Economist: Is it possible to understand why Hamas fires rockets at civilians?

No, the Economist didn’t explicitly ask the question: Is it possible to understand why Hamas fires rockets at civilians?  The headline of this post is inspired by an article by Ben White in 2001 titled ‘Is it possible to understand the rise in antisemitism?‘, which empathized with anti-Semites.

To boot, a July 19th article in the print edition The Economist purports to explain ‘Why Hamas Fires those Rockets‘ (pay wall), and reaches a predictable conclusion.

The anonymous article begins:

MANY Gazans, not just their leaders in Hamas, think they have little to lose by fighting on. For one thing, the spotlight has been switched back onto them since the Israeli campaign began earlier this month. In Gazan eyes, Hamas gains from the violence because the outside world may, as a result of the grim publicity generated by the bloodshed, feel obliged to consider its grievances afresh.

Whilst there is no doubt that Hamas perversely believes a war in which Palestinian civilians are killed strengthens their position, there is little evidence that this view is supported by ordinary Gazans. Though there’s been no polling during the current conflict, last month The Washington Institute commissioned a leading Palestinian pollster to gauge the views of Gazans, and the results appear to contradict the Economist’s conclusions:

While you can see the full poll here, the results to some of the questions clearly seem to contradict the Economist’s claim that Gazans “think they have little to lose by fighting”.

As tensions mounted and Hamas and other Gazan factions began to step up rocket fire [in June], the people of that territory were heavily in favor of a ceasefire — 70 percent of the poll respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Hamas should maintain a ceasefire with Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank.” This attitude is corroborated by the 73 percent of Gazans who said Palestinians should adopt “proposals for (nonviolent) popular resistance against the occupation.” Similarly, when asked if Hamas should accept Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s position that the new unity government renounce violence against Israel, a clear majority (57 percent) answered in the affirmative. The responses to all three questions clearly indicate that most Gazans reject military escalation.

The Economist article continued:

After the last big Israeli effort to stop the rockets, in November 2012, it was agreed that, along with a ceasefire, the blockade of Gaza would gradually be lifted and the crossings into Egypt and Israel would be opened. The ceasefire generally held, but the siege continued. As Gazans see it, they have remained cruelly shut up in an open-air prison. Firing rockets, many of them argue, is the only way they can protest, even though they know the Israelis are bound, from time to time, to punish them.

First, the ceasefire (after the 2012 war) did not hold, as they claim, as there were roughly 40 rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza in 2013 alone.  As far as ‘the siege’ (by which he’s referring to Israel’ legal blockade of arms and dual use items which could be used for military purposes), Israel did in fact ease restrictions on imports into Gaza. This included allowing for the import of greater quantities of construction material (including cement) for private use and humanitarian purposes, much of which has clearly been diverted by Hamas to build terror tunnels and other military facilities. 

The Economist then makes the following claim:

Mr Netanyahu’s government has prevented Mr Abbas from reasserting his authority, as part of the unity deal, over Gaza—and from paying off Hamas civil servants there. 

However, Netanyahu had nothing to do with the failure of the new unity government to pay Hamas civil servants, as multiple reports demonstrate.


The inauguration on Monday of a unity government under a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation pact raised expectations among Hamas-hired servants that they would now receive their wages. Thousands joined their PA-payroll colleagues at Gaza ATMs on Thursday, hoping to withdraw their salaries.

But the Hamas employees came away empty-handed, and a spokesman for the [Palestinian] unity government said they still had to be vetted by a committee before they could be added to the new leadership’s payroll

Al-Jazeera and other news sites reported the exact same thing.

The Economist concluded their report thusly:

The Gazan grievance over prisoners stirs great passion among Palestinians everywhere. After three Israeli students were kidnapped on the West Bank on June 12th and later found murdered, the Israeli security forces rounded up more than 500 Hamas people, even though the movement did not claim responsibility for the crime. The increase in rocket fire was partly intended as a protest against the round-up of prisoners. Any ceasefire, says Hamas, must include the release at least of those detained in the past month.

