Friday, December 26, 2008

Iran and Hamas do Christmas .

By Caroline B. Glick


Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it. But no one seemed to have noticed.


On Tuesday Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Sharia criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, the code legalizes crucifixion.


Hamas's endorsement of nailing enemies of Islam to crosses came at the same time as it renewed its jihad. Here too, Hamas wanted to make sure that Christians didn't neglected as its fighters launched missiles at Jewish day care centers and schools. So on Wednesday Hamas lobbed a mortar at Erez crossing point into Israel just as a group of Gazan Christians were standing on line waiting to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas.


While Hamas joyously renewed its jihad against Jews and Christians, its overlords in Iran also basked in jihadist triumphalism. The source of Iran's sense of ascendancy this week was Britain's state-owned Channel 4 network's decision to request that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad give a special Christmas Day address to the British people. Ahmadinejad's speech was supposed to be a response to Queen Elizabeth II's traditional Christmas Day address to her subjects. That is, Channel 4 presented his message as a reasonable counterpoint to the Christmas greetings of the head of the Church of England.

Channel 4 justified its move by proclaiming that it was providing a public service. As a Channel 4 spokesman told the Jerusalem Post, "We're offering [Ahmadinejad] the chance to speak for himself, which people in the West don't often get the chance to see."

While that sounds reasonable, the fact is that Westerners see Ahmadinejad speaking for himself all the time. They saw him at the UN two years in a row as he called for the countries of the world to submit to Islam; claimed that Iran's nuclear weapons program is divinely inspired; and castigated Jews as subhuman menaces to humanity.


They saw him gather leading anti-Semites from all over the world at his Holocaust denial conference.


They heard him speak in his own words when he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."


And of course, over the years Ahmadinejad has often communicated directly to the British people. For instance, in 2007 he received unlimited airtime on British television as he paraded kidnapped British sailors and marines in front of television cameras; forced them to make videotaped "confessions" of their "crime" of entering Iranian territorial waters; and compelled them to grovel at his knee and thank him for "forgiving" them.


The British people listened to Ahmadinejad as he condemned Britain as a warmongering nation after its leaders had surrendered Basra to Iranian proxies. They heard him -- speaking in his own voice -- when he announced that in a gesture of Islamic mercy, he was freeing their humiliated sailors and marines in honor of Muhammad's birthday and Easter and then called on all Britons to convert to Islam.


Yet as far as Channel 4 is concerned, Ahmadinejad is still an unknown quantity for most Britons. So they asked him to address the British on Christmas. And not surprisingly, in his address, he attacked their way of life and co-opted their Jewish savior Jesus, saying, "If Christ was on earth today undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers."


He then reiterated his call for non-Muslims to convert to Islam saying, "The solution to today's problems can be found in a return to the call of the divine prophets."


The fact of the matter is that Channel 4 is right. There is a great deal of ignorance in the West about what the likes of Ahmadinejad and his colleagues in Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas stand for. But this isn't their fault. They tell us every day that they seek the destruction of the Jews and the domination of the West in the name of Islam. And every day they take actions that they believe advance their goals.


The reason that the West remains ignorant of the views and goals of the likes of Hamas and Iran is not that the latter have hidden their views and goals. It is because the leading political leaders and foreign policy practitioners in the West refuse to listen to them and deny the significance of their actions.


As far as the West's leaders are concerned, Iran and its allies are unimportant. They are not actors, but objects. As far as the West's leading foreign policy "experts" and decision makers are concerned, the only true actors on the global stage are Western powers. They alone have the power to shape reality and the world. Oddly enough, this dominant political philosophy, which is based on denying the existence of non-Western actors on the world stage, is referred to as political "realism."


The "realist" view was given clear expression this week by one of the "realist" clique's most prominent members. In an op-ed published Tuesday in Canada's *Globe and Mail* entitled, "We must talk Iran out of the bomb," Richard Haas, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations argued that given the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the dangers of a US or Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations, the incoming Obama administration must hold direct negotiations with the mullahs in order to convince them to end their nuclear weapons program.


