Saturday, June 14, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Hamas is Fatah with Beards." —Fatah supporter in Gaza

Today's NYT article about Hamas rule in Gaza outlines a familiar story line in the Middle East: Orthodox Islamist group takes over, and while the public is annoyed at the crackdown on drinking, kissing, movies, political freedom, and the fits of brutality, the public also comes to appreciate the diligent and efficient governance.

Less predictable (although, it makes sense): Being in power for a year has also had an effect on a hardline Islamist group like Hamas:

While few dispute that Hamas has changed Gaza, a more complicated question is whether ruling Gaza has changed Hamas. Many in the movement and even outside it say that it is less ideological that it was at its founding or even a year ago.

Whereas Hamas says it will never recognize Israel, its leaders say that if Israel returned to the 1967 borders, granted a Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and dealt with the rights of refugees, Hamas would declare a long-term truce. This is not that different from what the rest of the Arab world says or the Fatah position in peace talks with Israel.

Jawad Tibi, a health minister under the Fatah government and a Fatah advocate in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, is angry at Hamas. Still, he said, “Hamas is talking about a 30-year truce which is no different really from what we want. Hamas is Fatah with beards.”

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