First, the two main suspects in the Israeli boys’ murders are Hamas members. Second, Hamas (who, let’s remember) praised the kidnapping) has been planning and publicly calling to kidnap Israelis for years. Indeed, there were dozens of unsuccessful attempts at kidnapping Israelis (many by Hamas members) in the year prior to the kidnapping and murder of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel.

As Etta Prince-Gibson wrote in Ha’aretz (pay wall):

Last year, the organization [Hamas] even distributed an 18-page “Field Manual for Kidnapping” to its Qassam Brigades, providing detailed explanations on how to target Israeli soldiers, when to kidnap (rainy days are best) and how to avoid being caught (don’t use the Internet or phone).

Lastly, note that the Economist characterized Hamas rocket attacks – intentional attacks on Israeli civilians which constitute war crimes under international law – as a mere “protest” against Israel. 

In reading the Economist’s imputation of reasonableness to Hamas, you’d be forgiven for momentarily forgetting that they’re antisemitic extremist terror group which rejects the existence of the Jewish State within any borders.

The empathy for the terrorist group Hamas – and not merely for innocent Palestinian civilians – displayed by the ‘sophisticated’ Brits at the Economist (as with much of the UK media during the current war) is at times astounding. 

38 replies »

  1. Little to lose by fighting on? They can easily lose their lives, which according to the article, even the Gazans don’t value enough to save. Isn’t that a logical conclusion? When somebody commits suicide, I tend to temper my pain over the death. After all, the victim was indeed the perpetrator as well, and the perp’s sentence (of death) is identical to the wishes of the victim (to die).

    The Economist succeeds in dehumanizing Gazans with this argument. And it’s an interesting argument especially in light of the Israeli campaign which claims to treat everyone in Gaza as an actual person. Weird.

  2. “First, the ceasefire (after the 2012 war) did not hold, as they claim, as there were roughly 40 rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza in 2013 alone.”

    Between 22/11/12 and 22/02/13 precisely zero Gazan rockets were fired into Israel and just two mortars.

    During the same period four Gazans were killed by the IDF and 91 wounded. There were 63 shooting attacks on Gazans, 13 IDF incursions into the strip and 30 naval attacks on Gazan fishermen.

    So you could say that the ceasefire did not hold, but to attribute the breakdown to Hamas would be a gross distortion of the truth.

    • Between 22/11/12 and 22/02/13 precisely zero Gazan rockets were fired into Israel and just two mortars.
      Your “fishermen” have the same meaning as your three months of no rockets, lying to the public, hamasnik.

          • I’ll give you some credit, Jeff, when you actually present some evidence to counter what I say.

                • In general, the Moslem world appears to never have had a high regard for the area of Palestine and its wild west inhabitants. Other than its religous Jews and tribal Arab communities, the place had little to recommend it. It was a refuge of scoundrels owned chiefly by absentees in Syria and Lebanon. Is the Economist stuck with that 19th century view or will it try to inform itself ?because we can’t trust the balance of its content then.

        • So did I

          December 23
          In the evening, Palestinians launched a rocket that apparently landed within the Gaza Strip.

          One hundred and twelve terror attacks were perpetrated against Israel in December 2012, according to statistics released by the Shin bet (Israel Security Agency) on Monday.

          Eighty-one of the attacks took place in the West Bank, 30 in Jerusalem and one in the Gaza Strip. Of the attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem, 98 were in the form of firebombs and 6 involved improvised explosive devices. There were also 3 grenade-throwing incidents, 2 small arms shootings, 1 stabbing and 1 hit-and-run.

          The attack from Gaza comprised the launching of two mortars into Israel. By comparison, 1,734 rockets and 83 mortar shells were launched at Israel from Gaza during November’s eight-day Operation Pillar of Defense, and 116 rockets and 55 mortar shells were fired from Gaza in October.

