At Large

How Israel Can Go on Offense in the PR War

Hamas's brutal crackdown on NGOs in Gaza speaks volumes about what's really going on.

By 6.7.10

While the world was condemning Israel for the deaths of 9 terrorists on board one of several ships poised to violate the legal blockade of Gaza -- established to reduce the shipment of missiles, weapons and military construction materials from Iran in preparation for another effort to wipe Israel off the map -- Hamas's security forces were raiding several non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip and seizing their equipment. According to the Jerusalem Post,

After conducting a thorough search of the offices of the organizations….Hamas security agents confiscated files, documents, computers, fax machines and other equipment.

The agents also informed the managers and workers of the organizations of the Hamas government's decision to close them down indefinitely.

They did not provide any reasons behind this decision.

Maybe Hamas failed to provide a justification because it was too busy shutting down other human rights groups in Gaza. The day after Hamas destroyed the operations of groups such as the Sharik Youth Institution, Bonat Al-Mustaqbal (Future Builders) Society, the South Society for Women's Health, and the Women and Children Society it "stormed the offices of another two NGOs, the Palestinian Mini Parliament and the National Reconciliation Committee. They confiscated the keys to their doors and ordered them closed."

In other words, Hamas was establishing a blockade preventing NGOs from distributing aid. Anticipating that Israel will be pressured to lift its defensive blockade, Hamas is eliminating the independent groups in Gaza that now receive support from the United Nations, the European Union and other legitimate institutions. This plan, it appears, was done in concert with groups who organized the flotilla, including Free Gaza, the International Solidarity Movement and Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH). These institutions have all done business with Al-Qaeda, Hamas and terrorist organizations in the Sudan. All to end humanitarian crises, of course.

Even before the floating lynch mob left Turkey, as reported by Hani Almadhoun in the Huffington Post, "Hamas militants forced the Palestine Bank to allow the newly elected chairman of 'Friends of the Patient Society,' a Gaza charitable organization that provides medical services, to withdraw $270,000. The bank's manager was held at gunpoint as he counted the money. In response, the Palestine Bank has closed all of its branches in Gaza."

According to Almadhoun, a Gaza native, "Hamas recently imposed a new board of directors on Friends of the Patient and issued a demand for the organization's funds. Hamas officials claim they are only enforcing the law as adjudicated by a Gaza judge.… This started two years ago when Hamas became the de facto government in Gaza…. With Hamas sympathizers on the boards of NGOs, Hamas supporters are assured assistance and Hamas ensures loyalty by appearing that it is in full control of all social and humanitarian organizations in Gaza."

Hamas is also "encouraging its supporters to start organizations with secular names that appeal to international donors in an attempt obscure the pipeline of support to their sympathizers. This makes it difficult to vet legitimate charities in Gaza when international donors want to avoid funneling aid through Hamas or its proxies." Free Gaza is one such organization.

In the Sudan, the terrorist-backed government shut down international relief organizations in similar fashion. In March 2009, security forces "seized computers, vehicles, medical records and life-saving drugs" and employees of 16 NGOs who were running the relief effort in Sudan were expelled. The Sudanese government plans to funnel materials to Hamas and Iraq's remaining anti-government terror cells.

All the Hamas needs now to increase the flow of cash and materials that go uninspected is for the West to pressure Israel to lift the blockade.

Lucky for them, the Obama administration is once again using international outcry about Israeli actions to pressure the Jewish state into ending the blockage.

However, Hamas's brutal attack on NGOs does provide Israel a chance to put counter-pressure on the Obama Administration and world opinion. It should agree to continue to ease the blockade, by allowing ships to divert to Ashdod, only if the NGOs recently attacked by Hamas are reopened and if international organizations are willing to accept responsibility for the inspection of transfer of material into Gaza. Israel should offer to increase the flow of materials only if they go to legitimate NGOs in Gaza with the cooperation of trusted international intermediaries.

This would force the Gaza-obsessed "international community" to respond to the human rights violations of Hamas. Offering to revamp the blockade to support independent NGOs could expose the hypocrisy of Israel's critics.

Why? Because Hamas and its international supporters will reject that offer. In the propaganda war of perception, that would make them look more interested in increasing the power of Hamas and eliminating Israel than in helping people. In this case, perception meshes with reality.

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About the Author
Robert M. Goldberg is vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and founder of Hands Off My H ealth, a grass roots health care empowerment network. His is new book, Tabloid Medicine: How the Internet is Being Used To Hijack Medical Science For Fear and Profit, was published last month by Kaplan.