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.
Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations and a former official in the Obama State Department who has been called Washington’s “go-to” Iran analyst. He has for years taken a stridently alarmist tone with respect to Iran’s nuclear program and has been critical of the Obama administrations nuclear negotiations with Iran. In July 2014, Takeyh co-authored a report by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs that called for increasing “pressure” on Iran during the on-going negotiations.
Michele Flournoy is a former undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration and head of the “liberal hawk” Center for a New American Security. Recently named to the president’s Intelligence Advisory Board, Flournoy has warned against a preemptive U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran, although she once told the rightwing Jerusalem Post that “Israel can rely on Obama to stop a nuclear Iran. … [T]he policy is not containment and I think he is serious about that.” Flournoy has also called for increases in defense spending, writing in an op-ed with former Bush Pentagon official Eric Edelman that "the U.S. military must be able to deter or stop aggression in multiple theaters, not just one, even when engaged in a large-scale war.”
Ashton Carter, former deputy secretary of defense in the Barack Obama administration, is a longtime academic and Pentagon bureaucrat who has advocated using military force as part of controversial nuclear counter-proliferation programs. During his time as deputy defense secretary, Carter strongly criticized cuts in the defense budget. One observer responded to Carter’s criticisms arguing that the cuts “resulted in part from the inefficient and unsound choices the Pentagon has made over the past decade, much of it occurring on Carter’s own watch.” Carter was recently appointed senior executive at the Markle Foundation, an organization that “works to realize the potential of information technology to address previously intractable public problems, for the health and security of all Americans.”
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, is now arguably better known as a member of the NCAA’s College Football Playoff selection committee. As an official in the George W. Bush administration, Rice was closely associated with the government’s warrantless wiretapping and interrogation programs, during which detainees were tortured. In 2014, it was revealed that she helped kill a 2003 New York Times story about a failed CIA attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The journalist behind the story, James Risen, eventually put the story in a book and endured several years of court battles with the U.S. government over the identity of his sources, which he eventually lost.
A professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Eliot Cohen has been described as "the most influential neocon in academe." Cohen has been a vociferous critic of the Obama administration, accusing it of being insufficiently committed to using military force abroad and "promiscuous" in its diplomacy with traditional U.S. adversaries. Cohen, who had multiple roles in the Bush administration, recently was given a position at the “liberal hawk” think tank Center for a New American Security, which is widely viewed as having played an important role shaping many of the Obama administration’s military policies.
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