"We are going to continue our resistance and holy war, and we will continue to rain rockets on your colonies until we make them ghost towns.'' So says Abu Ahmad, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, in early March 2008.
There seems to be some obsession with the "ghost town" concept among Hamas leadership. They have seen the panic and fear as portrayed in the media, which emphasizes sensationalism, and they have somehow assumed their strategy of random rocket fire is working.
But they ignore a few realities: the United States attempted to bomb North Viet-Nam into submission and failed, in spite of the most massive aerial bombardment since World War 2; Israel tried to bomb Hezbullah into submission in the recent Lebanese war and failed; now Hamas thinks they can bomb Sderot and Ashkelon into submission. They have failed.
Not only have they failed to create a "ghost town," an image they must have picked up while watching cowboy movies, but their attempts have had the opposite effect. A few people did run away, but those who have stayed become stronger each day. In my time here I have been amazed at the resiliency of the residents. When the "tseva adom" alarm is heard, there is some panic and running for shelter. But a minute later life returns to an almost normal pace.
There have been tragedies, 13 killed in the past eight years. But the population endures, and seems to grow stronger with each rocket fired at them.
What has Hamas really produced? Here's a quote from a recent UN report: "1.1 million people, about 80 percent of Gaza's residents, are now dependent on food aid, up from 63 percent in 2006, unemployment is close to 40 percent. Close to 70 percent of the 110,000 workers employed in the private sector have lost their jobs. It also said that hospitals are suffering from power cuts of up to 12 hours a day, and the water and sewage systems were close to collapse, 10 million to 12 million gallons of sewage pouring into the sea daily."
This misery seems irrelevant to the purposes of the Hamas entity as it pursues its glorious "holy war." What Hamas is really producing is a generation of Israelis who can withstand anything, even a daily rain of rockets onto the streets and homes where they live and work.
Is this leadership? Not unless you consider Uganda's Idi Amin a great leader. Hamas, with 25 miles of Mediterranean coastline, some of the world's prime real estate, has decided to create wretched conditions for the people under its control. Instead of providing jobs, they attempt to destroy the places where 120,000 Gazan used to work. Instead of trying to improve medical care, they attempt to kill Israelis who respond by closing the borders which means closing access to hospitals.
But when Hamas kills Israeli schoolchildren candy is handed out to Gaza residents, and there is much rejoicing.
"That is the difference between us," says an Israeli, watching the Hamas celebration of death.
Hamas has succeeded in creating some hardship on the fringes of Israel. But in pushing their attacks further into Israel, striking the city of Ashkelon, they have drawn a lethal response that succeeded only in creating a greater loss of life and greater misery for the Gazans under its control. But in the deranged mental state of the Hamas leadership, with a 30 to 1 loss in military personnel, this was a "victory," accompanied again by a street spectacle.
Does Hamas have the devoted backing of all Gazans? No. There is communication between ordinary Gazans and Israelis. Over a hundred thousand Gazans used to work in Israel, friendships were made, and many endure. "When they come to fire their rockets from near our house," a Gazan tells his Israeli friend in a cell phone conversation,"we are told not to say or do anything, or they will kill us."
This is the nature of the failed Hamas leadership, powered by arrogance, self-righteousness, and out of touch with reality. What the future holds under this control by men who claim to be religious, but who rejoice in death, is unknown. All that can be certain is that a Gazan, a Palestinian, who wants to live in peace, have a normal life, raise a family, and have a good job, will be trapped in a world of misery until Hamas is gone.
Sderot, Israel, March 2008