Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Uncle Hamas Cares for Palestinians - Der Spiegel

David Seaton's News Links
When you read an article like this one about Hamas in the above suspicion, German news magazine of reference, Der Spiegel, you realize that Bush, Blair, the "moderate" Arabs and the Israelis are in plain speech just "pissing into the wind". Simply put, faith and sacrifice on this level cannot be defeated by anything but prosperity and easy money. Certainly killing and starving people of this rectitude and courage will only make them stronger and braver in their faith. I think that as soon as the US fails in Iraq, and that will be soon enough, the Islamists will sweep all before them in the Middle East like a wind. Then we will see how long this probity lasts, when the faithful finally get all that oil money to spend. DS
Abstract: At first glance Hamas, a party that looks after the poor with its money and charity, appears to be playing a well-known tune on the instrument of populism. On the other hand, every major international aid organization is singing the Islamist group's praises when it comes to the quality of its work. "In the International Crisis Group's 2003 report, the most important American NGOs gave perfect marks to Hamas's work; they couldn't have achieved a better result," says Helga Baumgarten, a lecturer at Birzeit University in Ramallah. Baumgarten believes that the success of the party, which emerged from the radical Muslim Brotherhood in 1987, is based on two factors: the highly professional work of the group's welfare agencies and Hamas's oft-cited integrity. "In fact, all studies have concluded that Hamas operates without a trace of corruption," says Baumgarten. "This has enabled it to gain the respect of the population over the years." Nevertheless, Hamas is no moderate party. It sees itself as the spearhead of Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation. Following its surprising election victory in January, the organization refused to renounce armed conflict or to recognize Israel. Its repeated use of suicide bombings against Israeli citizens since its founding has also contributed to Hamas being classified as a terrorist organization in the West -- despite its day-to-day charitable activities. But it is difficult to say whether Hamas deliberately uses its charitable work to generate sympathy within the population. "Social commitment is not a means to an end; I would not interpret this merely as exploitation," says Baumgarten. And even if it were, parties the world over operate no differently.(...) At first the wheelchair-bound Yassin, who founded Hamas in 1987 and was killed in a targeted Israeli missile attack in 2004, managed the organization's funds from the living room of his modest house a few streets away. Today the center has evolved into a giant charitable institution in Gaza, operating 16 kindergartens, 30 Koran schools, and providing thousands of families with money, food and clothing. The center also pays child support for 5,000 orphans.(...) Nidal Shabana, the center's director, currently manages an annual budget of about $1 million. Despite his prominent position, Shabana remains a modest man, although a hint of pride for his work trickles through when he talks about the Islamic ping-pong team that recently won the Gaza championships under his tutelage. "Modesty and honesty are principles that are especially valued in Islam," he says. When asked his opinion about the growing strength of Islamist parties in the Arab world -- a phenomenon viewed with great concern in the West -- Shabana becomes circumspect. The behavior of Islamic leaders happens to be exemplary, he says, adding that their hands are clean. In a roundabout way, Shabana is saying that he considers the political leaders in neighboring Arab states to be corrupt and morally weak. Since the 1970s, the failure of authoritarian regimes in the Arab world -- dominated by ruling families intent on lining their own pocketbooks and bloated, inefficient bureaucracies -- has led to Islamist groups filling a social and political vacuum in the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. The fact that Hamas hasn't received recognition as the sole governing party in the Palestinian Territories is by no means just a local quirk. Resistance to Hezbollah's quest for power up the road in Beirut is similar. These religious fundamentalist organizations are a threat to the region's established regimes; it's not just Israel and its Western allies that are interested in keeping the Islamists in check. READ IT ALL

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