ENI: Christian is parliamentary candidate for Islamic group Hamas
24 January 2006
Christian is parliamentary candidate for Islamic group Hamas
Jerusalem (ENI). Hosam al-Taweel seems an unlikely candidate to run in the
Palestinian parliamentary elections on behalf of the militant Islamic group
Hamas. Al-Taweel, 40, is a Greek-Orthodox Christian living in the Gaza Strip
who has volunteered at the local YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association)
for more than three decades.
But he decided to join Hamas - a group that seeks to destroy Israel and
replace it with an Islamic state based on strict Sharia law - because he
believes a Hamas government is in the best interests of the Palestinian
"We are all - Christians and Muslims - united for a free Palestine. Our
ancestors fought with the Muslim leader, Salah al-Din, against the
crusaders," he told the Arabic-language al-Jazeera satellite television
channel during an interview. "We also share a common suffering under Israeli
occupation and each of us has reciprocal respect towards our religious
Hamas is expected to strongly challenge President Mahmoud Abbas' mainstream
Fatah movement in the 25 January parliamentary elections. Hamas' Change and
Reform party stands for ending rampant corruption in the Palestinian
But the prospect it could win the election or do well enough to influence
the Palestinian Authority has some Western countries worried as Hamas is
regarded as a terrorist group that has spearheaded a wave of suicide
bombings against Israel.
This does not concern al-Taweel, who has said he opposes the 1993 Oslo peace
accords with Israel and calls for Palestinians to continue to resist Israeli
"My programme isn't specifically for Christians only, but designed for all
Palestinians," he said. "We are fighting for the right of return of
displaced Palestinian refugees and fighting corruption in Palestinian
There are about 10 000 Palestinian-Christians living in the Gaza Strip and
as in the West Bank their numbers have dwindled over the past century.
Christianity in Gaza dates to shortly after the death of Jesus. The first
Christian martyr in Gaza was Bishop Sylvanus, who was killed in AD 284.
Cooperation between Christians and Hamas is not new. In the West Bank city
of Bethlehem, the Christian mayor took power due to a coalition he formed
with the Hamas dominated city council.