Was the crisis a Hamas PR victory?

PA leaders hoping the for an intifada against Hamas in Gaza were unpleasantly surprised.

Hamas gunmen 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Hamas gunmen 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
As far as some Palestinian Authority leaders are concerned, Israel has handed Hamas a public relations victory by decreasing fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip in response to the rocket and mortar attacks. The PA leadership in Ramallah was hoping that the latest crisis would trigger an intifada against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Some of PA President Mahmoud Abbas's top aides were convinced that the countdown to Hamas's collapse would begin immediately after large parts of the Gaza Strip were plunged into darkness Sunday night. But the PA leaders were in for an unpleasant surprise. Instead of seeing anti-Hamas demonstrators, the PA officials in the Mukata presidential compound got televised footage of children and women holding candles in the dark streets of Gaza City. Al-Jazeera and other Arab TV networks carried live coverage of the peaceful protesters, many of whom blamed not only Israel, but the PA government and the rest of the Arab countries for their plight. The pictures coming out of the Gaza Strip were so damning for the PA that some of its representatives accused Al-Jazeera of serving Hamas's interests and inciting against Abbas. To add fuel to the fire, Al-Jazeera also provided a platform to several commentators and analysts who lashed out at Abbas, accusing him of "collusion" with Israel. They also took Abbas to task for failing to suspend peace talks with Israel in response to Israel's punitive measures. Almost all of those who appeared on the various Arab TV stations refrained from blaming Hamas. As far as a majority of Palestinians and Arabs are concerned, the suffering of the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is largely the result of a plot concocted by Israel, the US and their allies in Ramallah to bring down the Hamas government and extract political concessions from the Palestinians. The fact that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have not taken to the streets to demand the resignation of the Hamas government shows that the Islamist movement's power there remains as steady as ever. The talk about Hamas's dwindling popularity has once again proven to be nothing but wishful thinking. Exactly two years after Hamas won the parliamentary elections, there is still a majority of Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, who identify with the movement and its ideology. The tens of thousands of Palestinians who participated in rallies marking Hamas's 20th anniversary several weeks ago show that the movement remains as popular as ever. In contrast, Fatah was unable to attract large crowds when it celebrated its 43rd anniversary earlier this month. PA officials did not conceal their dismay over Hamas's "manipulation" of the suffering of the Palestinians to score points among the Arab and Islamic masses. They said Israel made a "mistake" by resorting to collective punishment instead of going after those directly involved in the firing of rockets and mortars. Some of them even went as far as accusing Hamas of staging the entire crisis for political gain. In an attempt to counter the Hamas propaganda machine, Abbas dispatched his prime minister, Salaam Fayad, to a number of EU countries to try to persuade them to exert pressure on Israel to ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip. Abbas also announced that he was behind Israel's decision late Monday to allow diesel fuel and medicine into the Gaza Strip.