Monday, December 15, 2008

The Dilemma That Is Gaza

By Morgan Strong
December 15, 2008

Gaza was and is an anomaly, a piece of land left over from the calamity of history, created it seems in a moment of distraction.

Read on.


Anonymous said...

Part of the reason the Palestinian people seem loathe to govern themselves comes from their upbringing as Muslims. Al'Quran tells them that their leaders were given their authority by Allah, and to remove them from their positions of power without the consent of Allah is a sin.

The Palestinians will always be in a bind as long as all of the countries around view them as second class people, or worse, a people with no nation to call their own. For the most part it seems that the various countries would like for Israel to give the Palestinians land for their home, despite the fact that the other countries in the region are followers of Islam, just like their brethren in the Palestine region. Until all of the countries involved chip in and and donate time, effort, or land, the Palestinians will always be a people with no land, no home; a people with no land to call their own are likely to follower leaders who tell them that they--the leaders--will bring them a home, an identity, wresting it from the grip of their neighbors... especially if those neighbors are people who are seen following a religion that is not the true word of Allah (or any other diety you care to name).

Until all sides are willing to give in a little, and pitch in to help a little, their will never be an end to this. No matter how many meetings are held, no matter who is President of which country, no matter who is Sect'y of State... the stalemate will just go one with both of the main combatants hurling insults, rocks, bullets or rockets at each other while the other neighbors sit back and watch.

So, what is the first step to ending this eternal mess? Who gives in first and makes the first concession? How is it arranged so that it's not a loss of face for either side? Any answers? Ideas?

Wicked Scribbler

Anonymous said...

The article ignores the fact that Israel supported Hamas as a counter group to Arafat and Fatah (supported by American regional ambassadors and some Israeli politicians) . They let Yassin in from Egypt, gave him a licence to collect funds with which he built Islamic schools. Unfortunately Hamas turned on Israel instead of Arafat. Then with the last election, when it became apparent that Hamas would win, the American Israeli alliance openly gave funds to Fatah, and then arms. This caused a real split between the two groups and revealed US hypocrisy as far as democracy was concerned. Now Palestinians suffer because Israeli American double standards.

Anonymous said...

Once again, Jews have been targeted simply for being Jews.

This time, the victims were in Mumbai.

Though some in the media were slow to identify what should have been obvious - the New York Times speculated that it might have been an "accidental hostage scene"- they weren't killed randomly. They were sought out in a carefully planned operation.

The jihadist murderers were looking for Jews, and found them.

Of course, Jews were not the only target. But it is telling that in this teeming city of millions, a tiny community, numbering no more than a few thousand, was pinpointed.

These murderers have been taught in their mosques, madrassas, and media to hate Jews, all Jews. Once again, it doesn't matter to them what "kind" of Jew it is. Anyone caught in that Chabad House was fair game. In their demented minds, the very act of being in a Jewish space, any Jewish space, was more than sufficient grounds for being captured, tortured, and murdered.

That Israelis have been repeatedly targeted by terrorists is well-known, if not always well understood.

But what is less widely recognized is that Jews anywhere might be singled out by radical Muslim groups, whether motivated by religious creed or political doctrine, or both.

If Mumbai were the first such instance, it would be tragic enough. But it's not. That makes it all the more important to recall other assaults, sometimes much too quickly forgotten.

In 2006, Naveed Afzal Haq attacked the Jewish Federation office in Seattle. He shot six women, one fatally. The Seattle police chief noted that Haq had been looking for "something Jewish" on the Internet.

In 2003, two Istanbul synagogues, Bet Israel and Neve Shalom, were targeted by terrorists using car bombs. Twenty-seven people were killed in the blasts, and more than 300 were wounded. Six Jews were among the victims.

In the case of Neve Shalom, it was the third such attack. In 1986, two terrorists entered during a Shabbat service and killed 22 worshippers, including seven rabbis. Six years later, a bomb went off at the synagogue, but there were no fatalities.

Also in 2003, a Jewish community center was one of several targets of homicide bombers in Morocco. In all, the death toll was over 40.

A year earlier, the historic El Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba was the target of a truck bomb. Thirteen people were killed, including eight German tourists.

On January 23, 2002, Daniel Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped in Pakistan. Nearly a month later, a video was released in which he was seen saying "My name is Daniel Pearl. .. My father's Jewish. My mother's Jewish. I'm Jewish." A few months later, his body was found. He had been beheaded, his body cut up by his assassins into ten pieces.

In 1994, the headquarters of AMIA, the central communal welfare body of Argentine Jewry, was attacked. Eighty-five people, Jews and non-Jews alike, were killed; nearly 300 were injured.

