Hamas has hired a “spin doctor” to help spruce up their image in light of their expected gains in next week’s Palestinian parliamentary elections. A Ramallah media consultant, Nashat Aqtash, has been given $180,000 to apprise them of the obvious:
Mr Aqtash, who says he is not a member of Hamas and does not know where it got the money to pay him but frequently refers to the group as “we”, says he has told the leadership it has to change its rhetoric. He says Hamas has not helped itself by celebrating suicide bombings; he advises against celebration. And he has told Hamas leaders not to talk about destroying Israel.
“Abdel Aziz Rantisi [the former Hamas leader killed by Israel two years ago] was on television saying things that foreigners cannot accept, like we will remove Israel from the map. He should have talked about Palestinian suffering. He should have said we need this occupation ended. Foreigners will accept this,” he said.
Mr Aqtash has also advised Hamas leaders to emphasise that they are not anti-semitic or against Israelis because they are Jews. Hamas has taken the message on board. In an interview earlier this week, Muhammad Abu Tir, who is second on the Hamas election list, twice (and unprompted) offered an assurance that he is not a Jew hater.
“Loving others is part of our religion. We are not against Jews as Jews, we are against oppression,” he said.
In related news, a majority of Israelis now support turning over Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority.