It’s been a year since the last summer’s war in Gaza ended and those who lost their homes during the fighting are still waiting for them to be rebuilt? To listen to Palestinian propagandists, this is the fault of Israel. That’s the conceit of an op-ed published Monday in the New York Times by author Mohammed Omer. According to Omer, Gaza is a “Gulag on the Mediterranean” still suffering under Israel “occupation” even though the Jewish state withdrew every last soldier, settler and settlement ten years ago. All the strip’s problems can, he writes, be attributed to an Israeli siege that imprisons and stifles the Palestinians living there. But, oddly enough, a slightly more realistic evaluation of their problems was to be found in a news article published by the Times the day before. The reason why not a single one of the 18,000 homes destroyed or damaged in the war has not been made habitable isn’t because the Israelis are preventing it from happening.
Even Hamas government officials concede that the Israelis haven’t stopped the shipment of cement and other building materials designated for civilian reconstruction from entering Gaza. Some of the problem lies in a cumbersome process needed to approve such shipments. The failure of international donors, especially from the Arab world, to make good on their pledges to help Gaza is also huge. But the main problem is that although homes aren’t being rebuilt, there is a lot of construction going on in Gaza. Unfortunately, the work is concentrated on the building of terror tunnels and other military infrastructure that will enable Hamas to launch another war on Israel if it suits their political needs or the whims of their Iranian allies.
Omer’s argument is a familiar one. Israel ought not to be allowed to prevent free entry in and out of Gaza for people or goods. The siege — in which Egypt plays as much a role as Israel though Omer barely mentions that point — reduces the Hamas government to a “municipal authority.” But this is nonsense. The reason why the international community has no problem with the loose blockade of Gaza is that it is run by a terrorist organization.
Gaza is an independent Palestinian state in all but name, and its government believes its main purpose is to wage a war on Israel to end the “occupation.” But by occupation, it doesn’t refer to an effort to get the Israelis to withdraw from the West Bank or even Jerusalem. Rather, as Hamas tells us over and over again in the public statements made by their leaders and its charter, occupation refers to all of Israel. Their war is not a limited one but an existential conflict whose only goal is to end Israel’s existence. It maintains its tyrannical control over the strip by trying to focus public anger at the Israelis and their Fatah rivals in the West Bank.
The reconstruction problem is terrible for the people of Gaza, but it also points out how the propaganda about Israel creating a humanitarian crisis there is a myth. Every day truck convoys of food, medicine and construction material approved by the joint commission run by United Nations, the PA and the Israelis arrives. But somehow that has not resulted in the rebuilding of homes since, as the Times reports, homeowners who are able to purchase the needed material resell it on the black market. That ensures it winds up being used, alone with Iranian aid smuggled into Gaza, to build more tunnels along the border with Israel or other military projects. Everyone knows that the joint monitoring system has failed to stop the use of international aid for Hamas terror projects.
Meanwhile, as the Times notes, 37,000 tons of cement allowed in by Israel sits unused in warehouses. This is largely due to Hamas incompetence and the fact that the Arab world is dubious of sending money to Gaza that won’t be used to help people.
This is a tragedy, but sympathy for suffering Palestinians and criticism of Israel won’t make anything better for them. Had the Palestinians used the Israeli withdrawal to build a free society and their economy, it might have thrived. Instead, the bloody Hamas coup enabled the terror group to transform the strip. But instead of a prison, it is a terror fortress.
Last summer, Israeli fire destroyed many Palestinian homes. But that happened because Gaza’s government fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities and towns and used their tunnels to launch terror raids while turning down cease-fire offers until their appetite for creating misery was sated. Instead of defending Palestinians, Hamas used the people and homes of Gaza were to shield terrorists. There were plenty of shelters there, but they are still for Hamas’s bombs, not the people. There is plenty of excavation going on, but it is not for the purpose of digging foundations for new homes but for tunnels that will be used to facilitate kidnapping and murder of Israelis. If demands by so-called human rights groups for granting Gaza an open border, it would result in the strip becoming even more of a military menace both to Israel and Egypt, not freedom for its people.
As the Times reports in a separate article, across the border in the Israeli towns and agricultural villages that faced constant terror attacks, there is a determination not to let Hamas win. Instead of fleeing a clearly dangerous place, Israelis are moving in and building homes demonstrating their determination to survive. Meanwhile, Israel continues to pour more money into efforts that will shield their people from harm in the form of terror rockets instead of staking them out as human shields as Hamas does.
The problems of Gaza will only be solved when it is run by leaders that value the lives and the property of their people as much as the Israelis do. With Iran looking to invest some of the vast wealth that will come to it under the nuclear deal in aiding Hamas, there is little doubt there will be more bunkers and tunnels built in Gaza but few homes. Instead of blaming Israel for what is happening in lands they’ve already given up in the hope of peace, it’s time for the international community to focus on the real problem. When they are no longer under the thumb of a group that is obsessed with an ideology of hate that prompts them to fight for Israel’s destruction, the Palestinians will rebuild Gaza and there will be no more danger of another war.