Besieged by Israeli forces and rebuked by its Arab League allies, Hamas has seen the worst of the recent fighting in Gaza. But however bleak their present fortunes, the terrorists still have a faithful friend in ex-president Jimmy Carter.
It has become an odious annual routine. On no obvious invitation, the 39th president inserts himself into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to excuse Hamas terror – the demonstrable source of which is the genocidal jihad against Jews and their national home set forth in Hamas’s founding charter – as the inevitable response to some imagined Israeli provocation. Carter’s latest act of solidarity with terror came last week, when he took to the pages of the Washington Post in a strained attempt to cast Israel as the true instigator of the fighting underway in Gaza.
Presenting the roots of the current conflict, Carter explained that “Hamas wanted a comprehensive cease-fire in both the West Bank and Gaza, and the Israelis refused to discuss anything other than Gaza.” Instead, a brief ceasefire-took hold on June 19, 2008. “And this fragile truce was partially broken on Nov. 4, when Israel launched an attack in Gaza to destroy a defensive tunnel being dug by Hamas inside the wall that encloses Gaza.” To sum up: Hamas had hoped for a broader peace, but Israel, ever the aggressor, resisted, before breaking the ceasefire and triggering the current fighting.
Of all that can be said about Carter’s account of recent history, Mary McCarthy’s famous evisceration of Lillian Hellman – “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘but.’” – is perhaps the most apposite. For starters, the notion that Hamas had wanted a wider ceasefire only to be frustrated by Israel is a perverse parody of the truth. In fact Hamas has never even abided by its previous ceasefires. Back in 2006, when apologists like Carter claimed that Hamas was faithfully honoring the ceasefire of the moment, over 1,000 Gaza-fired rockets pounded southern Israel. The June 19 “state of calm,” as the most recent ceasefire was called, repeated the grim pattern.
Under the terms of the ceasefire, even a single act of terrorism would have constituted its violation. Yet, in the weeks and months after June 19, Hamas fired at least 18 rockets and at least a dozen mortar shells into southern Israel. On July 6, Palestinian snipers opened fire on Israeli farmers in Kibbutz Nahal in southern Israel. On October 31, Israeli soldiers caught Palestinian terrorists trying to plant an “explosive device” alongside the Israeli security fence in the Sufa crossing near Gaza. Each of these attacks constituted a violation of the ceasefire and a casus belli for Israel to retaliate, though Israel held its fire. Each of these attacks, moreover, occurred before the November 4 strike on Hamas’s tunnel that Carter asserts to be the trigger of the current fighting.
The “calm” before the storm: A Sderot home is damaged by a Kassam rocket fired on June 24, during the Hamas “ceasefire.” (Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.)
It is a measure of Carter’s credulity – or, what is the same thing, his hostility to Israel – that his recounting of the November 4 incident is little more than recycled Hamas propaganda. Contrary to Carter’s claim, the tunnel in question was anything but “defensive.” Located about 800 feet from the Israeli security fence in the Gaza Strip, an unlikely defensive position so close to Israeli forces, the tunnel was actually designed as part of a Hamas plot to abduct IDF soldiers. This was not the first time that Hamas had used tunnels to carry out a terrorist attack. In June 2006, Hamas operatives tunneled under the Israeli security fence near Gaza and ambushed an Israeli defense force, killing several soldiers and taking one, Gilad Shalit, hostage. If anything deserves to be called “defensive,” it is the November 4 IDF operation that located the tunnel and killed seven armed Hamas fighters. That Carter considers the successful foiling of a terrorist plot to be an act of Israeli provocation is a revealing glimpse into his morally bankrupt vision.
What “defensive” tunnel? (Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.)
Carter is right that violence escalated after the November 4 operation, but he tellingly omits a critical point: that it took the form of a revived Hamas terror campaign. Between November 4 and 12, Hamas pummeled Israel with a deadly barrage of 91 rockets and 38 mortar shells. By the time the “ceasefire” officially collapsed on December 19, Hamas had fired a total of 223 rockets and 139 mortar shells into southern Israel – all during the “state of calm” it was supposed to be preserving.
All in all in 2008, Hamas fired 1,571 rockets and 1,531 mortars into Israel. This makes for a total of 3,484 rockets that have been launched into Israel from Gaza since 2005, when Israel withdrew from the territory and ended the “occupation” that was then cited, not least by Carter himself, as the principal cause of Palestinian terrorism. If Carter is aware of these details, or their implications for his blame-Israel-first timeline, he is tellingly silent.
This is all par for the course for Carter. Just last April, he paid a call to Hamas’s Damascus-based leader-in-exile, Khaled Meshal, conferring the prestige of a former American president on a terrorist chieftain. So what that Meshal has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction, promising his followers in taped speeches that “Israel with the help of Allah will be defeated.” Never mind, too, that he is an unapologetic supporter of Palestinian suicide bombers. None of that deterred Carter from seeking out Meshal as a voice of compromise.
Carter has gone even further to extol Hamas. In June 2007, he condemned as “criminal” the Bush administration’s eminently sensible decision to reject all dealings with Hamas. That in itself was part of Carter’s campaign – now three years running – to have Hamas recognized as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Such is Carter’s commitment to this goal that, in January 2006, he went so far as to call for the United States and European countries to skirt international restrictions on financing terrorism and, in effect, launder money to Hamas in the form of relief aid. At every step of the way, Carter has accepted without skepticism the pernicious and self-evidently absurd Hamas spin that what it seeks above all is peace in the Middle East.
It’s easy to ascribe Carter’s one-man ambassadorship for Hamas to the delusions of a failed statesman. But the most unfortunate aspect of his campaign is not that it has shamed Carter or demeaned the American presidency, if only by its tainted association with a onetime occupant, but that it has hurt the people it is intended to help.
At the latest count, nearly half of the 900 Palestinians killed in Gaza are civilians, the victims of Hamas’s calculated strategy of hiding among the general population and goading Israel into a deadly but inevitable retaliation. That number does not even account for the reign of terror that Hamas has been waging against its own people, killing rivals and resisters on trumped-up charges of “collaboration” with Israel, while singlehandedly sinking Gaza further into social sickness and economic despair. Jimmy Carter has certainly emerged as a leading advocate of the Palestinian cause. Woe to a people that finds such saviors.