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Hamas exploits release of UK reporter to improve image ? Saudi paper

BBC Monitoring

Text of report by London-based newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat website on 7 July

    [Article by Tariq al-humayd: "Hamas's Image"]

    It is clear that the Hamas government, which has been dismissed [by President Mahmud Abbas], has done and is doing its utmost to exploit the release of British journalist Alan Johnston to brighten up its image and demonstrate that it is capable of ensuring that security in Gaza is under control. So it was not strange to see Isma'il Haniyah and members of his dismissed government have breakfast with the British journalist following his release by the "Jaysh al-Islam" kidnappers. We have become accustomed to seeing such scenes since the days of Saddam Husayn who liked to appear talking to Western hostages. The scene of Iranians releasing British Navy soldiers a few months ago is another case in point. We have also grown accustomed to seeing Isma'il Haniyah fully exploit the camera, performing prayers alone on the roof of a home, or even playing football and other games.

    The question is whether such images will improve Hamas's reputation. I do not think so. For Hamas formed the Palestinian government before the recent coup, and its militias were deployed everywhere wielding the same power they demonstrate now in the Gaza Strip, that is, when the British reporter was kidnapped. Why did Hamas not seek to release the reporter at that time?

    Is it reasonable to think that the Abu-Mazin government was aware of the whereabouts of the kidnappers and did not exert any effort to bring about the release of the British reporter? This is particularly true because Hamas spokesmen are now trying to portray the situation as though the Fatah forces were in control of the area where Johnston was held. If this claim is true, that is, if Fatah really wielded power on the ground, would Abu-Mazin men let Hamas hide the Israeli solider [Shalit] who is still being held by his kidnappers up to this day?

    What may improve Hamas's image in the Palestinian territories and beyond is not the attempts to take international pressure into consideration, but to take into account the interests of its citizens and people. Every Palestinian citizen aspires to see Hamas provide him with food and dissipate his fear. Had Hamas pursued a realistic policy providing the Gaza people with the same breakfast it offered to the British reporter, its image would have been far better and it would have garnered real domestic as well as Arab support. And the world would have found no option other than dealing with Hamas had it not followed the desires of Iran, Syria, and those who only care about their narrow interests.

    Hamas, however, preferred to choose a cosmetic exercise rather than pursue a policy that considers the interests of its citizens. Ideology will be of no use at the end of the day, nor will it foot bills or treat the sick. Regrettably, Haniyah and his followers showed such attention in treating the British reporter that we did not see in the way it treated its brethren on the infamous day of the coup in Gaza, when many were killed and the photos of Palestinian leaders were trampled on.

    The real problem now is that Hamas has returned the British reporter to his family, but has not restored the international community's trust. Hamas has taken no notice that following the internecine infighting, the Arab world has been in a state of shock and it now mistrusts all Palestinian groups. This is the reality though it has not been publicly said to the Palestinian people.

    Source: Al-Sharq al-Awsat website, London, in Arabic 7 Jul 07



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