Information Warfare: The Forbidden Nice Neighborhoods

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August 16, 2016: Suddenly Palestinian terror group Hamas is releasing videos and photos of the many attractive neighborhoods in Gaza, many of them featuring new construction or well-maintained older structures. For years Hamas has tightly controlled local and foreign media in Hamas and used threats to enforce what visuals get shown internationally. Hamas demanded that only ruins and bombed out structures be shown. Thus most people outside the region have only seen buildings damaged or destroyed by Israeli firepower. The targets were usually places where Hamas stored weapons or housed Hamas facilities or weapons factories. Hamas always removed all evidence of that before pictures of videos could be taken. Of course Israel always had plenty of aerial video and photos as well as some cell phone images taken by informants. These were seen on the Internet and printed in Israel. These pictures were dismissed by Hamas as Israeli propaganda and most foreign media went along with that despite the fact that many foreign photographers had walked or drove by the places shown in these pictures.

But now Hamas has to remind voters in Gaza about the good things that have been created in Gaza under Hamas rule. This may backfire because Hamas has favored its loyalists with the cash and access to construction materials to create most of this nice looking stuff. The many factions (Fatah and otherwise) in Gaza that are hostile to Hamas live in less attractive neighborhoods.

To the surprise of most Westerners Hamas, the Islamic terrorist group controlling Gaza since 2007 agreed in July to local elections this October, the first to be held since 2005, when Hamas unexpectedly beat the incumbent Fatah. While Fatah won in the West Bank, Hamas proceeded to take control of Gaza and disputes with Fatah prevented elections in Gaza for a decade. In a 1993 peace deal with Israel it was agreed there would be Palestinian elections every four years but because of factional disputes among the Palestinians such elections have been held only twice.

Hamas is much more radical than Fatah and, in the beginning, much less corrupt. Since 2007 Hamas has become corrupt as well as violent and agreed to elections because it believes it can retain control of Gaza and legitimize its many supporters in the West Bank. A more compelling reason to allow the vote is that both Fatah and Gaza have been pressured by Western and Arab donors to unify and use an election if need be to get that done. The donors have sharply reduced aid, especially to Hamas, to encourage cooperation.

This all began with the September 2005 local elections. In the West Bank control of the 104 local councils split with Fatah (the traditional Palestinian ruling party) getting 61, terrorist group Hamas getting 28, and 15 for other groups. Hamas continued to gain political strength, largely because Hamas leaders appeared more effective than other Palestinian politicians.

By 2007 Hamas had taken control of Gaza. There were several reasons for this. One was the Israeli withdrawal (or troops and Israeli civilians) from Gaza in 2005. This was a peace gesture to the Palestinians that backfired and made it possible for Hamas to take control. Another thing helping Hamas were the differences which have long distinguished Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians from the 2.5 million in the West Bank. While Gaza is mostly a collection of refugee camps, the West Bank consists largely of people who have lived there for generations, or, in some cases, thousands of years. The Gaza population is younger, poorer, more recent and more militant. To many Palestinians, Gaza is part of Egypt, a giant refugee camp that the Egyptians won't take responsibility for. Instead, the UN and European aid groups were left to deal with the needs of the destitute population. Egypt, meanwhile, sees Hamas control of Gaza as a threat, because of Hamas support for Islamic terrorists. By 2007 Egypt believed there was a Gaza connection with recent Islamic terrorist attacks in Egypt. It's also no secret that Egyptian smuggling gangs are doing a thriving business supplying Gaza with weapons, and some of those weapons, including several tons of explosives a month, ends up in the hands of terrorists. The smuggling tunnels also brought in lots of consumer goods for Hamas supporters and many of these could be seen in the forbidden photos of Gaza’s nice neighborhoods.

 


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