Iran announces it will give Hamas $50 million to meet the bills. Pin money, you might say. Grenade pin money, more like it.
The day after the award, a suicide bomber kills eight at a lunch stand in Tel Aviv. Hamas, speaking with the exquisite sense of nuance and reason that got them elected to run the Palestinian Authority, defends the attack. They blame Israel's "aggression" must have been the flowerpots knocked over on the way out of Gaza and call the action "self-defense."
This may seem absurd to some, since the people killed were waiting in a line at a falafel stand. If you believe the Jews exist only to weave dark plots against innocent Muslims and gentiles, well, yes, it's self-defense. The mother of two who was killed in the bombing could have been taking a break from inventing invisible Mossad vampire robots. You never know.
How should the West respond? With furrowed brows, of course.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, through his spokesperson, called upon the Palestinian Authority "to take a clear public stand against such unjustifiable acts of terrorism." In other words, Annan wants Hamas to condemn as "unjustifiable" something it has just justified. And do so sincerely. This is the response of civilized men to barbarity: They're reduced to begging for a lie.
Peeved that the usual niceties of diplomatic lingo are being ignored, Annan has also asked Iran to dial down the blowtorch rhetoric. Enough with the "death to America"; perhaps something along the lines of "a persistent rash to America, not entirely explained away as contact dermatitis" or "a broken arm to America, easily set but requiring it to spend the summer in an itchy cast."
The world could live with that, because then we could understand it was all a metaphor. And it is a metaphor, isn't it? These are all just dramatic gestures that must be understood in the context of a volatile region. They're shouting "theater" in a crowded fire. Right?
Oh, absolutely. That would explain why Iran has created an elite squad of dedicated Human Similes, or, as they call them, "The Special Unit of Martyr Seekers."
These are battalions of suicide bombers who will attack American and British interests if the West dares to interfere with Iran's nuclear bomb program. These heroic would-be falafel-stand exterminators appeared in a recent parade, "dressed in olive-green uniforms with explosive packs around their waists and detonators held high," according to England's Sunday Times. Wonderful. How seasonal. In your Martyr's bonnet, with all the wires upon it.
Iran says 40,000 have signed up. The Seekers are run by "Dr." Hassan Abbasi (one suspects the doctoral program requirements are somewhat different in the Islamic Republic), a chap who runs the "Centre for Doctrinal Strategic Studies" for the Republican Guard.
Sounds so very civilized, no? Doctors and Centres and Studies both Strategic and Doctrinal. We have the Heritage Foundation, they have think tanks that develop religious rationales for sending boys to clear minefields with their bodies. Surely there's some common ground.
Surely a country that spells "Centre" in the English fashion can be reasoned with. Granted, Abbasi has said that "Britain's demise is on our agenda," but it's a cry for respect, really. When a country announces it has 40,000 suicide bombers, and its president announces that Israel is "a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm" and pledges the destruction of America, it's a sign we have to sit down and ask: What's on your mind, really?
Fear not. Oh, we'll talk. And talk and talk. The U.N. has taken the carrot-and-stick approach. The stick: threatening a fresh round of scowls from the Security Council. The carrot: Iran has just been elected deputy for Asian nations for the U.N. commission on ... disarmament.
That probably comes with an extra parking spot in the U.N. garage. There's not a member of the diplomatic corps who believes Iran would be stupid enough to jeopardize such a plum. Why, it's close to the elevator. They may be mad, but they're not crazy.
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