Support for Hamas has skyrocketed since the Gaza War and has left many Americans wondering why. In an opinion poll recently released by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, over 60 percent of Palestinians said they would vote for Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh for president, as opposed to the 32 percent that would vote for current President Mahmoud Abbas. When the same poll was conducted in June, the numbers were much different, with only 41 percent of Palestinians supporting Haniyeh over Abbas.
So why are Palestinians increasing their support of Hamas during the Gaza War? Many Palestinians are critical of Abbas’ policies concerning Israel, especially concerning Israel’s continuing annexation of land. In fact, 72 percent of Palestinians said they would support a Hamas style of armed resistance of the West Bank occupation. The polls taken among Israelis mimic the sentiments of the Palestinians; a majority of Israelis would prefer an aggressive policy concerning Gaza and disagreed with the ceasefire agreement.
Many people, especially Americans it seems, are unable to fathom why Palestinians would throw their support behind a group such as Hamas. In American media, especially due to the 24 hour news channels, we are being broadcast vast amounts of information that hasn’t properly been displayed or fact checked. (Not to mention the fact that we don’t have the necessary background to analyze most information we are given) Most Americans today believe Hamas uses children as human shields and that they hide weaponry in schools and hospitals. Human Rights Watch, as well as just about every other agency that has investigated these claims, has proven them to be false. (In the two recorded instances that weaponry was stored in UNRWA facilities, they were non operational schools and the actions were immediately condemned by the UNRWA) This is not meant to say that Hamas is not responsible for the many human rights abuses in both Gaza and the West Bank, but these specific claims are false.
Many people are unaware that Hamas is a political party, that is separate from its military wing the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Since 2005 Hamas has been democratically winning elections in the occupied territories, especially due to their stance on Israel and their social policies. Many Palestinians have lost faith in diplomatic means of ending the conflict that Fateh encourages, such as the Oslo Accords, and have realigned themselves with Hamas. Also the power of social programs is not to be overlooked; Hamas is responsible with providing basic needs in their communities, such as schools, hospitals, food banks, and mosques.
So the bottom line is this: Palestinians feel they are gaining more benefits under Hamas’ leadership than they would under Fateh, regardless of the many abuses of power that Hamas has committed.