Mistaken assumptions such as those by U.S. presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, claiming that all Gazans are “antisemitic,” or those that blame Gazans for “electing Hamas” may shape debates not only on how the war is perceived, but also over relief plans for Gazans in the months ahead.
In my own research into Jihadi-Salafism and Islamism, I found that militant movements provoked military interventions to exploit the chaos that ensues. Moreover, such groups often claim to govern in the “legitimate” interests of those they dominate even if those populations reject their rule.
As several commentators have observed, Hamas likely hopes to not just encourage a disproportionate response from Israel, but also to use the violent aftermath of intervention to cultivate continued Gazan dependence upon it and to distract from its own domestic policy failures.
Politicians and Gaza
Leaders on both sides of the conflict have tried to make justifications for their actions. Often, they use their own perception of Gazan public opinion to support their own policy objectives.
For example, Ismail Haniyeh, chief of Hamas’ political bureau, claimed that Hamas’ actions represented Gazans and “the entire Arab Muslim community.” For Haniyeh, Hamas’ usage of violence was on behalf of Palestinians who had been assaulted in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in September 2023, or have suffered at the hands of Israeli security forces, or for the settlers in the West Bank.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, meanwhile, suggested that all Gazans bore collective responsibility for Hamas. As a result, he concluded, Israel would act to preserve its own self-interest against Gaza and its people.
The Biden administration, careful not to condemn the Israeli bombardment, has sought a broader approach toward the escalation. In an interview and on social media, U.S. President Joseph Biden observed that “the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas’ appalling attacks, and [instead] are suffering
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