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

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs