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

US, Brazil's Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

Officials say joint initiative on climate change will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

After Nearly a Century, Voodoo Opera Rises Again

Opera centers on character named Lolo, a Louisiana plantation worker and Voodoo priestess More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs