AS`AD AbuKHALIL: Hamas & Arab Public Opinion

The Palestinian people have been waiting for a moment to shake the earth underneath the Israeli army.

Palestinian flag in the West Bank city Ramallah, the de facto administrative capital of Palestine, 2015. (Chetanya Robinson, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News 

U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, trying to appear sensitive, claim that Hamas does not speak for the Palestinian people.  All along they have sought to portray the war on the Palestinian people as a war on Hamas. 

More than 21,000 Palestinian have been murdered and the war ostensibly is still solely  targeted against Hamas, according to U.S. and Israeli officials.

(Israel at least admits more than half the dead are not Hamas combatants, wildly exaggerating the number of Hamas fighters killed in order to camouflage genocide. Israel brags it has killed “only” over 10,000 Palestinian civilians). 

The Biden administration made its preference clear: they want the Fatah movement (after its “revitalization” or “revamping”) to rule over Gaza (on behalf of Israel). 

But the Palestinian Authority is widely hated and despised by the Palestinian people and its leaders are rightly perceived as thugs, criminals, embezzlers and collaborators with Israel. 

The Palestinian Authority can only stay in power by force of arms, just like repressive Arab regimes. It is for good reason that Fatah has refused to hold any election since Hamas won in 2006. Nor does the U.S., which used to press the Palestinians to hold elections, want to allow elections to take place because it is clear that the Fatah gang would be ousted in a vote. 

Repressive Palestinian Authority  

The Palestinian Authority’s Presidential Palace in Bethlehem, 2017. (White House, Flickr, Shealah Craighead)

The rule of the PA is now like any Arab authoritarian government and the repressive army of thugs is run by U.S. intelligence. Hamas has run Gaza far less repressively than Fatah ran the West Bank, and Hamas only went after who they found to be Israeli collaborators and spies.

The competition between Hamas and Fatah was long settled.  Hamas has been favored by the Palestinians for many years, and for many reasons. 

Hamas is not corrupt while Fatah is the personification of corruption; Hamas fights Israel, while Fatah collaborates with Israel; Hamas leaders live among the people, while Fatah leaders live in well-protected mansions; Hamas leaders live a modest life, while Fatah enjoy extravagant lifestyles.  Furthermore, Fatah is rightly blamed for the failed and miserable path of the Oslo accords, which Hamas never supported.

But Hamas is now undergoing a second rebirth.  One military operation can make a difference in the history of Palestinian national struggle for independence. 

The Karamah battle of 1968 (in which Yasser Arafat and Fatah wildly exaggerated their exploits) propelled the Fatah movement into the position of preeminent leadership within the PLO.  Hani Hassan (one of the Fatah leaders) tells how thousands of Palestinians flocked to join the movement after Karamah. 

But the Hamas operation (“The Deluge of Aqsa”) of Oct. 7, will be more significant than Karamah in Palestinian historical memory, and indeed in Arab historical memory. 

Regardless of Western condemnations and recriminations — or maybe partly because of them — Arabs and Muslims worldwide were impressed with the daring operation and the ability of Hamas fighters to take the Israeli army by surprise.

Iranians celebrate the Al Aqsa Flood attack by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023. (Ahamadreza Madah, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

The details of what happened on that night remain murky and Israel is very secretive about what transpired to suppress news of its complicity in the killing of Israelis.  The nature of the attacks on civilians are still being debated and many Arabs disbelieve Israeli narratives and blame the Israeli army for the death and destruction that ensued. 

Hamas made it clear that it did not engage in the atrocities or sexual assaults that Israel claimed happened on that day, and there is absolutely nothing in Hamas history to corroborate Israeli claims of sexual assaults.

The Palestinian people have been waiting for a moment to shake the earth underneath the Israeli army.  The Oslo process and the creation of a collaborationist regime in Ramallah (which serves as an appendage of the Israeli occupation and takes its orders from regional U.S. intelligence officials), smashed the hopes of masses. 

Those who dreamt for decades about the liberation of Palestine experienced even worse stages of the occupation, and the cruel siege of Gaza only got tighter over time. 

Palestinians in the West Bank, for the first time, had to deal with fellow Palestinians who were put in charge of them to prevent them from engaging in resistance or even criticizing the collaborators. 

