Regularly inflicts war on Israel, suffering on Gazans
Dennis Ross may know more about the challenges posed by conflicts in the Middle East than anyone in America. A top foreign policy adviser to four U.S. presidents, Ross was President Clinton’s Middle East envoy and President Obama’s special adviser on Iran.
In Cambridge last week to speak to a conference of corporate executives hosted by MIT, the veteran diplomat was asked to estimate the chance that Hamas would not launch another war against Israel in the near future of the sort it initiated in 2008, in 2012 and then again last summer. “Virtually no chance,” Ross replied flatly.
This week’s flurry of rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians, the closing of schools in one Israeli community and the Israeli air strikes in response punctuated Ross’s assessment. And two reports issued on Tuesday illuminated Ross’ larger point: that those who claim to care most about the suffering of Gazans have effectively abandoned them, consigning them to a miserable fate and guaranteeing that a region already boiling over with armed conflict will likely soon have another reprise of the conflict on the Gazan border.
The nub of Gaza’s problem is that it is ruled by Hamas, whose iron-fisted enforcement of Islamic extremism at its most backward, and its commitment to violence, have repelled even those most inclined to indulge it. The human rights group Amnesty International, whose predilection for glossing over Palestinian human rights abuses is near-legendary, has released a report finding that during its war against Israel last summer Hamas engaged in a “brutal campaign of abductions, torture and unlawful killings” against Palestinians. The report detailed the “extrajudicial execution of at least 23 Palestinians and the arrest and torture of dozens of others.” This, of course, is Hamas’ way of terrorizing its own citizens, thereby ensuring that its economic and social death grip over Gaza will remain unchallenged.
Also on Tuesday, the World Bank issued a report showing that despite their fanfare-filled promises to help rebuild Gaza after Hamas’ attacks on Israel last summer boomeranged yet again, Gaza’s best friends have stiffed it — yet again. Qatar, which after helping Hamas launch the ill-advised attacks in the first place promised $1 billion toward Gaza’s reconstruction, has paid only 10 percent of its pledge. Saudi Arabia pledged $500 million; it too has paid only 10 percent. Kuwait promised $200 million, and has paid not a dime. As for Turkey, whose president, Recep Erdogan, promotes himself as Gaza’s staunchest ally, it promised $200 million — but has actually delivered all of $520,000. By contrast, American taxpayers have largely fulfilled our government’s $200 million pledge.
What donor aid actually does arrive in Gaza is frequently diverted by a regime far more interested in replenishing its arsenals and rebuilding tunnels from which to stage raids on Israelis than to relieve a badly-suffering population. With 68 percent of young Gazans unemployed and a poverty rate over 40 percent, the World Bank warns that Gaza is “on the verge of collapse.”
Gaza’s problem is not that Israel, tired of seeing its communities attacked, imposed a blockade to try to keep the rockets out of Gaza. Its problem is Hamas, which insists on a strain of extremism unpalatable even to the Arab states, and on keeping a destitute populace destitute so that it can maintain its campaign to eliminate Israel.
When, as seems inevitable, Hamas once again decides to resume major attacks on Israel and Israel in turn is obliged to try to stop them, the usual parties will assume their equally inevitable positions. Those who have indulged Hamas and the suffering it causes will find a way to avoid confronting Gaza’s fundamental fact of life: As long as Hamas runs their lives, the people of Gaza have precious little reason for hope.
Jeff Robbins, a former United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council, is an attorney in Boston.