The world applauded when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, forcibly removing Jewish settlers. At last, the Palestinians were free to show how they could build their own society.
But what did they do with their freedom? They elected the terrorist organization Hamas in 2006. First Fatah and now Hamas have rained 4,000 rockets on Israel, killed 24, and wounded 620—the equivalent of killing 1,200 Americans and wounding 31,000. The citizens of Sderot and Ashkelon have suffered a collective trauma; children fear that when parents leave for work, they will never see them again.
And what does the world do?
It criticizes Israel—Israel!—for a "disproportionate" response. Israel is discriminating in trying to defend its people. It attacks Gaza's rocket launchers, weapons factories, and terrorists, all hidden in civilian areas.
What is a proportionate response? None at all, it seems.
Hamas kills indiscriminately. It makes no distinction between civilians and combatants. But it is Israel that earns the opprobrium. The moral equivalency was evident in a New York Times headline: "Hamas and Israelis Trade Attacks, Killing at Least Nine." Nor did TV broadcast pictures of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza celebrating the news that eight teenagers had been shot dead and many more injured in the library of a Jewish religious school in Jerusalem.
Would Paris, London, Bonn, or New York sit back quietly if terrorists attacked from sanctuaries somewhere just off their borders?
Silent voices. Where is the world's outrage against these Palestinian war crimes? Twelve resolutions have passed the United Nations Human Rights Council on the conflict, but not one has made even a passing reference to the terrorism against Israel.
Where is the appreciation that while under attack, Israel has continued to supply its enemies with electricity and with 2,500 tons of food and medicines every day? Last year, 14,000 Gazan Palestinians were treated in Israeli medical facilities.
But Palestinians continue to get away with their confidence trick of persuading the world that they are the victims. The death of every Arab woman and child is a propaganda victory for Hamas, so it uses women and children as human shields and then exaggerates the casualties. The distortion foisted on the world is manifest in the celebrated case of the death of Mohammed al-Dura, who was alleged to have been shot by the Israelis in Gaza on the first day of the intifada. Now an independent French ballistic expert reports that he could not have died from Israeli gunfire. The technical analysis shows the shots could have come only from Palestinian positions.
And what of the Palestinian leader supposed to be leading the peace effort? Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas says, "What is happening now in Gaza is more than a Holocaust." Absurd? This from the "peacemaker" whose doctoral dissertation included the theory that European Zionists conspired with the Nazis to push for the Holocaust so that it could ultimately result in the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. According to Abbas's writings, 6 million Jews were not sent to the gas chambers to be killed but were among corpses cremated for sanitation reasons.
Some suggest Israel should deal with Hamas; there is talk of Egypt negotiating a truce. But why negotiate with an enemy dedicated to Israel's destruction? Recognition of Hamas would prove that terrorism, not diplomacy, is the way to gain Israeli concessions—not to speak of international support—and would strengthen Hamas in the West Bank. Any truce would protect the smuggling of arms and munitions until Hamas can attack again, with missiles that can reach Tel Aviv.
This current turmoil is a direct outcome of Bush administration misjudgments. We forced the Israelis and the Palestinians to include Hamas in the 2006 election. Later, we caused the removal of Israeli control of the Philadelphi road, a crucial barrier in the protection against the smuggling of arms, insisting it be left to the Palestinians under Egyptian and European supervision. Israeli protests that foreign troops would not stop either terrorists or arms from making their way into Gaza went unheeded.
America has an extra moral obligation to defuse this crisis. We should pressure Egypt by both political and economic means to stop the smuggling. Hamas must be contained. In the meantime, we have a war of attrition with Hamas determined to show Fatah's Abbas that terrorism is the only path. In the process, Hamas has made a mockery of President Bush and the Annapolis process. It has made it clear in blood that it will not permit Abbas to conduct real diplomatic negotiations.
The entire Arab world watches to see if Israel can find a way to deter Hamas—or if terrorism, with the acquiescence of the hand-wringers, can win.