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The victors of the Gaza war were also the losers

Who came out of the Gaza war the victors, and who were the losers – or, rather, who lost more and who lost less?

By Talal Jabari

Another ceasefire between Israel and Hamas-led Gaza ­– this time costing more in terms of life and property than the last time. It will probably cost less than the next time; 2016 if the trend stays constant.

At the end of any battle, it makes sense to step back and look at the bigger picture. You want to assess who won and who lost – or at least who lost more and who lost less.

I can’t help but think of the families of the more than 2,000 Palestinians who were killed, the thousands upon thousands injured, the hundreds of thousands without homes in Gaza. Children who will grow up without parents. Parents who did what no parent should have to do, and buried their children. And all the families that need to rebuild their lives. For them this was a very costly war and there is no doubt in my mind that the civilian population of Gaza suffered the greatest loss as a result of this battle.

The al-Nada towers in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, had ninety apartments before they were destroyed in Israeli attacks. (Anne Paq / Activetills)

The al-Nada towers in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, had ninety apartments before they were destroyed in Israeli attacks. (Anne Paq / Activetills)

On a political level, Fatah in the West Bank has lost. The negative sentiment towards the Fatah leadership continues to swell and become more vocal. However, in the absence of elections and a heavy-handed security apparatus, that doesn’t mean much.

Let’s move on to the winners. At the top of the list is Hamas. Palestinians are celebrating the “victory” that Hamas delivered to its people. It’s stock on the Palestinian street is at a euphoric high, despite the tragedy on which it was built. And even more importantly, Qatar, Hamas’ main ally in the Arab world, and the host of the head of its politburo, Khaled Mashal, is now smiling down on the Islamic Resistance Movement – and that means money in the bank any day of the week.

The prolonged battle with Hamas has also strengthened right-wing extremism in Israel, which continues to manifest with impunity in acts of violence against Palestinian citizens. Politicians spout hatred and incitement that in any democracy in Europe would have them arrested; university professors and rabbis call for rape and murder, and yet maintain their positions; and thugs interpreting those words carry out attacks against more Palestinian civilians.

And of course, let’s not forget about Prime Minister Netanyahu; clearly another major victor in this battle. There are those who might argue that he should be in the loser category rather than in the winner’s circle, as he was forced to make concessions. Sure, but for how long does he really have to do so? Well, let’s look at some of those concessions.

Hamas has placed the issue of building a Gaza seaport and an airport squarely on the negotiating table. Are our memories that short? Gaza once had a functioning airport; the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat used it while based in Gaza. And the European Union was in the midst of building a seaport. Both of these were reduced to rubble in previous spouts of violence. What’s to stop the Israeli military from doing so again? Not to mention that Israel’s blockade of the Strip includes air and sea restrictions, so I can’t imagine many people at the duty free shops of Gaza International Airport.

Palestinians flash victory signs as hundreds of Gazans gather in the streets to celebrate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on August 26, 2014 in Gaza City. (photo: Activestills)

Palestinians flash victory signs as hundreds of Gazans gather in the streets to celebrate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on August 26, 2014 in Gaza City. (photo: Activestills)

And fishermen will get a few extra sea kilometers in which to fish, though this is still not deep enough for significant catches. Oh, and Israel will permit access to humanitarian aid. Wasn’t it already doing that? I’ve been to the Kerem Shalom Crossing, I’ve seen trucks entering and exiting. Insufficient, you say? Well, what’s to make it different this time? A few added calories here and there?

No, Benjamin Netanyahu is clearly a victor, because Gaza remains on lockdown. He’s a victor because Hamas remains a significant force in Gaza, so the hasbara department has a continuous source of good material. Which other Palestinian group could they compare to the Islamic State?

And on a positive note, whatever concessions Netanyahu has made can be taken away with the Confucian hammer-and-fly pinpoint payloads of two F-16s. Netanyahu won, because a joint Fatah-Hamas government would have meant a decrease in tensions, and that is simply not good for business.

So it comes as no surprise that the two victors of this entire bloody scenario are the two sides that prolonged the fighting all along. But at least we have a ceasefire. Journalists will write sad stories with a glimmer of hope about how people are getting on with rebuilding their lives.

