Will Hamas Rearm or Rebuild?

Issued shortly before the current ceasefire took hold, the following statement is from the executive committee of MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights, a group opposed to academic boycotts of Israel:


As Israelis rush to shelter from thousands of rockets and Palestinians in Gaza endure daily bombardment, there is urgent need not just for a temporary ceasefire but to an end to all military action.

One of perhaps the worst long-term consequences of the new war that Hamas initiated with its massive rocket bombardment of Israeli towns and cities will be donor reluctance to finance rebuilding. While humanitarian necessity may trigger funding for repairs to the electrical grid, sewage processing, and other critical infrastructure, finding international sources to rebuild homes and office buildings is likely to be either much more difficult than it has been in previous conflicts or simply impossible. No donor country wants to pay to rebuild over and over again.

The people of Gaza will thus long suffer the real consequences of Hamas’s politically motivated actions. Israel’s provocative handling of the recent Al Aqsa demonstrations gave Hamas an avoidable opportunity for its political maneuvering The duplicitous character of the Hamas leadership, its coldly calculated indifference to the dead and wounded of Gaza, is grotesquely highlighted by Hamas’s absurd stance as the “defender” of Jerusalem. It hardly needs emphasizing that a dispute over rent payments in East Jerusalem could have been settled without a large cost in blood and treasure. Hamas’s attitude toward the people of Gaza is also evident in its decision to construct an elaborate underground military tunnel system rather than build air raid shelters for the general population.

Gaza has real opportunities for economic progress, development of its Mediterranean coast being the most obvious. It could be a tourist destination not unlike Israel’s. But no company wants to invest in a hotel built over an arms depot. Hamas’s Arab allies will have to ensure that Gaza’s terror administration finally chooses human welfare over another military buildup.

If Hamas instead once again devotes its resources to rearmament and to plans to initiate another armed confrontation in a few years, the cycle of violence will continue. As many have emphasized, Israel cannot permit its people to be terrorized by rocket attacks.

Meanwhile, yet another feature of these recurring conflicts may materialize immediately after a ceasefire or truce is declared: a round of boycott proposals in colleges, universities, and academic associations. The mix of accusations and counter-accusations, with Israel attacked and defended, will once again do nothing to advance security and the cause of peace. We urge instead small practical steps to improve the lives of people in the region. Eventually, however, the two sides, Israelis and Palestinians, will have to find a political resolution that satisfies the needs of these two peoples themselves. Intrusive prescriptions of activists issuing directives from the safety of their American campuses have not proven productive.

Executive Committee, MLA MEMBERS FOR SCHOLARS’ RIGHTS:  Russell Berman, Rachel Harris, Cary Nelson, Martin Shichtman

[MLA MEMBERS FOR SCHOLARS’ RIGHTS is a voluntary association composed of faculty members from the Modern Language Association, the largest academic disciplinary organization in the US. MLAMFSR’s projects have included editing and publishing “The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel.”]

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