Tuesday, December 30, 2008

• Israel, Hamas, Lebanon – Here We Go Again. And Again.

Israel’s systematic and carefully targeted attack on Hamas militants has invited the usual response from the Arab world, and from Muslims generally. The following words from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, released through Iran’s news agency, embodies the essentials of a very old refrain.

"All true believers in the world of Islam and Palestinian fighters are duty-bound to defend the defenseless women and children in Gaza Strip and those giving their lives in carrying out such a divine duty are 'martyrs.' "

This official statement is burdened with detrimental intent from the Iranian leadership enthusiastically promoting discord in the Arab world. It sadly reflects a generally felt and ancient sentiment. This cynical stance accentuates the dearth of reprimand emanating from Arab leadership toward a callous treatment of its own, by its own.

Using the well-tried and successful Hezbollah strategy for waging war, Hamas inserts itself into communities populated with children, women and men. It then launches missiles into Israel, knowing that its launch sites will be easily detected by Israel’s technology. Hamas also knows that the deeper it has insinuated itself into Arab family communities, the higher the odds of civilian casualties during a retaliation. The higher the casualties, the higher the sympathy quotient for militant Islam, and unfortunately, the higher the support for Islamic radicalism.

On the Israeli side of the wall, leaders cannot retain power unless they are seen to decisively defend their people. The international PR machinery emanating out of this crisis, however, including expressions of disgust from the UN, will continue to work against Israel. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “condemned the excessive use of force.” The current air assault from Israel tactical forces inevitably killed civilians. Even missiles with an accuracy of three meters to target, will unavoidably deliver death to bystanders and innocents when the intended targets are hiding in apartment buildings, mosques or schools. The media then becomes very preoccupied with reporting of rallies orchestrated around the world demonstrating opposition to the Israeli offensive.

This has been a sustained and caustic dance of death long contaminating the Middle East. Much of the world observes, but does not understand. It can’t. How can it make sense of a conflict that plays and replays, generation after generation, with the same players, same faces, different weapons? How can the world make sense of self-hating organizations being allowed to “lead” a society? Did anyone really expect that withdrawing thousands of Israeli settlers from Gaza would silence the rockets screaming into Israel?

From Denmark to Venezuela, the sanctimonious debate as to which side holds greater responsibility for the current cycle of death avoids the well-entrenched commitment in radical Islam to exterminate the state of Israel. The few Muslim voices declaring disapproval with Hamas’ ongoing break of the ceasefire accord find little harmony in the Islamic Arab community. Whether Israel is doing enough to allow Gaza’s economy to flourish, or whether it is shipping enough goods into the territory, giving Hamas justification for sporadic but endless rocket launches are simply minor subsets of the larger problem.

Most critical to any long term silencing of the rockets, would be reading and hearing loud pronouncements from the long silent voices of the vast majority of Arabs and their leaders. Their chorus should emphatically vocalize support for the existence of Israel. With such pressure on the extremists, the rest of the world would take the possibility of a Middle East peace seriously, and economic development would be on the horizon for Gaza and the Palestinians. Arabs in Gaza deserve some peace, and so do the people of Israel.

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