Palestinian poll: Hamas support drops

Following Cast Lead, Fatah's popularity among Gaza and West Bank residents outstrips Islamist group.

hamas pray 248 ap (photo credit: AP)
hamas pray 248 ap
(photo credit: AP)
A Palestinian poll conducted after Operation Cast Lead has found that 56 percent of residents in the Gaza Strip and 48.3% of Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem believe Hamas is leading them in the wrong direction. The poll, conducted by the Beit Sahour-based Palestinian Center for Public Opinion and published last week, also found that the popularity of Fatah among Palestinians now exceeds the popularity of Hamas, in contrast to a November 2008 poll conducted well before Israel's military operation. Today, Hamas is supported by only 27.8% of the population in the Gaza Strip, compared to 51.5% in November, said Dr. Nabil Kukali, founder and general director of the PCPO. Fatah's popularity in the Hamas-controlled coastal territory lies at 42.5%, compared to 31.4% in November. "Many Palestinians suffered from the war in Gaza… They lost their homes and their families," Kukali said. "The situation is unpredictable, and maybe they feel that Hamas did not make the right decision" when it did not renew its six-month truce with Israel that expired in December. In the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Fatah is now supported by 39.2%, while Hamas is supported by only 23.7%, according to the poll. In November, Fatah was supported by 68.6% in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and by 31.4% in Gaza, Kukali said. But more than half of total respondents (54.4%) believe that Israel should be held responsible for the recent war in Gaza, while only 14.5% believe that Hamas should be held responsible. Three weeks after the devastating military offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, it was clear that there was significant anger and fear on the streets of Gaza. But not all of it was directed at or because of Israel. In a bustling downtown commercial district, a taxi driver named Emad agreed to talk to a Western reporter on the street about the lack of security he felt following Operation Cast Lead. "Every day is a war here," he said last week. "Each day we hear threats from Israel about war." But when asked whether he thought that Hamas or Fatah had been strengthened because of Operation Cast Lead, Emad shook his head and quickly walked away. "If I talk about this, I'm afraid that Hamas will come and kill me," he told another taxi driver accompanying the reporter, before walking off. Fadi, a 21-year-old Palestinian who lives in Gaza City, said there was a lot of frustration with Hamas in the coastal territory due to the difficult economic situation. "Since Hamas took power, the crossings have been closed," said Fadi, who agreed to give only his first name. "Only those who benefit from Hamas do not blame Hamas." Fadi's father used to be a supporter of Hamas, he said, but that changed after Fadi and his brother were arrested by Hamas officials and detained for several days. Fadi said he had been arrested and jailed on two different occasions for unknown reasons since the Islamist movement took control of the Strip in June, 2007. "We are neither Fatah [members] nor Hamas," he said. After the war, Fadi said, one of his friends, a Palestinian Authority policeman, had been detained by Hamas officials, blindfolded and then "beaten until he couldn't move" for several days. According to Fadi, Hamas officials had demanded to know where his friend had been during the war and why they hadn't seen him. During and after Israel's military operation, many people in Gaza were accused of collaborating with either Israel or the PA, something that can translate into a death sentence, locals said. The general atmosphere had Fadi on edge. "When I go out, I'm afraid," he said. "When I walk [outside], I'm afraid." Hamas officials, however, claim that they still have the popular support of the Palestinian people. Hamas's "popularity has increased after the war," Hamas official Ahmed Yousef told The Jerusalem Post last week. Some officials, including Yousef, have also dismissed at least some of the reported shootings or beatings of Palestinians in Gaza as violence between clans and not affiliated with politics. But many other Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said they were disillusioned both with Hamas and with Fatah. "Neither [the path of] peace nor of resistance has brought us results," said a medical professional in Gaza City named Hind. "Always we are under siege, an Israeli blockade. We don't know whom we support." Another medical professional named Abdel Qader agreed, saying; "No one is looking out for the interests of the people." The PCPO poll also found that 86.1% of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and 89.6% in the West Bank supported a Palestinian-Israeli truce. The polling company conducted face-to-face interviews with a random sample of 673 Palestinian adults in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem between January 25 and January 31, at least one week after a shaky cease-fire went into effect on January 18. It has a margin of error of 3.8%.