A Palestinian confronts a group of charging Israeli soldiers in Bilin in the occupied West Bank in 2010. (Edo Medicks, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

There was an expectation that something would happen to break the hold of the occupation and the PA over the lives of Palestinians.  And in Gaza, the miserable life that Israel forced on the Palestinians could not last forever. 

Hamas broke out of the prison, and there was unanimous support for its action in Palestinian and Arab public opinion. (For some reason, Western media assume that Western opinions influence people around the world. They discovered in the Ukraine war that the “world” is not the West).

Moreover, Arab governments — under the leadership of Saudi Arabia and the UAE — have all but abandoned the Palestinian cause. They have concluded that normalization with Israel is a requirement to receive the most advanced weapons from the U.S. government, and that it is a great guarantor of American indulgence of human rights abuses. 

Sept. 15, 2020: From left: UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zay and  U.S. President Donald Trump during the signing ceremony for the Abraham Accords. (White House, Joyce N. Boghosian)

Egypt’s Anwar Sadat experienced that first hand and for that, in the months preceding his assassination, went on a rampage of repression, crackdowns and persecution of dissidents.  The West supported him all the way, as it supports present-day despots, provided they don’t bother Israel and its occupation. 

The Palestinians did not pin their hopes on Arab governments, but the level of open Gulf hostility toward the Palestinians killed any chance that Arab governments would help recover Arab lands from Israel.  Far from it, the Saudi regime media embarked on a campaign of demonizing Palestinians, especially Hamas.  

In the wake of the Deluge of Aqsa, admiration for Hamas and for its perceived bravery and daring spread among the Arab people. The videos of Abu `Ubayda (the military spokesperson of the military wing of Hamas) were a huge hit, and were widely circulated in traditional Arab and social media. 

The image of `Ubayda was painted on walls and children dressed like him, covering their faces with the traditional Palestinian kufiyyahs. 

Poster of Hamas’ military spokesman Abu `Ubayda at the Istanbul city wall, Nov. 10, 2023. (Mahmoud al-turki, Wikimedia Commons, CC0)

The quality of Hamas military propaganda improved greatly and people were glued to their screens in anticipation of the next pronouncement.  The tone of defiance in Hamas statements impressed many in the Arab world and they contrasted that with the abysmal political and military performance of the PLO. 

Three months into the fighting, and the mighty Israeli army could not score a notable military victory and is still unable to reach to the top command of Hamas (yet, it bragged about capturing a shoe of Hamas leader, Yihya Sinwar and hitting an apartment that it claimed was once used as a hideout). [On Tuesday, Israel killed Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, in a drone attack in Beirut, Lebanon.]

In 1982, the Israeli army crossed the entire South Lebanon region into the outskirts of Beirut in a matter of hours, despite the presence of thousands of fighters from the PLO and the Lebanese National Movement.  

New Quality of Resistance

Arab public opinion has taken notice that the new resistance movements, in Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen are of a different quality from those of the  past. That the personalities of the new leaders of the resistance are fierce and even ruthless in comparison to PLO leaders who did not hold up well under pressure (even Arafat who handled pressure better than many of his colleagues, experienced bouts of doubt and exhibited severe temper tantrums during the siege of Beirut, according to the account of the then Lebanese prime minister, Sa’eb Salam, in his recently posthumously released memoirs).  

The rise of Hamas will continue, and it will dominate the Palestinian political scene for many years to come.  The name of Hamas is heard in all the chants of Arab demonstrators and the names of its leaders can be recognized in street graffiti. 

The UAE and Saudi Arabia meanwhile want to promote the Palestinian Authority as the alternative (the UAE wants to replace Mahmoud Abbas with the thuggish, Muhammad Dahlan, a tool of Muhammad Bin Zayid).  

The Palestinian political spectrum is likely to shift after the dust settles in Gaza.

It is likely that those Fatah officials who built their careers on corruption and fealty toward the Israeli army will be ostracized or even assassinated.  The end of the Gaza war will usher in a phase of internecine Palestinian war, where collaborators will be targeted (Yahya Sinwar, the political leader of Hamas, has a history of chasing and punishing Israeli collaborators and infiltrators). 

