Once, Hamas members were afraid to wear beards for fear of being arrested by Israel's security forces. Today, they are once again afraid of appearing in public with beards - this time for fear that they will be killed or kidnapped by Fatah militiamen in the Gaza Strip.
Sources close to Hamas said over the weekend that at least 10 bearded men have been shot and killed in the past week after being stopped in the street by Fatah gunmen.
One case was caught on camera and has since appeared on the Youtube Web site. The film shows several Fatah gunmen shooting a bearded man in the legs. As the man lies in a pool of blood in the street crying for help, a Fatah gunman approaches him and fires at his head from an automatic rifle, killing him instantly.
"This man was just an ordinary citizen who happened to wear a beard," said a Hamas official. "It's become very dangerous to appear with a beard on the streets of the Gaza Strip."
According to the Hamas official, most of the victims were killed execution-style by Fatah militiamen and members of various Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority security forces.
I remember several years ago some people in Israel and some American Jews saying that they just wanted to wall off Gaza and let the Palestinians kill each other there, with the thought that what happened to the Palestinians didn't really matter. I wonder what those people are saying today, when hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in Fatah-Hamas fighting this year. Are we not our brothers' keeper? Should we not care that life for people in Gaza - including innocents - has become a living hell, aided and abetted by the Israeli blockade of Gaza and by the American embargo on aid to the Hamas government? I don't want suicide bombers to be able to enter Israel from Gaza, nor do I want to support Hamas, which still has the declared goal of destroying Israel - but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that this has nothing to do with us and our actions.