Lost amid the hand-wringing over Israel’s botched flotilla raid last month and speculation about the diplomatic fallout for the Jewish state has been perhaps the most significant development, namely the resurgence of Hamas.
On political and financial life support not even a month ago, Hamas has become the face of the Muslim world’s newest cause célèbre: ending the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza. This newfound determination cannot end a “humanitarian crisis” that didn’t exist in the first place, but it just might end the political and economic crises that had been besetting Hamas over the past year.
While understandable on the surface, President Barack Obama’s call last week to curtail the blockade of Gaza so as to stop only weapons is exactly what Hamas needs to emerge stronger than when it won the 2006 election.
Even though it was never well-explained to the international community, the joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade had a crucial secondary aim beyond thwarting weapons smuggling: crippling the Islamist regime.
What few Western leaders seem to realize is that the blockade was working. Hamas was in freefall, with its cash flow drying up and most Gazans turning on the party they had backed just a few years earlier.
This March, according to the Associated Press, the Hamas government was only able to pay most employees roughly half of their salaries. Not coincidentally, this was right on the heels of Egypt’s most aggressive efforts to clamp down on smuggling, from building an underground steel wall to detonating tunnel entry points on Egyptian soil.
The following month, Hamas was once again unable to meet its payroll. This shortfall happened despite a bevy of new taxes imposed by Hamas on everything from cigarettes to smuggled automobiles and gasoline.
The culprit for Hamas’ financial woes? “We are having difficulties in getting the money in (to Gaza) because of the siege,” Deputy Finance Minister Ismail Mahfouz reportedly wrote on the Gaza Finance Ministry’s website.
While far from suffering a “humanitarian crisis”—Gazans have not suffered shortages of food or medicine—life has gotten markedly worse in the Hamas-controlled territory since 2006. Which has been the point of the siege all along.
The same world community now objecting to crippling an unreformed terrorist organization that consolidated its power through a blood-soaked coup was almost universally supportive of sanctioning and isolating apartheid South African—the goal of which was to sow unrest to help topple the government.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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