Gaza: Le Hamas transforme les écoles en de potentielles cibles militaires et met en danger la vie d’enfants innocents (Props to point cameras at: Our form of news-gathering has taught Hamas to turn their children into those props and to sacrifice them on the altar of Jihad)

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Le roi de Moab, voyant qu’il avait le dessous dans le combat, prit avec lui sept cents hommes tirant l’épée pour se frayer un passage jusqu’au roi d’Édom; mais ils ne purent pas. Il prit alors son fils premier-né, qui devait régner à sa place, et il l’offrit en holocauste sur la muraille. Et une grande indignation s’empara d’Israël, qui s’éloigna du roi de Moab et retourna dans son pays. 2 Rois 3: 26-27
Laissez les petits enfants, et ne les empêchez pas de venir à moi; car le royaume des cieux est pour ceux qui leur ressemblent. Jésus (Matthieu 19: 14)
Il faut commencer par se souvenir que le nazisme s’est lui-même présenté comme une lutte contre la violence: c’est en se posant en victime du traité de Versailles que Hitler a gagné son pouvoir. Et le communisme lui aussi s’est présenté comme une défense des victimes. Désormais, c’est donc seulement au nom de la lutte contre la violence qu’on peut commettre la violence. René Girard
Nous avons constaté que le sport était la religion moderne du monde occidental. Nous savions que les publics anglais et américain assis devant leur poste de télévision ne regarderaient pas un programme exposant le sort des Palestiniens s’il y avait une manifestation sportive sur une autre chaîne. Nous avons donc décidé de nous servir des Jeux olympiques, cérémonie la plus sacrée de cette religion, pour obliger le monde à faire attention à nous. Nous avons offert des sacrifices humains à vos dieux du sport et de la télévision et ils ont répondu à nos prières. Terroriste palestinien (Jeux olympiques de Munich, 1972
Les Israéliens ne savent pas que le peuple palestinien a progressé dans ses recherches sur la mort. Il a développé une industrie de la mort qu’affectionnent toutes nos femmes, tous nos enfants, tous nos vieillards et tous nos combattants. Ainsi, nous avons formé un bouclier humain grâce aux femmes et aux enfants pour dire à l’ennemi sioniste que nous tenons à la mort autant qu’il tient à la vie. Fathi Hammad (responsable du Hamas, mars 2008)
Cela prouve le caractère de notre noble peuple, combattant du djihad, qui défend ses droits et ses demeures le torse nu, avec son sang. La politique d’un peuple qui affronte les avions israéliens la poitrine nue, pour protéger ses habitations, s’est révélée efficace contre l’occupation. Cette politique reflète la nature de notre peuple brave et courageux. Nous, au Hamas, appelons notre peuple à adopter cette politique, pour protéger les maisons palestiniennes. Sami Abu Zuhri (porte-parole du Hamas, juillet 2014)
Le département de l’information du ministère de l’Intérieur et de la Sécurité nationale exhorte les militants sur les sites de médias sociaux, en particulier Facebook, à corriger certains des termes couramment employés en rapport avec l’agression dans la bande de Gaza. La vidéo suivante, du département de l’information, appelle tous les militants à utiliser la terminologie appropriée, pour jouer leur rôle dans le renforcement du front intérieur et transmettre correctement les informations au monde entier. (…) Toute personne tuée ou tombée en martyr doit être appelée « civil de Gaza ou de Palestine », avant de préciser son rôle dans le djihad ou son grade militaire. N’oubliez pas de toujours ajouter l’expression « civil innocent » ou « citoyen innocent » en évoquant les victimes des attaques israéliennes sur Gaza. Commencez [vos rapports sur] les actions de résistance par l’expression « en réponse à la cruelle attaque israélienne », et concluez avec la phrase : « Ces nombreuses personnes sont des martyrs depuis qu’Israël a lancé son agression contre Gaza ». Assurez-vous toujours de maintenir le principe : « Le rôle de l’occupation est d’attaquer, et nous en Palestine sommes toujours en mode réaction ».Attention à ne pas répandre les rumeurs de porte-parole israéliens, en particulier celles qui portent atteinte au front intérieur. Méfiez-vous d’adopter la version de l’occupation [des événements]. Vous devez toujours émettre des doutes [sur leur version], la réfuter et la considérer comme fausse. Évitez de publier des photos de tirs de roquettes sur Israël depuis les centres-villes de Gaza. Cela [servirait de] prétexte pour attaquer des zones résidentielles de la bande de Gaza. Ne publiez pas ou ne partagez pas de photos ou de clips vidéo montrant des sites de lancement de roquettes ou [les forces] du mouvement de résistance à Gaza. (…) ne publiez pas de photos d’hommes masqués avec des armes lourdes en gros plan, afin que votre page ne soit pas fermée [par Facebook] sous prétexte d’incitation à la violence. Dans vos informations, assurez-vous de préciser : « Les obus fabriqués localement tirés par la résistance sont une réponse naturelle à l’occupation israélienne qui tire délibérément des roquettes contre des civils en Cisjordanie et à Gaza »… (…) • Lorsque vous vous adressez à l’Occident, vous devez utiliser un discours politique, rationnel et convaincant, et éviter les propos émotifs mendiant de l’empathie. Certains à travers le monde sont dotés d’une conscience ; vous devez maintenir le contact avec eux et les utiliser au profit de la Palestine. Leur rôle est de faire honte de l’occupation et d’exposer ses violations. • Évitez d’entrer dans une discussion politique avec un Occidental pour le convaincre que l’Holocauste est un mensonge et une tromperie ; en revanche, assimilez-le aux crimes d’Israël contre les civils palestiniens. • Le narratif de la vie comparé au narratif du sang : [en parlant] à un ami arabe, commencez par le nombre de martyrs. [Mais en parlant] à un ami occidental, commencez par le nombre de blessés et de morts. Veillez à humaniser la souffrance palestinienne. Essayez de dépeindre la souffrance des civils à Gaza et en Cisjordanie pendant les opérations de l’occupation et ses bombardements de villes et villages. • Ne publiez pas de photos de commandants militaires. Ne mentionnez pas leurs noms en public, ne faites pas l’éloge de leurs succès dans des conversations avec des amis étrangers ! Directives du ministère de l’Intérieur du Hamas aux activistes en ligne
Depuis le début de l’opération, au moins 35 bâtiments résidentiels auraient été visés et détruits, entraînant dans la majorité des pertes civiles enregistrées jusqu’à présent, y compris une attaque le 8 Juillet à Khan Younis qui a tué sept civils, dont trois enfants, et blessé 25 autres. Dans la plupart des cas, avant les attaques, les habitants ont été avertis de quitter, que ce soit via des appels téléphoniques de l’armée d’Israël ou par des tirs de missiles d’avertissement. Rapport ONU (09.07.14)
Le Secrétaire général est alarmé d’apprendre que des roquettes ont été entreposées dans une école de l’Office de secours et de travaux des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés de Palestine dans le Proche-Orient (UNRWA), à Gaza, et que ces armes ont par la suite disparu.  Il fait part de son indignation et de son regret concernant le fait que des armes ont été placées dans une école administrée par l’ONU.  En agissant de la sorte, les personnes responsables transforment les écoles en de potentielles cibles militaires et mettent en danger les vies d’enfants innocents, des employés de l’ONU qui travaillent dans de tels locaux, et de tout autres personnes qui ont recours aux écoles de l’ONU comme abris. Le Secrétaire général note que cet acte contrevient aux termes de la résolution 1860 (2009) du Conseil de sécurité qui appelle à la prévention du trafic d’armes.  Il exige que les groupes militants responsables cessent immédiatement de conduire ce genre d’actions et soient tenus responsables d’avoir ainsi mis en danger la vie de personnes civiles. (…) Le Secrétaire général appelle toutes les parties exerçant une influence sur les groupes militants à envoyer un message indiquant sans aucune équivoque qu’une telle situation est inacceptable. Porte-parole du Secrétaire général de l’ONU, M. Ban Ki-moon (23/7/2014)
Les enfants de Gaza ne bénéficient pas de la protection des systèmes du Dôme de fer. Ils n’ont pas d’espaces de résidence sécurisés, ni de sirènes. Les enfants qui vivent à Gaza aujourd’hui sont nos partenaires pour la paix de demain. La tuerie et l’horreur que nous infligeons ne font que repousser plus loin toute solution diplomatique. Groupe de cinéastes israéliens
 During a police patrol that the author was permitted to accompany in December 2011, nothing was done to impede the use of children in the tunnels, where, much as in Victorian coal mines, they are prized for their nimble bodies. At least 160 children have been killed in the tunnels, according to Hamas officials. Safety controls on imports appear similarly lax, although the TAC insists that a sixteen-man contingent carries out sporadic spot-checks. Nicolas Pelham
Hamas has understood what the ideology of terror has clearly espoused for over a hundred years. When attacking a democracy, the terrorist has to put it in a quandary. The way to do that is to force the democracy to kill civilians. So if you set up your terror-base under a school or a hospital, you’ve got it made in the shade. You launch missiles, for example, against Israel. Now the Israelis have a choice. Either they don’t respond, in which case the terror mounts in the face of ongoing impotence, or they do respond, in which case you’re going to have civilian deaths and dramatic pictures for the West’s nightly news. Basically, the Western media has taught Hamas that it doesn’t matter how downright evil you are. It doesn’t matter if you launch two thousand missiles at civilian targets, including the airport. It doesn’t matter if you use your own children as human shields. You’ll get the coverage you want if CNN, BBC et al. have props to point their cameras at. Our form of news-gathering has taught Hamas to turn their children into those props, and to sacrifice them on the altar of Jihad. By misreporting, our media has encouraged the bad guys to kill their own children, and has dragged Israel into a war it did not want.(…)  while journalists feign concern for Palestinian kids, they are actually creating the environment for their deaths. Simcha Jacobovici
The main argument presented by Israel’s critics can be summarised in a single sentence: Not enough of your children are dying. I refuse to apologise for that, but I urge you to remember that while our children may not be dying, it is not for Hamas’s lack of trying. Since the beginning of the last round of fighting, thousands of rockets have been launched at Israeli cities, armed terrorists have attempted to execute mass attacks in villages by the border and hundreds of mortars have been aimed at kindergartens and schools. The only reason these attempts at mass killing are not making an impression is that Hamas has failed. The Israeli Defence Forces’ land and air operation, along with Iron Dome, the anti-missile defence system developed by Israel, prevented us from gaining the world’s sympathy in return for images of mutilated Jewish children. Given a choice between sympathetic news coverage and the lives of our children, I choose life. Hamas chooses otherwise. Western eyes and ears consider it a dubious choice, but Hamas never hid its position on the matter: it has no problem with Palestinian children dying, so long as it serves its political objectives. I know that sounds cynical, but that’s because it really is. Islamic terror is absolutely cynical, it always was and always will be, and its greatest speciality is taking advantage of every democracy’s main weakness – the fact that we sanctify life. The average Western viewer sees both sides of the conflict on television. One side is dying and the other side insists on continuing with daily life. One can understand them for taking the side of the injured party, and let’s be absolutely clear – to us, the death of any child, Israeli or Palestinian, is a tragedy. On the other hand, that does not release us from answering the question of who is truly to blame for this tragedy? The power of these images is the reason that Hamas intentionally builds its missile factories and bunkers underneath civilian homes, stores its ammunition in schools and kindergartens (including United Nations schools), launches its rockets surrounded by civilian families, despite knowing beyond any doubt that it will lead to innocent casualties. Hamas rests its conscience – if it even has one – by announcing that the dead children are “Shahids” who will make it to heaven. I know it sounds crazy, impossible to understand, but I have no way of helping you with that. I have spent my entire life in the Middle East and I still cannot understand how people can sacrifice their children. It contradicts everything we know of humanity or parenthood and yet it happens. The absurd result is that Israel does much more to protect Palestinian children than Hamas and yet many Europeans and many Britons accuse us of being responsible for their deaths. They ignore the fact that Israel is the only country in the history of wars that calls ahead before we fire. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have received phone calls, text messages and leaflets warning residents to vacate combat zones. Israeli air force sorties were cancelled after the planes were in the air due to reports of civilian presence – all in order to prevent innocent casualties. But Hamas forbade civilians to leave their homes, put them on rocket factory rooftops, forced the children – its own children – to remain in areas that would clearly become harsh door-to-door combat zones. For Hamas, it is a win-win situation: either the attack is cancelled and it can go on launching missiles at Israel or the attack succeeds and it can go on launching images of dead children at media outlets around the world. Yair Lapid (Israeli Minister of Finance and chairman of the Yesh Atid Party)
The absence of Israeli forces in Gaza for nine years let Hamas build tunnel networks to smuggle in military materiel, manufacture and store munitions, deploy forces and infiltrate beneath the border to launch attacks against Israel. It also gave Hamas the freedom to prepare formidable defences, the reason why there have been so many casualties since the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) began its ground offensive a week ago. (…) Like Hamas’s rockets, the V1 “doodlebug” was an explosive missile, intended to kill civilians indiscriminately. At the height of the campaign more than 100 V1s a day were fired at the south coast of England, fewer than the average of 130 Hamas rockets fired at Israel in this conflict. Like Hamas’s rockets, V1s regularly sent terrified British civilians racing to the shelters. And yes, the RAF did bomb the towns that harboured them. In 1943 Bomber Command launched a 600-bomber raid to destroy the assembly shops in Peenemunde and in the first six months of 1944, 2,000 tons of explosives were dropped on launch sites on the French coast. Hamas cannot defend its rocket sites with ack-ack guns and fighter aircraft. Instead it uses human shields, deliberately locating missiles among the civilian population. This tactic is very familiar to our troops fighting the Taliban in Helmand. I had to order raids into densely packed high-rise apartments in Kabul where terrorist cells were using human shields, including babies. The presence of civilians at the V1 sites was not a significant consideration for Britain, which had to stop the rockets at any cost: 732 innocent civilians died in the raid on Peenemunde. In different circumstances the Israelis use the most sophisticated and comprehensive means of avoiding civilian casualties yet employed by any army in the world. Multilayer surveillance systems confirm whether there are civilians in the target area; triple-lock authorisation is required for every strike; phone calls, leaflet drops, radio messages and harmless explosive charges warn civilians to leave. Many missions are aborted if civilians remain in a target zone. The tragedy of so many civilian casualties is to a large extent due to Hamas’s policy of compelling men, women and children to stay in the path of danger. The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, blamed this use of human shields after 15 people, many of them children, were killed in the shelling of a UN-run school. Hamas hopes this will deter the Israelis from bombing but, with barbaric reasoning, its greater hope is that the attacks will go ahead, killing its own civilians. We have all seen the images of dead babies on Gaza’s mortuary slabs. No amount of protest from Israel about the morality of its armed forces and their adherence to the laws of war can outweigh the influence of these images, used by Hamas supporters to incite mass protest against Israel. It is a mistake to believe these marches are simply the natural outpouring of support for bleeding and beleaguered Palestinians. The chants of “Jews back to Birkenau” would have had Oswald Moseley bristling with pride. Humanitarian groups and world leaders, including Nick Clegg condemn the IDF for war crimes and Ban Ki Moon characterised Israeli military operations as an atrocity. This rising condemnation of Israel’s defensive operations — lawful under the Geneva conventions — plays right into Hamas’s hands. It validates their criminal use of human shields and will encourage jihadist groups everywhere to follow suit. Richard Kemp
Ce qui n’était apparemment pas prévu par la direction du Hamas était l’enlèvement et l’assassinat de trois jeunes israéliens à proximité d’Hebron, enlèvement qui a donné l’opportunité à Israël de démanteler des cellules du Hamas en Judée Samarie, et qui a conduit le Hamas à lancer, de manière précipitée, une offensive contre Israël, destinée à susciter un embrasement du monde musulman contre Israël, au moment où l’Etat Islamique se constituait en califat en Syrie et en Irak. Ce qui n’était pas prévu par la direction du Hamas était l’efficacité du Dôme de fer israélien, qui a réduit l’essentiel des missiles du Hamas à l’état de pétards mouillés. Si ne serait-ce qu’un sur cinq des missiles détruits par le Dôme de fer avait atteint des villes, des populations civiles, des installations nucléaires, on n’ose imaginer les dégâts qui auraient résulté, et l’ampleur des soulèvements de foules galvanisées par le sang juif versé. Ce qui était prévu par la direction du Hamas était la réplique israélienne. Et les boucliers humains utilisés par le Hamas sont censés servir à fabriquer des cadavres arabes à brandir pour exciter les foules contre Israël. Le Hamas veut un maximum de cadavres arabes à brandir. Les alliés du Hamas veulent un maximum de cadavres d’Arabes tués par Israël. Israël doit se battre pour qu’il y ait le moins possible d’Arabes tués, et cela entraîne davantage de morts israéliens, hélas. Ce qui était prévu par la direction du Hamas était un soulèvement de foules arabes et musulmanes, à commencer par les foules arabes de Judée Samarie et d’Israël, et aussi des manifestations anti-israéliennes dans le monde entier, une attitude pusillanime des puissances européennes, une complicité implicite de l’administration Obama avec le Hamas. Guy Millière
Gardons-nous (…) de tout confondre. Les Israéliens n’occupent plus Gaza. Il n’y a plus de présence juive sur ce territoire. Si les leaders du Hamas avaient choisi d’y construire un commencement d’Etat et, pour y assurer une vie décente à leurs administrés, de coopérer avec Israël, il n’y aurait pas de blocus et le camp de la paix israélien serait assez fort aujourd’hui pour imposer le retrait de Cisjordanie. Au lieu de cela, le Hamas a employé tout l’argent de ses généreux donateurs à l’achat de missiles et de roquettes et à l’édification d’une ville souterraine pour enfouir cet arsenal, pour cacher ses dirigeants et pour permettre à ses combattants de mener des incursions meurtrières dans les kibboutz du sud d’Israël. (…) Lorsqu’on me dit que ces habitants n’ont nulle part où aller, je réponds que les souterrains de Gaza auraient dû être faits pour eux. Il y a aujourd’hui des pièces bétonnées dans chaque maison d’Israël. Mais le Hamas et le djihad islamique font un autre calcul et ont d’autres priorités architecturales. Pour gagner médiatiquement la guerre, ils veulent faire apparaître Israël comme un Etat criminel. Chaque victime civile est une bénédiction pour eux. Ces mouvements ne protègent pas la population, ils l’exposent. Ils ne pleurent pas leurs morts, ils comptabilisent avec ravissement leurs «martyrs». Et ils bombardent méthodiquement l’hôpital de campagne pour les blessés palestiniens que l’armée israélienne a installée en bordure de Gaza. Je manifesterais moi-même à Paris en faveur du cessez-le-feu à Gaza si dans ces défilés on exigeait également l’arrêt des tirs de roquettes sur toutes les villes israéliennes. Je demanderais la levée du blocus si elle était assortie de la démilitarisation de Gaza. Au lieu de cela, on confond Gaza et Sarajevo. Là où il y a la guerre, on parle de massacre, voire, tant qu’on y est, de génocide. Toutes les distinctions sont abolies par l’émotion et ce sont les plus cyniques, les plus inhumains, qui profitent de cette grande indifférenciation humanitaire. Alain Finkielkraut

Question: pourquoi le communiqué peut-être le plus important de toute l’actuelle guerre de Gaza n’est-il pas lu par le secrétaire-général de l’ONU en personne ?

(Question subsidiaire: pourquoi nos médias ne prennent-ils même pas la peine de le publier ?)

(Deuxième question subsidiaire: pourquoi ne mentionne-t-il pas le véritable responsable: le Hamas lui-même ?)

Pour ceux qui n’auraient toujours pas compris

Et qui chercheraient vainement dans nos médias …

Petit dossier de rattrapage …

Sur la raison de ces photos et images de victimes civiles et notamment d’enfants dont nous sommes quotidiennement bombardés dans nos médias  …

A savoir, l’utilisation désormais parfaitement mise à jour et attestée (si cette guerre pouvait servir à quelque chose, ce serait peut-être à cela mais qui dans nos médias aux ordres  prend la peine de le rappeler ?) de sa population par le Hamas comme boucliers humains …

Mais aussi la part, comme le rappelle le photographe canadien Simcha Jacobovici, que nous jouons tous, journalistes comme commentateurs ou public, dans ce nouveau massacre délibéré des innocents

Où les enfants ne sont plus que de vulgaires accessoires …

Soit pour marquer des points médiatiques contre Israël

Soit tout simplement pour vendre des images …

Those TV cameras responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza
Simcha Jacobovici

The Times Of Israel

July 23, 2014

Simcha Jacobovici is a Canadian-Israeli filmmaker and journalist. He is a three-time Emmy winner for “Outstanding Investigative Journalism” and a … [More]

I write this as a member of the press. I’m proud to be a journalist and a documentary filmmaker. I’m a member of the Foreign Press Association in Israel, and the co-recipient of this year’s Edward R. Murrow Award from the American Overseas Press Club. I say this off the top because I’m not an outsider pointing my finger at the media. Every year, journalists sacrifice their lives in war zones so as to keep us informed and protect freedom of the press, a cornerstone of democracy.

But the fact is that when it comes to Israel, the media has acted irresponsibly. Good journalism has been replaced by politically correct misreporting, and one of the net results is that Palestinian civilians, including children, are paying with their lives. How so?

There is no group that can be more evil, in the narrowest sense of the word, than the rulers of the Gaza strip, Hamas. They are openly anti-democratic, anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-Israel, anti-American and anti-Western. The list continues. These are the people who distributed candies, danced in the street and openly celebrated after 9/11.

I simply don’t know what else they could do to make Westerners dislike them. For good measure, they are anti-Palestinian nationalism. They don’t believe in a Palestinian state. They believe that “statehood” is a Western invention. They also believe in the destruction of the Jewish state as a step toward an international Islamic Republic. And yet, despite all of this, they are portrayed as freedom fighters by much of the international media.

The Western press has taught them that if they turn their children into props, they will win the propaganda war against Israel. In today’s media war, you need a good prop. Israeli Cabinet minister Naftali Bennett understood this when he faced CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. When she repeatedly used the term “occupied territories” to refer to parts of the ancient land of Israel, Bennett was ready. He pulled out a 2000-year-old coin that says “Zion” on it. He held it to the camera and asked something like, “I’m a Jew. How can I be ‘occupying’ Zion? How can I occupy my own land?” His point was “I’m not an occupier, I’m indigenous”, and he used an ancient coin as a prop for an audience with a limited attention span. It worked.

Turkish prime-minister Erdogan also understands that in today’s media war you need props. In 2010, the boat called the “Mavi Marmara” was just such a prop. From a PR point of view, it was a relatively cheap trick. You get a boat, you fill it with what Lenin called “useful idiots”, i.e. well-meaning politically-correct members of the bourgeoisie, espousing half-baked ideas. Then into the mix you insert a dozen jihadists ready to kill and be killed – and you’ve got yourself a media circus of incredible proportions. The Mavi Marmara incident involved a “ship of fools” which tried to run Israel’s sea blockade around Gaza. Ostensibly they were bringing humanitarian aid, but humanitarian aid can be delivered without any problems. It’s missiles that are a problem. So when Israeli commandos armed with paintball guns so as not to hurt anyone boarded the ship, they were attacked by jihadists wielding axes and knives. The commandos called for help. The jihadists were killed. But they had won the prop war. My fellow journalists portrayed the jihadists as victims and the Israelis as oppressors. The anti-Israel forces got billions of dollars worth of free publicity, and Turkish-Israeli relations were damaged almost beyond repair. None of this would’ve happened if there hadn’t been a prop that the cameramen could point their cameras at. The boat was the prop. Now it’s the children.

Hamas has understood what the ideology of terror has clearly espoused for over a hundred years. When attacking a democracy, the terrorist has to put it in a quandary. The way to do that is to force the democracy to kill civilians. So if you set up your terror-base under a school or a hospital, you’ve got it made in the shade. You launch missiles, for example, against Israel. Now the Israelis have a choice. Either they don’t respond, in which case the terror mounts in the face of ongoing impotence, or they do respond, in which case you’re going to have civilian deaths and dramatic pictures for the West’s nightly news.

Basically, the Western media has taught Hamas that it doesn’t matter how downright evil you are. It doesn’t matter if you launch two thousand missiles at civilian targets, including the airport. It doesn’t matter if you use your own children as human shields. You’ll get the coverage you want if CNN, BBC et al. have props to point their cameras at. Our form of news-gathering has taught Hamas to turn their children into those props, and to sacrifice them on the altar of Jihad. By misreporting, our media has encouraged the bad guys to kill their own children, and has dragged Israel into a war it did not want.

Nissim Sean Carmeli was a 21 year old soldier in Golani, Israel’s marines. He emigrated here from Texas. Until a few years ago, he went to the high school around the corner from my house. He had plans to go to university, meet a girl, start a family. When a few weeks ago Hamas started raining hundreds of rockets down on Israeli civilians, nobody wanted to send Sean and his friends into Gaza. As in Afghanistan, that would involve house to house fighting with a ruthless enemy who knows the terrain and has booby trapped every passage. It would have been very easy for the Israeli Air Force to simply level entire blocks of Hamas dominated neighborhoods. Americans have done this with impunity in Iraq and Afghanistan. But since Hamas plants its terror network beneath schools, hospitals and mosques, such a bombing mission would have involved high Palestinian casualties. So Israel decided not to level Gaza and send Sean in. He died so as to minimize Palestinian losses. I just came back from where his family is sitting Shiva, the Jewish custom of mourning. There were no anti-Arab speeches, no signs of militarism, just the tremendous grief of parents burying a child. As a journalist, I sat there and hung my head in shame, overwhelmed by the simple truth that while journalists feign concern for Palestinian kids, they are actually creating the environment for their deaths. In the meantime, Israelis like Sean are paying with their lives to avoid the very deaths they are being blamed for.

Gaza conflict: Hamas chooses to let children die for its own crazy ends
COMMENTARY: Hamas forbids civilians to leave their homes, puts them in harms way on the roofs of rocket factories and forces children to remain in combat zones
Yair Lapid
23 Jul 2014

The main argument presented by Israel’s critics can be summarised in a single sentence: Not enough of your children are dying.
I refuse to apologise for that, but I urge you to remember that while our children may not be dying, it is not for Hamas’s lack of trying.
Since the beginning of the last round of fighting, thousands of rockets have been launched at Israeli cities, armed terrorists have attempted to execute mass attacks in villages by the border and hundreds of mortars have been aimed at kindergartens and schools. The only reason these attempts at mass killing are not making an impression is that Hamas has failed. The Israeli Defence Forces’ land and air operation, along with Iron Dome, the anti-missile defence system developed by Israel, prevented us from gaining the world’s sympathy in return for images of mutilated Jewish children. Given a choice between sympathetic news coverage and the lives of our children, I choose life.
Hamas chooses otherwise.
Western eyes and ears consider it a dubious choice, but Hamas never hid its position on the matter: it has no problem with Palestinian children dying, so long as it serves its political objectives.

I know that sounds cynical, but that’s because it really is. Islamic terror is absolutely cynical, it always was and always will be, and its greatest speciality is taking advantage of every democracy’s main weakness – the fact that we sanctify life.

The average Western viewer sees both sides of the conflict on television. One side is dying and the other side insists on continuing with daily life. One can understand them for taking the side of the injured party, and let’s be absolutely clear – to us, the death of any child, Israeli or Palestinian, is a tragedy. On the other hand, that does not release us from answering the question of who is truly to blame for this tragedy?

Palestinian children, who fled their houses during an Israeli ground offensive, sleep at a United Nations-run school in which they are staying in Gaza City (Reuters)

The power of these images is the reason that Hamas intentionally builds its missile factories and bunkers underneath civilian homes, stores its ammunition in schools and kindergartens (including United Nations schools), launches its rockets surrounded by civilian families, despite knowing beyond any doubt that it will lead to innocent casualties. Hamas rests its conscience – if it even has one – by announcing that the dead children are “Shahids” who will make it to heaven.

I know it sounds crazy, impossible to understand, but I have no way of helping you with that. I have spent my entire life in the Middle East and I still cannot understand how people can sacrifice their children.

It contradicts everything we know of humanity or parenthood and yet it happens.

The absurd result is that Israel does much more to protect Palestinian children than Hamas and yet many Europeans and many Britons accuse us of being responsible for their deaths.

They ignore the fact that Israel is the only country in the history of wars that calls ahead before we fire. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have received phone calls, text messages and leaflets warning residents to vacate combat zones. Israeli air force sorties were cancelled after the planes were in the air due to reports of civilian presence – all in order to prevent innocent casualties.

But Hamas forbade civilians to leave their homes, put them on rocket factory rooftops, forced the children – its own children – to remain in areas that would clearly become harsh door-to-door combat zones.

For Hamas, it is a win-win situation: either the attack is cancelled and it can go on launching missiles at Israel or the attack succeeds and it can go on launching images of dead children at media outlets around the world.

We also have the option of doing nothing. Some British circles expect that of us. They ask us to accept rocket fire from the skies and terrorist tunnels dug beneath our communities.

We will not do that.

Yair Lapid is the Israeli Minister of Finance and chairman of the Yesh Atid Party

Voir également:

Voir encore:

Hamas human shields are to blame, not Israel

Palestinian rockets are like the Nazi V1s. Civilian casualties were inevitable then and now.

Richard Kemp

The Times

July 25 2014)

‘The Israelis are doing it all wrong. The RAF didn’t fly off to bomb Belfast in the troubles.” These words from a respected media commentator embody the extraordinary lack of understanding by so many in this country who think the Israelis’ fight with Hamas is like ours with the IRA and can be dealt with in the same way.