Money will pour in to Israel to restock its depleted missile stock and to reinforce the Iron Dome. Money will pour into Gaza to rebuild homes and businesses. Most of us will get on with our lives, and this episode will disappear from our social media feeds.

Gazans, on the other hand, are already wondering what price they’ll have to pay for the next ceasefire.

Talal Jabari is a Palestinian award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist from East Jerusalem. He tweets from @TalalJabari.

What was different about this war?
War is the new system of governance (and five other Gaza takeaways)
Did Gaza win the war?

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    1. Whiplash

      Some more Hamas propaganda. Jabari “Fatah in the West Bank has lost.”

      Come again. Fatah has scored major points with those who count, Egypt and the Americans. Fatah which is undeserving of any assistance has the backing of the Americans and Egyptians. Further, their rival in the West Bank, Hamas has been severely uprooted and is no longer in a position to threaten or harm Fatah’s hegemony in the West Bank. Fatah members are in line to gorge themselves on reconstruction and development monies not to mention the monies they will collect and skim from trade at border crossings into Gaza. Fatah officals are grinning like Cheshire Cats thinking of the gravy train to come. Meanwhile Hamas members are worried from where will their cheques come.

      Not only was Hamas been sidelined in the West Bank, but Israel uncovered a Dahlan plot with the help of Salaam Fayyad to take over the PA. Fatah now has this under control. Fatah is a big winner.

      Hamas is hardly a winner. Before the war, it already had the support of Qatar and Turkey. Turkey and Qatar were not allowed to mediate te cease fire. Turkey and Qatar will have to deal with Egypt, Israel and the PA with respect to contributions to the rebuilding of Gaza.

      Hamas’ Meshaal was forced to capitulate to his rival’s, Mohammad Zahar’s, demands for a cease fire on Israel’s and Egypt’s conditions which were offered prior to the ground invasion. Fatah announced the cease fire not Meshaal or any one from Hamas. Meshaal had to eat his words that there would be no cease fire without Israel meeting Hamas’ demands. Israel sent Hamas a message in Gaza and knocked down Apartment block towers serving as Hamas command centers. Hamas in Gaza took the message that Al-Shifa hospital could be next together with a large number of Hamas leaders hiding there.

      Fatah spokesmen are telling Palestinians Hamas is to blame for not accepting the cease fire that was offered in early July and was the same cease fire terms adopted now. Fatah is openly mocking Hamas and still is arresting and incarcerating their members in Fatah jails.

      Hamas lost the majority of its assets in the West Bank. Its physical presence in Palestinian society is greatly diminished.

      Hamas has likely lost its military commander in chief, Mr Deif who has not surfaced to take part in celebrations. Those commanders next in line to fill his position have also been killed. Hamas has lost many of its best fighters and seen its military infrastructure wiped out in areas closest to Israel.

      Hamass will now face calls not only from Israel but also from the United States, the EU, Egypt and Saudi Arabia for their disarmament. The Americans and Egyptians mean to install Abbas and the PA in Gaza to the exclusion of Hamas rule.

      Is Netanyahu a winner? This is yet to be seen. It is impossible to know what pressures were placed or carrots dangled before Netanyahu by the American administration which helped prevent a second ground invasion and brought about the cease fire. Until the dust settles, and one sees whether Israel deterrence has been restored as it was in Lebanon following 2006, we will not know if Netanyahu is a winner. Then there is the little matter of paying for the war with extra taxes. Will the Israeli public blame Yair Lapid or Netanyahu for this? It remains to be seen.

      One thing for sure, Hamas and Gazans are the biggest losers. And for what? Israel left Gaza in 2005 and left them with greenhouse business doing a hundred million dollars of business a year. Hamas could have turned its swords into plough shares and went farming for jobs for its citizens. It did not. It prepared for war. Why? Because it is a fanatical, Arab, Islamist terror group wed to its charter of the necessity to wage jihad against Israel until it is destroyed and the Jews are annihilated.

      Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        Israel left Gaza in 2005 and left them with greenhouse business doing a hundred million dollars of business a year.

        But we know what actually destroyed Gaza’s agriculture business: the blockade on exports.

        The Israeli settlers dismantled about half their greenhouses as of 15 July 2005, a full month before the disengagement.


