Exactly what is Hamas’ vision for Gaza? Is it the same as the vision of the Palestinian people who call Gaza home?
Here’s an observation rarely noted in all the back-and-forth about the Hamas-Israel conflict: as (part of) the land of the Palestinians, Gaza abounds with potential for development.
If only the goal of Hamas were the building of a prosperous nation rather than the elimination of Israel.
The potential for development in Gaza is immense
While Gaza is a small belt of land, its potential is immense. Of course Gaza is one part of the larger Palestinian homeland. But let’s contrast the state of development in the Gaza strip with the development of another small nation, one with fewer natural resources than Gaza.
Many people argue that one of Gaza’s major problems is population density: her 1,428,757 people share 147 square miles of land. That’s 9,719 people per square mile.
But another small country with twice the population density and none of the natural resources is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Singapore’s 4,492,150 people are crowded onto 241 square miles of Pacific island, a population density of 18,645 people per square mile. Singapore has the second highest population density in the world!
There’s more: 50 years ago Singapore was one of the poorest countries in Asia. You could think of Singapore then as the Gaza of Asia. Yet today it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. (For more of the Singapore story, go here.)
Gaza’s economic potential is tremendous. Her people are capable. They have shown great ingenuity. Gaza has reserves of both oil and natural gas, while Singapore has virtually no natural resources. Yet Singapore’s per capita GDP in 2013 was $55,182 (ahead of both the USA at $53,143 and Israel at $36,161). In Gaza, the current annual per capita GDP is $1,600.
When Israel pulled out of the Gaza strip in 2005, it left the people of Gaza with agricultural and other infrastructure. International aid and good will from around the world began to pour in.
This largesse left Hamas with a decision to make. They could lead in building a new nation or work to destroy another nation. The entrepreneurial Palestinians could have taken the infrastructure left by the Israelis … plus their oil and natural gas … plus their farm land … plus their beautiful Mediterranean coast and built a thriving Palestine. Consider, for example, the potential tourism.
Tragically, Hamas chose instead to apply its foreign aid to the furtherance of its charter: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it.” In the process, it destroyed the infrastructure left by the Israelis. It diverted the international aid intended for development to preparing for war with Israel. Cement and reinforcing steel meant to build houses and hospitals was used instead to build tunnels to invade Israel. It is estimated that the 32 tunnels discovered so far cost about $2 M each. That is $64 M not used to help the Palestinian people. Monies that could be used to build infrastructure and provide capital for business was diverted to build or buy 10,000 missiles.
Our hearts ache for the Palestinians in Gaza
Our hearts should ache for the plight of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Their suffering is beyond imagination. But they suffer because their leaders are more concerned with destroying Israel than with building their nation. They are more interested in building tunnels to invade Israel than meeting the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people.
Dennis Ross, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote:
At some point, Hamas will stop firing rockets — if for no other reason than its arsenal is depleted. For the people of Gaza, however, the price has been staggering. But Hamas’s leaders have never been concerned about that. For them, Palestinians’ pain and suffering are tools to exploit, not conditions to end.
While the Palestinians have suffered greatly in this latest war, they played a consenting role. They elected Hamas leaders, and they tolerated Hamas villainies. Palestinians had to see what was happening all around them. Many must have known that hospitals, schools, and mosques were being used as storage depots for missiles and mortars, as command centers for the military wing of Hamas, and as tunnel entrances for the invasion of Israel. The people’s silence may imply support for the Hamas tactics. Or perhaps they fear what Hamas might do to them if they protested.
The people of Gaza have a choice: they can live free and create a beautiful and thriving nation on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, or they can follow Hamas and live in fear, poverty, and slavery. Freedom for the Palestinian people must begin in their hearts before it is established in their circumstances.
– Darrow Miller
NOTE: We rarely solicit funds at Darrow Miller and Friends. However, if you have been moved by the plight of ethnic cleansing among Christians and Yezidis in Northern Iraq, and want a way to help, here are a couple of worthy avenues. My friends, Dr. George Grant and Dave Dillard, have been working in northern Iraq for some 15 years and have contacts with the church in Kurdistan. If you would like to help, see the links below. These will provide you, or your church, a way to get resources to those who are suffering. Please pass this information on to your friends. And please pray.
