Sunday, June 18, 2017

Marking a decade of a de facto Hamas state rule in Gaza - by Dr. Mordechai Kedar

...Furthermore, the State of Gaza has succeeded in forcing Israel, its arch-enemy, to provide it with food, fuel, medicine and building materials, some used to dig attack tunnels against Israel itself. There is no other country in the world that has succeeded in getting another state - for whose destruction it continues to call - to provide it with goods.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar..
16 June '17..

Characteristiclally, writing that appears in the media tends to be negative and critical, because journalists generally deal with disasters, wars, disputes, problems and all kinds of trouble - and not with, let's say, the dedications of new kindergartens or cornerstone laying ceremonies for new neighborhoods.

Sadly enough, the Arab world provides a good deal of depressing subject matter, especially since the last months of 2010. Late 2010 is when the terrible tempest known at first as the Arab Spring began, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of injured and over 10 million refugees, mostly Syrian. No one has any idea when - or if - this horrible tragedy will come to an end.

In this article, I want to deal with something that has some positive sides to it, even though my country, the State of Israel, suffers not a little from it - and that is Gaza, the state established exactly a decade ago during June 2007 by Hamas. I am certainly not a supporter of Hamas, since one of its main goals is to eliminate me, my family and my country. Still, one must salute this movement which, against all predictions, managed to establish a state, administer it, defend it and turn it into a fait accompli on the political map of the Middle East.

I consider Gaza a state, because what has been established in that geographical strip over the past decade is, for all intents and purposes, a state. It is a governmental entity with a leader, law enforcement agency, army, military industry, internal secuirty and intelligence agencies, legal system, media, tax structure, legislature, education and health ministries, infrastructure - and every other institution a state needs. The State of Gaza even has marked borders, as well as border crossings to Israel and Egypt, its surrounding states, and it has reached agreements with those countries and others that allow for the management of daily life.

The establishment of a state, however, does not change the fact that Hamas is a terror organization through and through, not only because of its acts of terror against Israel and its Jewish population, but because of the terrible means it employs against its own residents in order to maintain its rule over them. Israel is well aware of this, but its political echelons have no intentions of bringing down the Hamas government, and even countries like Egypt which is conducting an all-out war against the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' birth mother, conducts negotiations with Gaza State representatives who arrive as official guests to its capital city.

Furthermore, the State of Gaza has succeeded in forcing Israel, its arch-enemy, to provide it with food, fuel, medicine and building materials, some used to dig attack tunnels against Israel itself. There is no other country in the world that has succeeded in getting another state - for whose destruction it continues to call - to provide it with goods. Can anyone imagine the United Kingdom, France of the USA sending so much as an overripe banana to a country which has vowed to destroy them? Israel does. it sends hundreds of tons of perfectly edible bananas to Gaza every day, despite the fact that the Islamic Covenant of Hamas - its founding document - calls in no uncertain terms for Israel's destruction.

Every single day, over a thousand trucks piled with every kind of merchandise, enter the State of Gaza from Israel. Hamas immediately confiscates anything that can be of use to its members and leaves the leftovers for the general population. In addition, Hamas levies taxes for fund its activities, and while the smuggling tunnels connecting Egypt and Gaza remained open, until Egypt destroyed them, Hamas ran the smuggling industry: it allowed only its members to dig the tunnels, forbade anyone on its black list to do so, and was given a portion of the contraband goods as a form of tax.

From a political standpoint, Hamas has managed to achieve a position on the same level as that of the PLO, that of representing the "Palestinian people." Hamas, impressively, won most of the Palestinian Legislature seats in the first elections in which the organization took part. Another, just as important, achievement is the fact that Hamas leaderrs managed to get Qatar, with all the massive economic ability of that gas-rich emirate, on their side. The Qatari Emir is the first Arab ruler, and so far the only one, who visited the State of Gaza while it is under Hamas rule - and without asking the Palestinian Authority for permission to do so.