Gaza is not Northern Ireland and Hamas is not the IRA. We governed and policed Ulster to wipe out the terrorists. In Gaza the government are the terrorists — designated as such around the world. In 2005 Israel withdrew all its citizens and security forces from Gaza. Since then it has been a separate state — now under the heel of Hamas — at war with Israel and dedicated to the extermination of the Jewish state.

Hamas is a heavily armed militia, fighting from territory it controls. The IRA, for the most part, was more like a highly dangerous criminal gang that could be dealt with by soldiers acting as policemen.

The absence of Israeli forces in Gaza for nine years let Hamas build tunnel networks to smuggle in military materiel, manufacture and store munitions, deploy forces and infiltrate beneath the border to launch attacks against Israel. It also gave Hamas the freedom to prepare formidable defences, the reason why there have been so many casualties since the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) began its ground offensive a week ago.

For a while there were barricaded “no-go” areas in Belfast and Londonderry which, until broken down in 1972, prevented the entry of troops. But the security forces never withdrew from the province and did not need to launch raids from Britain or fight their way back in.

A closer comparison is Britain’s battle with the Nazis’ V rockets. Like Hamas’s rockets, the V1 “doodlebug” was an explosive missile, intended to kill civilians indiscriminately. At the height of the campaign more than 100 V1s a day were fired at the south coast of England, fewer than the average of 130 Hamas rockets fired at Israel in this conflict.

Like Hamas’s rockets, V1s regularly sent terrified British civilians racing to the shelters.
And yes, the RAF did bomb the towns that harboured them. In 1943 Bomber Command launched a 600-bomber raid to destroy the assembly shops in Peenemunde and in the first six months of 1944, 2,000 tons of explosives were dropped on launch sites on the French coast.

Hamas cannot defend its rocket sites with ack-ack guns and fighter aircraft. Instead it uses human shields, deliberately locating missiles among the civilian population. This tactic is very familiar to our troops fighting the Taliban in Helmand. I had to order raids into densely packed high-rise apartments in Kabul where terrorist cells were using human shields, including babies.

The presence of civilians at the V1 sites was not a significant consideration for Britain, which had to stop the rockets at any cost: 732 innocent civilians died in the raid on Peenemunde. In different circumstances the Israelis use the most sophisticated and comprehensive means of avoiding civilian casualties yet employed by any army in the world. Multilayer surveillance systems confirm whether there are civilians in the target area; triple-lock authorisation is required for every strike; phone calls, leaflet drops, radio messages and harmless explosive charges warn civilians to leave. Many missions are aborted if civilians remain in a target zone.

The tragedy of so many civilian casualties is to a large extent due to Hamas’s policy of compelling men, women and children to stay in the path of danger.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, blamed this use of human shields after 15 people, many of them children, were killed in the shelling of a UN-run school. Hamas hopes this will deter the Israelis from bombing but, with barbaric reasoning, its greater hope is that the attacks will go ahead, killing its own civilians. We have all seen the images of dead babies on Gaza’s mortuary slabs. No amount of protest from Israel about the morality of its armed forces and their adherence to the laws of war can outweigh the influence of these images, used by Hamas supporters to incite mass protest against Israel.

It is a mistake to believe these marches are simply the natural outpouring of support for bleeding and beleaguered Palestinians. The chants of “Jews back to Birkenau” would have had Oswald Moseley bristling with pride.

Humanitarian groups and world leaders, including Nick Clegg condemn the IDF for war crimes and Ban Ki Moon characterised Israeli military operations as an atrocity. This rising condemnation of Israel’s defensive operations — lawful under the Geneva conventions — plays right into Hamas’s hands. It validates their criminal use of human shields and will encourage jihadist groups everywhere to follow suit.

Voir de même:

Alain Finkielkraut : «Au nom de la lutte contre l’islamophobie, on sous-estime la haine des Juifs et de la France»
Le Figaro

26/07/2014

FIGAROVOX/GRAND ENTRETIEN – Le philosophe Alain Finkielkraut a accordé un long entretien à FigaroVox dans lequel il donne en exclusivité son point de vue sur le conflit israélo-palestinien ainsi que sur ses répercussions en France.

Alain Finkielkraut est philosophe, écrivain et essayiste. Il construit une oeuvre autour de la transmission, la défense des humanités et la critique de la modernité. Son dernier livre, L’identité malheureuse, a suscité de très vifs débats et a connu un important succès de librairie.

FigaroVox: S’agissant du conflit israélo-palestinien, certains intellectuels vous reprochent de ne pas dénoncer les bombardements israéliens à l’encontre des civils palestiniens comme vous vous insurgiez naguère contre les sièges de Vukovar et de Sarajevo par les Serbes. Que leur répondez-vous?

ALAIN FINKIELKRAUT: Une précision pour commencer. J’aime Israël et je suis saisi d’effroi devant la haine intercontinentale qui se déchaîne sur ce tout petit pays dont l’existence est encore en question. Mais je n’ai jamais soutenu inconditionnellement la politique israélienne. Le 9 juillet, j’étais à Tel-Aviv à l’invitation du journal Haaretz qui organisait une grande conférence sur la paix. Je représentais Jcall * et j’ai dit qu’en tant qu’intellectuel juif, je devais constamment me battre sur deux fronts: contre un antisémitisme d’autant plus sûr de lui-même et dominateur qu’il dénonce le «monstre sioniste» dans la langue immaculée de l’antiracisme, et pour le compromis, c’est-à-dire la séparation en deux Etats des Israéliens et des Palestiniens. J’ai ajouté qu’en s’installant dans le statu quo, le gouvernement israélien mettait en péril le projet sioniste lui-même. Dès 1991, le grand orientaliste Bernard Lewis s’inquiétait de voir Israël devenir, sur le modèle du Liban, «une association difficile, une de plus, entre ethnies et groupes religieux en conflit». Et il ajoutait: «les juifs se trouveraient dans la position dominante qu’avaient autrefois les Maronites avec la perspective probable d’un destin à la libanaise en fin de parcours.» Pour empêcher cette prédiction de se réaliser, il serait urgent de faire ce qu’Ariel Sharon, à la fin de sa vie, appelait de «douloureuses concessions territoriales». Si ses successeurs y répugnent, c’est parce qu’ils se défient de leur partenaire, mais c’est surtout parce qu’ils ont peur de leurs propres extrémistes. Ils craignent la guerre civile entre Israéliens qui accompagnerait le démantèlement des implantations de Cisjordanie. Gardons-nous cependant de tout confondre. Les Israéliens n’occupent plus Gaza. Il n’y a plus de présence juive sur ce territoire. Si les leaders du Hamas avaient choisi d’y construire un commencement d’Etat et, pour y assurer une vie décente à leurs administrés, de coopérer avec Israël, il n’y aurait pas de blocus et le camp de la paix israélien serait assez fort aujourd’hui pour imposer le retrait de Cisjordanie. Au lieu de cela, le Hamas a employé tout l’argent de ses généreux donateurs à l’achat de missiles et de roquettes et à l’édification d’une ville souterraine pour enfouir cet arsenal, pour cacher ses dirigeants et pour permettre à ses combattants de mener des incursions meurtrières dans les kibboutz du sud d’Israël.

N’est-il pas légitime de s’interroger sur le nombre important de victimes parmi les civils palestiniens?

Quand j’étais à Tel-Aviv, j’ai vu un petit film de propagande où le Hamas demandait aux «colons» de Beer-Sheva (NDLR: dans le Néguev) de quitter leur ville car ils allaient la pilonner. Pas questions de deux Etats pour cette organisation, pas question non plus d’un Etat palestinien. Ce qu’elle veut, c’est que la Palestine tout entière redevienne propriété de l’islam. On apprend dans sa charte que les juifs, qui grâce à leur argent contrôlent les médias du monde entier, sont à l’origine de toutes les révolutions et de tous les conflits à travers le monde! Si la civilisation de l’image n’était pas en train de détruire l’intelligence de la guerre, personne ne soutiendrait que les bombardements israéliens visent les civils. Avez-vous oublié Dresde? Quand une aviation surpuissante vise des civils, les morts se comptent par centaines de milliers. Non: les Israéliens préviennent les habitants de Gaza de toutes les manières possibles des bombardements à venir. Et lorsqu’ on me dit que ces habitants n’ont nulle part où aller, je réponds que les souterrains de Gaza auraient dû être faits pour eux. Il y a aujourd’hui des pièces bétonnées dans chaque maison d’Israël. Mais le Hamas et le djihad islamique font un autre calcul et ont d’autres priorités architecturales. Pour gagner médiatiquement la guerre, ils veulent faire apparaître Israël comme un Etat criminel. Chaque victime civile est une bénédiction pour eux. Ces mouvements ne protègent pas la population, ils l’exposent. Ils ne pleurent pas leurs morts, ils comptabilisent avec ravissement leurs «martyrs». Et ils bombardent méthodiquement l’hôpital de campagne pour les blessés palestiniens que l’armée israélienne a installée en bordure de Gaza. Je manifesterais moi-même à Paris en faveur du cessez-le-feu à Gaza si dans ces défilés on exigeait également l’arrêt des tirs de roquettes sur toutes les villes israéliennes. Je demanderais la levée du blocus si elle était assortie de la démilitarisation de Gaza. Au lieu de cela, on confond Gaza et Sarajevo. Là où il y a la guerre, on parle de massacre, voire, tant qu’on y est, de génocide. Toutes les distinctions sont abolies par l’émotion et ce sont les plus cyniques, les plus inhumains, qui profitent de cette grande indifférenciation humanitaire.

D’aucuns comparent même Gaza – long d’un peu plus de quarante kilomètres et large de moins de dix- au ghetto de Varsovie, de sinistre mémoire. Cette comparaison vous paraît-elle déplacée? Scandaleuse?

On se souvient en effet que la Wehrmacht prenait soin, comme Tsahal aujourd’hui, de sécuriser les routes menant au ghetto pour y faire parvenir sans encombre les transports quotidiens de vivres, de médicaments, d’aides humanitaires… Le jour viendra -et il est déjà venu en Turquie-, où on ne se réfèrera plus à l’apocalypse nazie que pour incriminer Israël, le sionisme et les juifs. Je n’arrive pas à croire en Dieu, mais ce retournement du devoir de mémoire me parait être une preuve très convaincante de l’existence du diable.

Il existe des communautés juives et musulmanes dans de nombreux pays européens. Or, le conflit israélo-palestinien prend une acuité particulière en France, où les manifestations pro-palestiniennes se sont soldées par des violences. Ce conflit extérieur ferait-il éclater au grand jour «l’identité malheureuse» de notre pays que vous avez décrit dans votre livre?

Je manifesterais moi-même à Paris en faveur du cessez-le-feu à Gaza si dans ces défilés on exigeait également l’arrêt des tirs de roquettes sur toutes les villes israéliennes.
Formés par le «victimisme» contemporain à ne rien comprendre et à ne rien savoir de tout ce qu’entreprend le Hamas contre la solution de deux Etats, certains manifestent très sincèrement aujourd’hui leur solidarité avec la population de Gaza sous les bombes. Mais, pour beaucoup, ces manifestations ne sont rien d’autre que l’occasion d’exprimer leur haine des juifs, de la République et des «sionistes qui gouvernent la France.» Quand ils ne s’en prennent pas à des synagogues, ces personnes font, afin d’être bien comprises, des quenelles avec des roquettes qassam en carton. De manière générale, il y a dans le monde arabo-musulman, une tendance très forte aujourd’hui à fuir toute remise en question dans la recherche éperdue d’un coupable. Si les choses vont mal, c’est la faute des juifs. Il faut donc leur faire la guerre. Ce choix de l’esprit du djihad contre l’esprit critique est une calamité pour l’occident et pour l’islam. Il faudrait soutenir ceux qui, de l’intérieur, ont le courage de dénoncer une telle attitude, comme l’écrivain algérien Boualem Sansal, et non ceux qui l’incarnent, comme le leader du Hamas Khaled Mechaal.

On a entendu dans les rues de Paris le cri «mort aux Juis». Le phénomène est-il comparable à l’antisémitisme des années 30 ou est-il davantage le prétexte d’un communautarisme «anti-français» qu’on a vu à l’oeuvre chez certains supporters franco-algériens après les matchs de leur équipe?

L’antisémitisme des années trente agonise et la grande solidarité antiraciste des années quatre-vingt a volé en éclats. On a affaire aujourd’hui à l’antisémitisme de ceux qui se disent les damnés de la terre, d’où l’embarras des progressistes. Ils n’en reconnaissent l’existence qu’à contrecœur et quand ils ne peuvent plus faire autrement. Ainsi parlent-ils aujourd’hui de «nouvel» antisémitisme pour un phénomène qui existe depuis près de trente ans. Cette haine ne vise d’ailleurs pas que les juifs. On l’a vu lors des manifestations qui ont suivi les victoires de l’Algérie dans la Coupe du monde, des rodéos de voiture au remplacement des drapeaux français par les drapeaux algériens sur les édifices publics, comme à Provins par exemple. Il s’agissait d’exprimer tout ensemble sa fierté nationale et son mépris pour la nation où l’on vit.

En taxant d’antisémitisme toute critique d’Israël, certains membres de la communauté juive n’ont-ils pas, depuis des années, pris le risque d’alimenter la concurrence victimaire?

Là où il y a la guerre, on parle de massacre, voire, tant qu’on y est, de génocide. Toutes les distinctions sont abolies par l’émotion
Je critique la politique israélienne. Je plaide sans relâche depuis le début des années quatre-vingt pour la solution de deux Etats. Je condamne la poursuite des constructions dans les implantations en Cisjordanie. Je dis que l’intransigeance vis-à-vis du Hamas devrait s’accompagner d’un soutien effectif à l’autorité palestinienne. Cela ne m’empêche pas d’être une des cibles favorites du «nouvel» antisémitisme.

Selon Pascal Boniface, de nombreux français non-juifs, en particulier les musulmans, ont le sentiment qu’il y a un «deux poids, deux mesures» dans la lutte contre le racisme et que les actes antisémites font l’objet d’un traitement médiatique plus conséquent que les autres actes racistes. Partagez-vous son point de vue?

Je crois, au contraire, qu’au nom de la lutte contre l’islamophobie, on sous-estime systématiquement la haine dont les juifs et la France font l’objet dans toujours plus de territoires de la République. Il faut des manifestations comme celles de Barbès et de Sarcelles pour qu’on en mesure, temporairement, la réalité et l’ampleur.

Plus largement, une partie de la gauche «antiraciste» a abandonné le combat pour l’égalité des droits au profit de la défense des particularismes, voire des communautarismes. Ne porte-t-elle pas une lourde responsabilité morale dans la grave crise identitaire que traverse la France?