          Three Israeli security personnel were injured in the December attacks; two were stabbed in the same incident in the West Bank and one was run over by a car in Jerusalem.

          Shin Bet said it had uncovered and apprehended a Hamas terror squad in Hevron, arresting some 20 members of the terror group’s armed wing.

          Shin Bet and Border Guard had foiled on January 1 another attempt by Palestinian Authority Arab terrorists to kidnap an Israeli.

          Three Israelis were injured during attacks in January: an Israeli citizen was moderately injured in a stabbing attack in Samaria on January 29, and two security officers were injured in Judea by a firebomb near Al Aroub on January 3 and stone throwing in the nearby area of the Tomb of Rachel on January 13.

          In Jerusalem and the Judea and Samaria area, most of the attacks executed in January – 70 out of 83 – were in the form of firebombs, compared to 98 out of 111 in December.

          Seven of the terror attacks were in the form of an improvised explosive device (IED); five were small arms shooting; one was stabbing; 70 were firebombs, 27 of which were in Jerusalem.

          Real peaceful types those Arabs you support.

          How about not focusing on just one tiny piece – there are a lot more actions that are terrorism than just rockets

          • “Eighty-one of the attacks took place in the West Bank, 30 in Jerusalem and one in the Gaza Strip.”

            Errm, this thread was about whether Hamas maintained the 2012 ceasefire in Gaza. You have just demonstrated that they did just that. Hamas has no responsibility for what happened in the West Bank or Jerusalem.

            “1,734 rockets and 83 mortar shells were launched at Israel from Gaza during November’s eight-day Operation Pillar of Defense, and 116 rockets and 55 mortar shells were fired from Gaza in October.”

            167 Palestinians were killed during Pillar of Defense,including 87 civilians. Not surprisingly Hamas responded to Israeli aggression.

            • You know what’s interesting about civilian death totals? They also don’t provide Hamas or Terrorist death totals. Ergo, everyone who is Palestinian has been considered a civilian by these tallies.

              Hamas is run by grown men who have convinced children to follow teenagers into a game of war with Israel. The only people winning are the leaders of Hamas living high off the hog in Qatar.

        • Hamasnik, why you are so afraid of propagating your successful launch of rockets constantly breaking ceasefires? Why you are so afraid of admitting launching rockets from behind human shields? Where is your courage, Hamasnik?
          Only behind lies and human shields, you find courage, terrorist.

    • Wow – one entire month that a rocket wasn’t fired, just two mortars and how many roadside bombings, and attempts to enter Israel to kidnap Israelis?

      Should have killed every single one of them instead

  3. I imagine that eventually secular Israelis and moderate Arabs will be intermarrying, We should be kinder to our eventual in laws.TA subway interests, disturbed by poor progress, are now aware that they should have awarded the contract to Hamas.

    • The 21st Century what? What is this bullshit about so-called colonialism and the “21st Century?” It’s just a number, not a panacea for your educational deficiencies. One look around the world should tell you that so far the “21st Century” is a moral and intellectual flop. The Guardian can take partial credit for this with its dishonest reporting on what is euphemistically termed the Mideast Conflict.

        • thats a good non-answer.
          still, if someone breaks into your house with the complicity of police and and tells you thst you and your family will be relegated to the closet forever at best….you will fight back.

          reminds me of 1776.

          • Because George Washington made his name by shooting rockets filled with rat poison laced metal shards and ball bearings from apartment building complexes and into British civilian centers? Wow. That’s some take on world history.

            Tell ya what, Toots. Look up Ottoman Empire and its dissipation after World War I through the nation building efforts of Britain and France. And then you can go fuck the fuck off, Poopstick.

            • aside from a few thousand jews, jews didnt come to palestine until 1882 and the first aliyyah. in 1948 Israel was composed of 80% european jews.

              pretty obvious who was there and got the short end of the stick.

