from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Cementing Support for Hamas

October 17, 2013

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At the end of May 2010, Israel seized control of a ship called the Mavi Marmara as it approached Gaza. It intended to violate Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which is meant to stop weapons from reaching Hamas; the ships carried no humanitarian cargo. Israel stopped the ship, but the incident did Hamas some good: the violence and the publicity increased pressure on Israel to loosen the terms of  the blockade.

Already in 2009 Pope Benedict had offered his prayers that the embargo would be lifted so that reconstruction could move faster, and in March 2010 Ban Ki-Moon had said that the Gaza blockade was causing “unacceptable suffering.” On June 1, the day after the ship was seized, Secretary of State Clinton said "the situation in Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable... Palestinians’ legitimate needs for... regular access for reconstruction materials must... be assured.” She pressed Israeli officials to allow more building materials to enter Gaza, as did British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Former President Carter visited Gaza two weeks later and said the embargo causes "death, destruction, pain and suffering to the people here." The Quartet called “for a lifting of the blockade on Gaza so that crucial reconstruction work can take place….” And this was the trope from virtually every EU government.

And so the cement flowed; Israel lifted its ban.  But now it turns out that what was being constructed by Hamas in Gaza was not an economy, not houses or public buildings, but tunnels whose purpose was to permit terrorist attacks into Israel. Most recently, Israel discovered a great project: a tunnel 60 feet deep and 1.5 miles long. Construction appears to have been started two years ago—after cement began to flow into Gaza.

As the AP reported, “Concrete walls and arches lined the tunnel and electrical cords could be seen along its walls….The military said it was the third tunnel found along the Gaza border fence in the past year. It estimated that 500 tons of cement and concrete were used, and the structure took more than a year to build.” Hamas has now admitted building the tunnel and claims that its goal was to permit the kidnapping of Israel soldiers, as The Times of Israel reported:

The tunnel…was meant to facilitate a complex terror attack involving an assault on soldiers or civilians, with the intention of seizing a captive Israeli and holding him or her as a bargaining chip. Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk confirmed as much on Tuesday, two days after Israeli authorities revealed their discovery. “The tunnel which was revealed was extremely costly in terms of money, effort and blood,” Abu Marzouk wrote on his Facebook page. “All of this is meaningless when it comes to freeing our heroic prisoners.” He went on to detail the lucrative nature of the Gilad Shalit deal, in which 1,027 prisoners were released after the Israeli soldier was kidnapped in just such an attack.

What’s interesting here is not Hamas acting as Hamas always does: as a terrorist group that is uninterested in the welfare of the people of Gaza. What’s interesting is the number of proponents of lifting the blockade of Gaza who have now admitted error. The number appears to be zero. Not one has acknowledged that allowing construction materials into Gaza allowed Hamas to construct more tunnels, and that Israel may have been right to prevent their arrival. Being a critic of Israel apparently means never having to say you’re sorry.