Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Jerusalem Diary: Why Gaza?

 

Israel-MapI learned something today while listening to a briefing regarding the current situation in Israel. It is something that I should have learned long, long ago and explains a great deal. There is a profound difference between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In 1947, the population of the latter was miniscule. By 1948, it was considerable. Something on the order of 80% of those now living in the Gaza Strip are descended from refugees who fled from territory now Israeli as the Egyptian army approached.

The same is not true of the West Bank. There are refugees camps in that region, to be sure. But most of its inhabitants live in homes occupied by their parents or grandparents in 1948.

If Gaza now belongs to Hamas, it is because it is largely populated by Palestinians unwilling to settle for anything short of the destruction of the state of Israel. If the West Bank still tolerates Fatah and the PLO, it is because the majority of those who live there are less bitter than their counterparts in Gaza.

The battle now going on is the third such struggle since Ariel Sharon ordered Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. If the current battle does not end with the wholesale destruction of Hamas’ rockets, there is apt to be another round. If Hamas ever does the Israeli core any great damage with these rockets, Israel will be forced to reoccupy Gaza. As things stand, were it not for the effectiveness of the Iron Dome, that day would be at hand.

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  1. Son of Spengler Contributor

    Paul A. Rahe: If Gaza now belongs to Hamas, it is because it is largely populated by Palestinians unwilling to settle for anything short of the destruction of the state of Israel. If the West Bank still tolerates Fatah and the PLO, it is because the majority of those who live there are less bitter than their counterparts in Gaza.

    There is another factor at work as well. Historically, the areas north of Jerusalem were majority Christian, while the areas south of Jerusalem (Gaza as well as Judea) were majority Muslim. Islamist gains across the Arab world have affected the West Bank too, but certain residual cultural differences remain. Fatah’s jihadist language is often indistinguishable from Hamas’s, but its roots are as a secular national liberation movement akin to Nasserism and Baathism — and has accommodated Christian involvement. The Muslim population of Gaza naturally has greater affinity for the Islamic group than the group led by the impious.

    • #1
    • July 21, 2014, at 11:36 AM PDT
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  2. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe

    Son of Spengler:

    Paul A. Rahe: If Gaza now belongs to Hamas, it is because it is largely populated by Palestinians unwilling to settle for anything short of the destruction of the state of Israel. If the West Bank still tolerates Fatah and the PLO, it is because the majority of those who live there are less bitter than their counterparts in Gaza.

    There is another factor at work as well. Historically, the areas north of Jerusalem were majority Christian, while the areas south of Jerusalem (Gaza as well as Judea) were majority Muslim. Islamist gains across the Arab world have affected the West Bank too, but certain residual cultural differences remain. Fatah’s jihadist language is often indistinguishable from Hamas’s, but its roots are as a secular national liberation movement akin to Nasserism and Baathism — and has accommodated Christian involvement. The Muslim population of Gaza naturally has greater affinity for the Islamic group than the group led by the impious.

     Very interesting.

    • #2
    • July 21, 2014, at 11:50 AM PDT
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  3. Danny Alexander Member

    I’m a little baffled: How does this square with the radicalism that we see throughout the West Bank, radicalism that springs from Hamas ideology, and takes concrete terroristic shape frequently on orders specifically from Hamas?

    At least one Palestinian university in the West Bank is basically (at least at the level of the powerful student union) a Hamas indoctrination lab.

    The kidnap-murder of the 3 yeshiva teenagers the other month was carried out by 2 Chevron/Hebron-based Hamas cell members taking orders from a senior Hamas handler based out of Turkey; and the search for the 3 victims occasioned mass arrests across the West Bank of a host of other Hamas cell members.

    While the Fatah Tanzim and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist organizations undoubtedly attempt to equal or outdo Hamas in savagery whenever they can get the chance, given that they are, after all, Fatah, so I kind of doubt that they would be threatening Mahmoud Abbas/Abu Mazen with assassination every minute of every day over the past several years.
    And yet Abu Mazen doesn’t dare set foot outside of Ramallah when he is in the West Bank.

    • #3
    • July 21, 2014, at 12:51 PM PDT
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  4. Danny Alexander Member

    (continued from my #3 comment)

    This last circumstance (the fact that Abu Mazen is scarcely more than “Mayor of Ramallah” per the derisive Palestinian in-joke) suggests to me that that Hamas has strengthened considerably in the West Bank, and that the recent (re-)arrests of Hamas operatives up and down Yehuda/Judea and Shomron/Samaria have just barely scratched the surface.

    Sure, there are all sorts of clan-versus-clan rivalries and disputes that end up finding expression in various types of terror-group formation and participation, and these internal divisions also have corresponding Gaza-versus-West-Bank geographic attributes.

    All the same, it seems to me that the major question hinges more on the issue of how/why Abu Mazen and his retinue would continue to resist being drawn into the Iranian orbit (and thus seek respite via Egyptian/Saudi/Hashemite support), while Hamas has made its peace with being effectively an extension of the IRGC Quds Force — *both* in Gaza *and* in the West Bank?

