No Hope for Gaza if Hamas Remains in Power
The Hamas regime ultimately bears responsibility for PIJ’s terrorist attacks on Israel. It has taken no action to prevent the terrorist group’s activity, and even supports it.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) declared war on the Jewish State and launched 450 rockets from Gaza into Israel since November 12th. In a strong defense of PIJ, Hamas called the assassination a “crime” and declared that the “Zionist enemy will bear responsibility.” Hamas official Ismail Radwan said at Abu al-Ata’s funeral “We say to the occupation…the [Hamas] Qassam Brigades and the [PIJ] Al-Quds Brigades are twin brothers standing together,” adding “Your blood is our blood.”
Despite Israel’s warnings to Hamas to stop PIJ terrorism from Gaza, Hamas continues to condone and support terrorism, hurting not only Israeli civilians but the people it claims to represent.
How much ruin can a regime level upon its own people before it is held accountable?
If the world’s tolerance of Hamas brutality is any indication, perhaps there are no limits. The Hamas regime in Gaza is peerless in its cynical double-game of both intentionally causing immense suffering to its own population and simultaneously feeding off it. The ordinary people of Gaza desperately need a global paradigm shift, one recognizing that Gaza’s sorrows will not end so long as Hamas remains in power, as Gazan suffering is Hamas’s lifeline.
For 12 years, Hamas has maintained power over Gaza through iron-fisted repression and intimidation. Its 20,000 enforcers essentially hold 2 million Gazans hostage: Gazans have neither basic political nor economic rights. Detention in the absence of rule of law and due process and torture are rampant.
But Hamas is unique among totalitarian regimes in that it doesn’t oppress its people merely to maintain power; it facilitates Gazan suffering as a source of its power to distort world opinion—de facto propaganda against Israel.
Hamas instigates lethal but unwinnable battles and attacks against Israel, to which Israel has little choice but to respond militarily. But Hamas uses Gazan civilians—and their homes, schools, mosques and hospitals—to shield Hamas arsenals and rockets that provoke collateral damage by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
Imagine, if you will, that a neighboring nation launched a salvo of more than 800 missiles into the U.S. that overwhelmed our missile defense system. Yet we knew the precise location of the “archer” who was fletching his “arrows”. I cannot envision the U.S. or any nation with the capability and capacity failing to take retaliatory action and across the range of diplomatic, informational, military and economic (DIME) options. This is the daily reality of life in Israel with Hamas on its front porch.
By using Gaza’s populace as human shields and in the absence of a meaningful diplomatic dialogue, Hamas has embraced an informational campaign through its relentless provocation of Israel and the IDF.
Today, over 50% of Gazans live below the poverty line. Official unemployment is 44% that discounts under employment. Electricity is unreliable with blackouts occurring 16-20 hours per day, causing Gaza’s sewage plant to sit idle while raw sewage contaminates the coastline and coastal acquirer.
To exacerbate this dire situation, Hamas diverts approximately 60% of all foreign aid to enrich top Hamas leaders such as Khalid Masha’al and Abu Marzouk (who reportedly amassed fortunes of nearly $2.5 billion each) and allocates 55% of its official budget to military spending in contrast to 5% allocated to civilian infrastructure.
For over a dozen years, Hamas has literally and figuratively held Gaza’s citizenry hostage with the sole objective being the destruction of Israel. This unwinnable and infinite war has become generational, fomented by a propaganda campaign to recruit the next generation of Hamas loyalists using escalatory tactics that do not adhere to the principals and laws of armed conflict in order to terrorize Israel.
With no diplomatic solution at-hand, this tit-for-tat stalemate between Hamas and Israel will persist – a status quo and not an optimistic one at that with the only consolation being the situation could be worse.
So, what next? A second order effect of the sanctions imposed against Iran is the erosion of funding for its proxy – Hamas. Building upon that economic model, it will be prudent among foreign aid donors such as Qatar to creatively bypass the diversion of such foreign aid to Hamas. These might be baby steps – but in a forward direction to wear down the stranglehold that Hamas has clenched in the Gaza Strip.
ADM Paul Zukunft, USCG (ret.) was the 25th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and is a member of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America’s (JINSA) Board of Advisors.