Understanding The Mess In Gaza

Jun 23rd, 2018 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

The Gaza Strip, nestled between Israel and Egypt, is a mess.  Recent events have demonstrated the intractable nature of this small strip of land.  The Palestinians who live there are in poverty, with high unemployment and constant shortages of food, power and almost everything else.  A snaking metal fence that divides the Gaza Strip from Israel has become the focal point of a conflict that stretches back to 1948.  In May over 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli Defense Forces and hundreds more were wounded.  Hamas, which rules Gaza, has been organizing a “March of Return” to reclaim the land lost in 1948.  Several thoughts:

  • First, a historic overview. In the ancient world, Gaza was a Canaanite area, and became the center of Philistine civilization, which was a persistent thorn in Israel’s flesh until King David neutralized the Philistines.  They remained an issue for Israel well into the divided kingdom period.  The actual boundaries of what we now call the Gaza Strip were established in a 1949 armistice agreement between Israel and Egypt, which ended the war for independence in Israel.  During this war for independence between the Israelis and the Arabs who sought to destroy the new state, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled the land of Israel, some of them fleeing to Gaza.  Egypt occupied Gaza until the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israel captured the Gaza Strip.  In 1994, Israel constructed the first fence to control the Palestinians after the Oslo Accords, which was designed to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and result in the establishment of a Palestinian state.  In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza, emptying all of its settlements and military fortresses.  Nonetheless, Israel controls the northern and eastern borders, with Egypt controlling the southern one.  Israel also controls all the air space and sea entrances to Gaza.  Very little flows into Gaza that is not checked by Israel.  After Israel relinquished control of Gaza, Hamas, a terrorist organization, won the election to govern the Gaza Strip.  Hamas has also remained in conflict with the Palestinian Authority, which governs much of the West Bank.  Because of Hamas, both Egypt and Israel have restricted the movements of both goods and people in and out of Gaza.


  • Second, what is the nature of the fence that separates Israel and the Palestine’s in Gaza? The fence is actually two parallel barriers built by Israel—a formidable one of barbed-wire within Gaza and a 10-foot high metal “smart fence” containing surveillance sensors.  Finally, a restricted buffer zone as wide as 300 yards exists between these two “fences.”  Israel regards anyone who enters this zone as being subject to deadly force.  As reporters Megan Specia and Rick Gladstone summarize, “Israel considers attempts by Palestinian protesters to approach the fence a threat to its sovereignty, and has framed its response to these protests as a lawful defense of the Israeli border.”  Although the Palestinians and the United Nations human rights officials argue that Israel constitutes an occupying power in Gaza, Israel rejects this because it voluntarily surrendered Gaza 13 years ago and permitted them to rule themselves, which resulted in Hamas being elected.  For that reason, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that “I don’t know of any army that would do anything differently if you had to protect your border against people who say, ‘We’re going to destroy you, and we’re going to flood into your country.’”


  • Third, to understand this situation it is critical to remember the nature of the Hamas organization that governs Gaza. The issue for Hamas is not the boundary of 1967; it is the boundary of 1948.  Hamas will simply not accept the existence of the state of Israel.  Its charter reads that “Palestine is a land that was seized by a racist, anti-human and colonial Zionist project” and vows that “the resistance . . . shall continue until liberation is accomplished.”  Max Boot summarizes the nature of this “resistance:”
  1. From 1948-1973, Arab armies tried to destroy Israel through conventional military operations—and failed!
  2. During the 1970s, the Palestine Liberation Organization switched to a strategy of terrorism—and failed!
  3. In 1987 it was the First Intifada—Palestinian youths hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers. This achieved some success in terms of world opinion.
  4. From 2000-2005 was the Second Intifada, which consisted of suicide bombers all over Israel—and it failed! At the end of this Second Intifada, Ariel Sharon ordered the withdrawal of Israel from Gaza, with Hamas subsequently winning the legislative elections; a terrorist state now 40 miles from Tel Aviv.
  5. As Israel established the tight security fences and control around Gaza, Hamas built tunnels to smuggle missiles and other weapons from Egypt. Hamas then regularly rocketed Israel, leading Israel to stage three military operations in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014.

As Boot has demonstrated, the people of Gaza “have paid a catastrophic price for this conflict.”  Egypt’s military regime has closed its sole border crossing with Gaza and Israel has closed three of its five crossings.  As a part of the conflict Hamas has with the Palestinian Authority (PA), the PA cut the salaries for some 38,000 civil servants in Gaza along with economic subsidies.  Thus, unemployment in Gaza is about 40% and its economy is basically “collapsing.”  As the Palestinians of Gaza attack the fences between Israel and Gaza, Israel is “caught in a no-win situation:  It can’t allow its border to be overrun—no state can—but if it tries to protect its territory, it runs the high risk of a human tragedy and a public-relations nightmare.”

If Hamas is truly interested in the suffering of its people, it must do what the PA has done—recognize the right of Israel to exist.  For that reason, life on the West Bank is much better for the Palestinians, where the unemployment rate is less than half that of Gaza.  However, if Hamas were to recognize Israel’s right to exist, it would lose its reason for existence.  As Boot observes, “this, ultimately, is why the 1.8 million people of Gaza are consigned to an ‘open-air’ prison.’  Their jailers are in Hamas, not Israel.”

See Megan Specia and Rick Gladstone in the New York Times (17 May 2018) and Max Boot in the Washington Post (16 May 2018).

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One Comment to “Understanding The Mess In Gaza”

  1. Richard Pendell says:

    I recently met up with an Episcopalian missionary who has spent decades church planting in Turkey. She mentioned that many Turkish Christians believe The Antichrist of Revelation will come from Islam. She recommended I read, “The Islamic Antichrist” by Joel Richardson. Reading about the eschatology of Islam is like reading a reverse parallel of Revelation. For example, in Islam, a FALSE Christ will come to defend Israel in the final battle, but the REAL Christ will return to violently exterminate all Christians and Jews because of their apostacy and refusal to embrace Mohammed’s teachings. Their descriptions of the Islamic world ruler residing on the Temple Mount, commanding the destruction of everyone who doesn’t embrace pure Islam sounds very much like the Bible’s description of the Antichrist.
    Whether one can accept all the parallels the author uses to support his thesis, one thing is for certain, Israel as a Jewish nation, along with all its allies, must be completely destroyed in order for Islam to advance. He believes that Erdogan and the Iranian ayatollah are ‘on the exact same page’ in their world wide holy war against all infidels, beginning with all Jews and Christians. Their Islamic Christ will return, they believe, and direct the final victory over Israel, their ultimate goal.
    Our missionary friend said that most of the Turkish people are privately very supportive of their new churches, but they are afraid to attend or in any way be publicly supportive due to the large number of Erdogan’s informants who are anxious to identify anyone supportive of foreign, especially religious, NGO’s. She says she will probably be forced to leave Turkey soon because the risk of being imprisoned there on ‘trumped up’ charges is very high.
    There is really nothing Israel can do now, or in the future, that will create peace with this kind of bedrock hatred. The hatred of them is taught from one generation to the next. It is truly a central life theme of the Palestinians, and Middle Eastern people have very long memories .You get no points for the Judeo-Christian ethic of forgiveness and living at peace with everyone. They would much rather fight to the last man standing. This is core to their Islamic view of the future total world domination.