Gaza under Hamas: Hope is not an option

As with the last post, I’m throwing in another unpublished Israel-related article that I wrote during the last Gaza conflict in 2014 — last, of course, meaning previous, not final. There will never be a final conflict as long as Hamas is in power. I was far too optimistic on PA President-for-Life Abbas, but here it is as written. 

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There has been plenty of drivel written about the Gaza situation. It would be helpful to look back at some salient details.

Money: A colossal amount of money has been poured into Gaza over the past few years by the international community, including Israel, for development and construction. Ever think where that might have gone? Here’s a hint: according to PA President Abbas in 2012, there were 800 millionaires among Hamas officials. A leading Egyptian authority puts the current number at 1,200, and the Jordanian media estimate Hamas leader Khaled Mashal’s fortune at $2.6 billion. That is, a massive volume of the Gazan aid is going straight into its leadership’s pockets. It’s a good bet that a large portion of that is being invested abroad, never reaching Gazan citizens whatsoever. That’s nothing new, of course – Yasser Arafat, the late PLO leader, is estimated to have left a personal estate of up to $1.3 billion in bank accounts around the world, and his wife lived in a five-star Paris hotel – but it’s particularly galling to hear the current leadership plead poverty when they themselves are sucking the territory dry. In addition, they divert much of the aid money to purposes such as weapons that do nothing for the territory or its people and serve only to justify their own existence; poverty and misery keep the aid flowing right into their hot hands. Wonder why government workers in the territory aren’t getting paid despite the extreme wealth of the top leadership? Or why the territory’s infrastructure remains so poor despite an amazingly sophisticated offensive tunnel network costing $140 million (see below) and increasingly advanced weaponry worth even more? Now you know. Had the huge amount of aid money over the years been put into development, Gaza could have been another Japan. Instead, it’s a fetid pit of corruption that no amount of money can save as long as the current leaders remain in place.

Food and fuel: The media blindly accept accusations of food and fuel shortages. In fact, Israel delivered 1,856 trucks carrying 40,550 tons of food, medicine and humanitarian aid to Gaza throughout the latest conflict (8 July to 5 August). It further provided 4.44 million liters of diesel for the power station in the Gaza Strip, 1.04 million liters for the UNRWA, 4.93 million liters of other fuel, 2.22 million liters of gasoline for transportation and 2,676 tons of gas for domestic needs (8 July to 8 August). The numbers would have been even higher if Hamas had not continuously bombed the very crossing, Kerem Shalom, where those shipments were being supplied. (The other land-based crossing is operated by Egypt, which kept its borders closed.) In one case, a convoy of 91 trucks of food, medicine and other materials had to be abandoned when Hamas violated a UN humanitarian ceasefire and fired rockets at the crossing. Any guesses as to why Hamas would do this? The Israeli drivers persevered at great risk to their own lives, never knowing when the next rocket would come and despite the efforts of Hamas to stop them. It is grossly unfair that this should be twisted the other way by the press.

Hamas also bombed electricity lines carrying power to Gaza, which Israel had been supplying from its own plants throughout the conflict, and then complained about lack of power. It further ordered its people to avoid a special field hospital set up by Israel specifically to treat Palestinian citizens, then complained about lack of medical care. The field hospital was in the end scandalously underused. Why the UNRWA and Red Cross did not direct more citizens to this facility rather than the photogenically overcrowded Gaza hospitals is something only they can answer. (Israel also accepted a number of Palestinians directly into its own hospitals.)

And what of the supposed building material shortages? There was in fact a construction boom in Gaza for the past several years whose results included luxury beachfront properties, a three-story shopping mall and a five-star hotel, reportedly creating hundreds of millionaires. The much-reported lack of bomb shelters in Gaza is not due to lack of materials. The intricate network of offensive tunnels, whose only purpose is to fire missiles at Israel, themselves use up to 500 tons of concrete each, and the total amount employed for their construction is said sufficient to build two hospitals, 20 schools, 20 clinics and 100 kindergartens. Basically the people use concrete to build, while the leaders use it to destroy. This is not a shortage; it is a willful and evil misallocation of resources that cost an estimated $140 million and a great many lives, including 160 children who died working in tunnel construction. Where exactly has the international community been?

And about those tunnels: They were not built near military or political targets, but near kibbutzim farming communities, kindergartens and ordinary neighborhoods. Israel uncovered a plan by Hamas to massacre citizens on a major Jewish holiday this September via the tunnels, to be carried out by hundreds of militants disguised as Israeli soldiers – that is, a targeted murder of noncombatants. Those tunnels had metal transport tracks, electrical and ventilation systems and “kidnap kits” with handcuffs, tranquilizers and such, and were elaborately booby-trapped in case they were discovered. They were carefully planned networks of death, far more extensive than Israel had realized. This is where international aid has been going. This shocking discovery is what Israel was fighting, and leaving that frightening system untouched was simply unthinkable. Destroying the tunnels was the prime objective of Israel’s determined response in the latest conflict. It should not have to wait for its citizens to be killed to rid itself of this horrific threat.

Hamas has gone far beyond the needs of its cause, blackening the name of its own religion in the process. The killing of policemen, soldiers and politicians would at least be an attack on the symbols of the state. Lobbing missiles randomly at inhabited areas is intolerable.

Just to make clear: Israel does not enjoy spending a vast part of its resources in defending itself. It does not relish having a poor and unstable territory next door with a radical, dictatorial leadership that wants only to destroy it. It would gladly give territory, resources and other concessions for peace and security, as it has with Egypt and Jordan, and has made serious offers to the Palestinians on at least three occasions in the past. (President Clinton has never disguised his fury at Arafat for the latter’s last-minute rejection of one hard-won peace deal: “I am a failure, and you have made me one.”) Gaza is not occupied territory, as its own leaders have acknowledged; Israel withdrew its forces in 1995, and the flow of money and construction materials described above make it clear that the territory has had plenty of resources to work with. President Abbas is hardly a paragon of democracy – he’s now in his ninth year of a four-year term – but he has expressed a willingness to accept Israel’s existence (i.e., the presence of Jews in the form of a Jewish state) and enter discussions. Hamas has shown no sign whatsoever of doing the same. It ejected Abbas from Gaza in a coup in 2007 (including murders of civilians, fights in hospitals, summary executions – sound familiar?), and while the two sides have recently reached agreement to form a unity government, it would be foolish to assume that will last long. It is instructive that the Arab world and much-vaunted Arab street have been largely silent on the Gaza situation. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict that the situation will only end as it started: after much needless death and destruction, the leadership that has so miserably failed will remain firmly in place and immediately begin planning the next aggression against Israel, putting continued violence and terror above the needs of its own people. As long as Hamas remains in power, peace will never come to Gaza or the Palestinian people. Hope is not an option.

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