        “Less than three months after the Israelis departed, Palestinians have repaired scores of greenhouses left by the settlers and planted a fall crop, and they are preparing to harvest an estimated $20 million worth of strawberries, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers and herbs and spices. The produce is intended mostly for export to Europe, but some will also be headed to Israel, Arab countries and the United States.”


        In Jan and Feb 06 the greenhouse business lost over a million dollars due to closures at Karni crossing.

        By April, the Palestinian company developing the greenhouses was completely out of funds.


        (Also, spare me the whining about MW; it’s mostly summarizing what’s already reported by the NYT, JPost and BBC)

        Of course, at this time Hamas had won the PA legislative elections, indicating the closures were nothing more than a spiteful, punitive measure. Ha’aretz reported that the IDF head of Southern Command recommended reopening the crossing while the Defense Minister ordered it remain closed.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          In 2005 53 Israelis were killed including 6 by rocket. Both before and after the disengagement terrorist groups attacked Israel. Both the Karni and Erez crossing zones were subject of explosives attacks killing Israeli civilians. After the disengagement, major terrorist attacks resulted in suicide bombers hitting Netanya with its fourth major suicide attack, the second in 2005. The Hadera Open Market was also hit with a suicide bombing. In 2005 488 rockets and hundreds of mortars were fired into Israel. In 2006 1123 rockets were fired at Israel In 2007 2432 rockets were fired.

          Guess why the crossings were often closed. Instead of developing Gaza for peaceful purposes, the Palestinians waged war on Israel’s civilian population.

          Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          Be that as it may Andrew, here are the cold hard facts:

          September 12, 2005
          Israel withdrew from Gaza unilaterally and it uprooted up to 10,000 “settlers” from their homes.

          September 12, 2005
          Several hours after Israel withdraws the last of its troops from the Gaza Strip two Qassam rockets are fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip.

          September 24, 2005
          Five Israelis were injured when Palestinian militants launched about 30 rockets on Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip.


          Can you give us any valid resons why it was necessary for Hamas and their cronies to fire those rockets at Israeli civilians immediately after Israel withdrew from Gaza?

          I am waiting, Andrew …

          Reply to Comment
          • David

            Israel did not withdraw from Gaza.

            To quote the independent and respected human rights organization Human Rights Watch regarding Israel’s so called “withdrawal” from the Gaza Strip completed in 2005: “…Israel will continue to be an Occupying Power [of the Gaza Strip] under internatio­nal law and bound by the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention because it will retain effective control over the territory and over crucial aspects of civilian life. Israel will not be withdrawin­g and handing power over to a sovereign authority – indeed, the word ‘withdrawa­l’ does not appear in the [2005 disengagem­ent] document at all… The IDF will retain control over Gaza’s borders, coastline, and airspace, and will reserve the right to enter Gaza at will. According to the Hague Regulation­s, ‘A territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised’­. Internatio­nal jurisprude­nce has clarified that the mere reposition­ing of troops is not sufficient to relieve an occupier of its responsibilities if it retains its overall authority and the ability to reassert direct control at will.”

            In effect, by controlling its entrances, exits, air space and sea access, Israel turned the Gaza Strip into the world’s largest outdoor prison. As Britain’s PM David Cameron put it: “[The Gaza Strip] is a prison camp.”

            To quote Ha’aretz: “‘The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process,’ Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Ha’aretz. ‘And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a [U.S.] presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.’ Weisglass, who was one of the initiators of the disengagement plan, was speaking in an interview with Ha’aretz for the Friday Magazine. ‘The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,’ he said. ‘It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.’” (Ha’aretz, October 6, 2004; http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/top-pm-aide-gaza-plan-aims-to-freeze-the-peace-process-1.136686)

            Given the fact that under international law, the Gaza Strip is still belligerently/illegally occupied by Israel, its inhabitants have a legal right to resist occupation. Also, as the Gaza Strip is occupied by Israel, according to international law, Israel’s repeated attacks/invasions are illegal and in fact, Israel has a legal obligation to provide for the basic human needs of its inhabitants, not slaughter them.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            So the 10,000 settlers whom Israel uprooted from their homes was just a figment of our imagination, David?

            The rest of your post is more BS. You get blockaded when you promise to fight your stronger neighbor to the death even though they withdrew.

