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While Hamas turns Gaza into an Islamist state, the Western media praise it for keeping 'law and order' | Telegraph Blogs - Michael Weiss - 2011-04-15



[...]

When Vittorio Arrigoni was abducted and killed last week in Gaza, the press wasted little time establishing its line that Hamas has done a great job of maintaining law and order.

In the words of the Financial Times’s Tobias Buck, Gaza is now “a safe destination for foreign journalists, aid workers and diplomats.” Conal Urquhart of the Guardian noted that, since winning its first parliamentary election in 2006, Hamas has gone “mainstream.”  The real nasties in the Strip are now said to be the “puritanical” Salafi-Jihadis, Koranic literalists with possible ties to al-Qaeda who think Hamas is run by softies no better than bearded Zionists.

Unfortunately, there are several problems with this analysis.

The first is that most Salafi-Jihadis used to belong to Hamas themselves, particularly the hardline military wing, the Al Qassam Brigades. Hamas admits this freely: an International Crisis Group report on Radical Islam in Gaza suggests that 60 per cent of imprisoned Salafi-Jihadis are former Hamas members. Is this why one of the four suspects in the Arrigoni murder, Mohammed al-Salfiti, is an active Hamas policeman?

Hamas has not only created the conditions in Gaza that breed schismatic ultras but also has long record of encouraging Salafi-Jihadis. ...

[...]



...., Hamas has finally discovered the oldest trick in the radical handbook: undercut the rising stars by stealing their agenda. Hamas has lately imposed a host of draconian and unpopular religious measures in Gaza, such as an insistence that men and women who hold hands in public proffer a marriage certificate. The ministry of religious endowments is offering “advice” on how to behave in a more Islamic fashion. Men should neither cut women’s hair nor swim shirtless. Mannequins in lingerie lead to tumescent Palestinians, so they ought to be removed from storefront windows. More sinister moves include the imprisonment of homosexuals and the arrest of one woman for committing “adultery” with her own husband because her family disapproved of the marriage.

Internal terrorism has also increased in Gaza in recent months. Several UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency - oA:nth] summer camps have been stormed and burnt because they teach children to do things other than blow themselves up in Jerusalem. The Crazy Water Park was attacked by arsonists last September, presumably because too many men were swimming shirtless there. That involved 20 masked men in trucks – not an inconspicuous sight in Gaza – and so many suspect the tacit approval of higher-ups.

These crimes, unlike the murder of Arrigoni, show no signs of ever being seriously investigated or solved. Either Hamas is powerless to control its own personnel or it’s reluctant to do so: take your pick. As one Palestinian UN official put it: “Hamas is using the Salafi groups to implement the social agenda that it fears implementing itself.”

But none of this stops the construction of a media narrative whereby the dirty work is done by unaffiliated fanatics whilst a “mainstream” Hamas gets credit for cracking down on the very extremism it’s been incubating.

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