Hamas was proud to take responsibility this week for unleashing a barrage of 199 rockets and mortars directed at southern Israel; on houses, towns, villages, kindergartens and schools. For such is the nature of this dangerous Islamist movement which has controlled Gaza for 11 years and for whom the only aim is the publicly-avowed destruction of the Jewish state.
Hamas has dedicated almost the entirety of its resources to that single aim. The public relations campaign disseminated by its apologists brazenly blames the poverty of ordinary Gazans on Israel.
Indeed, Gazans are living in poverty but the reality should and could have been wildly different.
According to every serious international estimate, two-thirds of the income of Hamas ends up in the pocket of its military wing.
Money that could and should have been used for building hospitals, roads, housing, electricity supply and basic needs is instead funneled into the manufacture of rockets and missiles and especially into the building of a network of terror tunnels whose only aim is the facilitation of entry of Hamas operatives into Israel for the purpose of kidnapping and murdering innocent Israelis. In the past few years alone, Israel has uncovered over 35 of these attack tunnels and it is presumed that a significant number remain undetected. Palestinian estimates emphasize that each tunnel costs just over 7.8 million Australian dollars.
On this basis, Hamas has squandered at least 300 million dollars for the sole objective of attacking Israelis, rather than for improving the lives of the civilians it controls. Undoubtedly there is poverty in Gaza, undoubtedly the ordinary Gazan deserves a better life, yet undoubtedly too the prioritization of the killing of Israelis over the welfare of its own people is what this extremist organization is all about.
It is in this vein that the violence of the past few weeks need be viewed. It was Jonathan Swift who famously wrote: “Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect”. A number of observers decided of their own volition that Israel fired indiscriminately on unarmed protesters desirous of a better life or at least upset at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
The trouble is that not even Hamas claimed that the protests were peaceful, not even Hamas claimed that the protestors were unarmed, and not even Hamas claimed any connection whatsoever to the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
On the contrary - it was Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar who proclaimed in April that the purpose of the rioting is to “tear down the border and tear their [Israelis] hearts from their bodies”.
It was the co-founder of Hamas Mahmoud Al-Zahhar who made no bones about stating publicly “when we talk about peaceful resistance we are deceiving the public… This is bolstered by military force and our security agencies”.
It was Hamas social media outlets which instructed rioters to “arm themselves with guns and knives with the aim of breaching the border”.
It was the Hamas leadership who called the riots “The March of the Return” – their own acknowledged euphemism for the replacement of the Jewish State by a Palestinian state on the same territory; at no stage did they refer to the violence as “The March Against the U.S. Embassy Opening”.
It was the Hamas leadership which actively encouraged and even paid the demonstrators to storm the border despite its complete understanding of the dire consequences. But most of all it was Hamas itself which openly boasted that well over 80% of the fatalities were its armed combatants and not innocent and peaceful demonstrators. All of this is widely documented, but conveniently ignored by so many.
There will be those who will react to this article with their usual skepticism and cynicism, but I state unequivocally – Israel bears no ill-will towards the people of Gaza and any casualty of an innocent person is truly tragic. At the same time, Israel bears much ill-will, and justifiably, towards Hamas and will defend itself vigorously against it.
The moment a Gazan leadership arises that places the good of Gazans as its sole priority, desists from terror, and cooperates with and recognizes Israel instead of violently confronting it, it will find an Israel ready to make every effort to enhance the lives of ordinary Gazans. In the spirit of the words of Golda Meir I reiterate that there will only be peace with the Palestinians when they love their children more than they hate Israel. We harbour no expectations whatsoever from the current leadership in Gaza.
*Mark Sofer is the Israeli Ambassador to Australia