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Gone to hell in Gaza

September 11, 2006

Palestinian militants in Gaza have learned many lessons from Hizbollah’s purported success against the IDF during the recent war in Lebanon, according to a recent report in WorldNetDaily. Both the Israelis and the militants agree on what’s happening.

Israel’s Shin Bet:

Yuval Diskin, director of Israel’s Shin Bet Security Services, told the Knesset last month that since the Jewish state withdrew from Gaza, the Palestinians successfully have transferred from the neighboring Egyptian Sinai desert hundreds of tons of advanced rockets; anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles; rocket propelled grenades; raw explosives; rifles; ammunition and other heavy weaponry. Israel vacated the Gaza Strip one year ago.

“If we don’t move to counter this smuggling, it will continue and create a situation in Gaza similar to the one in southern Lebanon,” Diskin said.

Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades:

Abu Ahmed said Diskin’s assessment was accurate.

“I think Diskin made those statements to try to distract the Israelis from their losses in Lebanon by focusing on another area, but he is right. We are turning Gaza into south Lebanon,” the terror leader said.

Abu Ahmed said his group is receiving help from Hezbollah to import long-range rockets and train in guerrilla warfare tactics.

“We have warm relations with Hezbollah, which helps with some of the training programs,” Abu Ahmed said. “We don’t have anything to be ashamed of – that we are dealing with Hezbollah and that we are receiving training and information from them.”

So the first Palestinian state (or statelet) is destined to be no more than an arsenal and launch pad from which to attack Israel.

Yet, as the Israelis prepared to withdraw, a year ago this month, there were such high hopes. Some even talked about how Gaza would become a Palestinian Hong Kong, an example to rival Israel. But it was never really going to anything other than a terrorists’ kitchen.

A brief ray of light was seen a fortnight ago, when Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad blamed Gaza’s descent into anarchy on the Gazans themselves and called on them to admit their mistakes and stop blaming Israel for their plight. But the more recent events point to more of the same for the foreseeable future.

Nothing exemplifies the failure of the Gazan experiment as much as the fate of the Gaza greenhouses. During the decades of the occupation, Israeli settlers set up a network of over 3,000 greenhouses in Gaza. Using some of the most advanced agricultural technology in the world, they grew fruit, vegetables and flowers in an insect-free environment for export to Israel and Europe. As they were grown out of season, there was an eager international market for this produce, and it earned more than $100 million in export dollars. It provided jobs and livelihoods for more than 4,000 Palestinian families.

When the angry settlers realised the Israeli government was serious about withdrawal, many talked of destroying the greenhouses, or evacuating them to Israel. The Palestinian Authority refused to buy them. So a group of mainly Jewish American philanthropists — reportedly Bill Gates was also involved — clubbed together to raise $14 million to buy the greenhouses from the settlers, and gifted them to the PA.

In the mayhem that accompanied the Israeli withdrawal, a third of the greenhouses were looted and trashed. Computers were stolen, along with the irrigation equipment and anything else the jubilant Gazans could lay their hands on to celebrate their victory (for so indeed they saw it).

By December, with the greenhouses now run by a corrupt PA contactor, the Palestinians were appealing to international aid organisations to contract some of the Israeli farmers to come back to Gaza to help run them and generate new produce. As far as I know, none did. Meanwhile, Gaza had turned into an instant lawless swamp, beset with gun-battles between followers of Fatah and those of Hamas, who still had their guns but no Israelis to use them against.

Then in February this year, there was another spate of vandalism, when the security guards assigned to guard the greenhouses walked off the job in protest at not being paid. (Other reporting claimed the guards themselves did the looting.) Now many if not most of the greenhouses that remain are launch sites for Qassam rockets or terrorist training grounds.

It seems emblematic of the death of the dream.

A propos, Michael J. Totten has a brilliant photoessay on Israel and Gaza up (image heavy, takes a while to load).

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