February 9, 2009
Jihadism in GazaBy Moshe Dann
Critics of Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip may have a point: was it necessary? Civilian casualties were high, the IDF lost some fine soldiers, it cost billions, and Israel took a PR hit. Was the incursion worth it?
That some wars are necessary and moral, however, especially when civilians are deliberately targeted by terrorists, does not mean that armed force is a last resort. In the case of Gaza, could it have been avoided? And who is at fault?
Without the supply of weapons, Hamas could not sustain a military confrontation, or fire rockets into Israel. Hundreds of tunnels under the little town of Rafah that straddles the border between Egypt and Gaza could easily have been closed by Egypt.
Enabling the smugglers, Egyptian President Mubarak allows Hamas to attack Israel without incurring any blame, portrays himself as helping Palestinians, and keeps the radical Moslem Brotherhood (with which Hamas is allied) off his back; the kickbacks are also nice.
Rafah includes an UNRWA "refugee camp," which provides cover for the tunnels. Six more UNRWA-sponsored "camps" (actually towns) throughout the Gaza Strip are hotbeds of terrorism. As long as UNRWA is in business, so are terrorists. UNRWA is an accomplice; it is part of the problem, not the solution.
Support for Hamas (and of course the more "moderate" Fatah) financially and politically is a clear message: terrorism and incitement against Jews is acceptable.
Despite warnings from military and security experts three years ago, Israel's political echelon headed by then-PM Ariel Sharon, Vice-PM Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Tzippi Livini and the Kadima and Labour parties abandoned the border area with Egypt (called The Philadelphia Corridor) virtually unconditionally and without any reasonable security precautions.
Applauded by American and European diplomats, the reasons for this blunder have never been fully explained.
What did the recent war in Gaza accomplish? Those who launched it claim victory; so does Hamas, who continue to fire rockets and launch terrorist attacks - and, in their free time, kill "collaborators" and maim critics.
Smuggling tunnels are being rapidly rebuilt and most will soon be operational. Iran and other countries continue to funnel arms to Hamas. Israel's efforts to protect its citizens are condemned as "human rights violations" and "war crimes." Anti-Semitic incidents around the world are increasing.
Lessons learned? Forced to make cosmetic touches, Egypt refuses to stop its Bedouin smugglers in Sinai. The tunnels are still active. Hamas receives support from around the world. Families of the bereaved and wounded mourn.
Israeli elections will be held in a few days and a new regime will inherit the mistakes of those past. Soon-to-be-ousted Tzippi Livni, Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak - best known for his catastrophic leadership during the retreat from Lebanon and terrorist attacks in 2001 - all claim success, as usual.
The whereabouts and condition of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit are still unknown after more than 2 years in Hamas captivity. Reportedly offered a thousand Palestinian prisoners, most of them convicted murderers, in exchange, Hamas remains undecided.
What led Israel into battle was, to be sure, the desire to protect its citizens - but the heroes were those who fought and fell bravely, not the politicians who should have known better.
Despite Obamian interventions, the struggle isn't over, nor will it be anytime soon. Sen George Mitchell's job, it seems, will be to focus away from Jihad and Terrorism - and attack Jewish settlements. Such efforts obscure what this struggle is about.
Military victories over well-funded terrorists and tyrants who enjoy popular support cannot be final, but they are a step forward in the struggle for civilization. Threatened by a virulent form of Islam, Jihadism, the world cannot afford to ignore that message.
"My greatest hope," said a Hamas supporter interviewed on CNN last week, "is that my son will become a shahid (martyr/homicide bomber)," as a young boy standing next to him smiled obediently.
For those who believe that negotiations with Hamas will bring peace and that diplomatic agreements are substantial, these words should teach an unforgettable lesson.
The author, a former asst Professor of History, is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.