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How the Rule of Hamas (Muslim Brotherhood) in the West Bank
Today's Washington Post carries a fascinating look at the way Hamas, the West Bank branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, runs its government.

The two trends that have made Islamist governments both accepted and disliked are clearly on display. The first thing the Hamas government seems to have done is get rid of the perpetual insecurity, crime and endemic corruption. This is a pattern repeated from Afghanistan to Somalia, and one that is often at the top of the list of priorities of civilian populations.

These actions, as they did elsewhere, buy an enormous amount of goodwill among the general public, and is a facet that is usually sorely lacking in U.S.-led efforts to win hearts and minds.

The second trend is the imposition of Islamist behavior. The article notes that "Gaza's streets have taken on an increasingly Islamic cast in recent months. The improved everyday security has brought people back to the markets, beaches and parks, many of them women wearing for the first time the full black gown, gloves and face covering favored by the most conservative Muslims."

In the mosques, Imams appointed by Hamas are preaching not only hatred toward Israel, but also against Fatah, a dangerous trend. And the tolerance for dissent is extremely limited. The economy has stalled, as the international community has been largely unwilling to fund the Hamas government.

There are several interesting things to consider in this. One is that most of people voted for Hamas, and, in their territory, if we believe our own rhetoric, should be allowed to live under a government of their own choosing.

The flip side to that is that it seems unlikely to me that Hamas would actually cede power if it were to lose elections, following the old adage, "One man, one vote, once."

And there is the unsettling notion of a strict Islam government whose stated goal is to eliminate its neighbor, and who employs suicide bombings as an acceptable tactic in that war.

But ultimately, the Gaza experience shows us what the Muslim Brotherhood wants to create. It has a chance on the ground to build a government that has actual authority. How will it use that authority, and how will it respond to dissent?

The answer, so far, is not a very bright picture.

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