June 27, 2007 | Scripps Howard News Service

Feckless in Gaza

Extremists link up with extremists.” So said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week upon hearing that Ayman al-Zawahri, the top deputy to Osama bin Laden, had released a message enthusiastically supporting Hamas' bloody takeover of Gaza.

Public relations-wise, Hamas’ leaders are pretty savvy. So last week, even while Hamas gunmen were slaughtering their Palestinian opponents, they also were placing ludicrously disingenuous op-eds in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The International Herald Tribune. (Why the Times, the Post and the Herald Trib would give space to terrorists is another matter.)

This week, Hamas attempted to distance itself from the al-Zawahri endorsement — while being careful not to criticize al-Qaeda. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said simply: “Hamas has its own program … we want to have good relations with all Arab and Muslim powers …”

The truth is that Hamas and al-Qaeda are — ideologically — connected at the hip. Both are terrorist organizations — Hamas has been so designated not just by the U.S. but also by the European Union. Both al-Qaeda and Hamas are in the business of waging what they believe will be the final war against the infidels.

There is one distinction: Whereas al-Qaeda will fight on any battlefield anywhere it thinks it can defeat “crusaders and Zionists” — and it is convinced it will soon accomplish that mission in Iraq — Hamas’ primary goal is more modest: to wipe only Israel off the map. In other words, al-Qaeda thinks globally, Hamas acts locally.

Eighteen months ago, Hamas defeated its rival, Fatah, in an election that was praised as a ground-breaking exercise in democracy. But ballot boxes alone do not a democratic society make.

Hamas never sincerely transformed itself into a political party. Neither, for that matter, did Fatah, which was created in 1964 also for the purpose of exterminating Israel. One point on which Hamas and Fatah emphatically agree: free speech and other basic rights are not to be extended to Palestinians who oppose them. 

Even this discount version of democracy quickly broke down. Apparently tiring of palaver, Hamas — reportedly with backing from its patrons in Tehran — launched a civil war in Gaza. Hamas militiamen murdered the most troublesome Fatah members; they shot bullets through the kneecaps of those they considered more open to persuasion.

The “human rights community” hardly seemed to notice. The “human rights community” is not much interested in Muslim-on-Muslim violence — or in any violence carried out in the name of Islam, except to the extent it can be blamed on the U.S. and/or Israel. (Why that may suggest a post-modern form of racism is another matter.)

Now, Hamas rules Gaza with no pretense of democracy remaining. Fatah has retreated to the West Bank where it struggles to retain control.

The sensible thing for Israel to do would be to seal its border with Gaza. At the same time, the U.S. and Europe should cut off all aid. Let Iran’s ayatollahs and al-Qaeda’s financiers send food, gasoline and other supplies. Surely, they could squeeze that in among the weapons and explosives they are now shipping.

But never expect sense when it comes to the Middle East. Instead, both the U.S. and Europe plan to assist Hamas, if not directly then through the U.N.  Reportedly, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has “acceded” to the request of Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas to continue supplying Gaza with food, drugs, medical services, clean water and electricity. In addition, Israel, the U.S. and the Europeans are falling all over themselves to give Abbas money.

Here’s an idea: Why doesn’t Olmert, hand-in-globe with Washington and the Europeans, too, if possible, make a few requests of Abbas? Instead of giving him unconditional support, why not set a few benchmarks?

Why not tell him it’s time to disarm — or at least disavow — such Fatah terrorist factions as the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades?  Why not demand that he finally end incitement to terrorism in Palestinian media, mosques and schools? How about insisting he initiate a serious campaign against corruption, the theft by his cronies of aid intended for destitute Palestinians? And wouldn’t it send a message were Abbas to state without equivocation that another generation of Palestinians should not be sacrificed in pursuit of the genocidal dream of Israel’s annihilation?

“Extremists link up with extremists,” Condi Rice said. And right now extremists from al-Qaeda, Hamas, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere are linking up to humiliate and, they are confident, eventually defeat the civilized world. Isn’t it time the civilized world at least stopped assisting them?

Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.





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