of the checks. But I don't think that's the case (I'd be glad to be proven wrong). Saying Hamas holds itself accountable is a rather ridiculous statement, given the nature of the Hamas regime. I'm asking more broadly: what factors/mechanisms prevents Hamas leaders from slipping their hands into the public till, or at least, from doing it too often?
    – Zev Spitz
    May 23, 2021 at 23:04
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    What do you mean by "corruption"? Would diverting funds meant for humanitarian purposes to production of weapons to use against Israel be considered corruption?
    – jamesqf
    May 24, 2021 at 3:53
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    @jamessqf Per Wikipedia quoting the World Bank, corruption "is a form of dishonesty or a criminal offense which is undertaken by a person or an organization which is entrusted with a position of authority, in order to acquire illicit benefits or abuse power for one's private gain." If we assume prioritizing weapons production over humanitarian purposes is not in the interests of the Palestinian people, I think it would follow that said prioritization is for some private gain, and thus would fall under this definition of corruption.
    – Zev Spitz
    Jul 18, 2021 at 15:09
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    @ZevSpitz You suggest that if Hamas does not act in the best interests of the Palestinian people then it is corrupt. That seems to presuppose a rather Western view of government, with some flavor of democracy. Why should it be Hamas' purpose to act in the best interest of the Palestinian people?
    – user44105
    Aug 16, 2022 at 17:41

5 Answers 5

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Unfortunately a government prioritizing weapon production would be deemed a 'political question' in most countries. You claim that that's not in the interest of the Palestinian people, but legally that's just your/a political opinion. And Hamas obviously disagrees to some extent.

One could argue that Hamas diverting funds for those purposes is corruption more literally, but then Hamas also receives funds for those military purposes (only) from Iran etc., if we take their word for it and even that of some Israeli officials who claim the same. (I see Netanyahu himself said that 90% of Hamas' military budget comes from Iran.). Yes, from the Israeli point of view, that's funding terrorism. Illegal, but for different reasons.


As for the rest on the question, whether Hamas tackles regular corruption in some way... that's really hard to say. They certainly won the 2006 election [partly] on claims that Fatah was corrupt. But after that, except for getting rid of political opponents, I've not found any overt anti-corruption campaigns done by Hamas, at least not ones publicized in English. (Anyhow, even in countries where those happen, they can sometimes be more for show than substance.) Also, the judiciary is Gaza is said to be controlled by Hamas, so that probably precludes any independent probes. What checks there might still have been were in the journalist/NGO domain, but even there, Hamas officials harassed and threatened some journalists, and even prosecuted some, so there's that.

Somewhat recent (Sep 2023) polling indicated that Hamas was still perceived as less corrupt than Fatah/PA, by some 10-15 percentage points, but the absolute numbers for both were pretty high (72-73% for Hamas and 84-87% for PA.) (Various PA figures sometimes said over the years they'll tackle corruption, which doesn't seem to be helping them that much though.)

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  • When I first asked this question, I was somewhat more naive about Hamas leadership's true intentions. I'm willing to accept under the heading of corruption anything that is at odds with the expressed interests and values of the people, such as sitting in expensive Doha hotels while Gaza is devastated.
    – Zev Spitz
    Apr 1 at 7:09
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    "You claim that that's not in the interest of the Palestinian people, but legally that's just your/a political opinion. And Hamas obviously disagrees to some extent." Since polling indicates widespread support for Hamas even today, it might even be argued that Palestinians themselves view weapons production as in their own interests.
    – Zev Spitz
    Apr 12 at 11:55
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    @ZevSpitz: there's probably even more direct poll questions on support for "armed resistance". Apr 12 at 12:00
  • @ZevSpitz If spending money to enact unpopular policies constitutes corruption then almost every government that has ever existed is corrupt. Corruption is better defined as use of official powers with the intention of private gain (or gain for a friend/family member/business associate/etc.). If Hamas believes their policies are good and in the public interest, it is not corruption however bad and against the public interest they are. OTOH, if Hamas know their policies are unpopular, then any use of official power to cover them up (to improve their own political prospects) is corrupt.
    – kaya3
    May 2 at 17:38
  • @kaya3 OTOH nobody does anything without some kind of "private gain", even if only to live up to their own moral standards. There's some kind of balance here; I'm having trouble articulating it.
    – Zev Spitz
    May 2 at 21:18
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The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was created pursuant to the 1993 Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the government of Israel, as a five-year administrative organisation established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While a final status has not yet been reached more than 17 years after its inception, the PNA is recognized as representing the Palestinian people by the international community, has an observer status within the United Nations and receives aid from several bilateral and multilateral donors. However, in its short period of existence, the PNA has been confronted with major challenges that have compromised its ability to design and implement effective national anti-corruption strategies: It does not enjoy full sovereignty over its administered territories, lost effective control over the Gaza Strip after Hamas gained control of it in 2007, and has large parts of its territory under Israeli military control. The political stability of the Palestinian Territory is compromised by the failure of the peace process and the related climate of constant tension with Israel as well as conflicts within the Palestinian society characterised by the political polarisation between Fatah and Hamas, the two major Palestinian factions.

https://knowledgehub.transparency.org/assets/uploads/helpdesk/314-Overview_of_corruption_in_Palestine.pdf

The PNA was the organization charged to combat corruption, but since Hamas took over Gaza, it faced numerous challenges in implementing them.

