News / Middle East

Thousands of Hamas Supporters Rally in West Bank

Hamas supporters, some carrying posters of the group's leader, Khaled Meshaal, rally in the West Bank, December 14, 2012. (VOA/R. Collard)
Hamas supporters, some carrying posters of the group's leader, Khaled Meshaal, rally in the West Bank, December 14, 2012. (VOA/R. Collard)
Rebecca Collard
For the first time since 2007, Hamas supporters flooded the streets of the West Bank to mark the Islamic movement’s 25th anniversary. Riding a wave of increasing support after the deadly exchange of fire with Israel last month, Hamas called for more rallies across the West Bank.
 
In central Ramallah, base of Hamas’ Western-backed rival, Fatah, hundreds of Palestinians proudly waved the green Hamas flags. A truck drove through the streets blaring out a musical chorus of “strike Tel Aviv.” Larger rallies were held in recent days in Nablus and Hebron, where Hamas has a stronger support base.
 
Standing with his son at the back of the crowd in Ramallah, 40-year-old Amjad Najjar said he supports Hamas because of its armed resistance against Israel.
 
“Today we celebrate that Hamas has fought the Israelis for 25 years,” said Najjar. “Hamas is fighting to get us our land back. Fatah has been doing peace talks for a long time, and they didn’t get us any of our land.”
 
Many Palestinians have become frustrated with the peace process in which they have been represented by Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Two decades after the PLO signed the Oslo Accord with Israel, Palestinians still don’t have a sovereign state, but do see hundreds of thousands of new Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Israel has favored talks with the PLO and Fatah, but rejects Hamas as a terrorist organization that calls for destruction of the Jewish state.
 
“Hamas stood fast and confronted Israel,” says Dr. Samir Awad, a professor of political science at Birzeit University near Ramallah. “The Palestinian people are fed-up with the Israeli occupation and the settlers, so they will support firmly any strike against the occupation, be it military or like what [President Abbas] did in the diplomatic arena.”
 
While Palestinians cheered Abbas for winning recognition by the U.N. General Assembly as an observer state, little has changed on the ground. And as many Palestinians see it, Hamas’ show of defiance seems to have brought concrete gains such easing restrictions on fishermen and farmers near Gaza’s borders with Israel. These Palestinians now feel that Israel has sent the message that violence wins, not negotiations.
 
Nael Barghouti knows this all too well. He had spent 34 years in an Israeli prison when he was released last year along with about 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. Capturing one Israeli soldier managed to free more prisoners than years of negotiations.
 
“Hamas freed the prisoners by force and sacrifice,” says Barghouti. “I have respect for all the Palestinian factions that contribute the Palestinian revolution, but Hamas freed the prisoners so they get a higher respect.”
 
Barghouti is one of many West Bank Palestinians who may not align themselves with Hamas, but admire its style of resistance. As some Palestinians explain it, this why Hamas has dedicated support in West Bank territory where it has no authority.
 
When Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary elections in Gaza, it had clear support in the territory.  Since then it has faced challenges familiar to many governing parties. Critics say Hamas has cracked down on dissent, both from liberal opponents and more radical, Islamic challengers. It also has faced criticism over electricity and clean water supplies to the territory’s 1.5 million residents.
 
Samir Awad, the Birzeit University professor, said Friday’s rallies for Hamas were in part possible because such events were recently approved by the Palestinian Authority.
 
“Because of this [the demonstrations] we may see even more support for Hamas in the West Bank than in Gaza,” said Awad. “Maybe before a lot of people here wanted to go out and show their support for Hamas but that wasn’t allowed.”
 
In 2007, violence between Fatah and Hamas saw the Fatah movement kicked out of the Gaza Strip. Since then Hamas members on the Fatah-dominated West Bank have kept a low profile because they could be arrested by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s security forces.
 
“The situation now is that the reconciliation has reached a point that it’s agreed upon that Hamas can celebrate in the West Bank, and in January Fatah will hold its anniversary celebrations in Gaza also,” said Awad.
 
But above all, most Palestinians here say full reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is key to Palestinians moving forward. Awad says the stumbling block to further progress toward unity between the two groups may be negotiating geographical control.
 
“Now we have Hamas ruling in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority here,” said Awad. “Hamas seems unwilling to give up its control of the Gaza Strip and Fatah the West Bank.”

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs