Friday, May 18, 2007

Hopeless in Gaza

The New York Times ran a story on Friday by Steven Erlanger reporting Israeli missiles striking Hamas targets in Gaza. The Times reported that the IDF hit Gaza “with eight air strikes on Thursday and early Friday, killing at least seven Palestinians, while five other Palestinians died in factional fighting despite a new cease-fire.”

The Times also reported that “A spokesman for the military wing of Hamas threatened to renew suicide bombings in Israel, but his comments were not confirmed by more senior leaders.”

In all fairness the Times did report that the southern part of Israel had been struck by 14 rockets on Thursday, six landing in the beleaguered town of Sderot. They also report that busloads of Sderot residents were given a “vacation,” in the center of the country at the expense of Israeli-Russian Billionaire Gadmayek.

So what’s the problem? First of all the headline. It makes it seem like that nasty Israelis are up to their old tricks again, picking on those poor Palestinians, assuming the reader knows that Hamas is a radical Islamic organization made up of Palestinians.

It takes a careful reading to understand that Israel has been bombarded by Qasam rockets for nearly two weeks, and hasn’t responded. This latest IDF attack was only after Hamas rockets hit schools and homes. Why shouldn’t Israel respond? Because Israel has jet planes and Hamas doesn’t? Lucky for Israel Hamas is as yet underarmed compared to Israel or imagine what a mess the country would be in.

The analysts claim that the latest flare-up in Gaza is due to factional in-fighting between Hamas and Fatah members. The goal of the Palestinians, according to experts, is to draw Israel into the fray, essentially unifying the two sides in the civil war against Israel their common enemy.

The Times article doesn’t mention that nearly 40 Palestinians have been killed by Palestinians in the last week. Hamas blames Fatah, and Fatah Gaza strongman Mohamed Dahalan. According to some reports Dahalan is out to make order in Gaza, imposing his own militia’s troops on other Fatah factions.

One analyst wrote that Fatah has nearly 70,000 troops under arms, while Hamas has only 15,000. The reason Fatah doesn’t just wipe out Hamas is because of clan loyalties. According to a report published recently in the Israeli press, the only work available for men in Gaza is a militia. The men receive a gun, a uniform, and a small salary in return for loyalty to the militia. Many of these militias are clan based. The overall power of Fatah is thus dependent upon the various militias cooperation. This has not been forthcoming in the latest round of in-fighting.

Egypt, according to pundits, has sat back and allowed Hamas and the different militias to arm themselves with all sorts of weapons. Egypt was given the responsibility of guarding the border with Gaza along the infamous “Philadelphi Route.” But Egypt has done little or nothing to stop the wholesale rearmament of Hamas in Gaza. Smuggler’s tunnels abound along the Philadelphi Route. Of course its not only weapons that is smuggled in, but prostitutes, people, illegal goods, all sorts of stuff. Gaza clans specialize in smuggling, and are in no hurry to allow the tunnels to be closed up. They’d rather fight whoever tries to close them, and they do. Another way to make money is kidnapping. Alan Johnston, the BBC reporter kidnapped a month ago, is reportedly being held for a $5 million ransom. Up until now Palestinian clans have made a fortune at this kidnapping racket, but the price of a hostage kept going up. Now they’ve found no one wants to pay $5 Million, so they’re stuck with the poor BBC reporter.

Hamas believes, according to press reports, that Israel and the US are stoking the flames of the civil war, supplying arms and money to those who are attacking Hamas. This may well be true. Unemployment is rampant in Gaza. Working for a militia is one of the most popular options for a man to bring in some money to the table. Another is being a paid informant for the Israelis. With an average income of about $200 a month, or less, Israel can buy information cheaper than fighting a war. And does, too.

Hamas and Fatah have tried to form some sort of a power-sharing arrangement in Gaza. Hamas won the national election, and is the democratically elected representative body of the Palestinian people. But since Hamas is classified by both the EU and the US as a terrorist organization, no one will have anything to do with Hamas as a political entity.

The result of this is that monies in aid from the US and the EU are not coming in. Gaza is broke. Hamas can’t pay salaries, neither can Fatah, run by the essentially powerless and one hopes well-meaning Mohamed Abas, known also as Abu Mazen. While the West thinks Abu Mazen is a partner for peace, he hasn’t been able to gain enough support among his own people to implement any peace initiatives.

