In a number of statements since Hamas's October 7 massacre in Israel, US President Joe Biden stated that Hamas does not represent all the Palestinian people. "I think Israel understands that a significant portion of Palestinian people do not share the views of Hamas and Hezbollah," Biden said in an interview with CBS.
Biden's claim was repeated by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who told Jordan's King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people. In a phone call with Abbas, Blinken "expressed continuing US support for the Palestinian people, stressing that Hamas terrorists do not represent Palestinians or their legitimate aspirations for self-determination and equal measures of dignity, freedom, security, and justice," according to a State Department readout.
The Biden administration's assertion that Hamas is an insignificant group of terrorists that does not enjoy the support of many Palestinians is not only false; it is dangerously so. This assertion contradicts the reality, which proves that Hamas actually does represent a significant portion of the Palestinians.
This inconvenient reality is based on public opinion polls conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) and the results of elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council and university student councils and professional unions. It is also based on mass demonstrations and rallies in support of Hamas before and after the October 7 carnage in which Hamas terrorists murdered more than 1,200 Israelis and wounded more than 4,000.
The most recent PSR poll, published last month, showed that if new presidential elections were held today, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would win 58% of the vote, while Mahmoud Abbas would only receive 37%. Hamas's "armed struggle" (terrorism) against Israel was supported by 58% of the Palestinian public, the poll showed. A little over a quarter (27%) of Palestinians believe that Hamas is the most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people today, while 24% believe that Abbas's Fatah faction (which rules the West Bank) is more deserving; 44% believe both are unworthy of representation and leadership.
Another PSR poll, published last June, found that 66% of Palestinians believe that Israel will not celebrate its 100thanniversary and 51% believe that the Palestinian people will be able to "recover Palestine in the future" (i.e., destroy Israel). This means that a majority of Palestinians share Hamas's desire to eliminate Israel as expressed in the terror group's 1988 charter. The poll also showed that 71% of the Palestinians support the formation of armed groups to murder Israelis.
In the past few months, Hamas-affiliated students won elections at two major Palestinian universities in the West Bank. At An-Najah University in Nablus, Hamas's Islamic Bloc won a majority of 40 seats of the student council, while Abbas/Fatah loyalists secured 38 seats. At Birzeit University, near Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians, the Hamas-affiliated Islamic Wafa Bloc won 25 seats out of the student council's 51 seats. A Hamas student bloc also won the majority of seats at Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron earlier this year. According to Middle East Eye:
"The Birzeit and An-Najah elections are considered the bellwether of West Bank politics. The results of these elections are read as a reflection of wider Palestinian society, its position on the PA, and voters' orientations in any broader elections that may be held in the future. With no general Palestinian elections on the horizon, student polls are seen as a 'test for measuring public opinion'..."
In 2021, Abbas cancelled elections he had called for the Palestinian Authority presidency and parliament after realizing that his Fatah faction was poised to lose to Hamas, as took place in the 2006 parliamentary election. "The decision to cancel the elections stemmed from substantive concerns by all the Fatah factions over losing to Hamas," said Dr. Ido Zelkovitz, head of the Middle East Studies department at Israel's Jezreel Valley Academic College.
"The divisions within Fatah and the personal rivalries within its factions contrasted with the united front Hamas presented ahead of the scheduled elections. To avoid embarrassment, Abbas chose to delay the elections, pointing an accusing finger at Israel for [allegedly] preventing the voting by refusing to allow the participation of East Jerusalem residents."
In 2006, Hamas scored a major victory when its representatives won the parliamentary election. Of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hamas won 76-43 seats went to Fatah.
Unlike Biden and Blinken, Abbas knows that Hamas does indeed represent many Palestinians, and unlike Biden and Blinken, Abbas has seen the pro-Hamas demonstrations in the West Bank, including ones that took place a few miles away from his office in Ramallah, in the aftermath of the October 7 massacre of Israelis, including women, children, and the elderly. Unlike Biden and Blinken, Abbas has also seen the numerous Hamas-affiliated terror groups that emerged in the West Bank over the past two years. These groups, such as Jenin Battalion and Lions' Den, are responsible for murdering and wounding dozens of Israelis since the beginning of this year.
Abbas and his officials fully understand that Hamas is not an alien group that landed from Mars. "Hamas is an integral part of the Palestinian people," he said in 2014. Former PLO official Hanan Ashrawi also acknowledged the significance of Hamas in Palestinian society:
"Hamas is an integral part of the [Palestinian] people and it is one of the people's national and societal components."
If, according to Biden and Blinken, Hamas does not represent the Palestinians, how do they explain the fact that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians participated last year in the group's rally to commemorate the 35th anniversary of its founding? Also, how do they explain the fact that hundreds of Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip joined the Hamas terrorists who attacked the Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip?
By stating that Hamas does not represent the Palestinians, Biden and Blinken are implying that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are the genuine and legitimate representatives of the Palestinians. It is worth reminding the US President and his Secretary of State that Abbas is now in the 18th year of his four-year term in office. Abbas was elected in 2005, and since then the Palestinians have not held presidential elections. Notably, the last PSR poll showed that 78% of the Palestinians do not have faith in Abbas and want him to resign.
The Biden administration is presenting a false claim according to which most Palestinians are opposed to Hamas and that Abbas's Palestinian Authority, which rewards terrorists who murder Jews with monthly stipends, is a "peace partner" for Israel. This is a complete distortion of reality and does not represent the truth.
Recently, Abbas reminded everyone that he is an antisemite and a Holocaust-denier. Speaking on August 24 at a Fatah meeting in Ramallah, Abbas said:
"They say that Hitler killed the Jews because they were Jews and that Europe hated the Jews because they were Jews. Not true. It was clearly explained that [the Europeans] fought [the Jews] because of their social role, and not their religion. The [Europeans] fought against these people because of their social role in society, which had to do with usury, money and so on and so forth."
When will Biden and Blinken grasp that there is no difference between the murderous Hamas leaders and Abbas the antisemite? Surely, Biden and Blinken are aware that Abbas has not condemned the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7. Abbas's silence is a rambunctious approval of the cold-blooded massacre of hundreds upon hundreds of Israelis. Let there be no mistake about it: both Hamas and Abbas represent a majority of Palestinians whose goal is to murder Jews and destroy Israel.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.