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Magister on the difficulties of Bethlehem

But the reactions drew upon other fears as well. Hanna Nasser, the previous mayor of Bethlehem, a Christian of the current that is close to Fatah, accused the new administration of “spreading Islamic fundamentalism.”

It is a fear that took shape after the electoral victory of Hamas, not only in Bethlehem’s municipal elections, but also in those of other cities of Cisjordan: Nablus, Jenin, Qalqilya. A new style can already be seen in the municipalities where Hamas is installed: Christian women employed there, who are accustomed to shaking everybody’s hand, are held at a distance by the newly elected, for whom physical contact violates Islamic principles.

The general plan of Hamas also includes the imposition of a special tax, called al-jeziya, upon all of the non-Muslim residents in the Palestinian territories. This tax revives the one applied through all of Islamic history to the dhimmi, the second-class Jewish and Christian citizens.

In an interview with Karby Legget, published in the December 23-26 edition of “The Wall Street Journal,” Masalmeh, the leader of the Hamas contingent at the municipal council of Bethlehem, confirmed: “We in Hamas intend to implement this tax someday. We say it openly – we welcome everyone to Palestine but only if they agree to live under our rules.”

Batarseh, the mayor, doesn’t agree. He doesn’t want the tax, and says it will never be introduced.

He knows well that living with Hamas is difficult. But he says he is convinced that “the only way to make Hamas more moderate is to bring them inside the system.”