hamas \left behind\ by arab spring
Last Updated : GMT 05:17:37
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Last Updated : GMT 05:17:37
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Hamas \'left behind\' by Arab Spring

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Gaza - Arabstoday

When Hamas won control of the Gaza Strip after a brief but vicious round of factional fighting in 2007, it earned a degree of influence unprecedented in its short history. Its clashes with its archrival Fatah that culminated in military victory five years ago today emboldened Islamists, rattled Israel and the West and divided Palestinians between rival leaders in Gaza and the West Bank. Yet the reputation of the Islamist group is today in tatters. Gaza residents describe their rulers as corrupt dictators, and the organisation has little if any political sway in the West Bank. Once on the cutting edge of radical Islam, Hamas today seems doddering and out of sync, overtaken by the successes of Islamist political parties in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. For both Palestinian supporters and critics of the group, this signals crisis. \"When people look at Hamas these days, they see Hamas as talking about \'resistance\' but doing nothing,\" said Zakaria Al Qaq, a lecturer at Al Quds University in Jerusalem. \"People look at them now and ask, \'What is it are they trying to do, exactly?\'\" The Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, was born in 1987 as a pious alternative to the secular Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and its largest, most influential member, Fatah. The group rose to prominence on the failure of the 1993 Oslo Accords to produce a Palestinian state, its campaign of suicide bombings against Israeli buses and cafes and its opposition to what many Palestinians viewed as the venality of Fatah, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Hamas\'s reputation for incorruptibility and its unstinting opposition to Israel led to its stunning victory in parliamentary elections in 2006. Eighteen months later, it took control of Gaza. Since then it has been unable to reconcile its success as a movement with the demands of government, observers said. Under unrelenting Israeli pressure, including an economic blockade imposed on Gaza after the takeover, Hamas leaders have often demonstrated some of the same traits as their predecessors. Despite the blockade against Israel, Gazans widely accuse Hamas\'s leaders of carving out lucrative businesses, leading to claims of cronyism. \"Why is that we\'ve gotten poorer and they have suddenly become rich?\" said a resident of the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza who declined to give his real name. He and his neighbours complained that the cluster of upscale apartments being built next to them belong to a member of Hamas\'s military wing. \"He had nothing before the takeover,\" said the man, a day labourer. Meanwhile, Hamas seldom mounts attacks against Israel. After Israel\'s devastating three-week war on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, many Gazans accused it of miscalculating Israeli intentions and bringing down unnecessary destruction on the coastal enclave. \"Hamas is trying to be both a governing authority and a resistance movement, which you can\'t do because they\'re contradictory things,\" said Akram Atallah, a columnist for Al Ayyam newspaper who lives in Gaza. But he said Hamas still profits from imposing stifling taxes on Gazans and forcing the public to suffer the consequences of Israeli attacks when it does decide to fight. Mr Atallah added: \"In both cases, Hamas asks the public to pay and gets all the benefits in return.\" Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Hamas members are targets of police operations carried out jointly by Israeli and Palestinian security forces. Hundreds of Hamas members have been arrested, while others have been forced underground. The result is loss of support in both Palestinian territories. An opinion poll conducted last month found that 42 per cent of the 1,188 Palestinian respondents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would support Fatah if national elections were held. Less than 20 per cent supported Hamas, according to the survey, carried out last month by the Jerusalem Media & Communications Centre.

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