Attempts at power-sharing with Hamas, in order to lend Hamas respectability, have also failed miserably. The civil war is seen by analysts as a way for successors to Abu Mazen to seize control of Fatah, and then take Gaza back from Hamas.

Of course everyone knows that when the money was flowing into Gaza and the West Bank from the EU and the USA and Japan, rather than putting the money into the planned economic restructuring, into factories, and industry that would provide jobs for Gazans, and West Bank Palestinians, Fatah leaders pocketed the money, leaving their people to starve.

Gazans are locked up in their pit, it is true. Access to Israel is limited to only a few thousand with necessary work permits. This may seem cruel and heartless, but suicide bombing has decreased appreciably in Israel since the borders were essentially closed. Fatah, under their late chairman Yassir Arafat, could have built up an economy that would support the Palestinians, but didn’t. Why? Probably, according to experts, because that would have meant that the Palestinians would have started trading goods and services with Israel on a regular basis. A taste of this occurred just after the Camp David Accords, when Arafat and Clinton and Rabin met.

But Rabin was gunned down, and Arafat broke just about every promise he made to Clinton. These same experts say that Arafat saw that prosperity would take the fight out of his people, bring real peace to the region, but leave Israel strong and vibrant. Arafat’s goal was to destroy Israel and Palestinian prosperity would have eliminated that goal.
Arafat’s death wasn’t in vain. Hamas took over when he left off. Hamas has no intention of allowing Palestinians to prosper, live in peace and security. Hamas wants the Palestinians lean and mean and angry because that’s the only way they’ll fight Israel.

So then what is the solution? Launching a full-scale war against Hamas’ 15,000 fighters will bring in the 70,000 Fatah fighters, all united against Israel. The media will have a field day, look at what big bad Israel is doing to the poor Palestinians. Hamas and Fatah are both experts at this media game, witness what happened yesterday when Israeli warplanes finally took some action to stop the daily rocket attacks on Israel. Imagine if a group of Belgium terrorists launched rockets at France; or Mexicans against the USA?

Ah, forget that. Equality doesn’t count in this game. Its all about selling newspapers, pandering to readers who have a stilted view of history, and staying popular with the electorate.

Hamas, like Al Queda and the Taliban, and the Islamic Jihad, and a dozen other militant Islamic fundamentalist groups, are interested in destroying western civilization, which they see as cancer in their midst. Israel is an easy target, an obvious Western Democracy in their own backyard, easy to hit, to taunt, to attempt to destroy. When Iran talks about using nuclear weapons, Israel is the first target they mention. And they aren’t kidding.

So no matter what Israel does in the next few days in Gaza the media will find fault. A massive attack by the IDF will coalesce Palestinian factions currently fighting each other into fighting Israel. Ignoring the daily rocket attacks will mean a loss of Israeli life, property and prestige. This is a real tough nut. Too bad that the current Israeli leadership has already shown it is incompetent, or something might be done that would capture the world’s imagination, like the Six-Day war, or stealing missile boats, or radar stations. But this government is good at stealing publicity and undeserved honor.

There is also talk of a war within the next two months with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Will the Olmert group still be in power to fight that one? From what has been learned so far it wasn’t only Olmert to blame, nor Peres, nor Halutz, but the entire Army culture of neglect and carelessness. The political thought process that assumed that the Palestinians were no longer interested in going to war, that none of Israel’s neighbors was capable of going to war, and as a consequence, Israel needn’t have the latest weapons, the best trained soldiers, or intelligent battle plans, since no one was going to fight anymore.

The powers that be in Israel found out how wrong that thinking was. Not only does Israel have enemies, but they are well-armed, ferocious and itching to fight. Six years have gone by in which the Israeli Army assumed they were no longer going to have to fight. At best, the air force would have to teach any upstart a lesson. But the upstarts taught Israel a lesson. The absorbed the air force’s strikes and kept attacking. And the same idiots who brought you the War in Lebanon II are still around, not just at the very top, but at the next level up, and the one after that. The same arrogant generals and aspiring generals who decided that peace was not around the corner, but here. One wonders if they’ve learned their lesson?