If Hamas wants to survive it must change. Its leaders apparently recognize that an overwhelming majority of people in the Gulf have arrived at the same conclusion–that strict and undemocratic Islamist rule sucks. Let a single hair stray out of place or grumble aloud in public and you are off to jail. Iranians aren’t the only ones who can’t stand it. Iraq’s Kurds described life under Ansar Al-Islam as “hell on earth” and Iraq Sunnis turned on Al Queda after a dose of hard-line Islamist rule. Now Palestinians in Gaza are becoming restive. A story in the Washington Post describes what they had been putting up with (and it will sound very familiar to Iranians):
“Since seizing Gaza, Hamas had largely silenced opponents and tried to impose stricter religious rules on an already conservative society. Modesty squads asked young couples seen in public to show proof of marriage, told beachgoers to put on more clothes and ordered shopowners to cover up mannequins. High school girls came under pressure from teachers to wear headscarves.
“In recent months, there’s been a change in atmosphere, say rights activists and even political rivals of Hamas.”
Huda Naim, a Hamas legislator, said the movement took its cues from the pro-democracy revolts sweeping the Arab world, but also has learned it needs to be more tolerant of others.
The trend is affecting Hamas’ foreign relations as well. Hezbollah may still be sticking by Assad in Syria, but Hamas seems to be distancing itself from a tainted regime. It has been closing offices in Damascus and withdrawing personnel–a move that has so angered Iran’s ruling mullahs that they’ve reduced assistance to Hamas. Is this writer the only one who thinks that–like the attack on the British embassy–the effect will be the opposite of what Iranian policy makers intended?
As for how life seems to be changing in Gaza, check this out:
“At the beginning of the school year, when some high school girls complained about being ordered by principals to put on headscarves, the Education Ministry told schools that the girls are free to choose, he said.”
Iran’s hard-line mullahs would explode if that happened in Tehran, where “enforced social Islamization” has accelerated since crushing the post-election protests (another resentment building move). Hamas must change because it is far more vulnerable than Iran’s thug-reinforced mullocracy or Lebanon’s gun-heavy Hezbollah. Hamas’ leaders see which ships are likely to float and which are doomed. Popular rage against ALL dictators, whether in a turban or wearing western suits and ties, has made a huge impression ( especially the once “unthinkable” events happening in Syria). Many Islamists are struck by the widespread popularity of Erdogan’s Islamist party in democratic Turkey and want the same. They see its source–moderation, lack of corruption and economic competence–everything the brutal Iranian model lacks.
Hamas is getting pressure from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to “lighten up” on tyrannical tendencies. That’s doesn’t surprise me. The MB doesn’t want election opponents pointing to Gaza or Iran and warning voters, “This is how you will end up if you elect Islamists.” The MB prefers to point to Turkey and proclaim: “This is where we’d like to take you INSTEAD.”
EXCERPT FROM THE POST STORY: Fawaz Gerges, head of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics, said he believes the Brotherhood is moderating Hamas, but that the Islamists in Gaza are also evolving. “They realized that their wooden rhetoric no longer applies, that in the aftermath of the Arab Awakening, Palestinian public opinion demands a different behavior,” he said.
Even if one or two of Iran’s ruling mullahs understands the need for similar changes, they must know it is to late. Nothing can win back the public now. All they can do is continue to stomp on fingers, break bones and smash in faces. Here is a link to the Washington Post story entitled:
Everyone says Assad’s inevitable fall will add greatly to the mullahs’ isolation. The trend is Gaza suggests another blow a’comin’. The mullahs’ response her–as everywher–is heavy handed (cutting off supplies). Again, the consequence is opposite to what was intended. Meanwhile a sympathetic Russian government may be headed for its own “White Spring,” the West is more alienated than intended (thanks to another heavy handed move) and Arab neighbors don’t trust a word from a regime that tries to set up mini-Hezbollahs everywhere and sends thugs out to shoot ambassadors and blow up capitals. Soon the regime’s only friends left in the Gulf region may be Lebanon’s Hezbollah Iraq’s Al-Sadr.