The Times of Israel presents great coverage of Gaza

Based on my reading of The Times of Israel , the relationship of Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza is ambiguous. I just asked in my previous post whether the ruling Hamas party can reign in PIJ or not. Perhaps when PIJ took credit for the recent barrage of missiles into Israel, they were acting with the tacit approval of Hamas, with Hamas retaining plausible deniability.

In a Tuesday statement (February 25, 2020), Abu Hamza, spokesman for the PIJ’s armed wing said that his group had acted with Hamas’s approval and cooperation. Such a statement cannot be taken at face value, though.
However, both Hamas and PIJ are offshoots of Egypt’s terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. A goal of that organization is to establish a Muslim state where Israel is located. Hamas and PIJ do not differ in their goal. PIJ is funded and armed by Iran, though.

This past Sunday, the Israeli military killed a would-be terrorist bomber along the Gaza-Israel border fence. Israel confiscated the body of the terrorist to hold it hostage until Gazans return two Israelis and the bodies of two other Israelis. This is cited by the Times as the “bulldozer incident.”

The fighting was touched off on Sunday morning when Israel killed a member of Islamic Jihad, who the [Israel Defense Force] said was planting a bomb along the border, and then sent a tractor into the Strip to retrieve the corpse, in an operation caught on film that angered many in Gaza.

The Times of Israel, February 26, 2020

So again, tit for tat, PIJ launched a barrage of about 100 rockets into Israel. In return, Israel bombed known PIJ locations.

Military Intelligence has long warned that Gaza — with its rampant unemployment and deteriorating living conditions — is a powder keg which Israel must address before[Gaza] collapses completely (and [intelligence reported] so again last month in its annual assessment).

The Times of Israel, February 27, 2020

Israel also closed Gaza’s port of entry into Israel, so Gazan workers could not reach their jobs in Israel. The border crossing was reopened on Thursday, February 27, 2020. The disquiet reigned from Sunday through Wednesday.

In related news, Israeli jets downed a drone that was launched from Gaza on Thursday, February 27, 2020. The drone was heading westward over the Mediterranean for an unknown purpose. This incident came as Israel reopened Gaza’s border crossings into Israel and its fishing zone with the return of relative calm after three days of Palestinian rocket fire and retaliatory Israeli strikes. Ordinarily, Israel’s military allows Gazans to launch drones over their airspace so long as the drones can’t spy on Israeli military emplacements around the strip.

So much for Gaza remaining really quiet.

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>> About The Times of Israel

10 bouts in Gaza later, Israel not much closer to preventing the next round,” The Times of Israel , February 27, 2020.

“The Strip remains a powder keg, with terror groups just waiting for another excuse — like Sunday’s bulldozer incident — to set it off.”

Israel to reopen Gaza border crossings, fishing zone as fragile calm returns,” The Times of Israel, February 26, 2020.

As ceasefire takes hold, Islamic Jihad vows new rounds of violence,” The Times of Israel, February 26, 2020.

Israeli jets down drone launched from Gaza,” The Times of Israel, February 27, 2020.

Gaza’s quiet is not so quiet

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) took credit for a barrage of roughly 100 rockets fired into Israel from Gaza on Sunday and Monday, February 23 and 24, 2020. Damage in Israel was minimal and no casualties were reported.

Israel responded by bombing PIJ locations in Gaza. Israel also closed the Erez border crossing, barring Gazan workers from entering Israel, and reduced Gaza’s fishing zone off its coast.

After two days of quiet, Israel reopened the border crossing and restored Gaza’s previous fishing limits.

Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), which rules Gaza, denied that it is engaged in negotiations with Israel. It’s subterfuge is to use Egypt as an intermediary. The ceasefire is not a ceasefire according to Hamas. Egypt has brokered “Quiet for Quiet.”

Both Hamas and PIJ are offshoots of Egypt’s terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. A goal of that organization is to establish a Muslim state where Israel is located.

