Fear Factor, the Shakedown, and Diversionary Tactics

The first dangerously violent protests in the Muslim world that have been directed against Denmark and other EU nations in the current cartoon crisis were in the Palestinian territories. Those attacks have grown more serious in the past few days. 

It is not surprising that ground zero for these violent attacks against European  institutions was not in Saudi Arabia or Iran (Islam's most fundamentalist states) nor in Pakistan (the nation on the receiving end of the strictest Wahhabist teachings financed by the Saudis), but in Gaza and the West Bank. The violence then spread to Israel's neighbors Lebanon and Syria

It is in the Palestinian territories that the protests have a focused purpose: shaking down the EU (and to a lesser extent the United States) to continue funding the Palestinian Authority and work with it to pressure Israel, despite the election victory of Hamas.

Appeasers like Jimmy Carter are encouraging Western nations to continue the money flow to prop up the bankrupt PA, in exchange for some mushy statements from Hamas.  Carter and his acolytes in the Guardian, other Western papers, and Middle Eastern think tanks, are pushing Hamas to signal its new more moderate intentions, now that is has governing responsibility.  An acceptable phraseology might be to agree to wipe out Israel over a number of years, rather than immediately.

This will be their new roadmap.

1)     An Israeli surrender of all territories captured in the 67 war.

2)     A right of return for Palestinian refugees and their three generations of descendants. 

This is all that Hamas will demand  (in the short run).

These same two points, of course, are what Arafat demanded as the endpoint of Oslo (in his staged approach towards obliteration of Israel). Since much of the world adored Arafat, it can learn to adore Hamas (which is even more efficient at street cleaning). This acceptance of the new 'moderate Hamas' will work as long as they agree to the same earlier lie: that this formulation means acceptance by the Palestinians of a two state solution and an end to the conflict.

Israel breaks

Regrettably, Israel's new caretaker government has been the first one to break on the money issue, with Ehud Olmert signaling that he will transfer to the PA certain tax revenues that the Israelis have collected. In the recent past, the Israelis agreed to transfer these revenues to the PA, because of the Roadmap Quartet group's confidence in the Palestinian Finance Minister, Salam Fayad, one of the rare uncorrupted members of the PA governing establishment (the Quartet consists of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN).  But Fayad resigned his post, bemoaning the waste and corruption in the PA , and then ran and lost in the recent elections. Those who claim that the Hamas win was a vote for efficiency and clean government (and not wiping out Israel) might try to explain why having a 76th Hamas legislator instead of one Fayad accomplishes that.

If Israel wanted to play hardball with Hamas on the tax transfer issue, it could do so. (Of course we do not know what kind of pressure may have already been applied to Olmert by Israel's 'friends' on this point.) Undoubtedly, some Western nations might have found a way to distinguish between the tax revenue issue and new funding from Western nations, and might have communicated that to Israel.

This is known as kicking the can down the field, and delaying having to make a tough decision yourself. 

In any case Olmert chose to play hardball with some West Bank settlers this week.  Exactly what message the Prime Minister is trying to convey with these two actions is unclear. The apologists for Palestinian terror have always claimed that the suicide bombing attacks were brought about by the occupation. That is the party line of the editorial page of the New York Times, Israel hater Pat Buchanan, and the Palestinians and their hard left allies. These are strange bedfellows if you consider their positions on other issues, but they are all part of the huge club that always agrees that Israel is to blame, and Zionism is the problem.

With a more than 20% lead in the polls, Olmert might have been expected to move right in the interregnum before the Israeli election. Instead, with the money transfer he has signaled that maybe he can work with the new PA, even one run by Hamas, a terrorist Muslim Brotherhood offshoot committed to Israel's destruction. And he seems to be sending a message that he believes that Israel's settlers are the immediate problem that needs to be dealt with in the territories. 

Exactly why an Israeli prime minister would think a massive show of force against Israelis was required in a period when Iran is moving ahead with its nuclear bomb program, and Hamas is now next door ready to create an Iranian style regime on Israel's border, is baffling.  The misplaced priorities rival those of many American Jews who seem to care more about protecting abortion rights, than ensuring Israel's survival.  

But for Palestinians, there is good reason to believe that the European nations will back down and find a way to keep the money coming. After all, many of these nations have allowed radical Islamists into their countries, including imams who preach the need to destroy their new nations if they will not accept sharia (Islamic) law, and who tell their congregants that the political laws of these nations can have no hold on Muslims. For the Europeans, the threat of Hamas to Israel is a more distant problem than their own internal cancers, assuming of course that they are recognized. 

But in the meantime, to the extent a connection is made between Palestinian anger over the Danish cartoons and threats to Europeans, a solution is obvious: do not provoke the Palestinians any further by cutting off aid.  

It seems far more than coincidental that the Danish cartoon controversy was heated to full boil by Muslim provocateurs (including Danish Muslims who created and circulated additional and significantly more inflammatory cartoons to stoke up the Muslim world's reaction) in the week after the Hamas election, and just before the IAEA was considering recommending that the Security Council examine  Iran's nuclear program.

In other words, at a point when the Europeans seemed ready to sanction both Iran and the Palestinians, a new issue diverted their eyes with the cartoon riots— self preservation.

While Danish products have been removed from many store shelves in Middle East and other Muslim countries, there seems to have been a run on one Danish product: their national flag. After all, you need to have one in order to burn it.

It seems strange that all these flags were ready for this crisis to get hot, as several keen observers have noted.  Who sells Danish flags in the Arab world, after all?  I would have never thought that they would be so readily available. Were the flags manufactured in advance for the ritual burning ceremonies this week?

The strange plethora of Danish flags also may be evidence of something more than coincidence in the timing of this new crisis. Much like after the 9/11 attacks, the flag burnings and demonstrations in the Palestinian territories seemed as much an act of celebration, as defiance (street theatre for the world media).   Manufacturing the flags in order to burn them, is not that different from the worldview of one newly elected member of the Palestinian legislature, a Hamas woman, who has already given up three of her six sons to terrorist acts, and wants to give up the other three to the cause of destroying Israel.

In this case, you have to produce the weapons (I mean children), before 'using' them.

There is plenty to digest in all of these events — the Iranian nuclear program, the Hamas victory, the Muslim anger suddenly ratcheted up by the four month old cartoons. My own view is that those who argued that we only needed to capture bin Laden, and beat al Qaeda, and then this Islamic extremism problem would go away, were deluded. So were those who argued that that this was a problem of a few rogue states, and that most Muslims were basically fine with the West and Western civilization.

If we are in the early stages of a war of civilizations, and on one side are many of the world's 1.4 billion or so Muslims, then the actions by the West, the besieged party, in the early phases of this clash, will count for something in determining the future progression of the conflict.  Many in the West have continually separated the Israeli Palestinian conflict from the war against terrorism and terror supporting nations. One would have hoped that might have changed after the Hamas election victory, and the group's very transparent message about its goals, reiterated quite clearly in astonishing op eds in the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post this week (maybe bin Laden and al Zarqawi will explain to American readers their world views next week in these papers). But that may be too much to hope for.

There is nothing cartoonish in any of this.

Richard Baehr is chief political correspondent of The American Thinker.