Palestinians Turn on Hamas

StrategyPage: Palestinians Turn on Hamas

Israel has managed to terrorize the terrorists. Killing two leaders of the major Palestinian terrorist group Hamas within a month has shaken up the organization. But it̢۪s not just the death of the two leaders. Over the last few months, dozens of Israeli raids have arrested lower ranking leaders and technical experts, and shut down workshops and supply dumps for bomb making. The smuggling of explosives and weapons into the Palestinian territories has been interrupted with greater frequency.

But Hamas faces a larger problem. The Palestinian people are becoming disillusioned with the terror tactics. The main reason for the disillusionment is poverty. Before the current “intifada†(uprising) began in late 2000, some 20 percent of Palestinians lived in poverty. Now that figure is over 80 percent. Per capita income for Palestinians is about a thousand dollars (although 30 percent of that comes from foreign aid). Business investment in the Palestinian territories (and their 3.5 million population) is only about ten percent of what it was before the intifada. The Palestinian economy depends on Israel for jobs and trade. By sending suicide bombers into Israel, the movement of Palestinians and Palestinian goods into Israel was interrupted.

Hamas has cultivated support among Palestinians with their extensive social welfare operations. But this work is supported by charitable donations, and a portion of that money is diverted to terrorist operations. So, in the last few months, Israel has interrupted the flow of money to Hamas. This has resulted in social programs being stalled, or even stopped. Hamas has lost public support because of this. Palestinians are becoming less grateful to Hamas for helping them get through their poverty, and increasingly blaming Hamas for causing all the misfortune.

Hamas, and Palestinian, media continue to hammer away with the need to destroy Israel, and repeat allegations that Jews are trying to take over the world, the Nazi extermination campaign against Jews during World War II was a myth and that the Christian world is making war on the Islamic community and Moslems must fight back. But these stories are less often accepted by their audience. Palestinian opinion surveys (conducted by Palestinians) have been tracking this decline in support for the intifada. As a result of that, the Palestinian pollsters have been physically attacked by terrorist groups. This has further turned off Palestinians.

While popular support for Palestinian terrorists is declining, the terrorists themselves will not go away. Their inability to launch many suicide bomb attacks has not diminished the dedication of the remaining terrorists. But deprived of their much of their leadership and technical experts, there is greater risk that the terrorism will be more frequently turned against “disloyal†Palestinians. When the terrorists cannot strike out, they tend to look for internal enemies. Given the large number of Israeli informers in the Palestinian territories, and increasing number of Palestinians who do not agree with the terrorism tactics, Hamas and other terrorist groups have lots of potential victims close at hand.

This is interesting and logically satisfying. People all over the world eventually get tired of regimes that don’t provide the basic necessities of life. So far, though, it has seemed that the Palestinians have been immune from that tendency, with hatred of the Jews overriding the impulse for better government and economic development. I hope the tide is indeed turning but would be interested in seeing the evidence behind this one before getting too excited.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    So much for the “killing all Hamas leaders” equals “killing all Palestinians” BS that I’ve been seeing from some quarters.