Those of you who have followed my blog on WordPress and Daily Kos Diary over the past few years are aware that I typically dedicate this space to a discussion of issues that are related to national politics or issues confronting the American people. However, there are times when I feel compelled to move beyond our borders to highlight an event that is of concern to me as a human being and a citizen not only of this country, but of the world. This is one of those times. The events in the Middle East, impacting on the lives of innocent victims, cannot be ignored. The superficial picture provided by an often ill-informed and lazy media simply feeds the myths and helps to perpetuate the tragedy. In order to appreciate the truth of Gaza, it is necessary to know the recent history and understand the geography of this prime piece of real estate.
While Israel assumed control of Gaza after the Six Day War in 1967, it gave that control up in 2005 and forced the Jewish settlers to give up their homes and their livelihoods and vacate Gaza. It should be noted that when the Jewish settlers departed, they left all of their homes, and agricultural and industrial infrastructure intact. As of that moment, Gaza was under the control of the Palestinians. Among their first acts was to demolish all that was left to them by the Israelis rather than utilizing it to grow their own economy. There were thousands of families living in dismal refugee camps administered by the International Red Cross at the time Gaza was ceded to the Palestinians. There are still the same camps teeming with thousands of families today. The beaches of Gaza rival the beauty of any beach along the Mediterranean., yet there is no economic development to attract tourism. I haven’t just read or heard of these things, I have seen them. I have seen the Jewish settlers’ homes and industrial infrastructure, the refugee camps and the beautiful beaches. I have seen the potential wasted and turned into hatred and bomb factories. This is no accident. The two million residents of Gaza are being used as pawns in an ideological battle by Hamas against Israel. It is both tragic and cynical.
To appreciate the full extent of this victimization there are a few facts that are important to be aware of. First, the average age of the population of Gaza is 27. This means that most people living in Gaza never remember a time when they weren’t either under the control of Israel or Hamas. Second, the education received by the children of Gaza paints Israel as a relentless oppressor. They are taught to hate Jews and Israelis both. Third, there has been little investment in true economic development, while most investment has gone toward building and acquiring weapons. Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, is a radical Islamic group, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States. In order for Hamas to continue its control over this young and restless population it is necessary to maintain a siege mentality. Thus the firing of rockets into Israel begets an Israeli response therefore fulfilling the need for constant vigilance and a sense of being under siege. Consider the difference in reaction to the recent teenage murders between Israel and Gaza. In Gaza, those who kidnapped and ultimately murdered the three Israeli teenagers were held up as heroes and lauded for their achievement. In Israel, those who killed the Palestinian teenager in revenge for the deaths of the three Israelis were apprehended and will be tried and punished. The kind of thinking in Gaza, perpetuated by Hamas is dangerous and will lead to more violence. As the residents of Gaza are encouraged to act as human shields protecting the rocket launchers cynically positioned in schools, mosques and hospitals by Hamas, they are clearly being used as pawns. The press obediently then sends pictures across the world showing women and children who have been killed or severely wounded by Israeli bombs. It is obvious that Hamas cares little for human life and values its ideological success above all.
It is time for the residents of Gaza to harvest some of the fruits of the Arab Spring. As long as they allow themselves to be controlled and manipulated by this group of radical Islamic extremists they will live in poverty and danger. Gaza has a great deal of potential. It is time for the Gaza’s residents to shed the yoke of Hamas oppression and work to realize that potential.