My colleague and long-time friend Ayman Bardawil got a call from his family in Rafah. The house he was born and raised in was totally destroyed last week. His brother and family, who live in that house, were miraculously saved because one of his daughters had a cold and they went over next door moments before the house was shelled. These are the kind of stories that you hear every day. Ayman's family support Fatah, but that didn't save them from the destructiveness of the Israeli onslaught.
Hamas is a mixture of an ideological movement as well as a political one. They want to resist the Israelis, but they also want to govern. Ever since being elected early in 2006, Hamas has been trying to govern while refusing to totally give up resistance. The closure of Gaza has given Hamas and some of the other radical groups a reason to use military actions to try to pry open the unjust blockade that has been placed on the people of Gaza. When the six-month truce ran out last month, it was hard for them to renew it without the Israelis agreeing to make some compromise as far as the blockade was concerned.
Ironically, Gaza and Sinai were occupied 41 years earlier, when the Israelis were unable to tolerate a partial blockade (one only from the Red Sea) and they declared Egypt's naval blockade an act of war. The Israeli narrative since 1967 is that Israel occupied the Arab territories because a blockade is a declaration of war.
The ideological faction in Hamas wanted very much to draw the Israelis into some type of military confrontation. The calculations of those on Hamas's fundamentalist side are different from those on the governance side. But with the blockade continuing, those within the governance group were not able to properly govern. They therefore had to yield to their radical colleagues, who figured that a military confrontation would undoubtedly shake things up and bring international attention to their blockade.
True, the price of the present confrontation to Palestinians is very high. But Hamas feels exactly like Ehud Olmert: that it had no alternative. The international community has been too busy with Iraq and Afghanistan, and has allowed the situation to reach this helpless stage. Hard-headed Israelis and Palestinians are carrying out their fight on the streets amid their own population, meaning all this bloodshed is borne almost entirely by Palestinians.
When the guns will stop and a ceasefire of sorts is reached, the Hamas military machine will surely be weakened, but its popularity will most likely not be hurt. That's because those Palestinians whose children were killed or homes destroyed are more likely to blame the Israelis - the actual party that caused the destruction - rather than Hamas or any other Palestinian group.
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