Those who follow events in the Middle East are no stranger to the weekly riots on the Gaza-Israeli border, but there are other protests going on you probably haven’t heard much about. Why? Because Hamas doesn’t want you to know.
While the so-called “March of Return” riots have taken place with much public fanfare every Friday for nearly a year since March 30, 2018, Hamas has used violence and intimidation to stifle any internal dissent within the coastal enclave.
The ongoing civil rights protests – held under the banner “We Want to Live!” – are the biggest demonstrations yet against Hamas’s 12-year rule. The brutal crackdown saw activists beaten and crowds dispersed with live ammunition. Dozens of journalists have been arrested and prevented from photographing the events. In an act of ultimate despair, a 32-year-old demonstrator set himself on fire.
“Our sons and daughters have lost 12 years of their lives. For what? Each son of a Hamas official owns an apartment, a car, a jeep, a building…While our sons have nothing at all,” an enraged Palestinian woman said in a video posted to social media last week.
In 2007, twelve years ago, Hamas launched a brutal coup against Fatah, the main Palestinian faction in the West Bank. Since consolidating power in Gaza, the terror group has imposed its draconian rule on the population, built a formidable weapons arsenal, dug and equipped several dozens of attack tunnels, and launched three wars against Israel.
Unfortunately for ordinary Gazans seeking basic rights, their protests have yet to draw the same media attention as the weekly Hamas-orchestrated riots.
When Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, it was viewed as an opportunity for the Palestinians to create a thriving enclave free of occupation. International donors paid millions to preserve the greenhouses that Israeli residents of Gaza had built to sustain an agricultural industry. But as Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in the Atlantic, “The greenhouses were soon looted and destroyed, serving, until today, as a perfect metaphor for Gaza’s wasted opportunity.”
Unemployment in Gaza is now over 50 percent, which rises to 60 percent for its youth. And Gaza’s $1,800 per capita annual income ranks among the lowest in the world.
The reason for that is not the lawful Israeli blockade to impede the terror organization’s ability to acquire all the arms it needs to threaten the Jewish state. Rather, it is a direct consequence of Hamas sacrificing desperately needed civilian resources on the altar of its military aims.
The costs of building a military infrastructure to threaten Israel are significant. Each Hamas tunnel reportedly cost $1 million and takes years to build, eating up tons of concrete desperately needed for civilian housing. To make matters worse, as the irate woman in the video said, the leaders of Hamas may not provide for their constituents, but they have been taking very good care of their own families.
While the majority of people in Gaza live close to or below the poverty line, Forbes ranked Hamas in 2018 as the world’s third wealthiest terror organization with an estimated annual income of $700 million. The group is so absurdly rich that only two organizations outrank them, Hezbollah and the Taliban.
In the meantime, the average Gazan is left with little of his or her own.
Twelve years have been lost to Hamas tyranny in Gaza. They have been lost to the terror group’s voracious desire to destroy Israel and equally strong desire to enrich themselves at the cost of the life and health of the local population. Regrettably, much of the world has nevertheless found it easier to blame Israel for the chaos. For Gaza to thrive, Hamas must be defeated and removed from power.