C’est une responsabilité très largement partagée. A droite aussi la tentation est grande de préférer les accommodements prétendument raisonnables à la défense de la République et ce sont aujourd’hui des ministres de gauche, Manuel Valls et Bernard Cazeneuve, qui se montrent intransigeants en cette matière au mépris de leurs intérêts électoraux comme le leur rappelle avec inquiétude la fraction Terra nova du parti socialiste.

Derrière le rejet d’Israël par une partie de la gauche française, faut-il voir un refus de l’identité, de l’Etat-nation et des frontières?

Dans un article publié en 2004 dans la revue Le Débat, l’historien anglais Tony Judt écrivait que «dans un monde où les nations et les hommes se mêlent de plus en plus et où les mariages mixtes se multiplient, où les obstacles culturels et nationaux à la communication se sont presque effondrés, où nous sommes toujours plus nombreux à avoir des identités électives multiples, et où nous nous sentirions affreusement gênés s’il nous fallait répondre à une seule d’entre elles ; dans ce monde, Israël est véritablement un anachronisme.» De même que Saint-Paul s’indignait du refus juif de la religion universelle, nos multiculturalistes voient Israël comme un obstacle ethno-national à la reconnaissance définitive de l’Homme par l’Homme. Mais le monde humain n’est ni un supermarché, ni un dépliant touristique. Qu’est-ce que le multiculturalisme derrière le United Colors of Bennetton et la joyeuse disponibilité de toutes les cuisines, de toutes les musiques, de toutes les destinations? C’est le choc des cultures, et dans ce choc, les juifs où qu’ils soient, quoi qu’ils disent et quoi qu’ils fassent, sont en première ligne.

* Jcall rassemble les citoyens juifs européens qui aspirent à une paix au Proche-Orient fondé sur un accord entre Israéliens et Palestiniens, selon le principe «deux peuples, deux Etats»

Voir aussi:

La guerre du Hamas contre Israël : un fragment de la quatrième guerre mondiale
Guy Millière
Dreuz info
26 juil 2014

Les Européens et le monde occidental devraient regarder d’un peu plus près la guerre qui a lieu présentement entre Israël et le Hamas.

Un fragment d’un conflit plus vaste

Cette guerre ne concerne pas qu’Israël et le Hamas. Elle est un fragment d’un conflit plus vaste. Ce conflit a commencé il y a des années. Il a été défini par Norman Podhoretz, dans un livre appelé World War IV *. Il est effectivement une quatrième guerre mondiale (la troisième guerre mondiale ayant été la guerre froide »).

Cette guerre oppose la civilisation occidentale et ses valeurs aux ennemis de la civilisation occidentale.

Les ennemis sont les totalitaires du temps présent : les tenants de l’islam radical et leurs alliés. Ces alliés sont la Russie, en arrière plan, la Chine, ainsi que les autres acteurs du projet « eurasien ». Ils sont aussi tous ceux qui en Occident sont nostalgiques de totalitarismes relégués dans le révolu, ainsi que tous ceux qui sont hostiles à ce que Karl Popper a appelé « société ouverte » et à ce que Michael Novak a appelé « capitalisme démocratique ».

Sous la présidence de George Walker Bush, les tenants de l’islam radical ont été placés sur la défensive et ont subi quelques défaites majeures. Leurs alliés et quelques idiots utiles se sont déchaînés contre George Walker Bush aux fins d’empêcher que ces défaites majeures n’entraînent l’effondrement de l’islam radical.

Ils ont préparé l’avénement d’une présidence radicalement différente aux Etats Unis et l’ont obtenue avec l’élection de Barack Obama qui est au mieux un idiot utile, au pire un allié de l’islam radical (j’opte pour la deuxième réponse).

La doctrine Obama a conduit à la chute de plusieurs alliés des Etats Unis dans le monde musulman, Ben Ali en Tunisie, Moubarak en Egypte, Saleh au Yemen, Kadhafi en Libye (depuis 2003, Kadhafi coopérait avec les services occidentaux).

L’objectif de la doctrine Obama était un monde musulman tenu par l’islam radical, sur la base d’une coopération entre l’Iran islamiste chiite et les Frères musulmans, censés s’emparer du monde sunnite. Ce monde musulman devait oeuvrer en synergie avec les acteurs du projet « eurasien ». Les Etats Unis devaient être marginalisés. L’Europe occidentale devait être soumise (à la Russie et à l’islam radical). Israël devait aller vers l’extinction.

Obama n’a pas tranché en Syrie, et a laissé la situation pourrir. Il a finalement opté pour un maintien au pouvoir d’Assad dans les régions alaouites, et entériné une prise de pouvoir des islamistes sunnites dans les régions sunnites. Il a retiré toutes les troupes américaines d’Irak, ce qui a entrainé la subordination des régions chiites à Téhéran, et une sécession graduelle des régions sunnites, commencée il y a plusieurs mois. Il s’est appuyé sur le Qatar pour tenter de déstabiliser l’Arabie Saoudite, la Jordanie et les autres émirats. Il a soutenu le glissement de la Turquie d’Erdogan vers des positions de plus en plus radicales. Il a exercé des pressions de plus en plus fortes sur Israël, et, par l’intermédiaire de John Kerry, légitimé par avance un soulèvement « palestinien » contre Israël. Il a, dans d’autres régions du monde, entériné la politique russe en Ukraine (contrairement à ce qui se dit, Poutine n’a pas reculé en Ukraine, et on le verra dans les mois à venir), et entériné la politique chinoise en Asie orientale.

Ce qui n’était pas prévu par Obama était le renversement du régime Morsi et des Frères musulmans en Egypte (renversement financé par l’Arabie Saoudite), et la constitution, qui a découlé, d’un bloc défensif de pays sunnites du statu quo devenant alliés implicites d’Israël.

Ce bloc défensif a fait qu’Israël ne s’est pas trouvé totalement isolé dans la région.

Ce qui n’était apparemment pas prévu par la direction du Hamas était l’enlèvement et l’assassinat de trois jeunes israéliens à proximité d’Hebron, enlèvement qui a donné l’opportunité à Israël de démanteler des cellules du Hamas en Judée Samarie, et qui a conduit le Hamas à lancer, de manière précipitée, une offensive contre Israël, destinée à susciter un embrasement du monde musulman contre Israël, au moment où l’Etat Islamique se constituait en califat en Syrie et en Irak.

Ce qui n’était pas prévu par la direction du Hamas était l’efficacité du Dôme de fer israélien, qui a réduit l’essentiel des missiles du Hamas à l’état de pétards mouillés. Si ne serait-ce qu’un sur cinq des missiles détruits par le Dôme de fer avait atteint des villes, des populations civiles, des installations nucléaires, on n’ose imaginer les dégâts qui auraient résulté, et l’ampleur des soulèvements de foules galvanisées par le sang juif versé.

Ce qui était prévu par la direction du Hamas était la réplique israélienne. Et les boucliers humains utilisés par le Hamas sont censés servir à fabriquer des cadavres arabes à brandir pour exciter les foules contre Israël. Le Hamas veut un maximum de cadavres arabes à brandir. Les alliés du Hamas veulent un maximum de cadavres d’Arabes tués par Israël. Israël doit se battre pour qu’il y ait le moins possible d’Arabes tués, et cela entraîne davantage de morts israéliens, hélas.

Ce qui était prévu par la direction du Hamas était un soulèvement de foules arabes et musulmanes, à commencer par les foules arabes de Judée Samarie et d’Israël, et aussi des manifestations anti-israéliennes dans le monde entier, une attitude pusillanime des puissances européennes, une complicité implicite de l’administration Obama avec le Hamas.

Il y a présentement au Proche-Orient un axe de l’islam radical qui lie Iran, Etat Islamique devenu califat, régime Assad dans les régions alaouites, Turquie, Qatar, avec en arrière plan la Russie et la Chine. Et il y a un axe Israël, Egypte, Arabie Saoudite, émirats. L’Iran (chiite) soutient l’Etat Islamique (sunnite) aux fins de l’utiliser contre l’axe Israël, Egypte, Arabie Saoudite, émirats et aux fins de renforcer sa présence dans le Sud chiite de l’Irak (présence justifiée par la « nécessité » d’ « aider » le gouvernement irakien à lutter contre l’Etat islamique, bien sûr, « nécessité » soutenue par l’administration Obama).

Les pays européens et l’Union Européenne sont en position d’apaisement face à l’axe de l’islam radical, sans pour autant le soutenir pleinement. Les dirigeants européens s’inquiètent des actions de l’axe de l’islam radical, mais ont aussi peur de lui (tout particulièrement de l’Etat Islamique, qui forme des djihadistes européens) et sont prêts dès lors à beaucoup lui céder.

L’administration Obama est très proche de l’axe de l’islam radical, sans pouvoir abandonner explicitement les pays de l’axe Israël, Egypte, Arabie Saoudite, émirats.

Les manifestants qui déferlent en Europe et dans d’autres points du monde sont, consciemment ou inconsciemment, au service de l’axe de l’islam radical.

L’objectif immédiat de l’axe de l’islam radical est de faire qu’Israël cède aux pressions, accepte un cessez le feu, et cède à certaines revendications du Hamas, en particulier mette fin en bonne partie aux contrôles aux frontières de Gaza. L’objectif qui découle est de permettre au Hamas de prendre en main l’Autorité palestinienne, et de coordonner l’action du Hamas avec celle de l’Etat Islamique, déjà aux portes de la Jordanie. L’objectif à moyen terme serait, bien sûr, de détruire Israël (les tunnels devaient servir à une vaste offensive en Israël même, à une date ultérieure), mais aussi de renverser le régime jordanien, si possible de renverser ensuite le régime saoudien, de soumettre les émirats, et de permettre aux Frères musulmans de reprendre l’offensive contre Morsi en Egypte.

L’Egypte, l’Arabie Saoudite, les émirats veulent la destruction du Hamas, à condition que ce soit Israël qui s’en charge.

L’Egypte, l’Arabie Saoudite, les émirats veulent la destruction du Hamas, à condition que ce soit Israël qui s’en charge. Ils savent que sans la destruction du Hamas, l’axe de l’islam radical continuera à quêter ses objectifs.

Israël détruira-t-il le Hamas ? Israël cédera-t-il aux pressions ? La réponse à ces questions est cruciale.
Si Israël ne détruit pas le Hamas ou, si Israël ne veut pas entièrement le détruire, si Israël n’obtient pas au moins une démilitarisation de Gaza contrôlable par Israël et un contrôle total des frontières de Gaza, les opérations actuelles n’auront servi quasiment à rien. Et l’axe de l’islam radical poursuivra son offensive.

Détruire le Hamas ou, au moins, le mettre hors d’état de nuire, sera, le cas échéant, difficile, et douloureux. L’alternative risquerait fort, dans le contexte que je viens de décrire, d’être plus douloureuse encore. Je ne doute pas que les dirigeants d’Israël le savent. C’est pour cela qu’ils ont rejeté l’idée d’une trêve de sept jours proposée par Kerry, avec le soutien de la Turquie et du Qatar.

Dois-je dire que vivre dans un monde où il existe ce que George Walker Bush appelait à juste titre l’axe du mal, et où les dirigeants occidentaux se courbent devant l’axe du mal et, comme Obama, s’en font parfois les complices est effroyable ?

Dois-je dire que vivre dans un monde où Israël doit sa survie à ses propres forces et est, pour l’essentiel abandonné de tous, sinon, au titre d’alliés tactiques, de puissances arabes sunnites qui n’entendent pas succomber à l’islam radical, est également effroyable ?

Dois-je dire qu’en voyant les manifestations au service de l’axe du mal déferler en Europe, je me dis que nous vivons dans une époque qui suscite le dégoût ?

Dois-je dire qu’en voyant dans les grands médias aussi peu de compréhension de ce qui se joue et autant de désinformation, volontaire ou involontaire, je me dis que nous vivons dans une époque répugnante ?

Les homme politiques qui, en France, ont une attitude imprégnée d’éthique se comptent présentement sur les doigts d’une seule main.

Les journalistes qui tiennent des propos dignes ne sont pas plus nombreux. Les gens invités à commenter ce qui se passe, à l’exception de mes amis Meyer Habib et Gilles William Goldnadel ne sont, en France, pas des commentateurs, mais de vils propagandistes qui, sur une chaine de télévision américaine seraient traités comme des imposteurs et balayés immédiatement. En trois minutes sur Fox News, j’en apprends davantage qu’en deux heures de programmes télévisé français, ce qui n’est pas nécessairement glorieux pour Fox News, car sur les chaînes françaises, je n’apprends strictement rien, et j’assiste plutôt à une séance d’essorage de cerveau.

Reproduction autorisée avec la mention suivante : © Guy Millière pour Dreuz.info.

Voir par ailleurs:

Des cinéastes israéliens contre la guerre en Palestine
A gauche et dans le monde intellectuel, des voix s’élèvent pour exiger un cessez-le-feu. Des cinéastes ont interrompu lundi le festival du film de Jérusalem.
Rosa Moussaoui
Israël-Palestine
L’Humanité
17 Juillet, 2014

La vie peut-elle continuer comme si de rien n’était, alors que le déluge de feu qui s’abat depuis une semaine sur Gaza emporte chaque jour des dizaines de vies ? Le geste de huit cinéastes israéliens qui ont interrompu lundi le festival du film de Jérusalem est un salutaire acte de refus. Dans un appel, Efrat Corem, Shira Geffen, Ronit et Shlomi Elkabetz, Keren Yedaya, Tali Shalom Ezer, Nadav Lapid et Bozi Gete exhortent le gouvernement israélien à «cesser le feu» et à «engager un dialogue constructif avec le peuple palestinien et ses dirigeants, pour parvenir à une paix viable pour les deux parties». «Les enfants de Gaza ne bénéficient pas de la protection des systèmes du Dôme de fer. Ils n’ont pas d’espaces de résidence sécurisés, ni de sirènes. Les enfants qui vivent à Gaza aujourd’hui sont nos partenaires pour la paix de demain. La tuerie et l’horreur que nous infligeons ne font que repousser plus loin toute solution diplomatique», insistent-ils. Depuis le déclenchement de l’opération militaire israélienne, les mobilisations se succèdent, dans un contexte difficile, pour exiger que cessent les bombardements et l’occupation des territoires palestiniens, mais aussi pour dénoncer le lourd climat raciste entretenu par une extrême droite se revendiquant ouvertement de la «chasse aux Arabes». Après la manifestation de Tel-Aviv, samedi, où les pacifistes ont essuyé les insultes, les menaces et les jets de projectiles des extrémistes, de nouvelles mobilisations sont prévues ces jours-ci à Jérusalem, Haïfa, Tira et Kufr Manda.