    • #4
    • July 21, 2014, at 1:02 PM PDT
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  5. Kirsten Weiss Inactive

    Several years ago I worked on a microbanking project in the West Bank. The project itself straddled West Bank and Gaza, and I had to do a good bit of research on the two populations. What I was told then was that the West Bank was more “Jordanian” and Gaza more “Egyptian.” Certainly, the populations are very different. Palestinians in the West Bank have a higher GDP per capita than most Middle Eastern countries. They were on par at the time with Eastern Europe. They also had an incredibly high literacy rate – in the high 90s. West Bank Palestinians were more individualistic, with smaller families than in Gaza, which has higher population density and more “traditional” values.

    What was interesting to me though, was that my Palestinian clients on the West Bank denied any differences between the two regions. If memory serves, the local bank asked me to take that section out of my report.

    • #5
    • July 21, 2014, at 4:50 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe

    Danny Alexander:

    (continued from my #3 comment)

    This last circumstance (the fact that Abu Mazen is scarcely more than “Mayor of Ramallah” per the derisive Palestinian in-joke) suggests to me that that Hamas has strengthened considerably in the West Bank, and that the recent (re-)arrests of Hamas operatives up and down Yehuda/Judea and Shomron/Samaria have just barely scratched the surface.

    Sure, there are all sorts of clan-versus-clan rivalries and disputes that end up finding expression in various types of terror-group formation and participation, and these internal divisions also have corresponding Gaza-versus-West-Bank geographic attributes.

    All the same, it seems to me that the major question hinges more on the issue of how/why Abu Mazen and his retinue would continue to resist being drawn into the Iranian orbit (and thus seek respite via Egyptian/Saudi/Hashemite support), while Hamas has made its peace with being effectively an extension of the IRGC Quds Force — *both* in Gaza *and* in the West Bank?

     From the outset Abbas has been regarded as terribly weak. I first spoke at Al Quds University on the West Bank and at Ramallah in late 2005/early 2006. Everyone I spoke with — and these were moderates — described him as a weakling.

    • #6
    • July 21, 2014, at 9:24 PM PDT
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  7. Zafar Member

    Kirsten Weiss:

    Several years ago I worked on a microbanking project in the West Bank. The project itself straddled West Bank and Gaza, and I had to do a good bit of research on the two populations. What I was told then was that the West Bank was more “Jordanian” and Gaza more “Egyptian.” Certainly, the populations are very different. Palestinians in the West Bank have a higher GDP per capita than most Middle Eastern countries. They were on par at the time with Eastern Europe. They also had an incredibly high literacy rate – in the high 90s. West Bank Palestinians were more individualistic, with smaller families than in Gaza, which has higher population density and more “traditional” values.

    What was interesting to me though, was that my Palestinian clients on the West Bank denied any differences between the two regions. If memory serves, the local bank asked me to take that section out of my report.

     They may be quite sensitive to any attempt to divide the territories.

    Wrt Gaza Strip literacy rates, the only thing I could find: 

    total population: 92.4% male: 96.7% female: 88% (2004 est.)

    • #7
    • July 21, 2014, at 10:36 PM PDT
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  8. Danny Alexander Member

    Further to my last question/point in my comment #4, one of Israel’s top Arab-politics-focused analysts, Ehud Yaari, has this very relevant disquisition:

    http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/hamas-opts-for-the-hezbollah-model

    Yaari is on the Channel 2 news discussions a lot currently — if you’re able to sit and watch for a bit with someone who can give you a running translation, that might be fruitful (not necessarily in terms of understanding the deep history, but at least at the current-events level).

    Another outstanding resource to consult is the stellar Khaled Abu Toameh, particularly via the Gatestone Institute — where today he has the lead article:

    http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/

    Times like these come too soon on the heels of our loss of the late great Barry Rubin…

    • #8
    • July 22, 2014, at 12:59 AM PDT
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  9. Mike K Inactive

    “What I was told then was that the West Bank was more “Jordanian” and Gaza more “Egyptian.” Certainly, the populations are very different.”

    The Gaza strip was once occupied by Egypt and has been violent since 1947. I remember Mort Sahl making jokes about Gaza violence in the 1950s. From Wikipedia.

    “The occupation of the Gaza Strip by Egypt occurred between 1948 and October 1956 and again from March 1957 to June 1967. From September 1948, until its dissolution by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1959, the Gaza Strip was officially administered by the All-Palestine Government.”

    Israel would like to give it back to Egypt but they are not interested. It actually has a lot of potential as a tourist site with its beaches if the occupants were not what they are.

    • #9
    • July 22, 2014, at 9:28 AM PDT
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  10. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe

    Kirsten Weiss:

    Several years ago I worked on a microbanking project in the West Bank. The project itself straddled West Bank and Gaza, and I had to do a good bit of research on the two populations. What I was told then was that the West Bank was more “Jordanian” and Gaza more “Egyptian.” Certainly, the populations are very different. Palestinians in the West Bank have a higher GDP per capita than most Middle Eastern countries. They were on par at the time with Eastern Europe. They also had an incredibly high literacy rate – in the high 90s. West Bank Palestinians were more individualistic, with smaller families than in Gaza, which has higher population density and more “traditional” values.

    What was interesting to me though, was that my Palestinian clients on the West Bank denied any differences between the two regions. If memory serves, the local bank asked me to take that section out of my report.

     Fascinating.

    • #10
    • July 22, 2014, at 11:22 AM PDT
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