"People in Gaza are under assault right now so they're going to support Hamas. But when the dust settles I think we'll get a very different perspective, a lot of questioning about whether Hamas has the right strategy.
"I think what's going to happen will be similar to what happened when [Yasser] Arafat was besieged in the mukata [the Palestinian presidential compound] in 2002. People who were very critical of Arafat before said 'we're supporting him 110%.' A few weeks later ... you started to get the introspection of 'is this really what we need, is this really what we want?' "
I hope that Buttu is right. The idea of Hamas being interested in good governance is a macabre joke; in reality, it is a death cult that thrives on turmoil. Hamas threw Fatah out of Gaza in a fratricidal war, then refused to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous agreements. A political party does not have the right, according to accepted international legal and governmental practice, to abrogate treaties made by a party previously in power.
The Israeli economic blockade against Gaza was collective punishment and a futile attempt to turn Gazans against Hamas. Nevertheless, targeting rockets at southern Israeli towns cannot be justified in any way as a form of protest; such actions placed both Israeli and, ultimately, Palestinian citizens in danger. An Israeli military response against sites of rocket launching and weapons smuggling was inevitable.
In returning to whether the people of Gaza will turn against Hamas, though, we must consider the massive scale of the Israeli response, in which tanks and F-16s have been employed for about two weeks in one of the most crowded civilian population centers in the world, one that includes hospitals with inadequate resources and no bomb shelters. So while I hope that the citizens in the area turn against Hamas for its provocative and destructive actions, I can't help but wonder whether this terrorist group is gaining adherents, the same way that Hezbollah gained in political strength following the 2006 war in Lebanon. I'm reminded of Henry Kissinger's observation, "A conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla army wins if it does not lose."
Recently I read of two circumstances in which Palestinians who were not necessarily for Hamas turned toward it. In the West Bank, engineer Sari Sa'adi stated, "Before, I was against Hamas, against their political and religious points of view, but after what happened… I'm supporting Hamas." Following Israel's shelling of a United Nations school, the IDF said that Hamas was firing from the school compound, a point disputed by the U.N. The discussion, even if he were aware of it, would be lost on Abdel Minaim Hasan, who wept by the body of his daughter Lina, 11, and said, "From now on I am Hamas! I choose resistance!"
Were the two responses just made in the heat of the moment? Is Diana Buttu correct? Will Hamas, assuming it survives, gain or lose in political strength and popular support following this war?