Numbers Don’t Lie, But Hamas Apologists Do

Written by Michael Medved

The twisted narratives deployed by Hamas apologists to justify the most gruesome terrorist excesses of our time, aren’t based on mere misunderstandings and random distortions as much as on outright lies.

For instance, those who defend the indefensible, argue that Israeli “occupation” has left the oppressed denizens of the Gaza Strip with no alternative but murderous and indescribably brutal “protest.”

This contention never answers the obvious question as to how a nation can conceivably “occupy” a piece of real estate when none of its soldiers, police officers, bureaucrats or businessmen ever set foot on its premises. Israel’s wrenching decision in 2005 to remove all of its military and law enforcement personnel, along with 8,000 hardy souls who had established small but flourishing agricultural communities in the territory, left Gaza a totally Jew-free, pure Palestinian paradise. The authorities even moved the dead bodies that had been buried in local cemeteries, in recognition of the all-consuming Jew-hatred that has motivated Hamas since its official organization in 1987.

Israeli control of Gaza constituted a relatively brief and benign interlude in the long, tormented history of the area. The Ottoman Turks conquered the entire region in 1516 and ruled for the next 402 years, until the British took charge after their victory in World War I. The Egyptian army occupied Gaza during the Israeli War of Independence in 1949 and then ruled for the next 18 years, with a brief interruption in 1956 after the Sinai War against Israel.

The Six Day War of June, 1967, initiated the only period of extended Jewish presence in the strip because Egypt refused to take long-term possession of the enclave. This interlude of Israeli power also marked the beginning of spectacular growth in population and improvement of living standards. According to internationally recognized, United Nations statistics, Gaza was home to 340,000 in 1970 and by the time that Israel evacuated all its citizens and resources from the strip in 2005, in the hopes that the Palestinians would establish a self-governing, independent entity there, that figure had more than quadrupled – to nearly 1.6 million. Meanwhile, the over-all life expectancy at birth for all Palestinians (in the West Bank as well as Gaza) soared from 50.97 years in 1967 at the time of Israeli takeover, to 75.4 years by 2022 – a figure that compares closely to the United States (76.1 years) last year, though not to Israel itself (82.7 years).

These numbers shouldn’t be used to minimize the impact of tyrannical misrule by the thugs and Islamist fanatics of Hamas, whose policies have resulted in 50 percent unemployment in Gaza and increased, crippling reliance on generous support from UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) as well as wealthy Arab donor states like Qatar. But the dramatic population growth and other improvements (96.9 percent of all Palestinians over age 15 can both read and write) should give the lie to the oft-repeated claim that Gaza represents nothing less than an “open air prison.” If that were true, why would hundreds of thousands of additional prisoners manage, every year, to intern themselves there?

The effort to exaggerate and emphasize the sufferings of Palestinians in general and the residents of Gaza in particular, fosters a victimhood mentality that feeds directly into the degenerate and hate-filled ideology of Hamas. This emphasis not only obscures the real progress made in the region but denies the role of Israel in fostering those successes. Far from inflicting genocide on anyone, the Jewish state deserves much of the credit for economic development and advances in education and public health, going back to the beginnings of the modern Zionist movement nearly 150 years ago. The historic return of hundreds of thousands of Jews to their ancient homeland didn’t push Palestinians out, but actually drew hundreds of thousands of new Arab residents to join in the economic energy generated by the rebirth of a Jewish commonwealth.

In other words, the Arab population didn’t increase and progress in spite of the arrival of multitudes of Jews, but because of it.

Consider some of the striking numbers compiled by the British officials who maintained the Palestine Mandate under the League of Nations between 1918 and 1948. In the span of 20 years between World War I and World War II, the Jewish population exploded by 470,000 while the Arab arrivals in Palestine increased even more – by 588,000. In fact, permanent Arab population increased by 120 percent between 1922 and 1947.

Improved living conditions played a major role in this growth: Muslim life expectancy rose from 36 years in 1926 to 49 years in 1943. Muslim infant mortality declined from 201 per thousand in 1926 to 94 per thousand twenty years later.  Rather than designating the rebirth of a Jewish homeland in Arabic as the “Nakba”, or catastrophe, Muslim activists might more accurately welcome the phenomenon as the “Baraka” – or blessing.

This reality demonstrates the desperate need for the side of decency and sanity to prevail in the current conflict, and to return to the positive energies represented by the Abraham Accords and the emerging cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia. When neither side is animated by blood lust or nihilistic and suicidal fury, we could go back to building recognition that success for your neighbor more often helps than harms your own well-being.

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