No, the Economist didn’t explicitly ask the question: Is it possible to understand why Hamas fires rockets at civilians? The headline of this post is inspired by an article by Ben White in 2001 titled ‘Is it possible to understand the rise in antisemitism?‘, which empathized with anti-Semites.
To boot, a July 19th article in the print edition The Economist purports to explain ‘Why Hamas Fires those Rockets‘ (pay wall), and reaches a predictable conclusion.
The anonymous article begins:
MANY Gazans, not just their leaders in Hamas, think they have little to lose by fighting on. For one thing, the spotlight has been switched back onto them since the Israeli campaign began earlier this month. In Gazan eyes, Hamas gains from the violence because the outside world may, as a result of the grim publicity generated by the bloodshed, feel obliged to consider its grievances afresh.
Whilst there is no doubt that Hamas perversely believes a war in which Palestinian civilians are killed strengthens their position, there is little evidence that this view is supported by ordinary Gazans. Though there’s been no polling during the current conflict, last month The Washington Institute commissioned a leading Palestinian pollster to gauge the views of Gazans, and the results appear to contradict the Economist’s conclusions:
While you can see the full poll here, the results to some of the questions clearly seem to contradict the Economist’s claim that Gazans “think they have little to lose by fighting”.
As tensions mounted and Hamas and other Gazan factions began to step up rocket fire [in June], the people of that territory were heavily in favor of a ceasefire — 70 percent of the poll respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Hamas should maintain a ceasefire with Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank.” This attitude is corroborated by the 73 percent of Gazans who said Palestinians should adopt “proposals for (nonviolent) popular resistance against the occupation.” Similarly, when asked if Hamas should accept Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s position that the new unity government renounce violence against Israel, a clear majority (57 percent) answered in the affirmative. The responses to all three questions clearly indicate that most Gazans reject military escalation.
The Economist article continued:
After the last big Israeli effort to stop the rockets, in November 2012, it was agreed that, along with a ceasefire, the blockade of Gaza would gradually be lifted and the crossings into Egypt and Israel would be opened. The ceasefire generally held, but the siege continued. As Gazans see it, they have remained cruelly shut up in an open-air prison. Firing rockets, many of them argue, is the only way they can protest, even though they know the Israelis are bound, from time to time, to punish them.
First, the ceasefire (after the 2012 war) did not hold, as they claim, as there were roughly 40 rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza in 2013 alone. As far as ‘the siege’ (by which he’s referring to Israel’ legal blockade of arms and dual use items which could be used for military purposes), Israel did in fact ease restrictions on imports into Gaza. This included allowing for the import of greater quantities of construction material (including cement) for private use and humanitarian purposes, much of which has clearly been diverted by Hamas to build terror tunnels and other military facilities.
The Economist then makes the following claim:
Mr Netanyahu’s government has prevented Mr Abbas from reasserting his authority, as part of the unity deal, over Gaza—and from paying off Hamas civil servants there.
However, Netanyahu had nothing to do with the failure of the new unity government to pay Hamas civil servants, as multiple reports demonstrate.
The inauguration on Monday of a unity government under a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation pact raised expectations among Hamas-hired servants that they would now receive their wages. Thousands joined their PA-payroll colleagues at Gaza ATMs on Thursday, hoping to withdraw their salaries.
But the Hamas employees came away empty-handed, and a spokesman for the [Palestinian] unity government said they still had to be vetted by a committee before they could be added to the new leadership’s payroll
The Gazan grievance over prisoners stirs great passion among Palestinians everywhere. After three Israeli students were kidnapped on the West Bank on June 12th and later found murdered, the Israeli security forces rounded up more than 500 Hamas people, even though the movement did not claim responsibility for the crime. The increase in rocket fire was partly intended as a protest against the round-up of prisoners. Any ceasefire, says Hamas, must include the release at least of those detained in the past month.
First, the two main suspects in the Israeli boys’ murders are Hamas members. Second, Hamas (who, let’s remember) praised the kidnapping) has been planning and publicly calling to kidnap Israelis for years. Indeed, there were dozens of unsuccessful attempts at kidnapping Israelis (many by Hamas members) in the year prior to the kidnapping and murder of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel.
As Etta Prince-Gibson wrote in Ha’aretz (pay wall):
Last year, the organization [Hamas] even distributed an 18-page “Field Manual for Kidnapping” to its Qassam Brigades, providing detailed explanations on how to target Israeli soldiers, when to kidnap (rainy days are best) and how to avoid being caught (don’t use the Internet or phone).
Lastly, note that the Economist characterized Hamas rocket attacks – intentional attacks on Israeli civilians which constitute war crimes under international law – as a mere “protest” against Israel.
In reading the Economist’s imputation of reasonableness to Hamas, you’d be forgiven for momentarily forgetting that they’re antisemitic extremist terror group which rejects the existence of the Jewish State within any borders.
The empathy for the terrorist group Hamas – and not merely for innocent Palestinian civilians – displayed by the ‘sophisticated’ Brits at the Economist (as with much of the UK media during the current war) is at times astounding.