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Hamas at the Helm By: David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh, a member of Hamas, called a news conference on March 15 in Gaza City. There his parliamentary faction threatened Israel with more terrorist attacks and abductions. Haniyeh stood by quietly as the threats were issued.

The news conference, reported by the Hamas newspaper Al Risala on March 16, was held in the wake of Israel's March 14 raid of a Palestinian Authority prison in Jericho, where six Palestinian terrorists were captured.

Meanwhile, while Hamas may not yet control the PA media, its expected takeover of the Palestinian government appears to have ended any restrictions on the use of Palestinian radio and television in support of suicide strikes against Israel. The messages until very recently were subtle and aimed toward both women and children. They often came in the form of music clips, poetry readings or mosque sermons.

Sheik Yusef Jumaa Salameh has been cited as preaching this message over the last five years. Under U.S. pressure, Salameh lowered his profile after Mahmoud Abbas was elected PA chairman in January 2005. But a year and a Hamas victory later, Salameh is back in action. His power is bolstered by the fact that he is also the religious affairs minister of the PA.

On March 10, an Official Palestinian Authority television broadcast a sermon by Salameh aimed at the mothers of potential suicide bombers. Salameh, regarded as one of the most popular preachers in the Gaza Strip, states what cannot be confused with anything other than the position of the Palestinian Authority. In his sermon, Salameh told of the loss of husbands and sons in the war against Israel. He said the women who have sacrificed their children and husbands must not mourn them.

Instead, he explained, the role model of all Palestinian women should be Al Khansaa, a female Arab poet who lived during the early era of Islam. Al Khansaa has been used as a model for al-Qaeda to instruct women how they can contribute to jihad. Indeed, al-Qaeda named its first women's magazine after Al Khansaa, who was famous for her eulogies, particularly those written for her brother Sakhr, who died in a tribal feud. She later sent her four sons to fight jihad, all of whom were killed.

In his sermon, Salameh contrasted Al Khansaa's attitude toward the killing of her family before and after the advent of Islam. Before Islam, the PA minister said, Al Khansaa was devastated and recited poetry all day as a way to keep from killing herself. After she became a Muslim, Salameh said, Al Khansaa was no longer sad. She sent her four sons to be killed in the battle of Al Qadissiya. "When the soldiers returned from battle in victory and told her that her four children had been martyred did she cry?" Salameh asked. "Did she recite poetry? Did she tear her clothes and expose her hair? No. She said: 'Praise God who honored me with their deaths. I pray to God for a reunion under his mercy.'"

Nor was this the first of Salameh's sermons to invoke Al Khansaa. On March 11, 2005, the PA minister provided a similar sermon on the importance of the Islamic heroine. But in his latest sermon, Salameh added one important note: the victory of Islam would be in the next world, he said, where the pleasures of virgins greet the martyrs in the war against Israel. "Brothers, victory lies there, not in this world," Salameh said. Far from the ramblings of a peripheral extremist, such views should be seen as the official position of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

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David Bedein, author of the forthcoming book, "Swimming Against the Mainstream", has run the Israel Resource News Agency. www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com, since 1987, at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and serves as the Middle East correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, www.thebulletin.us.

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