Historian Victor Davis Hanson writes in The Washington Times (www.washingtontimes.com) on Sept. 24 about the chaos in Gaza:
"After the Israelis' recent pullout from the Gaza Strip, chaos broke out. Greenhouses bought by international agencies for future Palestinian use were ransacked by the beneficiaries. Violent fights over looted equipment escalated among squatters, the government and terrorists.
"Empty synagogues were burned. Gangs and criminals smuggled weapons and drugs across the unguarded Egyptian border. An apparent bomb-making factory in a Gaza building blew up. Warlords from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades claimed victory over the Israelis, and promised to set up rocket bases for envisioned new offensives against Israel.
"Our politicians sound even more at odds over the future of both the West Bank and Gaza. Some conservatives – who believe democracy will emerge in Iraq even amid suicide bombing and assassination – strangely seem to rule out any such optimism for Mahmoud Abbas' elected government in a similarly violence-prone region. How can you be for the idea of democracy in the more pro-American Iraq, but not so in an apparently anti-American Palestine?
"Some liberals are just as inconsistent. How can they argue the U.S. effort to build democracy in Iraq is either wrong, naive or doomed while they have confidence in the emerging Palestinian experiment in self-rule and wish to resume American aid to it? Why should we believe Mr. Abbas is a legitimate leader while Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the veteran Kurdish foe of Saddam Hussein, is not?
"We can, though, take another approach, acknowledging how Palestine differs from Iraq while understanding what Mr. Abbas must do to achieve a peaceful state. Palestine is not Iraq (nor is it Afghanistan). Iraq's elected government is engaged in a necessary civil war; the Palestinian Authority is not. Mr. Talabani's government fights against Islamic terrorists from a 20 percent Sunni minority (stained by past intimacy with the mass-murdering Saddam Hussein and present sympathy from Al Qaeda terrorists).
"Here again is the key difference so far between Iraq and Palestine. Mr. Abbas' Cabinet is not galvanizing popular support for fighting the terrorists, whose thuggery against Palestinians is tolerated as unfortunate blowback from their anti-Israeli jihad. Yet for Palestine to become a sovereign state that conducts normal relations with its friends and negotiates differences with the Israelis, the elected government, like Iraq's, must assume a monopoly on the use of force and put down warlords and gangs.
"Abbas must unambiguously accept existence of the Jewish state, and thus give up the boilerplate slogans about sending 4 million Arabs into pre-1967 Israel under the 'right of return.' Instead of Palestinian officials praising terrorists in Arabic while condemning them in English, Mr. Abbas and his Cabinet must decree Hamas and other killers lay down their weapons or suffer the fate of all outlaws.
"The time is over for stale slogans about pushing the Jews into the sea, since Israel welcomes a democratic Palestinian state to adjudicate remaining differences.
"President Talabani and his Iraqi parliament – like President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan – are making progress in fighting the radical Islamic enemies of democracy and the rule of law. Mahmoud Abbas, in contrast, has not even begun."
Who's Really Responsible for the Standard of Living in Gaza?
Israeli scholar Efraim Karsh writes in Canada's National Post (www.canada.com/national/nationalpost) on Sept. 16 about who ruined Gaza:
"No sooner had Israel completed its withdrawal of 8,000 Jewish citizens from the Gaza Strip than official Palestinian spokesmen proclaimed that this move would not end the occupation – since Israel would continue to control the region's coast and air space.
"In fact, Israel's occupation ended not in August 2005, but 11 years earlier. The declaration of principles signed on the White House lawn in 1993 by the PLO and the Israeli government provided for Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for a transitional period, during which Israel and the Palestinians would negotiate a permanent peace settlement. By May 1994, Israel had completed its withdrawal from Gaza (apart from various Israeli settlements) and the Jericho area of the West Bank. On July 1, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat made his triumphant entry into Gaza, and shortly afterward both the Israeli civil administration and military government were dissolved.
"From then on, Gaza's Palestinian population no longer lived under Israeli occupation, but rather under the jurisdiction of the Arafat-led Palestinian Authority. As the virulently anti-Israel tone of Palestinian media and school curricula shows, the Israeli presence during this period was virtually non-existent.
"But Palestinians and their supporters were not about to give up the 'occupation' charge. Since the Israeli conquest of Gaza and the West Bank during the 1967 Six-Day war, the term has become the Palestinian trump propaganda card, allowing them not only to demonize Israel and justify terrorism, but also to extract substantial international aid.
"The Palestinians argue that such funds are necessary to repair the damage caused by Israelis. This claim was divorced from reality. During their 19-year occupation of the Gaza Strip (1948-67), the Egyptians ruled the area with an iron fist, keeping the local population in squalid, harshly supervised camps, where they could serve as a rallying point for anti-Israel sentiment. Life expectancy was low; malnutrition, infectious diseases and child mortality were rife; and the level of education was low. Palestinians were denied Egyptian citizenship, and were subjected to severe restrictions on travel and work, with unemployment among refugees running above 80 percent.
"The passing of Gaza (and the West Bank) into the hands of Israel led to dramatic improvements in the Palestinians' quality of life, placing the population of the territories well ahead of most of their Arab neighbors. Schools, hospitals and civic amenities were built, and the economy exploded.
"During the 1970s, in fact, the West Bank and Gaza constituted the fourth fastest-growing economy in the world – ahead of Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, and substantially ahead of Israel itself.
"Under Israeli rule, the Palestinians also made vast progress in social welfare. Life expectancy rose from 48 in 1967 to 72 in 2000 (compared with an average of 68 years for all the countries of the Middle East and North Africa). Israeli medical programs reduced the infant-mortality rate of 60 per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 in 2000. (In Saddam Hussein's Iraq, by comparison, the rate was 64, in Egypt 40, in Jordan 23, in Syria 22).
"But all of these economic and social achievements were steadily undone during the 1990s as the population of the territories came under the P.A.'s jurisdiction.
"In fact, it is the Palestinians' own leaders who bear the blame for the miserable state of Gaza, and of Palestinian society more generally. Only when these leaders, and the groups that challenge them, renounce violence as a political tool and embrace civilized values such as rule of law will Gaza flourish."