The Palestinian Authority is unlikely to spread into Gaza, despite the wishes of the Biden-Blinken team.  Hamas, in the wake of Gaza, will be more emboldened and the plan (by the U.S. and Israel) to eliminate Hamas will ensure that it will remain the backbone of the Palestinian liberation movement. 

Paradoxically, while Israel and the U.S. insisted that Hamas will be eliminated, the genocidal war in Gaza and the stiff resistance by Hamas has guaranteed it a prominent place of the movement in Palestinian and Arab public opinion.  Hamas will not be dislodged no matter how much brutal force Israel employs.

As`ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism (2002), The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004) and ran the popular The Angry Arab blog. He tweets as @asadabukhalil

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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6 comments for “AS`AD AbuKHALIL: Hamas & Arab Public Opinion

  1. susan
    January 5, 2024 at 10:05

    Of course the US wants the Fatah Movement to rule over Gaza – that is what the US does world wide. Any movement FOR the people must be destroyed and replaced with those AGAINST the people. Just take a look at Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Bolivia, Brazil, Panama, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Libya, Lebanon – just to name a few. The US will bomb you into smithereens if you try to have a so-called democracy in your country – we are not a democracy in the US, we are Imperialists run by oligarchs just like England was in the good ole days. We plunder, rape and pillage until we get what we want. Israel is following in our footsteps and of course is being supported by the US Military Industrial Complex (MIC) and the Mainstream Media (MSM) run by wealthy moguls.

    You may think you are free here in the US but as a population we are one of the most propagandized in the world. We have forgotten how to think for ourselves (if we ever knew how in the first place). The history being taught in our schools and universities is complete hogwash (read A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn). Guns, weapons and violence rule here because we are taught to be fearful from a very early age. We fear those who are different from us, those who may be a different color or may have a different religion – so instead of trying to see a different perspective or trying to understand their differences, we revert to violence. Our government wants us fearful so that they can control the masses. They want us separated by our differences rather than having us come together as equals regardless of color, religion, age, sex, etc. They don’t want left talking to right to potentially come to some middle ground – in fact, they don’t want us talking at all.

    Israel has learned well from us how to wipe out those they deem inferior and get away with it. We wiped out much of the Native American populations here in the US. We killed them with disease, weapons, and starvation. We threw them on reservations and stole their ancestral lands and ‘settled’ this country with no thought or care about them. Israel has no conscience and neither do we. We have allowed genocide to happen here and around the world with no thought or care so why should the genocide in Palestine be any different? Hamas? Fatah? Its’ all just a ploy by the powers that be so that they can get away with bloody murder…

  2. John Manning
    January 4, 2024 at 22:32

    I am of the opinion that the current attack on Palestine by Israel is a strategic mistake equal to that of the USA against Russia (the Ukraine war). It seems to me that Israel can only lose from this action. A question arises, “Is this the beginning of the end of Israel as a state.”

    Israel’s actions have certainly raised the profile of Hamas. The irony which should be evident in western European minds is that Hamas is a democratically elected government, as are most of the Islamic governments which the USA likes to attack.

  3. January 4, 2024 at 07:54

    Informative article in a world where the truth is hard to find and propaganda is omnipresent. Thank you.

  4. January 4, 2024 at 07:15

    The Arab despots as you call them by their betrayal of not only Palestine/Palestinians but the whole Muslim world have damaged their moral standing to heights that will take long to redeem. In fact even in the eyes of Western countries and people.After all who can trust people who betray their own?

  5. SH
    January 3, 2024 at 15:56

    “Israel killed Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, in a drone attack in Beirut, Lebanon.”

    So much for the claim that Israel had to carpet bomb Gaza to weed out Hamas leaders – they apparently were able to locate and take out Al-Arouri in a “surgical strike” with little “collateral damage” ….

    • anon
      January 5, 2024 at 07:35

      “Taking out.”

      When I “take out” my girlfriend, I give her chocolates or flowers and “take her out” for a meal.
      I do not drop a 1,000 lb. bomb on her head.

      If this is an acceptable euphemism, then people killed on 9/11 on innumerable school shootings were also “taken out.”

      Maybe anyone we dislike should be “taken out.”

      Maybe Trump or Biden or whoever should be “taken out.”

      Or maybe we should just call murder murder.

      Like Orwell said, language is used to legitimise murder and give solidity to pure wind.

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