Hamastan has just marked its third birthday. It was a glad gala indeed, punctuated with buoyant morale and maritime hijinks by “freedom flotillas” raucously rushing to spark the celebrations.
Unbelievably the anniversary of Hamas’s hegemony in the Gaza Strip came and went with scant critical appraisal anywhere. The Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, which took over Gaza in a spasm of violence during June 2007, now appears an acceptable regional fixture. Nobody demands even a modicum of good behavior from it. Hamastan gets such pampering press that it seemingly cannot set a foot wrong.
At first the international Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia) mildly hiccupped with reluctant disapproval, not so much for Israel’s sake but out of concern that its darling Mahmoud Abbas, figurehead president of the rival Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, might lose ground. Formally the above guardians of global propriety request that Hamas recognize Israel, forswear terror and acquiesce to previous Israel-PA deals. But in reality they itch to backtrack.
Their pretext is alleviating what’s depicted as Gaza’s heart-wrenching humanitarian crisis. Disinformation that serves cynical purposes quickly forms an axiomatic premise. It matters diddly, therefore, that no humanitarian crisis grips Gaza. If the Quartet and willing media accomplices claim something with sufficient alacrity and frequency, it becomes fact.
Willy-nilly this has triggered a curious momentum. In three years, during which Hamastan functioned as an Iranian terror outpost as well as imposed an Iranian-like theocratic tyranny on Gazans, it incongruously gained legitimacy and sympathy throughout the liberal West. Its sins and excesses are invariably blamed on Israeli “occupation,” although the last Israeli exited the Strip in August 2005.
Concomitantly, Israel’s legitimacy has steadily eroded throughout the West. The two dynamics are intrinsically interconnected.
Hence from Hamastan’s vantage point, it had proved itself a sterling success. Nothing it does seems to incur particular odium. Moreover, everything it does seems to make Israel stink more. That leaves Israel serially and cripplingly hobbled, while Hamas can do pretty much as it pleases with impunity.
Not a bad deal – especially when we keep in mind that fanatical Hamas hasn’t budged from its charter, which calls for Israel’s utter destruction and its replacement with an Islamic theocracy. At the same time Israel has made concession after concession. So why are we getting the bad rap?
Perhaps partly because of our inclination to give a little ground and buy time and goodwill. With each concession we appear to admit wrongdoing. We paint ourselves as villains who expediently promise to commit a little less villainy. It’s one thing when a disingenuous world defames us; it’s quite another when we even look like we’re buying into that defamation.
ACCORDING TO anecdote, George Bernard Shaw once asked an attractive socialite whether she’d sleep with him for a million pounds. After she answered in the affirmative, he offered her a mere 10 shillings. Outraged, she railed: “What do you take me for? A prostitute?”
Shaw reputedly replied: “We’ve already determined that. We’re just haggling over the price.”
When Binyamin Netanyahu agrees to a Palestinian state inside Israel’s national cradle and adjacent to its soft underbelly, when he freezes Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem and lately when he alleviates the blockade on Hamastan, he establishes the principle that his principles are for sale and all that’s left is to fix the conditions.
This isn’t clever “moderation.” In any case moderation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It may work in certain circumstances but bomb in others. Moderation isn’t even necessarily synonymous with pragmatism.
And pragmatism isn’t always wise and mustn’t be confused with levelheadedness. History is replete with examples of catastrophic and cowardly choices paraded as pragmatic. All too often the road to disaster is paved with pragmatic considerations. Conversely, sometimes bold and nonconformist responses prove in retrospect to have been actually pragmatic. Hawkish Winston Churchill was realistic on the eve of World War II, while popular dove Neville Chamberlain was the dupe.
Pragmatism is akin to focusing on specific potholes in our national path rather than sometimes lifting our eyes from the ground to scan the horizon, survey the sweep of the land and behold the full track ahead. Pragmatism is getting bogged down in details and neglecting the whole. It’s quibbling about issues and forgetting the basics.
And so, despite our efforts to ingratiate ourselves, it’s not Hamas which is treated as a pariah and which becomes increasingly isolated. Israel is.
For all intents and purposes Hamastan is a fully-fledged bona fide state. More and more of the international community’s pompous pontificators promote outright negotiations with it as an upstanding partner. Foreign leaders know there’s no dire humanitarian calamity in Gaza and hence, when they demand Israel lift its blockade, they essentially campaign for an unlimited influx of military fortification materiel and rocketry into Gaza, precisely what they allowed into south Lebanon in insolent contravention of UN Resolution 1701.
Their peace prattle is sure to make the next bloody war inevitable. But international duplicity parading as diplomacy is nothing new. In 1967 nobody in the White House could find the 1957 document spelling out US assurances that Egypt wouldn’t obstruct the Tiran Straits again. American infidelity made the Six Day War unavoidable. Washington could have preempted that showdown and its derivative “occupation.”
Remember US undertakings not to deal with the PLO? Count on Barack Obama to just as cynically overlook more recent proscriptions against powwowing with Hamas. His administration has removed the term “terrorist” from America’s official lexicon. The corollary is that Israel’s emphasis on its enemies’ terrorist proclivities rather than on Jewish rights is wasted breath. It only serves to magnify the inimical trendy perception that we’re in the wrong and that those who would annihilate us are desperate insurgents against injustice.
Instead of being reduced to prostitute status, we’re better off going back to basics, proclaiming loud and clear that the Arabs only conjured Palestinian nationality to stake rival claims to ours. If the world misrepresents this bloody dispute as being about a Palestinian state, we must protest that it’s really about denying the right of a Jewish state to exist. Otherwise, to please our critics, we concede the Palestinian argument.
We gain as much respect via ignominious compromises as did the woman whose asking price George Bernard Shaw attempted to lower. As soon as we turn our existential struggle into something that resembles negotiations about the prostitute’s remuneration, we forfeit everything because promises made to a prostitute are never kept. No one owes her a thing.
The assumption is that everything she does is illicit, that at most she can expect a little condescending pity mixed with disgust, that she resides outside normative society and cannot expect what others perceive as their natural due. Most of all, she can be endlessly pushed around and her prices pushed down. Just like Israel.