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Hamas leadership lives in luxury in Doha — over a thousand miles from Gaza. We await the Israeli invasion of Gaza with fear and trepidation

This is Doha:

Doha, the capital of Qatar,  is 1,120 miles from Gaza:

Hamas’s top leadership lives in Doha in what is reputed to be five-star hotels.

One of Hamas leaders is Moussa Abu Marzouk.

He gave an interview to the Economist on October 10. This is the headline on the story.

Here’s the Economist’s story:

Nothing he could say would ever justify it. But he could not even explain it. On October 10th Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior member of the Hamas politburo, sat down for an hour-long interview with The Economist at a nondescript building in Doha, the Qatari capital. He spoke three days after the Palestinian Islamist group carried out the worst attack in Israel’s history, massacring more than 1,200 people.

Israel’s retaliatory air strikes have killed more than 900 Palestinians. Its army is preparing for a probable ground invasion of Gaza. The coming weeks will bring more bloodshed on both sides—and, perhaps, the end of Hamas rule in Gaza. At such a pivotal moment for his people, though, Mr Abu Marzouk had little to say that Hamas leaders have not said many times before.

As for the 260 partygoers gunned down at a music festival, he says that was a “coincidence”; that they might have looked to their attackers like soldiers “resting”. The claim is so risible it does more to flaunt the crime than cover up the truth.

Regardless of their politics, most people around the world were horrified by the scenes of carnage in Israel. Muslims have pointed to a hadith, a saying of the prophet Muhammad, which decrees that fighters should not kill women and children or even cut down trees. Hamas, an Islamist group that touts and imposes piety, seems to lack such compunctions: Mr Abu Marzouk acknowledges that some civilians were killed but argues that it is Israel’s “responsibility” and says that “we were victims before them.”

Second is a sense that even much of the Hamas leadership was kept in the dark about plans for the assault. Asked whether he knew about it in advance, Mr Abu Marzouk suggests he was not informed: “No, we didn’t know the time.” This would not be surprising. Because it is so difficult to enter and exit Gaza, Hamas prefers to keep some of its political leaders abroad. There has always been tension between the inside and outside groups. Those in Gaza tend to look down on coddled compatriots who enjoy five-star hotels in Doha.

Mr Abu Marzouk also denies press reports that Iran either masterminded or helped to plan the attack: “Iran has no relation to this situation,” he says. That claim can rightly be treated with scepticism. Iran provides financial and military support to Hamas; it certainly had some relation to the rampage. Still, both Hamas officials and the Israeli army spokesman are on the record as denying that Iran ordered or organised the assault.

Third, and most telling, is the lack of any vision. In response to a question about what Hamas hoped to achieve, Mr Abu Marzouk rattles off a list of Israeli misdeeds: confiscating land, building illegal settlements. “They closed all the doors, they caused the two-state solution to fail,” he says. He is not wrong about the daily abuses and indignities of occupation, nor Israel’s role in scuttling the peace process. But he has no explanation for how murdering hundreds of civilians might improve the plight of Palestinians.

He is categorical about some specifics: Hamas will not, he asserts, execute any hostages, nor will it release any Israeli civilians. It is too early to talk about prisoner swaps.

But as the conversation goes on, he ventures into conspiracy and fantasy. Israelis should just leave and go back to their homelands: “All of them have dual citizenship,” he says (in fact most Israelis are native-born and hold no other passport). He praises the October 8th attack in Alexandria, in which an Egyptian policeman shot dead two Israeli tourists, and urges all Arabs and Muslims to help “liberate Jerusalem and Palestine”. He calls Israel a “Western project” that would one day vanish.

The actions of Hamas on October 7th changed the region. Yet the rhetoric of Hamas seems frozen in time: your correspondent has heard almost identical language from countless officials over the past 15 years. Victory is always imminent, and until then the 2m Palestinians in Gaza will endure their lot. Many will tell you in private that they have no faith in Hamas. But they live in an authoritarian one-party state that affords no chance to change their leaders.

Israel erred for years in thinking that Hamas had lost interest in large-scale conflict. But Hamas seems to have made its own error. At one point Mr Abu Marzouk seemed to dismiss the possibility of a serious Israeli offensive in Gaza. “We know that they are cowards,” he says. “We know that they can’t fight on the ground.” That miscalculation may now threaten its grip on power.

You can hear the key parts of this interview on the October 11th episode of The Intelligence podcast here.

What Harry Newton is doing

If I were younger, I jump a plane for Israel and see if I could help.

Sadly, I haven’t heard Israel call for octogenarian bloggists.

I’m out on that one.

But today I gave them my fourth firetruck.

Here’s me in Israel with my first truck.

This is what is looked like in full.

At that time Israel needed small maneuverable firetrucks that could drive into forests up north and quickly extinguish fires from rockets being lobbed in from Southern Lebanon and then quickly leave before a rocket hit my firetruck.

I give my firetrucks through an organization called JNF — Jewish National Fund.

When I was a child I carried a blue JNF box around my parents’ parties and begged spare change to fill the box. At that stage we were planting trees in Israel. The last I heard was that JNF had planted over 240 million trees and had invented drip irrigation methods to grow the trees in the dry Israeli soil.

If you’d like to help Israel now with humanitarian supplies,  the JNF site is here.

You’ll be pleased to know that some anonymous donor has stepped up and will double your contribution to JNF — if you contribute before midnight tonight. That’s Sunday night EDT — three and a half hours from now.

My previous blog was “Rethinking how we deal with crazies — like Hamas and Russia.”

I concluded that October 10 blog with this:

This latest war will disavow Israel of ever being able to work a peace deal with Hamas. The only solution is clearly to destroy Hamas and replace it with something democratic — as we did with Germany and Japan at the end of World War II. It will not be pretty.

You can read that blog in full. Click here.

This Sunday evening we await Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza and Israel’s attempts to rescue 150 hostages and “to demolish” Hamas.

The following are to keep our spirits up. I hope you enjoy them.

Favorite Australian story

A Russian woman married an Australian gentleman and they lived happily ever after in Melbourne.

The poor lady was not very proficient in English but did manage to communicate with her husband. The real problem arose whenever she had to shop for groceries.

One day, she went to the butcher and wanted to buy chicken legs. She didn’t know how to put forward her request, and in desperation, clucked like a chicken and lifted up her skirt to show her thighs. Her butcher got the message and gave her the chicken legs.

Next day she needed to get chicken breasts, again she didn’t know how to say it, and so she clucked like a chicken and unbuttoned her blouse to show the butcher her breasts. The butcher understood again and gave her some chicken breasts.

On the 3rd day, the poor lady needed to buy sausages. Unable to find a way to communicate this, she brought her husband to the store…

What were you thinking?

Hellooooooo, her husband speaks English! 😜

Favorite New Yorker cartoons

Maybe Hamas will release the hostages before morning.

Pray God they do. — Harry Newton