Why indeed? The LA Times leads today with a huge headline wondering whether the embargo on Gaza because of Hamas’ terrorist activities is justification for, y’know, Hamas’ terrorist activities. Joel Pollak is aghast:
The authors, Alexandra Zavis and Batsheva Sobelman, accept that Hamas started the war–and even suggest that most Palestinians in Gaza support it, though there is nothing beyond anecdotal evidence to prove that claim. They also describe Hamas’s smuggling tunnels to Egypt–which have been used to import deadly weapons–in positive terms, lamenting their supposed closure: “Residents are left to struggle just to get by.”
Nowhere–not once–in the entire article do Zavis or Sobelman note the terror tunnels that Hamas has spent the past several years building to attack Israel, diverting humanitarian aid and building materials for that purpose. Nowhere do they mention the fact that Hamas is using Palestinians as human shields, or that Israel has offered many ceasefires, or that the rockets fired from Gaza are intended to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible.
The article presents “war” or “embargo” as a false choice for Palestinians, utterly ignoring the fact that Gazans could choose peace instead of either of those options. The authors faithfully report the skepticism of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal towards a ceasefire, as if he is a reliable source and his reservations are justified.
The embargo didn’t precede the terrorism, either. When Israel pulled out of Gaza, they kept control of the border (as did Egypt on the Sinai border), but the embargo didn’t get imposed until Hamas took control and the rockets began raining down indiscriminately on Israeli civilians. Without Hamas and the rockets, there still wouldn’t be an embargo, and the Gaza experience is one reason why Israel is so determined to keep security control over the West Bank no matter what kind of two-state solution emerges. The Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas as their government, and so far haven’t chosen to remove them despite the wars and the embargo.
The Washington Post editorial board’s essay today could have easily taken the form of an open letter to the LA Times. It responds directly to this assumption that the embargo was the origin of the conflict, and focuses especially on Hamas’ “depravity” in targeting civilians:
Hamas’s offensive tunnels should not be confused with the burrows it has dug under Gaza’s border with Egypt to smuggle money, consumer goods and military equipment. The newly discovered structures have only one conceivable purpose: to launch attacks inside Israel. Three times in recent days, Hamas fighters emerged from the tunnels in the vicinity of Israeli civilian communities, which they clearly aimed to attack. The concrete-lined structures are stocked with materials, such as handcuffs and tranquilizers, that could be used on hostages. Other tunnels in northern Gaza are designed for the storage and firing of missiles at Israeli cities.
The resources devoted by Hamas to this project are staggering, particularly in view of Gaza’s extreme poverty. By one Israeli account, the typical tunnel cost $1 million to build over the course of several years, using tons of concrete desperately needed for civilian housing. By design, many of the tunnels have entrances in the heavily populated Shijaiyah district, where the Israeli offensive has been concentrated. One was found underneath al-Wafa hospital, where Hamas also located a command post and stored weapons, according to Israeli officials.
The depravity of Hamas’s strategy seems lost on much of the outside world, which — following the terrorists’ script — blames Israel for the civilian casualties it inflicts while attempting to destroy the tunnels. While children die in strikes against the military infrastructure that Hamas’s leaders deliberately placed in and among homes, those leaders remain safe in their own tunnels. There they continue to reject cease-fire proposals, instead outlining a long list of unacceptable demands.
The end to the embargo is one of those demands, but that’s not going to happen. How exactly does launching rockets at Israel — a practice that has gone on for years and happens constantly — make the argument that Israel should not control what comes in and out of Gaza? It’d be akin to having al-Qaeda demand we disband TSA as the condition of a truce.
Mark Regev, the spokesman for Benjamin Netanyahu, offered a similar rebuke to Madeline Albright last night on CNN:
“What would your country do?” We invaded Afghanistan and are still fighting there nearly 13 years later on the basis of one day’s attacks on Washington DC and New York City. Hamas may not have killed 3,000 Israelis, but they’ve launched more than 2100 missiles just since the Gaza war began this month, so it’s not for lack of trying. And finally, Israel keeps accepting the terms of cease-fire proposals from Egypt, the only other country that shares a border with Gaza, and Hamas keeps rejecting them in favor of more attacks on Israel.
To answer the LA Times, the question isn’t “war or blockade” for Gazans, but “Hamas or peace.” They chose Hamas as their representatives, and their representatives got them a blockade and then provoked a war that will hurt them the most. When the Gazans are ready to get rid of Hamas, Israel will be happy to help.