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The Global Consortium of Political Analysts

Radicalization and Domestic Violent Extremism in the United States

Israeli Response and Global Opinion











A Brief Background on Hamas


Hamas, or the Islamic Resistance Movement, was formed in December 1987 during the first Palestinian intifada or uprising. Its present-day leadership was born and raised in the refugee camps that housed the displaced following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The current leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, was born in the Al-Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip in 1962. Leader of the military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Marwan Issa was born in a refugee camp in 1965. The supreme military commander of al-Qassam, Mohammed Deif, was born in the Khan Yunis Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip in 1965.


Humanitarian Crisis in the Making


Israel issued a directive ordering Palestinians to relocate within 24 hours from the northern areas of Gaza to those in the southern regions proximate to the Egyptian border. It is crucial to note that the singular egress from Gaza not subject to Israeli control is the checkpoint at Rafah, leading to Egypt. While Egypt has officially asserted that its side of the crossing remains accessible, transit has been interrupted due to ongoing Israeli military actions. Egypt fortified its side of the border, indicating its unwillingness to accommodate a mass flow of refugees into the country.


A senior official from the U.S. State Department has disclosed that the United States is actively engaged in efforts to facilitate the reopening of the border crossing on Saturday to enable the departure of select individuals. Moreover, there have been communications with Palestinian-Americans who express a desire to depart from Gaza. Subsequently, Washington conveyed instructions to its citizens, urging them to endeavor to reach the border crossing.


Despite the influx of supplies dispatched by various nations and humanitarian agencies to Egypt, the inability to transfer these provisions to Gaza persists. Israel has stipulated that no goods may traverse the Rafah checkpoint without its prior coordination.


Israel contends that the evacuation order is a humanitarian measure, with the primary objective of safeguarding the well-being of residents while actively targeting Hamas combatants. In contrast, the United Nations has posited that the displacement of many individuals within the beleaguered enclave has the potential to precipitate a humanitarian catastrophe.


In response, Hamas has steadfastly asserted its commitment to persist in combat until the last available resource, characterizing the directive to evacuate the northern sector of the enclave as a stratagem designed to compel residents to relinquish their residences.


First Intifada Statistics


The First Intifada was primarily characterized by protests, boycotts, and riots at a grassroots level. However, the response from Israel saw more than 1,200 Palestinians killed, including approximately 300 children. Upwards of 30,000 children sought medical treatment for beatings by the Israeli security force; a third were under ten years old. According to the international community, including Israeli academics, fear of being evicted from their homeland and a general sense of humiliation (intimidation, public beating, etc.) motivated the First Intifada.


Second Intifada Statistics


The Second Intifada was provoked by Hamas's military branch, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has been involved in numerous anti-Israel actions within Israel and the Palestinian territories since the 1990s. These actions included large-scale bombings targeting Israeli civilian assets, small-arms assaults, improvised explosive devices on roadways, and rocket attacks.


Despite its political developments, Hamas has consistently refused to acknowledge or renounce violent resistance against Israel. In early 2008, the organization executed a suicide bombing incident that claimed the life of a civilian. Additionally, numerous rocket and mortar attacks inflicted injuries upon civilians. Consequently, the United States Government has designated Hamas as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.


In June 2008, Hamas entered into a six-month agreement with Israel that substantially diminished rocket attacks. Nevertheless, after a brief period of calm, Hamas resumed its rocket attacks, precipitating a substantial Israeli military operation in late December 2008. This operation destroyed a significant portion of Hamas' infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, ultimately leading to Israel declaring a unilateral ceasefire on January 18, 2009.


In April 2011, Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement to establish an interim government and organize elections, a commitment they reaffirmed in February 2012. Subsequently, in February 2012, Hamas relocated from its longstanding political headquarters in Damascus and dispersed throughout the region. The untenable circumstances in Syria drove this move due to President Bashar al-Asad's crackdown on opposition. In May 2012, Hamas asserted establishing a 300-strong force tasked with preventing other Palestinian resistance groups from launching rocket attacks into Israel. Nonetheless, conflict erupted again in November. While Hamas made efforts to maintain the ceasefire negotiated by Egypt that ended the week-long conflict, other Palestinian militant groups violated the ceasefire by periodically launching rocket attacks throughout 2013 and 2014. In April 2014, Fatah and Hamas concurred on the formation of a technocratic unity government under the leadership of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and pledged to hold legislative elections within six months. Importantly, Hamas has not abandoned the use of violent resistance against Israel, even while pursuing reconciliation with Fatah.


