Have you ever found yourself in a bad situation, like having a close call while driving and and texting? You tell yourself that you will never do that again. But you do. This denial-awareness-denial repetition is called “the dance” and it’s happening in Gaza right now.
In 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt. After the war ended, Egypt renounced all interest in Gaza and left it to the Israeli authorities to administer. That should have been a big clue.
Over the next 38 years Israel built 21 settlements and several thriving businesses there. But the continued violence and constant Muslim objections to an Israeli presence in Gaza ultimately led Israel to evacuate all the Jews living there and completely disengage in 2005. Israel’s departure was unconditional and unilateral. In fact, Israel left the Gazans the keys to all the thriving businesses they had built there, with an offer to help train them to run those businesses.
The Gazans’ response? Instead of taking advantage of 38 years of development and investment, they destroyed most of those businesses.
However, there was one small glimmer of hope. That same year, the Palestinian Authority – then and now run by Fatah – agreed to hold free elections in both Gaza and the West Bank. Unfortunately for Fatah, it lost the January 2006 election in Gaza to Hamas.
Now it was Hamas’ turn to rule Gaza with its two million people. It was free to do whatever it wanted to develop the area.
One catch, Hamas did not have the money to build up Gaza. So hundreds of millions of dollars and euros in foreign aid was given to Hamas – every year since 2006 – to help it develop new neighbourhoods, hospitals, industries and upgrade its infrastructure.
And what did Hamas do to bring prosperity to its people and peace with its neighbors?
After 16 years of Hamas rule, the average Gazan still lives in poverty. Average Salary in Gaza, Palestinian Territories according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Gaza’s unemployment rate stood at 43.1% in the final quarter of 2020.
For starters, even after Israel’s 2005 unilateral pull-out, Hamas refused to renounce violence and recognize Israel. It continued launching rockets into Israeli cities. As a result, many countries designated Hamas as a terror organization, while Egypt, Israel and the US imposed a blockade on Gaza to prevent it from importing weapons.
Only goods that could be used to construct weapons were blocked; humanitarian goods were still permitted for entry. Despite the blockade, unsurprisingly Hamas was still able to smuggle in weapons/rockets by sea and by land.
The result has been countless cycles of Hamas launching rockets into Israeli cities and Israel responding by trying to destroy Hamas’ ability to do so without harming its citizens. That is, “the dance”. After each of these altercations, foreign aid poured in to help the Gazans rebuild and that set up the next dance.
Admittedly, Israel was and is a superior military force. It has often been said that Israel could wipe out all of Gaza in “short order”. And it could. But it hasn’t. Instead, Israel has chosen to attack terrorist targets within Gaza, as precisely as possible. Unfortunately Gazans have suffered tremendously under Hamas. Besides massive unemployment, there is a constant shortage of housing, water, medicine and electricity.
It cannot be fun to live in Gaza. And with no possibility of free elections (the last elections were in 2006) anytime in the near future, the situation is unlikely to change.
But what about the billions of dollars of foreign aid that has been given to Hamas since 2006? What has it done with this money? Instead of building schools, hospitals, infrastructure and viable industries, Hamas has used the bulk of these funds to build an increasingly stronger terror machine – and to fill the pockets of its leaders living high in Qatar.
So what happens next?
Hamas will continue to launch rockets into populated areas of Israel. Israel will continue to respond using its most advanced technologies to target and destroy the Hamas infrastructure. The world will send more aid to Hamas to “rebuild” the infrastructure. The Gazan people will continue to suffer. Nothing will change. Hamas will use some of the money to help alleviate the massive unemployment. In doing so, it will declare itself a hero. But most of the money will be used to continue smuggling in weapons to rebuild the terror infrastructure and to handsomely pay its leaders.
Until the world can find a way to directly fund Gazan projects that will actually improve their lives, there will be only one question ….. when will the next dance begin?