The focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led people to ignore the fact that Hamas’s domestic policy is not much more humanistic than its foreign policy. Under Hamas rule, the government has started committing summary executions of political critics, including one sheikh who criticized the party too much.
[Link] Assailants gunned down a Muslim preacher known for his anti-Hamas views on Friday, witnesses said, moments after he exited a mosque where he delivered a sermon criticizing the Islamic group’s role in a wave of Palestinian violence.
The slaying came as thousands of mourners marched through Gaza City carrying the bodies of seven Fatah men killed in a standoff with Hamas. Thursday’s gunfight was the bloodiest single battle in weeks of factional fighting, and Fatah said it was suspending talks with Hamas until the assailants are brought to justice.
There was no claim of responsibility for Friday’s shooting of Adel Nasar, a mosque preacher who was shot as he got into a car in the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza, according to witnesses.
But Fatah accused Hamas. “Sheik Nasar was killed after he came out of the mosque where he criticized Hamas after the crime committed by some of its gunmen yesterday,” the group said in a statement.
As I keep saying, in the real world, governments don’t get to choose their allies, aid recipients, or benefactors. On the one hand, it means cutting off aid to Hamas will only serve to radicalize it more. On the other, it means that Israelis, Europeans, and Americans who’re interested in peace have to support Fatah here, despite its spotty track record when it comes to, well, anything.
Fortunately, Hamas’s rule is not popular. A poll from last month reveals that Palestinians support holding early elections by a large majority, and would vote for Fatah by a 6-point plurality. Hamas won mostly because of its stated commitment to change the corrupt ways of the government and fight poverty; but as early as May, another poll registered deep dissatisfaction and worsening economic conditions.
Unfortunately, terrorist organizations rarely accept electoral defeats. Hamas might, because of its legitimate rise to power, but even so, it’s likely to continue killing people it doesn’t like. People who don’t have any compunctions about extralegal killings when in power rarely have compunctions about extralegal killings when out of power.
Still, the important thing about this civil war is that it is stripping Hamas of the moderates’ support. It will gain them back in a second if Fatah is ever seen as the party of Israeli stooges, but as long as there is a significant contingent of a wholly Palestinian left, Fatah could rise again. It likely won’t do anything to reduce poverty and corruption, to say nothing of start to fight the occupation in ways that won’t make the entire world hate it. But it will probably not kill off people whose sole crime is speaking out against the regime, which I suppose is a start.