The latest round of violence between Israel and armed factions in Gaza—chiefly Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad—saw four Israeli civilians killed in rocket attacks and was the most lethal since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. It also served as a painful reminder that in the fight against terrorist organizations, there is no distinction between the home front and the front lines.
But with the end of the last round, on the eve of Israel’s Memorial Day, Israel remembered its dead and wounded—and yet continues forward on its path of growth and creation, which has made it a strong, prosperous and advanced country constantly making strides in the fields of science, economy, security and foreign diplomacy.
Gaza, on the other hand, isn’t going anywhere. Life there has been stagnant since Hamas seized control a decade ago. Every passing day is worse than the one before, leaves Gaza further behind and sinks it deeper into poverty, backwardness and deficiency. Gaza’s rulers have made it into a disaster zone.
Gaza under Hamas has no future. This is the inevitable result of the extremist policies espoused by a radical Islamist group, whose intrinsic fanaticism is indistinguishable from its essence and existence. From this perspective, a direct line of fanaticism and backwardness runs between the Islamic State group’s caliphate in Syria and Iraq and the Hamas regime in Gaza. This fanaticism has ultimately led to the downfall of ISIS and has put Hamas and the people of Gaza, who have become its hostages, squarely on the road to nowhere.
There are undoubtedly differences between ISIS, a movement with a worldview rooted in the Middle Ages, and Hamas, which grew from the Muslim Brotherhood and is capable of a modicum of pragmatism. This pragmatism, however, also has its limits: It cannot forge a new path forward to ensure a better future. At most it allows Hamas to continue running in place.
It’s not for nothing that a radical Islamist movement such as ISIS and even a more pragmatic movement such as the Muslim Brotherhood have failed to seize power and hold it. In Arab countries where they have ascended to power, their regimes were mostly disastrous and short-lived.
The same is also true for Iran and Hezbollah, which supposedly represent a success story for extremism in possession of the government and significant military might. But the ayatollahs’ regime in Iran is hopeless, and in the 40 years of its rule it has marched the country and its citizens backward. Even the Iranian nuclear program cannot cover up the Islamic Republic’s poverty, distress and failure.
Beyond the ability to cause destruction, Iran has not produced anything of worth for humanity or the people living there. Hezbollah, while it is able to suckle from Lebanon’s teat, has also failed to advance the country’s Shi’ite population. Every third home in southern Lebanon has been turned into a missile warehouse, but the Shi’ites are still the most failed ethnic group in Lebanon. Hezbollah is sparing no cost to make sure it remains this way.
The claim that Hamas is emerging from these rounds of conflict with Israel with the upper hand is far from the truth. Indeed, Hamas is surviving considerable blows, while even managing to hurt Israel. But when the violence ends and the dust settles, Israel continues forward and Hamas keeps moving backward. Paradoxically, the dollars funneled into Gaza by Qatar only expedite Gaza’s descent into decay, as they keep Hamas in power.
The holy Muslim month of Ramadan is currently being observed across the Arab world, a month of fasting and introspection. Hamas requested a ceasefire ahead of Ramadan but by all accounts is skipping the introspection part.
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.
This article first appeared on Israel Hayom.
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