The Palestinian Arabs, as a national collective, have failed the test of history. It is high time we drop the charade of their ability to achieve self-governance.
What is the point of raising and spending many millions of dollars to rebuild the Gaza Strip just so it can be destroyed in the next war? It’s a harsh question. Given the region’s tragic history, it is also inevitable.
– The New York Times, October 10
Less than two months after Israel’s summer offensive in the Gaza Strip ended, Hamas militants in the coastal enclave are rebuilding their attack tunnels.
– The Jerusalem Post, October 19
One woman survivor of the ship that sank off the coast of Alexandria said Egyptian smugglers had rammed it and that they saw people were drowning and offered no help. But I don’t think even such a terrible incident will stop the phenomenon because people are completely desperate and want to leave… Gaza.
– Haaretz, September 17.
The recent conference in Cairo on the reconstruction of Gaza was a depressing display of farce and hypocrisy.
On the surface, it was a resounding success, as participants pledged far more than the $4 billion the Palestinians set as a target.
There was, however, remarkably little euphoria in the wake of the nominal achievement. Indeed, experience has shown there is room for much skepticism about the outcome when the time to fulfill those pledges eventually arrives. Immediately after the conference, pessimistic prognoses poured in, putting a damper on any high spirits this largesse might have prompted. For example, the BBC (October 16) in a piece headlined “Gaza reconstruction facing obstacles despite aid,” noted: “It is a simple truth that governments do not always honor pledges they make to good causes….”
Other amounts pledged, were, according to sources, sums already promised prior to the destruction incurred in Operation Protective Edge. Thus, The Economist (October 16) stated: “Much of the money comes from rehashed earlier pledges,” and surmised that “$2b. might be a more accurate figure” for post-war pledges rather than the $5.4b.
Lip-service to political correctness
Moreover, doubts are being expressed as to how much of the money would actually be spent on reconstruction.
According to conference Co-Chairman Norway’s Foreign Minister Borge Brende, only half that money will be dedicated to the reconstruction of Gaza. It is still unclear where the remaining 50 percent will be directed, but most common assessments expected that it would go to plug gaping holes in the Palestinian Authority’s administrative budget in the “West Bank,” much of which is required to pay the salaries of its bloated bureaucracy.
Even in the unlikely event that all pledges are honored, whatever remains will be a mere fraction of what is required for any full reconstruction effort.
Of course, there is little reason to believe that this money will be used exclusively for civilian reconstruction rather than replenishing ordnance and refurbishing terrorist infrastructures – as has been Hamas’s practice in the past.
Indeed, as the introductory excerpt indicates, efforts to rebuild the tunnels are already underway.
There is, therefore, little reason to believe that the recent drive for the reconstruction of Gaza will turn out to have been anything but lip service paid to prevailing conventions of political correctness; accordingly, there is commensurately little reason to believe that the fund-raising conference will lead to a sincere – never mind, effective – effort to rebuild the devastated civilian enclave.
It is more than plausible to surmise that its principal purpose was to prevent the collapse of the delusion that a self-governing Palestinian entity of any sort is feasible.
People thinking along this line remain blithely oblivious to, or intentionally ignore, the destructive ramifications of continued investment in this futile fantasy.
Strong sense of deja vu
In an acerbic piece, “That Surreal Gaza Reconstruction Conference,” written over half a decade ago, Daniel Pipes expressed astonishment at the results of the earlier meeting, which, we see now, gave startling premonitions of the one held in Cairo last week. Everything he wrote the first time could apply today.
He asked, with evident exasperation: “Was I the only one rubbing my eyes in disbelief… as the Egyptian government hosted an ‘International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza’?” He goes on to explain his amazement: “Why my disbelief at this spectacle: I wonder if those eminences… really believe that warfare in Gaza is a thing of the past, and that the time for reconstruction is nigh?… What the hell are the donor countries doing, getting in the middle of an on-going war with their high-profile, supposed reconstruction effort?” So today, the Hamas war effort continues unabated – with excavation of new/renewed attack tunnels, accompanied by persistent maritime smuggling of arms and plans for upcoming terror attacks.
As in 2009, when then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed that aid to Gaza must be a precursor to “comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors,” so again in 2014, current US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the current fund-raising should set the stage for “lasting peace between Israel, the Palestinians, and all their neighbors.”
‘No one is that dumb’
Although concern was expressed in 2009 about dual-use materials – i.e. anything that could be used to build either houses or rocket silos, such as concrete or steel, donor nations called again for easing Israeli-imposed restrictions on the inflow of goods.
This prompted Pipes to remark bitingly: “Adding to the surreal quality is a blithe disregard for Israel’s security needs… under the cheery banner of building, in Clinton’s words, ‘a comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors,’ donor states are not only defying Israel to protect itself from rocket fire but they are funneling [war-related] matériel to Hamas.”
He asks trenchantly, “Is this ignorance or mendacity?” and answers, “I suspect the latter; no one is that dumb.”
Indeed, one can guage just how detached from reality both reconstruction conferences were from the fact that the instigator of the violence that wrought destruction necessitating reconstruction – i.e. Hamas – was not mentioned even once in Clinton’s entire speech. In Kerry’s somewhat longer address it came up once – and then only obliquely….
