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A New Taliban in the Making? By: Olivier Guitta
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 20, 2005

As the world focuses on the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, what’s really happening in Gaza does not get much press.

Indeed, with the terrorist organization Hamas very much in control of that area, Palestinians are getting a preview of might be in store for them after the Israeli withdrawal.

To really grasp what’s at stake here, one needs to look closely at Hamas, i.e. the Islamic Resistance Movement, founded in 1987. Even though its first short term goal is the destruction of Israel, Hamas is more than just a military entity.


Its charter spells out its identity and goals: first, it is “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Then the “movement program is Islam. From it, it draws its ideas, ways of thinking and understanding of the universe, life and man.” Also, “Allah is its target, the prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”


In addition, the women have to teach their children “to perform the religious duties in preparation for the role of fighting awaiting them. That is why it is necessary to pay great attention to schools and the curriculum followed in educating Muslim girls, so that they would grow up to be good mothers, aware of their role in the battle of liberation.” Finally Hamas is at odds, to say the least with the secular Palestinian Liberation Organization. Indeed “the Islamic nature of Palestine is part of our religion and whoever takes his religion lightly is a loser. The day the PLO adopts Islam as its way of life, we will become its soldiers.” 


Hamas is not really hiding its main goal: to make the Shariah - Islamic Law - the cornerstone of Gaza and install an Iranian-style regime.


Some have noticed though: among them Khaled al-Haroub, a Palestinian residing in the UK, who wrote a column for the daily Al Hayat entitled “Let’s prevent Hamas to become Gaza’s Talibans.” Also the Kuwaiti daily Al Qabas has been reporting that, in the past few months, numerous Islamic style honor crimes have been committed in Gaza most likely by Hamas members.


But what has been the real eye-opener was the atrocious murder of Yousra al-Azzami on April 8 in Gaza. She was traveling home with her husband, her sister and her sister’s fiancé, when their car was attacked and rippled with bullets. The assailers then proceeded to beat up violently the two couples including Yousra, who had been hit by a bullet in the head and was lying motionless on the ground bleeding to death. Palestinian police arrested two of the five killers and recognized right away that they were Hamas members and had received their orders from their superior, Yusuf Dayah. He had reportedly told them: ”There are some ‘insolent’ couples on the beach. Teach them a lesson.”


At first, Hamas denied any involvement and then was obliged to admit that the killers were indeed Hamas members. At the same time, as reported by the French daily Liberation, two Hamas leaders went twice to visit Yousra’s family to offer a monetary compensation of $80,000 for her death. Yousra’s killers were part of the religious police that Hamas put in place about a year ago to monitor the population’s behavior according to Islamic law. In fact, a policeman, interviewed by Liberation, acknowledged that numerous couples have been mugged, beaten up and in some cases seriously injured by a group of armed men. But the victims are too afraid to sue because Hamas is known for killing those who oppose them. In general, Hamas justifies its killings by accusing the victims of “collaborating” with Israel.   


Hamas is trying to control every aspect of the life of the people of Gaza. As an example, in the past eight months, Hamas' religious police is behind the burning of tens of cyber cafes, which are viewed as “vice outlets.” And that’s why, were Hamas to seize power in Gaza, a Taliban-style regime could easily come to power.


Interestingly enough, as shown at length by famous Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes in a recent article of the Middle East Quarterly, some Palestinians have been realists about their fates. As one of them said: “The Hell of Israel is better than the paradise of Arafat.” A Gaza resident told her friend from the West Bank: “I can only tell you to pray that the Israelis don’t leave your town because the Jews are more human than Palestinians.” Also, in 2000 many Palestinians residing in East Jerusalem rushed to ask for Israeli citizenship to avoid being part of any future Palestinian entity.


On top of a likely renewed war launched by the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood with Israel, Palestinians in Gaza might feel the brunt of oppression at home from their so-called “liberators.” Wouldn’t that be ironic?


So, next time you hear about the “moderate Islamist” of the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom our diplomats are talking, keep in mind what’s occurring in Gaza. Building new Talibans is not our goal, is it?


Olivier Guitta is a freelance writer specializing in the Middle East and Europe.

Olivier Guitta is a Washington DC based foreign affairs consultant.

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