After Friday night’s terror attack in Jerusalem, millions saw images of Palestinians celebrating, including a macabre street event in Gaza where a senior Hamas official handed out sweets. The spectacle reinforced a widespread view that Palestinians writ large support Hamas carnage. Some pro-Israel voices, reacting with understandable anger, decried Palestinian society as a whole.
This is exactly what Hamas wants. Its slogan, “The people are wrapped around the resistance,” is the essence of its claim to legitimacy. But what appears to be uniform consensus is a carefully maintained facade: the hundreds or more who turned out to celebrate are not a cross-section of the millions who stayed home.
Extensive surveys of Palestinian opinion show diverse views about Hamas, Israel, and political violence. Some polls show Gazan majorities opposing rocket attacks, distrusting Hamas institutions, favoring accommodation with Israel, and prioritizing local problems over foreign entanglements.
We sometimes catch a glimpse of these viewpoints — as well as the reason why they rarely surface: witness last week’s video of the beating of a Bethlehem shopkeeper who had denounced terrorists. We also see displays of collective courage: witness Gaza’s 2019 street demonstrations, in which 1,000 Palestinians braved gunfire and prison to protest Hamas rule. The bloody crackdown on protestors and their families ranks among the most grotesque crimes against humanity in the history of the land between the river and the sea.
But these displays garner far less attention than the show of bloodlust that Hamas engineers. Until quite recently, no concerted effort was made to platform independent voices in Gaza for a global audience.
Our organization felt that doing so is vital and long overdue. In Arab countries, Hamas’s narrative dominance blocks connectivity between Arabs and Israelis, intimidates Arab leaders inclined toward peace, and turns Arabs favoring normalization into social outcasts. In the West, the same narrative fuels the BDS movement and its pretensions to speak for the Palestinian people.