It is an open question as to what would be more troubling: that Pipes was right in his diagnosis of duplicity trumping stupidity, or that he was wrong. One thing is certain: Whether moronic or malevolent, the approach to the reconstruction of Gaza is implicitly – no, make that explicitly – a recipe for inexorable calamity, both for Jew and Arab alike.
Predictably, in both conferences, mindless, almost Pavlovian, calls for implementation of the two-state principle were issued.
In 2009, Clinton reaffirmed the need to “vigorously pursue a two-state solution,” while in 2014, Kerry spoke of the “compelling” need for “a two-state solution.”
It is difficult to know how to explain this obdurate obstinacy; difficult to diagnose whether it reflects ignorance or imbecility. Is it fueled by woeful folly or willful fraudulence? However, we need to understand why, in the wake of almost a quarter century of bloody post-Oslo failure, the world still seems impervious to fact and reason, unmoved by what occurred and why it occurred – resolutely refusing to relinquish the disproved dogma that Palestinian statehood is a panacea for all the ills of the region and beyond.
There is clearly nothing humanitarian in the repeated efforts to reconstruct Gaza while holding fast to the twostate principle.
All it will do – as it has done before – is subject the civilian population there to recurring rounds of destruction and destitution, imposed on them by the incessantly cruel, corrupt cliques that have led them astray for decades.
Even before the massive devastation inflicted in the Protective Edge campaign, which began on July 8, opinion polls painted a bleak picture of present conditions and future prospects.
A survey conducted by Dr. Nabil Kukali for the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion in mid-June found that 60.8% of the Palestinians designated their economic situation as “bad,” 54.1% believed it would get worse, and close to 70% expressed concern for the subsistence of their families.
This concern was exhibited in a June poll by Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, headed by Dr. Khalil Shikaki, which showed that more than 40% of Gazans were seeking to emigrate. In a later PSR poll (September), this had risen to almost 45%.
But more significant than dry statistics is the real desperation of the residents of Gaza, where despair is reaching unprecedented levels. According to one Harvard- based researcher: “The middle class has largely been wiped out.”
‘Better to die at sea than of despair in Gaza’
The situation has become so dire that thousands of residents are willing to risk death to escape the travails of the present, and the hopelessness of the future.
Electronic Intifada, not normally my preferred source of information, ran a scathing, dismissive critique of the reconstruction efforts. It lamented: “Young Palestinians in Gaza, facing unemployment rates as high as 60%, have lost hope and are putting their lives in the hands of smugglers in a bid to reach Europe and a future.”
This sad development was widely reported by the international media. Haaretz quoted one Gaza resident as declaring “It’s better to die at sea than to die of despair and frustration in Gaza.” An article in Al Jazeera, headlined: “Palestinian Migrants Fleeing Gaza Strip Drown in Mediterranean Sea,” described how Gazans increasingly turn to smugglers to escape economic privation and deadly conflict. The New York Times wrote of Gazans “Fleeing Gaza, only to face treachery and disaster at sea” and Ynet News reported that “Scores of Gazans die at sea in attempt to flee….”
Failed the test of history
It has been almost a quarter of a century since the Oslo agreement, which transferred much of the Gaza Strip to Palestinian control – and almost a decade since Israel withdrew from it entirely.
Over these considerable periods of time, the Palestinians have proved themselves beyond any reasonable doubt incapable of creting a system of effective self-government and/ or sustainable economic activity – despite massive financial aid and overwhelming political endorsement of their cause.
They have, by any conceivable criteria, totally “failed the test of history.”
It is time to end this cruel charade that Palestinians are a coherent and cohesive national body of any authenticity. It is time to end the perverse pursuit – down to the last Palestinian – of the destructive delusion of two states.
It is time to devise a humanitarian approach to Gaza, in particular, and the Palestinian question, in general, that puts the individual and his/her welfare at the center of focus, rather than the invented collective and contrived national aspirations.
Anybody with an iota of intellectual integrity, a minimal grasp of the facts on the ground, and a smidgen of moral concern for “the other,” must know that the only feasible solution for Gaza that can offer any realistic hope for the future, is not its RE-construction, but it’s DE-construction.
Relocation not reconstruction
As long as Gaza remains intact, it will be a source of aggression against the Jewish state, and a source of misery for its civilian population. Throwing money at it, over and above the vast amounts already thrown at it, will do nothing to change that. In all likelihood it will only exacerbate the problem – as the past has so vividly demonstrated, with huge sums being diverted from civic projects to terror infrastructure.
As long as Gaza remains, it will be a platform to launch attacks against Israel and a target for Israeli counterattacks to silence them – with the residents of Gaza suffering regrettable, but unavoidable, collateral damage.
As I wrote at the start of Operation Protective Shield (“Why Gaza must go,” July, 24), the only durable solution is the dismantling of Gaza, humanitarian relocation of its non-belligerent Arab population, and extension of Israeli sovereignty over the region.
Instead of channeling funds into the futile reconstruction of buildings that are in all likelihood soon-to-be re-destroyed, the international community should channel resources into the relocation of people. That path would allow them better, more constructive and prosperous lives elsewhere, free from the clutches of their brutal, belligerent “leaders,” who have brought them nothing but endless sorrow and suffering.
Nothing could be more humane, liberal and conducive to stability. Nothing could be less so than compelling the people of Gaza to remain trapped in a tiny enclave, doomed to unending despair deprivation and devastation. The call should go out to the international community regarding the Palestinian Arabs in Gaza: Let their people go!
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.(www.strategic- israel.org)