Monday, May 14, 2007

"Authority" Questioned Again

In the wake of Al-Aqsa Television questioning the authority of Palestinian Authority Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti, the authority of Interior Minister, Hani Qawasmi, a former judge, unaffiliated with either Fatah or Hamas, has also been challenged by what was basically a no-confidence vote in a unified Hamas-Fatah police force in Gaza. Harvey Morris is covering the story from Jerusalem for The Financial Times. Conditions are such as to make his use of the phrase "a sharply deteriorating security situation in the Gaza Strip" sound like British understatement. Beyond the six killed and 52 wounded over the weekend, there are signs that the violence is extending beyond the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah:

Aside from the security chaos, people in Gaza said they were concerned about a growing trend towards Islamic extremism in the territory – what one described as the “al-Qaedaisation” of the conflict.

In a general atmosphere of lawlessness, previously unknown groups have attacked secular schools, internet cafés and other targets identified with foreign or non-Islamic influence.

Morris also introduced his own take on the fate of kidnapped BBC journalism Alan Johnston:

The mood of uncertainty has been heightened by the flight of foreigners, including aid workers, since the abduction two months ago of Alan Johnston, the BBC’s Gaza correspondent, by a group that since identified itself on an al-Qaeda-linked website as the Army of Islam.

“Everyone knows exactly where Johnston is,” said the businesswoman, reflecting a common belief in Gaza, “but the authorities know it would be too dangerous to try to free him.”

This is no longer a time to seek out solutions through literary analogies. Still, I wish readers of the New Testament would recall the efforts of Saul of Tarsus to ignore the stoning of St. Stephen and ask what sort of metaphorical road to Damascus may finally provoke a change of belief if how we regard this unfolding mess.

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