« ­L’occupation de la Palestine est antidémocratique par définition »

Fait marquant, des dizaines d’objecteurs de conscience, parfois très jeunes, rejettent toute participation à l’actuelle opération militaire, encourant ainsi de sévères sanctions. «Bravo pour votre courage, pour votre refus de prendre part à l’injustice et aux crimes de guerre ! L’occupation de la Palestine est antidémocratique par définition. Nous espérons que d’autres, encore, contesteront ces agissements antidémocratiques», écrit le mouvement Yesh Gvul, fondé par des vétérans qui ont refusé de servir au Liban en 1982. Présent à tous les rassemblements pour la paix, le député communiste Dov Khenin en résumait il y a quelques jours l’esprit, lors d’un débat à la Knesset : «Nous ne pouvons, sans conséquences, continuer à occuper, à construire des colonies, à bloquer toute avancée vers un accord. La bulle du statu quo a explosé.»

Voir de même:

Lettre à Elie Barnavi

Luc Rosenzweig

Mondes francophones

26;07.2014

Chaque jour, chaque mois, l’islamisme gagne du terrain

Mon cher Elie,

J’ai beaucoup apprécié ton dernier texte sur I24News, repris dans la newsletter du CRIF et sur Causeur. Il m’a même fait sourire à cause d’un lapsus (rue des Roquettes au lieu de rue de la Roquette) qui prouve bien que ce mot s’emploie plutôt au pluriel ces jours à Tel Aviv…

Pour conforter ton pessimisme, je te fais part de mes impressions d’observateur attentif des manifestations lyonnaises pro-Hamas (on ne peut plus dire qu’il s’agisse de manifs pro-Gaza). 6 000-7 000 personnes, 90% d’arabo-musulmans, beaucoup de filles jeunes, éduquées semble-t-il (elles ne parlent pas wesh wesh) en majorité voilées, quelques-unes en niqab à la saoudienne. Slogans criés «  Israël assassin, Hollande complice », « Jihad ! Résistance ! » « Allahou Akbar ! » « Sionistes, fascistes assassins ! »). Le préfet avait enjoint les commerces du centre-ville de baisser le rideau pendant le passage du cortège, car pour les manifestants ils sont réputés «  sionistes », et donc objectifs légitimes de dégradations et de pillage. Commentaire dans les rangs : « T’as vu, les feujs, on leur a mis la trouille ! »… On peut entendre aussi des trucs du genre complotiste (ils tiennent tout, les médias, la mairie…).Contrairement à Boubakeur à Paris, le recteur de la grande mosquée de Lyon, complètement infiltrée par les salafistes, a encouragé les manifs sans avoir un mot condamnant les dérapages antisémites…

Tu en appelles à un sursaut, à une révolution culturelle pour sauver le modèle intégrationniste à la française. Très bien. Malheureusement, je crois qu’il est déjà trop tard. Chaque jour, chaque mois, chaque année l’islamisme radical gagne du terrain : les femmes sont de plus en plus voilées, les barbus prolifèrent, la ségrégation se met en place. La ville où j’habite, Villeurbanne, contiguë à Lyon, a reçu l’an passé un « prix de l’antiracisme » décerné par le CRAN (associations noires) pour sa lutte contre les discriminations… 150 000 habitants, environ 30 000-40 000 arabo-musulmans, environ 5000 juifs (séfarades, sauf un dernier carré de vieux ashkénazes). Une réelle mixité sociale avec des rues bourgeoises jouxtant des ensembles HLM largement arabisés… Apparemment, tout va bien. Sauf que : le lycée public a été peu à peu déserté par les juifs et les bourgeois. Les premiers vont au lycée juif de Lyon (100% de réussite au bac et 60% de mentions) et les seconds au lycée de l’Immaculée Conception bien placé, aussi, dans le  classement régional. Le lycée Pierre Brossolette, public, est le dernier du département avec 57% de réussite… Seuls les enfants de profs tirent leur épingle du jeu : ils se rassemblent dans des «  sections européennes »  élitistes, qui se font régulièrement chahuter dans la cour et à la cantine comme «  intellos » (une insulte).

Autre exemple : la piscine de Lyon, magnifique établissement de bains digne de Baden-Baden ou de Karlovy-Vary, située au bord du Rhône et récemment rénovée, vient brusquement d’augmenter ses tarifs de 135%. Tout le monde le sait, mais personne n’ose le dire, c’est le seul moyen que la municipalité ait trouvé pour éloigner des lieux la belle jeunesse (masculine, leurs sœurs ne sachant sans doute pas nager…) des banlieues qui avait envahi les lieux, le transformant en nouveau « territoire perdu de la République ». Lorsque l’on en arrive là, ne plus avoir le courage de nommer les choses,  à ne concevoir que des stratégies de défense individuelle, ou semi-collective contre la barbarie qui monte, on n’est pas près de gagner la bataille. Pour ma part, n’ayant plus d’enfants à éduquer, et mes petits-enfants étant à l’abri dans des lieux relativement protégés de l’Europe bourgeoise, n’étant pas un « juif visible », je peux encore m’accommoder de la situation, encore que les échanges avec une grande partie de ceux qui furent mes amis deviennent de plus en plus difficiles – heureusement qu’il y a Causeur, Elisabeth Lévy et Gil Mihaély. Je n’en suis pas à scruter les annonces immobilières à Tel Aviv, mais je n’exclus plus que cela puisse advenir un jour. À toi et Kirsten je souhaite bon courage dans cette période difficile, et espère vous voir bientôt. Amitiés.

Voir aussi:

L’Europe et les Juifs : vers le divorce ?
Elie Barnavi
I24news
20 juillet 2014

Vendredi 16 juillet, le quotidien Haaretz (édition anglaise) a publié un article au titre scandaleux : « La France va-t-elle expulser ses Juifs ? » L’auteur, Seth Lipsky, est le rédacteur en chef du journal en ligne conservateur The New York Sun. Le contenu du papier est à l’avenant. Il mélange tout, la politique supposément pro-palestinienne des gouvernements français depuis de Gaulle, l’enterrement de Yasser Arafat avec les honneurs à Paris et les campagnes contre l’abattage rituel et la circoncision, dont le moins qu’on puisse dire est qu’elles sont plus discrètes en France qu’ailleurs en Europe. En conclusion, s’« il serait inexact de dire que la France expulse ses Juifs, la distinction s’estompe. » Qu’on se le dise, « l’Espagne ne s’est jamais remise de l’expulsion de ses Juifs. » Bref, les Juifs de France vivent en 1491, l’an prochain sera celui du décret d’expulsion.

Cette idiotie paniquarde ignore les faits. En France comme ailleurs en Europe, du moins en Europe occidentale, l’antisémitisme est un délit puni par la loi. La classe politique unanime le rejette, tout comme la presse, les acteurs sociaux et l’essentiel de l’opinion publique. Il fut un temps où l’antisémitisme était une force politique et culturelle significative. Il ne l’est plus.

Est-ce à dire que tout va pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles ? Certes non. La « nouvelle judéophobie » (Pierre-André Taguieff) a un nom : l’islam identitaire. C’est lui qui, dans une France et une Europe mollassonnes et chétives, profite au premier chef de la fameuse « libération de la parole » dont un Dieudonné est la nauséabonde illustration. C’est lui qui a armé le bras de Mohammed Merah à Toulouse, de Mehdi Nemmouche à Bruxelles. C’est lui qui jette sur le pavé des manifestants haineux qui brandissent des pancartes invitant à la « mort aux Juifs » et n’hésitent pas à s’en prendre violemment aux synagogues. Le dernier incident en date, rue des Roquettes à Paris, dont i24news s’est fait l’écho, a failli tourner au drame.

Cet islam-là se nourrit de causes lointaines – la Syrie, l’Irak, et, toujours, la Palestine. Comme toutes les idéologies mortifères, il a ses alliés – en l’occurrence, l’extrême gauche et les restes d’une extrême droite dont les figures de proue tentent malaisément de se distinguer pour accéder à la respectabilité politique (une preuve de plus que l’antisémitisme n’est pas respectable) – et ses idiots utiles : sociologues et autres plumitifs prompts à dénoncer une « islamophobie » fantasmagorique qu’ils assimilent abusivement à l’antisémitisme.

Cependant, l’islam identitaire ne concerne pas que les Juifs. Sous sa forme terroriste organisée, il constitue un défi mondial. Il a frappé à New York, à Madrid, à Londres, à Paris, et est en train de refaçonner les frontières issues de la décolonisation au Proche et au Moyen-Orient. Sous sa forme terroriste « spontanée », il produit des loups solitaires à l’instar de Merah et Nemmouche, petites frappes radicalisées en prison, et, comme ce dernier, passées par l’un des fronts de l’islamisme radical, dernièrement la Syrie.

Si la France est aux premières loges, ce n’est pas en raison de quelque laxisme ou complaisance particulièrement français. C’est tout bonnement parce que la France abrite la plus importante communauté juive d’Europe, en même temps que la plus importante communauté musulmane d’Europe, par ailleurs majoritairement arabe, et que ces deux communautés cohabitent souvent dans les mêmes banlieues et quartiers difficiles. Le paradoxe douloureux est que la France a inventé avec la République laïque et assimilationniste l’outil d’intégration le plus efficace du monde occidental, et que cet outil est désormais en panne. La place me manque ici pour en détailler les raisons. Mais ne nous y trompons pas, c’est l’ensemble de l’Europe qui a mal à ses Juifs, pour ne plus savoir comment intégrer ses immigrés.

Traiter le mal à la racine, au-delà des mesures de police, nécessaires mais manifestement insuffisantes, requiert un effort collectif énorme, dont les sociétés européennes semblent désormais incapables. Il faudrait pour cela démanteler les ghettos d’immigrés, favoriser par une politique volontariste de la ville la mixité sociale, repenser l’école de fond en comble, interdire les prisons aux imams intégristes et/ou analphabètes et assurer la formation d’un encadrement musulman compatible avec les principes de la démocratie. Toutes choses qui présupposent un investissement matériel colossal, mais surtout, sans doute, une révolution culturelle. Tant que l’Europe ne réapprendra pas à défendre ses valeurs, tant qu’elle s’abstiendra d’en faire la pierre de touche de tous ceux qui frappent à sa porte, tant qu’elle ne saura pas qui elle est et, partant, à quoi sont censés s’intégrer ses nouveaux citoyens, elle sera cet ectoplasme sans âme, incapable de protéger ses Juifs parce que incapable de se protéger elle-même.

Alors, la France va-t-elle expulser ses Juifs ? Allons donc. En revanche, les Juifs vont s’en expulser eux-mêmes, du moins les plus fragiles, les plus exposés. Au grand détriment de la France elle-même. Car une chose est certaine, le sort des Juifs a toujours été le test infaillible de la santé morale d’une nation.

Elie Barnavi est historien et essayiste, Professeur émérite d’histoire moderne à l’Université de Tel-Aviv, et ancien ambassadeur d’Israël en France.

 Voir enfin:

Gaza’s Tunnel Phenomenon: The Unintended Dynamics of Israel’s Siege

« The ground that Israel leveled in 2004 to create a barren corridor separating Gaza from Egypt is today abuzz with activity on and under the surface. »
Nicolas Pelham
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 41, no. 1 (Summer 2012), p. 6
This article traces the extraordinary development of Gaza’s tunnel phenomenon over the past decade in response to Israel’s economic asphyxiation of the small coastal enclave. It focuses on the period since Hamas’s 2007 takeover of the Strip, which saw the industry’s transformation from a clandestine, makeshift operation into a major commercial enterprise, regulated, taxed, and bureaucratized. In addition to describing the particulars of the tunnel complex, the article explores its impact on Gaza’s socioeconomic hierarchy, strategic orientation, and Islamist rule. The larger geopolitical context, especially with regard to Israel, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Nile Valley, is also discussed. The author argues that contrary to the intentions of its architects, the siege precipitated the reconfiguration of Gaza’s economy and enabled its rulers to circumvent the worst effects of the blockade.

VISITORS APPROACHING RAFAH can be forgiven for thinking they have stepped back in time to the 1948 Nakba. On the southern reaches of the town, the horizon is interrupted by hundreds of white tents flapping in the wind. Instead of dispossessed refugees, the tents shelter the mouths of hundreds of tunnels, which for the past five years have played a critical role in providing a lifeline for Gazans hit by a punishing siege. Beneath the awnings, thousands of workers shovel heavy materials for Gaza’s reconstruction. Front-end loaders plow through the sands, loading juggernauts with gravel and enveloping the entire zone in dust clouds. Tanker trucks fill with gasoline from underground reservoirs; customs officials weigh trucks and issue the tax vouchers required to exit. The ground that Israel leveled in 2004 to create a barren corridor separating Gaza from Egypt is today abuzz with activity on and under the surface, as Gazans operate a tunnel complex that has become the driver of Gaza’s economy and the mainstay of its governing Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas.

A “LIFELINE” TAKES SHAPE

For millennia, Rafah was the first stopping place for merchants crossing the desert from Africa to Asia. Israel’s establishment in 1948 did not sever the tie, for Gaza was administered by Egypt until Israel’s 1967 occupation. Even after, Bedouins crossed the border unimpeded, continuing to mingle and marry. Only in 1981, when Egypt and Israel demarcated their frontier along Gaza’s southern edge as part of their 1979 peace treaty, did separation really set in. No sooner had the agreement’s implementation divided Rafah between Israel and Egypt than Bedouin clans straddling the fourteen-kilometer border began burrowing underneath, particularly at the midpoint where the earth is softest. Israel’s first recorded discovery of a tunnel was in 1983. To avoid detection, Gazans dug their tunnels from the basements of their houses to a depth of about fifteen meters, headed south for a few dozen meters, and then resurfaced on the Egyptian side of the border, often in a relative’s house, grove, or chicken coop. By the late 1980s, tunnel operators were importing such basics as processed cheese, subsidized in Egypt and taxed in Israel, and probably some contraband as well, including drugs, gold, and weapons.

Israel’s “soft quarantining” of Gaza—the steadily tightening restrictions on the movement of persons and goods into Israel—began with the Oslo peace process and in preparation for the establishment in the Strip of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994. After Oslo’s signing, Israel built a barrier around Gaza. Though access continued through Israel’s terminals, periodic closures led Gazans to seek alternatives. The perimeter barrier was among the first targets of protestors when the Al-Aqsa intifada broke out in September 2000, but by June 2001 Israel had replaced it with a higher, grimmer, more impenetrable upgrade. Frequent lockdowns at Israel’s terminals and the destruction of Gaza’s seaport and airport in 2001, coupled with the militarization of the intifada, intensified the drive for outlets south. Hence the expansion and upgrading of the tunnels, which for the first time served as safety valves for wholesalers to alleviate the artificially created shortages.

Given their quest for weapons and the need for funds to finance operations during the intifada, the various Palestinian political factions operated the longest and deepest tunnels. The cash-strapped PA sought to co-opt clans along the border where tunneling was easiest. Sami Abu Samhadana, a senior PA security official and prominent Fatah leader in Gaza, himself from a Bedouin clan straddling the Rafah frontier, oversaw much of the expansion. This fusion of security and business interests, of militia activity and private entrepreneurship, was to become a hallmark of future development.