Qatar has invested billions so far in the State of Gaza, its money funding significant portions of the local arms, rocket and tunnel-digging industry. The economic backing Qatar provided for Hamas enabled it to survive three violent clashes with Israel, Operations Cast Lead in 2008-09, Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Protective Edge in 2014. Qatar's media outlet Al Jazeera served Hamas interests during each one of these operations, broadcasting non-stop anti Israel reports that turned Arab and international public opinion against Israel.

The State of Gaza has fallen upon hard times recently as a result of Qatar's altercation with other Arab states, Trump's inclusion of Hamas on his list of terrorist organizations in his Riyadh speech and now because of PA refusal to continue paying for the Hamas State's electricity supplied by Israel. Hamas can easily afford to pay for its own electricity whose entire annual cost is about a tenth of the amount Hamas invests in its members welfare, in military industry and tunnel infrastructure, but Hamas leaders have reacted with utter cynicism: for all they care, the Gazan population can continue suffering in darkness and without refrigeration in the torrid summer weather, while they carry on with their comfortable lives and continue digging tunnels.

Gaza's population has not said a word. They all know what happens to anyone who criticizes Hamas - he is first arrested, then taken to the torture chambers in Hamas' dungeons, and is never heard from again. Anyone suspected of collaboration with Israel is summarily executed - this happened just a few weeks ago. Sinwar, the new Hamas leader, is himself accused of killing someone he suspected of treason. In extreme cases, masked men appear at suspects' homes in the dead of night and humiliate their families in various ways.

All this aside, the Hamas State's greatest accomplishment is the security standoff it has reached with Israel. Taking advantage of Israel's sensitivity to human life, Hamas places its rocket launchers in the midst of civilian areas so that its citizens form human shields. In emergencies, Hamas leaders hide in bunkers built underneath hospitals, knowing that Israel will never bomb them. The Hamas regime digs its attack tunnels underneath UNWRA schools because the UN will not allow Israel to hit them. Just recently, the UN organization discovered one of these tunnels, and its Secretary General did not even bother to condemn Hamas for digging it. After all, Qatar funds certain UN organizations, such as UNESCO, so the secretary general knows enough to refrain from offending the source of his budget.

Israel is concerned about security for the Israeli population near Gaza, leading it to try to avoid friction with the Hamas State as much as possible. Every time someone fires a shot from the Gaza Strip to Israel, the Israeli reaction is immediate and painful, and the Hamas government has learned that lesson. Israel has also built underground obstacles to tunnel digging from Gaza into Israeli territory, but my heart tells me that Hamas will search for, and possibly find, ways to get around these obstacles, either by destroying them or digging under them.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has called for building a Gazan seaport and perhaps even an airport on an artificial island opposite Gaza, so that everything that arrives to Gaza would first have to pass Israeli scrutiny before reaching the coast. There is logic in this idea, but it is hard to believe that the Hamas government will agree to it. The terrorist regime doesn't care much for its citizens' welfare and is interested in runninng its own port, not one built out in the sea where it cannot import weapons and rockets because Israel is in control.

The obvious question is what Israel's position should be regarding the Hamas State. In my opinion, Israel should grant de facto recognition to the State of Gaza and relate to it as it does to any state, while limiting sea access to the Strip. Israel can allow Gaza to use the nearby port in Ashdod, allowing any goods that do not pose a danger to Israel to be sent straight to Gaza without delay - and without paying customs.

Israel should establish other emirates, city states, based on the rule of local families, in Hevron, Ramallah, Shechem, Qalqilya, Tulkarem and Jenin. Israel would have to remain in the village areas, it can offer citizenship to villagers (about 10% of the Arab population in Judea and Samaria) and let all the rest be citizens of the new Emirates. That solution will give Arab residents of Judea and Samaria independence, stability and prosperity, granting to security to Israel - and peace to all.

Written for Arutz Sheva, translated by Rochel Sylvetsksy, senior consultant for English site.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena.

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