Most Mid East lead­ers know re­al­ity of Ha­mas — West must catch up

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY RICHARD KEMP Richard Kemp is a for­mer com­man­der of Bri­tish forces in Afghanistan

IS­LAMIC JI­HAD leader Khaled alBatsh com­plains that Is­rael is try­ing to break the Pales­tini­ans’ will. That is pre­cisely what Is­rael should be do­ing. Ha­mas and Is­lamic Ji­had are, by their own de­ci­sion, at war with Is­rael. And in war, the pri­mary ob­jec­tive must always be to shat­ter your op­po­nent’s will to fight.

Is­rael’s great­est con­straint in its ef­forts to break Ha­mas’s will, and thereby se­cure peace, is the un­will­ing­ness of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to recog­nise the true na­ture of the con­flict.

So many fail to see that in its truce de­mands, Ha­mas is not look­ing to achieve free­dom or greater pros­per­ity for the peo­ple of Gaza. It’s not that Ha­mas does not care about its civil­ian pop­u­la­tion. It does — and its care is de­fined by the util­ity of its peo­ple as weapons of war against Is­rael.

Many can be pressed into ser­vice as can­non fod­der or for dig­ging tun­nels. But the main role of the peo­ple of Gaza is to bleed for the cam­eras. Their pur­pose is to pile on in­ter­na­tional pres­sure against Is­rael, to fo­ment and in­ten­sify anti-Is­raeli and an­ti­semitic ha­tred in the Mid­dle East and around the globe.

Since com­ing to power in Gaza, Ha­mas has not used funds and re­sources pro­vided by the EU, the US and other Western na­tions to im­prove the lot of the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion. Its pri­or­ity has always been to build a war ma­chine to at­tack Is­rael, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of a vast un­der­ground city.

And in its present ne­go­ti­a­tions in Egypt, Ha­mas does not want open bor­ders, free move­ment of dou­ble-use ma­te­ri­als, a sea­port and an air­port for the ben­e­fit of the cit­i­zens of Gaza. It wants them to build up its arse­nal and fa­cil­i­tate the an­ni­hi­la­tion of Is­rael.

Mean­while, the Western world is hor­ri­fied by footage of Iraqis lined up and shot in the back of the head by Is­lamic State ter­ror­ists in scenes rem­i­nis­cent of the Nazi Ein­satz­grup­pen; out­raged by forced con­ver­sion and mas­sacre of Yazidis; and stunned by the de­cap­i­ta­tion of a US jour­nal­ist by a Bri­tish-ac­cented ji­hadist.

Yet few seem able to com­pre­hend that the very ex­trem­ist ethos that drives the bar­bar­ians who are sub­ju­gat­ing ever-ex­pand­ing swathes of Iraq and Syria, and who threaten Jor­dan and Le­banon, also drives Ha­mas. The dif­fer­ence is not in the depth of re­li­gious fa­nati­cism or the ex­tent of blood­lust, it is only in cur­rent tac­tics.

Con­se­quently, the same po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, com­men­ta­tors

and hu­man rights groups that de­mand some­thing must be done to curb the hor­rific ex­cesses of the Is­lamic State are fos­ter­ing its equiv­a­lent in Gaza. What Western gov­ern­ments can­not see, many gov­ern­ments in the Mid­dle East can. Coun­tries such as Egypt, Saudi Ara­bia and Jor­dan un­der­stand that Ha­mas and all it stands for is a threat not just to Is­rael but also to them.

As Ha­mas con­tin­ues to break cease­fire af­ter cease­fire by launch­ing rock­ets at Is­rael’s civil­ian pop­u­la­tion, the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to re­spond with mil­i­tary force. It has no al­ter­na­tive — to de­fend its peo­ple and its ter­ri­tory is ev­ery gov­ern­ment’s in­alien­able obli­ga­tion. When civil­ians die as a re­sult, world lead­ers should hold to ac­count Ha­mas, the group that caused and willed th­ese deaths, rather than in­stinc­tively pile ill-judged pres­sure on Is­rael.

Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu can­not and should not make con­ces­sions to Ha­mas that re­ward the ag­gres­sion that has killed nearly 2,000 of its peo­ple and some 70 Is­raelis, and would un­doubt­edly lead to the deaths of many more. And the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should not try to press him to do so.

Western lead­ers must do their best for the im­me­di­ate needs of the peo­ple of Gaza. But in the long-term in­ter­ests of both Gazans and Is­raelis, they must also do ev­ery­thing in their power to un­der­mine and dele­git­imise Ha­mas, and de­mil­i­ta­rize the Gaza Strip. Hith­erto, the ac­tions of the EU, the US and the UN in par­tic­u­lar have fre­quently strength­ened the hand of Ha­mas. By so do­ing, they have con­trib­uted to the blood­shed in Gaza.

PHOTO: AP

Ha­mas po­lit­i­cal leader Khaled Mashaal

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