Successive Israeli military operations aimed at defeating the second intifada and widening the buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt also targeted the tunnels. In the lead-up to implementing its unilateral Gaza withdrawal plan, Israel razed some fifteen hundred Palestinian homes within a one-hundred-meter-wide cordon sanitaire (the Philadelphi corridor) between Rafah and the border and reinforced it with a seven-meter-high wall. The Mubarak regime largely acquiesced in the wall’s construction, hoping it would protect his realm from a spillover of the intifada and suicide bombing that was threatening its lucrative tourist resorts along the Sinai Peninsula’s riviera on the Red Sea. In addition, it feared that Israel’s withdrawal risked saddling Egypt with responsibility for Gaza’s 1.7 million inhabitants, disconnecting the territory from the West Bank, and thereby ending Arab aspirations for an integral Palestinian state.

In January 2006, four months after Israel completed its Gaza pullout, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections. Israel responded by systematically tightening its borders. On 12 March 2006, while Hamas was in negotiations to form a unity government, Israel closed Erez terminal to Gazan laborers in Israel, who once constituted 70 percent of Gaza’s workforce. In June 2006, when the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants (and spirited away by tunnel), Israel shut down the Karni terminal, Gaza’s primary crossing for goods (already closed for half of the previous six months). Israel also prevented the use of the Rafah terminal for passenger traffic and severely restricted access for the European monitoring mission there.

Israel’s array of restrictions on trade, coupled with the need to mitigate the threat of punitive Israeli airstrikes targeting the tunnel zone, quickly spurred Palestinians to develop deeper and longer tunnels spanning the width of the Israeli-bulldozed buffer and less vulnerable to sabotage. The tunnel network continued to grow, and infrastructure improved. Even so, the tunnels were ill-prepared for the surge in traffic generated by the near-hermetic seal imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt when, in June 2007, Hamas seized control of the Strip, disbanded Fatah’s forces, and chased out its leaders.

THE HAMAS TAKEOVER: BLOCKADE AND EXPANSION

Hamas’s summer 2007 military takeover of the Strip marked a turning point for the tunnel trade. The siege, already in place, was tightened. Egypt shut the Rafah terminal. Israel designated Gaza “a hostile entity” and, following a salvo of rocket-fire on its border areas in November 2007, cut food supplies by half and severed fuel imports. In January 2008, Israel announced a total blockade on fuel after rockets were fired at Sderot, banning all but seven categories of humanitarian supplies. As gasoline supplies dried up, Gazans abandoned cars on the roadside and bought donkeys. Under Israeli blockade at sea and a combined Egyptian-Israeli siege on land, Gaza’s humanitarian crisis loomed, threatening Hamas’s rule.

The Islamists’ first attempt to break the stranglehold targeted Egypt as the weaker link. In January 2008, Hamas’s forces bulldozed a segment of wall at the Rafah crossing to allow hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to pour into Sinai. While long pent-up consumer demand was released, the measure provided only short-term relief. Within eleven days, Egyptian forces succeeded in herding Palestinians back. Egypt then reinforced the army contingent guarding the locked gates and built a fortified border wall. As the siege intensified, employment in Gazan manufacturing plummeted from 35,000 to 860 by mid-2008, and Gaza’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell by a third in real terms from its 2005 levels (compared to a 42 percent increase in the West Bank over the same period.

With access above ground barred, the Islamist movement oversaw a program of industrial-scale burrowing underground. With each tunnel costing $80,000 to $200,000 to build, mosques and charitable networks launched schemes offering unrealistically high rates of return, promoting a pyramid scheme that ended in disaster. Preachers extolled commercial tunnel ventures as “resistance” activity and hailed workers killed on the job as “martyrs.” The National Security Forces (NSF), a PA force reconstituted by Hamas primarily with ?Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (IQB) personnel, but also including several hundred (Fatah) PA defectors, guarded the border, occasionally exchanging fire with the Egyptian army, while the Hamas government oversaw construction activity. Simultaneously, the Hamas-run Rafah municipality upgraded the electricity grid to power hundreds of hoists, kept Gaza’s fire service on standby, and on several occasions extinguished fires in tunnels used to pump fuel.As Mahmud Zahar, a Hamas Gaza leader, explained, “No electricity, no water, no food came from outside. That’s why we had to build the tunnels.”

Private investors, including Hamas members who raised capital through their mosque networks, partnered with families straddling the border. Lawyers drafted contracts for cooperatives to build and operate commercial tunnels. The contracts detailed the number of partners (generally four to fifteen), the value of the respective shares, and the mechanism for distributing shareholder profits. A typical partnership encompassed a cross-section of Gazan society, including, for example, a porter at the Rafah land crossing, a security officer in the former PA administration, agricultural workers, university graduates, nongovernmental organization (NGO) employees, and diggers. Abu Ahmad, who had earned NIS 30–70/day as a taxi driver, invested his wife’s jewelry, worth $20,000, to partner with nine others in a tunnel venture. Investors could quickly recover their outlay. Fully operational, a tunnel could generate the cost of its construction in a month. With each tunnel jointly run by a partnership on each side of the border, Gazan and Egyptian owners generally split earnings equally.

From enterprises primarily geared to weapons smuggling, the tunnels rapidly turned into what one trader described as “the lungs through which Gaza breathes.” By the eve of Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, their number had grown to at least five hundred from a few dozen mainly factional tunnels in mid-2005; tunnel trade revenue increased from an average of $30 million/year in 2005 to $36 million/month. Mitigating to some extent the Gaza economy’s sharp contraction resulting from the international boycott of Hamas, the PA’s ongoing salary payments to some 75,000 PA employees, including some whom the PA had ordered to stop work, sustained the government’s liquidity and purchasing power.

Meanwhile, the area of tunnel operations doubled to eight kilometers, extending along the border from the Rafah terminal west to Tel Zagreb near the coast. So congested were some parts of the border that diggers had to burrow tunnels one on top of the other, using Google Earth to map routes and make sure they stayed on course. Teams of six laborers working round the clock in two twelve-hour shifts could dig an average of ten to fifteen meters a day. Once functional, tunnels were constantly upgraded to speed deliveries. Over time, they were fitted with internal lighting, intercoms, and generators to maintain operations during frequent power cuts. The tunnels’ rough-hewn edges were smoothed to reduce damage to imports.

“Legalized” by Hamas on the Gaza side of the border, the tunnels remained clandestine on Egypt’s side. Thus, while in Gaza the tunnel mouths were moved from the basements of private homes to the open terrain fronting the Philadelphi corridor, in Egypt the tunnels extended deep inside Egyptian territory. Up to three-quarters of a standard eight-hundred-meter tunnel was on Egypt’s side. And while the tunnel mouths, protected from the elements by white canvas, were open on the Gaza side, in Egypt they remained concealed.

FORMALIZING THE TUNNEL TRADE: REGULATION AND THE CUSTOMS REGIME

When Hamas seized the Strip from Fatah in June 2007, its military wing, the IQB, appropriated the Fatah-run tunnels, particularly those overseen by Sami Abu Samhadana, who had fled the enclave. It banned the construction of new Fatah tunnels and tightened its control over other factions operating cross-border tunnels, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees. It also set about expanding its own network, transforming the makeshift tunnels honed during the Al-Aqsa intifada into what were widely regarded as Gaza’s longest, deepest, and most sophisticated. Thereafter, the IQB’s domination of the tunnel traffic was undisputed.

From the outset, there was a de facto distinction between the factional tunnels, used for military and operational purposes and off-limits to government inspectors and customs authorities, and the privately owned tunnels, which were Gaza’s primary source of imports. Regarding the latter, the government struggled to wrest control from the IQB. The process was slow. The IQB, owing to its victory in the June 2007 fighting against the PA, maintained control on the ground and resisted efforts by Hamas’s political leadership under Ismail Haniyeh to assert its primacy. Ultimately, following a spate of violent clashes and turf battles between IQB personnel and the Executive Force—an armed contingent established by the Hamas-appointed interior minister before 2007 as a counter to the Fatah-controlled PA forces in Gaza—in which the Executive Force gained the upper hand, the Interior Ministry assumed management of the privately owned tunnels on behalf of the government.

Once in control of the commercial tunnels, the Hamas government set about formalizing the smuggling economy through regulation. In the wake of Operation Cast Lead, the Interior Ministry established the Tunnel Affairs Commission (TAC) to act as the regulatory authority for commercial activities. Among its first acts was to issue a list of blacklisted imports, including weapons, alcohol, and tramadol, a painkiller much used in Gaza. In response to public concern at a rising toll of tunnel casualties, particularly of child workers, the TAC issued guidelines intended to ensure safe working conditions. Over time, it fenced off the site and stationed some three hundred black-clad internal-security personnel at entry points to spot-check the documentation of persons entering and leaving the zone. Tunnel openings were patrolled on motorbike. The TAC introduced a tunnel-licensing system to prevent construction in areas deemed of national security (particularly near border fortifications where outside observation was feared, or in areas reserved for factional tunneling) and to regulate oversupply. Investors seeking clearance to build a new tunnel were required to provide proof of land ownership or notarized proof of authorization of the right to use the land. The TAC also intervened to arbitrate disputes between merchants and tunnel operators, and monitored the market for instances of sharp inflation or evidence of hoarding and price-fixing, particularly of fuel. Traders and consumers alike said they welcomed the price stabilization and removal of petty traders selling gasoline from the roadsides.

Violations were punished. In 2009–10, for instance, the TAC closed at least five tunnels for smuggling tramadol and two for nonpayment of cigarette taxes. It destroyed an additional fifty nonoperational tunnels to prevent their use as safe houses or conduits to and from Egypt by “wanted” individuals. “We used to earn thousands smuggling small shipments of hand guns, grenades, bullets, and TNT,” said a tunnel operator who first entered the business at the end of the second intifada, “but it is no longer worth the risk to be prosecuted by Hamas.”

In a further sign of formalization, the TAC introduced an increasingly comprehensive customs regime, providing Hamas with a new revenue base that partially compensated for the Ramallah-based PA’s monopoly on customs revenues collected at Israel’s ports. Haulers weighed their trucks on an electronic weigh station buried in the sand near the entrance to the tunnel zone, obtained chits for their cargoes at an adjoining hut, and upon exit presented the receipts to guards. In September 2008, the Rafah municipality introduced administrative fees, charging tunnel operators a one-time license fee of NIS 10,000 ($2,850)/tunnel and NIS 3,000 for connection to the electricity grid. Evaders were liable to tunnel closure and arrest, deferrable with a NIS 1,000 bail. Further charges were levied on heavily Egyptian-subsidized gasoline and diesel (about NIS0.5/liter in Egypt), cooking gas (NIS 30/canister), cigarettes (NIS 3/pack), and generators. In addition, Gaza authorities levied a 14.5 percent value-added tax on all goods. A tunnel owner who raised a Fatah flag from his house had his license withdrawn.

Hamas’s regulatory efforts did not go unchallenged, particularly after it taxed what had been a tax-free enterprise. Families and clans in the border area protested interference in their activities. In late November 2007, armed clashes erupted between Hamas government forces and members of the al-Sha’ir family in Rafah after Hamas destroyed two of its tunnels. But for the most part, the rapidly expanding business opportunities available under Hamas rule trumped lingering resentments. With demand far exceeding supply, tunnel operators earned $50 for ferrying a fifty-kilogram sack through the tunnels. A decade earlier, all but 1 percent of Gaza’s total imports came from, or via, Israel. By the eve of Operation Cast Lead, the ratio had nearly reversed. Although the tunnels were often rudimentary, the trade cycle was generally faster than through Israeli terminals, and less laden with customs red tape. Normal deliveries arrived within three to five days of placing an order, faster than pretakeover orders from Israel. Operators responded rapidly to demand. When Israel reduced gas supplies, smuggled canisters quickly surfaced on the market. Vaccines from Egypt entered Gaza following reports of disease sweeping chicken farms. Ahead of holidays, traders imported toys, live sheep, and fresh beef from Egypt.

Both Egypt and Israel had mixed reactions to the tunnel operations. For Israel, the reorientation of Gaza’s trade to Egypt tempered the international outcry over the blockade and widened the divide between Gaza and the West Bank. For Egypt, smuggling offered copious opportunities for bribes (at both the local and national levels) from a hitherto unprofitable region. Yet both countries also saw tunnel growth as a security threat they could scarcely monitor, let alone control. Israel constantly cited the tunnels for bolstering Gaza’s military capabilities. Egypt, besides worrying about the impact of spillover from Gaza’s Islamist forces on its foreign currency–generating Sinai resorts, reported finding weapons stockpiles near the border. In an effort to interrupt the traffic, Israel repeatedly deployed drones and manned aircraft to bomb Gaza’s tunnels, while Egypt stepped up tunnel detection and demolition. Tunnel owners responded by improving their design and digging to depths of over twenty-five meters.

OPERATION CAST LEAD AND ITS AFTERMATH

Israel’s repeated attacks on Gaza culminated in the devastating Operation Cast Lead of winter 2008–9. Although Hamas’s detractors in Gaza claimed the tunnels served as an escape hatch for some senior Hamas officials during the war, aerial bombardment of the Rafah border severely damaged the network, resulting in a temporary suspension of commercial traffic. Meanwhile, the land, air, and sea blockade remained fully in force.

As part of the internationally brokered ceasefire, Israel secured U.S. agreement to act against the smuggling routes supplying Gaza. The agreement was reinforced weeks later at a gathering in Copenhagen on 5 February 2009 of officials from the United States and several European countries focused on international naval patrols in the Red Sea and aerial surveillance of Sudan. Separately, Egypt committed to build (under U.S. military supervision) a twenty-five-meter deep underground steel barrier along its border with Gaza aimed at blocking the tunnels within a year. By the end of 2010, it claimed to have sabotaged some six hundred tunnels by various means, including plugging entrances with solid waste, sand, or explosives, and flooding passages with sewage. Use of tear gas and other crowd-control techniques inside the tunnels resulted in several deaths. “The war marked a turning point in how Egypt’s security dealt with us,” remarked one tunnel operator. “In the past, they would look the other way when a lorry stopped to unload at a tunnel mouth, but since May 2009 they . . . raid the homes, sheds, farms, and shops of our Sinai suppliers.”

That said, Egypt’s countermeasures never quite matched its policy statements. From the first, Egypt cited logistical problems such as difficulties hammering steel plates more than four meters deep in stony ground. Tunnel operators cut through completed segments with blow torches, nullifying the multimillion dollar project for the cost of a few thousand dollars. Reluctance to forgo the bribes accruing from smuggling further compromised official resolve. Egyptian security forces often targeted the shallowest and most easily detected tunnels, leaving the more developed and profitable ones untouched. Tellingly, construction slowed where tunnel activity was most concentrated. Hamas’s success in mounting a solidarity network to condemn the Mubarak regime for enforcing the siege further eroded Egypt’s political will. Frustrated, the U.S. Congress suspended technical support for the underground steel barrier in mid-2011.

