Why didn’t you say?

The current war in the Gaza Strip is a war of survival for Israel. Seemingly, there could be no war more justified. A country under threat, daily rocket fire risking the lives of innocent civilians, use of weapons that were designed to inflict widespread damage to the civilian population with the ‘genius’ addition of steel balls to the Hamas rockets – all justify a struggle for survival.

And yet, many questions are being asked in Israel, in Gaza, and throughout the world. All the news networks have engaged various experts that discussed the events on both sides of the border. A public opinion expert claimed on social media that the Gaza Strip is deteriorating following the deep despair of the population, which feels that the situation is hopeless. The same expert emphasized that the (relatively young) public that expresses its opinions on social networks complains about the blockade, the closure, and the entailed hopelessness, and blames Israel for disrupting their lives and for their misery. Talk-show hosts on various networks have raised an eyebrow and asked whether Israel is not indeed to blame, at least partially, for not seeing the damage, for the despair and pain of a population under siege, while emphasizing that people under siege are expected to react with violence. Indeed, Gaza is under siege, and perhaps this is the time for our own internal reckoning.
We should bear in mind that Gaza was not always under siege. In 1996, an airport at Dahaniya at a cost 0f 90 million dollars was commenced, which was planned to accommodate 700,000 passengers annually, and was supposed to be the home base of “Palestinian Airlines”. However, the airport was closed on October 8, 2000, following the second intifada. Its activity was renewed on October 19, but soon after – when the airport became a terror hub from which rockets were fired at Israel, and airplanes transported weapons to arm the intifada – the airport was closed, and finally destroyed in 2002. It was not Israel that wanted to put an end to the airport that it itself had sanctioned, but rather Fatah and eventually Hamas that controlled Gaza.

We should also remember that Gaza was not isolated. Hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents found work in Israel. Thousands crossed the border every morning to Israel and returned home at night. When the intifada intensified, Israel tried to restrict their entrance to Israel, but conceded to the Palestinian Authority’s requests to continue to employ Gazans in Israel. Israel was forced to increase vigilance at the border crossings, and to supply work permits for Gazan workers in Israel. Every worker that obtained a permit was overjoyed, and his family celebrated the event. Many were willing to pay various ‘fixers’ in order to obtain the longed-for permit. Hamas directed its activity against these workers, against the people who lined up to cross the border, against the gates that were specially constructed to receive them, while killing and maiming their Palestinian brethren and Israel’s security forces, who were safeguarding the entrance to Israel.

For humanitarian reasons, the gates were open to Gazans who needed medical care in Israel, until terrorists (women among them) were caught hiding explosives in their garments to harm the doctors and medical teams who wanted to help them. These gates were closed, not because of an Israeli whim, but because of attacks instigated by Hamas to destroy those seeking their livelihood in Israel.

The industrial zones adjacent to the border were an Israeli attempt to enable Israeli industrialists and Palestinian workers to work in these areas and to make a decent living. Border crossings, which were a lifeline for the people of Gaza, were opened at Kerem Shalom, Karni, and Erez for the transportation of goods.
144,364 trucks passed through Karni crossing in 2003, but following numerous Palestinian terror attacks, the number of trucks dropped to 52,211 in 2007. In 2011, as the terror attacks, missiles and mortar shells aimed at the crossing continued, it was moved to Kerem Shalom. While it was open, Karni crossing served as a key point for smuggling weapons, terrorists, and explosive devices from Gaza into Israel. For example, in 1996 the terrorist that executed the attack at the Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv was smuggled through there, as were the terrorists that executed the suicide bombings at Ashdod port in 2004. In 2003, two Israeli civilians were murdered and others were injured by a Palestinian terrorist who had been concealed among a Palestinian merchant’s goods. In 2005, six Israeli citizens were killed by suicide terrorists that infiltrated the compound by means of a tunnel, and in 2008, two Israelis were killed at the fuel depot that transferred fuel to the Gaza Strip.

