As Hamas celebrates 31 years as a terrorist organization and 13 years in power in Gaza, those of us who stand for Israel wonder how this evil entity can be so long-lasting. Writing at The Jerusalem Post, Hillel Frisch takes a look at how Hamas continues to be such a popular movement among Palestinians:
The photos – and even more so the videos – of Hamas’s 31st anniversary commemoration in Katiba Square in Gaza evoke vivid impressions of a vibrant, extremely popular movement after 11 years of rule over the Gaza Strip.
No doubt, the event was impressive, not least because the Israeli Air Force knocked out al-Aqsa’s broadcasting site in November during the largest flare up to date since the 2014 campaign. Hamas proved that it could broadcast live despite the site’s destruction, just as the event itself showed no small measure of organizational efficiency.
Women and men were separated by a cordon of Hamas officials in military dress and yellow vests. Green flags were plentiful and the deep podium was impressively adorned. The speeches and the skits – one of which featured an Israeli soldier cowering under his guards – were well-orchestrated. In short, the event proceeded like clockwork, even Swiss, in its precision…
The number attending also explains why Hamas chose the smaller square. The shadow (and real) Hamas government has on its payroll 51,000 military and civilian employees, many of whom are beneficiaries of the $30 million in cash from Qatar distributed in Gaza. They were bound to show up having not been paid (half) of their salaries since May (40% on the payroll) and June of last year for the remainder, according to official announcements. Hamas has not paid full salaries since early 2014, after el-Sisi closed down most of the smuggling tunnels.
Rest assured that these employees returned part of the money they received to Hamas to organize the event. These employees, as reluctant as they might have been to part with precious cash, no doubt realized that Qatar provided these funds because of Hamas’s feud with the Palestinian Authority, as part of the feud closer to home between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, rather than on humanitarian grounds. There are far needier Gazans than Hamas employees.
The crucial question is whether the organization will privilege meeting the needs of its bureaucracy, and thus be allowed to be “tamed” to keep the peace, or stick to the path of aggression it renewed in April 2018, with the March of Return processions.
The answer lies probably in the middle with Qatar – which wants a tamer, but independent Hamas – and Iran, which wants bloodshed on Israel’s southern front. The problem is that Hamas needs the financial aid of both.