(JTA) — When a recent survey showed that nearly three-quarters of Palestinians supported Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, Israeli officials and commentators cited it to justify their country’s war in Gaza, which aims to depose the terror group.
“Palestinians need to focus on prioritizing the building of their nation, rather than trying to destroy ours,” read an online post by Act4IL, an Israeli government-run social media feed. “It’s not a conflict about borders, it’s about the mere fact that Palestinians don’t want us here.”
For Israelis and others who hope to see Palestinians reject Hamas and its attacks on Israelis, the poll offered little reason for optimism. It found that 72% of respondents approved of Hamas’ decision to launch the Oct. 7 attack, in which the terror group killed 1,200 Israelis, took more than 240 captive and committed numerous atrocities.
That finding was no outlier. According to the survey, support for Hamas has increased since September, particularly in the West Bank, where it has tripled. More than 60% of respondents say violence is the best means of ending the Israeli occupation. Most Palestinians — particularly in the West Bank — approve of Hamas’ conduct during the war.
Writing in Israel Hayom, an Israeli right-leaning paper, commentator Nadav Shragai said the results underscored the argument that “commitment to perpetuate the struggle against the Jews and the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people comes from the grassroots level, from the Palestinian public en masse.”
But the pollster who conducted the survey and other analysts of Palestinian affairs say the results, while sobering, paint a more complex picture. Several told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the increased support for Hamas is an indictment of the past decade or so of Israeli-Palestinian relations, in which the two sides have not conducted any sustained peace negotiations. In the absence of diplomacy, they say, Palestinians have turned to violence.
“The prevailing perception is that the Palestinians do not have the option of resorting to diplomacy and negotiations to end the Israeli occupation, that this is not a viable means of ending the Israeli occupation so they’re left with nothing but violence,” said Khalil Shikaki, director of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which conducted the poll.
“And the only group in Palestinian society that can deliver violence effectively against Israelis is Hamas,” he said. “So we will continue to see support for Hamas going up as long as the majority or substantive number of Palestinians do not see diplomacy as viable.”
The poll, conducted between Nov. 22 and Dec. 2 in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, reached 1,231 adults in face to face interviews, 750 in the West Bank and 481 in the Gaza Strip. It has a margin of error of 4%.
Shikaki, perhaps the most widely respected Palestinian pollster, pointed out wrinkles in the data. Support for Hamas as a movement, according to the poll, is softer than support for its actions. In addition, support for the two-state solution — in other words, the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel — has risen slightly since the last edition of the poll and stands at 34%, though 70% of respondents don’t think U.S. efforts toward that outcome are “serious.”
Perhaps most significantly, the overwhelming majority of Palestinian respondents said they did not know or were in denial that the events of Oct. 7 included mass atrocities. Some 85% of respondents said they did not see videos showing the violence of the day and, when told of the atrocities, only 10% believed they occurred.
Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, said such denial is typical in the throes of a war, especially one in which close to 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza health Ministry. (That figure does not differentiate between civilians and combatants and does not denote deaths from misfired Palestinian rockets. It is roughly in line with Israeli estimates of Palestinian casualties in Gaza.)
“Hearts harden and you demonize the other,” said Telhami, who is also a veteran pollster. “And then you block because you see whatever it is that you’re doing as justified, and whatever your side is doing as justified.”
The same is true of the Israels, he said. “When you look at the Israelis, they still think their army is doing its best to save civilians, even though we have thousands killed,” he said.
That assessment is reflected in a recent poll of Israelis by the Israel Democracy Institute, which found that nearly all Jewish Israelis, 91.5%, believe the army is observing the rules of war and international law, while 81% believe that the army should not take Palestinian suffering into account when planning its military operations in the war. The poll reached 503 Hebrew speakers and has a margin of error of approximately 4%.
Other analysts agreed that Palestinians see violent attacks as their best hope following the collapse of the peace process launched in the 1990s. Scholars say settlement expansion, settler violence against Palestinians and Israel’s recent advances in normalizing relations with a support of Arab and Muslim countries have contributed to the isolation fueling Palestinian backing for violence as a means of achieving their goals.
“Hamas’ actions putting Gaza on the world stage apparently look quite effective to Palestinians,” Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israeli public opinion expert, wrote in Haaretz after the poll came out. “Given the renewed urgent international attention to reviving diplomacy to resolve the conflict, Hamas made a good argument for using force.”
Yousef Munayyer, who heads the Palestine-Israel Program at the Washington D.C.-based Arab Center, said Hamas was garnering support as the more able agent to achieve Palestinian national ambitions, not for its Islamist ideology.
He pointed to a question near the end of the poll that asked respondents about what the “most vital Palestinian goal” should be. Forty-three percent responded ending Israel’s occupation and establishing a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, while 36% said the priority should be Palestinian refugees returning to their homes in Israel’s recognized borders — a demand Israeli officials have long viewed as tantamount to the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Smaller percentages favored focusing on building an Islamic society, or strengthening democracy for Palestinians.
The poll, said Munayyer, “calls on us to be cautious about interpreting support for Hamas as support for the religious ideology, in terms of the way society should be structured.”