The same year, a van carrying a group of yeshiva students, having just paid a hospital visit, was attacked on the entrance ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan. Sixteen-year-old Ari Halberstam was killed, while several others were wounded. The murderer, Rashid Baz, shouted "Kill the Jews" during the assault.

In 1985, a cruise ship, the Achille Lauro, was hijacked by terrorists. The next day, the hijackers grabbed a 69-year-old, wheelchair-bound American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, and shot him. Then, they ordered other passengers to toss the body and the wheelchair into the sea. The PLO's foreign spokesman, Farouk Kaddoumi, later claimed that the dastardly deed had been done by Klinghoffer's wife to collect on a life insurance policy.

In 1982, terrorists attacked the main synagogue in Rome. A two-year-old boy was killed; more than 35 others were wounded.

Another synagogue was attacked the same year, this one in Brussels. Four people were wounded.

Also in 1982, a well-known Jewish restaurant, Goldenberg, was attacked in Paris. Six people were killed, 22 wounded.

In 1981, a synagogue in Vienna was attacked. Two people were killed and 23 wounded.

In 1980, a motorcycle packed with explosives blew up outside the Rue Copernic synagogue in Paris. Four people were killed. Hundreds of people inside the synagogue were about to exit, which meant that only by a stroke of luck was the death toll not much higher.

And in the same year, a Jewish summer camp in Antwerp was the target. Hand grenades were thrown at youngsters, killing one and wounding more than 20 others.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of attacks against Jewish targets - synagogues, summer camps, restaurants, community centers, communal institutions - in the past three decades.

It also, of course, excludes attacks against Israel or Israeli targets, which number literally in the thousands.

And it doesn't begin to convey the human anguish, whether of the two-year-old boy who became an orphan when his parents were killed in the Chabad House in Mumbai or the lifelong pain of a parent who lost a child.

Rather, this list serves as a poignant reminder that the Mumbai massacre wasn't an isolated incident, but the latest in a series of murderous assaults against Jews.

Moreover, it's a revealing lesson for those who claim that the Muslim world has not been plagued by the same venomous anti-Semitism as the Christian world. Whatever the historical record, today the greatest physical threat to Jews comes from within Islamic communities. As Professor Robert Wistrich wrote in an AJC publication, Muslim anti-Semitism is "a clear and present danger."

As long as there are some leading figures, like Abdel Rahman Al-Sudais of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, who spout unadulterated anti-Semitism and remain unchallenged, there will be many prepared to listen. The BBC reported the imam saying that Jews are "the scum of the human race" and "offsprings of apes and pigs."

Or Palestinian cleric Ibrahim Mahdi, who cited this hadith (an oral tradition ascribed to Muhammad): "Who will set the Muslim to rule over the Jew? Allah... Until the Jew hides behind the rock and the tree. But the rock and tree will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, a Jew hides behind me, come and kill him.'"

Or a sixth-grade Saudi textbook that teaches impressionable young minds that God has said in the Koran: "You will find the most implacable of men in their enmity to the faithful are the Jews," and, in a seventh-grade textbook, that Judaism is "a corrupted religion."

But one cautionary note.

Some Jews, resorting to a Masada mindset, may once again conclude that the whole world is against the Jewish people - that jihadists may be in the forefront, but others of various faiths are silently cheering them along.

I don't buy this notion.

Of course, there's no shortage of anti-Semites out there, requiring constant vigilance. But to conclude that we're all alone, that we're without allies in other communities, is simply wrong-headed, if not self-destructive.

It ignores the tremendous strides in both integration and interfaith relations made by the Jewish people in recent decades.

And it fails to recognize that in Mumbai, Istanbul, Casablanca, Paris, and elsewhere, Jews were not the only ones targeted, nor were they by any means the only victims.

This kind of jihadist terror attacks open societies. It threatens democratic countries. It confronts moderate Muslim nations, such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey.

Surely, we Jews need not stand alone because, in fact, we do not stand alone.

Sandra Samuel is a symbol of our common cause. She is the courageous Indian nanny who saved two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg from certain death in the Chabad House in Mumbai.

In her selfless act, she embodies the essence of our common humanity

Anonymous said...

srael's military operation against Hamas targets in Gaza should have come as no surprise. The handwriting was on the wall. No more than any other country, Israel could not tolerate a terrorist regime on its border that was launching repeated rocket and mortar attacks - 200 in the last week alone - against Israeli towns and villages.

