The One Thing Israel and Hamas Have in Common
The hatred and suspicion of international aid organizations and Palestinian nongovernmental organizations is something Israel and Hamas share. But if Israel allowed the Palestinians to live and prosper, the charities wouldn't even be needed.
There are some junctions where the interests and sentiments of Israel and Hamas intersect. The hatred and suspicion of international aid organizations and Palestinian nongovernmental organizations is one such place. At the same time, though, these sworn enemies – Israel and Hamas – need these organizations, and benefit from their existence and activities. The fellowship of hypocrites.
Hamas is suspicious of the international organizations and Palestinian NGOs that it did not establish itself, because they offer a different way of thinking and behaving, reduce the numbers of families dependent on the movement – and also because many of them are trying to restrict their contacts with Hamas (following the Quartet's orders).
Hamas also plays on the general Palestinian enmity toward these organizations: the very high salaries of the foreigners; the gap in wages between directors and salaried employees within local associations; their irritating and incomprehensible jargon; and the fact that they are a track to some sort of social mobility that few attain.
Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and believes that it is its right to force new rules on the international organizations as well. Hamas charges extra taxes from residents of the Strip and its merchants, so it’s obvious that the movement will also try to benefit from the various organizations, and perhaps from some of its employees. When it does not succeed, it is furious and reviles them.
But could Hamas have managed the Gaza Strip during and after the Israeli military assaults – which are also the outcome of Hamas’ policies, not only Israel’s – without the enormous humanitarian and reconstruction assistance of these groups? No.
It is precisely that humanitarian and reconstruction assistance that Israel is interested in, so that the situation does not get completely out of control. But the difference between Israel and Hamas is still great: Israel is responsible for turning the occupied Palestinian territory into an area overflowing with intricate international mechanisms for development, and a magnet for aid and charity initiatives and handouts.
It is also responsible for the most basic reason (before we get to the dead, the injured and the major destruction from the assaults and the wars): The British Mandate, as an occupying power, allowed the prestate Jewish community to develop economically. If Israel had allowed the Palestinians to manage their lives without all the travel bans and prohibitions on exports and selling that it imposes, and if it had not stolen the Palestinians’ resources (territorial expanses and land, water, minerals, stone, tourism sites) – there would be no need for these aid organizations.
The aid groups and their donations are the safety net that the international community rolled out before the Oslo Accords and now spreads under Israel’s feet. As an occupying power (direct or indirect), Israel is responsible for the occupied population. It consistently shirks this responsibility – before 1994, and even more so today. But Israel is coddled by Europe and the United States, whose donations to the Palestinians are the greatest. Politically, it is easier for them to waste their taxpayers’ money on food packages, sewage systems, mobile housing and water-purification systems than to force Israel to meet its obligations and remove the cuffs by which it binds the Palestinian economy.
With the contributions come the overseas directors and staff of the international organizations. Not all of them arrive with a negative opinion of Israel at the outset. During their work, though, they discover that Israel does everything it can to perpetuate the situation. Their shock, their voices and their reports join the critical opinions of others in this community. That is the price Israel does not like to pay for the safety net.
Now, the indictments against the staff members of two international organizations, who have already been convicted in the Israeli media, are the opportunity for Israel to revile these organizations and present them as having fallen prey to Hamas. Israel has not stopped them from working, of course. But this is another way of silencing the political criticism they raise.