A Palestinian man lifts his daughter at beach along the Mediterranean Sea in the northern Gaza Strip July 24, 2015. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Surfing in Gaza. Sounds crazy, right? Actually, surfers say that some of the best waves along the coast of the Mediterranean are on the beaches of Gaza. And yes, there actually is a Gaza Surf Club.
Sadly, very few youngsters have the opportunity to surf in Gaza and tourism is nonexistent. What would it take to rebuild Gaza, alleviate poverty, and turn it into a magnet for tourists with beautiful hotels and restaurants? Most importantly, what would it take to put Gaza on the road to peace? The answer could come from an unlikely source: the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Iran’s role in the conflict between Israel and Hamas is undeniable. Iran has provided Hamas with an endless supply of rockets and the know-how and technology for Hamas to indigenously manufacture its own rockets. Since 2005, more than 15,000 rockets have been fired at Israeli civilians from Gaza leading to three major conflicts with Israel.
In addition, it was the aid from Iran that enabled Hamas to build a sophisticated network of terror tunnels, many dug under the Israeli border.
During Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, the IDF discovered and destroyed 30 of these terror tunnels.
The US State Department has consistently highlighted Iranian support for Hamas in its annual report on global terrorism. This year’s report states, “Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC).”
It’s not hard to imagine a different reality that would improve life for Gazans and bring peace with Israel. Just imagine if Iranian leaders directed a portion of the $100 billion dollars they will receive in sanction relief from the nuclear deal to help rebuild Gaza instead of the Hamas war machine.
The needs of Gaza have been clearly identified by organizations such as the World Bank. Recommendations of the 2014 World Bank Report for Gaza include “Infrastructure rehabilitation through municipalities to rehabilitate basic infrastructure such as roads, water and sanitation, and local electricity networks…” With the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) and relief from economic sanctions, Iran could help Gazans build sewage treatment plants, electrical power plants, and other critical infrastructure, thereby providing jobs and improving the quality of life.
It would be naïve to think that even an Iranian- sponsored redevelopment program for Gaza would transform the radical ideology of Hamas that calls for the destruction of Israel. However, Hamas would find it very difficult to contemplate launching attacks against Israel if its beaches were filled with tourists.
What are the chances, however, that Iran will decide to help rebuild Gaza’s civilian infrastructure? The answer is virtually zero because of the revolutionary ideology that guides Iranian leaders to expand the regime’s influence and pursue unyielding hostilities against Israel.
The status quo is clearly in need of a change, and at the moment, only the international community is capable of creating a new dynamic. It is time for the international community to recognize the connection between state sponsorship of terrorism and the human suffering that results from the inevitable conflicts caused by terrorism.
Those who care about the people of Gaza should want to see their infrastructure rebuilt, their economy flourish, and tourists flock to the beautiful coast.
What a wonderful idea; demanding that a state sponsor of terror transform itself into a state sponsor of international development. What would it take for this to happen? How about demanding corporate social responsibility from the multinational companies that now consider reentering Iran? How about an international community that just doesn’t talk about peace, but actually promotes peace by delegitimizing business with state sponsors of terrorism? Then Iranian leaders would understand that supporting terrorism has an economic cost.
Only then could we build a new reality where children go surfing in Gaza.
The author is Outreach Coordinator for the non-partisan advocacy group, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).