Israeli troops entering Gaza last week have so far uncovered 18 tunnels used by Hamas to send armed terrorists into Israel and built using an estimated 800,000 tons of concrete.
What else might that much concrete build? Erecting Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, required 110,000 tons of concrete. Hamas, then, could’ve treated itself to seven such monstrosities and still had a few tens of thousands of tons to spare. If it wanted to build kindergartens equipped with bomb shelters, like Israel has built for the besieged citizens of Sderot, for example—after all, noted military strategists like Jon Stewart have spent last week proclaiming that Gaza’s citizens had nowhere to hide from Israel’s artillery—Hamas could have used its leftovers to whip up about two that were each as big as Giants Stadium. And that’s just 18 tunnels. Egypt, on its end, recently claimed to have destroyed an additional 1,370. That’s a lot of concrete.
You may find such calculations callous. They certainly pale in comparison to heart-wrenching photos of dead children on the beach. But they matter a whole lot: If you’ve ever read Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, or played Sim City, or just looked out your window and paid attention to your city’s changing skyline, you know that urban leaders are measured not by what they say but what they build. And Hamas, almost exclusively, chose to build tunnels, bunkers, and launching pads for missiles.
Now, from purely military point of view, there is something brilliant about transforming a strip of coastal farmland into a giant concrete aircraft carrier that’s impossible for your enemy to sink. But the idea that Hamas’ tunnels are intended to promote the welfare of Gaza’s 1.8 million civilians, who are forced to live on deck as rockets are fired, is bunk. If the tunnels were truly lifelines for Gazans, as Western apologists occasionally argue, one might expect any reasonably responsible leadership to avoid firing barrages of rockets at civilians inside Israel.
The intention behind Hamas’ tunnels is clear from where the exits are located: inside Israel. The terror organization packed its subterranean networks of tunnels and bunkers with explosives, weapons, and murderers, some disguised as IDF soldiers. Their gallant plan was to send the killers through the tunnels, so they could emerge from the ground in the middle of Israeli kibbutzim and start throwing grenades and shooting indiscriminately, with the goal of killing as many Israelis as possible. That’s not very neighborly.
So, where did Hamas get all that concrete? Most of it came from you and your government. Hamas got its hands on the supplies it needed to build the tunnels after it pleaded with the international community last year to help redeem Gaza from the throes of a humanitarian crisis, caused by the fact that both Israel and Egypt closed their borders to Gaza, because both countries grew tired of having their soldiers and citizens murdered by terrorists. Needless to say, Israel’s concerns about how the concrete would be used were universally derided in the West as inflicting cruel and needless suffering on the people of Gaza—who, needless to say, didn’t receive any of the concrete for their own use. The priorities of Ismail Haniyeh’s government were crystal clear—to use all resources at their disposal to launch another war with Israel.
And if you are among the tens of thousands of political idiots who spent last weekend demonstrating in support of Hamas—now that the Khmer Rouge isn’t fashionable—it may also be useful for you to know that while Gazans languish in poverty, Hamas’ bosses are living large; Haniyeh, for example, bought 27,000 square feet of beach-side property a few years ago for $4 million, pays for his children to study in Europe, and sends his family members to hospitals inside Israel—all good choices, which he ensures are not available to anyone in Gaza who isn’t a high-level member of his fundamentalist political cult.
What all this adds up to is that Hamas is not seriously interested in governing Gaza, which is why all the honorable attempts at resolving this current round of bloodletting will fall flat. New elections won’t help. Giving Hamas more concrete won’t help either.
Earlier this month, Israel’s former chief of staff and Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz proposed a dollars-for-demilitarization deal; it called for a ceasefire, followed by a payment of a whopping $50 billion designated for welfare and infrastructure in return for a promise to cleanse Gaza of rockets and to destroy the tunnels. It’s an interesting idea, which rests on the assumption that the cash will make its way to Gaza’s tired, poor, and huddled masses. It won’t.
We are left with a harsh realization that makes so many of us, good liberal Jews reared on the principle that nothing stands outside the realm of reason, deeply uncomfortable: There’s no negotiating with Hamas. Not because of some lofty and abstract principle—we don’t negotiate with terrorists!—but because Hamas isn’t here to talk or build or heal the wounded people of Gaza. The organization’s raison d’etre is killing people in order to bring about the rule of its fundamentalist and radically intolerant brand of Islam—they shoot Jews, and they also shoot anyone else the organizations doesn’t like, including Egyptian soldiers, gays, and political opponents from other Palestinian factions.
Anyone with a genuine commitment to human rights—not to mention sympathy for the Palestinian cause—should join Israel in its efforts to rid the world of such sheer evil and topple Hamas. To leave Hamas in power is not a moderate solution to anything. It is to become complicit in the agenda and the actions of a terrorist organization in inflicting terrible and continuing pain not only on its neighbors but also on its own people.
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Liel Leibovitz is a senior writer for Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.