George Grant’s Fund for Kurdistan
Dave Dillard’s (founder of Servant Group International) Fund
Randy UtheAugust 25, 2014 - 8:52 pm
The argument that the people of Gaza would be so much better off socio-economically if weren’t for Hamas is another incorrect one. This doesn’t have to do with relativism or anti-Semitism. This is just a simple case of fact over fiction, reality over fantasy.
The Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank do not control their own natural or other vital resources. This means the comparison between Gaza and Singapore doesn’t exist. Singapore is a sovereign free country in complete control of its market, resources and trade. This is why Singapore is doing so well as it works within an open market system with a global market. Gaza on the other hand has restricted trade due to Israeli blockades, limited gas access due to their natural gas because even though they technically belong to them; they have been taken over and are run by Israel. Gaza’s electricity is also controlled by Israel as well as roads, trade routes and therefore their markets. The reality is just like people ask, “Why don’t Palestinians just leave occupied territories?” and the answer is “They often can’t”, so it is the same with “Why don’t the Gazan’s just use their mass natural resources to better themselves instead of fight Israel?”; so the answer is the same, “They can’t”.
First, Israel controls the greater majority of the natural gas facilities off of Gaza [i]. Israel then decides how much gas it will supply to Gaza and at what price. No, the natural Gas legally belonging to the people of Gaza is not given to them. It is sold to them. Also, most of it is used by Israel for their betterment.
Second, Israel also controls much of the electricity that supplies Gaza [ii]. Israel has bombed Gaza’s primary electricity plant two times. Other electricity is brought in from areas like Egypt and some from Israel itself. But, Gaza has very little control over how much electricity it receives and again what price. Again, Israel controls the price and often the electricity plant it did have ran at very little capacity. It simply didn’t have the resources or money to operate the plant. Again, most of the electricity is used to better Israel, not the Palestinians.
Thirdly, Israel also controls most of the water within Gaza and other controlled territories [iii]. Israel again supplies water to Palestinian territories, but not for free and only at the amounts Israel determines Palestinians need; not how much is actually needed according to international standards. Israel sells the water at full price to a population that can’t afford to buy it. Israel also supplies itself with the highest majority of the water first with top of the line infrastructure while Palestinians are left with old rusty pipes and/or bringing it in via old rust canisters. Once again, most of the water is used to better the Israelis, not the Palestinians.
These facts are readily available from general press, scholarly articles and even basic online encyclopedias [iv]. A lot of the conflict in and around Israel revolves around these very resources, the control of them and how they are used as part of the conflicts themselves, as well as seasons for their existence. Almost every resource that discusses the Israel – Palestine conflict addresses the issues of occupation and resource domination by Israel. The numbers are astounding. It has been occurring long before Hamas was in existence. It has been happening long before Hamas was in control. Much of it officially goes back to the Oslo Accords beginning in 1993, the subsequent Camp David discussions and the “Roadmap” that came out of those. Throughout all of those Israel has retained far higher percentages of life saving, not just economic raising, resources for themselves. That is the reality over and against the fantasy that Gaza and/or the West Bank should simply use their own resources to better themselves instead of fight. They can’t because they don’t have direct access to their own resources. They have been walled off, taken control of, kept aways by security checkpoints and road/ship blocks, etc… Not only do they not have access to their own resources, they have to pay heavy prices for those resources to the very people who control them. Here you once again see the context that has brought about hatred and terrorism. Justification aside, it is the reality. Who has created this context? Who has created this reality? The answer is the Zionist regimes of Israel that are being spoken out against by more and more people internationally of all faiths and backgrounds, including more and more Jews. The Zionists themselves have admitted they want to destroy the Palestinian Arabs, they want to wipe them off the map and they are willing to strike first under false pretenses to do it. The question remains, how much longer is the world going to excuse the Zionists for their actions?
iv. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=135285&fileId=S026021050300007X. and v. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli%E2%80%93Palestinian_conflict.
adminAugust 28, 2014 - 7:37 pm
Thanks again for your response. We definitely do have a different perspective on these things.
