Gaza anarchy and chaos:
For several weeks now the Gaza Strip has been burning. This is not a matter of fighting between Hamas and Fatah activists or actions by the Israel Defense Forces, but battles between armed groups that for the most part are identified with large clans. Nearly every day for the past two weeks, men, women and children have been killed in Gaza. Every day civilians are being wounded by deliberate or stray gunfire, the result of the unrestrained use of weapons. The number of armed men in the Gaza Strip, according to various estimates, is greater than 100,000. These men belong to security mechanisms, political organizations and above all to clans… — Avi Isacharoff, Ha’aretz
We can learn something from this, and we should, because similar situations abound throughout the world and are growing more common.
One problem is the sheer firepower of modern weapons. One man with an assault rifle and large-capacity magazines can stand off a whole platoon of rivals, unless of course all of them have similar weapons…so they get them. When a firefight breaks out, it can turn into general carnage.
Another problem is the so-called “youth bulge“. Consider the combination of bravado, bad judgment, and energy that characterizes the average teenager. About half of the population of Gaza is now under the age of 15; there is a huge number of males in the 15-29 range. Now give each of them enormous firepower. Any questions?
There is very little productive economic activity in Gaza itself. How many Gazans can find employment making Qassam missiles? Terrorists systematically attacked the crossing points into Israel and initiatives like the Erez industrial zone which were supposed to provide work for Gaza residents. Many young men have literally nothing to do all day except shoot. One source of income is connection to one of the militias, which skim money from the international and UN aid that pours into Gaza.
There’s no functioning government. The ‘political’ militias, Fatah and Hamas, are no stronger than the clans. They are no match, for example, for whoever is holding kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston.
What would it take to turn such chaos into a functioning society? Possibly a brutal totalitarian dictatorship like Saddam Hussein’s was could damp down the violence and disarm most of the young men, but the process would be bloody and might not succeed. I can’t imagine moving from today’s chaos directly to any kind of democracy, or even mildly enlightened dictatorship. The prospects for Gaza are bleak indeed.