The poor Palestinians are the true victims of this new round of conflict in which Israel and the Hamas are playing ping pong with flying explosives.

The poor Palestinians are compelled to deal with a catastrophic disruption of their daily lives. They are living in constant fear of Israeli reprisals for the missiles their people fire at the heartland of Israel. Their houses are destroyed and their livelihoods ruined. Their sleep is disrupted by night as is their routine by day. Those who are not unemployed are unable to work normally. Their commerce has been totally undermined. They must endure shortages of food, petrol and medical supplies. They are busy burying their dead. Their meager infrastructure has once again been set back several years. It will take them months to clear the rubble of those buildings surgically targeted by Israeli artillery, missiles and rockets. They live with hate, anger, frustration and hopelessness. They have lived this way for years.

Long before Israel entered Gaza (which it subsequently left several years ago), the Palestinians lived under Turkish occupation, British occupation and then Egyptian occupation. Today they live under Hamas occupation; but this is the cruelest cut of all — it is an occupation of their own people. The Hamas cynically uses the average Palestinian — who simply wants to go to work and bring food home to his family — as pawns in an ideological battle against Israel. Those people who ostensibly represent the interests of the Palestinians, use them as human shields behind whom they hide their rocket launchers and under whose houses they burrow tunnels used for smuggling in ordinance and spiriting away kidnapped Israelis. Hamas is firing at Israel but has in fact targeted the Palestinian population. It has marked their houses, school and mosques as targets for Israeli missiles aimed at launch sites and ammunition depots.

The Palestinians in Gaza have always been pariah and continue to be so. Hamas has been eschewed by all other Arab countries. They know what Hamas stands for. They — better than anyone — recognize the dangers of Islamic fundamentalist organizations. Egypt suffers from them, Afghanistan suffers from them, Syria suffers from them, Iran suffers from them and Iraq continues to suffer from them. Ironically, it is Israel, current conflict notwithstanding, that exports more goods and supplies to Gaza then do their Egyptian brethren or any other Islamic country. While Israel may impose a blockade from the sea to prevent the import of arms and munitions, it is the Arab countries that in practice refrain from trade with the Palestinians.

The Hamas’s agenda is to destroy Israel — not to bring prosperity to their own people. Hamas provokes conflict and then uses the Israeli response as justification for provoking further conflict. Not only do they brazenly lie to the whole world but more perniciously they lie to the Palestinian people about missiles that purportedly hit their targets in urban Tel Aviv when in fact they were blown out of the air by the Iron Dome anti-missile system developed by Israel and partially funded by the United States.

The poor Palestinians are being denied any real hope for the future. They share with Israel a strategic geographical position bridging the European, Asian and African continents but are too busy with conflict to reap any of the attendant benefits of this unique position. They have not learned the lessons of Egypt and Jordan who made peace with Israel (in doing so Egypt gave up its claims to Gaza and Jordan gave up its claims to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank)). They do not realize that the Arab world beyond a few pro forma statements does do not really support them and has not made any significant investment in their economy. They do not understand that as long as they make war with Israel they will continue to be poor Palestinians. They will continue to suffer from a GDP ranked 153 by the World Bank as compared with Israel’s ranking of 37. As long as they continue to be poor, they will continue to be poor Palestinians. They could, as they did in the past, work in Israel and contribute to both economies, but the Hamas leadership has decided that suffering more destruction is the way to national pride and prosperity.

The average Palestinian is the big loser in this conflict. Only when the Palestinian people overthrow their radical and rabidly anti-Israel leadership will the Palestinians stop being poor.

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