            Not just promise but to fire rockets at them continually.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Shannon

      Whiplashian lies and fantasys again. Do they give you coke in the hasbara office for the nigh shift?

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Yep, it’s definitely true Shannon, you suffer from poly whinitis.

        Go see a Doctor, for your own good. The condition is incurable but the symptoms can be treated with mild sedatives.

        Reply to Comment
    3. longwalkdownlyndale

      I agree with most of Talal’s analysis here, but I do disagree with the idea that Netanyahu comes out of this as a big winner.

      To be sure he his approval rating did skyrocket for a time, but then again that’s a well documented phenomenon when a nation sees itself as “under attack” or whatever. It happened for Bush after 9/11, it happened for Thatcher after Argentina invade the Falklands, indeed it happened for Carter during the Iranian Revolution.

      But of course it only last for a while and we see that in Israel today with his numbers falling like a rock. The writers at 972 know a hell of a lot more about the “inside baseball” world of Israeli cabinet politics than I do, but all the reports I’ve read have shown a increasingly isolated PM under fire from every which way and a number of young turks in his own party maneuvering to replace him.

      Does that mean he’s done? Well who knows, but he seems to be in a pretty precarious position. I think that as a leader he’s been part disaster and part joke, but as a politician I have a great deal of respect for him. Like Nixon he’s he has an amazing talent for rising from the political graveyard again and again and getting out of situations that would destroy a lesser pol again and again. But like Nixon his time might finally be up.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Pedro X

      The writer gets it so wrong. Egypt and El-Sissi are the big winners. Hamas, Qatar, John Kerry and the American Administration are all losers. Egypt has reclaimed its role as leader of the Arab world. El-Sissi the strongman of Egypt is now strongman of the Arab world. Egypt in consultation with Israel and Saudi Arabia dictated the terms of the cease fire to Hamas and did not budge. Egypt froze out John Kerry, Qatar, Turkey and Hamas. Egypt allowed Abbas a seat at the table so Abbas could claim success at reaching a cease fire. In the meantime Egypt kept the border closed, destroyed Hamas tunnels and attacked militants in a neighboring country without consultation of the US.

      And here is the kicker. Egypt paid no price for its accomplishments. In fact, by letting in food and medical equipment and supplies, Egypt will be seen favorably by Palestinians.

      Hamas did not win militarily or diplomatically. It suffered huge defeats on each front. It accepted the cease fire it said it would never accept, which if it had accepted more than 2,000 Gazans would still be alive and little damage would have been done to Gaza.

      Shelter Cluster, co-chaired by the UN refugee agency and the Red Cross, says 17,000 Gaza housing units were destroyed or severely damaged during the war and 5,000 units still need work after damage sustained in previous military campaigns. Shelter Cluster says it will take up to twenty years to replace what has been lost. It may take a while for even the most lame of brain in Gaza to figure out that Hamas has brought this disaster down upon the heads of Gazans. In fact Abbas’ people are busy spreading this message.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Gustav

      “Let’s move on to the winners. At the top of the list is Hamas.”

      Yea right, with victories like that, one has to wonder what defeat would look like.

      “Palestinians are celebrating the “victory” that Hamas delivered to its people.”

      Wow. It seems to be true too. That’s what inbreeding does to people. Generations of first cousins marrying each other. We have it too occasionally. Very occasionally but it isn’t the norm in our society, unlike in Palestinian society.

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        Gustav, you have to think like a Palestinian. The more Palestinians killed, the more martyrs. The more martyrs, the more Palestinians who go to paradise and get their 72 green eyed virgins. The more martyrs getting their 72 green eyed virgins encourages more Palestinians to kill for the cause so that they too can die and get their 72 green eyed virgins. As long as no one dares to ask where the 72 green eye virgins come from, Palestinians blithely continue to believe in the righteousness of their cause and bask in the victory of their own deaths. In any other part of the world they would call the followers of this creed a cult.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ray

        What a mature and tolerant man you are.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Gustav

      “What a mature and tolerant man you are.”

      You are right Ray. I find it hard to be tolerant of criminal organizations like Hamas who choose to provoke a war with an Army much stronger than itself knowing full well the consequent suffering that they cause to their own population, not to mention to Israeli civilians (because we all know they don’t count, right Ray?).

