Hamas, a designated terrorist group by Israel and a few other countries, officially took over the Gaza strip through a series of violent clashes. They seized the presidential headquarters in Gaza overnight on June 15, 2007 after a week of fighting for power with Fatah. However, since this seizure support for Hamas in the Gaza strip is seen to be dwindling. According to a recent poll conducted by Washington Institute, many Gazans do not support their role.
Due to Hamas’ takeover, most of the previous judicial and political structures were disrupted, leaving the region in a political vacuum. The progress that Hamas has made in the Gazan civil society since then is extremely slow. Any of the accomplishments made have happened within an authoritarian regime, offering the residents little freedom of expression. The media and the NGOs in the Gaza strip are under tight scrutiny. Furthermore, there is little accountability for the Hamas rule and opposition parties remain limited in what they can do.
Nathan J. Brown, a researcher who spent some time in Gaza, recalled that the information most Palestinians received in Gaza were fairly controlled because newspapers were mostly pro-Hamas. In addition, the public space is equally restrictive since demonstrations that do not align with the Hamas agenda are prohibited or stopped. Banners showing support for the Hamas rule are displayed everywhere.
In addition, Brown noticed corruption and favoritism taking place as government positions were mostly occupied by Hamas supporters and the electoral system was almost nonexistent. Although they now do have judicial system, it is a very loose and improvised system that is based on authoritarian rule. Rarely is there communication with groups outside of Hamas.
Since Hamas declared its reign over the Gaza strip seven years ago, a recent poll revealed a political dissatisfaction with Hamas rule. The poll was conducted by the Washington Institute on June 15-17 after the kidnapping of the three Israeli soldiers and comprised of face-to-face interviews with a sample of 1,200 Palestinians. In addition, this survey is reliable, only consisting of a marginal error of three percent. The responses that this survey yielded is surprising.
Before the airstrikes between Israel and Gaza began in the beginning of July, most Palestinians favored a non-violent approach to their relationship with Israel. An overwhelming majority of Gazans (70 percent) said they would want to maintain a ceasefire with Israel, indicating that they wanted peace, not war.
Furthermore, there is surprisingly little support for the Hamas leaders in the Gaza strip, as the poll showed that only 15 percent of them supported leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal. Gazans do not approve of Hamas leading their country and instead a majority of people wanted leaders affiliated with Fatah. The small percentage of Hamas supporters in the Gaza Strip displays the dwindling support for this militant group.
In addition, most are unhappy with the level of corruption and crime that exists in their region, as 66 percent of Gazans see the corruption of their officials as huge problems. Over 70 percent of them also view crime as an issue in the areas that they live in. Furthermore, the survey showed that over 80 percent of Gazans expressed a desire for Israel to allow more people to work there because they want more economic opportunity.
Although these numbers are the most up to date records available about Palestinian sentiments, their outlook may have shifted due to the increase of violence and fighting that has happened within the past two weeks. However, their confidence and support for Hamas in the Gaza Strip may still be dwindling more so, as their hostility towards Israel may also be rising in this on-going conflict.
By Joyce Chu