Dr Rachel Joyce was the PPC for Harrow West at the 2010 General Election. She is a doctor who has worked as both a Director of Public Health and a Medical Director in the NHS, and is currently a clinical adviser to a Clinical Commissioning Group.
What has happened in Gaza in the past few weeks is a tragedy. Civilians caught up in a war not of their making have been injured or have died. Many people have lost their homes. The damage to the infrastructure and economy on Gaza is immense.
However, those who have gone out onto British streets to protest about this, shouting ‘We are all Hamas now’, have missed the point completely. Hamas started this war and Hamas want as many deaths of their own people possible to achieve their own propaganda objectives. Hamas are quite simply the enemy of the ordinary Palestinian.
The naive backing of Hamas as a reaction to Palestinian deaths prolongs the conflict and kicks the chances of peace negotiations further into the long grass. Hamas have clearly stated in their Charter, and with many other pronouncements, that they seek the complete destruction of the state of Israel and the murder of Jews. The reason for the current conflict is quite simply that Hamas refused to stop firing rockets into civilian areas.
Moreover, it is Hamas that has broken every one of the recent ceasefires. Failure to condemn them as the aggressor, the cause of the current conflict and the reason why ceasefires are not kept emboldens them to continue this course of action. Moreover, Israel is less likely to make risky concessions at the negotiating table if they do not believe Hamas will be held to account for their side of any deal.
But it isn’t just the naïve but well-meaning that fail to identify the true nature of Hamas. The media have been manipulated and intimidated by them too. The Foreign Press Association have issued a statement about ‘blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox’ intimidation of journalists in Gaza by Hamas, where ‘foreign reporters working in Gaza have been harassed, threatened or questioned over their stories’, ‘denying readers and viewers an objective picture from the ground’.
You wouldn’t know this from watching BBC or Sky News however. It beggars belief that British news outlets have not made it clear that there are serious restrictions on reporting from Gaza. It also beggars belief that casualty figures are accepted without question from Hamas officials.
Besides prolonging the conflict and putting off a peace process and eventual peace, Hamas have failed the Palestinian people in countless other ways. Hamas leaders live a millionaire lifestyle in Qatar whilst their people suffer the consequences of their aggression. Only recently a former leader was executed, probably because Hamas feared he might implicate some of its leaders in many corruption scandals.
Over 850 Hamas rockets have landed inside the Gaza strip so far. In fact, the rockets are more likely to backfire or unintentionally land inside densely populated Gaza than hit a populated bit of Israel. In fact, backfiring rockets may well have been responsible for the well-publicised deaths of Palestinians in a market and a ‘UN run’ school.
Hamas have almost completely taken over the local UN as well. An internal UN report describes a shocking failure of governance. Twenty-five of the 27 members of the UNWRA executive in Gaza are Hamas activists. The agency’s schools are infamous for facilitating Hamas indoctrination. Rockets have been stored and fired from UN schools and a terror tunnel was found under a UN clinic. One Palestinian opponent of Hamas has described the UNWRA as the Palestinians’ worst enemy.
The Hamas human shield policy is well known. Not only do they fire from schools, hospitals and populated areas (as shown here by an Indian news agency), but they actually encourage civilians to go to areas that Israel has warned will be attacked. Hamas’s violations of the rules of war are allso significant, and include: the misuse of medical facilities and ambulances; booby-trapping civilian areas; the exploitation of children (such as paramilitary summer camps for kids and the use of children in combat); and interference with humanitarian relief (including firing at crossing points bringing in aid), amongst many other things. The people who suffer most from these are the Gazan people.
Those same terror tunnels were constructed using approximately 600,000 tonnes of cement, which could have been used to build a series of schools, hospitals or homes – the reason why the cement was allowed into Gaza in the first place. Child labour was used to build many of these tunnels – and 160 reportedly died building them. Other builders may have been executed.
Extrajudicial killing is hardly rare in Gaza. Only the other day, Hamas used a ceasefire to summarily execute more than 30 Palestinian ‘collaborators’. Hamas does not allow dissent. After taking control of Gaza, they systematically set about murdering their opponents. No subsequent elections have been called, despite being overdue, despite Hamas controlling the media in Gaza, and despite the murder of political opponents.
If this is not enough, Hamas have been systematically destroying the Gazan economy. This is partly due to corruption, partly due to the diversion of materials to terrorist activities, partly due to mismanagement, and partly due to destruction of assets; such as the highly productive settlers’ greenhouses that had been providing millions of pounds worth of fruit and vegetable crops every year when they were handed over. These, and so many other opportunities, were destroyed.
Had Palestinian leadership, particularly Hamas, been smarter and less corrupt, had it been able to put the best interests of the Palestinian people first, Palestinians would probably have had their state alongside Israel a long time ago. Instead they face a daily diet of misery which is not going to change until Hamas either change their ways, or are kicked out by the Gazan people.
There are real signs of dissatisfaction with Hamas amongst Gazans, with people openly grumbling that Hamas have brought the current conflict down on them. Let’s just hope that something changes as a result, that Hamas are removed from power and the leadership of Gaza start to put the lives and livelihoods of their people first, and that this troubled part of the world has a chance for peace.