Why did Hamas attack?
Reports about the situation in Gaza are, as usual, so one-sided as to give an incomprehensible picture to the American populace.
We have been told in numerous reports why Israel has launched this new offensive in Gaza... hundreds of missiles raining down upon Israel. None of the news reports I have read even asked the obvious questions of 1) why did Hamas refuse to renew a cease-fire eight days ago, and 2) why have they been launching missiles at Israel, a seemingly futile gesture as only a handful of Israelis had actually been killed or injured in their attacks, and they gave Israel an excuse to retaliate, which has cost some 300 Palestinians their lives.
Since we all know that Hamas has been classified as a terrorist organization, we are left to assume the refusal to renew the cease-fire and the increase in missile attacks are out of pure hatred of Jews, the desire to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth, or some other unsupportable malice.
Perhaps these are actually the reasons behind Hamas's recent moves. One suspects, however, that it has a lot more to do with the terrible situation in Gaza created largely by Israel's closure of all border crossings after Hamas seized power in Gaza some two years ago.
Back in March, eight months ago, a consortium of British aid organizations found that conditions in Gaza were the worst in 40 years due to the near total blockage of that country by Israel. This consortium reported that "80 percent of Gaza's population is now dependent on food aid and that Gaza's power, water and sewage systems have collapsed."
"In four weeks, 65,000 jobs were lost. Ninety percent of the manufacturing industry was shut down," Michael Bailey of the Jerusalem OXFAM said. "Forty thousand people in the agricultural industry are finding it very hard to maintain their jobs and eight out of ten families in Gaza are dependent on food aid."
Bailey says 300,000 people in Gaza do not have regular supplies of water and 60 tons of raw sewage is discharged into the ocean every day because sewage treatment plants no longer work. He says many schools also do not have power. As a result he says Gaza's educational system has broken down, and children there fail basic tests in rudimentary subjects. Bailey and the other groups behind the report say they blame Israel for the situation because it controls Gaza's borders.
"We are saying that because Israel is still in control, it is still the occupying power even though they (Israel) are not inside Gaza; they control all the borders, the air and the sea space," Bailey said. "Therefore whoever is in charge inside Gaza, they are really powerless to control and economy that depends 90 percent on imports for any manufacturing or productivity."
As of this November, the crossings remained closed with few exceptions. A report by the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel reported that during November, only one crossing (Kerem Shalom) had been open for four days only (17, 24, 26 and 27 November), with limited quantities of humanitarian food supplies allowed through.
Latest UN figures showed that unemployment has risen to 49 per cent and that half of Gaza City’s residents receive water only once a week for a few hours. Homes are also without electricity for up to 16 hours a day.
American newspapers rarely, if ever, report on this terribly bleak picture. Or on both sides of the story. Israel says the closures were necessary because Hamas, which ultimately seeks an end to Israel itself and the return of all the land to Palestinians, seized control of Gaza and Israel cannot allow militant terrorists to import weapons by those border crossings. Hamas says the missile attacks are in response to Israeli closures, which violate international law, and because Israel violated the cease-fire when it blew up a tunnel that was being build to circumvent these closed border last month. Israel says it has to respond to missile attacks on its civilians and that it is justified in sending 100s of tons of bombs into mosques, medicine factories, police stations, and even schools because of them. And that despite the cease fire, it had the right to bomb the tunnel because for the same reason it had the right to close the border crossings in the first place. On and on and on, around and around and around in a never ending circle of blaming the other while continuing to commit atrocities.
Until we understand the endless circle of blame, and how each side refuses to take responsibility for continuing the cycle of violence, we will never be able to successful in brokering peace. Until each side stops and says, we have done horrific things in the pursuit of our goals, in some form of the Truth and Reconciliation process as we saw in South Africa, there is little likelihood of a lasting peace.
One can only hope that process begins sooner rather than later.