Gazan Arabs have no one but themselves to blame for voting Hamas into power and allowing Hamas to destroy their lives in the traumatic manner that has suddenly befallen them in the past week.
This inevitability was on the cards from the day Gazans freely - and overwhelmingly - elected Hamas to power in Gaza’s municipal council elections on 28 January 2005 giving Hamas a solid power base and stranglehold in 77 out of the 118 seats contested.
Emboldened by Israel’s total - and unilateral – withdrawal from Gaza on 12 September 2005, Gaza’s population immediately went on a rampage burning synagogues and communal centres left behind in Gaza by the 8000 Jews who had built them over the previous four decades whilst also destroying the productive green houses and agricultural lands created out of desert by the departing Jewish farmers.
Gaza’s exclusively Arab population had by then come to regard Hamas as the party that could really deliver Israel into Islamic hands and wipe the Jewish state off the map as the Hamas Charter so clearly declared. Hamas claimed the credit for Israel’s withdrawal and promised more to the crowds that thronged the Hamas rallies to celebrate Israel’s retreat.
Hamas had by then already carried out thousands of terror attacks killing 425 Israelis and wounding 2,233 others since 2000. Between 1993-2005 Hamas had been responsible for sending 113 suicide bombers into Israel to deliberately target, murder and maim civilians in places like restaurants, buses and shopping centers.
Hamas certainly practised what they preached and Gaza’s civilian population were now prepared to vest Hamas with even greater political power in Gaza.
193,000 Gazans gave Hamas that green light on 25 January 2006 in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections whilst 174,000 Gazans supported the incumbent ruling party - Fatah. Hamas ended up winning 74 seats overall whilst Fatah could only win 45 seats.
Gazans had made their choice undeterred by the fact that Hamas had been declared a terrorist organization by America, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Israel.
Fatah certainly only had itself to blame for its 2006 stunning electoral defeat having allowed Hamas to contest those elections in breach of the Oslo Accords that Fatah had signed in 1995 which stated:
“The nomination of any candidates, parties or coalitions will be refused, and such nomination or registration will be cancelled, if such candidates, parties or coalitions 1) commit or advocate racism, or 2) pursue the implementation of their aims by unlawful non-democratic means.”
The ensuing havoc and political schism between Hamas and Fatah following Hamas’ huge win saw Gaza being effectively taken over by Hamas whilst a large number of the 174000 Fatah supporters and their families fled to the relative safety of the West Bank to escape the purge of Fatah members occupying positions of power within Gaza’s political echelons. Others were not so lucky and died in the internecine strife that followed.
Entrenched in power in Gaza, Hamas did not embark on nation building. Instead it engaged in a massive build up of rockets smuggled through an extensive network of tunnels running under Egypt and into Gaza whilst continuing to manufacture its own home grown versions for indiscriminate dispatch into Israeli population centres.
Gazans were willing partners to this murderous enterprise making their homes the exit points for newly constructed tunnels whilst actively assisting in the assembling and manufacturing of an arsenal of rockets and mortars that seemed infinite in the number available to be fired at Israel.
Israel absorbed many attacks and responded to others by blockades, embargoes and limited incursions into Gaza which had little effect in stemming the almost daily barrages. Each retaliatory action by Israel was met with huge protests and demonstrations by tens of thousands of Gazans.
No voices of protest or warning were heard or raised in Gaza at its Government’s precipitate action. Some may argue this was caused by fear and that the population had become captive and hostage to its new rulers whose dreams of driving Israel into the sea had overwhelmed its primary responsibility to advance the well being and development of its own constituency.
Suffering became the norm as electricity, water and fuel supplies were cut by Israel.
“Humanitarian crisis”, “collective punishment” and “breaches of international humanitarian law” became the international chants to comfort Gazans as their leaders – duly emboldened by this limp response - persisted with their sworn declaration to kill as many Jews as they could.
Renewal of an uneasy six months’ truce mediated by Egypt in June 2008 was spurned by Hamas. The truce period had enabled a build up of rockets with a far greater range than had been previously been employed. It was time for the rocket game to begin in earnest once again.
Israel however had had enough and has now responded like never before. The destruction visited on Gaza’s institutions of power, its Hamas foot soldiers, rocket launchers, network of tunnels and rocket and mortar arsenal are yet to be publicly revealed. Hamas has not been bowed and has indicated its intention of continuing its suicidal program by firing more rockets far deeper into Israel than previously thought possible.
Gazan Arabs are now having their electoral decisions sheeted home to them in no uncertain fashion. Whilst the Palestine Liberation Organisation may have been foisted on them in an undemocratic fashion in 1964, the embrace of Hamas in 2005 and 2006 was decidedly the opposite.
Rescuing the Gazans from the disastrous consequences of their political choices involves the removal of Hamas. Replacing Hamas with Fatah is not really a viable alternative. Fatah has shown itself to be totally incapable of reaching a peaceful accommodation with Israel after 15 years of fruitless negotiations. Both organizations are total political write-offs.
The only possible solution involves Egypt reassuming control over Gaza as it did between 1948-1967. This time there will have to be one fundamental difference – Gaza and its citizens must embark on the road to peace with – not seek the destruction of – Israel.
Redrawing the boundary between Israel and Egypt to incorporate all of Gaza and its citizens in Egypt’s sovereign territory is a commonsense approach that now urgently requires the support of the Arab League, the other Islamic States and the remainder of the international community to make it work.
It can - and must – happen if the suffering and despair of the Gazan Arabs are to be ended.
This solution does not –thankfully – involve rocket science although first removing Hamas probably will.