If the current truce holds and Operation Protective Edge is indeed behind us, the next step will be rebuilding Gaza.
Virtually every recent analysis of this lengthy and daunting process has focused on bricks and mortar. But physical rebuilding won’t mean a thing without also tearing down the culture of hate and ignorance that is at the root of Hamas’ regular attacks on Israel that lead to such responses at Protective Edge.
Western countries, particularly the U.S., need to use their considerable influence on allies such as Qatar and Turkey, who are the biggest supporters of Hamas.
And, if the United Nations (UN) really wants to help the people of Gaza instead of being Hamas’s biggest enabler, it has to stop treating Palestinians as permanent refugees with hopes of one day flooding into Israel.
None of this will be easy – or fast. But we can’t keep focusing only on infrastructure issues, then be “shocked” every couple of years when Hamas resumes rocket attacks, Israel retaliates and thousands of lives are lost or irrevocably damaged.
The international organization Shelter Cluster estimates that rebuilding Gaza – including addressing the housing deficits that existed before the latest war – could take 20 years and more than $6 billion.
Israel has agreed to loosen its longstanding blockade to allow humanitarian aid and reconstruction materials into Gaza, but many border restrictions will remain in place.
Britain, France and Germany have proposed the creation of an international mechanism to monitor goods going into Gaza so that Hamas and other terrorist groups would not divert construction materials like iron and cement into weapons, weapons manufacturing facilities or tunnels to be used to attack Israel.
But rebuilding also means taking a hard look at the countries that support Hamas and using diplomatic and economic pressure to weaken these deadly ties.
Qatar, an oil-rich emirate with the world’s highest gross domestic product per capita, presents itself as a liberal, progressive society.
Yet it openly supports the Muslim Brotherhood, harbours leading Islamist radicals and provides a luxurious haven for Hamas leader Khaled Meshal.
Turkey also continues to support Hamas. Indeed, the Hamas leader promoting the kidnappings of Israelis in the West Bank, Saleh al-Arouri, operates from Turkey.
The U.S. is Qatar’s largest foreign investor, and the Erdoğan regime in Turkey desperately needs to shore up its shaky relations with the U.S.
Instead of wasting efforts to revive its moribund peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. should be using its clout to get these countries to reduce or end their support of Hamas.
While the physical infrastructure of Gaza is rebuilt, the world must finally address the culture of hate that allows Hamas to teach its children the only meaningful goal in life is Islamic world domination – which starts with the destruction of Israel.
As I have written in the past, even the broadcasts and textbooks of the supposedly “moderate” Palestinian Authority promote violence and deny Israel’s right to exist. The situation in Gaza is even worse.
Children’s programs on Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV feature hosts in cuddly animal costumes encouraging kids to kill the Jews.
Hamas refuses to use UN textbooks that promote human rights because they don’t match the “ideology and philosophy” of the local population. In other words, they don’t promote the “right” of armed resistance against Israel.
Even if it succeeds in teaching human rights in schools, however, the UN itself is a major part of the problem in Gaza.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) runs 245 schools in Gaza. It also operates dozens of medical clinics and distributes food to many of the territory’s 1.7 million residents.
Without UNRWA programs, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza would be much worse. But it has never had an exit strategy to force the government – whether it’s Hamas or the new “unity government” whose future is in doubt – to take responsibility for its own citizens in need.
And, by continuing to define Palestinians who left Israel in 1948 as “refugees,” and granting that status to their descendants, UNRWA’s very existence promotes the myth this population will one day return en masse to Israel. This in turn perpetuates the conflict with Israel, which plays right into Hamas’ hands.
Whoever defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results could well have been predicting the recurring crises in Gaza.
Yes, we have to fix the buildings. But, if we don’t want to repeat this exercise, we must make sure their foundations are steel and concrete – not corruption, hatred and ignorance.