In making this argument, Haas ignores the fact that this has been the Bush administration's policy for the past five years. He also ignores the fact that President George W. Bush adopted this policy at the urging of Haas's "realist" colleagues and at the urging of Haas himself. Moreover, Haas bizarrely contends that in negotiating with the mullahs, the Obama administration should offer Iran the same package of economic and political payoffs that the Bush administration and the EU have been offering, and Teheran has been rejecting since 2003.


Even more disturbingly, Haas ignores the fact that Teheran made its greatest leaps forward in its uranium enrichment capabilities while it was engaged in these talks with the West.


So in making his recommendation to the Obama administration -- which has already announced its intention to negotiate with the mullahs -- Haas has chosen to ignore Iran's statements, its actions, and known facts about the West's inability to steer it from its course of war by showering it with pay-offs.


Haas and his colleagues in the US, Europe and on the Israeli Left are similarly unwilling to pay attention to Hamas. In an article in the current edition of *Foreign Affairs*, Haas and his colleague Martin Indyk from the Brookings Institute call on the Obama administration to either ignore Hamas, or if it abides by a ceasefire with Israel, they suggest that the Obama administration should support a joint Hamas-Fatah government and "authorize low-level contact between US officials and Hamas." The fact that Hamas itself is wholly dedicated to Israel's destruction and Islamic global domination is irrelevant.


Similarly, Haas and Indyk assume that Syria can be appeased into abandoning its support for Hizbullah and Hamas, and its strategic alliance with Iran. Syrian President Bashar Assad's views of how his interests are best served are unimportant. Both Assad's statements of eternal friendship with Iran and his active involvement in Iran's war effort against the US and its allies in Israel, Iraq and Lebanon are meaningless. The "realists" know what he really wants.


Muslims aren't the only ones whose views and actions are dismissed as irrelevant by these foreign policy wise men. The "realists" ignore just about every non-Western actor. Take Iran's principal Asian ally North Korea for example.


This week North Korea's official news agency threatened to destroy South Korea in a "sea of fire," and "reduce everything treacherous and anti-reunification to debris and build an independent, reunified country on it," if any country dares to attack its nuclear installations.


North Korea made its threat two weeks after Kim Jung Il's regime disengaged from its fraudulent disarmament talks with the Bush administration. Those talks -- the brainchild of foreign policy "realists" Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill -- were based on the "realist" belief that the US can appease North Korea into giving up its nuclear arsenal. (That would be the same nuclear arsenal that the North Koreans built while engaged in fraudulent disarmament talks with the Clinton administration.)


After Pyongyang agreed in February 2007 to eventually come clean on its plutonium installations (but not its uranium enrichment programs), and to account for its nuclear arsenal, (but not for its proliferation activities), Rice convinced President George W. Bush to remove North Korea from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terror and to end its subjection to the US's Trading with the Enemy Act this past October. And then, after securing those massive US concessions, on December 11 Pyongyang renounced its previous commitments, walked away from the table and now threatens to destroy South Korea if anyone takes any action against it.


North Korea's behavior is of no interest to the "realists" however. As far as they are concerned, the US has no option other than to continue the failed appeasement policy that has enabled North Korea to develop and proliferate nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. As the Council on Foreign Relations Gary Samore said, "I think we're sort of condemned to that process because we don't really have any alternative."


Samore and his colleagues believe there are no other options because all other options involve placing responsibility for contending with North Korea on non-Western powers like China, South Korea and Japan. More radically, it involves holding North Korea itself accountable for its actions and making it pay a price for its poor behavior.


As the "realists" claim that the US has no option other than their failed appeasement policies, back in the real world, this week military officials from the US's Pacific Command warned that North Korea may supply Iran with intercontinental ballistic missiles. These warnings are credible given that North Korea has been the primary supplier of ballistic missiles and missile technology to Iran and Syria and has played a major role in both countries' nuclear weapons programs.