The poll showed cratering support for the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas. Biden wants a reconstituted Palestinian Authority to govern the Gaza Strip once the war is over. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that’s out of the question, and has depicted Abbas as not much better than Hamas — although cooperation between Israel and P.A. forces has so far kept a lid on violence erupting in the West Bank.
Disdain for Abbas may be the one area where Palestinians agree with Netanyahu. Some 60% of respondents want the Palestinian Authority dismantled and nearly 90% want Abbas to step down. Ronni Shaked, a research fellow at the Truman Institute at Hebrew University whose specialty is Palestinian society, said Palestinians see Abbas and the P.A. as it currently stands as little better than collaborators.
“In their eyes, he is working with the Israelis, for the Israelis, he cooperates and coordinates the security with the Israeli people,” Shaked said. He noted also that the polling was conducted during an exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinians in Israeli prison on security offenses. Israel released roughly three prisoners for every hostage.
That boosted Hamas in Palestinian eyes because of the priority Palestinians place on the release of the thousands of prisoners held by Israel, Shaked said.
”It’s a consensus among all the Palestinians, Hamas, Fatah [Abbas’ party], whatever you want, that to release the prisoner is … No. 1 for the society.”
The poll showed that 81% of respondents believed that Hamas’ primary goal in its Oct. 7 attack was a “response to settler attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque and on Palestinian citizens and for the release of prisoners from Israeli prisons.”
Shikaki, who has been polling Palestinians since the outset of the Oslo process, said shifts in public opinion occur when diplomacy becomes viable, something that Biden is hoping to achieve even in the face of Netanyahu’s opposition to the P.A. and its low standing among Palestinians.
“For a long time, we never had a majority in support of violence,” he said. “Support for violence started to rise when two, three years ago, violence by settlers increased considerably.”
Shaked was pessimistic. He said violence had become part of the Palestinian ethos since the collapse of the 1990s-era peace process and the launch of the Second Intifada in 2000. What was needed, he said, was a strong Palestinian leader who repudiated violence, and long-term teaching for peace to supersede decades of teaching violence.
“The ethos of the Palestinians has not changed,” he said. “They have the same collective memory, the same collective emotion, the same collective societal beliefs about the delegitimization of the Jewish people.”
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Harvard Alumni File Lawsuit Claiming Campus Antisemitism ‘Devalues’ Their Diplomas
A group of ten Harvard University alumni filed a lawsuit against the institution on Wednesday, accusing it of “devaluing” their degrees through permitting and fostering an environment of antisemitism, support for terrorism, and anti-Israel sentiment.
Filed in a Massachusetts federal court, the alumni claims that Harvard has breached an implicit contract with its graduates, promising to maintain the institution’s prestige, which they allege has been compromised due to a toxic campus environment. This, they argue, has led potential employers and prestigious law firms to distance themselves from Harvard alumni.
“Harvard has directly caused the value and prestige of plaintiffs’ Harvard degrees to be diminished and made a mockery out of Harvard graduates in the employment world and beyond,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit argues that the university’s administration has failed to combat campus anti-semitism, and has consistently overlooked assaults on Jewish students and calls by students and faculty for the annihilation of Israel. It highlighted, among other things, an open letter signed by more than thirty student organizations blaming Israel for the October 7 Hamas-led attack, and campus protests which included chants like “Long live the intifada!” and “There is only one solution: intifada revolution!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine is Arab!”
The suit also points to then-Harvard president Claudine Gay’s testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where she stated that calls for genocide against Jews would only violate bullying and harassment policies “depending on the context,” as indicative of the school’s tolerance of antisemitism.
The lawsuit is part of a growing dissatisfaction among graduates over what they perceive as rampant antisemitism on U.S. campuses, according to attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of legal aid group, Shurat HaDin, who is representing the alumni alongside New York-based lawyer, Robert Tolchin.
Darshan-Leitner criticized the colleges for becoming “hate centers” under the guise of academic freedom.
The lawsuit, Darshan-Leitner said, reveals the “growing outrage and contempt that graduates all across the US are feeling over the wild antisemitism and hate speech being encouraged and explained away on the American campuses.”
“This dangerous weaponization of higher education by radical faculty and students as well as the impotent administration response, all justified under the guise of academic freedom, has turned the colleges into hate centers which has greatly devalued their reputation and diplomas,” she said, adding that the suit could prompt similar actions from graduates of other institutions.
Tolchin accused the university of succumbing to “the flavor of the month, the lowest level of discourse.”
“Harvard’s seal proclaims “Light and Truth” in Latin and Hebrew–yes, Hebrew, the language spoken by the indigenous Israelites. Yet light and truth have been hard to find at Harvard. The darkness of antisemitism and the dishonesty, hate, and discrimination have cast a pall over Harvard so embarrassing that people do not wish to be associated with Harvard,” Tolchin said.
Harvard has been accused of facilitating an educational environment that is unwelcoming to Israelis and Jews for years, with the lawsuit citing annual events such as “Israel Apartheid Week” and incidents targeting Jewish students and symbols on campus.
