How $500 mil­lion was lost downGaza’stun­nel­net­work

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News -

large loans taken in or­der to in­vest in the tun­nels, un­able to re­turn the money from the tun­nels’ prof­its — which never ma­te­ri­alised.

Those who lent them the money have just as big a prob­lem.

Both the tun­nels’ op­er­a­tion and the col­lec­tion of money for their construction and op­er­a­tion were un­der­taken with the full knowl­edge and en­cour­age­ment of the Ha­mas gov­ern­ment. Now the in­vestors are de­mand­ing that the Ha­mas move­ment com­pen­sate them. But the move­ment does not have the re­sources to cover such a fi­nan­cial bur­den, and has of­fered each in­vestor 16.5 cents for ev­ery dol­lar in­vested — that is, less than a sixth of their in­vest­ment.

Of­fi­cially, Ha­mas claims it has noth­ing to do with the mat­ter. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ziad al-Zaza claimed that the peo­ple who re­cruited the pub­lic’s money in­vested a large part of it in dodgy schemes over­seas, which lost the money in the in­ter­na­tional credit crunch.

In or­der to prove that Ha­mas had no part in the scan­dal, the Ha­mas gov­ern­ment ar­rested 200 peo­ple in­volved in the tun­nels in­dus­try, but most of them were freed in or­der not to open an­other front against it. The al-Kurd fam­ily, which re­ceived a large pro­por­tion of the in­vest­ment money, re­turned part of it, and Ha­mas is in­tend­ing to dis­trib­ute the com­pen­sa­tion from that pot.

All the fi­nan­cial ac­tiv­ity sur­round­ing the tun­nels took place without any trans­parency, doc­u­men­ta­tion or su­per­vi­sion. No one re­ally knows what hap­pened to the half a bil­lion dol­lars, and the sus­pi­cion is that more than a few Ha­mas men — who en­cour­aged the pub­lic to in­vest in the tun­nels — got rich through the busi­ness.

Many in Gaza say that ef­fects of the Mad­off af­fair in New York are small com­pared to the tun­nels scan­dal, given the small scale of the econ­omy in the Strip.

The af­fair has dam­aged Ha­mas’s pop­u­lar­ity, and many in Gaza ac­cuse them of be­ing no bet­ter than the cor­rupt regime in the West Bank. Th­ese al­le­ga­tions were one fac­tor bring­ing Ha­mas to sup­port the ri­ots on Tem­ple Mount dur­ing Suc­cot, in or­der to di­vert at­ten­tion from their in­ter­nal prob­lem to Is­rael.

The only ques­tion left is when the world will wake up to what the “poor peo­ple” in Gaza are do­ing with the bil­lions be­ing do­nated to them. Pro­fes­sor Mordechai Kedar is a lec­turer in Ara­bic at Bar-Ilan Uni­ver­sity

A Pales­tinian re­ceives goods smug­gled from Egypt into Gaza through an un­der­ground tun­nel last month

A Gaza worker hoists goods from a tun­nel near the Rafah refugee camp

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