Turn the Screws on Iran, but Ease Pressure on Hamas?

On Tuesday morning a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza struck near a kindergarten in a kibbutz outside Ashkelon, the Israeli coastal city north of the Strip. A fourteen-year-old girl was injured and four other people were treated for shock. The attack was part of a recent escalation in Gaza terror that included ten mortars fired on Monday.

Although shelling from Gaza is down since Israel’s Operation Cast Lead almost two years ago, it has by no means stopped, with over 200 missiles, rockets, and mortars fired in 2010. The shelling and other terror activity comes from Hamas, which rules Gaza, and other terror groups that have roosted there including the al-Qaeda-linked Army of Islam.

Gaza, then, is comparable to Iran albeit on a much smaller scale: a belligerent polity run by Islamic extremists. Yet the world relates to the two polities very differently.

For instance, earlier former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now envoy of the Middle East Quartet, decried what he called the “mistaken view ... that if Gaza is isolated, somehow Hamas is weakened.” He called for “expanding not just humanitarian provisions to Gaza but also reconstruction, water, sanitation, and electricity capacity as well.”

His words abound with ironies. One is that Gaza is already awash in international assistance; for instance, in the wake of last May’s Gaza flotilla incident, President Obama pledged a $400-million package to the West Bank and Gaza. Israel too, after that incident, bowed to worldwide demands and almost totally lifted its “siege” of the Strip.

That “siege” had put limited economic pressure on the Hamas regime by preventing certain kinds of goods, particularly those like cement and steel that have military uses, from crossing into Gaza from Israel.

Meanwhile, various reports (here and here, for instance) have highlighted that, at least in some regards, Gaza is actually thriving, with well-stocked shelves and shiny shopping malls.

Also ironic is that Blair’s Britain, when under the German bombardment in World War II, did not react by calling for generous international aid to Germany.