Gaza is a strip of 360 km2, with coasts on the Mediterranean and borders with Israel and Egypt. Its beaches are the best in the region, and it occupies a privileged geographical location to become a tourist paradise.
In 2005 Israel abandoned the entire territory, leaving it under the control of the “Palestinian National Authority” (PNA) led by the “Al Fataj” movement, which had signed the Oslo Accords (1993) with the Hebrew state, generating strong hopes for peace. In 2007 Hamas seized power in Gaza, violently expelling the rulers loyal to Abu Mazen, successor of Yasser Arafat, who controls the Palestinian autonomous areas of the West Bank.
Consolidating its power, Hamas invested fortunes in building tunnels to bring in weapons from Egypt, in addition to mass-producing missiles and launchers. In practice, Gaza became a small theocratic state, following the Iranian model, and facing Ramallah.
Its declared aim is to “establish an Islamic state in place of Israel.” Education inculcates from kindergarten that to be a martyr to the cause is to earn one’s heaven at once. And a martyr is, according to Hamas, anyone who murders “infidels” to spread Islam in any corner of the world. It is curious how European “progressive” sectors or the left-wing of the Democratic Party in the United States can feel empathy with a theocratic, medieval dictatorship that denies all rights to women and encourages the marriage of girls to men who could be their grandfathers.
According to the Argentine analyst Karina Mariani “it is no coincidence that their operational commands and depots are in residential areas, the rockets are fired from there and the failures that logically occur cause them to fall in the Gaza Strip itself, killing civilians, as well as turning them into a military target if the launching base is to be neutralized. The humanitarian drama exists, and it consists of having a population governed by terrorists”.
Criticizing a nation’s policies does not mean hating that nation or its inhabitants. Denying that nation’s right to exist and wishing for its inhabitants to be swallowed by the sea is hating.
“Today, once again, Israel is under attack by a terrorist organization whose aim is the disappearance of the Jews and their nation from the region they have inhabited for nearly 40 centuries. Let the archaeological evidence be on record to dispel debates about who came first.” The Palestinian authorities in Gaza never invested in defensive technology. “It’s just that, for the purposes of terrorism, martyrs are good. That’s why Israel has the shield to defend its own and Hamas has missiles to shoot at them and where they fall, they fall. Everyone has their own priorities.”
Ideology, terror and dictatorship
Hamas established an Islamic government in 2007, repressed all opposition and imposed radical compliance with Muslim principles in all aspects of life (Sharia). Human Rights Watch has repeatedly denounced “serious violations of humanitarian law.”
Hamas does not recognize Israel’s legitimacy and has defined dialogue between Arabs and Jews as a waste of time. It supports assassinations as a means to achieve its goals. In addition to violent operations, it pursues a social policy through the maintenance of schools and hospitals, which won it initial public support.
Since it came to power, the international community has been opposed to providing financial aid or recognizing the Gazan government as legitimate, due to its rejection of the three basic points demanded by the UN to achieve peace: recognition of Israel, renunciation of terrorist violence and acceptance of the Oslo Accords signed between the two peoples.
In this last stage, everything began with attacks on the police by thousands of Muslims praying in the Al Aksa mosque, the third holiest mosque in Islam, during Ramadan. The response was the entry of security forces into the mosque itself, evicting the public and arresting dozens of men throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. This provoked the fury of the Muslim world, at least of its radical sectors. In the midst of this reality, Hamas threatened to bomb all of Israel. It carried out its threat. It even, surprisingly, fired missiles into Jerusalem, a city also sacred to Muslims.
The riots were not spontaneous. Hamas trained its cadres and stockpiled explosives that were taken to the Temple Mount, where Al Aqsa is located, next to the Wailing Wall and near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Calculating that the Hebrew reaction to the launched missiles would be moderate, Hamas changed the rules of the game, making Jerusalem part of the equation: Israeli acts to restore order would be responded to from Gaza. However, it missed the mark by far in assessing the response. This time, Israel did not act with the restraint they expected.