How strong is Hamas’s hold on Gaza? Can it not reign in PIJ forces? I haven’t seen an in-depth analysis of the dynamics in Gaza. Of course, such analysis is not likely to be covered by daily journalists, and what does appear at length might very well be in Hebrew.

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Netanyahu continues bombing Gaza Strip,” Middle East Monitor (MEMO), February 25, 2020.

>> About MEMO

Israel shuts Erez crossing in occupied Gaza,” MEMO, February 25, 2020.

Israel reopens Gaza crossings after reaching ceasefire deal with resistance,”  MEMO, February 26, 2020.

Israel to open all entry points to Gaza, expand fishing zone,” Ynetnews, February 26, 2020.

“The military’s announcement comes just 2 days after yet another flare-up, which saw Islamic Jihad militants fire over 100 rockets at Israeli citizens, prompted the army to impose sanctions on the Hamas-controlled enclave.”

Quiet for quiet in Gaza

The Gaza-Israel conflict looks like it’s heading toward a period of calm. NPR reports:

Israel and Hamas [Gaza’s ruling regime] are taking initial steps toward an agreement to calm hostilities — and it’s allowing thousands of Palestinians from Gaza to go work in Israel daily.

All Things Considered, January 13, 2020

So quiet in exchange for quiet, which means Hamas, which is a militant group, is agreeing to prevent rocket attacks on Israel and to prevent confrontations with Israeli soldiers at the Israeli fence separating Israel from Gaza. So we’re not going to see any more fiery kites and rock-throwing, and protests there are on hold. And in return, Israel is starting to let Gaza breathe a little, and it’s relaxing restrictions that they put on Gaza for years ever since Hamas took power there.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin, January 13, 2020

(Actually, Hamas is a Jihadi terrorist group — much more than militant. Hamas is an Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement.)

This pause eases up pressure and tension. Gaza has been on the edge of collapsing, even its own people exploding against Hamas.

But, a Hamas spokesman said, “It’s not a cease-fire. It’s not an agreement. It’s quiet for quiet.” It’s clear to Hamas that this is an “understanding. “Such fragile understandings are usually brokered by neighboring Egypt and by the United Nations according to Al Jazeera.

Whatever you want to call this indirect agreement, [i]t’s very different from Israel’s longtime policy to isolate Hamas and break its hold on Gaza. Instead, Hamas and average Gazans are getting some relief.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin, January 20, 2020

After Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, Israel blocked most Palestinians from crossing the fortified border to go to jobs in Israel. That crushed Gaza’s economy. Over the last few years, Israel has gradually issued more work permits to Gazans and recently speeded that up to a record high. Now more than 5,000 Palestinians from Gaza are being allowed into Israel.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin, January 20, 2020

The border crossing between Gaza and Israel is now open for those who can get permits. They’re now bringing home wages from work in Israel, although it’s a drop in the bucket for about 2 million people. These workers are bringing in Israeli shekels because Hamas and the Palestinian Authority do not mint their own currency.

The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) reports on other goodwill gestures by Israel. Israel has been lessening the embargo of Gaza by permitting the import of cement and vehicle tires. Furthermore, fishermen have been allowed to buy fishing boats, and drivers have been allowed to buy passenger buses.

Medicines donated by an American organization worth $600,000 have also entered Gaza.

According to MEMO, Israeli media reported that Israel has allowed cooking gas and pesticides to enter Gaza.

The head of the Palestinian Businessmen Association in Gaza predicted that if Israel continues with the current approach, Gaza could move toward economic recovery in 2020 and the living conditions of residents could improve (January 9, 2020).

