Hamas Grows in Popularity Among Palestinians

Years of terror campaigns have only made the rulers of Gaza more popular.

Even with a potential cease-fire only hours away, Hamas may be on the verge of winning an enormous public relations battle that will strengthen its hand, further weaken its rival, the Palestinian Authority, and make lasting peace an even more distant possibility.

By their ability to reach both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with rockets, along with simply surviving Israel’s sustained assault without having to give up its arsenal of rockets, Hamas may soon score a major public relations victory.

On the ground in Ramallah, the New York Times reports that the consequences of this dynamic means the Palestinian people are further falling in line behind the terrorist group.

In the daily demonstrations here of solidarity with Gaza, a mix of sympathy and anguish, there is something else: growing identification with the Islamist fighters of Hamas and derision for the Palestinian Authority, which Washington considers the only viable partner for peace with Israel.

Meanwhile, the region’s most powerful media are all playing up this angle by portraying Israel as the aggressor in a holy struggle and the people of Gaza as martyrs. A recent report from Al Jazeera on the conflict began with exactly that description.

“Two Palestinians were martyred in the Bureij Refugee Camp in the center of Gaza after it was targeted by an Israeli airstrike bringing the number of martyrs to 102,” began the English translation of a recent Al Jazeera broadcast.

In fact, the general tenor of Middle East media has been to breathlessly recount civilian damage to people in Gaza. For example, here’s part of an English translation of a broadcast from Lebanon.

The Israelis conducted over twenty raids that targeted the tunnel areas of Rafah. No injuries were reported. The brutal attack also reached residential homes in Gaza which led to the killing of four civilians including two women and a child.

(Both translations courtesy of Mosaic on Link TV.)

Gaza and the West Bank are two unconnected pieces of land that border the east and west of Israel. They two make up what is generally referred to as Palestine. Gaza is run by the terrorist group Hamas (after the Palestinian people voted them into power in 2006), while the West Bank is run by the Palestinian Authority. Because they are unconnected, the West Bank has not been the subject of any Israeli incursions during this conflict. As a result, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is operating in relative peace but is also totally helpless to do anything in Gaza.

This has made him look weak among the Palestinian people. Meanwhile, Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas, looks heroic to the residents of Gaza. His group has not only withstood days of constant bombing by the Israelis, they have even been able to shoot off rockets that hit both of Israel’s biggest cities.

This latest PR victory isn’t the first for Hamas. Hamas’ star within Palestine has been rising for years.

According to poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion of Palestinians in January 2010, fifty-three percent had confidence in Fatah’s leadership, while only fifteen percent had confidence in Hamas’ leadership. In the presidential race, 47.3 % would have voted for Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and  14.6 % for Ismael Haniyyeh of Hamas.

Meanwhile, another poll conducted by that same organization Feb. 12, 2012, had far different results. In February 2012, thirty-nine percent said they would vote for Fatah, Abbas’s associated party, while thirty percent would vote for Hamas. The presidential vote would have been as follows: 49.9%  would vote for Mahmoud Abbas while twenty-nine percent vote have voted for Khaled Meshal.

The so-called international community has only recognized the PA as a potential partner for peace with Israel. With his power waning even further, there appears little that Mahmoud Abbas can do to further peace.

He has no control over Gaza and can’t effectively force anyone there to do anything. No one in Gaza will accept any peace agreement with Israel that doesn’t include that Jewish State’s total annihilation.

The rockets may stop shortly, but there is nothing approaching lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

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