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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid