Wednesday, January 07, 2009

On Gaza: It's Time The World Sees What American Leaders See So Clearly

Last July President-elect Barack Obama visited Sderot, the Israeli town which has suffered most from Hamas rocket attacks eminating from Gaza. His words then were clear and unequivocal:
If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.

In terms of negotiations with Hamas, it is very hard to negotiate with a group that is not representative of a nation state, does not recognize your right to exist, has consistently used terror as a weapon, and is deeply influenced by other countries.

President Bush has been equally clear. On Monday he spoke about the current fighting:
The situation now taking place in Gaza was caused by Hamas. Instead of caring about the people of Gaza, Hamas decided to use Gaza to launch rockets to kill innocent Israelis. Israel's obviously decided to protect herself and her people.

Democratic leaders in Congress have been almost uniformly taking exactly the same position. This is perhaps the one and only issue in American politics today where there is no partisan divide. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has been a particularly forceful voice:
Israel is acting in clear self-defense in response to heinous rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza. As a sovereign nation, Israel has an unequivocal right to take action to ensure the security and safety of her citizens. Indiscriminate attacks by Hamas are a serious detriment to the peace process in the region.

There are very few, even among Israel's harshest critics, who would deny the fact that the current crisis was started by unprovoked rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas. They, however, ignore this issue, reciting tired old lines about Palestinian grievances against Israel to justify Hamas terrorism and decry "Israeli aggression". The usual suspects on the far left and in the international media highlight Palestinian deaths and show us pictures of crying Palestinian children to tug at the heartstrings and turn public opinion against Israel. Outside the United States and Canada they have largely succeeded.

Maintream American media, thankfully, has been more balanced. CNN's Anderson Cooper showed the same disturbing images from Gaza but followed them with photos of Hamas rockets and destruction in southern Israel. PBS program "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer" has, as always, shown both sides of the conflict. This seems to me to be the main reason why American public opinion is so different from that in the rest of the world. Americans have all the facts at their disposal, something those who rely on more biased media simply do not have.

The most interesting reaction has been from the Arab world. Oh, the streets and most media outlets have been denouncing Israel steadily, using extreme language and exaggeration together with graphic images to stoke passions against the Jewish state. This is to be expected. Every Israeli action is a new "genocide" or "holocaust". Those words have been so cheapened in that part of the world that they have almost lost any meaning, a tragedy in and of itself.

The reaction from Arab leaders has been far more muted for good reason. Moderate, mainly Sunni Arab leaders know that Hamas is their enemy as well and a proxy for Iran. Douglas Bloomfield, writing in the Jerusalem Post, calls these leaders "Israel's reluctant allies:"
From this tendency of Arab leaders to speak out of both sides of their mouths, one might get the impression that they suffer from a collective case of schizophrenia, but it's actually fear mixed with hypocrisy.

None of these dictators is a candidate for the next edition of Profiles in Courage. They are scared of the influence of the militant Islamists and the popularity of the Palestinian cause on the Arab street. Iran and its allies have focused on creating animosity to the entrenched and repressive Sunni regimes which, in the age of satellites and the Internet, can no longer turn public emotions on and off like a water tap.

That's why they are praying so hard for an Israeli victory.

Defeating Hamas now will certainly result in a tragic loss of life. Many innocent people, the majority of them Palestinians, will certainly die. However, it is time that the bleeding hearts on the left in both North America and Europe realize that dislodging Hamas now will prevent repeats of this war and bloodshed in the future and might, just maybe, revive some slim hope for peace in the future. In the long run letting Israel finish what it has started will save lives. My biggest fear is that world leaders, including American leaders, will allow images from Gaza and public sentiment to sway them into pressuring Israel to end the conflict prematurely.

I also ask those who only mourn Palestinian casualties to think about President-elect Obama's words. What would you want your government to do if missiles were raining down on your home and your family? Can any of you honestly say that you wouldn't want your government to do anything and everything necessary to stop the rockets and save your family?

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