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Interview with Hamas spokesman about Egypt revolution

By Jesse Bacon

Ashley Bates continues her excellent reporting by interviewing Hamas spokesman Ahmed Youssef. The story is an interesting variant of the “Is it good for Israel?” that we have been subjected to such a barrage of. While obviously I don’t support Hamas’s views or their actions, I think that too often they are ignored and that leads to US policy based on ignorance. It is interesting to read them during revolution in Egypt, one where the American reaction has been so dominated by fears of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Hamas is in some ways a descendant. (Though unlike Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood does not have an armed wing.)

Youssef believes that the Egyptian revolution will help Hamas.

Shut out of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Hamas has long been viewed as too extreme to bargain with. Yet as these negotiations crumble, Yousef may have the chance to capitalize on the uprisings to bring Hamas back to the table—that is, if the upheaval doesn’t spark a new Palestinian civil war. Yousef hopes the popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia will inspire long-overdue Palestinian elections, and lead to the formation of a “unity government” that is recognized by the west—and which includes Hamas.

Interestingly, he thinks this not because it will enable more violence but the opposite, that it will lead to inclusion of Hamas in power-sharing and negotiations. Sad that it took the utter failure of our policy in Egypt to even make this common sense approach a possibility. Sadly, this support does not extend to the solidarity protests of Palestinians, which Fatah has suppressed as well.

In recent days, Palestinians have tried to organize protests in support of Egypt’s anti-government demonstrators, but these attempts have quickly been squelched by Hamas and Fatah. So as much as Yousef may want to see a Democratic revolution come to the Middle East, the government he represents is also threatened by it.

It’s quite the turnabout, Egyptians have helped Israel to suppress Palestinians, now Palestinian leaders are stifling support for Egyptians.

On the other hand, Yousef also sees the transformative energy created by the pro-democracy uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia as a chance to promote Palestinian democracy. “The Palestinian tragedy is that we are now two governments for a people without a state,” he says. “The only salvation is to hold an election.”

I would say that slavation is unlikely to come from elections alone, but I appreciate the sentiment.

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JESSE BACON (Philadelphia) is a freelance activist and father. He has a Masters in teaching from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He is an observant progressive Jew, and is trying to be a good ally for Palestinians and all dispossessed peoples, while staying true to the best traditions in Judaism. He visited Israel and Palestine in 1996, 2001, and 2002. He served for three years on the local steering committee of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, and one year on the board of Pursue the Peace in Seattle. Read his posts here.

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