Critics of Israel’s policies toward Hamas-run Gaza center their complaints on two premises: that Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip is responsible for Palestinians’ lack of goods and services, and that the Palestinians in Gaza cannot be held responsible for the actions of their terrorist government.
Both premises are wrong, but usually it is left to Israel’s defenders to point this out. Today, the Washington Post carries a story that adds a new wrinkle: the paper’s reporter went to Gaza, and the Palestinians there clearly and unambiguously disputed both premises as well. The Post writes:
The militant Islamist movement surged to a surprise victory in Palestinian elections in 2006 with promises of clean governance and a reputation for terrorist tactics against Israel, which had withdrawn from Gaza the year before. But after five years of Hamas administration, many in this besieged strip say it has lived up to neither. Hamas is fast losing popularity, and recent surveys indicate that it would not win if elections were held in Gaza today.
Hamas “has lived up to neither”–that is, Palestinians are frustrated by the corruption and the lack of “terrorist tactics” against their Jewish neighbors. The Palestinians spelled out to the Post exactly what they meant by corruption: they blame the state of affairs not on Israel’s naval blockade, but squarely on Hamas, where it belongs.
“Many aspects of the siege are imposed by Hamas,” an anonymous smuggling tunnel manager told the Post. (Yes, smuggling tunnels, being run as mainstream business shops, have “managers.”)
“Hamas is controlling us,” an unemployed former shopkeeper told the Post. “They are responsible for us.”
After Egypt stopped providing subsidized fuel through those smuggling tunnels for Gaza’s power plant, the Strip experienced blackouts and gas lines. Once Egypt–not Israel, but Egypt–cut their fuel supply to Gaza, Hamas could have turned around and purchased some from Israel. They chose not to. Explains the Post: “Analysts — and ordinary Gazans — say the crisis has been prolonged by Hamas’s refusal to import pricier fuel through an Israeli-controlled crossing.” The Gazan Palestinians are upset, but are not foolish enough to blame Israel for what is clearly Hamas’s doing.
Let’s return to the second premise: who to blame for violence against Israel. Again, the Palestinians in Gaza told the Post that, far from being peaceniks, they can’t understand why there isn’t more terrorism against Israel. That’s what they voted for! And that’s exactly what they are telling reporters:
“They say they are the resistance against the enemy,” said Umm Mohammed, 26, bouncing a baby on her knee. “Where is the resistance?”
Where are all the dead Jews we were promised? wonders a young Palestinian mother aloud while holding her child. More:
Hamas, eager to preserve its rule, has also become wary of provoking a new Israeli offensive in Gaza, costing it credibility in some quarters. Although Gaza’s cement-block buildings are papered with posters of gun-toting fighters, and Hamas allows Islamic Jihad and other militant factions to fire rockets into Israel, Hamas itself has mostly adhered to an unofficial cease-fire since the 2008-2009 Israeli offensive…
Islamic Jihad’s performance — it lobbed hundreds of rockets toward civilian targets in Israel and lost 14 fighters — increased the group’s appeal, Ahmed boasted, noting that Hamas now has “different calculations and bigger responsibility… It has a lot to lose.”
The Post wonders whether this means Hamas is becoming genuinely more moderate. Its evidence for this–which it reports with a straight face–is the following: “But Nunu said Western powers have ignored symbolic moves by Hamas, such as Haniyeh’s decision to make his first official trip abroad, in January, to Turkey — a country whose electoral democracy and moderate Islamism are serving as a ‘model’ to a growing number of Hamas leaders, Yousef said.”
Well then. Islamists are branching out by visiting with other Islamists. Maybe they are shunning the more murderous and genocidal of the region’s Islamists, at least? “One month after that trip, though, Haniyeh visited Iran, another longtime Hamas benefactor.”
It’s amazing what you can learn when you ask actual Palestinians, rather than their self-appointed spokesmen in the West, what they think.