That is the question posed by Henry Kopel in this long essay. Israel will win the war with Gaza, but what comes next? The Biden administration is already demanding that Israel not occupy Gaza. What then? Kopel writes (links in original):
[M]uch like what faced the victorious World War II allies upon Nazi Germany’s surrender, there will remain the critically important job of expunging from Gaza’s institutions and society, Hamas’s deeply embedded genocidal ideology.
As I have written elsewhere, in both Hamas-ruled Gaza and the Palestinian Authority’s West Bank, there exists the world’s most powerful ideological ecosystem for the mass production of terrorists. Though often underreported, the schools, mosques, and media across those territories indoctrinate their children and citizens 24/7 in hatred and demonization of Jews and Israel and glorify suicide bombers as noble “martyrs.”
The United Nations plays a key role in this demonic ecosystem:
Across Gaza, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) runs 278 schools serving over 291,000 students. UNRWA schools have been shown time and again to be conduits of Nazi-like Jew hatred. A 2023 audit found that UNRWA schools in Gaza “regularly call for the murder of Jews, and create teaching materials that glorify terrorism, encourage martyrdom, [and] demonize Israelis . . . .” Their textbooks lionize terrorists like “Dalal Mughrabi, murderer of 38 Israelis,” for whom an entire chapter is “dedicated to her role as a model of female empowerment.” More than 100 UNRWA educators were found to be “praising Hitler and inciting Jew-hatred” on social media.
The West Bank is little different:
Schools across the West Bank similarly demonize Jews and glorify mass murders of Israelis. High school textbooks “teach their children to hate Israel and vilify Israel’s existence while they glorify terror.” And when the school year ends, Palestinian children attend summer camps named after suicide bombers, which indoctrinate their campers in hatred and terror-worship.
And the propaganda doesn’t stop when Gazans leave school, with the consequence that Hamas has a surplus of young Gazans begging to be sent on suicide missions:
Accordingly, even if every Hamas terrorist is killed, Gaza’s educational and media environment, if left in place, will soon plentifully produce a new generation of terrorists hell-bent on massacring every Jew across Israel. This is why a secure peace with Gaza cannot be won by military means alone.
That states the problem well. But what is the solution? Kopel advocates a temporary occupation by Israel, but will that be enough?
Given the paramount need for a transformative occupation of Gaza, there remain three critical questions going forward. First, what are the goals of an interim occupation of Gaza, and by whom shall this be done? Second, at the end of the occupation, to whom should governance be turned over? And third, what are the chances of success, that is, how likely is this to achieve a sustainable long-term peace?
Kopel argues that neither the Palestinian Authority, which as he points out is just as bad as Hamas, nor the United Nations should have any role. I wholeheartedly agree. But who else is there? Kopel assumes there are at least some Gazans who can be trusted not to relapse:
Achieving a genuinely post-terrorist Gaza will also require the successful implementation of at least four further policy initiatives, both during and continuing after the interim occupation. These include: (1) thorough vetting of all leaders, administrators, educators, and police/justice/security personnel as discussed above; (2) top-to-bottom de-radicalization of all school curricula, teacher training, and teaching materials across Gaza; (3) removal of all terror-inciting propaganda from the mass media and government agencies; and (4) ongoing de-radicalization programs in order to detect and prevent any resurgence of Hamas-style entities.
Do such potential leaders exist? And can such an ideological reconstruction of Gaza succeed? Kopel argues at some length against the assumption that “nation building” can never work. His points are well taken, but the soil of Gaza is, to say the least, unpromising. Kopel’s conclusion:
The inconvenient truth of the matter is this: A governance structure in Gaza that prioritizes the well-being of the territory’s civilians would bring dramatic improvements in the life prospects of long-suffering Gazans. Hence for those who claim to care about civilians in Gaza, there is no better place to start than supporting Israel’s elimination of Hamas followed by a transformative, multilateral interim occupation of the territory.
Of course, this conclusion runs directly contrary to much of the propaganda purporting to explain the so-called “context” of the Hamas slaughters. But when examining the evidence rather than the propaganda, one conclusion becomes manifestly inescapable: It is not Israel from which Gaza must be freed. It is Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and UNRWA. And for the sake of both Israelis and Palestinians, it is long past time to let that freedom ring.
It is good, I think, to be optimistic. But I would add two points. First, Gazan noncombatants, to the extent there are some, must be made to feel the sting of defeat, as the Germans and Japanese did at the end of World War II. Given the lifelong propaganda and perverse socialization to which they have been subjected, Gazans aren’t going to be persuaded by argument. They must be made to see, as the Germans and Japanese did after Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that starting the war against Israel was an awful decision that caused a horrible calamity, and must never be repeated. The ideology of Jew-hatred must be utterly discredited by defeat. Only this will open the minds of most Gazans to an alternative to the perverse society they have long known.
Second, Gaza needs to go to work. There is no reason why Gaza should not have a decent and even thriving economy, but instead it has relied on foreign aid while its own meager resources have been commandeered by Hamas for terrorist purposes. The CIA Fact Book says that Gaza has a per capita GDP of only $5,600 dollars, with unemployment at 25% and youth unemployment at 40%. The AP itemizes some of the aid that enables Gaza’s idleness:
— From 2014-2020, U.N. agencies spent nearly $4.5 billion in Gaza, including $600 million in 2020 alone. More than 80% of that funding is channeled through the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, who make up three-fourths of Gaza’s population. Some 280,000 children in Gaza attend schools run by UNRWA, which also provides health services and food aid.
— Qatar has provided $1.3 billion in aid to Gaza since 2012 for construction, health services and agriculture. That includes $360 million pledged in January for 2021 and another $500 million pledged for reconstruction after the war in May. Qatar’s aid also goes to needy families and to help pay Hamas government salaries.
— The Palestinian Authority says it will spend $1.7 billion on Gaza this year, mainly on salaries for tens of thousands of civil servants who stopped working when Hamas took over in 2007.
Tens of thousands of “civil servants”? Who haven’t worked since 2007? And now are being supported by the Palestinian Authority, which in turn gets most of its money from the U.N., the U.S. and the E.U.
The most useful contribution to Gaza’s real economy has been Israel’s. That country has issued 10,000 permits to Gazans to work in Israel, having first vetted them for Hamas connections. Post-war, Israel should wean Gaza off international aid, as rapidly and to the greatest extent possible. There is no reason why Gazans should be helplessly dependent “refugees” forever.
Can Gaza be salvaged? I don’t know. The “international community” has collaborated in producing the sickest society on Earth. But one thing I think is clear: Gaza can only be saved in the aftermath of an absolutely crushing military defeat, comparable to that which awoke Germany from the same Nazi fever dream.