Defending Channel 4's invitation to Ahmadinejad, Dorothy Byrne, the network's head of news and current affairs, said, "As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East President Ahmadinejad's views are enormously influential. As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view."


When you think about it, broadcasting Ahmadinejad really would have been a public service if Byrne or any of the delusional "realists" calling the shots were remotely interested in listening to what he has to say. But they aren't. So far from a public service for Britain, it was a service for those who, unbeknownst to most Britons, are dedicated to destroying their country.


JWR contributor Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hamas enacts Islamic (Sharia) laws: Hand amputation, crucifixion, lashes and execution

By Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook


Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza have approved a new bill "to implement Koranic punishments," including hand amputation, crucifixion, corporal punishment and execution. Drinking, owning or producing wine is punished by 40 lashes, while drinking in public adds three months' imprisonment. Several laws are directed against Hamas's Palestinian rivals, including a law intended to inhibit non-Hamas negotiators by sentencing to death anyone who was "appointed to negotiate with a foreign government on a Palestinian issue and negotiated against Palestinians' interest."


The following is the description as it appears today on the Al Arabiya website:

Headline: Hamas approves law of punishment by lashes, amputating hands, crucifying, and execution -- in order to implement the Islamic Sharia law.


Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council approved in its meeting in Gaza a new bill proposed by the Hamas who have a majority in the Legislative Council, whose purpose is "to implement Koranic punishments." The newspaper Al Hayat of London reported on Dec. 24, 2008, that this step is seen as unprecedented, and has brought criticism and concern from human rights organizations in the Gaza Strip, especially as this law includes punishments by lashes, cutting off of hands, crucifixion, and execution...


The language of the law proposes "primary and secondary" laws. Primary laws include: "Koranic laws, blood revenge, lashes, crucifixion, and execution ..."


The text stresses: "These punishments will not be canceled or pardoned ... except if pardoned by the victim himself...


Section 59 of the law establishes that "punishment of death will be enacted on any Palestinian who intentionally does one of the following: Raised a weapon against Palestine on behalf of the enemy during war, was appointed to negotiate with a foreign government on a Palestinian issue and negotiated against Palestinians' interest, performed a hostile action against a foreign country in a way that endangers Palestine in war or in harming political relations, served a foreign army in time of war, advised or helped soldiers to enlist in this army,

weakened the spirit or the force of resistance of the people, or spied against Palestine especially during war."


The punishment of lashes appears in many sections of the law. Section 84 states that: "Whoever drinks wine, owns or produces wine will be punished with 40 lashes if he is Muslim, and anyone who drinks wine, or angers another person [with wine], or causes him distress when drinking wine in a public place, or goes to a public place while drunk, will be punished with no less than 40 lashes and imprisonment for the minimum of three months."

[Al-Arabiya, Dec. 24, 2008] 



Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Annapolis allergy.

by Mladen Andrijasevic   

Years ago, when I still read The Economist and listened to the BBC World Service as a foreign student in the USSR, I could never quite get to the bottom of Soviet propaganda. What was its purpose? How could it be that it was so crude, so simplistic, so transparent? Did the authorities really believe that my fellow students who had just been solving partial differential equations one moment would fall for this nonsense the next?

It did not make sense. Until one day a Russian friend took the just published draft of the brand new Soviet constitution, threw it on the floor and stumped and squashed it with all his strength. I finally got it.

The purpose of propaganda was not to inform or even dis-inform. It was to declare who was the boss. To establish without any doubt that everyone else was powerless and therefore should keep quiet. In a way it said: " We know you do not believe this nonsense we put out, but there is nothing you can do about it." The purpose of propaganda was to make people feel guilty for accepting such primitive, crude garbage and make them even less determined to fight.

But the other day after the Annapolis meeting I suddenly felt a sense of deja vu. The solution to the Middle East problem by 2008. Failure is not an option. If the year had been 2010 I would have though it was part of a five-year-plan.

