Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Christiane Amanpour - Hamas Spokesperson

CNN Blog - From terrorism to trash collection

You would think that after more than 50 years of one of the most intimately chronicled conflicts in human history -- Israelis vs. Palestinians -- there would be nothing new to say, no surprises. You would be wrong.

Hamas, the radical Islamic movement that has launched suicide attacks in Israel, won the Palestinian elections in January, thereby creating two firsts:

1. The first time a regime has changed in the Arab world democratically through elections;

2. The first time an Islamist group has come to power through elections.

Hamas gained support among Palestinians through two decades of building an effective and affordable social welfare system in Gaza. It runs most of the kindergartens, funds health clinics, provides welfare checks to widows and orphans, and yes, even stages mass weddings to help unemployed young men get married.

During this year's election, Palestinians fed up with the rampant corruption and lawlessness of the late Yasser Arafat's government turned to the only alternative, Hamas.

So when people ask: "Why did the Palestinian people elect a terrorist group?" The answer is because they see them as a lifeline.

Each time I go to the Palestinian territory of Gaza, I am shocked by the reality on the ground. On a recent visit, I passed through a short tunnel from the First World in Israel and emerged into the Third World that is Gaza. The poverty there is among the worst in the world.

Hamas officials told me they did not expect to win the election as overwhelmingly as they did. They say their main priority now is to meet the demands of the people for a better life.

But that may be impossible, because Israel and the United States refuse to deal with Hamas and have already cut funding to the new Palestinian government.

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