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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hamas in Gaza after a year: 'Good governance?'

Sunday's New York Times has a feature on the Hamas government in Gaza one year from the 'coup.' Most of it is not very surprising.
“The Palestinian criminal code says there should be no improper behavior in the streets,” the new chief justice, Abed al-Raouf Halabi, explained in an interview, pulling the code book from his breast pocket.

“It is up to judges to interpret what that means,” he said. “For us that means no cursing, no drinking and no kissing in public. In the past these things were ignored.”

Gaza has always been poor and pious, distinct from the more secular and better off West Bank. But a year of Hamas rule has made it more so. The notion of Gaza as an enduringly separate entity is solidifying, making it less likely that Palestinians might agree even among themselves on peace with Israel.

Compared with a year ago here in Gaza, more women are covered, more men are bearded, Internet sites are filtered and non-Hamas public gatherings are largely banned. With the Israeli closure greatly reducing the supply of fuel, spare parts and other vital goods, less sewage is treated and more fish are contaminated. Gazans feel trapped and helpless.


But those in Israel who watch most closely — Arabic speaking security officials — say that while the closure is pressing Hamas, it is not jeopardizing it.

“Gaza is totally under Hamas’s control,” said one of three such major officials, all of whom agreed to speak only if identified in this vague manner, and all of whose assessments were the same.

“What happened in Gaza a year ago was not really a coup,” a second official said. “Hamas’s takeover was a kind of natural process. Hamas was so strong, so deeply rooted in Palestinian society through its activities in the economy, education, culture and health care, and Fatah was so weak, so corrupt, that the takeover was like wind blowing over a moth-infested structure.”

For months before the takeover, life in Gaza, with its 1.5 million inhabitants, was deeply insecure as Fatah and Hamas gunmen fought for control of the streets and institutions. Hamas had a parliamentary majority but Fatah, through the presidency of Mahmoud Abbas, still officially controlled the security apparatuses and ministries.

Now, even many of those who detest Hamas say that security has returned to daily life as a result of its takeover.

“Hamas is strong and brutal but very good at governing,” observed Eyad Serraj, a British-trained psychiatrist who runs a group of mental health clinics and is a secular opponent of Hamas. “They are handing out coupons for gas. They have gotten people to pay for car registration. They are getting people to pay their electricity bills after years of everyone refusing to. The city and the hospitals are cleaner than in many years.”
So Hamas is doing all the things that Fatah has never shown an interest in doing: cleaning streets, collecting taxes and doing all the things that a real government is supposed to do. There are only two real problems with them: They seek their neighbors' extinction (that would be us Israelis) and they have set up an Islamic Caliphate. But here's the ironic part. Guess who's financing what little money there is in Gaza? The American and Israeli taxpayers - through the 'generosity' of Fatah:
While the West Bank-based government of President Abbas bars its nearly 80,000 employees from showing up at work in Gaza to protest the takeover, it continues to pay their salaries here. With no work and a steady wage, there is a once-a-month rush on the A.T.M.’s and a fair amount of disposable income spent in handsome coffee shops surrounded by Poinciana trees now in bloom. New restaurants have opened recently to take advantage of this phenomenon.
But all they're offering in terms of 'peace' is a 'long-term cease fire' in return for Israel giving up all of the territory liberated in 1967, and then leaving it to the 'next generation' to resolve. Times reporter Ethan Bronner argues that this isn't much different than what Fatah is offering. He's probably right, which is why we haven't made peace with Fatah either: They still won't accept our 'right to exist.'


At 6:55 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

It would be better for the Palestinians to look after themselves. Israel can do nothing about their Jew-hatred except to contain them. Maybe in a generation they will be ready for real peace with Israel. Until then Israel has to employ a stick and carrot policy (with the main emphasis on the stick) to check their behavior. What's called for is realism instead of Israeli governments pursuit of pie in the sky peace fantasies that go nowhere.


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