Why Hamas Won

First of all the Israelis withdrew from the center of the Gaza Strip. This was a move to use it as a trade to keep the West Bank, and also to protect Jewish settlers from resistance activities and make it easier for the Israelis to attack by air without fearing retaliation or fearing they may accidentally hit their own. It was viewed as a victory for all members of the Palestinian armed resistance, for which Hamas has not wavered in its support.

The reason the Israelis withdrew from the center of the Strip only, yet did not end the occupation, is popularly thought to be due to negotiations. And those are thought to be the work of the Palestinian Authority which is for all intents and purposes, synonymous with Fateh.

The Israelis continued to control the borders of the Gaza Strip, the water, and the air. Palestinians in Gaza still live in prison, but the jailers stick to the outside. In the north from Beit Lahiya to Beit Hanoun to the beach, there is now an “isolation zone,” that no Palestinian can enter. Israeli air strikes and sonic booms continue. From the borders Israeli soldiers open fire and kill Palestinians, same thing from the sea. This is considered the repercussion of the Fateh-run PA negotiating with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority also began targeting Hamas for a short violent party in the Gaza Strip, reinforcing the idiom that the occupied is tasked to provide the protection of the occupier. Images of PA security firing at armed resistance groups did not go over well. The armed resistance is there to fight the occupation, not the Palestinian Authority.

In Thursday’s press conference Hamas leader Hania stuck unwaveringly to the principles laid forth by international law on behalf of Palestinians. This includes first and foremost UN Resolution 194. They have not tried to negotiate away this non-negotiable individual and collective right as some in the PA have.

He stressed not negotiating with a military occupier. He is strong and clear in his positions, and may just be the shake-up Israel needs after watching the Authority roll over time and again, ending up begging for the Israelis to honor agreements that cheated Palestinians in the first place such as Oslo and the Road Map with Sharon’s additional 15 points.

Wearing a green Hamas baseball cap Hamas leader Hania spoke in favor of the release of Palestinian political prisoners from Israeli jails during his first press conference after the major PLC win on Wednesday. He spoke well and clearly, sticking to the covenants of international law, the right of resistance, and not negotiating with a military occupier. One must not be worried about the Hamas leadership at this point, however it is troublesome to consider the actions and possible future actions of many of the Hamas members. After several young men jumped atop the PLC building in Ramallah early Thursday evening and replaced the Palestinian flag with that of Hamas, it could only register that something was terribly wrong with that picture.

Also some have expressed worries over the Hamas win, not because they were satisfied with Fateh’s PA, but because they knew what it meant. Hamas, sporting green baseball caps and wearing suits, talking about economic sustainability and armed resistance, lead many to fear the unknown – the future.

In Thursday’s press conference Hania spoke about several Palestinians the Israelis assassinated, including Dr. Rantisi, Sheikh Yassin and the leftist Abu Ali Mustafa.

He was asked about the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, PFLP, and its leader Ahmed Sa’adat currently in the Palestinian Authority’s jail in the eastern West Bank city of Jericho. Sa’adat is the head of the Abu Ali Mustafa list in the PLC elections. They won three seats. Hania said that Sa’adat should be released at once. He said that Hamas are not prison heads, and Palestinians need not be held by their own government for political reasons. He spoke directly against holding Palestinians as political prisoners.

But he did not speak against President Abbas, but rather on the contrary. He does not want him to resign or to feel threatened. Hamas is speaking loudly in favor of a coalition and / or a unity government. He said he hopes for a close partnership and a government that represents all Palestinian people and that all feel an equal part of.

Hania continued to speak as if straight from international law as to the real rights of the Palestinian people, such as UN Resolution 194, the Right of Return, and other negotiated points which were not achieved under the PA’s tried method of unequal negotiations with the Israelis which failed time and again.

Although he does not refuse negotiations, he will not accept them on the terms they have been offered in the past, which are unequal between occupied and occupier, non-binding, and generally destructive for the population of Palestine. In much of the same way the US and Israel have said of many in the past, that they, “do not negotiate with terrorists,” Hamas is in a large sense taking the same tact with Israel. His message was that as long as Israel is the destructive occupier, Hamas will not hold negotiations that are only good for show.

Hamas is known in the Palestinian street for its armed resistance and social support for families in need, including counseling, food, and medical treatment. Particularly over the past year with the death of President Arafat, the PA has become more synonymous with corruption. Take the example of former Prime Minister Ahmed Quriea, Abu Ala’, who resigned Thursday. He was widely considered the worst of a bad bunch.

Information leaked the day before the elections claimed that the US was providing financial support to Fateh candidates. Although Fateh denied this and the PA said the money was part of the usual aid package the US has given the PA in the past, it left a bad taste for many, along with several more questions added to the roster of corruption charges and rumors.

Not helping Fateh at all, were the break-off groups that came and went, and the Fateh members who ran as independent candidates. Competition is not the problem, but what it did do is illuminate the major problems within the party.

Once the late President Arafat died at the end of Ramadan last year, the family fell apart as the secrets came out into the open with no charismatic leader to pat our heads and say it would all be okay. There was no President, there was no familiar face, there was no Eid.

We cannot pass ourselves off as fans of Hamas at this point, but there is a hint of relief in the sighs of loss and fear in the streets as Palestinians move into the unknown.

@ Kristen Ess, Palestine 2006

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