By Maria C. Khoury
Driving to school the day after the Palestinian elections and seeing green flags everywhere was an overwhelming shock. I had been complacent about what the results would be. No matter how corrupt and negligent the Fatah Party of the late Yasser Arafat had been in the past ten years, I assumed it would, as a moderate party willing to negotiate with Israel, retain control of the Palestinian Parliament. We voted and went to sleep with these comforting thoughts and woke up with 76 out of the 132 seats in the legislative council going to Hamas, the extreme Islamic Resistant Movement.
The Hamas victory simply means that the people were fed up with leaders who did nothing for them. They wanted a change and had limited choices. Hamas was, after all, renowned for its social services. Perhaps Hamas could do something about the poor health care, the Israeli occupation, the 60 percent unemployment, the complete absence of social security? For many people, voting for Hamas seemed the only way to punish the Fatah for forgetting about the people and living the good life while the majority survive on a few dollars a day.
Even in a small Christian village like Taybeh, 28 votes went to Hamas! I was shocked. How could a Christian vote for a fundamental Islamic party? The answer is that it was the only way voters could tell Fatah that they were fed up, that Fatah had failed the people.
As a Christian woman living under a Hamas government, I am not worried that I may have to veil up and wear long skirts. This is the least of my problems. In order to keep walking the footsteps of the Lord, I will follow these superficial rules. What worries most people is which way Hamas will focus. Will they opt for a moderate point of view and become statesmen? Or will they initiate an extreme Islamic rule.
Assuming Hamas wants the international community to continue support for Palestine, Hamas has no choice but to move in a moderate direction and accept living side by side with Israel.
Ramallah is currently one of the few cities in Palestine that is modern, open in culture and thought, and has some type of a night life. Most of us want to see Ramallah maintain its way of life. Women walking the streets in western clothing have been acceptable. Men and women sitting together in cafes and restaurants do not turn heads. If Hamas wants to be accepted by the world and survive in the long term, it must adjust its fundamentalist viewpoint.
If Hamas insists on strict enforcement of the rules of the Koran, my husband had better work on a new non-alcoholic Taybeh Beer recipe fast or the Taybeh Brewing Company will be shut down, as were several breweries in Iran.
If Hamas opts for a strict Islamic position, it will cut Palestine off from the financial and moral support that the international community has offered since even before the Oslo Agreement. It will greatly affect our educational system if the Ministry of Education does not allow the current freedom of choice when it comes to religion. In private schools, Christian students currently have the choice to take Christian religion instead of Islamic religion.
What worries me more is the struggle that could play out while members of Hamas and others members of the Palestinian Parliament struggle to influence the leadership. We could be on the brink of a civil war.
The first indication of this battle revealed itself the moment Hamas members took down the Palestinian Flag in Ramallah and replaced it with their green flag. Shooting followed. Such fighting among Palestinians scares me even more than seeing Israeli soldiers putting guns to my sons head on the way to school.
For the moment, we are waiting. Pray for us. We are facing not only the Israeli occupation but the possibility of strict Islamic rule. May the ramifications of this political earthquake be bearable.
Either way the Christian response is found in the Gospel: Love your enemies; Do good to those who hate you; Bless those who curse you; Pray for those who abuse you; Turn the other check to those who strike you.
Dr. Khoury is the chairperson of the Taybeh Orthodox Housing Project which has started to build twelve homes for Orthodox Christian families in Taybeh-Ramallah to help maintain the Christian presence in the Holy Land.