Who is the real enemy?

I was working at CNN as a field producer on Sept 11, 2001. In disbelief, I watched smoke pour out of the enormous gash in the World Trade Center. Soon after, the building started to fall.

The next few weeks were filled with bomb scares. New Yorkers’ days were filled with crying friends, heroic firefighters and first responders all over the streets and the smell of death which permeated the city.

Millions in NY, Washington DC and Pennsylvania were traumatized. New York City was officially a war zone. The USA went after the terrorists, after Al Qaeda, even eventually killing Osama Bin Ladin. The world for once was on America’s side, except of course for the Palestinians who were dancing in the streets, giving out candy and celebrating death in America.

In 2005, Israel voluntarily left Gaza. Israel’s soldiers were forced to uproot their fellow citizens from their homes, all in the name of peace. Gaza leadership has been destroying infrastructure ever since. First they destroyed empty buildings that were once synagogues, instead of using them for their own benefit.

Also, Israeli settlers had built greenhouses to grow vegetables when they were living in Gaza. Instead of dismantling them before they left, the settlers sold them to American Jewish donors for $14 million. The green-houses were then transferred over to the Palestinian Authority in order to help create economic opportunities for the Palestinians. Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who brokered the deal, put up $500,000 of his own cash.

In September of 2005, Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses walking off with irrigation hoses, water pumps and plastic sheeting in a blow to fledgling efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.

The result was obvious; the Palestinians destroyed their own opportunity to rebuild. A multi-million dollar opportunity to create employment was ripped to shreds with no pushback from leadership. The destruction continued outside of Gaza with unending rockets firing at Israel – hundreds, thousands of rockets. For years now, the children in border town Stderot, Israel run to bomb shelters on a daily basis.

My nerves were shattered after Sept 11 and that was one tragic day. I can’t imagine danger raining down on my country on a regular basis. No American president would put up with America’s people being attacked nonstop.

After September 11 America didn’t run, we didn’t hide, we took care of business, at a very high price: we lost over 2,000 American soldiers. In the process, estimates suggest tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan were killed.

Was there an alternative for America? Should we have been expected to “broker peace” with Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization whose main goal is to kill Americans and destabilize the modern world?

Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel and of Jewish people. Men, women and children are all legitimate targets to kill. This is in their charter. What is not in their charter is to build bridges, infrastructure, schools and give women rights. That’s because they are not interested in freedom of the press, freedom of religion, education and gay rights.

Hamas doesn’t build. It knows only how to tear down. So while the world defends Hamas, we might think about what our lives would be like if we were forced to live under an organization whose core beliefs is to kill.

When Israel was created as a state in 1948, the next day five Arab nations went to war against a new country. Israel has been fighting for survival ever since. Against all odds, so far Israel has succeeded. But not without an enormous challenge and psychological cost: in its 66 years of existence, it has suffered numerous wars, thousands of rocket attacks and dozens of suicide bombings.

Over the past several years, thousands of rockets have been launched from Gaza, home to one of the supposed poorest people in the Middle East. How is there money for rockets but not food? How is there money for weapons and not infrastructure?

Israel controls both the water and the electricity in Gaza. What country shoots rockets at another and still has their basic utilities turned on? Not to mention, Hamas is delinquent in paying their bills for these services. Billions of dollars from around the world have flooded into Gaza, where has the money gone?

According to the Congressional Research Service, Since the establishment of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed about $5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians.

Additionally, the United States is the largest single-state donor to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UN-RWA).

America has taken a keen interest in also helping the Palestinians develop an economic infrastructure. If the money was allocated properly; Gaza would have become the Singapore of the Middle-East, a thriving beach resort metropolis.

However, damning evidence is pointing directly to where the money has gone. Hamas built an underground city of tunnels from people’s homes in Gaza into Israel in order to kidnap and kill Israelis. Perhaps if they were so fearful of Israeli aggression, they might have thought to build bomb shelters for the Palestinian people they supposedly represent, instead of tunnels for terror. Clearly, following their charter to destroy the State of Israel, their focus was elsewhere.

Estimates are in the billions of dollars and upwards for the costs of these underground tunnel structures. Why does the world not demand accountability for where the money goes?

Additionally, a second UN chartered school filled with missiles was found, not to mention a hospital being used as the headquarters of Hamas, where news briefings are held. Is a hospital an appropriate place for news briefings?

Many media outlets, which are also businesses, need ratings and to make money. They find it much easier to show horrific photos of dead children instead of discussing facts and what alas has caused these innocent and unnecessary deaths and what could have prevented them.

Perhaps that is why, earlier in the week, it was underreported when according to UN websites, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “The United Nations position is clear: We condemn strongly the rocket attacks. These must stop immediately,” said Mr. Ban. “We condemn the use of civilian sites – schools, hospitals and other civilian facilities – for military purposes.”

“No country would accept rockets raining down on its territory – and all countries and parties have an international obligation to protect civilians,” he added.

The media is caught in the middle, and many also have their own security concerns about what they say. Reporters in Gaza who posted images showing the reality on the ground about Hamas abuses of UN facilities on their twitter feed were immediately intimidated and many posts were deleted.

For instance according to the Jerusalem Post, “Wall Street Journal Middle East correspondent Nick Casey tweeted on Tuesday a photo of a Hamas spokesperson using Shifa hospital for media interviews, writing: ‘You have to wonder with the shelling how patients at Shifa hospital feel as Hamas uses it as a safe place to see interviews.’”

“Although the tweet was deleted, pro-Palestinian Twitter accounts continued to include him on lists of “journos in Gaza [who] lie/fabricate info for Israel” and “must be sued for crimes.”

What is even more shocking is the lack of respect Hamas has for their fellow Arab: besides attacking Israelis they shower rockets indiscriminately, full well knowing that these rockets have the potential to kill Israeli Arabs and even kill Palestinians on the West Bank.

Furthermore, on Hamas TV, leaders are viewed telling the Palestinian people not to listen to Israeli warnings to evacuate. While Israel informs civilians to evacuate, even advising them where to go to find safe areas, Hamas tell their people to stay at home. Is there another army in the entire world that notifies people when they are about to bomb an area?

Hamas’s actions beg the question: what have they done for their own people on a grand scale? How have they created opportunities for them to thrive? Have they preached peace and coexistence? The answer is much like Al Qaeda: they are not interested in creating only destroying.

What would politicians in Arizona, Texas and California do if Mexico were shooting rockets into Scottsdale, Houston or Los Angeles? You can bet it wouldn’t last almost ten years. More like ten hours, before the USA would unleash whatever force was necessary to protect the citizens of Arizona, Texas and California.

Would America keep the water and the electricity on for a people that were attacking her? Would anyone blame America for protecting their own people and showing strength? Would we care if the rest of the world disagreed?

No, we would care about one thing, and one thing only: protecting American’s and doing the best we could to minimize innocent civilians deaths.

Make no mistake: Hamas is the same entity as Al Qaeda, dedicated to destruction of western values and freedom loving people. If only the world would consider more thoughtfully who the real enemy is here.

About the Author
Masada Siegel is a freelance journalist who worked as a field producer for CNN and Fox News Channel in NYC. She is a public speaker on topics such as International Relations, Crisis Communications and Travel. Masada has a Master's Degree from Columbia University in International Media and Communications with a focus on the Middle East. She is also the author of 'Window Dressings". Sign up for her newsletter at www.masadasiegel.com and follow her on Twitter @masadasiegel for worldwide updates.
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