The problem in Gaza is Hamas, not how to provide aid

As long as the terrorist group is still armed all talk about humanitarian concerns there is essentially a diversion.

By Johnathan S. Tobin, JNS

After months of pressure from left-wing critics and liberal media outlets that seem to only highlight the suffering of Palestinians since Hamas started a war on Oct. 7, President Joe Biden felt he had to respond with something big.

What he needed was a gesture that would be a tangible demonstration of his sympathy for Gaza civilians, as well as a scheme that would allegedly provide aid to them without helping the terrorists.

What he came up with was a plan to build a floating port for the Strip from which food and other supplies would flow to alleviate the shortages that have produced a steady stream of appalling images and heart-rending stories about conditions there.

The main question to be asked about the port is not whether it will be enough to facilitate the aid needed in Gaza.

Nor is it the problem posed by Biden’s pledge that not a single American boot will be on the ground in Gaza, which he is highly unlikely to be able to keep.

Similarly, the as yet unanswered questions about how the food, fuel or other supplies brought in by the American contraption will actually reach needy Palestinians without being stolen by Hamas are also secondary concerns.

That’s because, despite the international community’s obsessive focus on shortages in the Strip, the real problem there isn’t about aid or its distribution or the conditions faced by Palestinians.

The issue in Gaza is Hamas itself.

As long as the terrorist group is still armed and in charge of any part of the coastal enclave—and still able to use parts of the tunnel system it built with international aid intended to help ordinary Palestinians—all talk about humanitarian concerns there is essentially a diversion.

Why the Palestinians suffer

The only reason residents in Gaza continue to suffer is precisely because the international community, the media and the U.S. government have been persuaded to treat the impact on Palestinians of the war that began on Oct. 7 war as more important than its cause or the only way it will truly end: by Hamas’s complete defeat.

War, as it has always been, is hell. Innocent people always suffer when governments and/or terrorist groups that operate as governments—like Hamas, which ruled Gaza as an independent Palestinian state in all but name since 2007—start them. And the only way the pain can be ended is by ending the war.

Read  Hamas murders aid workers, steals Gazans' food: PA report

It’s true that many of the same people clamoring for more aid for Gaza—and decrying Israel’s alleged cruelty in prosecuting the war against Hamas in such a manner as to make that assistance more difficult to obtain—do have ideas about ending the fighting.

They support Hamas’s demands for an immediate and permanent ceasefire that will more or less return to the status quo on Oct. 6, when the Islamists ran the Strip with an iron fist.

Israel’s refusal to go along with that absurd situation is treated by its critics as proof of its malevolent intentions.

But any ceasefire that would put an end to the fighting would essentially reward Hamas for carrying out the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust in its assaults on Jewish communities in southern Israel.

And it would make the repeat of that spree of murder, rape, torture and kidnapping a virtual certainty; Hamas has said as much.

The war aim of the Jewish state—supported at least in principle by the United States until Biden issued a “red line” warning demanding that the Israel Defense Forces from entering Hamas’s last enclaves in Rafah—is the complete defeat of Hamas.

And it is a reminder that all the suffering in Gaza and the casualties on both sides, no matter how many there actually have been, is the fault of Hamas and Hamas alone.

It started the war with cross-border attacks and unspeakable atrocities.

And by not releasing the men, women and children it took as hostages and dragged back into Gaza—carrying on with the war despite the hopelessness of its military situation and continuing to hide behind civilians, even if most of them probably support Hamas—it must accept the responsibility for the inevitable consequences.

Hamas still thinks it can win

But the problem isn’t just their intransigence.

It’s the fact that they are counting on the images of Palestinian anguish, which they caused, bailing them out.

They see the focus of the international community and the United States on the aid question, rather than on demanding that Hamas end its futile resistance as the key to victory.

This goes beyond the unfair criticism of Israel’s military tactics, which far from being genocidal are actually more humane than that of any army in modern history.