The Hebrew strategic choice was not to stop without leaving a deep wound in Hamas, destroying the military capability of the organization and its Islamic Jihad allies. As happened with Hezbollah in 2006, where the blow led Nasrallah to accept his mistake publicly and keep the Lebanese border – except for sporadic acts – silent since then.
The offensive on Gaza is aimed at achieving “a long period of calm, confident that what has been done will be sufficient to render Hamas’s infrastructure so damaged that it cannot be rebuilt by its own strength,” the Foreign Ministry said. Israel claims that Hamas has always used its own people as a human shield. Moreover, 30 % of the missiles launched do not fall on Israeli territory but on Palestinian territory, injuring and killing civilians.
Hamas had hoped to win the Palestinian elections, which were cancelled by PNA President Abu Mazen. Coinciding with the end of Ramadan and the commemoration of its defeat in the 1948 war, it began attacks on Israeli territory.
In the ten days of conflict “3,900 rockets have been launched from Gaza towards Israel,” declared Ionatan Korninkus, army spokesman, adding that “Iron Dome succeeded in intercepting 90% of the shots.” Some 500 rockets launched from Gaza landed in the strip itself.
Victims and division in Israeli society
Every war or armed confrontation is a human tragedy. Innocents always die. And the present case is no exception. What is exceptional is the media coverage, which does not exist in much bloodier conflicts, whether in Africa, Turkey, Kurdistan or Syria. Now, why is it so when Hamas fired thousands of missiles into populated areas, caused 12 fatalities and they lost 180 terrorists and 50 civilians?
The answer lies in technology: Israel created the “Iron Dome” anti-missile system, which intercepts in the air those that are going to fall on towns and cities and “lets pass” those that are diverted to open areas. If this were not the case, there would be even more dead than in Gaza, as Hamas directly targets the population, while the Hebrew aviation targets the military structure and the terrorist leadership. Obviously in this situation there are innocent victims, oblivious to everything, such as children. And this is undoubtedly the most tragic. The key question is who is politically responsible for the tragedy. And the answer is clear: Hamas.
In less than a century Israel became a powerful and democratic nation. In fact, it is the only country in the region that can hold that title. A few weeks ago, the PNA president, faced with a possible electoral defeat, suspended the elections. The current escalation is partly due to winning the Palestinian street, outraged by the official corruption that makes all humanitarian aid from abroad disappear and after 15 years without being able to vote.
Within Israel and as a result of the conflict, a social crisis emerged between the Jewish majority together with the sectors integrated into the country – Russians, Christians – against a large part of the Arab citizenship, which reaches 18 % of the population. Aggressions and clashes took place in cities of mixed population.
In Lod, five synagogues were set on fire, and people identified as Jews or Muslims were assaulted. Cars and several businesses were burned. Even last Tuesday a national strike of Muslim citizens was called, which demonstrated the existence of an important part of this community that does not feel integrated. It is not difficult to measure what percentage of this population are those who feel this way. In the last elections, the Israeli Arabs voted divided.
The “Unified List”, identified with the Palestinians, obtained six legislators out of 120, while a moderate split led by Manzur Abbas obtained four. The latter declared that “it is time for us to assume that we are Israelis and participate in the government of the country, defending the interests of our community, and leaving behind international issues that do nothing for us but isolate us”. Abbas is key to forming a government, as his legislators can give a majority to Yair Lapid, the opposition leader in charge of forming a government, or to the current Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.
The future depends, therefore, on the evolution both in Israel and in Gaza and Ramallah, after a truce that should be far-reaching, of those who assume the political leadership. On the Israeli side, the democratic system allows the process to be managed freely, although the dialogue is blocked and fifth elections are possible in two years, if the majority of 61 deputies is not achieved.
On the Palestinian side, with Abu Mazen weakened and Hamas deprived of its former military strength, a new leadership should emerge, committed to peace and recognition of Israel’s legitimacy. Only a conjunction of these facts would allow to close the circle of peace in the area, after the Abraham Accords, which added to Egypt and Jordan five other Arab countries that established diplomatic relations with Israel.
The process is complex, but it is time to put an end to a conflict that cannot be eternal, even if it seems so. Undoubtedly a second term of Donald Trump would have been of greater help in deterring Iran and its Palestinian clients.