Hamas needs international support - By Stuart Reigeluth - April 27, 2011

The deaths of two foreign journalists during the fighting in Misrata, Libya, quickly overshadowed the killing of an Italian activist in Gaza. Vittorio Arrigoni was strangled to death in a derelict house in Gaza City after being brutally beaten and videoed in mid-April 2011. At least his head was not hacked off.
When I was in Gaza covering the Israeli ‘disengagement' in the summer of 2005, the joke amongst the boys on the beach was to cut my head off and show it on TV for ransom. They'd make millions, they laughed. Such was the black humour then; such is the dark reality now — without the money.
An extremist group called Tawheed and Jihad with supposed ties to Al Qaida executed Arrigoni when Hamas, which rules Gaza, refused to release their leader, Hisham Saidani. Hamas has been fighting and successfully quelling the radical Salafist influence for years now.
A local bully named Mumtaz Durmush and his unruly extremist thugs formed Jaish Al Islam. They went around beating up people and provoking the emerging leadership and social grassroots initiatives of Hamas, until Hamas replied of course — and whether you like Hamas or not, they always answer.
Durmush and his gang were responsible for the kidnapping of the BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. Durmush was trying to negotiate the release of some of his goons, when a deal was reached and Johnston was released. This was a great international public relations victory for Hamas.
But this is nothing new really. Similar events under Arafat's regime occurred as well. Some of which served as the basis for the excellent crime thriller set in Gaza by Matt Rees called The Saladin Murders, An Omar Yussef Novel.
The Johnston kidnapping began in May 2007 and lasted nearly four months. During that time, Fatah forces trained by the US tried to take over the Gaza crossing points with Israel; Hamas responded and took over Gaza, completely routing any Fatah members or potential followers.
Not an enemy
When Johnston was released, he promptly wrote a short book about being kidnapped and how Hamas had saved him — this was an attempt to show that horrible things happen, but that death is averted by those who are most often considered one's enemies.
Despite being on European and American blacklists as a terrorist organisation, Hamas is not really an enemy of the West. Hamas has no intention of exporting its vision of Islam and fights virulent forms of religious extremism within the territory it controls, precisely to maintain its political power.
After Johnston, an obscure Salafist offshoot called Jund Ansar Allah emerged in the southern Gazan city of Rafah. In August 2009, their leader Abdul Latif Mousa tried provoking Hamas into declaring Gaza an Islamic emirate. Hamas responded by besieging the mosque where Latif was preaching.
Internal monopoly
The shooting and grenade-throwing went on for some time, but Hamas prevailed again, thus quelling another attempt — Islamist, secular or foreign — to challenge and usurp their internal monopoly on the legitimate use of violence in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has its own state in Gaza.
But why was Hamas incapable of stopping the execution of the Italian peace activist? Arrigoni was with the leftist International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and surely believed that his actions would contribute someday to justice and peace and sovereignty for the Palestinians.
Yet, he was killed by Palestinians. This was no scene of ‘killing an Arab' on an Algerian beach in Albert Camus' The Stranger for some petty theft or frustration involving a girl. This Italian was killed because extremists want Hamas out. Hamas will answer violently as usual, but the damage is done.
Condemnations from the new European Union Foreign Minister, Baroness Catherine Ashton, quickly urged "everyone in Gaza to stop this violence". As if everyone in the Gaza Strip had something to do with the execution — over 1.5 million Palestinians living in near complete isolation from the world.
And this is where the greatest paradox enters: everyone — including Europe, most of all — asks the Palestinians to be perfect. To be docile and complacent while being occupied or isolated by Israel and the international community ... please move along slowly and sheepishly with the system.
But there are different systems: Hamas has its that works quite efficiently in Gaza. Under the circumstances and given the cards it has been handed, it is not doing too badly historically. Most nascent countries are replete with incidents of terrorist activity at first — and thereafter.
Hamas should be supported now to continue combating the more virulent forms of religious extremism that do not see a future in creating a viable Palestinian state governed by a coalition of Palestinian forces that live side by side with Israel and the Arab world. But for this to happen, Gaza must be opened.
Stuart Reigeluth is managing editor of Revolve magazine.

Source : http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/hamas-needs-international-support-1.799589

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