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Hamas and Fatah are using terror against Israel in their fight for popularity


The Express (Austria)
(The following is a translation from the German)


The head of the Israeli NGO “Palestinian Media Watch” Itamar Marcus emphasizes: Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), needed the conflict to distract from its unpopularity. Therefore, since the end of April, he incited fighting in Jerusalem. Hamas could not remain idle.

Question: Was Israel surprised by the current conflict?
Marcus: Unfortunately, yes. But, it was actually to be expected.
In what way?
Elections were coming up, and Abbas and his Fatah party were very unpopular. 80 percent of Palestinians consider Abbas corrupt, according to repeated Palestinian polls for the last 3 years. Things were so bad that his own Fatah party split into three parties to run separately in the election. In the last elections in 2006, Hamas won a majority of seats both in Gaza and the West Bank, and everyone knew Abbas was about to again lose these elections. And so Abbas just smothered PA democracy and canceled the election, and announced it was because Israel wouldn't allow elections in Jerusalem. That reason was nonsense and all Palestinians knew it. In non-government Palestinian newspapers and on social media, all Palestinians said: the elections must take place. By trampling democracy Abbas; had lost all legitimacy among his own people and popularity was at an all-time low. He needed a conflict to divert anger from him and direct it towards Israel. So he artificially organized the crisis over Jerusalem.


By doing what?
He and his party called for violence. Fatah called for "raising the level of confrontation in the coming days and hours in the Palestinian territories." Abbas' spokesman told Palestinians, "The battle of all battles is here ... the long struggle against a satanic colonialist power." Fatah's Revolutionary Council called on "all Fatah branches everywhere to act to support our people in occupied Jerusalem who are fighting against the incessant violations of the occupation authorities." Abbas used the already frequently used euphemism of "peaceful popular resistance" in his TV speeches, which he uses to refer to terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. The Palestinian public understood it and started attacking Israelis in Jerusalem.


So this is what caused the violence?
The Palestinians were throwing stones and Molotov cocktails and attacking Jews for days before the current serious escalation. The site of the Al-Aksa mosque is above the Wailing Wall. From there they can throw rocks and attack the worshipers at the Wall as has happened many times in the past. Large rocks hitting worshipers from 30 meters high can be fatal.

The media reported growing anger among Palestinians over an upcoming Israeli court ruling. This involved a conflict between Israeli and Palestinian residents in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The court decision was postponed. If the court had ruled in favor of the Israeli side, forced evictions would have been threatened.


That didn't matter?

Many court decisions over such conflicts have been handed down in recent years, without any violent reactions. This case is very simple. Everyone agrees that the homes are owned by Jewish residents, but the Arabs have refused to pay rent for years and the court ruled: pay or be evicted. The current violence is not over the legal evictions. A Jewish resident of Sheikh Jarrah said in an interview, "I know all my neighbors, I have lived here for many years. Not one of my neighbors was involved in these riots. All the rioters came from
somewhere else." What emerged was an artificially orchestrated dynamic of violence that Abbas had launched in order to present himself as the defender of Jerusalem. This is a repeating Palestinian strategy: when Hamas and Fatah fight for popularity, it is by competing - who can lead more violence and terror against Israel.


Can you give other examples of this?
In 2014, the last time the PA scheduled elections in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas was very, very weak. In a poll in April 2014, only 11.7 percent of Palestinians said they would vote for Hamas. In response, Hamas kidnapped three teenagers. War ensued, which Hamas lost, but its popularity rose thereafter. In July 2014, after the war ended, 31 percent said in a poll they now viewed Hamas favorably, but only 20 percent said that about Fatah. In elections were held, Hamas would have been at 46 percent. Approval of Hamas tripled because it fought a missile war attacking Israel. In 2014, Abbas then had to compete with Hamas and initiated a knife intifada, claiming Jerusalem was under attack by Israel, and his popularity rose again. Hamas and Fatah fight for more popularity by unleashing terror against Israel. Now, however, Fatah has taken a back seat. The rocket attacks are coming from the Gaza Strip.


Why is Hamas now the main opponent?
Hamas could not sit quietly and watch Abbas become popular from the conflict. Already last week Hamas launched a few rockets into Israel and started many fires in Israel, and the official PA daily criticized them: “This historical moment cannot suffer by having the attention diverted [by Hamas] from the Jerusalem uprising by ‘the sound of rocket explosions.“ At that time, there was already minor violence in Jerusalem, and Hamas and Fatah were already competing in terror. When Hamas launched hundreds of rockets again two days ago, it announced for the first time that it was attacking Israel to defend Jerusalem. Never before has Hamas claimed its rocket attacks were defending Jerusalem, but now in order to be popular both Hamas and Fatah are each claiming they are the ones defending Jerusalem.

Israel has now declared it will fight Hamas terrorist infrastructure from the air. How long will the war last?
Hamas has stored tens of thousands of rockets in the Gaza Strip. Hopefully Israel knows where they are and will destroy most of them. Israel also announced that it will also destroy the factories that make the Hamas rockets. If Israel can do this in a few days the war will
end. However, once a war starts, it takes on its own momentum. For example, a Hamas rocket hit an Israeli school yesterday but fortunately it was closed. If classes had just been held, all the students would probably have been killed and Israel would have no choice but to launch a ground attack to destroy Hamas completely. Hopefully something like that will not happen.


What is your assessment of the international community's criticism of Israel at the moment?
Every time Fatah or Hamas launch a terror wave, they pretend they are responding to Israeli aggression and are themselves the defenders. "They are stealing our land and killing us. Help us!" The international community readily adopts this narrative that Israel is to blame. It's been going on all along. In 2014, Abbas literally told his people that Israel planned to destroy the Al-Asqa Mosque because it was built on the Temple Mount. Fifty percent of Palestinians believed him, and they went out and fought a terror war. And yet the international community, especially the international media, put the blame on Israel. The only time the international media is sympathetic to Israel is when Israelis are murdered. However, as you see by Israel’s behavior now, would rather defend ourselves and save our people’s lives and not have the media sympathy.

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