By Cliff May
been an unhappy place for a long time but the situation is now reportedly
growing desperate. Jobs are scarce, electricity is intermittent, drinking water
is unsafe, and raw sewage released into the Mediterranean is washing up on Gaza’s
white sandy beaches.
did this happen? A one-paragraph history: Ruled by the Ottomans for centuries,
then ruled by the British for decades, in 1948 the territory was taken over by
Egypt. The Israelis seized it in 1967, the outcome of a defensive war in which Israel also
took the West Bank from Jordan. In 2005, the Israelis withdrew from Gaza,
thinking that might pave the way to a resolution of their conflict with the
Palestinians. Instead, the two dominant Palestinian factions, Hamas and
Fatah, went to war with one another. After two years, Hamas emerged
front-page takeout in The New York Times this month gives voice to Gaza’s
suffering masses. Accompanying photos, artfully composed, show a woman begging,
shopkeepers behind bars for not paying their debts and patients in a hospital
bureau chief David M. Halbfinger concludes that Hamas has
“few options.” He adds: “The one it has resorted to three times — going
to war with Israel,
in hopes of generating international sympathy and relief in the aftermath —
suddenly seems least attractive.”
you get that? The New York Times sees nothing alarming, certainly nothing to
criticize, about Palestinians contemplating “going to war” against Israelis
to improve their economic situation. Would the newspaper take the same attitude
toward any other peoples anywhere else in the world?
notice what was not mentioned: that Hamas might
contemplate giving up its goal of destroying Israel;
that it might, as the saying goes, “Give peace a chance!” Not only did that
option not occur to Mr. Halbfinger, it also apparently didn’t cross the minds
of other “Gaza experts”
to whom he turned. Nathan Thrall, an analyst for International Crisis Group,
tells him simply: “Hamas itself
has few ways to alleviate the crisis.”
for grins, imagine this: Hamas stops
spending hundreds of millions of dollars (mostly drawn from foreign aid)
building missiles to fire at Israeli cities, and digging tunnels to infiltrate
terrorists into Israeli villages where they are to spray bullets at men, women
and children, and drag others, as hostages, into the holes leading back to Gaza.
imagine: In response to such a suspension of hostilities, Israel stops
building an underground anti-tunnel system with a price tag of roughly $1
billion. Israel offers
to spend those funds to assist the people of Gaza instead.
cutting-edge technology, Gazans soon have all the clean drinking water they
need, all the electricity they want, and a sewage system unlike any in the
Middle East (outside Israel).
were another war between Hamas and Israel to
be seen as unlikely rather than inevitable, do you not think Gazawould
become much more attractive to job-creating investors? I wonder if there are
Syrians and Yemenis who wish they had such an alternative available to them as a
way to relieve their (much more intense) deprivation.
enough imagining. Most “Gaza experts”
no doubt do regard such ideas as crazy or at least unrealistic. The
“disarmament of Hamas appears
to be nonnegotiable” write David Makovsky and Lia Weiner of the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy in a report published last month on Gaza’s
could end this column here but there’s one more layer that ought to be peeled
from the onion. Mahmoud Abbas is the Palestinian Authority president but he does
not rule Gaza’s
two million residents. He dares not even set foot in the territory. But rest
assured he is doing everything he can — to make the crisis there worse.
Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and currently Israel’s
deputy public diplomacy minister, wrote last week: “Abbas recently cut the
salaries of Palestinian Authority officials in the Gaza Strip by 50 percent, and
fired thousands more.
has suspended welfare benefits to families in Gaza,
generally cut budgets to the coastal enclave, and is again trying to limit the
power supply, despite the winter cold, thus exacerbating Gazans’ suffering.
Perhaps in his cruelest move yet, he has also suspended the delivery of vital
medicines to Gaza,
including for infants and children, and significantly reduced the funding for
medical care for Gazans in Israel.”
would he do such things? Because, Mr. Oren explains, he wants Hamas to
start another war with Israel — one that would end with Israel soundly
defeating Hamas and
expelling it from Gaza once
and for all.
the aftermath, Israel would
“be accused of war crimes and Abbas himself would lead the charge, in an
attempt to benefit twice: He would be hailed for having dealt Hamas a
final blow, and would be revered for defending the Palestinians from the
prevent this scenario from playing out, and to avoid letting Mr. Abbas “fight Hamas down
to the very last Israeli soldier,” Mr. Oren argues that Israel should
take significant steps to alleviate the crisis in Gaza — expecting nothing in
Less than a decade after Israel’s founding, Golda Meir, who would go onto to become Israel’s fourth prime minister, was famously quoted as saying: “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” Hamas‘ parental affections have not evolved. As for the immiserated people of Gaza, perhaps they lack the courage to challenge Hamas. That would be the hopeful explanation.