• Relief supplies are distributed from UNRWA headquarters in Gaza. However, much of the emergency goods currently reaching Gaza are immediately seized by Hamas and then sold back to Gazans. | Photo: Abed Rahim/Flash90

Billions ‘Lost’ in Gaza

Wim Kortenoeven - 9 April 2024

In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip. All 21 Jewish villages were evacuated, residents deported, and even Jewish graves cleared. Governance came into the hands of the Palestinian Authority, but in 2007, power was taken over by the popular Islamist terror organisation Hamas. This effectively made Gaza the second independent Palestinian-Arab state (after Jordan in 1946), but one that depended on revenues from criminal activities and international subsidies.

The international community systematically and completely ignored the fact that much of the aid money and other revenue flowing to Hamas disappeared into the pockets of corrupt administrators and terrorists or was used for hate education and the construction of the largest (underground) terror base ever.

The situation in Gaza changed dramatically in all respects after ‘7 October’. The Israeli military offensive since then against the terror organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihad, operating above and below ground in towns and villages, has caused enormous devastation.

Over half of the Arab population of more than two million souls has been displaced. Housing and infrastructure repairs are expected to take years, and the key question is how Gazans are supposed to survive this (now umpteenth) phase of recovery in socio- economic terms. And, of course, who is to foot the astronomical bill if the willingness to do so will exist at all?

Gazan’s not Welcome Anywhere

Arab and Western countries constantly claim to be deeply concerned for the Gazans, but in reality, they are not at all. The border with Arab brother country Egypt remains tightly closed to displaced people who cannot afford to pay exorbitant bribes. And no other Arab country has offered to take in Gazans. Even King Abdallah of the Palestinian state of Jordan has resolutely refused to provide relief to his trapped and languishing Palestinian brothers and sisters on his soil. His Majesty, as pilot of a cargo plane of his air force, took part personally in a propagandistic food drop over the Gaza Strip after publicly stating that the displaced people should not be allowed access to safe Egypt either. No country has condemned that unconscionable attitude.

No European Ferries
Gazans have nothing to expect from Europeans, either. Almost all European leaders demanded from Israel that military operations against the terror organisations be suspended or even stopped altogether so as not to endanger the Gazan IDPs concentrated in the south of the Gaza Strip. And in doing so, they warned of mass slaughter, famine, epidemics and other terrible conditions.

But the Europeans, despite their dramatic predictions, have so far done nothing to actually free the Gazans from the danger zone. Egypt and Jordan were not pressured to open their borders, and no ferries were sent to evacuate the de facto Hamas hostages and transfer them to safe European asylum destinations.

Only Scotland’s Muslim prime minister, Humza Yousaf (whose in-laws live in Gaza), made a case for a generous European admission policy, and he even offered to start opening Scotland’s borders. However, his proposal did not meet with approval from London and the other European capitals. The unspoken consensus of European political leaders seemed to be: the displaced people of Gaza should definitely not be allowed to go elsewhere—simply to ensure that blame for their desolate conditions would be placed on Israel.

And so this phase of the Gazans’ demise caused by Hamas and Islamic Jihad also became part of the ultimate propaganda weapon envisaged by Iran, Arab countries and terror organisations in the fight against the Jewish state.

‘Singapore on the Mediterranean’

Even before 7 October, Gaza was a socio- economic disaster zone. That was no fault of Israel, whose successive governments had seriously set out to help turn it into ‘Singapore on the Mediterranean’ and established industrial parks there, among other things.

That everything turned out diametrically differently is primarily the fault of the Hamas movement, which the people of Gaza themselves helped to power in democratic elections. Secondarily, it is the fault of the international community, which for decades has tolerated Hamas turning Gaza into an ever-growing terrorist base from which Israeli civilian targets were systematically shelled with rockets and, on 7 October last year, a massive terror attack on Israeli civilians.

That disaster was predictable. The international community has willfully ignored the fact that through the UN agency UNRWA, billions in aid funds were used to radicalise entire generations of Gazans in the notion that it is better to die fighting Israel than to build a normal life. Through the education system provided by UNRWA, children were brainwashed and trained as early as the age of four to become Hamas fighters.

Obscenely Rich Elite
Meanwhile, Gazans were hospitalised en masse at Western taxpayers’ expense in the hopeless position of non-productive benefit recipients. According to UNCTAD, unemployment in the Gaza Strip in 2022 was over 43 per cent (other sources, such as Globes, even speak of 60 per cent), compared to 24 per cent in the PLO/PA-ruled parts of Judea and Samaria. Gross national product was $1,257, compared to $4,458 in the PLO/PA areas.

The gap between rich and poor was and is huge and hardly unbridgeable. On one side, the majority of socio-economically disadvantaged benefit recipients; on the other, a relatively prosperous middle class and a mostly obscenely rich, Hamas—and Islamic Jihad-affiliated corrupt elite living in magnificent villas overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Hamas Millionaires
In 2012, it was revealed that over six hundred millionaires were already living in Gaza at the time. Most of them amassed their wealth by exploiting the hundreds of smuggling tunnels dug under the auspices of Hamas under the border with Egypt. Hamas levied 20 per cent import duties on the value of all goods brought in through that tunnel system. The tunnels were also the main supply line for weapons, explosives, ammunition and missile components supplied by Iran and other rogue states. The smuggling of those goods was and is unimpeded by the corrupt Egyptian authorities, who are bought off with bribes.

The best-known Hamas leaders, Yehia Sinwar, Ismael Haniyeh, Mohammed Deif and Khaled Mashal, are also millionaires. In fact, Mashal’s wealth is estimated at nearly five billion euros. Haniyeh and Mashal live in Doha, the capital of Qatar, Hamas’ main political backer and financier alongside Iran. Yet other Hamas leaders live with their families in great wealth in cities like Istanbul and Beirut. They, too, do not care at all about the fate of the Palestinian Arabs they claim to represent.

Criminal Project
All in all, Gaza can be described as a criminal project of the international community. If the real intention had been to help the inhabitants of the strip, different decisions would have been taken, proper control would have been exercised over the spending of aid funds, and compelling and effective intervention would have been made when it became clear many years ago that things were going wrong.

Why that did not, and still does not, happen can be traced to the demand that is once again being loudly addressed to Israel in the aftermath of October 7: there must and will be an independent Palestinian state based on the 1949 armistice lines that are indefensible to Israel. As a means to that end, the ‘Palestinian refugee issue’ has been kept alive artificially by the international community for decades, primarily in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza was a billion-dollar investment with a high-risk political goal: creation of a democratic Palestinian state. Refusal to accept failure to achieve that goal led to the international community’s strategic silence on the immoral and criminal manner in which those billions were handled.

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