Gaza erupted in celebration last week to the news that a Palestinian
had murdered Jewish religious students in Jerusalem. And almost daily
terrorists send rockets from Gaza into nearby Israeli cities, hoping to
kill civilians and provoke Israeli counterresponses — and perhaps start
another Middle East war.
This is not how some imagined Gaza
two and half years after the Israelis withdrew both civilians and
soldiers from the territory in September 2005. At the time, the
Palestinian Authority controlled Gaza, but in early 2007, Hamas took
over in a violent civil war, claiming legitimacy after once winning a
Gaza has plenty of natural advantages. It
enjoys a picturesque coastline on the Mediterranean with sandy beaches
and a rich classical history. There is a border with Egypt, the Arab
world's largest country and spiritual home of pan-Arabic solidarity.
Palestinians are a favorite cause of the oil-rich Middle East, and
would seem to be in store for at least a few billions that accrue from
$100 a barrel oil. In short, an autonomous Gaza might have been a test
case in which the Palestinians could have crafted their own Singapore,
Hong Kong or Dubai.
Instead, despite Palestinian rule of
Gaza, Hamas has continued its civil war with the Palestinian Authority,
and looters have ruined infrastructure left by the United Nations and
Israelis. Mobs crashed the border crossing with Egypt. Hamas-led
terrorists have launched more than 2,500 mortar rounds into Israel, as
well as more than 2,000 Qassam rockets.
We all now know the
familiar Gaza two-step. The Israeli Defense Forces respond to Hamas
rockets with targeted air strikes against terrorist leaders or
small-rocket factories. Hamas makes certain both these targets are
intermingled with civilians in the hopes of televised collateral damage.
counts on the usual sympathetic European and Middle Eastern media
coverage and commentary. Terrorists deliberately trying to murder
Israeli civilians are seen as the moral equivalents of Israeli soldiers
trying to target combatants who use civilians as shields. To the extent
the IDF kills more of the terrorists than Hamas kills Israeli
civilians, sympathy goes to the "refugees" of Gaza.
tragic charade continues because Hamas wants it to continue. Its
purpose is to make life so unsure and frightening for nearby affluent
Israelis that they will grant continual concessions, hopefully leading
to such wide-scale demoralization that the Jewish state itself will
collapse and disappear. In that regard, the last thing Hamas wants is
calm and prosperity in Gaza, which would turn the population's
attention toward living rather than killing and dying.
Hamas in Gaza also feels the war is not static — and that it is
already winning on all fronts. As Europeans, Middle Easterners and the
United Nations lecture Israel about "inordinate" or "disproportionate"
responses, the terrorists' smuggled missiles increase in range, payload
and frequency of attack.
Hamas has gained powerful patrons in
Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah. Both provide terrorist training and
weapons as long as Gaza serves as a useful proxy in their own
existential struggles against Israel.
On the world front,
we've reached a new threshold in which evoking the destruction of
Israel and the killing of Jews has become commonplace and almost
acceptable. Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, publicly brags about
hoarding the body parts of captured Israelis. Iran's President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad openly talks of Israelis in Hitlerian terms as "filthy
bacteria" that should be wiped off the map.
Gaza can enshrine mass murderers and praise terrorist killers without
much worry that the world will be appalled at their grotesque
spectacles — much less cease its sympathy and subsidies.
And what a world it is that enables Gaza.
The Russians have fought a dirty war against Muslim separatists in
Chechnya. The Chinese have been hunting down Muslim separatist Uighurs
who claim Xinjiang Province as their own. India wages bloody periodic
wars against Muslim terrorists who claim Kashmir.
tomorrow that all the above nations told the Gazans that their dispute
is no more or less important to the world than similar land quarrels in
Cyprus or Azerbaijan; that they are no more or less deserving of
international money and sympathy than are the Chechnyans or Uighurs or
the Muslims of Kashmir; or that Israel has as much right as China,
India or Russia to retaliate and put down neighboring Islamist attacks.
The crisis would shortly recede from world attention.
Hamas in Gaza would either begin negotiating and building Palestinians'
own civil society — or face the sort of typical Chinese, Russian or
Indian retaliation that Israel is quite able to unleash.