Green Is for Nature and Pubs Are for Drinking

Newly elected Hamas parliament member Yihye Musa resists the idea of Talibanization.

A painting of a ?Swiss? landscape decorates the living room of Yihye Musa?s house in the Gaza Strip. Musa, who is a professor of education, was recently elected a member of the Palestinian parliament on the Hamas national slate, but his living room contains no pictures of shahids ?(martyrs?), senior members of Hamas who were killed in Israeli assassinations. Rather, his large painting depicts a lake, mountains and a lot of green. Gaza, particularly its refugee camps, is bursting with exposed-concrete houses and kindles longings for the color green.

Musa comes from a family of refugees from the village of Abdis ?(in southern Israel, between Kastina ? today Kirayat Malakhi ? and Masmia?), but he was born and lives in the Al Amal ?(?The Hope??) refugee camp in Khan Yunis. ?In the Koran, green is a symbol of vitality, it always appears in a positive context,? he says. ?Whereas the color yellow appears in a negative context.?

He immediately explains that his words are of no political import; he does not want to be understood as criticizing the Fatah movement, which chose the color yellow for its flags, and for praising Hamas, which adopted a green flag in recent years. Indeed, it has gotten to a point where it is difficult to spot a Palestinian flag at rallies. This blatant absence reinforces the claims of activists in Fatah and other organizations in the Palestine Liberation Organization that Hamas is not motivated by nationalist principles, but rather is loyal to external factors that are liable to dictate its moves and influence it.

Israel is interested in the majority Palestinian party because of its non-recognition of Israel. But in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, they are concerned with other issues; the degree of Hamas? Palestinian nationalism, the danger of religious and ideological coercion, and the possibility that Fatah people will be fired from their jobs in the public sector. It is important to listen to Musa, because he represents a veteran stream in the Hamas movement, which supported integration into political life and involvement in practical everyday life in the context of the existing situation ? the Palestinian Authority.

He was one of the founders of the Islamic National Rescue Party, which joined the PLO in 1996. Its policy was defeated at the beginning of the intifada, when the option of ?armed struggle? seemed preferable to many. With the elections and the willingness to accept responsibility as a government, it can be said that the ?realistic? stream represented by Musa ?(Hamas does not like the descriptions ?pragmatic? or ?moderate??) has won. Musa says that defense of freedom and recognition of human development are important to Islam.

Musa promises that if he is appointed to a responsible position ?(?I don?t want to be a minister??), the flag hanging behind his seat will be the Palestinian flag, without the usual addition of the verse ?There is no god besides Allah.? Musa explains that the reason for the dominance of the color green in the elections was the competition between the organizations. Each one tried to emphasize its uniqueness with its own colors. Now, he claims that Hamas will behave like an official government party, which represents the entire public.

?We are Palestinians and Arabs and Muslims. These circles do not contradict one another. No circle can cancel out the other. Islam is our network of values, Arabism is an important framework for us, and as a Palestinian nation, we are an important component of the Arab framework. We are not willing to give up any circle,? he says.

Concerning the danger of ?Talibanization,? which exploits conditions of poverty, ignorance and bloodshed in order to establish a regime of extreme religious coercion, Musa says: ?The Islamic movement has a broad ideological legacy. The source of most of the philosophical and cultural output in the Islamic library in modern times is the Muslim Brotherhood. The Taliban is a new movement, whose experience is limited and negative from our point of view. There is no danger of Talibanization with us. We will not use any coercion. Anyone who wants to go to a pub, can do so. Anyone who wants to go to a mosque, can do so. We will not dictate a lifestyle.? He continues: ?The religious leaders set out five goals for Islam: defense of life, of thought, of religion, of property and of continuity. In modern times, a sixth goal has been added: defense of freedom. The ruler must respect this goal and enable people to maintain their freedom. That is what we promise them.?

In his room, in front of a group of relatives and friends, with not a single women among them ? Musa preempts questions regarding the issue of the status of women: ?Look at the women in Khan Yunis, you will have a hard time finding even one who goes out with her hair uncovered. Did we dictate that? It?s their choice. The more primitive a person is, the less he wears. As civilization progressed, man covered himself more and more. Judaism and Christianity also attribute importance to covering the body. The modern tendencies, of undressing women, commercialize women?s bodies for the purpose of profit.?

He adds: ?We learned from the prophet of blessed memory, who said, ?The best of you ? is the best to his family.? In the last sentences he uttered in his life, he recommended that people be strict about prayer and treat women well. Life is based on partnership, and therefore we consider the family, rather than the individual, as the first, basic unit in society. The family is based on the principle of solidarity. The Islamic legacy recognizes development. We have a strong Islamic movement among the women. You won?t see such a strong women?s movement in any other Palestinian stream. In Iran, women are present everywhere. In art, in the army, in education. In Sudan, too ?(where Musa studied, A.H.?), I found that women are active in all areas. There is no limit to the role women can play.

?The development of society is what dictates the roles of the man and the woman. As long as there is a need and an opportunity to develop, the role will develop at the same time. Do you think that our women are unfortunate? They are active everywhere and know how to do everything, as well as to sing and dance, to woo their man, to enjoy sexual relations. It is not Islam that dictates the status of women in Saudi Arabia, but political interests, which were created from the relationship between the Salafi movement and the tribes. The treaty between these two sides created various interpretations, and divided the roles.?

Musa wants to reassure all those who were afraid that Hamas? victory would lead to dismissals in the public sector. One of Hamas? claims is that, to a great extent, the appointments were based more on Fatah membership than on ability. It is clear that the Hamas government will face a problem: On the one hand, the public sector is bloated, while on the other, it provides the sole livelihood of tens of thousands of families. An attempt to streamline through dismissals will arouse opposition.

?Nobody will take away a job that was given in the previous era. But we want to establish a real economy, so that we won?t remain beggars, so that the state will not remain the largest employer. We will not continue in the direction outlined by the PA, of a non-productive business with a massive number of employees,? he says. But he is leaving concrete plans to the government, when it forms.

The security systems ?do not belong to a specific party or organization,? says Musa in response to the statement that security is identified with Fatah. ?The security services belong to the entire nation. We will not search the hearts of the members of the services ? what is important to us is how the work is done, with respect for the law. We have no problem with Mohammed Dahlan or with Rashid abu Shabak ?(the head of preventive security services?). All Palestinian citizens are honest, unless the law determines otherwise. Every person?s job is guaranteed to him, unless the courts decide otherwise.? Is that a hint that some people will be put on trial for harming Palestinian interests or embezzling funds? Only time will tell.