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Jewish World Review
Nov. 9, 2006
/ 18 Mar-Cheshvan 5766
Waiting for war in Gaza
All eyes are on Iraq, but another war looms in the caldron of the Middle East. The battlefield will be Gaza. The cause is the same as the war in Lebanon: the appetite of Arab radicals for bloodshed.
Israel pulled out of Gaza more than a year ago, but instead of using their independence to build a Palestinian state, the Gaza Arabs have been killing each other, as well as trying to kill Israelis. Factional fighting between Hamas forces loyal to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and the Fatah forces more or less loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas verges on a civil war. The turmoil will threaten Israel, which cannot be expected to stand aside as it did to its cost in southern Lebanon while Hezbollah grew strong enough to rocket Israeli cities.
In Gaza, every intelligence, police, military, and security agency predicted violence if the security of the Gaza-Egypt border, the Philadelphia Route, was left to those parties when Israel withdrew. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice forced the Israelis to agree to the deal-and the border has indeed become a sewer for terrorists and weapons. The Egyptians have betrayed their obligations, even though Hamas is a threat to Egypt. The Israeli Defense Forces have discovered as many as 100 transborder tunnels, through which some 20 tons of explosives, tens of thousands of rifles, RPGs, rockets, and missiles of all kinds have been shipped. The Gazans have made matters worse by building hundreds of short-range Kassam rockets to rain on southern Israel.
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Sooner rather than later, the Israelis will have to retake the Philadelphia Route before the Palestinians accumulate a stockpile of armaments to bloody Israel like Hezbollah did this past summer.
Warrior sons. None of this is in the interest of the people of Gaza. Their vote for Hamas back in January has brought anarchy, corruption, chaos, and tribal wars. Abdallah Awad, columnist for the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, writes: "The factions, which not long ago were, in the eyes of the public, the guarantee for ridding ourselves of the occupation and for freedom and independence, have become ... another occupation, more repressive than the [Israeli] occupation itself."
The long-run prospect is grim, because Hamas simply isn't interested in peace; in the latest survey, two thirds of Gazans reject peace with Israel while almost as many believe in shelling Israeli cities. Hamas ensures further bloodshed by indoctrinating Palestinian children. They are not born hating, but from the age of 3 their radical leadership incites them to murder. The hate pervades the educational system, TV broadcasting, summer camps, children's trading cards, movies, music, even games that make martyrdom a major theme. A Palestinian psychiatrist recently reported that over half the Palestinian children between the ages of 6 and 11 dream of becoming suicide bombers. And in this perverse and tragic pursuit, they are urged on by their prime minister, Haniyeh. "One of the signs of victory," he told a rally recently, "is the Palestinian mother who prepares her son to be a warrior and then receives the news of his death for the sake of Allah with cries of happiness."
This is the real face of Hamas, not the apparently pacific one of the Hamas maneuver unveiled in the New York Times on Wednesday by Ahmed Yousef, Haniyeh's senior adviser. In a ploy to gain western sympathy-and a renewal of funding-Hamas proposed a "hudna," or truce, so that the two peoples could work out their differences peaceably. It is a deceitful message, for if one reads the code carefully, it is clear that the "peace" Hamas proposes involves destroying the State of Israel. Never once did Yousef refer to Israel the state, but only "Israelis." His hudna would give time for Hamas to build up military strength, exactly as Hezbollah did in Lebanon. Yousef denies that the proposed truce would be such a ruse, but all the frenzied arms smuggling belies that.
The international community must not weaken in its insistence that Hamas must commit to end violence. With such a pledge, Hamas could end its isolation and mitigate the suffering of Palestinians, but Yousef declares that "the spirit of Palestinians" would never permit a renunciation of violence. Hamas prefers instead to let the Gazans suffer in the hope that sympathy for the victims of its own intransigence trump reason and sound judgment. Hamas, in truth, is not a nationalist force. It is part of the global movement of jihad, a Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood founded in Egypt with the goal of eliminating Israel with help from its Syrian and Iranian backers.
Middle East diplomats, so enamored of process, keep hoping the right dose of concessions will somehow result in mutually reinforcing perceptions of security. This is hopelessly naive. For now and the foreseeable future, the seat on the other side of the table across from Israel is occupied only by a death's-head.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
© 2005, Mortimer Zuckerman