It turns out that Hamas’ conduct caused not only the closing of the border crossings, but also the termination of the industrial areas, thus increasing the distress in Gaza. This initiative was planned, not merely the outcome of circumstances. It allowed Hamas to create economic hardships and then to recruit the now unemployed construction workers into Hamas or into forced labor building the tunnels, which have become a national industry of the Hamas government in Gaza.

The story of the closure of Gaza is known to many Israelis, but the younger generation in Israel, as well as in Gaza and throughout the world, is not aware that Hamas, by its actions, is responsible for the closure of the airport, the industrial areas, and the border crossings, thus preventing people from working in Israel. They do not know that the blame lies only with the Hamas regime, which is the cause of the closure, the siege, the hunger, and the poverty – deliberately and intentionally with long-term plans.

Therefore, not only has the war been forced upon us, but the desparate situation that Hamas has created for the population, hampers the possibility of reaching a solution. However, it would be a mistake to see Hamas as the main enemy that we have to fight in order to prevail against the impossible and incomprehensible situation that is a daily occurrence in the south of Israel. Hamas is an enemy, a bitter and cruel enemy, a crime cartel and a terrorist organization, but Hamas is only part of a much larger system. It requires a strategic perspective to fathom the depth of the struggle that is being played out by means of Hamas. Hamas is a tool in the hands of much larger and wealthier forces that use it for their own goals. The war in our region is one of these goals. Hamas represents a downtrodden, hungry, and poor population, and cannot exist without financial support for all its military and civilian activities. Hundreds of millions of dollars are transferred to Hamas by interested ideological parties.

The first is Qatar – an abnormal country of about 290,000 citizens, which believes it is an empire as important as other countries that are vying for hegemony in the shaping of 21st century global policy. Qatar, which conceals the size of its population, boasts about its ability to reach all countries in the Arab world and to influence their policy. Qatar can take credit for the ‘Arab Spring’, the awakening of the Muslim Brotherhood revolutions, and the devastating outcomes of these revolutions. Qatar participated in the downfall of Qaddafi, the overthrow of Mubarak, and the election of Morsi as the fifth president of Egypt. Sheikh Qaradawi personally conducted the Muslim Brotherhood chorus that took over Egypt. Qatar pushed for the revolution in Syria, and supported the Sunni forces that battled the Shiites in Iraq, and that today are a threat to world peace.
Every rocket or mortar shell fired at Israel was funded one way or another by Qatar, either by means of money transferred to fund the tunnels, by the financing illegal weapons factories in Gaza, by financing ships and other seafaring vessels (some of which were captured by Israel), or by supply convoys through Sudan. Hamas-Gaza is the Muslim Brotherhood’s bridgehead in the struggle in the Middle East.

A satellite country like Qatar with its 1,800,000 residents (most of whom are not citizens of the state), acting according to its own whims in the Middle East, is an asset, and therefore it keeps the conflict going on a high or low flame, and never allows it to simmer down. This is fueled by Qatar’s struggle in the whole of the Middle East as well as its desire to gain a stronghold in the region vis-à-vis Egypt, which turned its back on the Qatari ideology that endangers all moderate countries in the Middle East.

Israel’s conflict in Gaza is not merely a struggle between a sovereign nation and a terror organization, but the tip of a global struggle with a multi-armed, incredibly wealthy ideological movement motivated by religious principles. Qatar is the spearhead of this force, and it operates wisely and relentlessly in our region and in other regions of the world. Qatar’s wealth allows it to develop communication networks throughout the world, unparalleled propaganda channels, and partnerships with like-thinking countries that want the Islamic revolution as much as Qatar does.

The former rivalry between Turkey and Qatar over hegemony of the Muslim world seems to have become a common interest. Each country brings its special abilities to the ideology that threatens not only Israel but also the free world, as we know it. Dealing with ceasefires and interim agreements with Hamas is too weak a medicine for such a severe illness. We must wake up and see the danger of the present fight beyond the events that are happening at present. We must prepare for the true battle with a much larger and alarming danger than we have seen or experienced so far.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center