OxBlog

Saturday, January 28, 2006

# Posted 8:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

RAMALLAH, VISITING THE MAYOR AT HER HOUSE. Janet Mikhail, in office as mayor for twelve days as the first woman mayor of a Palestinian city, is a remnant of Ramallah's Catholic community. That ancient aristocratic society's notions of hospitality being undimmed by time, as I'd been in her city for a few days she kindly invited me around to her house for coffee and kunafah, amid family photographs, lace doilies, and plates of pistachios and sweets. We spoke about Ramallah's Catholics, and how they viewed the Hamas result in the polls.

OxBlog: Mayor, you've now been in office 12 days. Are you tired yet?

JM: laughs at my bad joke

OxBlog: You yourself are liberal, and a Catholic woman. How do you view the Hamas victory?

JM: Well, it's normal. They're Palestinians, they have their rights. I think the world helped Hamas win, by talking about them. They had a slogan - Israel says no, America says no, and what are you going to say?

Sometimes - corruption is all around, the politicians haven't provided good services for the people. Hamas are not that bad as people see them - they're religious, conservatives, they want people to obey their rules, they have their thoughts and way of thinking, but they're disciplined. They're not that bad. If you look at religious stuff, they are conservative, and that worries people.

OxBlog: And does it worry Ramallah Catholics?

JM: We are 10 per cent Christians in Ramallah. I think Fateh knew this point - that we are Christians, and they wanted a Christian presence to stay in the city because of its history. Hamas - I think everything will be all right, yes. I think Hamas is going to change, after the election. The Palestinians are different than the Saudis and the Iranians - the Palestinians are more open than any other Arab people. In Saudi Arabia, women can't drive cars or walk in the street without anybody with them. Here, it is different.

OxBlog: What are your relations like with Hamas members in the munincipality?

JM: They're very nice people. In the municipality, they gave me their votes for mayor - they knew me, I used to work twenty years as headmistress of the girls' school, they knew my work, I'd taught their wives, sisters, and daughters, and they knew I was a hard worker. Politically, within the council voting, Hamas and Fateh are not close, so Hamas supported me because I was not Fateh.

OxBlog: Do you think Hamas will negotiate with Israel?

JM: Israel? That needs time, for them.

OxBlog: 10 years, maybe?

JM: Maybe two, three years.

OxBlog: Will social changes come to Ramallah, with Hamas's political ascendancy?

JM: Don't think they're going to change the way people dress - maybe they might try to be more conservative for Muslims, but not for Christians. We Christians wear normal clothes, Hamas maybe won't like this, or girls to go to parties, dancing. Restaurants are scared - might not let people sell drinks, that's why people are scared of Hamas. Anyway, we wait and see - we can't say now, maybe in a year. I don't think they're that bad. We'll wait and see.

We in Ramallah are an open city, that respects everyone who comes here. They like it because it's liberal, they can live free here. There are jobs here, with PA, with banks. We need to enlarge the city, take more care to urban planning, and do better with providing services.


Ms Mikhail is a lovely woman and extraordinary pleasant to talk with. We spoke a bit also about Ramallah politics and her list of independent technocrats, as well as municipal reform, which I'll type up here once I've got back from talking with some people in Marwan Barghouthi's circle, about how the Mustaqbal list members are reading the current unfolding events. See you all soon!
(16) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
Check out The Joker's BS:

Bush Talks BS on Hamas
 
Gosh, what else can the poor woman say...that Hamas is NOT alright.
 
You think maybe you could press a little more? She speaks about Hamas as if it's the Christian Coalition - that they are just social conservatives who at most want muslim girls to cover up. There is no mention that a wing of the organization is dedicated to strapping bombs on teenagers and having them blow up random women and children in busses and cafes.

This sounds like the kind of soft access journalsim "oxblog" routinely trashes when it appears in the MSM. Please at least make them speak to the terrorism.
 
I have just come back from Palestine and all of the people I talked to there expressed the same opinion about Hamas as the Ramallah mayor did. They don't seem to view them as an organization that one should worry about. I found this interview informative. Thanks for not putting words to the mayor's mounth.
 
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