While it is doubtful that Galileo actually threw balls off the leaning tower of Pisa to demonstrate that acceleration of objects is independent of their mass, I am quite sure that he never would have postulated that starting in 1608 the balls would begin to hover in midair by themselves. This would have been counter to all the observation he had already done, although the exact laws of gravity were not formulated until Newton came upon the scene, and he was born the year Galileo died -- 1642. Politicians, on the other hand, issue proclamations with ease which have almost no relation to the real world.

If the Annapolis final declaration had said something like the following I would have understood: "The problem to the solution in the Middle East is the jihadist ideology to whose followers it is their religious duty to fight the infidels and therefore any peace treaty or hudna can only be temporary. Peace is by definition impossible until we tackle the jihadists".

But nothing of this sort emerged. Instead, we got that the two parties expressed a determination to "confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis"!? Excuse me? How could Olmert and Bush sign this?

I am puzzled. This is supposedly the West 2007. This is not 1970s USSR with its controlled media. The West today has an educated population and an Internet that provides access to purchase any book on this planet. We have read dozens of books on the Middle East and Islam (or have we?). We have traveled to every corner of the globe. Most of all, we can think for ourselves -- we have the capability to make the connection between events with the teddy bear in the Sudan and the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

So how is it that we tolerate these proclamations whose only purpose seems to be to convey that they are "trying to do something"? How is it that that the leaders themselves are not embarrassed such proclamations in the first place?

The only difference between a Soviet politburo declaration and the Annapolis joint understanding is that on the latter I can comment while on the former I would have landed myself a stint in a Soviet psychiatric clinic if I had been a Soviet citizen.

It is an essential difference. On the other hand this difference will peter out if we continue to appease and self-censor. Only by exercising our rights of free speech can we reach a critical mass whereby our leaders will take note that they are not dealing with passive ignorant half-wits.

We understand the danger our civilization is facing and we must demand of our leaders to act accordingly. They must become aware that we will vote them out of office and choose a government that does.


Mladen Andrijasevic   
- Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Facing Iran, Alone

by Mladen Andrijasevic

We are back in May 1940.


In May 1940 Britain stood alone facing Nazi Germany. The USSR had signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov nonaggression pact; the US had not entered the war yet.

On May 7, Leo Amery spoke in the Commons, attacking Neville Chamberlain's government, quoting Oliver Cromwell: "You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"

On May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister.

Ever since the US government's National Intelligence Estimate report it has become increasingly probable that Israel will be the one to tackle Iran. With the election of Barack Obama this is now almost certain. We are back in May 1940.

There are many who believe that, for all their talk, the Iranians would never launch a nuclear attack. The 12th Imam is for the masses, the way Marx was, the argument goes, and not to be believed in verbatim. How many Arab or Muslim leaders have become suicide bombers to get the virgins? None.

But comparing Communists with the followers of the Islamic prophet is misleading. For one, the Communists never produced suicide bombers and we already have had 148 explode here in Israel. Muhammad Atta was not the top leader, but he was among the educated, for whom education was just a tool to be used in accomplishing his jihadi goals. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an ardent believer in the Mahdi, the Hidden Twelfth Imam, the four-year old who went into hiding in a well 1,140 years ago. The idea that Iran itself may become a nuclear suicide bomber is real.

Those who question Iranian motives are projecting Western values, almost patronizingly so. The privileged party members in the USSR, the so-called priviligentsia, would not dream of sacrificing themselves. They had their closed shops, hospitals and pharmacies, access to foreign media and, most coveted of all, access abroad. They enjoyed their privileges. The Iranian mullahs are no Bolsheviks.

The world watched Hitler rearm, reoccupy the Rhineland in 1936, annex the Sudetenland in October 1938 and the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, and rape Austria in 1938. As Churchill put it, they kept feeding the crocodile hoping they would be eaten last.

Anyone who reads about the policies and the press of the 1933-1940 period cannot but be struck by the similarities. We know what happened then, yet we are following almost the same path. Scary.

