On the grounds that those cafÃ©s are “trying to make a whole generation preoccupied with matters other than jihad and worship.” An update on this story. “In chaotic Gaza, the Internet is a target,” from Bloomberg News:
CAIRO “” Soon after a firebomb exploded at 3 a.m. and destroyed four computers in the Al-Shawa Online Internet Cafe in Gaza, owner Alaa al-Shawa clicked onto his e-mail at an undamaged machine.
The first message surprised him: It was from the bombers themselves, explaining that establishments such as his were keeping Muslims away from prayer and providing pornography. That’s why it was hit.
“This just shows how confused these fanatics are,” said Al-Shawa, 27. “Even they use the Internet to circulate their statements, but they think everyone else uses it for porno.”
About 45 Internet outlets have been bombed since Dec. 1, according to figures from Gaza’s Central Police Office. The attacks are occurring against a backdrop of intense infighting between Fatah, the main faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Hamas, the Islamist party and militia that has grown into the Palestinians” dominant political force. The street clashes have led to general lawlessness.
“Gaza society tends toward conservatism, and some people are suspicious of the Internet, but the attacks on Internet cafes come in the context of general chaos,” said Isam Younis, director of Gaza’s independent Al-Mizan Center for Human Rights. “Simply, there’s an absence of law.”
A group called the Swords of Islamic Righteousness has claimed responsibility for the attacks. In a leaflet distributed at Al-Azhar University last month, it said it attacked Internet cafes “which are trying to make a whole generation preoccupied with matters other than jihad and worship.”
The group also claimed to have blown up the car of someone who played his stereo loudly. And it has firebombed pharmacies it suspects of peddling narcotics and recreational drugs, police say.
The Internet is a means for some 1.4 million residents to break out of the isolation of the Gaza Strip, where there is no functioning airport or seaport and where crossing the borders into Israel or Egypt is subject to tight control.
The bomb placed above the door at Al-Shawa’s store did $4,000 damage. “The cafe is my only source of income,” he said.
He invested $30,000 to start the business in September 2001, he said. “My cafe has a good reputation,” he added. “I have a filter to block out porno.”
Muhammed Shpeir, a 19-year-old psychology student at Azhar University, said he came to the cafe to chat, e-mail friends and do school research. “I”ve never traveled outside Gaza, so this is the only place I can communicate with people far away,” he said. “Morocco, Algeria? It’s a good way to pass time. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.”
Shukri Jubri, 15, a high-school student, noted that there are no cinemas or discos. “Except for television, there’s not much amusement,” he said. “Also, I do my homework with Interne t help,” he said.
“The funny thing is, people have Internet at home now,” Al-Shawa said. “So what are the bombers going to do? Attack the houses, too? Believe me, if anyone is watching porno, it’s at home.”