Fig-Leaf Diplomacy

The madness of financial support to a hostile Hamas.

by Bruce S. Thornton

Private Papers

The drama being played out between Hamas and the West grows stranger by the minute, exposing the cultural toxins that are weakening our resolve in the fight against jihad. The murderous aims of Hamas are clear, as their spokesmen and sympathizers do not hesitate to remind us. Nor is their commitment to jihad against Israel and the West a minority obsession of a lunatic fringe. Just recently the religious leaders of several Muslim countries issued a statement of support for the goal of Hamas to drive Israel into the sea: “The right to historical Palestine is an eternal right, and no soul can relinquish it, neither in an agreement, a document or a promise.” They added that nobody can ban “jihad for the liberation of Palestine” or “damn the jihadists.”

And contradicting those Westerners who still believe the whole crisis is about Palestinian nationalist aspirations, a Sudanese cleric said, “Palestine is a religious issue, not just a political one, and affects all Muslims.” A representative for Hamas agreed: “This meeting has reverted the Palestinian issue to its rightful depth as an Arab and Islamic issue.” The upshot of the declaration is that there will be no “land for peace,” no recognition of Israel’s right to exist, no signing on to “roadmaps” or other desperate Western attempts to avoid facing one simple fact: Israel is the beleaguered Western salient in the frontlines of the war against jihad.

Yet even as Hamas and the religious leadership of Muslim nations tell us their intentions, we Westerners refuse to listen. Instead of facing the existential threat to our way of life, we continue to wring our hands over the hardships of the Palestinian people, with the result that our refusal to allow Western money into the hands of murderers gets ever more wobbly. Despite the fact that Hamas was democratically elected, which means that a critical mass of Palestinian Arabs agree with Hamas’ aims, we seem to think the Palestinians are somehow being held hostage by some alien ruling clique. Having created the myth of large numbers of Palestinians willing to accept Israel and merely wanting a state of their own, we ignore the mountains of evidence — the Palestinians dancing in the streets after 9/11, the ubiquitous posters idolizing homicide bombers, the preschool pageants replete with three-year-olds wrapped in toy explosive belts — suggesting that such moderates are few. Nor will we accept that years of support for the corrupt thug Arafat, and now for the terrorist faction Hamas, reveal a widespread willingness on the part of many Palestinians to endure political, economic, and social dysfunction as an acceptable price to pay for holding on to their bitter hatred of Israel.

The most absurd response to the cut-off of funds to these terrorists, who want to destroy not just Israel but us as well, is that we are “punishing” the Palestinians for their democratic choice. We forget that the flip side to democratic choice is responsibility for that choice. During our own Civil War, Southerners made a democratic choice to secede from the Union and test their right to do so by force of arms. The Confederate soldiers in the field were sustained in their fight by the moral and material support of their families back home, who wrote them letters of encouragement, held public rallies and celebrations honoring them, and worked on farms and factories providing them with food and weapons.

General Sherman understood this dynamic between soldier and civilian, and conceived his March to the Sea as a psychological as well as military action: “I propose to demonstrate the vulnerability of the South and make its inhabitants feel that war and individual ruin are synonymous terms,” he wrote. So too in a letter to the mayor of Atlanta: “Now that war comes home to you, you feel very different. You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent carloads of soldiers and ammunition, and molded shells and shot, to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, to desolate the homes of hundreds and thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes, and under the Government of their inheritance.”

As hard as life has been for some Palestinians because of their support for terrorists, continuing Western aid over the years, and continuing Western restraint of Israel at the expense of her citizens, have both propped up Palestinian society just enough to keep Palestinians from feeling the full consequences of their stubborn hatred of Israel and refusal to acknowledge with deeds rather than mere words Israel’s right to exist. So too has the West’s willingness to accept empty declarations and carefully hedged “condemnations” of terrorism on the part of so-called moderates like the terrorist Mahmoud Abbas. After Oslo was followed by the intifada, after the great refusal at Camp David, only the most deluded or naïve could fail to see the duplicity of these protestations routinely contradicted whenever Arafat spoke in Arabic. Agreements and summits and road maps were all mere tactical feints that had nothing to do with the permanent long-term strategic goal of destroying Israel.

Yet here we go again, demanding that a terrorist organization make insincere, tactical statements so we can hang on to our pretense that a Palestinian state will solve the whole crisis, and that Israel’s refusal to sacrifice its citizens and its existence is the prime mover of Muslim discontent with the West. Apparently we didn’t learn our lesson from Arafat and the P.L.O., who did precisely what we are demanding Hamas do: pretend to accept Israel’s right to exist and to abjure terrorism, all the while that the strategic goal of Israel’s destruction continues to be pursued, with terrorism when tactically necessary. So far Hamas refuses to play that rhetorical game. Perhaps they think that with the U.S. engaged in Iraq and confronting a belligerent Iran, they have the opportunity to take a more aggressive tack. And no doubt they are banking on the European instinct for appeasement and its deep-seated dislike of Israel to shake loose the money that will continue to prop them up.

And it seems their gamble will pay off. Fig-leaf mechanisms for getting money to the Palestinians are already in the works. The failure of Hamas to act like a legitimate government will be papered over with Western money, just as the Palestinian Authority’s failure and corruption were. Money being fungible, funds that should go to schools and hospitals and economic development will go to weapons, explosives, and the salaries of armed gangs. The contempt of the jihadists for Westerners, who will subsidize those eager to destroy the West, will grow only more intense, and their conviction that they will ultimately prevail will be held only more firmly.

Which all means that a resolution to the crisis is more distant, and the dead on both sides will continue to multiply. Imagine if, in 1864, Sherman’s plans to hasten the end of the war and the dying had been derailed by Northern and English concerns that Southerners should not be made to suffer. Imagine that Northern and English money had been channeled to the South, because Northerners were troubled at the thought that ordinary Southerners, most of whom didn’t own slaves, were in distress because of the ideals of the plantation-owning minority. How much longer would that conflict had gone on, and how many more men North and South would have died? And what greater chance would there have been that the South would have prevailed and the Union be left divided?

The war against jihad will never be won until Muslims themselves are convinced that jihad will fail. If there are indeed large numbers of moderate Muslims who want to adapt their religion to a modern, interconnected world run on principles of secular law and human rights, then they have to step up and act in ways that demonstrate this desire. But this will never happen until the West makes it clear that terrorist jihad in the pursuit of lost Islamic grandeur is a dead end that will bring only suffering and ruin. Unfortunately, in the case of Israel for forty years we have not only failed to show that the wages of jihad is death and failure, but we have indulged, subsidized, and rewarded terrorism. If one dime of Western money is sent to the Palestinians while an elected terrorist organization is in control, we will be doing so again.

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