The true plight of the Gaza Strip

David Giffin Contributor
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For anyone who has paid attention to the continued conflict in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the model of this newest conflict – the Israeli Navy’s boarding of the “humanitarian” flotilla – is too familiar. Conservatives praise Israel as a maligned underdog or a misrepresented hero, and liberals (including the United Nations) are quick to decry what they claim to be a recurrence of the country’s history of systematic human rights violations.

But in the continued relations struggle between Israel and the rest of the world, the actual situation in Gaza is forgotten. Not enough people take the time to examine Gaza itself because they are too busy placing the blame on Israel – or, conversely, are too busy playing defense. It is my contention that there are issues within Gaza itself that contribute to its own continually poor conditions.

No one questions that conditions in Gaza are poor. Few would look at the problem of home demolitions and not at least raise an eyebrow, and Israeli settlement in contested areas has been an equally problematic issue. If the flotilla incident has not reminded Israeli officials of just how tedious their position is on the international stage, I’m not sure anything will.

But as demonstrated by their continued allowance of aid into Gaza and their continued engagement with an often-hostile international community, Israel’s intent was never to harm the Palestinians by implementing their strict security measures. Rather, Israel sought to protect itself. Jonah Goldberg remarked in a June 4 column on Townhall.com: “If Israel is always hell-bent on murder, massacres and genocide, why is it so bad at it?”

However, it could be argued that the exact opposite is true of the Palestinians – their leaders goal may not be to protect themselves, but to harm the Israelis.

The Palestinian National Charter (last amended in 1968) is a document that fundamentally denies Israel the right to exist. In doing so, the PNC proclaims violence to be the only solution. “Article 9: Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle and to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country and their return to it. …”

One constant in the Gaza strip is the presence of militants. They have hidden themselves among the civilian population, using hospitals and schools as cover for their operations. Rather than opposing them, the PNC hails militants and commando activity as the key to revolution. Article 10 states that such activity requires “the mobilization of all the Palestinian popular and educational efforts and their organization and involvement in the armed Palestinian revolution. …”

The recent history of armed conflicts within Gaza seems to reinforce this idea. In 2000, Ariel Sharon offered to grant PLO leader Yasser Arafat virtually all of his demands when they met at Camp David, and Arafat chose to simply walk out. Only a few months later, the Second Intifada started. More recently, it was the terrorist organization Hamas that took power in the 2006 Palestinian election. Such leadership would definitely not back down from a pro-militant position.

Attitudes of hatred and revenge are destructive if left unchecked. In Palestine’s case, the Palestinian National Charter actually calls for the PLO to foster those sentiments among the population. If the charter document of the Palestinian government prioritizes the destruction of Israel as a preeminent issue, it makes sense that they would be left less able to look after the conditions of their own citizens. To put it bluntly, they are too busy exacting revenge on Israel to truly care for their own people.

Though the president recently approved a $400 million aid package to Palestinian authorities, it will do no real good. This is the true plight of Gaza: a government and militant culture that has become inherently self-destructive. Continually blaming Israel for the plight of Palestine does not abate this, but rather reinforces it. Unless this perpetual need for revenge is dealt with, true conflict resolution can never come to Israel and Palestine.