By acting as if the priority of the moment is to push aid into Gaza, regardless of the fact that most of it is being stolen by Hamas and kept for the use of its cadres, they are prolonging the war and increasing rather than alleviating the pain of Palestinians.

Read  Hamas offers 5-year ceasefire in exchange for Palestinian statehood

And the same will be true of the port scheme.

The idea for the port is complicated and will require a massive effort from both the U.S. Army and Navy.

The conceit of the concept is that U.S. forces will build the floating platform offshore, as well as a causeway that will connect it to the land over which trucks will transport the humanitarian aid.

Once ashore, the vehicles will be inspected by unspecified personnel and then allowed to make their way to Palestinians.

Reportedly, Israelis will inspect the items heading to Gaza in Cyprus to ensure that nothing will directly help Hamas’s war effort.

But there is no plan that can guarantee that any food, fuel or anything else needed by Palestinians won’t eventually be taken by Hamas’s forces inside the Strip.

Which is to say that even after all the elaborate logistical planning of this engineering marvel, the supplies it brings to the region may not help anyone but those who have always gained from the world’s generosity: the terrorists themselves.

Creating new problems

Even if that were not an obvious flaw in this proposal, the mere act of involving American personnel in Gaza operations opens up the possibility of attacks on them, whether they remain offshore or, as is most likely, Biden’s pledge is not kept.

Will an administration that left Afghanistan in a disgraceful rout that involved the deaths of Americans and the betrayal of our allies, as well as the handing over of immense stores of military material and infrastructure to the Taliban, be willing to stand its ground in the face of Hamas attacks?

Or will it run away as it did elsewhere, further diminishing U.S. prestige and influence?

And what is the future of the floating port? Will it become the start of a permanent facility that will provide Gaza with an outlet to the sea that will facilitate not just the flow of humanitarian aid but an easier way for Palestinians to import weapons and materials needed to rebuild their military infrastructure?

The history of the last two decades in Gaza should have made the international community far more cautious about easing the isolation of Gaza.

While the creation of a port could contribute to solving a short-term crisis of food distribution, it could also exacerbate a long-term problem by essentially breaking any future blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt that was aimed at making it harder for the terrorists to regroup.

It’s true that the blockade failed to stop Hamas from arming itself to the teeth and building the equivalent of the New York subway system underneath Gaza.

It uses its tunnels for a command-and-control structure where it stores rockets, arms and other supplies.

The underground system also shelters terrorists and is being used to imprison Israeli hostages.

And it did it by diverting the billions that Europeans and Americans sent to Gaza intended to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians before the start of the current war.

A Trojan Horse

Unless Hamas is eradicated and Israel is in complete charge of all of Gaza, there would be no way to stop the port from solving Hamas’s future supply problems.

There’s nothing in the port plan—other than trusting in Biden’s judgment or that of a successor if he is not re-elected—that would prevent it from making Gaza more of a threat to the region than it was on Oct. 6.

Rather than being merely a conduit for aid, the port must be viewed as a Trojan Horse that looks like a humanitarian gesture but is certain to provide the perpetrators of the Oct. 7 atrocities with the ability to go on killing and exploiting the Palestinian population.

The administration has succumbed to pressure generated by images in the media and reports of Palestinian starvation that are as likely to be manipulated by a biased press as those of the bogus casualty figures put out by the Hamas Health Ministry.

Biden is worried about defections from his intersectional left-wing base that sympathizes with Hamas.

Yet the president should have said no to involving American forces and resources in a scheme that could boomerang on him and prolong the war he says he wants to end.

The only way to do that is the same as it has been since Oct. 7: helping Israel to complete the defeat of Hamas and the end of its control of any part of Gaza.

Once that happens, the problem of feeding and caring for Palestinians becomes simpler.

It takes a degree of foresight and moral courage not to succumb to pressure from those who refuse to see the connection between Hamas’s continued existence and the troubling images of Palestinians in need.

But instead of speeding up the demise of the terrorist forces, the port plan, coupled with the pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire before the terrorists are finished, will only mean more privation for Palestinians as well as more blood spilled by Hamas.

>