Many left-wing thinkers are absolutely sure that the sanctions movement against South Africa helped Nelson Mandela to convince the white minority that change was inevitable and, thus, led to the end of apartheid. Indeed, the great man often said that this is what had happened. But, the same leftists think, sanctions against Iran and — above all — Gaza are inhumane, punish only the elite and will not lead to greater democracy or to regime change.

Polling evidence from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (reported by the ever-excellent Gilani Foundation) suggests that Mandela’s analysis might apply in the Middle East too. Citizens in Gaza and the West Bank are increasingly unhappy with the Hamas-led government in Gaza. The PSR is respected and thought to be independent. It interviewed 1270 adults face to face in 127 randomly selected locations. Margin of error is 3%. Given that sounding anti-Hamas can be a bit dangerous in Gaza, these findings –if anything — probably understate the extent of unhappiness. The results show that the anti-Hamas shift cannot be explained by any great appreciation for the Fatah-led government in the West Bank.

Gilani reports, “if new legislative elections [were] held today with the participation of all factions, 71% say they would participate in such elections. Of those who would participate, 29% say they would vote for Hamas and 40% say they would vote for Fatah, 8% would vote for all other third parties combined, and 23% are undecided. [The] vote for Hamas in the Gaza Strip stands in this poll at 33% and in the West Bank at 26%. [The] vote for Fatah in the Gaza Strip stands in this poll at 39% and in the West Bank at 41%. These results indicate a sharp decrease in support for Hamas in the Gaza Strip from the 39% it had last September. In the West Bank however Hamas’ popularity increased by one percentage point during the same period. Fatah, on the other hand, increased its popularity in the West Bank by two percentage points and in the Gaza Strip by one percentage point during the same period. ”

The poll suggests that Palestinians have lost faith in both factions and in the existence of fundamental liberties in any part of the Palestinian Territories. Gilani summarises it this way:

  • “Perception of corruption in PA institutions in the West Bank stands at 77% in this poll. Perception of corruption in the public institutions of Hamas’ Gaza government stands at 68%.
  • 22% say there is, and 46% say there is to some extent, press freedom in the West Bank. By contrast, 17% say there is, and 38% say there is to some extent, press freedom in the Gaza Strip.
  • 30% of the Palestinian public say people in the West Bank can criticize the authority in the West Bank without fear. By contrast, 24% of the public say people in the Gaza Strip can criticize the authorities in Gaza without fear”

The polling also shows the kind of disillusionment with radical change that has been noted across the region. “Compared to the situation a year ago, findings show a drop in the percentage of those who believe that Hamas’ way is the best way to end occupation and build a Palestinian state and an increase in the percentage of those who believe that Abbas’ way is the best way. In December 2012, in the aftermath of the Gaza war and the entry of Khalid Mishaal into the Gaza Strip, 60% believed that Hamas’ way and that of the resistance groups was the best to achieve the vital goals of the Palestinians while only 28% said Abbas’ was the best. Today, in the aftermath of the recent developments in Egypt and their ramifications to the Gaza Strip and in the aftermath of the return to Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and the release of some prisoners, the percentage of those who believe Hamas’ was is the best way drops to 39% while the percentage of those who believe that Abbas’ way is the best way rises to 36%. The current findings show that 25% (compared to 13% a year ago) believe that other ways are better or do not know which way is the best way. It is worth mentioning that the 2012 question refer to “Hamas’ and the resistance groups’ way” while the current question refers to ‘Hamas’ way.'”

The full poll makes fascinating reading

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