In another vein, MEMO reports that Gazan farmers are gaining access to plant crops near the border fence between Gaza and Israel where they were previously excluded for the sake of Israel’s security. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has cleared unexploded ordnance and other war material from several fields and helped to rehabilitate them. Crops planted last August are expected to be harvested this May. According to the ICRC, roughly 580 farmers have regained access to their land. (February 5, 2020)

Israel has for years designated a strip, between 100 and 300 meters wide, along its 25 mile-long border fence as off-limits to Gazans. Israel cites security concerns since Gaza has been ruled by Hamas terrorists.

Egypt has [also] opened its border for travel out of Gaza. And Qatar is supporting poor families. Israel is boosting electricity to Gaza to reduce daily power cuts and letting fishermen venture farther out into the Mediterranean. And for the first time since Hamas took control in Gaza, Israel is allowing snacks made in Gaza to be exported overseas.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin, January 20, 2020

However, Al Jazeera now reports that two rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel on February 15, 2020. Israel announced it would cancel the easing of restrictions on Gaza as a response to these two rocket attacks. “Israeli security officials warned of a “harsh military response” if attacks from the Gaza Strip did not stop (February 16, 2020).

These are the latest attacks, many occurring since U.S. President Trump announced a peace plan for Israel and Palestinians on January 28, 2020.

Except for NPR, Western journalists have not been reporting on Israel’s easing of restrictions on Gaza or Egypt’s. Perhaps you can find coverage by the Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, or The Washington Post.

A Gazan economy that recovers and interlocks with Israel’s may tame terrorist Hamas, a jihadi enterprise. And if living conditions for Gazans improve, this may motivate Hamas, as it governs Gaza, to rein in rogue elements who fire mortar shells into Israel.

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See or listen at:

All Things Considered, “An Opening Between Israel and Gaza — For Now,”
January 13, 2020.

All Things Considered, “Israel-Hamas Aim To Reduce Hostilities As Gaza Restraints Eased,” January 20, 2020.

Also see these articles from MEMO:

Gaza farmers return to their lands along volatile Israel fence,” February 5, 2020.

Israel allows cement entry to Gaza without UN observers,” January 29, 2020.

Israel’s steps to ease Gaza blockade point to longer-term truce,” January 9, 2020.

And from Al Jazeera:

“Israeli security officials warned of a ‘harsh military response’ if attacks from the Gaza Strip did not stop,” February 16, 2020 (article seems to no longer be online).

Hamas says Israel move to tighten blockade will increase tensions: Israel says it has cancelled an easing of restrictions on the besieged Gaza Strip after rockets fired from territory,” February 16, 2020.

Palestinian resentment and narcissism

Let me level a broadside against Palestinian society’s spirit – its zeitgeist.

The tenor is narcissistic.

In his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, scientist Steven Pinker presents the idea of a morbid national resentment — ressentiment in French. “Morbid national resentment” characterizes Palestinianism.

Palestinian nationalism expresses the conviction that its civilization has a historical right to greatness despite its lowly status. They feel that their lowly status is explained by the malevolence of an external foe, namely Israel.

According to Palestinians, if Israel would withdraw to the 1949 ceasefire lines (what are mistakenly called the 1967 borders), then Palestinians would be justly elevated into statehood.

Their group-equivalent of narcissism evidences a big but fragile ego with an unearned claim to preeminence. Their narcissism can trigger violence “when the narcissist is enraged by an insolent signal from reality.” (See p. 524)

The presence and visibility of Israeli troops is taken by Palestinians as an insolent signal from reality. In the case of Gaza, Israel maintains a visibly hard border like an international border but has otherwise withdrawn to the 1949 lines. What more is Israel supposed to do?

If Gazans were not to look outward – literally – they would mostly not see the fences and military patrols. The partial sea blockade is only visible to Gazan fisherman but not to most of the close to two million residents of the coastal strip. Within the enclave, they see self-rule. Due to their narcissism they remain mind-blind to their autonomy.

