Robert Stark

The Long Term Solution for Gaza

Below I will argue that Israel must not merely enter Gaza to eliminate the terror groups that have taken hold of the area, but also embark upon a project to “de-nazify” Gaza’s schools and curricula so that Palestinian society cannot produce the next generation of terror groups on Israel’s borders.  Thus, the IDF will not need to stay in Gaza forever.  Further, I will argue that history has already shown, repeatedly, that only Israel is capable of preventing Gaza from becoming a haven for the next terrorist organization and only Israel can reliably perform the long term project required to de-nazify Gazans:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated Israel’s objective is the elimination of Hamas by toppling its regime in the Gaza Strip and destroying its military capabilities to attack Israel and its political control over Gaza.  This cannot be done without the entry into Gaza of Israel’s infantry, to locate and eliminate every identifiable terrorist and weapons cache.  However, after the IDF takes complete control of the area it cannot simply vacate Gaza as it did at the end of Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014, because new (or old) terror groups will enter the vacuum of power in Gaza to grow, rearm, and murder Israeli civilians at the first opportunity.  Therefore, the question must be asked how can Gaza be prevented from becoming a terror haven yet again for the next “Hamas”, “Islamic Jihad”, or “ISIS”?

The only way to answer that question is to address why Palestinian society became a hot bed for terrorism in the first place.  The answer is that for decades Gazans were taught in their schools and their culture to de-humanize the Jewish people, hate Israel, and seek the absolute destruction of both.  This is the consistent conclusion in numerous studies conducted over the last twenty years by different organizations, on what is taught in the books and curricula used in Palestinian schools including those run or funded by the international community and the United Nations.

For example, a report commissioned in 2019 by the European Union examined 156 textbooks and 16 teachers’ guides, mostly from the years 2017-2019 and 18 from 2020, and concluded the text books incite millions of Palestinian children to violence.  They do so by normalizing the act of killing Jews and connecting it to every other desirable value under the sun, for example, “one book ties Muhammad’s aunt, who clubbed a Jew to death, to a question about Palestinian women’s steadfastness in the face of “Jewish Zionistic occupation.”  Similarly, the text books repeatedly refer to Palestinian terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi, a woman who in 1978 helped hijack an Israeli bus and murder 38 Israelis including 13 children, as an example of female empowerment and the report observed the text books provide “no further portraits of significant female figures in Palestinian history” implying that “the path of violence is the only option for women to demonstrate an outstanding commitment to their people and country.”  The report concluded “resistance is a recurring theme in the text books studied, along with calls for the Palestinians to be liberated via a revolution and to clarify that concept one textbook has a photo with the caption “Palestinian revolutionaries”, featuring five masked men toting machine guns.”  This sort of education is not limited to history and social studies books but is actually pervasive throughout the curricula provided to the Palestinians, for example, “[g]lorification and praise of terrorists who attacked Israelis is also found in science and math books, such as a demonstration of Newton’s Second Law, which says force is equal to mass times acceleration, as illustrated by Palestinians using sling shots against Israeli soldiers.”

Another study conducted by the Jerusalem-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School, or IMPACT-se uncovered that the United Nations also produced text books to the Palestinians that promote antisemitism, hate and violence.  Such books contained things like “a grammar exercise that encourages Palestinians to “sacrifice their blood to liberate Jerusalem”, “in some passages Israel is described as a European state implanted by anti-Arab imperialists” that “tortures Palestinian prisoners and violently threatens their families”, and these books teach Palestinian children “about fake Israeli policies meant to “erase Palestinian identity” and these policies include alleged attempts to “steal and falsify” Palestinian heritage and “erase Jerusalem’s cultural heritage.”  The day after the report was issued, the United Nations claimed that such books were used by mistake, but the consistent use of such books for the last several decades must be understood to be deliberate in the Palestinian schools on the ground whether or not the United Nations in Geneva or New York know about it.

The level of difference that indoctrination makes for the prospects of peace is significant when comparing the opinions of Palestinians with much exposure to their education system with the opinions of those Palestinians whom had a low level of exposure, as Professor Karsh observed that in the 1990s during the Oslo Peace Process: “82% of [Palestinians] with a low education supported the Interim Agreement of September 1995…and 80% opposed terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, compared to 55% and 65% respectively among university graduates.”  Hostility to peace only gained popularity since that time, as the indoctrination and presence of terrorists increased, such that Hamas won Gaza’s elections in 2006 and then took that as a mandate to violently remove Mahmoud Abbas’s rival “Fatah” movement from Gaza in 2007.  Similarly, it is the consensus that if not for the IDF’s efforts to root out Hamas terrorists in Judea/Samaria, Hamas would do the same to Mahmoud Abbas because Hamas is more popular among the Palestinians in Judea/Samaria as well.  Thus, as Professor Karsh concluded regarding the indoctrination of Palestinians to dehumanize Jews and pursue violence against them:

“…so long as Gaza continues to be governed by Hamas’s rule of the jungle, no Palestinian  civil society, let alone a viable state, can develop. Just as the creation of free and democratic societies in Germany and Japan after World War II necessitated a comprehensive sociopolitical and educational transformation, so too, it is only when the local population sweeps its oppressive rulers from power, eradicates the endemic violence from political and social life, and teaches the virtues of coexistence with Israel that Gaza can look forward to a better future”

 Therefore, Israel must not only secure Gaza from the terrorist groups currently operating there, by going house to house to identify and eliminate every last identifiable terrorist and weapons cache, but must also embark upon a years long project of re-educating generations of Gazans to appreciate tolerance for humanity.  This is precisely what the Allies did when they defeated Germany and Japan in 1945.  They embarked upon a years long project of “denazification”, “re-education” and “Neulehrer” in which schools associated with the Nazi party were closed, authoritarian and Nazi ideologies were removed from text books and curricula, and Germany’s wartime teachers were substituted with new German teachers that passed mandatory courses approved by the Allied powers.  The long term solution is that Israel must do just as the allies did during their occupations of Germany and Japan after World War II, which is “de-nazify” Palestinian society’s text books and culture and incorporate in those books the importance of tolerance for humanity.  Alongside this basic education in human values, Israel would of course provide a brighter economic future for Gazans so that the difference between war and peace is clear for every Gazan.

In fact, this is the one thing Israel did NOT do when it controlled Gaza from 1967 until 2005 and continues not to do in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority in Israel’s territories.  As Professor Efraim Karsh noted Israel’s idea for the populations living in the territories taken or liberated in 1967 “was that the local populace would be given the freedom to administer itself as it wished…in sharp contrast with…the U.S. occupation of postwar Japan, which saw a general censorship of all Japanese media and a comprehensive revision of school curricula, Israel made no attempt to reshape Palestinian culture…and allowed the continued use in local schools of Jordanian textbooks filed with vile anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda.”  Professor Karsh summarily described the great strides made by the Palestinians in Gaza (and Judea/Samaria) during their time under Israeli “oppression”:

“Prior to the Six Day War, fewer than 60 percent of all male adults had been employed, with unemployment among refugees running as high as 83 percent.  Within a brief period after the war, Israeli occupation had led to dramatic improvements in general well-being, placing the population of the territories ahead of most of their Arab neighbors.

In the economic sphere, most of this progress was the result of access to the far larger and more advanced Israeli economy, the number of Palestinians working in Israel rose from zero in 1967 to 66,000 in 1975 and 109,000 by 1986, accounting for 35 percent of the employed population of the West Bank and 45 percent in Gaza. Close to 2,000 industrial plants, employing almost half of the work force, were established in the territories under Israeli rule.

During the 1970s, the West Bank and Gaza constituted the fourth fastest-growing economy in the world – ahead of such wonders as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea, and substantially ahead of Israel itself…Palestinian per capita income was nearly double Syria’s, more than four times Yemen’s, and 10 percent higher than Jordan’s.  Only the oil-rich Gulf states and Lebanon were more affluent…[M]ortality rates fell by more than two-thirds between 1970 and 1990, while life expectancy rose from 48 years in 1967 to 72 in 2000 (compared with an average of 68 years for all the countries of the Middle East and North Africa).  Israeli medical programs reduced the infant mortality rate of 60 per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 in 2000 ([at that time] in Iraq the rate [was] 64, in Egypt 40, Jordan 23, in Syria 22)…[a]nd under a systematic program of inoculation, childhood diseases like polio, whooping cough, tetanus, and measles were eradicated.

By 1986, 92.8 percent of the population in the West Bank and Gaza had electricity around the clock, as compared to 20.5 percent in 1967; 85 percent had running water in dwellings, as compared to 16 percent in 1967; 83.5 percent had electric or gas ranges for cooking, as compared to 4 percent in 1967; and so on for refrigerators, televisions, and cars…

[D]uring the two decades preceding the intifada of the late 1980’s, the number of schoolchildren in the territories grew by 102 percent, and the number of classes by 99 percent, though the population itself had grown by only 28 percent. Even more dramatic was the progress in higher education. At the time of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, not a single university existed in these territories. By the early 1990’s, there were seven such institutions, boasting some 16,500 students. Illiteracy rates dropped to 14 percent of adults over age 15, compared with 69 percent in Morocco, 61 percent in Egypt, 45 percent in Tunisia, and 44 percent in Syria.”

