Life in Gaza is no bed of roses, but the fact remains that the Humanitarian Crises that the UN is whining about is a 100% Hamas creation. This is not to say that there is not legitimate suffering but that suffering is exasperated by a terrorist organization which uses its citizenry as a public relations pawn, with an ultimate objective of gaining sympathy for its cause, creating and Islamic nation from Jordan to the Mediterranean.
Life in the Gaza Strip is difficult, and many Palestinians are suffering deprivations because the international community has imposed a boycott against Hamas since it seized control in a violent coup. Hamas, however, has attempted to blame Israel for the situation it created by its ongoing terrorist campaign against Israel, refusal to recognize the Jewish state and daily bombardment of innocent Israeli civilians with lethal explosive rockets. Cynically, Hamas is using innocent Gazans in an effort to manipulate public opinion. The most recent example was the announcement that Palestinians would form a human chain, mostly women and children, to highlight Israel’s refusal to allow the free movement of goods until the rocket fire ceases. That propaganda ploy backfired, however, when only a few thousand people participated instead of the 50,000 or more Hamas said it was mobilizing.162 Hamas’ propaganda efforts have been more successful in the past. In January, pictures released by foreign news agencies showed a meeting of the Hamas-led government lit by candlelight, suggesting Israel had deprived Gaza of power. Meanwhile, sunshine can be seen streaming through the window curtains since the meeting was actually held at one o’clock in the afternoon. Other pictures depict protests in the streets; masses of Palestinians march down Gaza sidewalks, each one holding a lit candle for the world to see the desperateness of a society living without electricity and running water. Yet, a streetlight shines in the background. As part of their effort to promote the Palestinian image of victimhood, Hamas forced businesses to close in Gaza. A top Palestinian Authority official recently accused Hamas of ordering owners of bakeries to keep their businesses closed for the second day running to keep up the ruse of an imminent crisis in the Gaza Strip. “Hamas is preventing people from buying bread,” he said. “They want to deepen the crisis so as to serve their own interests.” The official also said that, contrary to Hamas’s claims, there is enough fuel and flour to keep the bakeries in the Gaza Strip operating for another two months. “Hamas members have stolen most of the fuel in the Gaza Strip to fill their vehicles,” he said.163 Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for Israel’s Defense Ministry, reiterated the PA official’s remarks. Gaza has enough fuel, he said, and he accused Palestinian officials of trying to create the impression of a crisis that did not exist. In fact, at one point after Israel initially decided to reduce fuel supplies to the Strip, the Israeli fuel company Dor offered the Palestinian distribution companies shipments of gasoline, which they refused.164 Less than a week later, the PA Health Ministry accused Hamas of stealing fuel and medicine stockpiles from hospitals in the Gaza Strip. The PA Health Ministry sent these provisions into the territory after the initial fuel cuts, but Hamas used the fuel instead for cars belonging to senior officials.165 Furthermore, in addition to the fuel it receives from Israel to power its electrical plant, Gaza gets about two-thirds of its electricity directly from Israel. Israeli officials said that supply would not be affected. In fact, 70 percent of the fuel Israel supplies to Gaza was still flowing into the territory during the border closings, but Hamas still ordered the power plant in Gaza to turn off its turbines.166 “If they shut it down, it’s not because of a fuel shortage,“ Dror said. “The power plant shutdown,” he explained, “would not be comfortable, but it’s not a humanitarian crisis.” 167 Most of Gaza’s electricity comes from Israel and Egypt. Very little is supplied by the Gaza plant. Of course, Hamas officials do not have to worry about the impact of even these modest power cuts. Ahmed Youssef, an adviser to the Hamas foreign ministry said that when the lights go out during a dinner party with foreign guests, Hamas can call the power company and have them turned back on.168 The press has consistently exaggerated and misreported the situation in Gaza. For instance, the Boston Globe ran an op-ed on January 26, 2008, claiming, “Gaza daily requires 680,000 tons of flour to feed its population,” and that “Israel had cut this to 90 tons per day by November 2007, a reduction of 99 percent.”169 According to both a 2007 UN document and the Palestinian Ministry of Economy, however, flour consumption needed daily in the Gaza Strip falls somewhere between 350 to 450 tons, nowhere near the gross miscalculation of 680,000. At 680,000 tons daily, and at a total population of nearly 1.5 million people, the Boston Globe is claiming that each Gazan needs almost half a ton of flour every day. The newspaper did run a correction shortly thereafter by simply amending the “tons” to “pounds,” a measurement that no one in the international community would use.170 In addition, the breaking down of the security fence along Gaza’s border with Egypt was another propaganda coup for Hamas. As tens of thousands of Palestinians flocked into Sinai, aid officials estimated that the supposedly penniless residents of Gaza spent more than $100 million on goods in the first few days after the border breach.171 Hamas has no shortage of funds. Senior officials have been caught at the border carrying suitcases with millions of dollars; many other cash deliveries have undoubtedly been smuggled in undetected. The terror group ensures that their officials and soldiers are well-fed and housed, while the rest of the population suffer for the benefit of the television cameras. In May 2006, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal made clear that he is not interested in medicine or other humanitarian supplies. “We ask all the people in surrounding Arab countries, the Muslim world and everyone who wants to support us to send weapons, money and men,” Meshaal said).172 Rather then spend money on food and medicine for the people of Gaza, Hamas buys weapons on the black market and the smuggling of arms into Gaza continues unabated. Hamas has gone so far as to block shipments of food. In July 2007, for example, Hamas prevented more than 60 truckloads of Israeli fruit and vegetables from arriving in Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing.173 If Hamas were to make a radical shift and fulfill the terms laid out by the international community to recognize Israel and end its reign of terror, the suffering the group has imposed on the Palestinians of Gaza will also end. Notes
162Shelly Paz and Rebecca Anna Stoil, “Gaza human chain a few links short,” Jerusalem Post, (February 25, 2008).
163Khaled Abu Toameh, “Arab editor blames Hamas for Gaza crisis,” Jerusalem Post, (January 21, 2008).
164“Palestinians refuse to receive fuel from Israel,” Xinhua, (December 2, 2007).
165Jpost.com Staff, “PA: Hamas stealing Gaza hospitals’ fuel,” Jerusalem Post, December 6, 2007).
166Jpost.com Staff, “Defense sources: Gaza blackout a Hamas trick,” Jerusalem Post,(January 20, 2008).
167Amos Harel and Yuval Azoulay, “Gaza power plant shuts down due to fuel blockade,” Haaretz, (January 21, 2008).
168Ellen Knickmeyer, “Gazans feeling recoil of attacks on Israel,” Washington Post, (February 19, 2008).
169Eyad al-Sarraj and Sara Roy, “Ending the stranglehold on Gaza,” Boston Globe, (January 26, 2008).
170Martin Kramer, “Gaza buried in flour,” Martin Kramer’s Sandbox, weblog, (January 28, 2008).
171Ellen Knickmeyer, “Egyptians Reseal Border, Cutting Access From Gaza,” Washington Post, (February 4, 2008).
172Near East Report, (May 22, 2006).
173Matthew Krieger and Tovah Lazaroff, “Hamas bans Israeli produce from Gaza,” Jerusalem Post, (July 10, 2007) . Source: Myths & Facts Online — A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Mitchell G. Bard. See also Mitchell Bard’s blog: http://blogs.britannica.com/blog/main/author/mbard