Both the Palestinian self-described victims and the alleged Israeli perpetrators distort their stories in opposite directions. “[E]ach omit[s] or embellish[es] details in a way that [makes] the actions of their character look more reasonable and the other’s less reasonable.” Diverging narratives are a psychological Moralization Gap. Who should we believe? (p. 490) (For me, Israeli narratives are more believable, but not entirely so.)

Ressentiment whips up the emotions of thwarted dominance – humiliation, envy, and rage – to which narcissists are prone. (p. 524)

Several things determine whether ethnic groups can coexist without bloodshed…. One important emollient is the way a group treats a loose cannon who attacks a member of the other group. If the malefactor is reeled in and punished by his own community, the victimized group can classify the incident as a one-on-one crime rather than as the first strike in a group-against-group war…. [A]n even bigger factor is ideology. Things get ugly when intermingled ethnic groups long for states of their own, hope to unite with their diasporas in other countries, keep long memories of harms committed by their neighbors’ ancestors while being unrepentant for harms committed by their own, and live under crappy governments * that mythologize one group’s glorious history while excluding others from the social contract. (p. 525)

Among the Palestinians, a cohort of young men and teenage males periodically comes of age and begins to riot – an Intifada. Palestinians don’t regard these stone-throwers and tire-burners as loose cannons. The riots are a rite of passage. Fathers and older brothers fought, and now time has come for the younger cohort to test its mettle and gain esteem and status. These riots begin after “an insolent signal from reality,” but they are way out of proportion to the igniting spark. And the fuel for flames has been there all along.

The Palestinian ideology circles around the unrealistic idea that all Palestinians in their diaspora should have a right to return to live where their ancestors originated. In fact, most members of the diaspora are considered to be refugees even though they were born elsewhere, even though they have never set foot in historical Palestine.

The U.N. has enabled this. In no other case of refugees has the refugee status been granted to all descendants of verifiable refugees. Palestinian refugees by ordinary standards are those who were displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The youngest refugee is seventy-one years old, and the total number of genuine refugees alive today is about ten thousand. Yet, upwards of a million Palestinians receive assistance from the U.N. These men, women, and children and something like 5 million Palestinians of the diaspora are all deemed to have the right to return. Palestinian ideology keeps alive the long memory of the harm from 1948.

The Palestinian Authority, founded in 1993 by the Oslo Accords, is a crappy government. It has been a kleptocracy actually an anocracy.* It squandered international aid that flowed in during the heady days after the Oslo agreements. More recently, though, international concerns have invested prudently.

Palestinian infrastructure is antiquated. It dates back to Jordanian rule if not to British rule. The Palestinian police force is brutal.

Many peaceable countries today are in the process of redefining the nation-state by purging it of tribalist psychology. The government no longer defines itself as a crystallization of the yearning of the soul of a particular ethnic group, but as a compact that embraces all the people and groups that happen to find themselves on a contiguous plot of land. (p. 525)

A Palestinian state represents such a crystallization of yearning, so it would not embrace Jews who live in the West Bank. A Palestinian state is not symmetrical to the state of Israel, where Arabs live as a tolerated minority. (Israel itself is still a crystallization of the yearning of the Jewish soul.)

Is there a cure for narcissism? I think not. Is there therapy for the narcissist to learn to engage with other people in healthy, productive ways? I believe so. What therapy is available for the Palestinians?

Pinker does suggest using game theory in peace negotiations. When both sides lay down their arms, they immediately garner a peace dividend. What dividend would Israelis see? Not much, though. Their economy is doing well. The tourism sector is doing well. Israel enjoys one of the best road systems in the world. Mass transit keeps improving. The Israeli economy has a large knowledge-based sector. Israel is one of the 36 members of the exclusive Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This puts Israel on par with the United States and most of the English-speaking world as well as with the European Union and Japan.