Might Israel strike at Iran before Obama takes over? As reported in the Jerusalem Post, Benny Morris says yes. Most other analysts disagree. I believe that it is in the US interest for Israel to destroy the Iranian nuclear sites, since the destruction and the rise in oil prices resulting from a non-nuclear Iranian retaliation would still be much less than the consequences of a nuclear war following an Iranian nuclear strike on Israel and an Israeli nuclear retaliation.

There is only one remaining scenario left.

On February 10 Israel goes to the polls. The leaders we elect will be our last line of defense. Help will not come from the Europeans, the United Nations and not even from the US. The decisions that will determine the survival of this country will come from Benjamin Netanyahu, Moshe Yaalon, Benny Begin or Tzipi Livni. Make your pick.

Mladen Andrijasevic
- Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


The Mumbai Atrocities: Where is the Outrage?

by Cinnamon Stillwell

It was often said after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that everything had changed. And for a few years afterwards, indeed it had. After decades of denial, America and its allies went on the offensive against Islamic terrorism, both militarily and morally. Most importantly, there was no hesitancy to name the enemy or to condemn his inhumanity.

But if the lack of outrage over the Islamic terrorist assault on Mumbai, India last month was any indication, everything has changed back.

The obfuscation that characterized much of the early reporting on Mumbai is partially to blame. Watching a number of television reporters go through visible pains not to use the word "terrorist" to describe a four-day reign of terror that would eventually kill more than 170 people and injure hundreds was a surreal spectacle. Initial articles described "militants," "gunmen," and "extremists," but rarely terrorists, and rarer still, Islamic terrorists. So-called experts prattled on vaguely about the perpetrators' motivations, as if the ideology fueling a group called the Deccan Mujahedeen was a complete and utter mystery. ("Deccan" refers to a historic Islamic claim on the Deccan Plateau, the territory which stretches between Mumbai and Hyderabad, while "mujahedeen" are Muslim fighters engaged in jihad.) Links to the Pakistan-based terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba added further confirmation and yet still, many of the talking heads remained stubbornly ambiguous. Indeed, the attack was largely presented as if it were occurring in a vacuum.

Perhaps they were taking a cue from last year's Departments of State and Homeland Security internal memorandum forbidding employees from using Islam-specific terminology to discuss Islamic terrorism or the British politicians who earlier this year adopted the phrase "anti-Islamic activity" to describe it. In any case, Orwell would have been proud.

When it was learned that the terrorists had attacked a Chabad center in Mumbai, the only specific target other than hotels and restaurants catering to Western tourists and wealthy Indians, the coverage become stranger still. No context was provided for the torture and murder of the Chabad Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife, Rivka, and four other Jews, although it was obvious why they were targeted. The Holtzberg's surviving toddler son, Moshe, who was rescued by his Indian nanny, was certainly not the first Jewish child orphaned by Islamic terrorism. No connection was made to the virulent anti-Semitism fueling jihadist ideology. Nor to the Nazi-like propaganda promulgated throughout the Muslim world and fed to children so that they too will grow up to hate Jews, whether Israeli or not.

Similarly unexamined were the implications of the terrorists' barbarism. Witnesses described victims being lined up and shot execution-style and terrorists spraying bullets indiscriminately into crowds of men, women and children. Some survived by feigning death for hours under the weight of countless dead bodies. If not for the heroism of the hotel and restaurant staff, as well as others who rose to the occasion, more lives would have been lost. But lacking analysis, these horrific details were soon forgotten. Is it any wonder that the world no longer grasps the utter depravity and cruelty of the formidable opponent it's facing?

This is the same enemy who held hostage and slaughtered Russian children in Beslan; who lobs rockets at schools, uses women and children as human shields, preys upon the weakest in their own societies - women and children -- to mold them into suicide bombers, targets mosques and plans attacks on Muslim holidays, murders school teachers and aid workers, commits beheadings, hangings, stonings and honor killings, puts children and pregnant women into car bombs so they can more easily pass through checkpoints, indiscriminately targets civilians the world over, and who seeks to squelch all human achievement and progress.

