TIME: Inside Hamas

Heard today’s freshair interview this morning. Dug out this full report from TIME April 5, 2004. The description of Hamas reminds me of Chinese PLA during the civil war days.Inside Hamas, by JOHANNA MCGEARY/GAZA.

This story is almost identical to classic PLA propaganda we’ve been fed on regarding the historical struggle between good and evil.

To understand that appeal, consider the plight of Hosman Ahmad Jamal and his wife Najah. Ahmad is 50 but looks 70. He doesn’t have a job but must support 15 children. He’s afflicted with severe asthma and prostate disease. I met the couple last summer outside the door of Sheik Yassin’s white stucco house on a nameless alley in Gaza’s shabby Sabra neighborhood. They had come to beg for money to pay Ahmad’s medical expenses. Najah had asked the Palestinian Authority for help but received nothing. Friends told her the sheik never refused anyone. So the couple walked to his house from Shijaya, about 3 miles away. They were immediately attended to. The bodyguard at Yassin’s door sent them down the block to Hamas’ main charity center with a chit authorizing funds for treatment and medicine. Najah concluded that only Hamas really cared about the welfare of ordinary Palestinians. “They are our brothers,” she said, “because they help the people.”

Assasination and hardliner’s talk doesn’t seem to be the solution when the “killers” have the popular support.

Just as important, the men of Hamas, from top to bottom, have won a reputation for scrupulous honesty. Dr. Ziad Abu Amr, an independent member of the Palestinian parliament, says that Hamas’ image as “clean”–in contrast to the corrupt Authority ¡ª as well as its ability to “fill in the gaps left by the Authority’s ineffectiveness,” have won it considerable backing, even from many who do not share its extremist positions. “It’s not just altruistic,” he adds. “Hamas knows how to use this source of power to build a solid base of popular support.