Where would there be a peace dividend? A heavily militarized Hezbollah sits perched over Israel’s border with Lebanon. They have rockets aimed at Israel’s population centers. The peace dividend for Israel would be enormous as would the peace dividend for Hezbollah. However, ideology stands in the way. Hezbollah’s jihadi doctrines label Israel a Satan – the little one alongside the U.S. as the Great Satan, “Zionists” and “Crusaders.” With such an ideology, they will not negotiate with Israel. (Perhaps Hezbollah is suffused with group-level narcissism themselves.)

A peace dividend with the Palestinians is a pittance in Israel’s calculus.

Pinker refers to Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan and calls a centralized nation-state that holds a monopoly on violence a Leviathan. Pinker credits such states with bringing down the level of violence in the world. The Leviathan’s ruler tries to keep his subjects from “cycles of raiding and feuding that just shuffle resources or settle scores among them but from his point of view are a dead loss” (p. 42).

Israel is now the Leviathan over Palestinians to prevent and punish them for suicide raids and other aggression against Israelis, and the Palestinian Authority (PA), under the Oslo Accords, is supposed to enforce the social contract for security and public order among Palestinians themselves. What does Israel now want? It wants the PA to force the Palestinian population to refrain from offenses against Israelis so that Israel does not have to be the Leviathan. The PA has been unwilling to do this and even promotes violence by granting stipends to the families of so-called martyrs. To the extent that the Oslo peace process died, this flaunting of terrorist activities killed it.

Palestinians, like other indigenous people, resist alien settlers as long as they see any hope of ridding themselves of the danger of foreign settlement. But, Hamas in Gaza (and other Palestinians) deludes itself that the Little Satan will pack up and leave. They recall the glory of when the Crusaders decamped back to Europe.

Palestinians will be ready to yield to coexistence only when they have given up all hope of getting rid of the alien Jewish settlers, even in Israel itself.

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crappy governments – Pinker’s term; see my previous post.

anocracy – see my previous post.

Reference: Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. New York: Viking.

Palestinian anocracy

Before I can write about Palestinian pathology (next post), I’d like to introduce scientist and author Steven Pinker’s description of a state ruled as an anocracy. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is such an administration.

Pinker writes that anocracy is

a form of rule that is neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic. Anocracies are also known among political scientist as semidemocracies, praetorian regimes, and (my favorite, overheard at a conference) crappy governments. These are administrations that don’t do anything well. (310)

Unlike autocratic police states, they don’t intimidate their populations into quiescence, but nor do they have the more-or-less fair systems of law enforcement of a decent democracy. Instead they often respond to local crime with indiscriminate retaliation on entire communities. [This is not a feature of the PA.] (310)

They retain the kleptocratic habits of the autocracies from which they evolved, doling out tax revenues and patronage jobs to their clansmen, who then extort bribes for police protection, favorable verdicts in court, or access to the endless permits needed to get anything done. A government job is the only ticket out of squalor, and having a clansman in power is the only ticket to a government job.
When control of government is periodically up for grabs in a “democratic election,” the stakes are as high as in any contest over precious and indivisible spoils. (310)

Foreign aid, so beloved of crusading celebrities, can be another poison chalice, because it can enrich and empower the leaders through whom it is funneled rather than building a sustaining economic infrastructure. (311)

All these are characteristics of the Palestinian Authority, albeit with some local nuance.

The last election in the PA, in 2006, saw the Hamas faction win the majority vote. The opposing political party Fatah refused to join a proposed coalition. The Palestinian Authority instituted a non-Hamas government in the West Bank while Hamas formed a government on its own in Gaza. The West Bank and Gaza have virtually remained two separate entities since 2007.

To repeat Pinker,

When control of government is periodically up for grabs in a “democratic election,” the stakes are as high as in any contest over precious and indivisible spoils.

The PA evolved from the autocratic administration of the West Bank by the Kingdom of Jordan. Jordan is still an autocracy with a component of a police state.

While the PA’s rule in the West Bank is an anocracy, Hamas’s rule in Gaza is that of a police state.

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Reference: Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. New York: Viking.