Monday, January 26, 2009
Hamas determined to control rebuilding in Gaza
Is there any more delusional and psychotic leadership in the world worse than Hamas? 4:00AM Monday Jan 26, 2009 Peter BeaumontPalestinian Mohammed Hamouda's house in Jebaliya has been reduced to rubble by the Israeli strikes. A bitter struggle is taking place over the right to oversee the reconstruction of Gaza, even as the leadership of Hamas emerges from the rubble of areas that were devastated by 23 days of Israeli bombardment. The international community insists it cannot channel billions of dollars in reconstruction aid to Hamas, and is calling for the involvement of the more moderate Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. But Hamas is insisting on sole control of Gaza's rebuilding, as well as claiming moral leadership of the Palestinian people. In the week since Israel and Hamas declared unilateral ceasefires to end more than three weeks of fighting, in which almost 1500 Gazans died, the movement has acted rapidly to assert its control over assistance to civilians. Sitting on huge cash reserves, Hamas has said it will begin distributing emergency payments of 4000 ($9760) to those who have lost homes, and has already been handing out coupons for food as well as aid, some of it seized from foreign and international donors. The role of Hamas in the reconstruction effort, and the group's tense relations with Abbas and his Fatah movement, have come to permeate every corner of Gaza's bruised and bloodied society. At the al-Filisteen mosque in the Rimal area of Gaza City, the imam was preaching the necessity of brotherhood and unity. But senior Hamas officials are demanding that the conditions for reconciliation should include an end to negotiations with Israel and to the peace process, a unity agreement under a banner of "resistance", and continued Hamas control of Gaza. "Everyone recognises the need for reconciliation among Palestinians," said Hamas' Economics Minister Abu Rushdi Zaza. "It will happen immediately if the Palestine Liberation Organisation [dominated by Fatah] can be rebuilt. But it must be understood that Hamas is the government. If international institutions want to do rebuilding projects in Gaza, then that is fine - but they must do it under our supervision. "Ramallah [the West Bank city that is Abbas' seat of government] has no authority here." Zaza's comments were echoed last week by other Hamas figures on the West Bank as well, who accused Abbas' Administration of in effect siding with Israel in the war against Hamas by ordering the continuing campaign of arrests aimed at Hamas figures and banning demonstrations in support of the Islamic organisation. Yazid Khader, a spokesman for the movement, called for the release of hundreds of Hamas prisoners from Palestinian jails, and reiterated that only Hamas could be responsible for rebuilding Gaza. "We call this the battle of reconstruction. And Hamas and the resistance organisations are the only ones that can be in charge. No one else." Mahmoud Musleh, a Palestinian Legislative Council member aligned with Hamas, said: "The organisation that should be talking for the Palestinian people is the PLO. But it has not been speaking. If it does not rehabilitate itself, there will be dramatic changes. At present it does not represent the Palestinian people. They do not own the power. There is a new balance of power emerging. For the first time, through the steadfastness of the resistance in Gaza, we have seen Israel's project halted." Other Hamas supporters said that, in standing on the sidelines for the first time in its history while other Palestinians fought, the PLO had revoked its claim to lead the Palestinian struggle. Even those regarded as Hamas moderates, such as Ghazi Hamad, was sceptical about how reconciliation could be achieved. Describing how he saw a future Palestinian policy towards Israel, he said: "My personal position is that it needs to be mixed. You cannot have resistance without politics, or politics without resistance." Gazan political analyst Talal Okal said: "There is a feeling in Hamas that they won a victory. They want this victory to be represented in any reconciliation talks with Fatah. They think they should set the agenda. They have been trying to do it by force, both during the war and afterwards. They want to show that they control Gaza." Hamas's greatest problem is likely to come not from Fatah but from ordinary Gazans. Hamas may have access to hundreds of millions of dollars, smuggled through the tunnels under the Rafah crossing, which are now operating again. But as Faisal Abu Shalah, a Fatah member of the legislative council for Gaza points out, while Hamas insists on controlling the reconstruction, Israel will not lift its economic blockade. And if one place is the symbol of the destruction wreaked in Gaza, it is the demolished houses of the Samouni family in Zeitoun. A member of the family, who lost his father and his son, asks not to be identified for fear of being beaten by Hamas - as others were during the war - for criticising them. "No one from Hamas has come to offer us help. None of the leaders has been here. We were farmers, not fighters with a militant faction." He pulls out a crumpled photograph showing a wedding scene. "This was my father. This, my son. After what happened to us here, I hate the name Hamas."