Gaza news reveals Palestinian values

Three news stories came out of Gaza this past week, and at first glance, they might appear to be unconnected. But taken together, they reveal important truths about Israel and the dangerous neighborhood around it.

The first news item, courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch, concerns a prominent Muslim religious authority in Gaza encouraging men to beat their wives.

Hassan al-Laham, a leading mufti in Gaza, declared that when Muslim men find their wives to be troublesome, they should first “warn them politely.” But if the problem continues, then “Allah created a solution for this…hitting—hitting that does not make her ugly.” The mufti continued: “The Prophet [Muhammad] said: ‘Do not hit the face and do not make her ugly,’” he continued. “In other words, not hitting that will bring the police and break her hand and cause bleeding, or hitting that makes the face ugly. No….The hitting is not meant to disfigure, harm, or degrade. The hitting will be like a joke. He will hit her jokingly.”

It should be noted that Mufti al-Laham’s endorsement of wife-beating was broadcast on some obscure Hamas or Islamic Jihad television station, but on official Palestinian Authority TV (on February 8, 2016).

The second news item from Gaza, reported by the Associated Press on February 16, concerns the United Nations’ Mideast envoy, Nikolay Mladenov. While touring Gaza, Mladenov complained that “only a third of funds pledged by international donors” after the 2014 Gaza war has actually been received.

The third piece of Gaza news comes from the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, General Gadi Eizenkot. He held a press conference to reveal that Hamas is actively building new tunnels from Gaza to Israel, in order to stage kidnappings and other terrorist attacks. He said that Hamas’ tunnel-digging is so extensive and dangerous that the Israeli army has re-enforced to “concentrate considerable engineering and intelligence efforts to combat this threat.”

What do wife-beating, international stinginess, and new tunnel-digging have to do with each other? Everything.

After the last Gaza war ended, the Obama administration pressured Israel to permit Hamas to import construction materials for “humanitarian purposes.” Various countries pledged large amounts money to “build homes.” And pundits assured us that homes and jobs and foreign aid would encourage the emergence of a peaceful, modern, civilized society in Gaza.

It all turned out to be a lie. And of course Israel is left to deal with the real-life consequences of what everyone demanded.

Most of the countries that made pledges have not delivered. They talked big about the “suffering” of Gaza, but they don’t really care. They just wanted to make Israel look bad–calculating, correctly, that their complaints would get lots of publicity and their failure to pay up would get little or no publicity.

As for the “humanitarian aid” that has reached Gaza, part of it has been used for building terror tunnels, not homes — exactly as Israel warned. Yet that has not resulted in the Obama administration reducing its annual aid package to Gaza.

And the wife-beating? A horrifying reminder that Palestinian society –whether the portion run by Hamas, or the portion run by the Palestinian Authority, which broadcast the mufti’s sermon — continues to embrace values that are vastly different from those of the civilized world.

Homes and jobs and international donations will not make a whit of difference until Palestinian culture enters the modern world. Until then, Palestinian violence –against women, against political dissidents, and most of all against Israel– will continue to be a way of life. No peace process or international peace conference or Israeli concessions will change that cruel reality.

This column first appeared in Israel National News