In an unprecedented turn of events, Hamas, acronym of Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya (in Arabic literally translated as “Islamic Resistance Movement” and Arabic for ‘zeal’) won a landslide victory in the recently concluded Palestinian Legislative Council elections. Hamas won 42,9 % of the vote, which gave them a parliamentary majority with 76 of the 132 seats. The result came as a shock to the world. A party that has been branded by the US, the European Union and certainly Israel as a terrorist organization has translated its widespread popularity among Palestinians into a dramatic win in the Parliamentary elections.
Their rise to power through a democratic electoral exercise is unexpected and has set the rest of the world in a dilema. Hamas’ electoral victory is a most unwelcome development and has brought discomfort and apprehensions to Israel and its allies particularly the United States. As expected US and Israel had immediately expressed their consternation over the election result and has threatened not to relate with the new ruling party. The US even threatened to withdraw its Aid and assistance from Palestine.
In the eyes of much of the world, Hamas is a terrorist organization as it is held responsible to devastating suicide bombing attacks on Israel.
But The movement’s success at the polls does not mean that more than half the Palestinians necessarily approve of suicide bombings against civilians – but they do not seem to have done Hamas any harm.
That is not perhaps surprising, given that more than three Palestinians have died – many of them civilians too – for every one Israeli, and life in general for the Palestinians is probably now as grim as it has ever been.
Hamas had doubled its volume of support because 10 years under the ruling Fatah organization gave most people nothing except corruption, cronyism and gangsterism. That is why it comes as no surprise that even some Fatah card-carrying members voted for Hamas.
Israel had also indirectly contributed to Hamas’ popularity growth. Israel’s attempts to stifle Hamas by decapitating its leadership have been in vain. It had just reinforced the cult of “martyrdom” and “sacrifice” that is part of the movement’s appeal to the embattled Palestinians.
Hamas is particularly popular among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, though it also has a following in the West Bank, and, to a lesser extent, in other Middle Eastern countries and throughout the Palestinian diaspora. The movement’s popularity stems from its provision of welfare and social services to the Palestinian poor, comprising over 80% of its budget (such as its involvement in building schools and hospitals), and for its efficiency and perceived lack of corruption.
As the saying goes “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. The Palestinians have chosen Hamas and therefore the democratic choice has to be accepted. If anything, the US should be the first to uphold it. After all, the US proudly proclaims that it invaded Iraq for the “noble mission of spreading democracy in the Greater Middle East”.
News Source: BBC