Should not this grave threat to human rights be called what it is? Should not the world rally against this cancer within its midst and spare no expense or effort to stop it from metastasizing? Should not human rights groups make defeating this ideology its chief priority? Should not women's groups make the oppression of Muslim women, both within and without the Muslim world, its first priority? Should not gay rights groups turn their attention to the hangings of young men across the Muslim world? Should not Jewish groups condemn the hateful, anti-Semitic propaganda that is brainwashing Muslim youth? Should not those who believe in religious freedom denounce the persecution of religious minorities, apostates, and atheists in the Muslim world? Should not those who advocate free speech condemn the campaign to silence journalists and activists in the Muslim world, as well as attempts to do the same in the West? Should not the international community do everything in its power to prevent fanatical Islamist regimes from acquiring nuclear weapons and wreaking unprecedented havoc on the planet?

The answer to these questions would seem to be self-evident, but sadly, the world continues to waffle. Just as in the past when aggression and brutality were met with indifference or appeasement, today we are at risk of falling into the same trap. The old habit of believing one can mollify one's enemies by understanding his alleged grievances, avoiding offense, and indulging in self-blame is back in full force. Those who argue for forthright terminology and decisive action are demonized and bullied, while those who peddle in pacification and platitudes are glorified. Without leadership and moral clarity, we have become numb to the horrors at hand. Meanwhile, the enemies of civilization gain strength from our lack of fortitude.

There are those trying to call attention to the threat of radical Islam, but increasingly they are voices in the wilderness. Either that or they persecuted under the aegis of "Islamophobia." Defying this characterization, Muslim and Arab reformers are forthright about the conflict raging within Islam and the religious nature of the ideology fueling the jihadists. An inspiring show of opposition came from Mumbai's Muslims, who refused to bury the dead terrorists and who marched against their hate and violence. While such demonstrations are few and far between in the Muslim world, they should be broadly recognized and supported when they do occur.

Similarly, reformers in the West such as M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Ali Alyami, executive director of the Center for Democracy & Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, and former Dutch parliamentarian and women's rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali, should be supported as modern-day dissidents. But instead, they are hardly household names and in some cases face castigation, even as they risk their lives to tell the truth. Perhaps the problem is the world is not ready to hear the truth.

Until there is a united will to defeat this modern-day fascism, this threat to human rights, this abject evil, it will continue to thrive and to leave atrocities in its wake. And we will have no one to blame but ourselves for letting it happen.

Cinnamon Stillwell is a San Francisco Bay Area writer.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Liar, liar, pants on cease-fire .

By Barry Rubin


you can understand why Hamas is ending its cease-fire with Israel, you can comprehend Middle East politics. And if you can't, you can't.

From of a Western moderate pragmatist standpoint, Hamas's decision makes no sense for several reasons:


§                                 Hamas cannot defeat Israel militarily. Thus, fighting won't improve Hamas's strategic situation or bring victory.

§                                 Israeli counterattacks will cause both injuries and material damage in the Gaza Strip, inflicting big costs on Hamas's domain and subjects.

§                                 Returning to warfare will ensure Hamas remains politically isolated and blocks international recognition or aid that would help its cause or end economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip.

§                                 Going back to fighting makes certain that the Gaza Strip faces continued, even heightened, reductions in the material let in, thus ensuring more Palestinian suffering there.



And Hamas is seemingly making three additional mistakes regarding timing.

The first is that it is ending the cease-fire while George W. Bush is president. Certainly Israel feels freer to hit back at Hamas now than after Barack Obama is inaugurated simply because the new administration would want to avoid a crisis before it consolidates its plans and team. Also, the US is likely to prefer quiet as it begins withdrawing from Iraq.