              • This is a great response. Just ignore your MORONIC BULLSHIT about the American Revolution and then start spouting about White European Jews taking things away from you.

                Pathetic hate monger trash like you deserve this life you lead. Congrats, Poopstick.

            • Israel Zangwill’s infamous slogan “a land without a people for a people without a land” was not intended as a literal demographic assessment: “[Zionists] did not mean that there were no people in Palestine, but that there were no people worth considering within the framework of the notions of European supremacy that then held sway”

              find another argument.

              • Your only freaking argument is that Israel shouldn’t exist. Sorry. It does. And it has. For 67 years. And going strong. Get on the wagon. Realize reality. Or don’t, and keep whining and bitching and complaining about not getting a fair shake. Israel is older than you, BUT YOU KNOW BETTER.

                Half the original Israeli population were from Arabia. Now fuck off, Revisionist.

          • Nobody broke into your tent or your poor house, as nobody wanted to live in such devastating circumstances.
            Buy an old English guide book of Palestine, let say 1890, and read what was written about a decrepit countryside of the Osman empire, populated by robbers, beggars, illiterates religious fanatics, lepers and flies. constantly living on the brink of starvation, mainly dying of malaria.

            Well, that`s why a lot of people thought that the zionists were completely nuts.

            • and who wrote the pamphlet? even if true (its not the full picture) it doest justify invasion and internment. tents vs drywall and stone…doesnt matter. its immoral.

            • Israel Zangwill’s infamous slogan “a land without a people for a people without a land” was not intended as a literal demographic assessment: “[Zionists] did not mean that there were no people in Palestine, but that there were no people worth considering within the framework of the notions of European supremacy that then held sway.”

              • The feudal landlords sold their land, the rest was Ottoman state land and Islam charities, so what, asinus?

                • arab lands sales were problematic, but it was the israel intentional effort to drive arabs from lands and the countless genocidal, organized massacres that haunts the country today. no way around it. israelis live their lives everyday in war experiencing what national karma is. karma. i feel sorry for them too. they great dream of creating a state based on a religious identity was a terrible mistake…to identify so singularly with a religious tradition…leads to tragedy. same with muslim theocracies. i wish israel the best….but they simply will never win this. karmically impossible.

  4. Is it possible to understand why the neoliberal Economist tries to understand terror? Does it think that it will increase its income and standing in Muslim states?

  5. Is it possible to understand Economist’s anti-Israel stance?

    Yes it is! Economist’s Israel correspondent is no other than David Landau, formerly the editor of Ha’Aretz, the world’s only Arab newspaper published in Hebrew.

    I had an opportunity to speak to Landau after a lecture he gave a few years ago where he blamed every problem in the Middle East on Israel (the so called Arab Spring hasn’t begun then). I asked him whether he acknowledges the fact that Arabs reject the right of Israel to exist by insisting on the so called “Right of Return”. Landau’s eyes blanked as if an iron curtain fell in his mind and like a Zombie he started talking about akibush (theOccupation/Occupado/Occupierrement, etc) and that the settlement are the root of all evil, that because Palis are the “weak side”, it’s always Israel’s fault”. It was embarrassingly childish argumentation and one a completely illogical, one sided rant.

    I asked him finally, whether Economist is an anti-Israel publication now and he answered: “I just shared a taxi with other Economist writers and I (ie Landau) had to defend Israel…”

    So now it is possible to understand Economist’s anti Israel stance.

  6. I’ve read this are what the people in Gaza want.

    1. A ceasefire; Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza;
    2. End of the siege of Gaza and opening its border crossings
    3. Fishing rights up to 12 nautical miles off Gaza’s coast and the
    4. Release of Palestinian prisoners.

    My probably naive question is, does Hamas firing rockets into Israel achieve any of these goals? Is there any reason to think the rockets will change either the Israeli government’s response or Israeli individual’s thinking? Is there a track record of this working?