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David Harris

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Gaza: Reverse Causality

Posted: 08/29/2012 5:37 pm

The New York Times (Aug. 29) carried a feature article entitled "U.N. Report Predicts a Bleak Future for Gaza Unless Services Are Improved."

Summing up the UN study, the article notes that by 2020 Gaza may not be "a livable place," even as the population of this narrow strip of land is expected to grow by one-third in the next eight years, having already quadrupled in the last 45 years.

What's striking about such accounts is the willingness to skip over the root cause of the problem or, at best, to make only oblique reference to it.

It's unquestionably tragic if a large segment of the population lives below the poverty line and doesn't receive basic services. And it's equally dispiriting to imagine an even bleaker future.

Yet such an outcome wasn't inevitable, nor need it be down the road.

After all, there is potential in Gaza to develop the economy and draw on the considerable resources within its borders.

But a narrative has taken root, abetted by many in the international community, and especially Gaza's chorus of enablers, that the residents of Gaza have no responsibility whatsoever for their current situation. Rather, it's all a function of outside -- read Israeli -- design.

That fits in perfectly with the prevailing "blame culture," namely, never look inward for answers, but instead seek culprits elsewhere. It's much easier. No muss, no fuss. Everything comes together so nicely if one can conjure up a well-wrapped theory that places the entire onus on others.

Consider Israel's situation.

It shares a border with Gaza. That's an immutable fact.

Does it make sense for Israel to want a neighbor that is poor, lacking in future prospects, and ripe for exploitation by extremists? Hardly.

But there's another immutable fact as well, at least for now.

Hamas has been entrenched in Gaza since 2007.

This group, on the U.S. and EU terrorism lists, is neither coy nor evasive about its plans.

It wants the destruction of Israel. It says so in its charter, which too few people have ever bothered to read. Its leaders proclaim their aim every chance they get. Its teachers instruct their children from an early age to embrace the goal. Its preachers call for it in houses of worship. And within Gaza's borders, strenuous efforts, whether by Hamas or kindred spirits, are made, day in and day out, to get hold of weapons and plot their use against Israel.

Under such circumstances, what exactly is Israel supposed to do?

Well, for Gaza's enablers, the answer is very simple. Israel should pretend that Gaza is Luxembourg, until the day their underlying wish is fulfilled -- the end of Israel.

But for any fair-minded person, Israel's dilemma is obvious, without easy solution.

Israel has no desire to go back into Gaza, which it fully left in 2005, a relevant fact missing from the Times' article.

It might prefer that Egypt, even under the new Islamist regime, return to Gaza, which it ruled with an iron fist until 1967, but that's a non-starter today for both Egypt and Gaza.

It may wish for the Palestinian Authority, as the lesser of two evils, to take over in Gaza, but the schism between Hamas and the PA has proved unbridgeable.

At the end of the day, Israel simply wants a quiet border, something it thought possible seven years ago, when the people of Gaza were given a first -- the chance to govern themselves -- and investors in the U.S. and Europe were poised to assist. But that quiet border hasn't come, far from it, while investors have been scared away.

The Times has its own way of antiseptically describing the situation: "Tensions often spiral into rounds of cross-border violence."

No reference in that one mind-boggling sentence to cause and effect, obvious though it is. The violence begins with missiles and mortars fired from Gaza at Israel, after which Israel, like any sovereign nation, exercises the right to defend itself against attack.

Later in the same paragraph, the reporter states that "A deadly Israeli offensive in Gaza in the winter of 2008-9 destroyed or severely damaged more than 6,000 homes."

The impression given is that Israel, having nothing better to do with itself a few years ago, cavalierly decided to inflict damage on Gaza, destroying houses and lives.

But this is breathtaking contrary to fact. Indeed, it's what's called reverse causality.

Hamas-ruled Gaza triggers the violence by firing literally thousands of rockets at Israel, driven by a hate-filled ideology. Yet the focus is on the Israeli response, as if there were no provocation.

And the same applies more broadly to the UN report.

Gaza could be a model of development, with cross-border traffic, not violence, with Israel and, yes, Egypt.

It could exploit the riches of the sea and its lovely coastline.

It could draw upon the human capital of its population.

It could end the UN refugee camps, which, inexplicably, continue to operate there, creating a mindset of dependence and victimization.

It could call on cash-rich Arab states to stop the crocodile tears of sympathy and help build the schools and hospitals needed.

It could demand the end of chronic misuse of donor aid for the benefit of the kleptocratic elite.

Of course, that would mean saying "no" to Hamas; rejecting incitement; ending missile attacks, smuggling tunnels, and terrorist plots against Israel; and envisioning a different future.

But Hamas-ruled Gaza today, with its international enablers, wants it both ways -- to remain a hothouse for extremism, arms factories, and calls for genocidal martyrdom, while demanding the help of the outside world to bolster its economy and infrastructure.

If that's not a new definition for chutzpah, I don't know what is.

 
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