During this time, Professor Karsh notes that

“the Israelis did surprisingly little to limit [the Palestine Liberation Organization’s] political influence in the territories.  The publication of pro-PLO editorials was permitted in the local press, and anti-Israel activities by PLO supporters were tolerated so long as they did not involve overt incitements to violence.  Israel also allowed the free flow of PLO-controlled funds…Nor, with very few exceptions, did Israel encourage the formation of Palestinian political institutions that might serve as a counterweight to the PLO. As a result, the PLO gradually established itself as the predominant force in the territories, relegating the pragmatic traditional leadership to the fringes of the political system.

Given the extreme and even self-destructive leniency of Israel’s administrative policies, what seems remarkable is that it took as long as it did for the PLO to entice the residents of the West Bank and Gaza into a popular struggle against the Jewish state. Here Israel’s counterinsurgency measures must be given their due, as well as the low level of national consciousness among the Palestinians and the sheer rapidity and scope of the improvements in their standard of living. The fact remains, however, that during the two-and-a-half decades from the occupation of the territories to the onset of the Oslo peace process in 1993, there was very little “armed resistance,” and most terrorist attacks emanated from outside—from Jordan in the late 1960’s, then from Lebanon.

In an effort to cover up this embarrassing circumstance, Fatah, the PLO’s largest constituent organization, adopted the slogan that “there is no difference between inside and outside.” But there was a difference, and a rather fundamental one. By and large, the residents of the territories wished to get on with their lives and take advantage of the opportunities afforded by Israeli rule.”

 However, history showed that improved economics, infrastructure, healthcare, etc., were insufficient to change the mindset of a people that continued to be indoctrinated to dehumanize and kill us.  Even so, the above identified improvements to Gaza’s quality of life did reduce the appeal of terrorist organizations such as the Palestine Liberation Organization, led by Yasser Arafat, which reduced their ability to establish centers for terrorism in Gaza.  The finishing blow to the relatively peaceful co-existence in the territories was the return of the PLO from from Tunis as the “Palestinian Authority” in the territories, and the subsequent significant drop in the Palestinian economy as money and resources were redirected by the PLO to terror activities.  For example, as Professor Karsh notes “…within six months of Arafat’s arrival to the Palestinian territories, the standard of living in the Gaza Strip fell by 25% and more than half of the area’s residents claimed to have been happier under Israel.”  Today, the unemployment rate in Gaza is 45% while the unemployment rate of the Palestinians living in Judea/Samaria has been reduced from 16% in 2021 to 13% in 2022.

Put simply, in 1994 Yasser Arafat and his cronies were allowed to enter Israel’s territories in Gaza and Judea/Samaria to lead the Palestinians as the “Palestinian Authority”, and by no coincidence at all numerous catastrophic terrorist attacks emanated from both the Gaza strip and the Judea/Samaria region ever since.

It is my hope that the above information made it clear that we cannot hope to be free of the possibility of terrorist organizations again taking root in Gaza (or Judea/Samaria), even after the IDF takes control of Gaza to root out the terror organizations currently established there, unless the indoctrination is stopped and Gazans are re-educated.  The only question that remains is whether any country other than Israel should be responsible for doing this.  Some have raised the idea that a Gaza liberated from Hamas could be placed in the hands of some other country, or a group of countries in the international community, or the United Nations.  However, history shows that none of these bodies have reliably prevented conflict or terrorism against Israel.

None of Israel’s neighboring countries has ever stopped an attack on Israelis that emanated from their territory.  When Egypt blockaded the straits of Tiran and demanded the United Nations peace keeping forces evacuate the Sinai Peninsula in 1967 so that Egypt could re-militarize the Sinai while threatening an imminent invasion of Israel, the United Nations forces withdrew immediately.  When Israel requested that the United States fulfill its previously made security assurances to help re-open the Straits of Tiran thus saving Israel from this existential threat, the United States reneged on its promise because American troops were bogged down in Vietnam.  Similarly, Israel placed its trust in the international community to prevent Hezbollah from smuggling hundreds of thousands of rockets and missiles, more advanced than those possessed by Hamas, and to police Lebanon’s southern border with Israel to prevent Hezbollah from taking up positions against Israel there, yet the international community did nothing but turn a blind eye as it patrolled the areas and allowed Hezbollah to achieve both objectives.  The forces placed by the international community to police the border between Syria and Israel abandoned their posts and retreated into Israel as soon as they came under fire by militias on the Syrian side.

Already, the world has proven itself to be ineffective at dealing with the problem of Palestinian indoctrination.  Despite the fact that the phenomenon of Palestinian schools inciting children to violence is well known by the international community, nothing but lip service such as unenforced resolutions, and bills or laws in other countries, have been put forward.  Israelis must remember that no one outside of Israel actually feels threatened by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian terrorist groups, and Israel is the only one with a real interest in making Gaza a safe location to live near.

About the Author
Robert Stark is a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, an advocate for Israel, and an attorney in New York City.
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