On his recent visit to Israel, President Joe Biden insisted that most Palestinians oppose Hamas’s barbaric efforts against the Jewish state. At the same time, back in Washington, D.C., a mob of 300 broke into the Capitol. While the intruders resembled people you might see frequenting your local organic food co-op, they grabbed headlines because they described themselves as Jews protesting Israel’s war in Gaza, wearing shirts proclaiming, “Not In Our Name.”
Yet there has been no “Not In Our Name” protest in Gaza against Hamas’s war on Israel. Openly defying Hamas, of course, would be dangerous. Still, when a military mutilates and tortures to death 1,500 civilians and livestreams such brutality, one would expect some small number of honorable and brave souls to protest. Hungarians, Czechs, and Poles living under Soviet oppression rose up by the tens of thousands against their tyrannical governments and their collaboration with the Evil Empire. Though brutally suppressed, they vindicated their national honor and created a narrative for subsequent democratic governments. Where is the Palestinian Sophie Scholl? Where is the Gazan Solidarity movement?
If domestic persecution were the reason Gazans were not protesting the unspeakable atrocities, then surely Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, in whose name Hamas claims to act, would take to the streets, or at least to the tweets, to demonstrate their opposition. For many, the intentional killing of civilians would break natural ties of allegiance and sentiment. Not so for the Palestinians under Fatah (which governs the West Bank), whose reactions have ranged from celebratory to silent. Though Fatah is touted as a moderate potential replacement for Hamas, perhaps its subjects also do not feel safe protesting. What, then, about the vast Palestinian diaspora, with its major centers in free countries like Chile and the United States? Indeed, the massive, reflexive protests one would expect from an ordinary society seem completely missing throughout the Palestinian world. More Israelis protested the massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatilla in 1982, where several hundred were killed by Lebanese Christian militias, than Palestinians have protested the unimaginable slaughter by Hamas.
The sad fact is that Hamas, or at least its policy toward Jews, is quite popular. Recent polling performed in July 2023 by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy reveals that “57% of Gazans express at least a somewhat positive opinion of Hamas—along with similar percentages of Palestinians in the West Bank (52%) and East Jerusalem (64%).” Though measured a few months before the October attacks, this support does not reflect a “bait and switch” mechanism, whereby Gazans wanted the trains to run on time but could claim ignorance of Hamas’s genocidal policies. The Hamas Charter calls for the extermination of Israel, and the organization has long been indiscriminately lobbing rockets across the border and redirecting foreign aid toward terrorism. Buttressing the notion that violence against Jews is popular is the fact that other terror organizations in Gaza, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Lion’s Den, enjoy even more widespread support, with three quarters of Gaza expressing support for both groups.
Gazans’ support for Hamas has proved remarkably stable. In a 2014 poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, nearly nine in ten Palestinians expressed support for terror attacks against Israel. True to form, Hamas’s popularity in Gaza only surged in June 2021, just one month after the group began launching rockets into Israel, prompting the 2021 Gaza War. A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 53 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza at the time believed Hamas to be “most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people.” Indeed, polling from March 2023 reveals that if elections were held in Gaza between Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Fatah, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas head would win 61 percent of the vote to Abbas’s 35 percent. The overwhelming majority of Palestinian civilians are not “moderate,” by even the loosest standards of the term.
This comports with the gruesome “trophy” videos Hamas released during and after its recent attacks. In one video, the lifeless and naked body of a young woman gets dragged through the streets of the Gaza Strip on the back of a pickup truck, in broad daylight, to the raucous cheers of hundreds or thousands of surrounding civilians. The terrorists and crowd together scream “Allahu Akbar!” At least one civilian climbs over the edge of the truck bed to spit on her. Among this densely packed throng, not one little old lady could be found to reproach them.
Indeed, ordinary Gazans happily joined in depredations once Hamas breached the fence. Recent reporting from the Spectator, as well as videos taken by the attackers, suggests that “privateers and opportunists . . . upon hearing that the border was suddenly open, grabbed guns and rushed in.” Reports have also emerged that some of the terror victims knew their attackers because the attackers had been granted work permits by Israel’s work-visa program for Gaza residents. Of course, the people who did this do not reflect all Gazans. But it is telling that, in an area that happens to be near the fence, a significant number of “ordinary people” were willing to facilitate such atrocities.
Hamas’s main political rival, Fatah, is not much better. Imagine if one’s political opponents launched a massive campaign of dismembering children in front of their parents. It would not take a talented politician to pounce on such an unforced error. Instead, Fatah issued a statement on October 7, the day of the attacks began, stating that the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves against “Israeli crimes and violations in Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the Palestinian Territories.” According to the Palestinian official agency WAFA, Abbas reiterated his support for Hamas during an emergency meeting in Ramallah, instructing the Palestinian Authority to supply everything needed “to strengthen the steadfastness of the Palestinians in the face of crimes committed by the Israeli occupation and settler gangs.”
Fearing a loss of American aid, Abbas has since tempered his support for Hamas in a recent call with President Biden and demanded the release of Israeli hostages—which he then also partially walked back. Yet a few days later, one of his government ministries cited the same infamous Hadith of the Koran quoted prominently in Hamas’s genocidal charter and often cited by Islamists when calling for the massacre of Jews. Most strikingly, Abbas has not used the massacre to render criticism of Hamas. He clearly concludes no political advantage can be gained by being to the left of Hamas on Jew-killing. Corrupt as he is, Abbas likely knows his audience better than Biden does.
Nor can criticism of Hamas be found in “pro-Palestinian” rallies. The overwhelming message of these rallies is that the massacre of Jews exemplifies Palestinian “liberation.” A recent pro-Hamas rally in London featured well over 100,000 people, mostly Arab; a blood-soaked effigy of a dead baby, mimicking what Hamas did to Jewish babies in Israel; and countless chants in Arabic calling for dead Jews.
These protests represent a stark contrast with the behavior of the Iranian diaspora, which has devoted much of its time to protesting the violence carried out by that nation’s Islamic regime.
Some argue that it is dangerous to blame Gazans for Hamas’s actions, because doing so would legitimize attacks on the civilian population. Yet under the laws of war, which Israel is committed to following, civilians cannot be targeted, regardless of the depravity of their views or political support for atrocities. However, notions of national responsibility should inform our analysis. A country that commits barbaric acts cannot merely pin such acts, as post–World War II Germans had hoped to do, on a small clique.
This national responsibility has no relation to the conduct of the war, but it bears strongly on its aftermath. Eliminating Hamas alone will not rectify decades of anti-Semitic indoctrination within Gaza. The civilian population cheers the rape of Jewish women rather than abhorring it. Any Palestinian government that succeeds Hamas will likely lapse into the same mentality within a decade or two. Biden and other Western leaders may wish to ignore the reality that Hamas’s vision is broadly held, because acknowledging this would mean abandoning their career-long commitment to a two-state solution. Sadly, Western leaders do not regard the Simchat Torah massacre as sufficient reason to do so. If the West hopes to install a Fatah-aligned government after the war, all evidence suggests that the next tragedy will be only a matter of time.
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