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OpinionIsrael at War

Hamas, Palestinians: Disjointed or interwoven?

In many respects, Hamas benefits from more popular support than that enjoyed by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Syria’s Bashar Assad and Iran’s ayatollahs.

Palestinians rally in Hebron in support of Hamas, Dec. 8, 2023. Photo by Wisam Haslmaoun/Flash90.
Palestinians rally in Hebron in support of Hamas, Dec. 8, 2023. Photo by Wisam Haslmaoun/Flash90.
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

The Western attempt to distinguish between Hamas terrorists and the majority of Gaza Arabs defies Middle East reality, which documents that Hamas terrorists and most Gaza Arabs are interwoven with each other, socially, educationally, culturally, ideologically and religiously.

Moreover, Middle East reality highlights Hamas as a terror state (Gaza and potentially the West Bank), not merely a terror organization.

Therefore, most of the Arabs in Gaza enthusiastically celebrated the Oct. 7 slaughter, rape, torture and mutilation of (mostly) civilians, heralding it as role model of sacrifice and heroism in the service of a Holy Islamic War and a demonstration of national liberation fortitude.

This fact was underscored by a June 29, 1967 memorandum submitted to then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara by General Earle G. Wheeler, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The memorandum presented a map of Israel’s minimal security requirements, including Gaza, which “serves as a salient for introduction of Arab subversion and terrorism.”

The memorandum goes on to state that the retention of Gaza “would be to Israel’s military advantage…. It has served as a training area for [Palestinian terrorists]…. Occupation of the Gaza Strip by Israel would reduce the hostile border by a factor of five and eliminate a source for raids and training of [terrorists].”   

The terrorist potential of the Gaza population has been leveraged since 1947 by the Muslim Brotherhood—the largest Sunni terror organization, which established Hamas in 1988—when it established Gaza as one of its five centers in British Mandate Palestine (Haifa, Jaffa, Nablus, Jerusalem and Gaza). The Gaza branch collaborated closely with the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, the Brotherhood’s birthplace.

Initially, Hamas’ popularity was limited to the Gaza middle class, such as the religious establishment, lawyers and businessmen. However, since the 1990s, Hamas has increasingly evolved into a focal point of social, ideological and religious cohesion with the Gaza population at large.

The appeal of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Gaza branch, Hamas, has surged dramatically since 1993, through the K-12 hate-education system, Friday incitement in the mosques and the official and public idolization of terrorism, which were instituted by Mahmoud Abbas through the Oslo Accords. Initially, it benefitted the Palestinian Authority—headed by Yasser Arafat and Abbas—but rapidly catapulted Hamas into unprecedented popularity, as an integral element of the Gaza culture, a role model for the Gaza youth.

Realizing the high-level identification of Gaza Arabs with Hamas—and the evolution of Hamas from a terror organization into a terror state—the P.A. has refrained from holding election since 2005 in order to avoid a Hamas landslide victory. Furthermore, after the Oct. 7 massacre Hamas has surged to its highest popularity ever among Arabs in Judea and Samaria (West Bank).

The Western attempt to subordinate the complex, frustrating, costly and inconvenient Middle East reality to its own alternative and convenient delusion has led to the assumption that Hamas terrorists and the majority of Gaza Arabs are disjointed culturally and ideologically.

However, Middle East reality features Hamas as an entity consistent with the worldview, values, education and ideology of most Gazan parents, who send their children to Hamas-run schools, participate in Friday services in Hamas-run mosques and enthusiastically cheer Hamas’s Islamic State-like terrorist operations.

Contrary to Western conventional wisdom, Hamas is not a terror organization in the mold of Peru’s Shining Path, Italy’s Red Brigade, France’s Action Direct and multitude of other terror organizations, which represent a fringe of their societies, terrorizing the government and its educational, cultural and religious institutions. Hamas is the terrorist state of Gaza, representing Gaza’s educational, cultural and religious institutions, enjoying the moral support of most Gazans. In many respects, Hamas benefits from more popular support than that enjoyed by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Syria’s Bashar Assad and Iran’s ayatollahs.

Western policy based on the erroneous assumption that Hamas and Gaza Arabs are disjointed from one another inadvertently plays into the hands of Hamas, yielding a robust tailwind to terrorism and a powerful headwind to counter-terrorism. 

Originally published by The Ettinger Report.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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