An Israeli assault on Gaza has fortified the previously dwindling Palestinian support for Hamas … again.
Mohammed Omer, last updated: December 08, 2012
Inter Press Service
The Islamist party Hamas had been losing support as a result of economic difficulties and factional fighting. Today Hamas is popular again, heralded for its retaliation in Israel’s latest military assault on the Gaza Strip.
Forty-year-old Ahmed Al Biltaji says his sympathy with Hamas after its election in 2006 had waned of late. Now he says he is ready to “gift” any of his five sons to join the resistance against Israel.
Umm Ala’a was more worried about high prices, scarcities and heavy taxation than pleased by Hamas’s strict interpretation of Islam. Her sons were loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement in the West Bank and not to Hamas in Gaza where she lives.
She had vowed she would “never change her mind.” She has, about Hamas and about Fatah.
When a crude homemade rocket launched from Gaza Strip landed near the home she and her family were forced to flee at gunpoint in Jerusalem in 1948, for the first time in decades she says she didn’t feel helpless. Hamas had fought back.
Al Biltaji says the more Israel hits Hamas, the more popular the Hamas government becomes. “Air strikes by Israel will unite Palestinians until differences are replaced by unity between Fatah and Hamas.”
More than 1,000 rockets were fired from Gaza through the eight-day Israeli assault. Most were destroyed mid-air, or landed in open fields. Eight Israelis died in these attacks. In Gaza 178 Palestinian people were killed, and 1,399 injured.
The Israeli population suffered a measure of what Gazans live with all the time. But in Gaza there are no warning sirens. There are no shelters and there is no escape. Gaza doesn’t have an army, a navy or air force. It doesn’t have a missile defence system that could blow up targeted missiles before they crash into a family’s home. And Gaza doesn’t have anti-aircraft guns to prevent F-16s and helicopters from firing on its people.
Gaza has small arms, slingshots, rocks and homemade rockets. It has now developed a capacity to deliver these rockets into Israel’s major cities, even if they are homemade and without live charges in the shells.
People now see that there is a cost to Israel for attacking Gaza. The effect this has had on the people of Gaza cannot be underestimated.
A Khan Younis bus driver who disliked Hamas for “increasing taxes on my bus, spare parts, oil and gas” says he is happy if taxes help the resistance. “If they take away my buses I won’t complain. If they ask me for my sons, I am not going to decline.”
Many former Fatah members, once bitter rivals to Hamas, are now rallying for all Palestinians to stand united against the occupation. “What concerns me is that we were acting as collaborators with Israelis. This indirectly marketed a culture of defeat among our people,” a former colonel with the Palestinian Authority tells IPS. “One wishes to be part of the glory that this resistance has achieved,” he says. “Not only by Hamas, but also other political factions.”
Al Biltaji believes Hamas learnt from its mistakes through Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, and developed different strategies. During Operation Cast Lead several Hamas uniformed members were killed. During Israel’s recent missile attacks on Gaza, many Gazans noticed there were few casualties in uniforms. “The time for us feeling like scapegoats is over. It’s time is for victory and liberation,” Al Biltaji says.
Hatem Selmi, a 27-year-old cameraman believes Hamas has sharpened its image during this last ‘victory’. Selmi carries painful memories of Hamas after his father and brother were arrested and punished for loyalty to Fatah. “That hurt me deeply, and I carried a grudge.” Now, he says, “Hamas has a better image in my mind for being able to hit back at Israel and protect Palestinians.”
Hamas political leader Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahar has told journalists his movement would go on smuggling in resistance weapons by all means possible.
“This is perhaps the beginning of the end of Israel’s occupation,” says Khafaja, another new Hamas supporter.
Mohammed Omer is a contributor to Inter Press Service.
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Otto Reich is a former U.S. diplomat who is best known for his participation in a domestic propaganda operation during the Iran-Contra affair. Since leaving government in 2004, Reich has continued to promote rightwing U.S. policies in Latin American while working as a beltway lobbyist representing Latin American governments and business interests. The Guatemalan government recently awarded a contract to Reich’s firm to “improve the perception, reputation, and the understanding of the reality of Guatemala.” Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina appears to have been motivated to hire a lobbyist to counter criticism that was spurred after the arrival in the U.S. of tens of thousands of undocumented migrant children from Central America. Molina attempted to deflect the criticism by blaming the drug war and U.S. Cold War-era policies. “Given Pérez Molina's sharp criticism of the United States' history in the region,” commented one writer, “his choice—former Reagan official and noted Cold War propagandist Otto Reich—was a shocker.”
Unlike his more ideological peers, former CNN political analyst Bill Schneider seldom engages in straightforward issue advocacy, preferring instead to discuss policy issues in terms of their implications for electoral politics or Beltway political discourse. However, Schneider—a former fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution—occasionally betrays interventionist leanings on foreign policy, declaring in a recent op-ed that “if the U.S. doesn't do anything, nothing happens. … As in Kuwait, Kosovo and Libya, if the U.S. doesn't do something [in Syria], nothing will happen. The murderous bloodletting will go on.”
The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a leading neoconservative think tank, claims to have a solution to the ongoing fallout from the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq: send more troops, bomb more targets, and get involved in Syria as well. Along with peddling an aggressive expansion of NATO along Russia’s borders and expounding on the virtues of nuclear weapons, FPI’s recent publications have urged the U.S. to send troops to Iraq and potentially Syria, launch an aggressive campaign of airstrikes against ISIS, and funnel arms to the Iraqi army (which previously handed over its weapons to ISIS), Sunni rebels in Syria (who could do the same), and Kurdish fighters in Iraq.
Retired Gen. Jack Keane is a frequent guest on Fox News and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, where he is a reliable advocate for hawkish, aggressive U.S. foreign policies. Keane has been a vocal supporter of U.S. strikes in both Iraq and Syria on ISIS. However, left unmentioned in Keane's media appearances are his extensive ties to military contractors that might benefit from a protracted conflict in the Middle East—including Academi, the latest incarnation of the notorious Blackwater, which in 2012 hired Keane as a “strategic adviser.”
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