Back in 1992, then Governor Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist, James Carville, famously coined the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid” as one of three messages for Clinton’s campaign workers to focus on. This was during the campaign against President George H.W. Bush (who by August of 1992 had experienced a 54% drop in his approval rating as a result of the recession that had gripped the US economy by the beginning of 1992).
Because people generally like to project their needs and views on others, over the last week I have heard from many different talking heads on TV and in social media comments with variations on the following theme (when it comes to the recent violence along the Israel/Gaza border):
“If only Israel would end the blockade on Gaza and end the economic crisis in Gaza then things would be so much better. Gazans are only ‘protesting’ because they are so desperate and have nothing to lose.”
And while these comments are not exactly unusual and generally come from people who mean well, they are materially ahistorical and counterfactual. Plus they ignore cause and effect and are therefore actually dangerous (assuming anyone actually bases policy-making in the Middle East on such post WWII Eurocentric thinking).
As a preliminary matter, the relative wealth of Israelis and Gazans has played no role on the Arab and Islamist rejection of Jewish sovereignty anywhere in the land of Israel (the Jewish people’s indigenous homeland).
Well before there was a modern Jewish state, a single Arab displaced by the self-inflicted Nakba, or any “occupied territories,” Arabs in the Levant rioted (just as Gazans have done for the past 6 weeks) with the intent to murder Jews.
The difference between then and now, is that back then there was no Israeli Army standing in the way of the rioters and many Jews were murdered. In 1920, 1921, 1929, 1933 and 1936, Arabs in British Mandatory Palestine rioted with the express intent – as urged by Nazi Collaborator and Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini – to murder the Jews. And, they murdered Jews by the dozens.
In fact, in the 1929 riots all of the Jews of Hebron (many whose families had lived in Hebron for centuries) were either murdered or ethnically cleansed from their homes. Notably, this did not occur at a time when there was economic deprivation in the region. Rather it occurred at a time when there were massively increased economic opportunities in the region caused by the Jews who had moved there (and established the city of Tel-Aviv and others, the Hebrew University, the Palestine Post, the Palestine Philharmonic, etc.).
Yet, despite these economic opportunities and increased prosperity in the region, the local Arabs spurred by their ideology (both Arab Supremacist and Islamist Supremacist) were easily motivated to riot, attack, and murder Jews. Just as Arabs did outside of Ottoman and British controlled Palestine during the Farhud Riots in Baghdad in 1941, the “Blood Libel” massacre of Jews in Damascus in 1840, the 1912 massacres of Jews in Fez, Morocco, or the 1941 Anti-Jewish riots in Tripolitania (where over 140 Jews were murdered during a pogrom that lasted two days and left 4000 Jews homeless and 5 synagogues destroyed).
In fact, in the 19th Century alone, when much of the Middle East and certainly all of the Levant was under the control of the Ottoman Empire, pogroms against Jews in the Middle East and North Africa were commonplace, including in Aleppo (1850, 1875), Damascus (1840, 1848, 1890), Beirut (1862, 1874), Dayr al-Qamar, Lebanon (1847), Jaffa (1876), Jerusalem (1847, 1870 and 1895), Cairo (1844, 1890, 1901–02), Mansura, Egypt (1877), Alexandria, Egypt (1870, 1882, 1901–07), Port Said (1903, 1908), and in Damanhur, Egypt (1871, 1873, 1877, 1891).
All of these riots and massacres of Jews had nothing to do with economic deprivation or the alleged subjugation of a single Arab by a single Jew. They were caused by the same thing that caused these same kinds of murderous riots and pogroms against Jews in Europe. Raw anti-Semitism and religious supremacism and replacement theology (be it Christian or Muslim).
Same with the current Gaza situation. The violence being perpetrated against Israel by Hamas and the ideology that promotes, encourages and in fact glorifies that violence long pre-dates any economic hardships in Gaza.
There is a direct and very straight line from the anti-Semitic ideology, which animated Nazi collaborator Haj Amin al-Husseini, and the ideology that animates Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, etc. and Hamas (the despotic rulers of Gaza), and it is easy to follow for anyone interested in determining the actual cause of the conflict, which is ideology, not economy.
Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1931 in Egypt. The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, and he was appointed to be the head of the Muslim Brotherhood in British controlled Palestine by the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan a-Banna.