      Why do they do it? Purely for propaganda reasons. I might have been more tolerant of them, Ray, if at least the Hamas leaders would have been willing to put their own necks on the line by fighting against “evil Israel”. But did they? Of course not! One (Mashal) was living in the lap of luxury in Qatar and the remaining Hamas leaders (like Haniyeh) were hiding in bunkers underneath civilian installations while they forced their own civilians to bear the consequences of their provocations.

      It is interesting, Ray, that you are willing to be so tolerant about it. What does that say about YOUR moral standards?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Ray

      I guess I was wrong. Your denigrating cousin-marriage among Middle Easterners (I actually have family friends who are married cousins) WASN’T a sign of an immature, ethnocentric personality. It’s righteous and noble indignation, in the face of attacks. Unlike Palestinian anger towards Jews, which is totally irrational and hateful, and never ever ever ever ever ever justified for any reason.

      Larry Derfner once wrote that Israel was a breeding ground for boors. You and Pedro exemplify that to a tee, with your sniggering, laddish remarks about other peoples’ cultures and religions.


      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        I am sorry Ray that I am so intolerant of a people who celebrate death and and destruction on both sides and call it victory. I am sorry that I haven’t got the stomach for it and call it as I sees it.

        You are welcome to admire them though. It says a lot about the kind of person you are too.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ray

          What a noble humanitarian you are. “Celebrating death.” Some people say it’s better to die on your feet than live on your hands and knees. Apparently, to Israelis, the “weak” should just accept their lot in life and be nice to their overlords.

          As for “sorry.” Yeah, I hope one day the world makes Israelis very, very sorry.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            “Some people say it’s better to die on your feet than live on your hands and knees.”

            Yes, that is exactly why Zionism was created because bastards like you did to us what you did to us for 2000 years. So one day we decided that instead of taking it on the chin, we will recreate our own country where we too will be able to defend ourselves fight back and will no longer be weak.

            “As for “sorry.” Yeah, I hope one day the world makes Israelis very, very sorry.”

            Yeah, your kind already did for 2000 years. And now you and your Palestinians are trying to do it again.

            But you won’t succeed because even if you come close to succeeding, there would be hell to pay. Hint, read up on the Samson option. Like you say, if we have to die, better to die on our feet together with our enemies. You and your kind included Ray.

            Reply to Comment
          • David

            Israel: 66 years of trying to pound a square peg into a round hole.

            Zionists: Short term smart, long term stupid, real stupid.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kiwi

            Don’t you worry about plucky little Israel. It will still be there when all it’s obsessive knockers and haters will be totally forgotten through sheer shame.

            Reply to Comment
    8. phil

      Wondering if Pedro x and Gustav are the same person.. seem to be operating a tag team here

      And given the amount of time pedro x spends spouting bile on here it’s fair to ask is he/she on the hasbara payroll

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Oh dear, another idiot spouting about “Hasbarah” it is rapidly becoming their favorite word when they have no other arguments.

        Hey, Phil, what about your Taqiya then?

        Reply to Comment
        • David

          Utterly irrelevant response.

          noun, (in Shiʿite Islam, i.e., not Sunni)

          The practice of denying one’s religion, permissible when one is faced with persecution.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            “Utterly irrelevant response.”

            But the way you guys misrepresent the meaning and connotation of the word “Hasbarah” is not irrelevant?

            I am glad the word “Taqiya” struck a chord with you. I will keep on using it so long as your side will keep on mis-using the word “Hasbarah” to negate what we say when you have no other way to negate.

            I hope it catches on with others because what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

            Reply to Comment
          • David

            Inane response.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            “Inane response.”

            Your response is inane becaue it isn’t even a response. It is just a self serving pronouncement.

            Reply to Comment
          • JohnW


            Interesting that you call Gustav out on his inaccurate use of the word Taquiyah. But you keep quiet about Phil’s use and abuse of the word Hasbara.

            Simply put, the word Hasbara means explanation. In other word, explanation of the other side of the equation. Yet Phil and his pro Arab cronies managed to twist the word Hasbara beyond all recognition. As Gustav said, in their petty little world, it has become the code word for dismissing what Israelis have to say.

            How come you don’t deliver the same lecture to Phil then, David? Are you more comfortable with his misuse of the word? You don’t think that Phil’s post was inane?

            Reply to Comment
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