The precarious truce between Hamas and Israel completely disintegrated in July 2014. This rupture followed the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June, an event attributed by Israel to Hamas. Additionally, in a retaliatory act of vengeance, a Palestinian was killed by Israeli settlers. Consequently, this escalation culminated in retaliatory rocket attacks by Hamas's military wing and other Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, marking the longest and deadliest conflict with Israel since 2009.


While the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as taken steps toward co-existence with Israel, including signing agreements to such affect, Hamas calls for an Islamic Palestinian state that would overtake Israel.


Popular Support for Hamas


The organization garners substantial sociopolitical support within the Palestinian territories, with much of its influence concentrated in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. In these and other areas, Hamas is seen as legitimate by some of the population because of their service provision to the people and a sense among these same people that the group has the capacity to respond to Israel, especially when Israel is seen as taking advantage of and hurting Palestinians. In early 2006, the group secured victory in legislative elections held within the Palestinian territories, ending the secular Fatah party's dominion over the Palestinian Authority. While popular support historically hovered around 30%, a 2021 poll found that more than 53% of Palestinians believed Hamas was "most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people". This spike in support for the group had followed a ten-day confrontation between Hamas and Israel where the Palestinian group was seen as the victor.


Recent surveys conducted by the Washington Institute have diligently monitored the perspectives of Gazans concerning Hamas and the ceasefire arrangement with Israel. This examination also encompasses a broader regional trend characterized by diminishing support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

As per the most recent polling undertaken by the Washington Institute in July 2023, it becomes evident that Hamas's decision to violate the ceasefire was not met with widespread approval. A noteworthy majority of Gazans, constituting 65% of the surveyed population, held the belief that a significant military conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza within the same year was plausible. Nevertheless, a comparable percentage, namely 62%, expressed support for Hamas maintaining the ceasefire with Israel. Additionally, 50% of respondents concurred with the proposal stipulating that "Hamas should cease advocating for the destruction of Israel and instead embrace a permanent two-state solution based on the 1967 borders." Furthermore, it is worth noting that the broader regional landscape exhibits a decline in the popularity of Hamas among several Arab constituencies. This waning support could conceivably have played a role in motivating the group's decision to initiate hostilities.


Moreover, Gazan residents have manifested a palpable discontent with Hamas's governance. A substantial majority of Gazans, amounting to 70%, indicated a preference for the administration and security officials of the Palestinian Authority (PA) over Hamas. These preferences are further underscored by the endorsement of a proposal wherein the PA would deploy its officials and security officers to assume control of administration in Gaza, while Hamas would disband its independent armed units. An impressive 47% of respondents strongly supported this proposition. It is noteworthy that this viewpoint is not a novel one, as it has enjoyed majority backing in Gaza since it was initially surveyed by the Washington Institute in 2014.


Position of the United States


According to a poll conducted by Gallup, public sentiment regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the United States has exhibited an increasingly pronounced polarization. Democrats, in particular, have shown growing empathy towards the Palestinian side, while Republicans continue to maintain a steadfast alignment with Israel. The recent escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestine, resulting in a significant number of Palestinian casualties over the past year, may partially account for this recent shift in perspective among Democrats. Nevertheless, a more enduring trend can be discerned, with the decreasing religiosity among Democrats potentially playing a contributory role.


Historically, sympathy for Israel has been closely associated with religious affiliation. Individuals attending religious services on a weekly basis have consistently exhibited greater sympathy towards the Israeli cause compared to those who infrequently or never attend religious services.


Despite the underlying factors driving the evolving views of Democrats, and to a lesser extent, independents, on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is noteworthy that majorities within various generational and party affiliations continue to maintain favorable opinions of Israel. Moreover, these groups tend to hold more favorable views of Israel when compared to the Palestinian Authority. This suggests that while rank-and-file Democrats may express a desire to address the needs of the Palestinian population, their inclination is to seek solutions that also respect the needs and concerns of Israel.


The Guardian Maps

United Nations News

UN OCHA Humanitarian Data

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