Foreign donations to Islamic aid groups buoy Hamas during a devastating Western boycott.
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK
It's been more than six months since the coffers of the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority (PA) ran dry because of a freeze in international aid. Unable to pay for supplies, government ministries have ceased to function, and without salaries, civil servants have gone on strike.
But even though the Western boycott has rendered the Hamas government impotent, it hasn't stopped foreign money from reaching the militant group's network of social welfare affiliates such as schools, hospitals, and alms societies, say officials and analysts.
Now, amid a growing economic crisis that has dented Hamas's domestic standing, those charities are becoming even more critical – filling the vacuum of government services and preserving a core of support for political Islam. Islamist charities boast that they continue to get money from Muslim groups in the Persian Gulf, Europe, and the US.
"All charitable organizations affiliated with Hamas are still functioning," says Sheikh Yazeeb Khader, an editor of Hamas's West Bank newspaper who explained that Gaza institutions have benefited from money "brought across the border and not checked."
Basem Ezbidi, a political science professor at Bir Zeit University, says, "Hamas wasn't able to get enough money to run the government, but they have been able to get enough money to spend on themselves. These organizations are living in a golden age, where they are badly needed. There is no other way to take care of those people."
For years, while its military wing dispatched suicide bombers to Israeli cities, Hamas built a network of Islamic social welfare groups.