Hamas Victory Divides Palestinians Palestinians voted a new party into power last. Hamas, labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S., now holds a majority of seats in parliament. The abrupt reversal has created new turmoil in the Middle East.
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Hamas Victory Divides Palestinians

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Hamas Victory Divides Palestinians

Hamas Victory Divides Palestinians

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From NRP News, this is Weekend Edition. I'm Liane Hansen.

In Jerusalem today, acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, reiterated that Israel will not have any contact with the Palestinian authority unless Hamas disarms and recognizes Israel's right to exist.

Hamas won a strong majority this past week in parliamentary elections, upsetting the Fatah party, long the dominant force in Palestinian politics. The victory by Hamas touched off some street fighting between supporters of Fatah and Hamas in Ramallah, on the West Bank, earlier in the weekend. Although last night, the streets were relatively quiet.

To get a sense of the sentiment among residents of a smaller West Bank community, NPR's Linda Gradstein visited the town of Umtuba(ph) this morning, and filed this report.


The village of Umtuba, on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem, is a traditional place. In the local post office, there are two lines; one for men and one for women. All of the women here have their heads covered with scarves according to Muslim tradition.

On line at the post office, Iman Atun(ph) says she's thrilled by the Hamas victory. Her bother, Sheikh Ahmad Mohammad Atun(ph), has just become a member of the Palestinian parliament. She says her brother will work to improve the lives of the 6,000 residents of Umtuba, as well as all Palestinians.

Ms. IMAN ATUN: (Arabic spoken)

Unidentified Woman (Translating for Iman Atun): I think Hamas will do what the Palestinian people most want, which is reform and solving the issue of unemployment. And, remember, Palestinians love education, education opportunities.

GRADSTEIN: On one side of the post office, 33-year-old Imran Abu Dhain(ph) runs a small travel agency. He says he was not surprised by the overwhelming victory of Hamas in last week's election. According to final results released this weekend, Hamas won 74 out of 132 seats in the Palestinian parliament, and Fatah won 45. Abu Dhain says even some members of the Palestinian security services, who owe their jobs to Fatah, voted for Hamas, fed up with Fatah's corruption.

Mr. IMRAN ABU DHAIN: (Arabic spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (Translating for Mr. Dhain): Hamas is religious. Hamas has clean hands. Hamas in comparison to the ones that came, the corrupt ones, and took the resources of the people, stands out as a party that will take care of people's rights.

GRADSTEIN: Many residents of this small village seem angry at the Fatah movement, which they say has done nothing to improve their lives over the past ten years.

On the other side of the post office, Rahid Hamadi(ph) runs a small store selling toys, perfume and makeup. He says the vote for Hamas was not an endorsement of suicide bombings or violence, but a search for something new.

Mr. RAHID HAMADI: We need some, a new face, to show us the way for the future, you know? With the Fatah (unintelligible) people, we didn't see nothing. It's like you're going in a dark way. You don't have a light in this dark. But maybe with Hamas, you know, like, maybe the Hamas will be more good.

GRADSTEIN: Hamadi dismisses Israeli and International concerns that Hamas is a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel and its charter. He says the International community used to level the same charges against Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement.

Mr. HAMADI: Fatah, before that, was in Lebanon, and was in Tunis. And they were making bombs from outside, and they were attacking, and they were, all the things which was out when they were outside, and at the end they make peace when the Israeli came inside. And they shake hands, even though Arafat and all those people they were outside, and they making all the things from outside like Hamas, now inside. And then they came back together and they sit on the same table.

GRADSTEIN: Residents here do not seem concerned about a possible cutoff of International aid to the Palestinian people. They say they believe that if that happens, Hamas will find other sources of funding.

Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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