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October 20, 2014

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OTHER VOICES:

How to start solving Gaza’s problems

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Watching the tensions between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, many have held on to a profoundly mistaken idea. I heard it again recently from an otherwise well-informed observer. The conflict, this acquaintance declared, will not be resolved until Israel lifts the blockade of Gaza.

The trouble with this line of thinking is that it ignores everything Hamas has stated about its goals, beliefs and strategy.

To understand the dispute, it is not necessary to listen to a single word Israel says. A good starting point is Hamas’ charter, easily found in many places online, including one from Yale University at avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp.

The Covenant explains Hamas in detail. It’s an educational read for anyone with an interest in understanding the tragedy that has befallen the people of Gaza.

For those uninclined to read the document, let me offer some highlights and a brief summary. Essentially, Hamas is committed, in writing, to Israel’s destruction. It opposes negotiations, and it considers Jews, not just Israeli Jews, the enemy.

The Hamas Covenant gets to the point quickly. “Israel will exist ... until Islam will obliterate it.” Then the introduction helpfully explains, “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious.”

Hamas rejects the existence of a Jewish state because it considers the land, as Article 11 states, an “Islamic Waqf” — a divine, unalterable endowment “for future generations until Judgment Day.” That applies to every inch of the territory, as its leaders have frequently said “from the river to the sea.” So, we’re not talking about the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, what Westerners normally call the occupied territory.

Hamas considers every piece of land on which Israel stands, including Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Galilee, all of Jerusalem — all of it — as exclusively Muslim land, by divine grant, for which it must fight to the death.

Hamas leaders may occasionally agree to ceasefires or talk in conciliatory tones to the Western media, but their objective, clearly stated, is that nobody has a right to negotiate. “Who could claim the right to represent Muslim generations until judgment day?” asks the charter.

So, the fight is not about negotiating a two-state solution; much less about lifting a siege.

Hamas considers all of Israel “occupied” Muslim land. And speaking of occupation, in 2005, Israel withdrew every single one of its soldiers, along with tens of thousands of Jews who lived in Gaza.

Many people still speak of the Gaza “occupation” although Hamas governs a territory without any outside forces — except for the occasional Iranian military adviser. They say it is occupied because Israel keeps control of the sky and at sea. That’s the sky, by the way, across which thousands of rockets fly toward Israel.

When Israel’s critics talk about the “siege” of Gaza, they have a puzzling tendency to ignore Gaza’s other international border, a border with Egypt.

“Humanitarian” flotillas challenge Israel’s sea blockade, a legitimate tool under international law, but they apparently don’t check their maps to realize anything Gaza cannot get from Israel it might obtain across its border with Egypt, which is governed by the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is the Palestinian branch.

It’s disingenuous to demand Israel open a border to a regime that has proclaimed its intention to destroy it, and it’s dishonest to make that demand when borders are conduits for weapons deliveries from Iran to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Some of the most dangerous missiles fired by Hamas and other Iran-linked groups at Israel in the latest round were Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets.

It’s easy to stop noticing the stripes, to hear a purr instead of the roar, but anyone thinking of Hamas and other militant Islamist groups in Gaza as harmless pussy cats can easily be reminded of the sharpness of their claws. Hamas’ charter proclaims in Article 8 that “death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of wishes.”

Before Hamas’ rockets became a daily source of terror for Israelis near Gaza, the group sent scores of suicide bombers into Israeli cities, killing hundreds of civilians, including children, fathers, mothers, grandmothers.

A commercial recently aired on Palestinian television addressed Israelis, saying, “We’ve missed suicide attacks. Expect us soon at bus stations and cafes.”

So, to anyone thinking that a lifting of Israel’s strict restrictions on Hamas-held Gaza would put an end to the tensions and the killing, I suggest a few minutes listening to or reading Hamas’ own words.

A real solution would require rescinding Hamas’ commitment to the destruction of the Jewish state, something Israel and other countries have long demanded in exchange for lifting sanctions and moving to a constructive relation.

Now, that would really help the people of Gaza.

Frida Ghitis writes about global affairs for the Miami Herald.

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  1. Probably what might be a first step for the people of Gaza. Is to try and seperate church and state.