Here is an email from our Rabbi that I received today:
Dear Temple Beth El Community,
I was disturbed at the news this morning (January 26th). Like you, all I
knew about Hamas was that this is a terrorist group. Tonight I decided to
do a little research to try and understand how Hamas could have won more
than 50% of the seats in the new Palestinian government.
First, as long as Hamas insists that wiping Israel off the map is a must, I
will not feel the need to sympathize or understand.
Second, some of you already know that I have faith, and as such, I look for
hope. I came across an interesting Jerusalem Post article that I want to
share with you. Before the article is a question with an answer that I also
I am open to discussion and want to hear your thoughts on the results of
this election. However, I ask that you present me with articles (which is
the closest we can come to facts) to facilitate dialogue (common articles
gives us common ground for dialogue).
Below is the information that I want to share.
Deborah's Question: Is Hamas only a terrorist group?
No. In addition to its military wing, the so-called Izz al-Din al-Qassam
Brigade, Hamas devotes much of its estimated $70-million annual budget to an
extensive social services network. It funds schools, orphanages, mosques,
healthcare clinics, soup kitchens, and sports leagues. Approximately 90
percent of its work is in social, welfare, cultural, and educational
activities, writes the Israeli scholar Reuven Paz. The Palestinian Authority
often fails to provide such services; Hamas' efforts in this area as well as
a reputation for honesty, in contrast to the many Fatah officials accused of
corruption explain much of its popularity.
The article that Deborah wants to share is from jpost.com:
'We wanted to be in the opposition'
By ORLY HALPERN
More than 50 percent of the Palestinian Legislative Council is theirs, and
they don't have a clue what to do next, but according to at least one Hamas
leader, talking to Israel is in the cards.
"We're examining our options," said Yasser Mansour, the No. 5 Hamas leader
told The Jerusalem Post. "We are researching each and every issue."
Indeed, a Hamas leader in Nablus, a professor at An-Najah University who did
not run, told the Post that many of the leaders were disappointed with the
results. "We didn't want this, we didn't hope for this. We wanted to be in
the opposition," he said, speaking at a green-flagged, rabble-rousing
victory rally in downtown Nablus. "Now all the responsibility is on us."
What is certain is that although it holds a majority and it can form its own
government, Hamas does not want to run the country alone. "We will speak to
all the parties and make a coalition," Mansour told the Post.
Hamas, and everyone else, expected the party to be a strong opposition. It
could probably have continued terror attacks on Israel. It could have kept
an eye on Fatah ministers and made sure the funds went where they were meant
to go. It could have voted down any bills proposed that compromised its
ideals. Let Fatah deal with the aftermath.
Forget that scenario now. Hamas won 57.5% of the PLC seats. "Instead of
being an opposition in the Palestinian Authority, we are the PA," Ahmed
Doleh, a well-spoken school principal and No. 36 on the Hamas list told the
Post at the victory rally.
Doleh, wearing a suit and tie, shook hands with numerous men, young and old,
who approached him after the rally and congratulated him.
Looking somewhat dazed at the responsibility that had fallen into the laps
of his fellow Hamas colleagues, Doleh said Hamas would deal with Israel,
like it already was doing in the municipalities, on issues that concern
"Hamas will deal with Israel on daily issues," he said, repeating Mansour's
mantra that the party is researching how to fulfill "the interests of the
Palestinian people." It is only after those talks that it will make
decisions regarding the future of the PA government.
"One of the first things we will do is become part of the Palestinian
Liberation Organization," he said, referring to the umbrella group that
makes all the important decisions and includes Palestinians in the country
and abroad. Hamas was not a member until now.
On election day, before it was known that Hamas would be the government and
not the opposition, the soft-spoken Mansour, who has been in and out of
Israeli jails since 1992, talked to the Post in a reporter's car outside a
He explained that the only way Hamas would end its attacks was if the
occupation ended. "Then Hamas can give peace," he said.
Mansour said Hamas will offer Israel a long-term hudna (cease-fire). "There
is no time-limit to a hudna. It depends on the sides," he said.
At that point Mansour spoke of ideology. He said that ideally Hamas would
want the world to be an Islamic state, but practically speaking it wants a
Palestinian state in all of mandatory Palestine.
"We can accept that the Israelis who were born here will be citizens in our
state," he said, adding that the Palestinian people will decide the nature
of the state. "We cannot force people to be religious."
However, Fatah voters were fearful of war, not religion, when they woke up
to discover that Hamas had a majority. "This means trouble," said an
accountant and Fatah loyalist in a coffee shop downtown. "No one can predict
what a future with Hamas will bring. Maybe there will be a fight or maybe
Hamas will resign."
He worried about the future with other countries. "We were hoping that after
the elections we could make a peace deal with the Israelis and finish this
fighting," he said. "Do you think the EU, US and Israel will support the new
Palestinian government with Hamas? If Israel does not agree to Hamas's
demands, it will mean reverting to fighting. Since they will control the
military, they will tell them to fight. The people are weak. They can't
Indeed, the security forces guarding hotels where foreign election observers
stayed had long faces. "This is terrible," said one named Majdi. "Maybe
Hamas will tell us to go to war."
Looking over at his colleagues, he asked "You guys ready for jihad?"
The line of young men in camouflage uniforms carrying assault rifles looked
up at him blankly. "No man," said one. "No way."
But hours after the results were announced, Hamas voters in Nablus said that
Hamas's victory means that it will for certain lay down its arms and give up
"If they were in the opposition, they would have been able to continue
attacks," said a university student named Essam as he sat in a Nablus coffee
shop with a friend, smoking a water pipe and discussing the new situation.
"But now that they are the government, they can't attack Israel."
His friend Yazen, who also voted for Hamas, looked forward to the new
situation. "Now they must talk to Israel. They have no choice. We need to
have stability and they have to bring it."