Ever since Hamas invaded Israel, massacred 1,200 of its citizens and kidnapped 240 as hostages, there has been an effort to distance the Gazan population from the terrorist group. In most cases it has been well-intentioned, reflecting a desire that western populations do not associate the rape, torture and mass murder of Jews seen on 7 October with the residents of a territory that is 98 per cent Muslim. Since 9/11, political, civil, journalistic and security elites have made delinking Islam and Islamist violence a priority in their initial responses to terrorism. This has been the case particularly in countries with a sizeable or highly visible Muslim population that could become a target for reprisals and racism.
While this seems sensible as a means of preventing attacks on innocent Muslims in the West, separating Gaza from Hamas in a political sense is not easy. One of the difficulties encountered is Palestinian public opinion. A poll of 668 people by the Ramallah-based polling company Awrad suggests that 75 per cent of those living in Gaza and the West Bank supported Hamas’s attack on Israel, with 59 per cent supporting it ‘extremely’ and 16 per cent ‘somewhat’. In the West Bank, where three-fifths of Palestinians live, support was as high as 83 per cent while in Gaza itself a more modest 64 per cent said they backed ‘the military operation carried out by the Palestinian resistance led by Hamas on October 7th’. Some 76 per cent had a positive view of Hamas, though this is more common in the West Bank (88 per cent) than in Gaza (60 per cent). Some 99 per cent had a negative view of Israel, of which 97 per cent is ‘very negative’. The polling, which included on-the-ground interviews in southern Gaza, also shows 75 per cent endorsing ‘a Palestinian state from the river to the sea’.