Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Christians and Hamas

In the days after the January 25 Palestinian elections there was a lot of talk about how the victory of the radical Islamic group Hamas might bode ill for the future of the already beleaguered Christian communities in the Palestinian territories. So I came to Jerusalem with a vague idea about putting together a story on the subject.

Interestingly, my preconceptions have been challenged by what I am learning here. Indeed, there are radical members of Hamas who would push forward vigorously with attempts to impose sharia law in the territories, but they seem to be a small, albeit vocal, minority.

Moreover, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate and a member of the former ruling Fatah faction, has powers similar to George Bush. Any legislation he might veto would require a two-thirds majority of the Palestinian Legislative Council to overturn.

But it is also important to realize that within the Arab world, the Palestinians have always been among the most well-educated and well-traveled people. They have a tradition of cultural moderation, and even many Muslims among them can be found openly drinking alcohol.

Under Palestinian election law, the Christians had a quota of six seats in the 132-member PLC -- two for Bethlehem, two for Jerusalem and one each for Ramallah and Gaza City. I discovered yesterday that a Christian in Gaza had run for election on the Hamas ticket. I still haven't found out whether he was elected, but even if not, he would be an excellent subject for an interview. I will also try to talk to other Christians who ran, whether elected or not, about how they view the prospects for life under Hamas.

I hope to be going down to Gaza for the first time in the next few days.

7 comments:

Sibyl said...

Thank you, Albion! Please do keep writing on the blog and let your Gentle Readers know you're okay, as well as for your real News Service!µ

albion said...

Actually, I'm more than okay. I seemed to have brought the spring with me to J'lem.

Today has been the third sunny day in a row, where trudging up one of the city's many hills in short sleeves could even work up a sweat at 9:30 in the morning.

Last night was a bit scary, though. I had asked the taxi driver to take me to the Old City's Jaffa Gate, but he got confused, so in the end I got out at Herod's Gate, one I had never used before. It was after sunset, and I found myself in an amazing warren of narrow cobbled streets and not quite sure which way to go. There was almost no one out, except a few children playing, but I did use my amazing homing sense to make my way to Damascus Gate and back outside, where I made my way back to New Gate and ultimately the restaurant I was looking for.

There I stumbled on an entire dining room of evangelical types from Canada having their "Last Supper" before heading home. It was amusing though, because there was one other table of "outsiders" -- a very big and old Orthodox archimandrite with a huge silver cross on his chest and his dinner companion.

In the other dining room next to us, was a tablefull of Italian Catholics, presided over by a man who I assumed was there parish priest. I couldn't help but giggle at the fact that they were all having wine, while the Canadians were on mineral water, juice and soft drinks.

albion said...

Well, the interview with Hossam al-Taweel in Gaza is set for Monday afternoon, so I shall be going there for the first time.

Dave said...

Wow I am envious of you. I would love to go to the Holy Land one day. I admit I am a bit of a chicken.

I am always worried about the title "Christian". I wonder how many people that call themselves Christian aren't doing so out of tradition instead of actual faith in Christ. I worry like that because some Iraqi Baathist were also so called christians.

albion said...

Dave,

First of all, don't be afraid in the slightest. You're probably safer on the streets of Jerusalem than Washington or New York.

I don't have time to write more, but you need to know that the Christians who live here are the descendants of the world's first Christians. And they are an oppressed and suffering lot.

They deserve your prayers and your help.

Let me direct you to a website that will give you an idea. I don't have the URL handy, but search Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land.

Dave said...

Thank you for the information. I really appreciate all that you are writing in your wonderful blog.

Dave said...

I also have a Palestinian internet pen pal. I love to get his take on events in the Holy Land.