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Gaza dispatch: Why the people support Hamas

More than seven years of Israeli siege, a punishment for voting Hamas into power, have led Palestinians to rally around the party. After all, every time they look to Mahmoud Abbas for salvation, they are sorely disappointed.

By Abeer Ayyoub

GAZA CITY – With Operation Protective Edge becoming longer and more violent, questions over the attitude of the 1.8 million residents of Gaza toward Hamas are coming to the fore. Although both the international and Israeli media are concerned about Gazans, they are noticeably more critical of Hamas than they are of Israel. That concern is understood, but needs to be made clearer.

What ought to be clear for everyone following the events from a distance is that Palestinians have enough awareness to differentiate between Hamas as a government and Hamas as a resistance faction. It is true that Gazans have multiple attitudes toward the Hamas government. However, resistance is something Palestinians agree on almost unanimously. More importantly, people know that resistance is not only coming from Hamas.

A Hamas supporter in Gaza City, March 23, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A Hamas supporter in Gaza City, March 23, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

One of the main accusations leveled at Hamas, especially from Israeli journalists and analysts, is that it uses building materials for constructing tunnels, rather than letting people use them for housing or supporting our civilian infrastructure. It is true that Gaza is an impoverished enclave that requires huge efforts and funds to develop. However, that does not lessen the importance of security. Like any other country in the world, Gaza has the right to self defense. It is well-known that Israel spends a lot of money on enhancing its military infrastructure, while neglecting poor neighborhoods and slums across the country. America, which has the most powerful military in the world, has more than 600,000 homeless people.

Another accusation, and one no less important, is that Hamas uses its citizens as human shields. But can Hamas really do so when the Israeli army intentionally targets civilian compounds? If the fact that civilians are near a military location doesn’t stop Israel from firing rockets towards them, what is the point of Hamas “hiding behind civilians?” Besides, Gaza is a very densely populated area, meaning that any military action will always take place close to civilians.

Hamas is also accused of firing rockets at Israeli civilians. This is a valid accusation and no one can deny it. But if one compares the number of causalities among Israelis, almost all of whom were soldiers, it becomes clear that civilians are not Hamas’ main targets.

Furthermore, Hamas is being blamed for its rejecting most of the ceasefire initiatives during the ongoing conflict. Palestinians see it differently; they are fed up with the stringent blockade being imposed on them for the past seven years. Borders are often closed to both individuals trying to exit the Strip, as well as goods entering entering it. People say they have been slowly dying this entire time; now, after more than 2,000 been killed, they refuse to accept their slow death. This is the reason that Hamas is rejecting any truce that doesn’t, at the very least, lift the blockade.

One more important factor that leads the majority of the population to support the resistance is the huge disappointment Palestinians constantly feel from the President Mahmoud Abbas. Whenever they have any sort of expectations from their president, they are always sorely let down by his collaboration with Israel’s occupation. In Gaza, Hamas and the rest of the armed factions are still defending the population with their lives, so it is no wonder that the popularity of Hamas increases as that of Abbas decreases.

In these sensitive times of war, Gazans know that they better support the home front and confront Israel, rather than become split over their leadership and lose the battle. Moreover, the large number of people being killed creates unity among the public, which has led Palestinians that to hold the same set of demands.

A mourner carries the body of a child among 24 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip.

A mourner carries the body of a child among 24 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip.

More than seven years of being under Israeli siege, a punishment for voting for Hamas, have led people to rally around the party. Hamas was boycotted widely by international community, as well as many regimes in the Arab world. However, Palestinians now understand that Hamas, despite the disadvantages, managed to survive the battle.

Today, Palestinians will not accept anything less than the lifting of the siege and the building of an international port. Gazans are still convinced that having a port is not a fantasy, especially, with the humiliation they must encounter while travelling through the Egyptian border.

Abeer Ayyoub studied English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza. She is a journalist who covered the last war on Gaza and has recently covered various internal issues. She has written pieces online in English for Al Jazeera, Haaretz and other publications.

‘Ending the siege is not a Hamas demand – it is a Palestinian one’
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Photos of the week: Gazans search for normalcy among the ruins

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    1. Pedro X


      Reply to Comment
    2. Pedro X

      Gazan who studied English Lit in Gaza writes a defense of Hamas.

      In her defense, Abeer posits that Hamas’ war crimes are justified by almost unanimous Palestinian support for resistance, by which she must mean armed resistance. She defends the use of rocketing Israeli cities by saying they were not Hamas’ main target and few deaths resulted. However over 3000 rockets were fired at Israeli population centers trying to cause massive losses. Because Hamas did not succeed does not mean it was not the main intent. Hamas spent billions of dollars on its strategy and it failed. Hamas tried firing massive rocket barrages in an attempt to overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome and cause massive deaths and injuries. Further they continued firing rockets at Israeli civilians to spread terror, disrupt Israeli civilians going about their normal activities and hurt Israel’s economy.

      Abeer also defends Hamas fighting from civilian areas and asks what Hamas gains from hiding behind civilians. We have seen examples of Hamas firing from schools and hospitals using civilians as human shields. We know that Hamas uses schools and hospitals for weapon depots and command centers. Hamas has built missile launchers deep in the heart of civilian areas and have built tunnels under homes, mosques, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure for the purpose of hiding, making it more difficult for Israel to hit Hamas and its infrastructure and for better carrying out guerrilla attacks against Israelis.

      Israel captured Hamas’ instruction book which advises Hamas fighters to fight from civilian areas because Israel holds back it fire. So Hamas’ decision to use civilians is a calculated position.

