Israelis who run around in a panic when the warning sirens go off, abandoned towels on the beach in Tel Aviv, the closing of Ben-Gurion Airport – these scenes arouse feelings of schadenfreude among all Palestinians who live in the shadow of the intimidating and arrogant military and police power of Israel. It is only natural that Palestinians will want the Jewish military superpower to lose it and for the Israelis to know what fear is. But today as in previous rounds, that sense of joy or relief is short-lived or mixed with great fear, because Israel once again proves its ability to terrorize, kill and destroy is many times bigger than that of the Palestinians.
The army that the Hamas movement has built, its perseverance despite the blockade and the assassinations, its military capability of surprise and ability to put millions of Israelis in a state of fear, have brought it into the big leagues that regional and global politics must take into consideration. And actually because of that, it is impossible to treat Hamas just as the representative of the victims, and it is impossible to exempt it from questions such as: Hasn’t its military response to the Israeli escalation in Jerusalem during the month of Ramadan nipped in the bud a popular, political movement against the eviction of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah? Was the terrible price the civilians of the Gaza Strip are paying taken into account?
The arming and the present confrontation are seen in the eyes of many as a military and political achievement and booster of morale. This accomplishment has turned millions of Palestinians (mostly those who do not live in the Gaza Strip under the heavy Israeli fire) and also many among the supporters of the Palestinian struggle for liberation and return – into the fans and admirers of the Islamic resistance movement.
Those who doubt the logic of Palestinian militarization and of the high price it exacts, are silent or holding back on criticism now. The lethal Israeli bombings of the residents of the narrow and sealed Gaza Strip may be presented in Israel as a “response,” but every Palestinian and also other sensible observers understand them as part of the century-long continuum in which one people takes over and expels, fragments, divides and crushes, while the other people refuses to give up its identity and homeland – so it is attacked time after time.
As always, the admiration that people feel towards the resourcefulness, daring and heroism are blended with the discourse of suffering and victimhood. The bodies of Palestinian children who were killed in Israeli attacks and pulled out of the ruins; water, electricity and sewage infrastructure shattered; schools filled with families who fled their homes – these scenes are painfully familiar, arousing feelings of helplessness, rage and despair among every Palestinian. These are sights that in the best case do not move most Israeli Jews, and in the worst case make them happy.
The Hamas regime, which excelled at building an army, did not invest in building shelters for civilians. It is dependent on aid from international organizations, led by UNRWA, to provide a safety net and the most minimal, feeble provisions to residents at this time. Hamas also knows very well that most of the burden of the reconstruction (slow and nerve wracking) will be borne by foreign countries and the hated government in Ramallah.
It is hard to believe that the senior leaders of Hamas and its military wing did not take into account the possibility that Israel would respond to their audacity with lethal blows many times greater that would cost the lives of many civilians, and not just the members of the Palestinian military organizations. It can be assumed that Hamas knew that Israel would respond to the very vague ultimatum of Mohammed Deif with massive destruction of civil and not just military infrastructure.
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Without a doubt Hamas entered, with its eyes wide open, a new campaign in which its ability to defend its citizens was nil. It knowingly uses its military capabilities and the international shock from the sight of the destruction, to advance its status as the political representative of the entire Palestinian people. And Israel continues to pave the way for it: Both in cutting off the Gaza Strip from the rest of the country, and in its lethal unbridled military policy.