CAIRO: As the recently elected Hamas government struggles to come to terms with their newly bestowed power and formulate an alternative plan to get Palestine up and running, the West Bank and Gaza face a great dilemma.
Since assuming the reins of power following Palestine s first parliamentary elections in a decade, Hamas has been the subject of extreme criticism, as their global reputation comes more from their militant activities than from their civil service programs.
Within weeks of Hamas unprecedented win, Palestine s two largest donors; the United States and the European Union said they will not provide funding to a Hamas-run government. The Bush Administration has demanded the return of the $50 million in aid that it provided to the Palestinian Authority, with President George Bush himself stating America s policy against providing financial support to any political parties that threaten its allies: namely Israel.
People must renounce that part of their platform, Bush said following news of the Hamas victory.
The Bush Administration would go a step further, sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a regional tour looking to rally opposition against Hamas should it fail to engage in peaceful political negotiations with Israel. Requests to cut off aid to Palestine were rebuffed by America s main Arab allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit insisting Hamas deserves a chance to prove itself as a governing body.
In response to the financial boycott from the American and Israeli governments, the Muslim Brotherhood has mobilized its massive network of supporters to assist the Palestinians. With a presence in more than 80 countries, the group that spawned Hamas has called upon its supporters to rescue the Palestinians from a quandary that would reinforce the territory s dependency on foreign aid.
We started this campaign, not exclusively for Hamas, but for the Palestinian people, explains Mahdi Akef, supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood. We began this a long time ago, but reinforced our commitment following the election after we saw the harsh reaction of the Americans and Israelis to Hamas victory.
According to Akef, country representatives have carried out campaigns looking to remind Arabs of the plight of the Palestinian people under occupation. Supporters have been encouraged to contribute not in the name of the Muslim Brotherhood, but individually via organizations such as the Red Crescent and the Arab League of Nations.
Their massive global support will allow for any financial campaign to succeed, says Diaa Rashwan, a political scientist with the government-funded Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. I think it will get results, but of course not in a day and night. The campaign hasn t kicked off with power but I think that once the Palestinian government gets off the ground, which is when the support campaign will really take off.
A report released yesterday by the World Bank states that the need will soon be more urgent than ever. According to the study, the recent cut in funding to the Hamas-heavy government will trigger a severe economic depression in the West Bank and Gaza; the World Bank added the unemployment rate is likely to double by 2008. Fatah supporters say the embargo on foreign aid will trigger a calamitous sequence of events, both social and economic, which will undermine the ability of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to govern effectively.
How can [Abbas] run a nation when he s already lost the support of America and Israel? questions Mohammed Soreih, Palestine s ambassador to the Arab League and a member of Fatah. America promotes democratic ideals but they have proven to us all that their system lacks democracy. It s a double standard.
The Muslim Brotherhood is not the only Islamic organization to offer its services to the Palestinians. The 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference plans to provide economic and social assistance to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
It is part of our duty as Muslims to come to their assistance since no one else will, Akef adds.
How much can they possibly rise? says Soreih skeptically. This is money needed to support a nation: to pay for teachers, building roads, for electricity; for hospitals. Their donation is symbolic, it is great, but it is peanuts compared to what is needed.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the only Arab nations to have already contributed to the Palestinian Authority. According to Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, Arab leaders are set to finalize a plan that would provide Palestine with $50 million a month at the summit next week in Khartoum. Given Egypt s firm stance against America s quest for support, experts feel certain that President Hosni Mubarak will soon contribute to appease his people and reinforce Egypt s role as a regional leader.
Egypt will never stand to be stuck in a position in between the Palestinians and the Israelis and Americans, adds Rashwan. The Egyptian people will not stand for it. They will not stand to see the Palestinians starving because they have no money. The Egyptians will eventually provide money not just to the Palestinians but to Hamas and that s separate from anything going on with the Muslim Brotherhood.