Motivated by family and clan unification, as well as economic benefits, Bedouin and Palestinians on Egypt’s side of the border also resisted Egypt’s security measures. “We’re Palestinians working for the sake of Palestine,” said a tunnel laborer in Egyptian Rafah. To foil Egyptian security, Bedouin operators sometimes tapped into well-armed clan defense committees versed in Sinai’s topography from centuries of roaming. There were sporadic reports of clashes between Bedouin irregulars and Egyptian forces seizing contraband.

TUNNEL EXPANSION AND POSTWAR RECONSTRUCTION

Meanwhile, the ceasefire at the end of Operation Cast Lead enabled Hamas to undertake repairs on the partially destroyed tunnels and to oversee a major overhaul of the complex, even reducing taxes to stimulate the work. Fear of Egyptian detection prompted operators to extend their tunnels to a length of one and a half kilometers and to deepen them to up to forty meters below ground. Operators reinforced tunnels first with wooden planks, then cement blocks and metal to allow sufficient widening for raw materials to pass through without risking tunnel collapse. Rope ladders flung down the shafts were replaced by electric elevators, while the four-meter-long sledges (shahata) pulled by winches were replaced by carts running on rails, much as in coal mines.

Within two years, capacity had increased tenfold. By late 2010, large commercial tunnels were estimated to be shifting up to 170 metric tons of raw materials each per day. The number of tunnels transporting livestock rose from three in 2008 to at least thirty in mid-2010. There was also less loss and damage, since the longer tunnels were harder for Egypt’s security to find, and conditions inside the tunnels had substantially improved. Economies of scale and diversified sources of supply lowered costs. By the summer of 2011, 60 percent of traders reported that prices had fallen to equal or below the presiege level for goods from Israel. For example, a liter of fuel (initially sold in sand-riddled plastic soda bottles) cost four times more than in Israel in 2008; by 2009 fuel (pumped through three-quarter-inch pipes at a rate of 20,000 liters/hour) sold at a quarter of Israel’s price. By mid-2011, prices for Turkish cement (Gazans snub Egypt’s lower-quality products) had plummeted from $1,500/ton at the height of the closures in mid-2008 to the presiege price of $100. The cost of shipping a fifty-kilogram sack of goods fell from $50 to $5. “There are at least 1,500 underground tunnels now,” said an owner. “Most are bigger and better than ever before, and all of them are open for business. The result is more competition, more price wars, and less work for everyone.”

Demand grew as capacity improved and prices fell to within a range average Gazans could afford. Between 2008 and 2010, traders of household goods reported a 60 percent rise in their import of goods via the tunnels. By mid-2010, Gaza’s retailers reported that shortages resulting from Israeli restrictions had been reduced “to a reasonable extent or more.” Wholesalers rapidly replenished their empty warehouses. By mid-2009, cars—hitherto cut into three and welded together in Gaza—were arriving whole, first dragged through the tunnels by bulldozers and then driven through expanded tunnels. To satisfy demand, tunnel operators tapped into contraband, particularly of cars, arriving from Libya after Qaddafi’s retreat from Cyrenaica left his arms depots and ports open for looting.

Expansion also facilitated the import of inputs and raw materials, precipitating what has been perhaps the tunnels’ greatest achievement: kick-starting Gaza’s postwar reconstruction while donors remained on the sidelines. While world leaders promised billions at showcase conferences in Sharm al-Sheikh’s luxury hotels but failed to persuade Israel to lift its ban on construction materials, the tunnels enabled Gazans to rebuild their enclave themselves. In the immediate aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, while operators were still repairing their tunnels, Gazans made their own gravel by pummeling war wreckage. The two most visible symbols of Israel’s short-lived cooperation with the Palestinians post-Oslo—the shell-shattered Erez industrial park on Gaza’s northern border, and the destroyed European Union–funded airport in the south—were reduced to sandpits. Once the tunnels were upgraded, operators began moving heavy materials. By mid-2011, three thousand tons of gravel, five hundred tons of steel rods, and three thousand tons of cement were arriving daily.

Gaza morphed into a construction site. Roadsides were piled high with building materials from Egypt. According to the World Bank, construction starts in the first half of 2011 grew by 220 percent. UN Habitat estimated that, based on the materials allowed in by Israel, it would take eighty years to rebuild the six thousand housing units destroyed in Operation Cast Lead and accomodate the growth in population over five years of closure; tunnel flows reduced that lagtime to a more manageable five. Indeed so rapid was the pace of construction that by mid-2012 real-estate agents reported that they were struggling to locate prospective buyers for the new apartments.

It was not only Gaza’s housing stock that began to recover. Farmers resorted to tunnel imports to circumvent Israel’s ban on seeds, pesticides, irrigation pipes, and basic agricultural tools such as hoes and buckets. The increased affordability of inputs helped factories resume operations: Hamas officials claimed that by October 2011, half the fourteen hundred factories destroyed during Operation Cast Lead were back in production. A food-processing plant resumed operations after items banned by Israel—including preservatives, plastic wrapping and packaging made in Egypt, and spare parts—arrived from Switzerland via tunnel.

All told, the tunnel expansion precipitated a recovery that rapidly reversed much of Gaza’s earlier decline. From 2005 to 2009, Gaza’s per capita GDP contracted by 39 percent in real terms, with the tunnels providing at best limited relief. After Operation Cast Lead, the tunnels facilitated what a September 2011 World Bank report described as “exceptionally high growth,” notching 28 percent in the first half of 2011. Unemployment dropped from 45 percent before Operation Cast Lead to 32 percent by mid-2011. Rafah’s markets bristled with shoppers and café-goers late into the night, its backstreet ATMs distributing $100 bills.

THE LIMITS AND LIMITATIONS OF THE TUNNEL-DRIVEN RECOVERY

Even as the World Bank was touting Gaza’s exceptional growth, however, the structural flaws impeding Gaza’s full-fledged reconstruction persisted. With few exports capable of generating sustainable growth, Gaza’s consumption was capped. By 2010, the markets were saturated, with improved supply lines outstripping demand, while wages fell sharply, not least due to increased use of cheaper Egyptian labor. Intense competition pushed tunnel earnings and prices down even faster. With supply already exceeding demand, Israel’s June 2010 decision to lift its ban on the import of commercial goods (following the international outcry over the Mavi Marmara aid-flotilla incident) triggered a market glut. Retailers hitherto limited to imports via the tunnels revived their former ties with Israeli counterparts.

By the end of 2010, operations at over half of Gaza’s eleven hundred tunnels had reportedly been suspended. Those that survived launched efficiency drives, reducing operating hours and cutting labor so as to remain commercially viable. Increasingly, tunnel activity narrowed to goods that were competitive because Israel either heavily taxed alternatives, such as fuel, or banned them. The latter included most raw materials, all items defined as “dual use” (e.g., construction materials, machinery, chemicals, and spare parts), and almost all export goods. “Israel’s blacklist is the smugglers’ green list,” commented a prominent Gaza businessman who imports Egyptian cacti for his nursery through the tunnels.

By spring 2012, signs that the economy had reached the ceiling achievable through the tunnel conduits were increasingly visible. According to figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics for the first quarter of 2012, unemployment had begun to climb, and the previous high rates of growth had fallen back sharply. Despite Egypt’s acquiescence to increased passage through the Rafah terminal, most of Gaza’s 240,000 refugee youth have never left the enclave, and 51 percent of them remain unemployed. Continued restrictions by the Egyptian authorities on the entry of tanker trucks bound for Gaza into the Sinai Peninsula left the enclave in darkness for much of the night. Israeli warships cruise on the horizon, a visible reminder of the three-mile limit Israel has imposed on Gaza’s seas. The claustrophobic feeling of being trapped by land, air, and sea has not disappeared.

Initially in the wake of Mubarak’s ouster, the tunnel economy enjoyed a boom. As the internal-security apparatus took flight, Egypt’s remaining impediments disappeared. Tunnel mouths placed deep inside Egyptian territory resurfaced close to the border, in the process taking an obvious toll on Egyptian Rafah’s housing stock, where gaping cracks appeared even in recent construction. Construction on the underground steel barrier was formally halted. Tunnel owners reported next to no impounding of materials, only token destruction of tunnel mouths, and a marked decrease in demands for bribes. Many Egyptian operators who had been sentenced in absentia and who had paid hefty bribes to avoid arrest were granted amnesty. Heightened domestic opposition in Egypt to the ongoing Gaza blockade and increased activity by Bedouin armed groups offered tunnel traffickers additional protection.

In deference to Cairo, Hamas had from the start banned the use of commercial tunnels for passenger traffic, but reversed this policy after the Mubarak regime fell. Meanwhile, the new Egyptian authorities, with much fanfare, eased the restrictions on passage through the Rafah terminal. However, with restrictions still in place, the tunnels offered a viable fast track that circumvented much of the red tape of the overland crossing. To regulate passenger traffic, the TAC introduced a system of prior coordination that took two days rather than the two months required for applications to cross via the Rafah terminal. Moreover, while the Rafah crossing closed at 5:00 P.M. (later extended to 8:00 P.M.), the tunnels operated around the clock. Male applicants ages 15–40, some 35 percent of whom were generally barred entry to Egypt on security grounds, benefited in particular, but all kinds of travelers, from Pakistani academics and Palestinian workers fleeing Libya to families on holiday, used the tunnel. Costs for the two-hundred-yard crossing, which previously reached hundreds of dollars, fell to NIS 100 ($30).

Relaxed controls also served to alleviate the ban on exports, the other grueling aspect of the siege. These included scrap metal (smelted in Sinai and reimported as steel rods for construction and possibly also military use), dapple racing horses (which all but disappeared from Gaza due to high Egyptian demand), ammunition (which spiked in demand during Egypt’s 2011 revolution), and surplus produce—watermelons, apples, and eggs—resulting from Gaza’s drive for food self-sufficiency. That said, Egypt’s lower labor costs and purchasing power rendered most Gaza produce uncompetitive, and Gaza’s manufacturing base, traditionally geared to the Israeli and West Bank markets, was slow to adapt to Egyptian needs. Egypt-bound traffic comprised mainly reexports of goods from Israel for which there was Egyptian demand, including heavily taxed items such as shoes, hair gel, and mobile phones.

Yet ironically, Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011 could yet spell the collapse of the tunnel economy. Led by Hamas leaders, Gazans look to Egypt’s new Islamist leadership to dismantle the siege structures and open the crossing to overland goods traffic. Certainly, initial euphoria at the prospect of a new laissez-faire era in Egyptian-Gaza relations dimmed as Egypt’s ruling military council, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), consolidated its hold. In a sign of renewed leverage over Gaza, and reflecting a desire to cut their subsidy bill, the Egyptian authorities blocked tanker trucks en route to Gaza hauling heavily subsidized Egyptian gasoline. Although some fuel continued to trickle through the tunnels, the enclave again experienced outages of up to eighteen hours per day, as in the harshest days of the siege. The shortages not only rendered life uncomfortable, they deprived it of the dynamo to power more reconstruction. Inside Gaza, the Hamas government faced widespread charges of hubris for wildly overestimating the early benefits accruing from the Arab awakening. With Gaza’s fate increasingly intertwined with Egypt’s, the dominance of the military government, along with the Muslim Brotherhood’s focus on domestic affairs, cast a pall over the prospects for Gaza’s trade ties with Egypt.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Five years of Hamas rule over Gaza and sponsorship of the tunnel trade brought changes to the Strip whose impact could be felt at a popular level. Public infrastructure—including the parliament and other government buildings, police stations, and mosques—had been leveled or severely damaged in Israel’s Operation Cast Lead bombardment. The Hamas government, armed with the proceeds from import taxes and an expanded tunnel infrastructure capable of transporting heavy goods and machinery, repaired and upgraded infrastructure. Hamas also widened the Salah al-Din Road (the Rafah-Gaza City highway) to accommodate increased traffic from the south, and, in Gaza City itself, began beautifying prominent landmarks, sodding sandy areas, dredging the port, installing traffic lights, and rebuilding its coastal riviera to the south, which officials claimed would one day rival Tel Aviv’s.

In an economy blighted by unemployment resulting from Israel’s ban on Gazan workers, the bombardment of its manufacturing base, and the closure of export markets (above and beyond a significant slowdown in donor-funded development projects), the tunnels emerged as Gaza’s largest nongovernmental employer. The tunnel industry attracted construction workers once employed in Israel from across the Gaza Strip. For a time, tunnel workers were the best paid in Gaza: in 2008, the average daily wage was $75, five times Gaza’s median wage according to official Palestinian figures, and more than West Bank Palestinians earned building Israel’s Jewish settlements. The tunnel trade was also the largest overall employer of youth. School dropouts scrounging NIS 20/day as street peddlers earned ten times that much in the tunnels. Although market saturation and recourse to Egyptian labor later depressed daily wages to more like NIS 80, even this was quadruple a farmhand’s wage. With each fully functioning tunnel employing twenty to thirty people, by 2010 the tunnel industry was estimated to employ some five thousand tunnel owners and twenty-five thousand workers, supporting about one hundred and fifty thousand dependents, or 10 percent of Gaza’s population.

Such was the turnaround in the local economy that Gaza City had a surfeit of new hotels, restaurants, and beach cafés, which attracted not only the new moneyed elite the tunnels had fostered but also exiles returning to the Strip (sometimes via tunnels), and even visitors from northern Sinai. Gaza’s new luxury hotel, al-Mashtal, optimistically bought cocktail glasses, while visiting businessmen from the West Bank complained that the latest-model sports cars and Hummers could be seen on Gaza’s streets long before they surfaced in Ramallah. Real-estate brokers said the multiplier effect of the increased spending power spurred a threefold increase in real-estate prices.

That said, Gaza’s macroeconomic growth figures disguised wide disparities in the distribution of the new wealth. In geographical terms, prosperity followed the new employment opportunities: the north languished, while the south boomed. Bayt Hanun, once Gaza’s gateway to Israel, sank into depression, while Rafah, hitherto the enclave’s most depressed city, boomed. Unemployment in Rafah fell from about 50 percent on the eve of the Hamas takeover to 20 percent by December 2008. Trade experienced similar shifts. As established trading routes via the Israeli port of Ashdod waned, Gaza’s commercial ties with Egypt revived after a forty-year hiatus. Gaza’s traditional mercantile elite, which had developed ties with Israeli and Western European suppliers, found its status and influence in Gaza increasingly sapped by a new generation of smugglers tapping into ancient informal trade routes that extended southward into Sudan, and who quickly diversified their supply sources to include Egyptian, Chinese, and Turkish suppliers. And while yesterday’s commercial elite excelled in foreign languages acquired through travel and education, the new bourgeoisie of smugglers was less educated but had the benefit of cross-border clan connections and the backing of Gaza’s Islamist rulers. Thus, the tunnels became a key driver of upward mobility and social change, empowering previously marginalized groups and spawning a class of nouveaux riches.