A first anti-corruption plan called the 100-Day plan was approved in 2002, including – among others - measures aimed at promoting principles of separation of powers, the independence and effectiveness of the judiciary and the rule of law, strengthening oversight of the police, preventive security and civil defence, and establishing a carefully monitored and audited investment fund to handle investment and commercial operations of the PNA (AMAN, 2009b)

It promoted separation of pwoers, independence of the judiciary and pushed for rule of law, strenghtened oversight of the police and other similar groups, monitored and audited investment fund. It also made reforms in several area to reduce corruption. Multiple approvals and control were set up for the hiring of public servants, etc. You can read more about this in the above paper, but the controls and mechanisms are pretty much the same as in other countries.

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There really aren't any, because the media, the UN, and most countries are super-supportive of Hamas and the PA and Hamas.

Somebody asked for sources:

UNRWA schools are used as Hamas bases (https://unwatch.org/un-admits-palestinians-fired-rockets-unrwa-schools/, https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/unrwa-discovers-hamas-tunnel-under-gaza-schools-496394), their funds are used to build terror infrastructure (https://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/2007/08/31/how-unrwa-supports-hamas/, https://www.timesofisrael.com/where-do-the-billions-of-dollars-in-foreign-aid-to-gaza-really-go/), and their schools are used to radicalize kids (https://www.australianjewishnews.com/shocking-incitement-in-unrwa-school-materials/, https://www.newsweek.com/time-endjewhatred-unrwa-schools-opinion-1654096). This has been happening for years, and what happens? Nothing. The money keeps pumping into Gaza, Hamas uses it for whatever they want, and there is no accountability, not from the UN and not from the international community. Hamas continues to incite conflict, cause both Israeli and Palestinian (when their rockets misfire and land in Gaza) deaths, and to prevent any growth in the economy or betterment of living conditions in Gaza.

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The official answer is the Palestinian people via the electoral process. As you can see in the Wiki article, elections in Palestine are not regular events and do not follow the electoral processes used by many Western nations. So, the ultimate answer could be argued as "Hamas" or "No one."

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  • This looks like a comment rather than an answer.
    – Alexei
    Apr 3 at 9:24
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    @Alexei maybe it's a low quality answer (and I am not saying that it is), but I don't see in it any suggestions on how to improve the question. It's an answer. It's not a comment. It just doesn't follow a number of good answer style guidelines relevant for this site. Such as "sarcasm does not do well."
    – wrod
    Apr 10 at 4:58
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    Strawman. There could be many checks on corruption besides elections. The fact that Hamas doesn't hold elections doesn't mean there aren't other mechanisms.
    – Zev Spitz
    Apr 12 at 11:52
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I think there is a confusion between what constitutes a government policy and what constitutes corruption - which is the abuse of the government power, i.e., its illegal use.

Guns vs. Butter trade-off is a well-known problem in economics and political science. By prioritizing war over improving well-being of Gazans Hamas might be well committing a crime (or even a genocide) against its own people, from the point of view of international law. From the point of view of laws inn Gaza this however does not constitute corruption, but rather the government policy.

However, the Hamas officials might use the power of their office (and weapons) to commit various acts of corruption, such as, e.g., stealing humanitarian aid and selling it at higher prices:

In a post he shared on November 26, Facebook user Othman Hussein claimed that Hamas not only steals the humanitarian aid, but later sells it to the public at exorbitant prices. He wrote: "The plot against the residents of the Gaza Strip is not only external [i.e. from Israel], but also internal. The gas stations and the cooking gas depots are full, yet despite this, tens of thousands of suffering people have been queuing in front of the stations since the first day of the ceasefire, to no avail. The [Hamas] police are summoned to beat these people with clubs. The police take as much fuel as they want for themselves and their associates, and as much as they need for commercial purposes, [namely, in order] to sell it at five times the usual price. Then they leave, having accomplished their national mission… Anyone who thinks that I am exaggerating should go to these stations and see for themselves what is happening to the people. Oh resistance, is this what the home front [looks like]?"

I posted the above fragment not because of this veracity (many would question it, as it represents a tweet, reported by a source sympathetic to Israel), but to demonstrate what constitutes corruption.

According to the Freedom house 2024 report on Gaza, regarding the question of Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?:

Hamas has been accused of corruption in public service delivery and aid distribution, which is crucial to daily life in Gaza given that even before the conflict in 2023, some 80 percent of the population depended on international assistance due to the blockade. Multiple reports by the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), a civil society organization, have noted that the continuing Fatah-Hamas schism, issues related to judicial integrity, and specific problems with the procurement process have impeded the prosecution of corruption cases.

Corruption is also widespread where it comes to moving out of Gaza:

Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?

Freedom of movement for Gaza residents has long been severely limited. Israeli and Egyptian authorities exercise tight control over border areas, and Hamas imposed its own restrictions on travel. Israeli officials often deny Gaza residents permits to travel outside of the territory on security grounds, authorizing only certain medical patients and other individuals to leave. University students have had difficulty acquiring the necessary permits to leave the territory to study abroad. Corruption and the use of bribes at crossing points was common before the 2023 war.

The latter is corroborated by the discussion around the "coordination fees" payed to exit from Gaza:

In the end, as stories began to spread of people who managed to leave Gaza after paying for coordination services, Samah realized that “we have to pay a bribe to get our names on the lists.” What Samah describes as a “bribe” is what is otherwise known as “coordination fees.” For Egyptian passport holders, the cost can go up to US$650 for individuals over 16 years old and $325 for those under 16. Samah could not afford this, and so her sister and her children remain trapped in Gaza.

Although currently the facts might be hard to verify due to the war and absence of independent observers in Gaza, the situation wasn't better in the past, as can be judged by earlier Freedom House reports - see, e.g., their 2023 report.

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