Antisemitism expert Dara Horn, a Harvard alumnus who was asked to join Gay’s anti-Semitism advisory committee, authored a damning essay published this week in The Atlantic in which she detailed the Jew hatred on campus predating October 7.
She noted that staff members “who grade Jewish students used university-issued class lists to share information about events organized by pro-Palestine groups;” In one instance, a professor continued teaching after rejecting the findings of an investigation by Harvard after he was found discriminating against several Israeli students. Last spring, a student was asked to leave because her identity as an Israeli was making her classmates “uncomfortable.”
She also pointed to courses themselves “premised on anti-Semitic lies”, pointing to one called “The Settler Colonial Determinants of Health”, and noted that lecturers invited to speak at the campus included some who peddled in blood libels that Israelis harvest Palestinians’ organs or that the IDF uses Palestinian children for weapons testing.
“The mountain of proof at Harvard revealed a reality in which Jewish students’ access to their own university (classes, teachers, libraries, dining halls, public spaces, shared student experiences) was directly compromised,” Horn writes. The alumni’s legal action comes alongside another lawsuit filed by six current Harvard students on January 10, claiming that the university has not done enough to combat antisemitism on campus which had become a “bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment.” It also comes a day after a professor at the university, Walter Johnson, resigned from two anti-Zionist campus groups after they posted antisemitic cartoons.
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Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7
Israeli Culture Minister Miki Zohar sent the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) a letter on Thursday urging them to approve Israel’s submission to the Eurovision song competition, after the EBU called it “too political.”
“As you know, the State of Israel is experiencing one of the most difficult and complex periods since its establishment. We lost our loved ones, and there are women, men and children who are still held captive by a terrorist organization,” Zohar said.
Israeli media reported that the broadcasting union would not approve the song, called “October Rain,” after a number of countries even issued threats to boycott the event if Israel participates. The EBU issued a statement saying “We are currently in the process of carefully examining the lyrics of the song – a process that is confidential between the EBU and the Public Broadcasting Corporation until a final decision is made. To all broadcasters, they have until March 11th to officially submit their songs. If a song does not meet the criteria for any reason, the corporation will be given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics, according to the contest rules.”
“The song that Israel sent to the Eurovision Song Contest was chosen by a professional committee made up of well-known names in the local music and entertainment industry,” Zohar added. “It is a moving song, discussing renewal and revival from a very fragile reality of loss and destruction, and describes the current public mood in Israel these days. We see now most clearly because our lives – as one, united society – manage to overcome even the greatest suffering. This is not a political song.”
Despite the news that the song by Israeli singer Eden Golan would not be approved, The CEO of KAN, Israel’s national broadcasting service, and the body that approves the song, Golan Yokhpaz, said “We will not change the words or the song, even at the cost of Israel not participating in Eurovision this year.” Adding “The Israel Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) is in dialogue with the EBU regarding the song that will represent Israel at Eurovision.”
Zohar said later in a television interview “The songwriters, KAN, and the singer will have to make the decisions at the end of the day… I do think that Israel should participate in Eurovision because it is important for us at this time to be represented there, and to express ourselves throughout Europe.”
Speaking to the EBU, he said, “We trust that you will continue in your important task of keeping the competition free from any attempt at political manipulation.”
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UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’
The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories referred to Israelis as “colonialists” who have “fake identities” while quoting another Twitter/X account on Wednesday, raising questions about the impartiality of the international body.
She highlighted the following quote from Mizrahi: “free Palestine scares them [Westerners] bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities.”
” free Palestine scares them bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities..” https://t.co/N1wkOPgKJs
— Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur oPt (@FranceskAlbs) February 21, 2024
The original post claimed that “All colonial powers work together to guarantee the supremacy of made-up identities over genuine, native ones. Because if this model breaks anywhere, it will collapse everywhere.”
Mizrahi argued that “A Palestinian state would be a major, major moral blow to white, Western colonialism.”
The tweet was met with immediate condemnation.
David Friedman, who served as the US Ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021 under former President Donald Trump wrote that her tweet was “Exhibit A why the UN is a failure and why we no longer belong in that bastion of hypocrisy and corruption.”
An account documenting Hamas’ October 7 atrocities asked, “If Israel is indeed a ‘colonialist project’ Where should all the Israelis go if this project should be dismantled?”
The perception of UN bias against Israel has also been boosted by the fact that, in 2023, Israel was condemned twice as often as all other countries combined.
It is not the first time Albanese has made comments that raise eyebrows. Earlier this month, in response to French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron calling the October 7 attack “largest anti-Semitic massacre of the 21st century,” she said “No, Mr. Macron. The victims of October 7 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression.”
Following backlash, she wrote that she opposes “all racism, including anti-Semitism, a global threat. But explaining these crimes as anti-Semitism obscures their true cause.”
Hamas’ founding charter, in a section about the “universality” of its cause, reads: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
Albanese has also argued that Israel should make peace with Hamas, saying that “It needs to make peace with Hamas in order to not be threatened by Hamas.”
When asked about what people do not understand about Hamas, she added, “If someone violates your right to self-determination, you are entitled to embrace resistance.”
The post UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.