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Gaza: Blueprint for Muslim Brotherhood Rule?

These are just a few of the many incidents of harassment by the authorities in Gaza of civil society organizations, media, and political organizations.

Alongside this erosion of the public space, Hamas has been pursuing a policy of gradual Islamization in Gaza. In 2008, the Gaza authorities voted to approve an Islamic penal code. The new code includes punishments such as flogging and chopping off hands for various offenses. The Gaza Public Prosecution office has been replaced by a body based on Shari'a law.

An officially supported “public modesty” campaign has been under way since 2009. This has included the harassment of unaccompanied women, or women not dressed according to Islamic standards of modesty. The Hamas authorities also routinely fail to investigate “honor killings” of females by their relatives in Gaza, which are thought to have increased sharply since the Hamas coup.

All this is of more than local significance. The Hamas regime in Gaza may well be a harbinger of future regional developments. Hamas rule in Gaza, after all, is the only real-world example to date of the Muslim Brotherhood in government. And the Muslim Brotherhood is emerging as the main beneficiary of the eclipse of military-nationalist regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and perhaps soon in Syria. The indicators are not encouraging. Hamas achieved its oppressive Gaza fiefdom through the judicious combination of victory in elections and subsequent violent repression.

Nearly six years after its 2006 election victory, Hamas rules in Gaza by fear, the suppression of opposition, and the unilateral imposition of a draconian Islamic legal code. Rather than theorizing about whether power will moderate the Brotherhood, Western policymakers would do better to observe closely the only existing example of the organization in power which currently exists. The Hamas regime in Gaza is a portent of the likely Middle East future unless a rational policy to hold back the advance of the Muslim Brotherhood is achieved.