The Futility of Dealing with Hamas

In the Spectator, Melanie Phillips provides the latest chapter in a long, sad story. This time, it is Hamas burning summer camps for children in Gaza:

All those who believe Gaza is in need of more international aid should be aware of what has now happened twice to summer camps for children in Gaza that are run by the UN. Foreign Policy magazine reports:

Last night, 25 armed, masked men set fire to a U.N. summer camp at a beach in Nuseirat, Gaza, destroying inflatable pools and tents and roughing up a group of guards protecting the facility. It was the second attack on a U.N. recreation facility in just over a month. On May 23, a group of 30 masked, armed men set fire to another U.N. summer camp facility under construction in Gaza City. They also threatened to kill the U.N.’s top relief official in Gaza.
U.N. officials told Turtle Bay they don’t know who attacked the recreation facilities but they suspect the vandals are Islamic extremists who object to programs that allow boys and girls to jointly swim, play volleyball, and learn about the arts, theater and other cultural activities.

This is yet another example of what I wrote about in the Daily Mail the other week – that the principle behind international aid programmes, that humanitarian assistance must be delivered regardless of the political situation because human need transcends politics or war, is totally flawed. All too often that aid is hijacked, trashed or used to prolong and deepen war or repression. In respect of Gaza, Barry Rubin makes a further related and salutary observation:

Prior to turning over the Gaza Strip to rule by the Palestinian Authority in 1994, Israel at times tried to resettle the refugees in new housing. This step was not only opposed by the PLO–which wanted to keep the refugees in temporary housing until their triumphant return to a Palestine built on the smoldering remains of a destroyed Israel–but by a UN resolution. And so Israel abandoned the effort.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) ruled the Gaza Strip for more than a dozen years and received lavish aid funding, some of it specifically earmarked for new housing. But it was PA policy never to move refugees into new housing, for the same reason as before. Their suffering was good propaganda abroad and also was intended to keep the refugees in a dissatisfied state of mind so they would support continuing the battle until total victory and be willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause.

When will they ever learn? In the case of the Obama administration, no time soon, apparently. Credible reports indicate that the administration is rewarding Hamas’s terrorist intransigence by making it a key player in talks now going on over the fate of the region.