“We lost the battle for public opinion . . . when [the border riots] became associated with blood and the loss of limbs,” said a spokesman for the so-called March of Return.
Gaza activist Ahmad Abu Rutema, spokesman for the so-called March of Return, the Hamas-led riots on Israel’s border, has conceded that Hamas has “lost the battle for public opinion,” and that “there is nothing wrong with a tactical withdrawal” when the path becomes too costly.
Speaking at a symposium titled “The Palestinian Cause – Proposals on the Table” organized by Hamas earlier this month, Abu Rutema said that “the images of torn limbs, wounded people, blood, and martyrs are very painful, and must drive us to reexamine all our tactics and to invent new ones,” the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported.
Since the so-called “March of Return” was launched by Hamas in March, there have been near-weekly, violent riots along the Israel-Gaza border organized by the terrorist group. The riots have given Palestinians cover to attack Israeli security forces with gunfire, grenades, Molotov cocktails, and efforts to illegally infiltrate into Israeli territory to carry out terrorist attacks. Hamas also sent women and children to the front line to use them as human shields.
At least 160 Palestinians have been killed as a result of the rioting, and one Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper. In addition to clashes at the border, southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires caused by incendiary terror kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza.
‘We Have Lost the Battle for Public Opinion’
Abu Rutema explained that the March of Return “has been an attempt to create a certain model. Unfortunately, we have lost the battle for public opinion in the Return March, when it became associated in people’s minds with blood and the loss of limbs. This is very scary.”
He claimed that the March of Return, “launched by the youth, tried to associate this form of struggle with images of life and beauty. This is the philosophy of peaceful struggle.”
“We are fighting by developing the sense of beauty among the Palestinians, because our battle with the occupation [i.e. Israel] is a battle over images and public opinion. [Israel] is trying to present us in an image of death and terrorism. So these were modest efforts, and we all complemented one another,” he added.
The March of Return: ‘Very Costly’
“This is not an attempt to water down the Return March, but it is okay, from time to time, to engage in a tactical withdrawal, if you sense that your path has become too costly,” he unpopularly conceded.
The March of Return “with the many martyrs and wounded, is very costly. So there is nothing wrong with a tactical withdrawal, which will preserve the original idea,” he said.
The majority of those killed in the border clashes were terrorists, Israel has proven.
“We want to save the idea itself from death. The images of torn limbs, wounded people, blood, and martyrs are very painful, and must drive us to reexamine all our tactics and to invent new ones,” he concluded.
In contrast, in an interview with Al Jazeera in May, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar called the idea that the terrorist group was employing “peaceful resistance” against Israel “a clear terminological deception.”
“When you have weapons that are being wielded by men who were able to prevent the strongest army in the region from entering the Gaza Strip for 51 days and were able to capture or kill soldiers of that army — is this really ‘peaceful resistance’?” asked al-Zahhar during a interview with Al Jazeera in May.
“When we talk about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public,” he said. “This is peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies, and enjoying tremendous popular support.”
The vast majority of the Palestinians believe that the March of Return has achieved nothing.
Only 21 percent of the Palestinians believe the March of Return achieved most of its goals, while 74 percent believe it has not achieved its goals or achieved little, according to a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research at the end of last month.
The March of Return was supposedly an attempt to break the “Israeli blockade.” After close five months of terrorism, nothing has changed.
The Tower contributed to this report.