Skip to comments.UNRAVELING THE TWISTED MORAL CODE OF HAMAS
Posted on 06/05/2002 6:19:25 AM PDT by ex-Texan
UNRAVELING THE TWISTED MORAL CODE OF HAMAS
by Laurence Grafstein
Picking up The Washington Post recently, I found two pieces that showed just how far we have traveled down Yasir Arafat's moral dead-end road. The first was a dispatch from Gaza City by Edward Cody, which described the apparent debate over suicide bombings currently afoot in the Hamas stronghold. "Some suicide attacks, [the people and leaders of Gaza] have concluded, surpass the limits of what is acceptable, even for a people with its back against the wall," Cody reported. And what makes "some" of these attacks unacceptable? It is not, alas, the nature or the age of the targeted victims--civilians, oftentimes children. Rather, it is the age of the perpetrators and the efficacy and extent of the murder. Cody paraphrased Ismail Abu Shenab, quaintly identified as a "Hamas activist," to the effect that the attacks "should not be carried out by such young boys ... and should be planned in a way that gives them a real chance of inflicting damage on Israel."
The occasion for this introspection was the death of three 15-year-old boys after their ineffective assault on nearby Netzarim. By contrast, an attack committed by a 17-year-old on a school of "army-bound religious Israelis at the Gush Katif settlements" that killed seven "young cadets" in southern Gaza "remained within the bounds of what is acceptable."
Why? Because the 17-year-old had been trained in the use of his rifle and grenades, and he was "a long-time follower of ... a legendary Hamas activist ... who was killed by Israeli troops after a lengthy run of leading anti-occupation agitation." Imagine: the Gazan equivalent of the debate over the drinking age.
The substance of internal Palestinian and Arab debate over the murder of innocents has turned not just on the appropriate age of the designated killer but also on precisely which innocents to kill and when. There is the orthodox view of the president of Syria, who believes all Israeli civilians are legitimate targets.
There is the Saudi Arabian corollary, which is that Israel cannot legitimately respond to attacks committed by Saudi-sponsored Hamas "activists" because to do so would undermine the Saudi-sponsored "peace process." There is the recently muted position that any attacks on Israeli civilians should be directed at settlers only.
There is disagreement as to whether the deaths of Israeli-Arab civilians who frequent restaurants are acceptable collateral damage, though the prevailing opinion seems to be that they are. On one thing all parties agree: Seeking out and shooting a 5-year-old through the head on the West Bank is just fine. But let us not imagine consensus is easy to reach on all matters.
There is the Arafat policy that suicide bombings must be tactically opposed at certain moments, versus the Hamas policy that suicide bombings must continue until Israel is destroyed. Then there is the vexing question of whether American civilians are legitimate targets. Who would have thought the deliberate targeting of civilians contained so many rich aspects for debate?
The central media conceit of the last 20 months is that the upsurge of attacks on Israeli civilians is explained by Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
But it's more accurate to say that the upsurge of attacks is explained by Israel's de-occupation of these territories during the Oslo process. The Palestinian Authority permitted the militarization of these areas and embedded a political culture that worships the killing of civilians.
A related myth is that Arafat suffers politically from enabling these attacks. In fact, his popularity among Palestinians, and Arabs in general, rises with the frequency of these civilian murders; and he suffers no parallel reduction in support from Europe or the United Nations. The Bush administration, meanwhile, continues to advocate a Palestinian state in the near future and to accept Arafat as the Palestinians' leader. And this failure to stigmatize and penalize the murder of civilians, troubling enough among politicians, has now suffused the language of the American media as manifested in Cody's own prose.
A more subtle, and more depressing, article in the same issue of the Post came from The New Republic's distinguished former editor Michael Kinsley, titled "ANSWERING SHARON." Kinsley asked how the Bush administration could insist that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon display restraint in response to what Cody might call "anti-occupation agitation" and negotiate with the P.A. at a time when the president has declared an all-out war on terrorism. The answer, according to Kinsley, is that "terrorism is not an evil that transcends all other considerations.
This does not mean, as some would have it, that suicide bombing is justified as a legitimate response of an oppressed people. There may be circumstances where that is true, but the circumstance of the Palestinians ... is not even close. Nevertheless, an illegitimate tactic used in a legitimate cause, as part of a conflict with legitimate and illegitimate tactics and aspirations on both sides, is different from an illegitimate tactic used for purposes that are utterly crazed and malevolent. In short, circumstances matter. They may not matter morally, but they matter in terms of what you do about it."
Sorry, Michael. Apologies also to the P.A., the 20 Arab autocrats, the Iranian theocracy, numerous other prominent Sunni and Shiite clerics from around the world, the European Union, Kofi Annan and his many U.N. organs, CNN, certain circles at the U.S. State Department, and the American university left.
There are simply no circumstances in which the premeditated targeting of innocent civilians is justified. And the widespread, institutionalized use of this illegitimate tactic by what Cody calls "activists," even in a supposedly legitimate cause, not only undermines that cause, but also calls into question the very legitimacy of that cause.
To see why this is so, suppose the Israelis were to agree with the 75 percent of Palestinians who back the age-appropriate suicide bombers. Why not employ the (admittedly illegitimate) tactic of targeting innocent Palestinian civilians in the (admittedly legitimate) service of Israeli self-defense? Why not use superior force to kill as many Palestinians as possible before some of those people kill Israelis? It would indeed be self-defense. It would also be a disaster. The tactic of deliberately attacking civilians, which the Palestinians are so obtusely debating (and much of the world is so readily tolerating), depends for its success only on the moral superiority of the adversary--on the willingness of the Israelis to refrain from the abhorrent behavior the Palestinians broadly support. Similarly, Osama bin Laden's widely held belief that he promotes Islam by destroying the World Trade Center is dependent on America's willingness to refrain from destroying the sacred sites of Islam, which it could surely do. By relying on the superior morality of their enemies, the advocates of terrorism concede their own immorality and forfeit their own legitimacy. And it's hard to think of a consideration that this particular form of evil "transcends."
Laurence Grafstein is managing director at the investment bank Lazard in New York.
KILL THEM ALL. Let God sort them out.
I must admit to harboring a lot of dark thoughts these days. After looking at the pictures of all the little Palistinian kids dressed as suicide bombers, parading down the streets in various West Bank towns, a very dark idea came to mind.
Wouldn't it be kinda funny, in a sick way of course, if a bunch of Mossad agents infiltrated the Palestinian areas and set up a new (but fake) radical "Islamic" group, then started recruiting these little Pali martyr wannabees, then sent them out to parade around wearing what they thought were fake bomb belts (except that they were REAL, with a remote detenator controlled by the Mossad guys?
Then as they pass the "reviewing stand" with all the Al-Jazeera types taking pictures.... well, you get the picture...
Jeez, now I'm all ashamed of myself for thinking like that.. [sigh] oh well....
| GOP leader: Palis should move to unsettled Arab lands
Dick Armey: Israel should expel West Bank Palis
| Human Rights Watch
Calls suicide attacks a Crime Against Humanity