Second, the cease-fire is being suspended on the eve of a major Palestinian crisis as Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas announces a self-extension of his term in office. One might think Hamas would prefer to keep the Israel front quiet for a while to focus on battling Fatah and the PA.

Finally, there's the Israeli election campaign. While this doesn't make large-scale retaliation inevitable, such a move would make the current government more popular with the electorate.

Therefore, Hamas's behavior, an outside observer can easily conclude, seems stupid. But having built a mass movement, sizable army, seized the Gaza Strip and built broad support throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, Hamas may be composed of genocide-oriented fanatics but not fools. What then explains this apparently silly behavior?


Here's a case study of how Middle East politics really work:

Hamas really believes its own propaganda, expecting victory despite the odds. Costs and casualties are irrelevant. The battle will go on until total victory even if that takes decades. This indicates Hamas will not moderate - the same applies to Hizbullah, Syria and Iran.

At the same time, Hamas is not only indifferent to its own people's welfare, it actually seeking to inflict suffering on them as a political strategy. The worse off Palestinians are, Hamas believes, the more likely they will fight and die. This "the worse things are, the better they are" is the exact opposite of Western perspectives.

But Hamas goes even further. It knows suffering can be blamed on Israel. Western pragmatists reason that obviously the Palestinians must prefer peace, prosperity and statehood. Rejectionism must then be due to desperation and the lack of a good offer or faith in the West. In fact, though, the situation is not due to our mistakes but to their deliberate choices.

Thus, Hamas can well conclude that the best way to put pressure on Israel and - in its own mind at least - gain Western help is to be more radical, not more moderate.

To cite one example, what is considered America's leading newspaper recently reported that both sides violate the cease-fire: Hamas fires rockets at Israel; Israel retaliates by closing the border. By this definition, the fact that Hamas and its allies fire rockets at civilians doesn't allow any Israeli response, military or otherwise. This is the kind of thinking Hamas seeks to promote.

Then, too, setting off a crisis, Hamas expects, will draw peacekeepers like hardworking ants, giving press conferences in which they will insist that "something must be done to defuse the crisis." That "something" usually seems to be unilateral Israeli concessions. In short, the international community may rush in to save Hamas or the Palestinians in spite of themselves.

At the same time, though, Hamas believes that its intransigence and aggressiveness will increase support in the Arab and Muslim worlds. As with Hizbullah, waging a war and portraying it as victory - even though the facts are otherwise - makes one a hero and attracts financing. This is also a judgment regarding Palestinian responses. More popular support can be garnered by producing martyrs than by producing higher living standards. Thus, Hamas will do better in its rivalry with the PA by fighting Israel than by fighting poverty.

I am not saying this strategy will work completely, but it does succeed in part. If one believes the short run is irrelevant and the deity is on one's side, reality looks rather different. In addition, macho militancy in the Middle East does bring popularity, both domestic and international. The last quarter-century has also shown that Western sympathy can be manipulated by increasing violence and blocking solutions to the conflict in a way that will be blamed on Israel.

Yet this world view is also illusory. Impoverishing one's people and destroying the infrastructure over which one rules makes such groups weaker rather than stronger, especially as Israel focuses on material gains. Western patience with the Palestinians has waned; Arab states are not so eager to help. A strategy depending on suicide bombers is also ultimately suicidal.

Ironically, too, regarding the West, Islamists cannot get away with what radical Arab nationalists can. Too many Western intellectuals, journalists, leftists and even politicians might have been carried away with revolutionary romanticism for Fatah - seeing Yasser Arafat as merely an ugly version of Che Guevara. Far fewer see radical Islamists as heroic liberators.

The bottom line is that Hamas will remain isolated and weaker than it could be if it kept things quiet, consolidated its hold on the Gaza Strip, built up its armies and base of support and had more patience.

But Hamas will also survive, ideology undiluted, able to utter war cries about wiping Israel off the map and intoxicated with the belief it is following divine will. That's enough for Hamas's leadership and followers.


Barry Rubin

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.