Gaza has never been a prosperous enclave; the 140-square-mile territory has always been a poor, dependent state. But for Hamas, the radical Islamic terrorist group that seized control of Gaza in 2007, the long-term pursuit of a political impossibility trumps even the slightest concern for the welfare of the group's 1.5 million "constituents."
Residents of the Palestinian territories have been subjects of foreign states — Turkey, Great Britain, Jordan and then Israel — for half a millennium. But all the while, during both prosperous and desperate times, Palestinians have struggled to ensure that they educate their children. As a result, Palestinians have been among the best educated people in the world. Literacy rates, even for girls, have hovered around 99 percent. By comparison, in Iran, perhaps the Palestinians' biggest defenders now, and Israel's greatest enemy, UNICEF reports that only 77 percent of the population can read and write. Even Israel's literacy rate is lower: 97.1 percent.If their chieftains were at all concerned about feeding their people, those Israeli-built Gaza greenhouses would still be up and running and providing jobs as well healthy comestibles for Gazan dinner tables. Instead, in an eerie echo of Kristallnacht, the houses were smashed to bits as soon as Israel ethnically cleansed itself from the area, thus voluntarily rendering it Judenrein.
But now, for the first time in the modern era, Gazans as young as 9, 10, 11 are being put to work in ever larger numbers, forgoing school. "Learning achievement has declined along with primary school enrollment," UNICEF reports.
What political concessions has Hamas offered that might have enabled it to make repairs, improve the lot of its people? None. So, poverty and malnutrition are growing so fast that these pernicious blights are reaching epidemic status. The United Nations reported this fall that one in five Gazans now live in what it called "abject poverty." That is why many parents are no longer sending their children to school. They need the pennies their children can earn at menial jobs to buy food.
Their chieftains don't seem to care. I have interviewed the leaders of Hamas many times over the years, and all of them offered one consistent refrain, time and time again: We are patient. Our resistance will continue as long as it takes — even centuries — until we reach our goal, full control of Palestine...