Some context is needed. Israel, which entered Gaza in 1967 after a successful war of self-defense, left the region unilaterally in 2005. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon faced down strong domestic opposition, indeed active resistance, to remove Israeli troops and civilians. He announced that Israel had no claims on Gaza and wished to see it become part of a peaceful Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.

This was the first chance in Gaza's history for its residents to govern their own affairs - something too many of Israel's detractors conveniently forget. Immediately prior to Israel's presence, Gaza had been under Egyptian military rule for two decades, during which there was never, not for a moment, discussion of independence.

But things rapidly spiraled downward after Israel left. Local elections in 2006 led to a coalition of Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders, followed by a bloody Hamas coup d'├ętat the following year. The PA was ignominiously expelled from Gaza, seeking refuge in the West Bank.

The choice of Hamas to govern led to international isolation. Hamas is defined as a terrorist group by both the United States and European Union. The international community set forth three basic conditions to engage Hamas - recognition of Israel's right to exist, an end to violence, and willingness to abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements

To date, predictably, Hamas has not fulfilled any of the conditions. After all, its charter calls repeatedly for the elimination of Israel and, citing the infamous Protocols of the Elders of the Zion, spews hatred of Jews wherever they might live.

Thus, since gaining control of Gaza, Hamas has focused not on building Palestinian society, but rather on seeking to destroy Israeli society. With substantial help from Iran and a labyrinthine smuggling network across the Gaza-Egypt border, Hamas has turned Gaza into a veritable armed camp and munitions factory.

The result has been that Israeli towns near the border have been targeted, in recent years, by literally thousands of rocket and mortar attacks. As the range of the rockets has grown, so, too, has the arc of vulnerable Israeli population centers.

In truth, Israel's policy options have been limited. Negotiating with Hamas is impossible, unless Israel is prepared to discuss the terms of its own capitulation. Seeking a ceasefire or lull, as occurred earlier this year, buys quiet, yes, but isn't cost-free. Hamas used the break to enhance its weapons capabilities, train its fighters, and reinforce its command-and-control infrastructure, modeled on Hizbullah's example in Lebanon.

Hamas has counted on its ability to attack Israel at will, while relying on Israeli restraint. The terrorist group calculated that Israel no longer had the will to fight and risk military casualties in teeming Gaza. It also doubtless assumed that Israel would be held back by fear of negative publicity, since Hamas has, as standard operating procedure, skillfully exploited the media to focus on Palestinian civilian casualties, real or contrived, that inevitably lead to diplomatic and editorial condemnation.

This time, Hamas erred. It misread Israel. It opted to believe its own propaganda about an Israel fearful of striking, trembling at the prospect of a sustained barrage of Hamas missiles aimed at southern Israel, or worried about an exit strategy once it entered Gaza.

Until Saturday, Israel showed remarkable restraint, which Hamas read as weakness. But Israel has an obligation to defend its borders and its citizens. Clearly, as has been on display, it has the military and intelligence capability to do so. And, no less, despite upcoming elections, it has the collective political will. All these elements have been impressively demonstrated in the current military operation.

As soon as Israel struck, some in the international community predictably returned to formulaic stances.

Most Arab leaders, not to mention the "Arab street," condemned Israel, but what else is new?

Egyptian and Palestinian Authority leaders, the exceptions, noted that Hamas brought this upon itself. In truth, there are others as well who couldn't be more pleased that Israel is dealing a blow to Hamas and its Iranian paymaster.

The European Union referred to Israel's "disproportionate" use of force, but what exactly is "proportionate" in a situation where Hamas-led Gaza, part of the jihadist network, seeks a permanent state of conflict with democratic Israel?

The UN leadership called for an immediate end to the violence, as if that will in and of itself magically persuade Hamas to rethink its reason for being.

And that rather bizarre coalition of extreme left-wingers and radical Islamists - who, at the end of the day, have about as much in common as North Korea and North Dakota - resurfaced on the streets of London and other cities to burn American and Israeli flags.

Let's be clear. It is in Israel's vital interests to have a peaceful and prosperous Gaza on its border. This point needs to be hammered home again and again. Instead, it is faced with Hamastan, a terrorist enclave. What Israel is doing now is exactly what any other nation would do under similar circumstances. In fact, Israel has probably held back longer than many other nations, including the United States, would have done, and, judging from modern history, is exercising more care to avoid civilian casualties than many other armies, though that's particularly tough when the enemy callously uses civilians as human shields.

Some argue that there is no military solution to Gaza. Quite true. In the long term, Gaza's residents need to decide if they want a potentially bright future without Hamas or an assuredly bleak future with it. But in the short term, Israel must convey the clear and unmistakable message that it will defend itself. And that, to its credit, is exactly what it is doing right now.