Dealing with Hamas through humor

Palestinians crack jokes to express concern about Hamas's new regime.

Hamas supporters298.88 (photo credit: Rafael D. Frankel)
Hamas supporters298.88
(photo credit: Rafael D. Frankel)
This city has been renamed Abdullah (Allah's slave). Al-Bireh (Arabic for Beer) has been renamed Zamzam (after the blessed Muslim Zamzam water). These are only some of the most recent jokes that have flooded the Palestinian street since Hamas scored a landslide victory in last week's parliamentary election. Reflecting the Palestinians' long-standing tradition of relating to serious matters with a sense of humor, especially during times of stress, the jokes are being spread through SMS messages to cell phones and on the Internet.
While world leaders are continuing to express deep concern over the victory of Hamas, many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are competing among themselves to see who can come up with the best joke on the new regime that will run their day-to-day affairs. In the cafes of many Palestinian cities, young and old men have been gathering over the weekend to hear the latest jokes about the political earthquake that hit the West Bank and Gaza Strip last week. Most of the jokes reflect the Palestinians' fears about the establishment of a Taliban-style regime. A Palestinian policeman stops a car for a routine check in downtown Ramallah, goes one of the most popular jokes. Do you have insurance, he asks the driver. No, replies the driver. Do you have wudu [ablution - the Muslim act of washing parts of the body before prayers]? continues the policeman. Yes, yes, comes the answer. Okay, then you won't get a ticket, the policeman assures him before allowing him to drive on. Another joke goes like this: What is the new penalty for illegal parking in Ramallah? Two rakahs [units] of the Muslim prayer. And for passing a red light? Four rakahs. A joke that has been circulating among many taxi drivers in the city: The new Hamas transportation minister has issued instructions that all orange-colored taxis must be painted green (Hamas's colors). Palestinians have also been cracking jokes about the possibility of having to adapt to a new life under strict Islamic laws. What is the penalty for watching Rotana TV's music video clips? Twenty lashes. For holding a video clip of [Lebanese sex-symbol and singer] Nancy Ajram? Eighty lashes. For having a satellite dish? Stoning to death. Other SMS jokes that have jammed cellular phones in the form of breaking news: Fatah fires rockets at Israel; Hamas condemns. Hamas appoints [wanted bomb-maker] Muhammad Deif as Interior Minister. On a more serious note, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said his movement had no plans to impose the hijab on Muslim women, requiring them to cover their hair with headscarves and in general to dress modestly. "Social changes won't happen by coercion," he said. "Our top priority now is to confront the Israeli occupation and to liberate our lands. Afterwards, our people will decide on the shape of the state and the nature of the regime."