Gunnar Heinsohn: Warum das Töten in Gaza weiter geht
“You can continue shooting, but you must aim at Jews. Otherwise we will kill you.”
This was the combination threat and peace offer that was made to Fatah in June 2007 after they were routed by the Islamists of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Fatah accepted, stopping the internecine warfare that had taken nearly 300 lives since December, 2006.
The triumph of Hamas in Gaza brought a temporary stop to patterns of violence and bloodshed that are commonly seen in Arab lands where more than 30 percent of the male population is in the 15 to 29 age bracket (a so-called “youth bulge”). In youth bulge countries young men tend to eliminate each other until a balance is reached between their ambitions and the number of jobs available in their society. In nations such as Lebanon (150,000 dead between 1975 and 1990) or Algeria (200,000 dead, 1991 to 2006), the horrific culling of young men with no futures abated only because, while the bloodletting was taking place, the total fertility rates of their countries fell from seven children per mother to fewer than two. The warring stopped because no more warriors were being born.
In the Gaza Strip, however, there has been no demographic disarmament. Birth rates remain high and young men continue killing each other. The explanation for Gaza’s endless youth bulge is that – unlike the parents of other lands – most Palestinians do not have to provide for their numerous offspring. Whether they decide to have one child or 10, their babies are fed, clothed and educated by UNRWA, which classifies them as refugees. Though Gaza has no economy to speak of, its enormous production of children guarantees Gazans a steady and permanent income. Thanks to UNRWA, which is benevolently funded by Germany and other western nations, nearly the entire population of Gaza lives in a kind of lowly but regularly paid dependence. One result of this endless welfare is an endless population boom. Between 1950 and 2008, Gaza has grown from 240,000 to 1.5 million. The West has created itself a new Near Eastern people.
Only the women of Uganda have a lower median age than the women of Gaza. Since 1970, Uganda’s youth bulges have led to local massacres that claimed the lives of nearly one million people. The Israel-Palestine conflict – with some 14,000 victims in the six decades since 1947 – has cost much fewer lives because in West Africa nearly all sides kill at random. Palestinians also shoot at random, but Israelis are quite skilled at protecting themselves. A more important factor in the low death toll is Israel’s policy of restricting itself to targeted responses against its attackers.
And yet, despite claiming that it wants to bring peace to Israel and Palestine, the West continues to make the population explosion in Gaza worse. In 2008, every 1,000 Gazan men aged 40 to 44 years (a total of 31,350) are succeeded by 4,455 boys aged 0 to 4 (a total of 139,664). In Germany 1,000 such males are succeeded by only 470 boys (it is 676 in the UK and 977 in the US). By generously supporting the budget of Gaza, Berlin assists a population increase ten times higher than its own. Therefore, it is understandable that Germany’s childless minister for Foreign Aid, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, defends Hamas against Israel like a lioness defending her cubs.
Since June 2007, the Hamas-Fatah alliance seems to be going well. Thanks to UNRWA, very few of their fighters are tied down by jobs. Therefore, their war against Israel was started right away. The West pays for food and housing, Muslim nations provide the military hardware. Smuggling, hiding, assembling and firing more than 3,000 missiles in just half a year keep the angry young men busy and some 250,000 Israelis in shelters.
Yet, once again, “the Jews” are being told that it’s all their fault. They do not like to be shot at, and even dare to reduce their enemies’ electricity supply. Eventually they fire back. Five percent of Gaza’s casualties are children – a tragedy not easy to prevent in a densely settled territory in which fifty percent of the inhabitants are minors. Yet, it would be difficult to find another war with a similar demographic situation but lower collateral damage. That does not protect Jerusalem from immediate and worldwide condemnations for the use of “disproportionate” force.
The current situation can only get worse. Israel is being pushed into a corner. Gazan teenagers have no future other than war. One rocket master killed is immediately replaced by three young men for whom a hero’s death is no less honourable than victory. Some 200.000 Gazan males, aged 15 to 29, who are on the battlefield now, will be succeeded by 370,000 boys under 15 who will be taking up arms within the coming 15 years.
As long as we continue to subsidize Gaza’s extreme demographic armament, we leave young Palestinians no other choice than killing their brothers or killing their neighbours across the border. Everyone who intends such an outcome should say so openly, and stop pointing fingers at Jews in order to conceal their own responsibility for the violence.
If, however, we seriously want to avoid another generation of war in Gaza, we must have the courage to tell the mothers and fathers in Gaza that from – let us say – July 1, 2008 they will have to look after their children like other Arabs do, without UNRWA’s help. Of course, every baby lured into the world by our money up to June 30, 2008 would still have our assistance.
If we make this urgently needed reform, after 2023 – like in Algeria today – boys in Gaza would enter puberty as only sons. They would be able to look forward to a secure future unmarred by war, and by hopeless and violent competition with two or three brothers.
Gunnar Heinsohn (64) is speaker of the “Raphael-Lemkin-Institut” at the University of Bremen, Europe’s first institute devoted to comparative genocide research. He is the author of Sons and World Power: Terror in the Rise and Fall of Nations (Söhne und Weltmacht; Zürich 2003; 10th impression 2006), a German language scholarly bestseller. In 2005-2008, he lectured on the subject of youth bulges and violence to Germany’s secret service (BND), commanders of armed forces of several members of NATO, Germany’s National Academy of Security Policy as well as its Ministry of Internal Affairs.