Hamas’ road to politics (OLIVIA WARD, 1/23/06, Toronto Star)

As Wednesday’s Palestinian election approaches, with Hamas’ closest rival, the Fatah party, in disarray, Israelis are forced to think the unthinkable: the group that launched hundreds of suicide bombers to kill more than 350 of their countrymen and wound more than 2,000 others, may be the principal partner in negotiations for the future of Middle East peace, and eventually form the government of a new Palestinian state.

After the election, pollsters predict, Mesha’al and his organization are likely to be a significant political force. If so, their success will be built on patience as well as violence, assembling an organization that has, in less than two decades, put down deep roots in the Palestinian community.

“Hamas represents, in the minds of people here, the resistance, the faithful Muslims, the good and incorruptible — and they also have a great social network of services for women, children and youth,” says Gaza psychiatrist Eyad al Sarraj. “When people vote overwhelmingly for Hamas, it’s because they trust them more than any others.”

And, he points out, “Hamas is the main framework of security here. When children become teenagers, they have seen how powerless their fathers are, unable to protect their families. But Hamas takes on the role of the father, and identifies itself with the ultimate father, God. God cannot be defeated as your father was.”

Forcing them to govern is part of the genius of imposed statehood.

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