Less than two months ago, I stood at an observation point in Sderot, Israel less than one mile from the border with Gaza. I listened to an Israeli Defense Forces public information officer and his commanding officer brief a group of journalists travelling with the American Israel Education Fund on the situation there. It was informative — up to a point. Then again, there seemed to be lots of holes in what the Israelis would discuss. They did intimate there was a considerable Iranian influence there.
Following our talk, I got to chat with Bill Roggio, who runs the outstanding security blog “The Fourth Rail”. Roggio, who has been an embedded in both Afghanistan and Iraq, had a strong sense the Israelis were holding back. He suspected the situation in Gaza was far worse than we were being told.
During the same trip, we had the good fortune to meet with Avi Issacharoff, the gonzo Haaretz reporter who covers the now essentially defunct Palestinian Authority. The dinner was off-the-record to facilitate this reporter who risks his life to cover a very dangerous region. I think it’s fair to say that Issacharoff painted a picture of Gaza that was far more chaotic than what we think of when we imagine the Wild West.
Here’s what Issacharoff is reporting now, including Palestinians afraid for their lives: “The fears of S., like many Gaza residents, are not unfounded. A look at Hamas’ behavior in the Strip in recent days has revealed zero tolerance toward the ‘other.’ Anything identified with Fatah was attacked, even women and children related to activists. ‘I’m not sure what they’ll do with the secular, and what they’ll to with me, since my brother is in the security services,’ S. added.
Two days ago, Hamas activists fired at a procession of unarmed citizens and killed two of them. On Tuesday they killed three women and a child. On Monday they threw a Fatah activist from the 18th floor of a high-rise building. Although these actions sowed panic among Fatah activists, they also increased residents’ hostility toward Hamas.”
The reports out of Gaza, Issacharoff aside, are being undercovered. There’s no question if the Israelis engaged in a fraction of the violence Hamas is perpetrating, world opinion would be transfixed on Israel. The silence from human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, is deafening. Watching what Hamas is doing to the Fatah members prompts me to ask what would members of this fanatical group ever do if they gained control of all the land from the Jordan River to the sea. It wouldn’t be pretty, to say the least.
The footage of Hamas ransacking Palestinian Authority properties in Gaza is the conclusive happening in a chain of events that began with the Oslo Accords in 1993. Yitzhak Rabin opted to give the PLO — the Fatah faction — authority over Gaza and much of the West Bank in hopes that Yasser Arafat and his cronies would crack down on the Islamic militants in the territories. Arafat repeatedly turned a blind eye to Hamas violence and in 2000 unleashed his own cadres at the Israelis. Instead of working towards peace with the Israelis, the Fatah leadership constructed villas along the Mediterranean in Gaza and gorged on the foreign and humanitarian aid the PA received. This, in turn, gave more strength to Hamas.
The swirling violence in Gaza reinforces the view that Israel, in particular, and the West, in general, make deals with corrupt secular Arab leadership at their peril. What’s happening in Gaza today could be happening in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia soon enough.
The view, being promoted by, among others, Christiane Amanpour of CNN, that America is to blame for not being engaged in Israel-Palestinian dialogue is patently ridiculous. Amanpour wasn’t even willing to concede the victory of Hamas’s proxies in Gaza helped Iran. This is despite a whole litany of evidence that one can provide that demonstrates Iranian help to Gazan militants.
The issue no relevant party — Israel, the PA, the US, the EU — has ever been able to deal with is what to do with the rejectionist, Islamacist forces that seek to control the Palestinian Authority. No magic wand exists that can force Hamas to get into serious and long-term negotiations with the Israel, which it wants to destroy. This has been the subject that everyone, beginning with Yitzhak Rabin, has wanted to sweep under the rug for more than a decade.
I don’t know how the current chaos can be contained. I do know that it’s probably goes beyond the appointment of an American special envoy to the region.