Hamas and Life in Israel by Khaled Abu Toameh
Four Hamas political figures facing expulsion from Jerusalem have expressed their readiness to do almost anything to remain in the city under Israeli sovereignty, including renouncing their ties to the radical Islamist movement.
The Israeli Ministry of Interior had revoked the status of the four Hamas representatives as permanent residents of Jerusalem, paving the way for their expulsion from the city. These representatives who are fighting to retrieve their Israeli ID cards belong to the same organization whose leaders used to send young men and women to blow themselves up in Israel, killing hundreds of innocent civilians -- including Arabs.
The four men – three legislators and a former minister -- have good reason to put up a good fight to stay in Jerusalem. The last thing they would want is to be deported to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip or any Arab country.
To prevent their expulsion, they have even chosen to appeal to courts of the country that they do not recognize and would so much like to destroy: Israel. Moreover, they have written to the Israeli authorities letters arguing that they do not represent Hamas, but the people who voted for them in the January 2006 parliamentary election.
The Hamas men's campaign is not about being allowed to stay with their families in Jerusalem -- or even to spy, which the Israelis would find out -- as much as fear of what awaits them under Fatah in the West Bank, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and dictatorships in the Arab world, where there is no democracy, and rule of law is capricious at best.
Once they arrive in the Gaza Strip, they will discover that their government, the Hamas government, has imposed a reign of terror and intimidation on the local population and is even confiscating much of the humanitarian aid, including food and medicine, that is being dispatched to the area.
In the West Bank, they are likely to be chased by Palestinian Authority security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. These forces have long been waging a ruthless campaign against Hamas representatives and supporters in the West Bank.
Hundreds of Hamas followers are being held in Palestinian-run prisons without trial. Most are denied family visits and the right to consult with a lawyer. At least three Hamas detainees are believed to have died as a result of torture in the prisons controlled by Abbas and Fayyad.
In the Gaza Strip, the four Hamas representatives will have to join 1.5 million Palestinians whose living conditions have only deteriorated since Hamas seized control of the area exactly three years ago.
In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Hamas operatives would not enjoy many of the privileges they are entitled to as residents of Jerusalem and holders of Israeli ID cards:
As permanent residents of Jerusalem, the four Hamas men enjoy the same rights as every Israeli citizen, with the exception of voting for the Knesset: freedom of movement; social welfare, and free education and healthcare. They can vote for the Jerusalem Municipality and travel around the country freely and without having to obtain special permission.
They can get into their cars, which have Israeli license plates, and drive any time of the day to eat fish in Jaffa or swim in the Kinneret in Tiberias.
They have unlimited access to Israeli hospitals and free education for their children; and are entitled to many social and economic benefits that many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip do not have.
The Hamas representatives know that in most of the Arab countries they would be dealt with as a "security threat," and would most probably find themselves under house arrest. That is, of course, if any of those countries agrees to host them in the first place.
Now, however, the Hamas men are willing to humiliate themselves by publicly disowning the Islamist movement. If the choice is between membership in an Islamist movement and life in Israel, to the Hamas leaders, the latter option seems more attractive.
Related Topics: Khaled Abu Toameh
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