This appointment occurred after Haj Amin al-Husseini’s 1937 “Proclamation to the Muslim World,” which began with this doozy of a Nazi-like claim: “Since the earliest days of their history, the Jews have been an oppressed people and there must be good reason for that.”
Just like Hitler, the Czar of Russia, and many other Jew-haters who did not need an economic incentive to murder Jews, Haj Amin al-Husseini argued that the “good reason” was alleged Jewish corruption as well as the Jews purported immoral and exploitative behavior. Notably, an argument Mahmoud Abbas (the so-called moderate President for Life of the Palestinian Authority) recently made regarding what caused the Holocaust.
In his 1937 “Proclamation” al-Husseini compared Jews to animals and to disease-spreading pathogens: “The Jews are also spreaders of diseases like the plague, the reason that the Jews are to this day called ‘microbes.’” Speaking of his kindred spirits in Germany in 1937, al-Husseni wrote: “likewise energetic measures are undertaken in Germany against the Jews and they are driven off like mangy dogs.”
After taking up residence as Hitler’s guest in Berlin in 1941, Haj Amin al-Husseini began helping Germany broadcast Nazi propaganda to the Arab world. And in anticipation of Nazi Germany defeating the British in North Africa, on July 7, 1942, the “Voice of Free Arabism” played a program titled, “Kill the Jews Before They Kill You.”
Just like the violence incited against Jews by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, this broadcast began with a lie: “A large number of Jews residing in Egypt and a number of Poles, Greeks, Armenians, and Free French have been issued with revolvers and ammunition” to fight “against the Egyptians at the last moment, when Britain is forced to evacuate Egypt.” The broadcast continued:
“In the face of this barbaric procedure by the British we think it best, if the life of the Egyptian nation is to be saved, that the Egyptians rise as one man to kill the Jews before they have a chance of betraying the Egyptian people. It is the duty of the Egyptians to annihilate the Jews and to destroy their property. … You must kill the Jews, before they open fire on you. Kill the Jews, who have appropriated your wealth and who are plotting against your security.
Arabs of Syria, Iraq, and Palestine, what are you waiting for? The Jews are planning to violate your women, to kill your children and to destroy you. According to the Muslim religion, the defense of your life is a duty which can only be fulfilled by annihilating the Jews. This is your best opportunity to get rid of this dirty race, which has usurped your rights and brought misfortune and destruction on your countries. Kill the Jews, burn their property, destroy their stores, annihilate these base supporters of British imperialism. Your sole hope of salvation lies in annihilating the Jews before they annihilate you.”
Demonstrating how little the ideology of Hamas has deviated from that of its ideological predecessor and hero (al-Husseini), in 2010 Hamas leader and co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar in 2010 said that Jews have deserved and caused all of the persecutions they have suffered throughout the centuries and added this Nazi-like refrain: “there is no place for you among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed for annihilation.”
Today, the Hamas Charter and the speeches of both Hamas and Palestinian Authority officials and Imams read like they were written by a hybrid of Haj Amin al-Husseini and Nazi propagandist-in-chief Josef Goebbels.
Examples abound, including Hamas and Palestinian Authority leaders making horrid claims like Jews are not even human or that Jews use the blood of children in their baked goods, as well as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, accepted as the highest religious authority by Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, asserting in 2009 that Hitler dispensed divinely sanctioned punishment to the Jews and then called for Muslims to impose a similar punishment, including expressly calling for genocide when he urged Muslims to “kill them [the Jews], down to the very last one.”
Thus, any claim that the riots, violence and attempted attacks on Jews, which we see emanating from people living under the dictatorial rule of Hamas (or the Palestinian Authority for that matter) is due to people’s current poverty or desperation ignores the long history of Arab and Islamist Supremacist persecution, oppression and violence against Jews throughout the Middle East and North Africa; as well as the ideological basis for that violence and hate. It is akin to saying that if only we made the Nazis richer that they would stop wanting to kill oppress and kill Jews.
In addition, these misguided efforts to blame the most recent willingness by some Gazans to riot against (and to try and kill Jews) on their current poverty or desperation, and the use of that argument to assert that it is therefore in Israel’s interest to ease the blockade of Gaza, ignores that it is Hamas’s radical extremism and genocidal ideology towards Jews and Jewish self-determination in the Jewish people’s indigenous homeland, which actually preceded and caused the partial blockade of Gaza (not the other way around).
When Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it left the Gazans with the infrastructure of hundreds of very productive businesses, which a consortium of American Jews had paid for in order to hand those businesses over to the Gazans intact. All of this (often literally) went up in smoke after the withdrawal in 2005; and by 2007 – after Hamas’s coup and takeover of Gaza – and after it had already fired thousands of rockets at Israel – the partial blockade was put in place.
Yet, despite this partial blockade, there is no reason for Gaza to be as poor as it is. Gazans living under the control of Hamas, along with Arabs in Judea and Samaria living under the control of the Palestinian Authority, have been for generations among the recipients of the highest levels of per capita aid in the world.
Investment that has not been siphoned off by Hamas (which has allowed for it to create nearly 2000 Hamas millionaires in Gaza, as Hamas is almost as corrupt as it is hateful and anti-Semitic) has actually produced results that are very inconsistent with what Israel’s detractors hyperbolically refer to as an “open-air prison.” Gaza has shopping malls, theme parks, 4 and 5 star hotels and tourist resorts.
All of this is despite being governed by Hamas.
But over the last five years Hamas has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, not on schools, hospitals or businesses, but on weapons, rockets, as well as an underground infrastructure of terror tunnels penetrating into Israel for the purpose of mounting mass-casualty terror assaults.
Despite being responsible for the governance and well-being of over 1.5 million people, Hamas’s leaders – driven by their Arab and Islamist Supremacist ideology – see Jihadist terror as their ultimate tool and the destruction of Israel as their ultimate objective, while death and destruction in Gaza is not their concern. Sadly for Hamas such deaths are a [perverse] blessing.
If Gazans were primarily motivated by their economic well-being (as many Eurocentric Westerners often assume), they could have chosen to take advantage of Israel’s withdrawal in 2005 to focus on peace and on building up their economy and infrastructure instead of voting for Hamas back in 2006. And if they had done so, then Gaza today might be home to a large, prosperous population, providing that it was industrious, well-governed, well-managed and –– most importantly –– peaceful.
It could be the Singapore of the Middle East. But it isn’t –– it’s governed by Hamas, an entity that has not deviated one iota from the calls of Haj Amin al-Husseini and Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi to kill the Jews “down to the very last one.”
In addition to ignoring or discounting the long history of Arab and Islamist Supremacist violence against Jews, which has no connection to any economic deprivation or even Israel’s existence as a modern independent state, those advocating for the easing of the blockade – under the misapprehension that it is the cause of Gazan violence or riots against Israel – appear to either forget or not be concerned that the blockade was implemented by both Israel and Egypt. They did this because of Hamas’s actions and the common-sense concern that Hamas will import as many weapons as it can into Gaza in order to fulfill the mandate of its genocidal Charter.
While the border crossing with Egypt is closed almost year-round because of Egypt’s concern over extremist Islamist terrorism, through the border crossing with Israel, something completely different is happening. Year after year, Israel sends to Gaza literally tons of material, fuel, food products, goods, etc. which all cross over from Israel (but not from Egypt – whom Hamas has not sworn to destroy).
All while thousands upon thousands of Gazans come into Israel for medical treatment, which they might not need if Hamas would spend more money on hospitals and less on futile rockets, terror tunnels and corruption. And while life in Gaza could (and should) be a lot better for its citizens, the fault for that lies with Hamas. Not with Israel.
As has always been the case with the Arab-Israeli conflict, the cause of the violence has been the Arab ideology, its rejection of the right of Jews to sovereignty and independence anywhere in their indigenous homeland. That rejection, as well as the all-to-frequent resort to the violent impulse to riot and murder Jews going back centuries in the Middle East and North Africa, stems from the same ideology that animated the rioters of Hebron in 1929 and the Islamist Supremacist rioters in Grenada, Spain, who on December 30, 1066, massacred more than 1,500 Jewish families (around 4000 people) in one day, and not from economic conditions.
Ideology at the Core of the Conflict
If we want to stop the violence, then making Hamas and its acolytes richer and enabling them to import more weapons will not serve that purpose. No more so than making the Nazis and their supporters in Germany richer would have made Germany less violent. The core of this conflict is, and has always been, ideology. Addressing and putting an end to the Islamist and Arab Supremacist ideologies that fuel Hamas and for over a millennia fueled Arab colonialism as well as Arab oppression and violence towards Jews (and for the last 100 years at least) also fueled the absolutist rejection of the Jewish right to self-determination in the Jewish people’s indigenous homeland is the only way to put an end to the violence.