You write: “The Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank do not control their own natural or other vital resources. This means the comparison between Gaza and Singapore doesn’t exist.” I argue that the comparison does exist and is helpful. I would suggest that Gaza does have natural resources that they can have the opportunity to control, while Singapore has no natural resources; Gaza has resources, Singapore has no natural resources that they could control. They are so resource poor that they even have to import drinking water from Malaysia. And there have been times in their history where Malaysia has threatened to cut off even their water supply, which Singapore buys from Malaysia. So in the comparison, Gaza has natural resources and Singapore does not. Also both entities have lived in a difficult environment. And Singapore’s environment has been coercive. Living in the area, I am sure you know more about this than I do.
You write: “Gaza on the other hand has restricted trade due to Israeli blockades.” Yes, Gaza has restricted trade! But, the question here is why? You make the assertion that it is because of Israel’s blockade. But this is a kind of “which came first the chicken or the egg?” Why the restrictive blockade? Because, Hamas’s charter calls for the elimination of Israel. The intent of Hamas and some other Islamists groups is the elimination of Jews from the region. This is not only a central tenant of their charter, but they demonstrate the seriousness of their intent by using humanitarian aid and the resources intended for the Palestinian people, and other resources they have available for the development of Gaza, for the purpose of building tunnels and rockets to destroy Israel. When they are faced with a choice to help their own people and work to the development of their nation, or to eliminate Israel, they have chosen the later.
As you know Lee Kuan Yew was the first Prime Minister and “the Father” of modern Singapore. It is my understanding that Lee wanted to develop relationships with Malaysia, Singapore’s larger and at times hostile neighbor. Lee extended the hand of friendship to Mahathir bin Mohamad the Deputy Prime Minister and later the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Through the establishing of a personal relationship, diplomatic relations between the two sides improved. This personal and diplomatic relationship created the space that allowed Singapore to develop even without a resource base. Singapore understood that the lives and minds of her people were the most precious asset in the nations development.
Hamas, by their actions and tactics have shown an utter disregard for the life of the Palestinian people. The tactic of using Palestinian women and children to shield their rockets, shows a contempt for human life. If Hamas had a vision to live at peace with Israel, and change their charter accordingly, they would extend a hand of friendship as Lee Kuan Yew did with Malaysia; the relationship with the two peoples could change dramatically. Both Egypt and Jordan have extended the hand of peace and live in relative good relations with Israel. There are Muslim nations in Central Asia who have diplomatic relationships with Israel and Israel is engaged in helping those nations develop. I would imagine the same could take place with a non-hostile Palestinian state.
You say that Israel “want to destroy the Palestinian Arabs, they want to wipe them off the map.” Randy, I do beg to differ with you. I think that you have this exactly backwards. This is not a part of the Israeli “charter,” that calls for the elimination of the Palestinian people as the Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel. And if it were Israel’s intent to wipe the Palestinians off the face of the earth, they would have the power to do it. But their power is tempered by moral constraint. On the other hand, if Hamas and other Islamists had the power to fulfill their intentions they would do it; we have seen the lack of moral restraint ISIS and other Jihad groups eliminating thousand year old Christian communities in Syria and in Iraq. So my friend, I beg to differ with you.
Thank you, Randy for a thoughtful and civil discussion. It is good to be able to “talk” this way over a subject that is so heated and that brings so much division. Thank you! Thank you!
Randy UtheAugust 28, 2014 - 7:59 pm
Thanks Darrow, there are indeed key differences in how we define resources, capital, etc… But, one key similarity we share different from religious extremists is the willingness to include differences of opinion rather that kill for them. Appreciate your willingness to post some responses to your and other’s popular views on the subject of Israel and the Palestinians.
adminAugust 29, 2014 - 5:20 am
Good Morning Randy
Yes, certainly! This is how we learn, by listening and dialoging with people from different perspectives. This is the old concept of “tolerance”: civil disagreement.
It is true, that we may define resources differently. I certainly do not conform to the common sense of resources as “physical things in the ground.” And perhaps this is what you are picking up.
