It is a miracle that 1.4 million Gazans have survived Israel‘s secret weapon—starvation. Israel has been throttling the flow of food and goods into Gaza not just for months, but for years. Recent UN press releases state that since Israel’s “cease fire,” Israel allows only a fraction of needed food through the produce gate into Gaza. The Director of Operations in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), John Ging, said on Feb 5: “The Agency is responsible for feeding 900,000 refugees in Gaza, yet can only get food packets out at a daily rate of 30,000, giving an idea of just how long those at the end of the queue have to wait.”
“Hamas sweeps to election victory,” the BBC headline read on January 26, 2006. “Preliminary results give Hamas 76 of the 132 seats in the chamber, with the ruling Fatah party trailing on 43. The win poses problems for efforts to restart peace talks with Israel, say analysts. Israel insists it will not deal with an authority including Hamas.”
Former President Jimmy Carter and a team was on hand to certify a free election, stating and documented that Hamas is indeed the political party duly elected by a democratic vote of some four million who live in the so-called Palestine Authority.
There is no state of Palestine, so we respectfully refer to Palestinians as Philistines. Hamas and most of those it governs have survived an 18 month blockade of imposed starvation and a military attack by a world class nuclear power with weapons of mass destruction. Israel has killed by systematic execution some 1500 persons, mostly civilians, and including about 400 children. Thousands more have been wounded and scarred for life.
The survival of the Gazans can only be attributed to Hamas and the tunnel system it operates to bring additional food into Gaza. Some tunnels were there before Hamas, but now there is an underground network of tunnels that defies counting. (1)
The Philistines are survivors; they know how to work, and they know what they are working for. We do not know details of how hundreds of tunnels were dug; probably few people do. However it was accomplished, it could only have been Hamas that organized; financed and supervised the network that runs underneath the closed border withEgypt into the barns, homes and businesses of Egyptian businessmen. It has been said that operation of the tunnels is the biggest employer in Gaza. It provides desperately needed goods and food, and it generates pay checks with which to buy them.
The Gaza tunnel operation cannot be done without currency; the Egyptians and Gazans must be paid for their goods and labor. Gaza does not have a printing press or central bank, and if it did, no one would take the money. Instead, they must trade with the currency of those around them—the Shekel, the Egyptian Pound, and we do not know what else. In order for Hamas to run an “underground economy,” someone had to provide gifts or loans of currency exchangeable for goods and services. I suspect supporter nations and individuals trust Hamas with substantial money. I also suspect a large amount of small business free enterprise makes this system work; it is far too complex to be run by any government.
The tunnel economic system operates something like this; (1) knowing the United Nations cannot get by the blockade, sympathetic groups, nations, and individuals buy and deliver money to Hamas or to businessmen in Gaza through the tunnel network, perhaps in suitcases. (2) Businessmen, contractors and workers dig and maintain 500 miles or more of the small tunnels, repairing them and dragging goods and even animals on sleds and little wagons into Gaza for sale there. (3) Egyptian businessmen find the food and goods and sell it to the Gazan businessmen at the tunnels Egyptian portals. (4) Philistine men, stooped to the waist, work the tunnels under constant threat of being discovered and bombed while inside, but they are paid to do it, and with their pay, they are able to buy food for their families. It is a cycle of money, sweat, and hope that sustains life and hope in Gaza.
We ask one simple question, how could this system feed a big city without a government that was reasonably honest and trusted by the people? It is easy to see why Israelwants the tunnel system destroyed. It thwarts Israel’s blockade plan. As long as the network is open, the Philistines will survive. How can we, who say we love freedom, do better than to support the government that the people trust and that keep the tunnels for life project going?
If the Philistines are to escape extermination it will be because those who should be Hamas’ natural friends support it. Presently they do not. During the last 20 months when the US gave the Gazans nothing, it gave Israel several billions in military and financial aid. Can we not at least even up the sides by giving no more to the criminals than we give to their victims?. read article