Further encroaching on traditional business elites, tunnel owners used their financial clout to diversify upstream into retail, developing their own networks of agents to increase their market hold. Spared the cost of tunnel fees and privy to market information gained from hauling goods, they undercut retail prices, prioritized their own goods over wholesaler deliveries, and even distributed their own catalogues direct to consumers. On occasion they flooded the market to suppress prices and push wholesalers to the point of collapse. “No matter what we do, we cannot compete with the tunnel owners. They have decreased our income by 70 percent at least,” complained Ala’ Abu Halima, a long-standing Gaza merchant specializing in agricultural inputs.

Western-backed NGOs and the United Nations, whose required funding criteria barred them from purchasing smuggled goods and therefore stymied their reconstruction efforts, vociferously campaigned to end Israel’s siege. UN officials noted the paradox whereby U.S.-led financial restrictions, which prohibited the United Nations from accessing tunnel supplies, gave their supposed target, Hamas, a distinct advantage. Refugee families turned increasingly to Hamas rather than depend on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the organization charged with sheltering them (and three-quarters of the Strip’s population). UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry, fearing that the international community was hemorrhaging influence, complained in a May 2010 briefing to the Security Council that “the flourishing illegitimate tunnel trade permits smugglers and militants to control commerce,” while “international agencies and local contractors who wish to procure goods entering through legitimate crossings too often stand idle due to the Israeli closure.” Even following Israel’s declared relaxation on the import of construction materials for international projects in Gaza beginning in early 2011, the mandatory submission of all projects for Israeli approval has resulted in a process UN officials describe as “slow, cumbersome and costly”—and often uncompetitive vis-à-vis contractors supplied with goods from the tunnels.

The Bedouin population near the Egypt-Gaza border also profited greatly from tunnel commerce, especially the main clans: the Sawarka, Ramailat, and Tarabin. Proceeds from the tunnels were used not only to erect mansions but also to arm Bedouin defense committees. “A decade ago, my whole clan had three cars. Nowadays each household does,” says a Bedouin trader in Rafah. Families and clans separated for years by the border socialized in Gaza’s new restaurants. In a sign of the growing social and economic interaction between Gaza and Sinai, some Palestinian businessmen laundered their tunnel profits by investing in property in and around El-Arish, prompting a spike in land prices. Allegations abound that Gazans were seeking to export not only their earnings but also their arsenals to Sinai for safekeeping. At the same time, disparities between the economic prospects of Sinai’s clans bordering Gaza and those bordering Israel mounted, heightening friction between them. Israel’s construction of a 240-kilometer wall along its border aimed at severing smuggling routes to Israel only heightened the tensions. The rapid decline of Sinai’s formal economy of tourism along the Red Sea plummeted, fueling animosities which on occasion turned violent. Adding to the instability, some Bedouin, reined in by Hamas in Gaza, crossed via tunnel to pursue their blood feuds in Sinai.

HAMAS AND THE TUNNELS

The underground lifeline for Gaza’s population was no less a salvation for the Hamas government, which struggled to survive efforts by multiple foes to engineer its collapse or stoke social unrest by means of a siege. Over time, the tunnels enabled Hamas to consolidate its hold on the Strip and to circumvent U.S.-led international financial restrictions. According to banking sources, the TAC raised $150–$200 million in revenues in 2009, a figure that continued to climb in 2010 as the tunnel traffic grew, but then tapered off after Israel relaxed its closure and Egypt restricted fuel bound for Gaza. As a result, Hamas became increasingly immune to the financial leverage both of the international community and—significantly—its own Damascus-based leadership.

As noted above, the government increasingly consolidated its hold on revenues over time. Following the 2007 takeover of the Strip, the Interior Ministry reasserted Hamas government control over the commercial tunnels in place of the IQB. From then on, the ministry not only regulated the tunnels but also took charge of collecting the tunnel revenues, depositing them directly into its own account to cover its budgetary expenditures. While any excess funds were transferred to the central government, other ministers grumbled that the Interior Ministry’s prior claim on tax receipts was less than satisfactory.

In 2011 the government, with support from the Hamas movement and the Palestinian Legislative Council, reached an agreement whereby the ministry would deposit all receipts into a single treasury account but would be given priority in disbursements. With the situation thus regularized, National Economy Minister ?Ala’ Rif?ati was able, soon after his appointment in 2011, to post two hundred customs and excise officers to the tunnel enclave alongside Interior Ministry employees to enforce levies.

Through its growing tax base, Hamas increased its economic independence from Israel and the PA, although the latter continued to make salary payments to the some seventy thousand employees on its payroll. Hamas even made some progress delivering on its 2006 campaign promise to free Gaza from Oslo’s 1994 Paris Protocol, which gave Israel virtually full control over the Palestinian economy. The development of direct trade ties with Egypt also enhanced Hamas’s ideological vision of fostering ties with the Islamic world and downgrading relations with Israel. According to a Hamas official, “The siege is a blessing in disguise. It is weaning us off of Israel and sixty years of aid, and helping us to help ourselves.”

Armed with resources to govern from the tunnel proceeds, Hamas transformed itself from a nonstate actor with a social and charitable network, underground movement, and guerrilla force into a governing authority with a well-equipped internal security force, bureaucracy, and economy. The commercial tunnels and the Sinai population’s growing economic dependence on trade with Gaza gave Hamas the soft power to project its influence into the Sinai Peninsula, even as the factional tunnels enabled its military wing to augment this “soft” influence by exercising its own leverage there. Overall, the eclipse (at least temporarily) of Egypt’s internal security force in the peninsula and the simultaneous increase in Gaza’s military capabilities—combined with Gaza’s economic, social, and cultural pull—led observers close to Hamas to describe the movement as gaining strategic depth inside Egypt’s periphery. If indeed the enclave emerges as a regional center of gravity, all parties hoping to establish stability in the Sinai will have to take it into account.

That said, the tunnel economy has also tarnished Hamas’s reputation for transparency, accountability, and financial propriety. “This is not the old style radical movement,” notes a Gaza economist; “Hamas has acquired a business venture.” The Hamas authorities were widely criticized from the outset for making tunnel licenses conditional on appointing its members to the boards of tunnel cooperatives, often on preferential terms. The government’s decision to wash its hands of the pyramid scheme for tunnel investment mentioned earlier, which had been endorsed by prominent Hamas preachers and had left numerous investors bereft of their savings, marked the first major dent in its domestic credibility. Thereafter, Islamist and secular opponents alike adopted the discourse of corruption that Hamas had hitherto used to undermine Fatah. Some elements of the IQB, meanwhile, acquired a reputation for profiteering much like that associated with Muhammad Dahlan’s Preventative Security Forces that preceded them, dispensing with the resistance activities that were once their hallmark. Several prominent officials, including Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum, come from families with strong ties to the tunnel economy and were viewed as protecting their tunnel holdings. A Salafi jihadi from Gaza’s Middle Areas expressed it thus:

Before entering government, Hamas acolytes focused on religious sermons and memorizing Qur’an. Now they are most interested in money, tunnel business and fraud. Hamas used to talk about paradise, but now they think about buying land, cars and apartments. After the evening prayers, they would go to study, now the Imam looks at ways to make money. Before they prayed in the mosque, now they pray at home.

Hamas’s lack of transparency about its use of its tunnel earnings compounds suspicions. While Hamas officials say local revenues comprise half the government’s $750 million annual budget for 2011, local businessmen calculate the earnings to be considerably higher, raising questions about where the funds go and why there are repeated shortfalls in monthly civil-service salary payments. Calls for accountability have mounted as the Haniyeh government has increased the tax burden. (National Economy Minister ?Ala’ Rif?ati, who upon taking office called for Gaza’s withdrawal from the Paris Protocol to spare the population Israeli-level tariffs, four months later declared his intention to raise tariffs in line with Paris Protocol rates.)

A similarly cavalier approach to child labor and tunnel fatalities damaged the movement’s standing with human-rights groups, despite government assurances dating back to 2008 that it was considering curbs. During a police patrol that the author was permitted to accompany in December 2011, nothing was done to impede the use of children in the tunnels, where, much as in Victorian coal mines, they are prized for their nimble bodies. At least 160 children have been killed in the tunnels, according to Hamas officials. Safety controls on imports appear similarly lax, although the TAC insists that a sixteen-man contingent carries out sporadic spot-checks.

All told, the tunnels have been a mixed bag for Hamas. While its detractors praise—albeit begrudgingly—its success in reducing the impact of Israel’s stranglehold, perceptions of corruption inside the organization have intensified. During the renewed fuel shortages of spring 2012, there were widespread allegations that Hamas leaders received uninterrupted electricity and that gasoline stations continued to operate for the exclusive use of Hamas members. True or not, they fed a growing mood of recrimination that Hamas had profited from the siege.

FUTURE PROSPECTS

While the tunnels have spared Gaza’s economy from collapse and made possible some reconstruction, concerns that their utility might have peaked are rife. Despite the construction boom, the tunnels have not equipped Gaza with the tools required to rebuild and sustain a productive society. The manufacturing base remains hobbled by the ongoing ban on exports. Once its housing stock is restored, Gazans ask, what then? Where will the workers go? Tunnels were always a remedial answer to the blockade, not an economic solution. The high costs of food and other aid, ultimately borne by international donors and passed on to their taxpayers, can only be avoided when the border opens to normal commercial trade for both imports and exports.

To date, Gaza’s mercantile elite and foreign donors have looked to intra-Palestinian reconciliation and the reestablishment of PA control inside Gaza to end Israel’s five-year blockade. But even in the most favorable of circumstances, it is hard to see how trade and labor markets can return to their pre-2000 highs. Despite significant improvement following Operation Cast Lead, truckload entries in February 2012 represented less than half the average 2005 monthly entry of 10,400 trucks. Moreover, even if Israel fully opened its crossings, tunnel operators might continue to enjoy some inbuilt advantages over formal trade, including the ability to smuggle subsidized Egyptian produce and the absence of red tape. As long as Gaza is vulnerable to the vagaries of Israel’s use of economic tools to cajole Gaza’s rulers, the tunnels will likely remain a strategically important safety valve and back door.

For its part, Hamas continues to look southward to Egypt. Its hopes of capitalizing on the rise of its parent and sister movements in North Africa have so far failed to materialize. Travel to and trade with Egypt are certainly easier, but with goods still transported underground, the enclave remains psychologically and physically under siege. Despite the election of a senior Muslim Brotherhood official as the new Egyptian president, Egypt’s military apparatus retains, at least for now, control over the country’s security and borders. High-level intelligence officers continue to view Gaza’s Islamist leaders as a threat to national security and have used restrictions on the entry of goods—particularly fuel—into Sinai in an attempt to bring them to heel. How the power struggle between President Muhammad al-Mursi and the SCAF plays out will be critical to determining the extent to which Egypt and Gaza can normalize their political and trade relations and end Gaza’s state of siege. While Mursi’s election was greeted ecstatically by Hamas’s rank-and-file, a sober realism and even hint of frustration at the tweaks to existing Egyptian policy rather than an overhaul continues to mark the statements of some Hamas officials.

That said, there are pointers that keep the hope of a sea change in ties with Egypt and the broader region alive. In February 2012, North Sinai’s Chamber of Commerce was the first official trade delegation to visit Gaza since the Hamas takeover in 2007. Others have followed, holding out the prospect that trade already legalized in Gaza could become so in Egypt as well. Ironically, any attempt to legalize trade above ground would likely result in both governments rendering the tunnels illegal and taking steps to terminate smuggling. Both governments have already discussed bringing the underground economy to the surface, opening the Rafah terminal to trade, and opening a free-trade zone straddling the Egypt-Gaza border. Gazan businessmen, together with counterparts from Ismailia’s Chamber of Commerce, have since formed the Egypt-Palestine Company, aimed at establishing a 1,000 dunam free-trade zone. Egyptian officials suggest that the resulting trade could reach $2 billion annually, more than doubling current bilateral trade and surpassing the country’s U.S. military aid. In an attempt to show a cooperative spirit, Hamas returned five stolen cars to Egypt and pledged to stop (temporarily) the unlicensed import of cars.

Though small and reversible, such steps have kept alive a vision of Gaza’s exit from its pariah status and integration into the region’s emerging new order. In February 2012, Hamas announced agreements in principle with Egypt’s petroleum and energy ministries to link Gaza to Egypt’s electricity grid and gas pipelines, with the assistance of a $70 million loan from the Islamic Development Bank. Though subsequently overturned by SCAF, these agreements offer a pointer of how relations could evolve. Hamas ministers have drawn up plans to link Gaza to the region’s labor and export markets as well as its transport system. “Within two years, you’ll be able to take the bus all the way from Gaza to Morocco,” predicts Hamas Agriculture Minister Mahmud al-Agha. Others speak of reviving the old railway that ran from Cairo through Gaza. Ismail Haniyeh’s recent audience with President Mursi resulted in what Palestinians said were a series of Egyptian commitments to increase passenger traffic through Rafah and fuel supplies.

Winding down the tunnel trade could provoke clashes with key vested interests both within the movement and without, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula. The tunnels have fostered common interests between Sinai’s Bedouin traders, transporters, and tunnel owners and Gaza’s consumers, which will not be easily decoupled. But the benefits of winding down would be considerable. Stemming smuggling would strengthen Hamas’s preelectoral claims to promote good governance and counter corruption, and possibly would revive tourism. Indeed, Gaza’s rulers have committed to closing the tunnels in the event Egypt’s opens its border for formal overland trade. For Egypt, too, there would be benefits in overland trade, for the tunnels, a key component of the country’s black economy, have been a driver of corruption of state officials, encouraged the proliferation of weapons, and strengthened Sinai’s centrifugal forces. In short, while the tunnels have served as the homemade driver of Gaza’s reconnection to the region, the final realization of this goal can best be served by their demise.

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Nicolas Pelham is a writer on Arab affairs for The Economist and the New York Review of Books. He is the author of A New Muslim Order (London: I. B. Tauris, 2008) and coauthor of A History of the Middle East (London: Penguin, 2004), and has reported on Gaza extensively over the past six years.

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12 commentaires pour Gaza: Le Hamas transforme les écoles en de potentielles cibles militaires et met en danger la vie d’enfants innocents (Props to point cameras at: Our form of news-gathering has taught Hamas to turn their children into those props and to sacrifice them on the altar of Jihad)

  1. […] qu’après les quelque 500 manifestations pour défendre les tueurs d’enfants du Hamas de l’été et la massive manifestation d’au moins 300 personnes à la sortie de la […]

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