Thursday 26 February 2009

Rise of Hamas

Time magazine notes the rise of Hamas in Lebanon's refugee camps:

Even Mahmoud Abbas' more popular predecessor as Fatah leader, Yassir Arafat, struggled to sell the Oslo peace process to his supporters in Lebanon, where members of Fatah remained committed to armed struggle to "liberate Palestine" and still run guerrilla training academies.

These days, however, even that more hard-line Fatah stance is no longer enough for most Palestinians here. Even high-ranking officials of Abbas' own party fear that he will trade away their "Right of Return" to what is now Israel.

"Yassir Arafat went into negotiations with the olive branch in one hand and a weapon in the other hand," says one Beirut Fatah commander. "But all Mohammad Abbas does is negotiate. He gets nothing, but he keeps negotiating. Palestinians believe in military operations because they want to go back to Palestine. They don't want to negotiate."

Hamas, meanwhile, is continuing to grow. The movement uses its financial backing from Iran and other countries to build clinics, kindergartens, and social services centers in every camp.

And the refugees hear stories about leaders in the West Bank growing rich from embezzled international aid, while refugees see almost nothing in social services from the Palestinian Authority, which is controlled by Fatah.

"Fatah isn't helping people," says the Beirut Fatah commander. "Hamas is taking advantage of this. They are entering deep, deep into the population."

"We already lost Jordan and Syria," says another Fatah commander in Lebanon. "All of them sympathize with Hamas. If we lose Lebanon, then Fatah and all of what it represents will be over."

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Stepping out

Lebanon Now report on the LGBT protest in Saseen Square against anti gay violence:

Hundreds of people armed with rainbow flags and signs denouncing violence and discrimination against homosexuals and other minority groups in Lebanon gathered at Beirut’s Sodeco square amid pouring rain on Sunday afternoon for a demonstration.

The event, the first of its kind in the Arab world according to the organizers, was staged by the Beirut-based Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer (LGBTIQ) support organization Helem, and also featured representatives from Lebanese rights groups Kafa, KAFA, TYMAT and SIDC.