Attraction of Normal Life Is Biggest Threat to Radicalism

[Times-UK] Bronwen Maddox - The best that can be said about the rush by the U.S. and EU to pour in aid to the new government of Mahmoud Abbas is that it is an overdue move to strengthen moderate Palestinians, such as they are. It brings a sense of urgency to the task of trying to prevent Hamas, dominant in Gaza, from radicalizing the West Bank and ousting Fatah from there as well. In March I spoke to Hamas officials in the West Bank who laid out plans for radicalizing the territory and prying it away from its traditional support for Fatah. One tool was to set up new schools and offer scholarships to poor families, they said, reckoning that communities would appreciate and come to rely on Hamas' ability to deliver services, more than the chaotic and corruption-prone Fatah. Sheikh Salah al-Arouri, recently let out of an Israeli jail after 15 years for helping to set up Hamas' armed wing, said the radical Islamist group now faced a tricky tactical problem because most Palestinians would settle for peace. For the West to lift the embargo on aid "is the most dangerous thing for us," he said. "People start eating, the government will start up services...and the political situation is put aside." That would "shift the Palestinian cause from one of nationalistic freedom to one of the circumstances of living," he said, with disgust.

2007-06-22 01:00:00

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