Opinion

An Israeli Pathology

This wicked delight in causing additional suffering to the Palestinians is an Israeli pathology that needs clinical rather than journalistic treatment

A Palestinian Hamas-hired civil servant displays U.S. Dollar banknotes after receiving her salary paid by Qatar, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 7, 2018.
\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

I was asked to do something similar to what journalist Hadas Shtaif did. Not to hack into a cellphone, but to break through the walls of silence. And not in order to expose a crime, but to indirectly aid in the commission of a crime – against the people of Gaza.

My editors asked me to look into the accuracy of Army Radio’s report Sunday that Israel had agreed to let Qatar send another $15 million into the Gaza Strip, and thereby pull the territory a bit above the filthy standing water into which Israel’s closure policy has plunged it, with assistance from the tribal rivalry between Hamas and Fatah. Avigdor Lieberman promptly denounced Israel’s agreement to transfer the money.

It’s legitimate to assume that the anonymous leaker’s goal was to embarrass Benjamin Netanyahu, and also to let Gaza sink a few centimeters deeper into the mire.

Palestinian media outlets even reported that residents of Israeli communities near Gaza were planning a demonstration against the fund transfer. It’s not hard to imagine the following scenario: The Likud central committee panics, the Habayit Hayehudi party (in all its new and old dresses) mocks the transfer as defeatist, and the suitcases full of cash remain in Doha.

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If Prince Tamim Bin Hamad had confirmed to me that his representative was to be landing soon with the money, I would have been caught in a dilemma: not to reveal, and betray my vocation, or to report and feed the fire of incitement, ignorance and wickedness of Israeli society, which delights at pushing Gaza further into distress. In other words: I would have aided the commission of a crime.

But Reuters reported that Qatari Ambassador to Gaza Mohammed Al-Emadi had confirmed he was arriving this week, and I was thereby spared my dilemma. If incitement ended up preventing the money transfer, I won’t be to blame.

This wicked delight in causing additional suffering to the Palestinians is an Israeli pathology that needs clinical rather than journalistic treatment. But reducing ignorance is definitely a journalist’s job.

In the binary thinking employed by both Lieberman and Hamas propaganda, the money’s arrival in Gaza reflects Israeli weakness. In fact, the opposite is true. Israel is responsible for the muddy swamp, yet it reaps praise for allowing in a few shovels with which to try to get rid of it.

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Israel also thereby allows criticism of Hamas to sink in. It now turns out that the weekly Marches of Return – which have already resulted in 183 demonstrators being killed by Israeli fire and another 23,000 wounded, some of whom will be permanently crippled – are negotiable. They can be traded for cash. The demonstrations’ slogan of “return” was combined with a demand for the removal of the siege, but when the siege didn’t weaken, Hamas unsalaried employees were offered money instead. And for that, the proud organization was willing to take steps to restrict the demonstrations.

In addition, the money deepens the internal Palestinian schism. Mahmoud Abbas still thinks that by abandoning his people in Gaza, he can force Hamas to capitulate. And Israel comes off looking like the good guy and the adult in the room.

Above all, via a generous gesture for which we aren’t paying, we’re managing to give the knife of humiliation planted in Gazans’ backs another twist. Because being dependent on charity to have a light in the shower is a humiliation.

The Palestinians of Gaza, most of whom are refugees, are hard-working, creative people who supported themselves for decades. But the basic and necessary condition for this to happen is freedom of movement. And this freedom of movement has been robbed from them by Israel.

Israel’s policy of strangulation has caused the situation to deteriorate so badly that Gaza has no choice but to forgo its dignity and accept the Qatari funds. Because working sewage pumps and schools that are actually open are more important than pride. And Israel, the jailer, appears to the world as if it were being generous and flexible.