      Abeer also attempts to absolve Hamas from responsibility for using human shields on the basis that Gaza is densely populated so that military action will take place near civilians. Of course this is incorrect. The CIA factbook on Gaza shows that 18.35% of land in Gaza is used for temporary crops or permanent crops. In addition over 8% of land in Gaza is scrub or dessert. Hamas could have located all of it assets in agricultural areas away from the major population centers and not risked substantial civilian casualties. Only 5% of Gaza’s population is engaged in farming and they could have been relocated during the fighting.

      Hamas chose urban areas for offensive and defensive purposes for its armed forces and military assets because they believe their army is no match for Israel’s. Therefore, they fight from civilian areas and use human shields.

      One should also note that Hamas has no right to exercise the use of force until Palestinian or international law. Under Palestinian law, only the PA has the right to use force or have an army. Under international law terrorists, which Hamas are, have no right to use force.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Richard

      “But if one compares the number of causalities among Israelis, almost all of whom were soldiers, it becomes clear that civilians are not Hamas’ main targets.”

      Done reading right here. Hamas brags openly about its power to paralyze civilian life in Israel and threaten Ben-Gurion airport. This piece is a complete joke.

      Reply to Comment
      • bar

        It’s not a complete joke. It wasn’t written for you or the knowledgeable reader. It is intended to “educate” the uninformed.

        Reply to Comment
      • Esther

        “Done reading right there.” You and most of us. There is no possibility for peace that way. Do not expect 100% accuracy out of an “enemy.” Just listen and understand. When you make it clear that you understood all they had to day, then they want to hear your side. Eventually things resolve if you don’t demand this ridiculous 100% correct standard.
        Could YOU meet it?

        Reply to Comment
    4. Whiplash

      Why do the people support Hamas?

      The foundation of Palestinian nationalism is the hatred of desired destruction of Israel and the elimination of all Israeli institutions and its people so a Jewish state could never arise again.

      A recent ADL poll found 93% of Palestinians are anti-Semitic. Hamas is anti-Semitic and seeks to destroy Israel and kill all Jews. So there is a natural affinity between Palestinians and Hamas. Some readers here might remember one blog by 972mag writer who said he was thrilled when he heard that three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped. Other Palestinians set up tents and handed out sweets in jubilation of the kidnapping.

      During the second intifada Palestinians supported suicide bombers and the killing of civilians. They approved of the killing of Yeshiva students in 2008. They praise killers like the killers of the Fogel family and the killers involved in the Sabbro Pizza massacre.

      Why should anyone be surprised that the Palestinians support Hamas in their terrorism against Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • Mikesailor

        Whip: Are your meds working or did you go off them on purpose? Gee, 90% of Palestinians hate Jews. Of course, 90% of Israeli Jews hace been willing to slaughter and steal from these same Palestinians since before the founding of the so-called “Jewish” state. So, why shouldn’t they hate you? They would, I’m sure, be perfectly apathetic about you if you didn’t screw with them first. I know I am. And. by the way, quoting polls from the ADL on “antisemitism” is truly as stupid as the polls Marboro used to do to promote cigarrets. Why quote a poll from an organization which must find “antisemites’ behind every tree lest they lose funding? Even many Jewish organizations have found the ADL poll ridiculous. I wonder what the Jews did to the Icelanders to maske them less than enamoutred with Jews?

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          No need to look behind trees for antiSemitism when people like you Mikesailor open your stupid traps to reveal yourselves for what you are.

          You are not even pretending nowdays because you think that antiSemitism is once again fashionable and not something shameful as it became for a short period following the atrocities that people like you committed against us in WW2.

          Your Muslim Arab brothers have made it fashionable again. But be careful with such allies, they might turn on you too in good time. Oops, what am I saying? They already have. ISIS is on it’s way. Then again, someone like you Mikey, is probably not worried about it because you are already a good little Muslim boy.

          Reply to Comment
    5. Rob Wolfe

      “Palestinians will not accept anything less than the lifting of the siege.” Sorry boys: the siege is there for a reason: so Hamas will not accumulate more weapons than they already have. The Hamas Charter calls for a worldwide war against the Jews, even quotes that pathetic anti-Semitic hoax “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” as proof of how evil Jews are. The last major movement to quote that publicly was the Nazis. And Israel is supposed to “just trust” Hamas? Wake up. You might take a lesson from Martin Luther King who said: “How do you go about loving your enemies? I think the first thing is this: In order to love your enemies, you must begin by analyzing self.” http://stanford.io/1bTXnI2

      Reply to Comment
    6. AskingQuestions

      “resistance is something Palestinians agree on almost unanimously.”

      I don’t understand why Palestinians believe that violent “resistance” as carried out by Hamas is helpful to their cause. Military confrontation with Israel has resulted in disaster after disaster for Palestinians. I often hear Palestinians say that peace negotiations with Israel have not gotten them anything, yet peace has hardly been tried. Since the peace treaty signed by Israel and the PLO, Hamas has launched bombing campaigns against civilians in the 1990s and then the early 2000s, and have been firing rockets from Gaza off and on since 2004. Maybe if Palestinians change their resistance to a nonviolent one for a decade they can then compare how useful that is compared to using rockets to convince Israel to end the blockade of Gaza.

      Israel also may find that restraint in answering rocket attacks does more to harm Hamas than creating martyrs in Gaza.

      Reply to Comment
    7. richard witty

      It is a truth that once rockets crossed borders, a state of war was initiated.

      I hope you come to consider that as a component of hamas’s governance, rather than their leading resistance.

      Similarly for the system of human shielding (building tunnel subway systems with apartments as sole entrances for example)

      Reply to Comment