Daily Israel Report

Islamists´ Power Growing in PA, Egypt

Islamic fundamentalists are gaining power and support in Egypt and in the Palestinian Authority, as evidenced by local voter opinion.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 12/9/2005, 9:46 AM / Last Update: 12/9/2005, 9:44 AM

In a new poll conducted among Arabs of voting age in Palestinian Authority (PA)-controlled Gaza, the Islamist movement Hamas was shown to have 45.8 percent support, as opposed to just 36.1 percent for the ruling Fatah organization. PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) heads Fatah. The poll was conducted between November 29 and December 4 by Al-Mustaqbal Surveys and Studies Center.

PA legislative elections are slated for January 25, with Hamas taking part in the process - to the consternation of Israel. When asked if his organization would join a new government after the elections, Hamas spokesman Hassan Yussuf said this week, "If it serves the Palestinian interest, we will. All roads are open to us."

A second Islamic fundamentalist group, Islamic Jihad, has refused to take part in elections. Unlike Hamas, Islamic Jihad has no non-terrorist-oriented institutions.

As part of the Hamas campaign, the terrorist organization has chosen the "Mother of Martyrs" as a leading candidate for the January elections. The woman, Mariam Farhat, is considered a leader in the terrorist war launched by the PA five years ago.

The gun-toting, 56-year-old woman earned her nickname as a result of the deaths of three of her six sons during terrorist attacks or in Israeli counter-terrorist strikes. Her reputation as a leader was sealed when she reportedly advised her son Mohammed how to attack a Jewish community in 2002. Mohammed murdered five Israelis before being killed himself. Farhat's eldest son, Nidal, was killed in 2003 while preparing to attack Israelis, and a third son, Rawat, died earlier this year in an IDF air strike on his car, which was carrying rockets to be used in attacks on Jewish targets.

"The Jihadist project completes the political one and the political project cannot be completed without Jihad," Farhat told Reuters News Agency.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, independent candidates affiliated with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, officially banned in Egypt, have made impressive gains in parliamentary elections, which ended this week. The month-long, violent election process led to Muslim fundamentalists increasing their representation in the 454-member Egyptian National Assembly from 15 to 88 seats.

At least ten people died in the violence surrounding the polls, as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds protesting alleged voter fraud in districts heavily favoring Islamist candidates. Egypt surrendered to American pressure in opening up the election process to true opposition parties, but State Department officials said that violence used by the country's security forces aroused concern about Cairo's "commitment to democracy and freedom."

The Muslim Brotherhood and its graduates have inspired Islamic terrorist groups the world over, including in Al-Qaeda. Brotherhood members have been involved in attacks on tourists in Egypt, as well as in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat for his 1979 peace treaty with Israel.