In my opinion, resources are the product of human imagination and human creativity. The Palestinian people are the Imago Dei. They are rich in their personhood and wealthy in their heritage. While the Palestinians have wonderful potential in the resources of their land, their greatest resource are the Palestinian people themselves.
I think that this is the root of Singapore’s material flourishing. Because they have virtually no resources in the ground, they have been forced to see the real source of resource is in their people.
Like you, I long to see the rich potential of the Palestinian people come to flourishing. But the secret is in discovering that they are the Imago Dei.
If you want some more on our perspective, you can download and read the small book, The Forest in the Seed: http://www.disciplenations.org/media/Forest-in-the-Seed.pdf.
Have a good day. Or should I say, have a good night.
adminSeptember 4, 2014 - 4:40 pm
Randy and Darrow,
I read with interest today an article by Mindy Belz in the August 23 WORLD magazine entitled, “Toward a Sustained Quiet: Israel’s explosive pursuit of Hamas won remarkable support amid tragedy, reflecting a changing Middle East calculus.” It includes the following:
“Despite the suffering, and the international outcry, Palestinians in Gaza increasingly recognize Hamas is mostly to blame for the deteriorating situation. They knew Israel would be forced to defend itself against steady rocket launches from Gaza and shut down the Hamas-built tunnels. They also watched as Hamas walked away from multiple cease-fire opportunities while turning Gaza civilians into targets to win international sympathy.”
“… Gaza resident blamed Hamas, said everyone understood Palestinian blood had been shed by Hamas itself. ‘Nobody can forgive Hamas for what they’re doing,’ said a 28-year-old journalist who asked not to be identified for security reasons. ‘No one can forgive Hamas for butchering Palestinians to get power. Most Gazans hate Hamas with a passion.”
Randy UtheSeptember 5, 2014 - 7:19 pm
Thank you for the article and comments. I don’t like Hamas or what they are doing. That neither has much to do with my arguments against Israel nor justifies Israel’s behavior. My arguments go well before Hamas’ existence, before the PLO and even before Israel was a State to the terrorist attitudes and actions of Zionism that began before but mainly manifested in the 1920’s by the Irgun, Lehi and other Zionism military activities against the Arabs and even against the British. The same attitudes still exist today and have been proven to be evident, by quotes, within the rank and file of the Israeli civil and military leadership; of which remains absent from Israeli education on history. You have to look beyond Hamas. You have to look beyond simple acts of physical aggression. Aggression can be defined in many other socio-economic and political terms. This aggression has been carried out by Israel against Arabs of all religious and political affiliation for over 90 years if you wish to take history back that far. That is the arena in which my argument is based and the evidence in which I base my argument. So although the article you present is insightful for the narrow portion of discussion, it is not helpful in the larger context.
adminSeptember 8, 2014 - 8:50 am
I would agree that the Irgun and other Zionist groups used terrorist tactics prior to the establishment of the Jewish State. There 1946 attack on the British at the King David Hotel is perhaps the most famous. But just like the fact that not all Palestinians are terrorists, so not all Jews are terrorists.
There are likely to be some Jews in modern Israel who would agree with terrorists tactics. This was obviously seen in the July 2nd kidnapping and murder of the young Palestinian youth Mohammed Abu Khdeir. I did not hear of Israel celebrating Khdeir’s murder and did see that the Jewish state act quickly to arrest six Israeli citizens who are suspected in committing the horrendous deed.
We could well argue that, while terrorism has not gone back that far, the animosity between Jews and Arabs go back as far as the twin branches of Abraham’s tree, the children of Ishmael and the children of Isaac.
Randy UtheSeptember 8, 2014 - 5:18 pm
Yes, the Abrahamic connection is in fact quite interesting to me and could be an entire doctoral study.
adminSeptember 9, 2014 - 6:21 am
Randy, you are right!
I deal with the Abrahamic connection, very briefly in my book: Emancipating the World – http://crm.disciplenations.org/store/index.php/emancipating-the-world.html. The book is quite timely for unfolding events today. Some people think it is too controversial.