Hamas & Palestine

Too many comments from Israeli political, military, and religious leaders have suggested that all Palestinians are legitimate targets because they support Hamas or that they voted for them and are, therefore, guilty of that group’s many crimes. Here are a few examples:
The President of Israel said that an entire nation out there is responsible and the rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved is false. An Israeli Knesset member said that the children of Gaza have brought it upon themselves. The Minister of Defence described the current war by saying that they are fighting human animals.
Statements of this kind, in which an entire group of people is demonised or seen as responsible for the actions of a few, are sheer bigotry. The very same racism when applied to other groups (like Jews, Blacks, or Native Americans) has led to pogroms, persecution, or genocide.
First, it’s important to note, as I do in Palestinians, the Invisible Victims: Political Zionism and Palestinian Human Rights, Political Zionism has long promoted this view of the indigenous people of Palestine as less civilised, more violent, and less worthy than the settler movement that sought to displace them.
Theodor Herzl termed his project as an outpost of civilisation against barbarism. Chaim Weizmann echoed it when appealing for support from the West by describing the Zionist/Arab struggle as one between destructive forces of the desert and civilizational forces of buildings. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used similar dehumanising rhetoric just last week, describing the ongoing conflict as between 21st century progress and barbarism of Middle Ages and as a struggle between children of darkness and light. Over the years, Israeli political and religious leaders have also drawn parallels between Palestinians and various animals like snakes and cockroaches.
But what about the claim that all Palestinians support Hamas?
Our frequent polling across Palestine and Israel provides data that easily debunks that characterisation. In our last poll in Gaza (July, 2023), only 11% identified themselves as Hamas supporters, as opposed to 32% who identified with Fatah. Eleven percent hardly constitutes “all Palestinians.”
As for the claim that Palestinians voted for Hamas and are therefore culpable for their behaviour, the same dangerous generalisation would hold all Americans responsible for the actions of the US government, or all Israelis, or Jews, responsible for the atrocities committed by the Israeli government. But more to the point, most Palestinians didn’t vote for Hamas, and those who did, didn’t vote for them for the reasons being suggested.
In our 2006 poll, the Fatah margin over Hamas in Gaza was 34% to 29%. How and why, then, did Hamas win the 2006 legislative elections? The slim Hamas margin of victory in that year’s election was 44% to 41%. Hamas took control of the legislature because of the way seats were apportioned and because of internal divisions within Fatah. And while pundits say Hamas won because of the PA’s corruption, polling tells a different story.
The outcome of the 2006 election was shaped by a classic “throw the bums out” message. Fatah and Hamas were viewed equally as corrupt, but corruption wasn’t the main issue in that election. Palestinians had lost hope in peace and the achievement of an independent state, and identified their most important concerns as the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners and the need for internal security. Interestingly, when asked if the prospects for negotiating peace with Israel were dependent on the outcome of the election, a strong majority (including 70% of Hamas voters) said they would choose Fatah. But peace wasn’t in the offing and they knew it. So instead, voters said to the incumbent Fatah that it had been in office for 10 years and could not get anything from Israel so let us see what the other guys can do.
To go from this to justifying killing innocent Palestinian civilians because of a supposed all Palestinians are Hamas and therefore responsible for their actions is both racist and unsupported by facts. By the way, it is the same despicable logic used by those who justify killing innocent Israelis because of the hideous actions of their government and military.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt