Poll shows punishment of Palestinians is not working

Opinion: The figures signal the failure of Israel and its allies to persuade the Palestinians by punishment

‘The majority of people in Gaza and the West Bank believes that Hamas won the latest battle in the long-running war between Palestinians  and Israeli authorities.’ Above, Hamas supporters take part in a rally celebrating what organisers say was a victory by Palestinians in Gaza over Israel following a ceasefire, in the West Bank city of Ramallah.   Photograph: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

‘The majority of people in Gaza and the West Bank believes that Hamas won the latest battle in the long-running war between Palestinians and Israeli authorities.’ Above, Hamas supporters take part in a rally celebrating what organisers say was a victory by Palestinians in Gaza over Israel following a ceasefire, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Photograph: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

 

There has been dismay in some quarters about the results of the opinion poll published this week suggesting that a majority of people in Gaza and the West Bank believes that Hamas won the latest battle in the long-running war between Palestinians seeking a state and Israeli authorities determined to thwart this aspiration and that, generally speaking, Palestinians are more likely than previously to support Hamas over its “moderate” rival Fatah. The figures signal the failure of Israel and its allies to persuade the Palestinians by punishment and threat to accept a solution falling short of what they reasonably believe they are entitled to.

There is nothing new in this. The attitude of Israel, the United States and European Union to Palestinian rights was evident in their response to elections in Gaza and the West Bank in January 2006. Turnout was just over 75 per cent – compared with 58 per cent in the most recent election in the US, 65 per cent in the UK and 70 per cent in the Republic. Hamas won a majority in the proposed legislative assembly on the basis of 45 per cent of the vote against Fatah’s 42 per cent. (There is, of course, something undemocratic about a party receiving less than half the votes winning more than half the seats. Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and George Bush among others have also managed this feat.)

Commitment to democracy

Little good did the commitment to democracy do the Palestinians. The Israelis made it plain that they would not recognise any government that included the majority Palestinian party unless Hamas recognised Israel and “renounced violence”. Hamas responded that it would recognise Israel only if Israel withdrew to its 1967 borders and would be willing from that position to negotiate a broader solution with the Israeli government and the UN, the US, Russia and the EU. This was de facto recognition of Israel’s right to exist. It also amounted to a refusal to renounce attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlements outside the 1967 borders.

On this account, Israel refused to budge an inch towards meeting Hamas. The US and EU then followed suit. The model election was made meaningless. The New York Times reported: “Hamas’s victory has set off a debate whether the administration was so wedded to its belief in democracy that it could not see the dangers of holding elections in regions where Islamist groups were strong and democratic institutions weak.” (There was no question, of course, of Israel being required to renounce violence.)

There have been four major Israeli assaults on Gaza since the 2006 election. In June 2006 about 400 Palestinians and seven Israelis died; in 2008-2009 about 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died; in 2012 an estimated 170 Palestinians and six Israelis died; and this year more than 2,100 Palestinians and 68 Israelis, four of them civilians, died.

Who can blame Palestinians if they have come to believe that the West is a hypocrite when it talks of democracy and that, if they want to pursue the dream of a state of their own, the logical course is to follow the most determined of the fighters left in the field?

This week’s poll suggested that an election in Gaza and the West Bank today would result in an overall majority of votes for Hamas. The horrible execution of alleged informers seems not to have dented support – which on the Northern Ireland experience does not mean that a majority welcomed the massacre. (Doubtless there are families in Gaza today pleading that their loved ones were innocent, murdered to cover for real informers higher up the command chain, and doubtless they are right.)

Subjugation

The Myths of Liberal Zionism

Given the choice between living like dogs and risking destruction through support for Hamas, the record shows which option the Palestinians will go for. Would any of us in the same situation make any other choice?

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.