Hamas, the Iran-backed terror group that controls the Gaza Strip, is “exploiting the humanitarian crisis in the Strip to pad its own coffers,” Times of Israel Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff reported on Saturday.
A new neighborhood in Gaza consisting of 1,040 housing units, called “Hamad City” in honor of the father of Qatar’s ruler, was recently established by Muhammad al-Amadi, a Qatari official in charge of his nation’s financing of the rebuilding of Gaza after the 2014 war with Israel. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since its violent overthrow of Fatah in 2007, allocated “free” apartments to homeless Gazan families to winners of a lottery. But while the houses were technically free, Hamas charged the winners $40,000 a unit, ostensibly for hooking up utilities to the residences. This fee will allow Hamas to profit around $36 million from Qatar’s generosity. Issacharoff wrote that while $40,000 is reasonable for an apartment, “it’s still a princely sum in Gaza, where unemployment is rampant and the average person makes $174 a month, according to a 2014 UNRWA report.”
Citing Palestinian sources, Issacharoff reported that Hamas could have made even more money, but it waived the $40,000 fee for about 150 of the lottery winners who are considered to be close to Hamas.
There are many other examples of corruption provoking anger against Hamas in Gaza. If Gazan fishermen wander past the accepted fishing boundary, Israel will often seize their boat due of concerns over weapons smuggling. But after an investigation clears fishermen of suspicion and their boats are returned, Hamas will charge the fishermen to get the boats back.
Furthermore, Gazans who require help from police must first pay a tax. Hamas has lagged in paying wages to government employees, but pays some 40,000 members of its terrorist force and policemen out of funds it receives from Iran.
Hamas also exploits Gazans who receive permits to seek medical treatment in the West Bank or Israel, by using them to smuggle cash or carry messages to Hamas operatives in the West Bank.
Issacharoff explained the big picture:
The international community focuses on economic hardship in the Strip caused by the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, while seemingly casting a blind eye on Hamas, which raises funds on the backs of the Strip’s residents and invests tens of millions of dollars each month on building up its fighting force, digging attack tunnels that may stretch into Israel and manufacturing rockets.
In contrast to the poverty that is prevalent in Gaza, several of Hamas’ leaders are reportedly billionaires.
Jonathan Schanzer and Grant Rumley reported on Sunday in The Daily Beast on the efforts of West Bank activist Najat Abu Bakr to expose corruption in the Palestinian Authority. One of the reasons for Hamas’ victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections was frustration with the corruption in the PA and Fatah, the main party in the PA.
In a critique of Hamas’s prioritizing of building its weapons arsenal at the expense of ordinary Gazans, veteran Palestinian affairs reporter Khaled Abu Toameh wrote than when a terror tunnel collapsed, killing seven members of Hamas, the myth that “Hamas will somehow transform itself into a ‘peace partner’ for Israel, the Palestinian Authority or even the Palestinian people” also died.
[Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90 ]