Hamas’s war against Israel is not only losing militarily, but losing popular support for the Islamist group in Gaza as well, according to a study released last week.
A Washington Institute study published during the first week of the operation polled 450 Gazans between June 15-17 – before Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, but after Hamas began firing more rockets on Israel.
The study, which claims to be “the only credible Palestinian poll” since Israeli teens Naftali Frenkel (16), Gilad Sha’ar (16), and Eyal Yifrah (19), hy”d, were abducted and murdered last month, reveals that 70% of Gazans believe that Hamas “should maintain a ceasefire with Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank [Judea-Samaria – ed.].”
In addition, 57% of respondents supported “unity government” chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas’s position that the new government should “renounce violence against Israel.”
Gazans are also unhappy with Hamas’s handle on security – or lack thereof. Seventy-one (71%) of Gazans considered crime in Gaza to be “a significant problem”; 66.6% consider Hamas to be guilty of corruption; and 78% criticize the use of terror groups, and not a “formal security structure,” to enforce law and order.
Hamas was elected to power in 2007, after Israel withdrew from Gaza during the 2005 Disengagement.
But most Gazans believed – even before the military operation – that the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Fatah should be given power in Gaza, with 88% of respondents agreeing to the statement “the PA should send officials and security officers to Gaza to take over administration there.” Of those, 67% who agreed “strongly agreed” to that sentiment. By contrast, the combined support for both Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh topped barely 15%.
‘Most Gazans hate Hamas with a passion’
Since the launch of Operation Protective Edge, experts – and civilians – say that feeling has intensified.
“You need to understand that Palestinian blood has been shed by Hamas itself,” a 28-year old journalist, an editor at a Gaza media outlet who asked to be kept anonymous, told Fox News on Saturday. “Living under Hamas is a tragedy.”
“Nobody can forgive Hamas for what they’re doing,” the journalist continued. “No one can forgive Hamas for butchering Palestinians to get power. Most Gazans hate Hamas with a passion.”
“The only reason Hamas rules Gaza is because of its ruthless iron fist and military dictatorship,” he added. “We would love to have an independence from both Fatah and Hamas, who are profiting off the Palestinian people. We need to rule ourselves.”
Hamas has openly boasted about the “success” of its strategy of using civilians as human shields during Operation Protective Edge, which is now ending its tenth day, and the IDF has published extensive evidence of the practice.
Hamas has in the past urged Gazans to ignore warnings from the IDF about upcoming strikes, in remarks caught both on Hamas-sponsored television and on the radar of international media outlets.
But most civilians are reluctant to accept this, the study’s conductors insist.
“The study is quite telling,” the Institute’s David Pollack, who conducted the survey, told Fox. “The Gazans want jobs and practical things. They don’t want war and don’t support Hamas ideology.”
“And with so many Palestinians actually saying they want peace and support an immediate cease fire, it means Hamas is imposing this war against Israel on its own people,” Pollack added.
The study, as well as the Fox report, may be skewed somewhat by the small sample size, as well as the inherently anti-Hamas nature of the interviewees.
One of the politicians interviewed includes Jordanian-Palestinian Mudhar Zahran, for example, who has been a staunch advocate of a Palestinian state in Jordan and has written against such pro-Hamas fronts as the UNRWA, the United Nations organization which recently returned two rocket arsenals to Hamas.
While Zahran’s work has been hailed as an objective look at Palestinian Arab views and leadership in a sea of subjectivism, it is still unclear whether his views are shared by most Palestinian Arab politicians.
However, reported unrest over wage disputes in Gaza during the same period prompted analysts in Israeli media, as well, to note that most Gazans are unhappy with the current state of affairs in the Hamas-run territory – although it is yet unclear to what extent.
Sarah Leah Lawent contributed to this report.