Protection rackets provide “protection” for profit. Much of that profit, typically, is plowed back to the organization to render it even more powerful.
By HILLEL FRISCH
As Israelis in the Gaza border communities – between missile launches and batches of incendiary balloons – ponder over the meaning of the “hasdara,” arrangement, between Israel and Hamas (brokered by Egypt), Blue and White and Likud launch rhetorical salvos against one another over the issue, while Hamas and its allies are sure it has been a great deal.How do we know? Hamas says so in numbers. At a recent “meet the press” event run by the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Development and Social Affairs, a senior official in the ministry, Muhammad Hamada, reported that NIS 268 million of Qatari money has so far been disbursed in Gaza.Unwittingly, he also revealed that Hamas took by far the lion’s share, probably to develop the military infrastructure the Israel Air Force keeps attacking after almost every salvo.According to Hamada, the money was distributed to 70,000 families. He then went on to itemize, in considerable detail, how the money was spent. The problem is that when one adds up all the specific funds to all the specific targeted populations, the items add up to NIS 59,709,154. Subtract this sum from the NIS 268m. Hamada claims were distributed to Gaza’s poor, it means NIS 208m., nearly 80% are unaccounted for.The discerning reader may ask themselves – wait a minute, the writer is jumping to conclusions. How do we know the remainder went to Hamas? Maybe the Hamas official cannot be bothered to go through all the items for fear of losing his audience? Maybe he’s picking the highlights, which will garner greater support amongst Gaza’s inhabitants?Possibly, but hardly plausible. The list of target populations and the amounts distributed to them range from 100,000 individuals, who received more than NIS 50 million, to 108 beggars, who received altogether $10,000 (Some items were given in dollars and most in shekel). One can safely assume that the unaccounted NIS 208m. would have been distributed to large numbers and that they would head Hamada’s list. After all, the “meet the press” event was meant to persuade Gaza’s population to the extent Hamas’ extortion strategy against Israel is working to its benefit.Even when one compares the relative benefit derived by the specific groups, one sees the pattern of distribution is heavily skewed toward Hamas’s concerns. Let’s compare the 100,000 beneficiaries, the largest target group. They received an average of NIS 500 each. Compare this to the first item on his list, 156 families of the martyrs, who received more than NIS 7,000, 14 times more than the indigent.AdvertisementOnly slightly less buttered were the 257 government officials hired by Hamas who were dismissed by the so-called “unity government” and therefore did not receive salaries from Ramallah. They received just less than NIS 7,000. Once again, compare this to the aid given to criminals in jail and their families, which amounted to less than NIS 500, or children with special needs, who received less than four dollars a child, from Qatari money (who to be sure are beneficiaries of social-welfare payments made by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah).So much for a movement lauded in academic books and journals for its deep commitment to social welfare.Protection rackets provide “protection” for profit. Much of that profit, typically, is plowed back to the organization to render it even more powerful – either to extend their “protection” or deepen it. Hamada’s “meet the press” event reveals that with every bagful of Qatari money distributed in Gaza, Hamas becomes stronger – the missiles become more lethal, the internal underground networks more elaborate, along with the penchant and leisure to innovate.What is truly baffling is that Hamas is being allowed these funds without offering “protection!” After three-and-a-half years of an almost complete cessation of hostilities after the last beating the movement took in 2014, the policy of nearly two years of “hasdara,” by sharp contrast, has brought back the devastating missile trickle or the occasional missile flareup, with the incendiary balloons as icing, and the lessons couldn’t be clearer.In fighting an enemy, you do what you are at you are best and avoid at all costs doing what your enemy is best. Extortion, khuwwa, in Arabic, has long tradition in the way Arabs fight. Israel has a distinguished record at hitting hard, massively and quickly. It is high time to do what Israel is good at doing rather than engaging with an enemy in what it knows best.But there’s also another lesson to be learned from the “meet the press” and its numbers. Hamas obviously feels the need to assuage the inhabitants of Gaza. As long as Gaza’s inhabitants think Hamas’s extortion is benefiting them, there is little hope they will serve as an opposition to the organization.When they realize once again that Hamas policies come at considerable cost – the cost of a massive round of violence – it might change, especially since Gaza’s inhabitants have been bearing almost the entire brunt of fighting for the Palestinian cause – as Arab states, Hezbollah and, since Yasser Arafat’s war against Israel in 2000, the PA encourage their sacrifice while they themselves stand as onlookers.It’s time to turn the heat on Hamas for the pain it exerts on Israel rather than the “protection” it is supposed to be rendering, and all the more so when most of those funds go to increasing the pain evermore in the future.
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