Thursday, June 3, 2010

Islamist Extremists Hit Israeli Soldiers with Iron Bars, West Surrenders?

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By Barry Rubin

“I have not yet begun to fight!” --Captain John Paul Jones 1779

“Don’t Give up the ship!” -- Captain James Lawrence, 1813

“Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!” --Admiral David Farragut, 1862

“You may fire when ready, Gridley!” --Commodore George Dewey, 1898

“Oh no! Israel stopped a ship near Gaza, the militants attacked the troops, and nine were killed. Our policy is untenable and we better give in.” --President Barack Obama, 2010?

I hope the above turns out to be an exaggeration. Some minor changes--letting private groups send in goods over the border after Israeli inspection--would not damage the effort to isolate and defeat Hamas. But things may go far beyond such cosmetic alterations.

For some reason the Obama Administration may be deciding that its policy toward Hamas is no longer working and it’s time to begin to raise its arms in surrender, give up the ship, put on the brakes, and make room for Hamas. But it should be remembered that a policy is not wrong or untenable because some--even a lot of people--don't like it or because it doesn't work real fast. The question is whether the policy fits the resources available and goals that are vital ones.

And here, regarding the Gaza Strip issue, there are major strategic issues that should not be forgotten:

--Is the United States and others ready to accept a new Islamist state, equivalent to the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, in the heart of the Middle East?

--Are they willing to have an Iranian client state in such a strategic position, spreading revolutionary Islamism to Egypt and other countries?

--Leaving aside the proven fantasy of a Fatah-Hamas moderate cooperative regime, are they ready to accept such a huge blockage of any hope for the peace process?

--In the name of humanitarianism do they want to take responsibility for preserving a regime that intends to turn its society into a mechanism for mass production of terrorists and suicide bombers, with a policy dedicated to permanent war?

These are all very real questions that are getting lost in the scramble to deal with this latest incident and the battle-weariness of countries that bear no burden in keeping up the pressure on the Hamas regime.

Incidentally, we have already seen that approach in Lebanon, where promises made to Israel in 2006 by the UN to keep Hizballah out of the south and stop arms smuggling have been completely broken. This is not a good precedent for the Gaza case.

The proper policy would be to overthrow that government in Gaza which, after all, violates the Oslo accords, came to power by a bloody coup (though it had earlier won elections, it overthrew the results), and helps block peace. The fact that the previous sentence is considered to be unthinkable and even bizarre in the contemporary debate shows just how irrational that discussion has become.

But since nobody will move toward such a goal—and won’t let Israel do it—the next best thing is to keep Hamas as weak as possible, stop it from consolidating power, and undermine its popularity by economic pressure.

Now, however, there are increasing voices in the West wanting to hand Hamas a victory even though it has in no way moderated its positions and intends to return to violence as soon as possible. Why? What is the compelling reason for surrender to a terrorist, antisemitic, repressive, misogynist, anti-American group that would give another extension of power to revolutionary Islamists and a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran?

Well, it is claimed by U.S. officials that the blockade is not sustainable, "The Gaza policy is bankrupt and needs to be changed."

In other words, Hamas has not surrendered yet. It would be interesting to see the results of this position being applied more widely. For if the extremists and terrorists don’t give up after a little while, then surely the democratic world must. Really? Like this?:

Hey, we’ve been fighting against Germany and Japan for several years and they haven’t given up and their people are suffering. Obviously, unconditional surrender is an unsustainable policy.

Or perhaps the policy is bankrupt because it hasn’t brought down Hamas yet and thus a tougher policy is needed? That option isn’t even considered.

According to a New York Times article:

“The world powers have grown increasingly disillusioned with the blockade, saying that it has created far too much suffering in Gaza and serves as a symbol not only of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians but of how the West is seen in relation to the Palestinians.”

Naturally, if Hamas entrenches itself and creates another Taliban regime, there won’t be any suffering in Gaza. Who cares if women are suppressed and everyone is repressed and children are brought up to be suicide bombers? What’s important is that they have more material goods.

A senior American official says:

“Gaza has become the symbol in the Arab world of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, and we have to change that..We need to remove the impulse for the flotillas. The Israelis also realize this is not sustainable.”

This is a textbook case of appeasement: fearful your enemy will hurt you, quickly give them so much that they will hopefully leave you alone. Tell me, do you think the Palestinians, Arabs, and Islamists will find a new symbol? Might they come up with more demands?

Precisely the same approach motivated the Oslo accords and the turning over of most of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to Palestinian rule, Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon, and Israel’s pull out from the Gaza Strip. And we all know how well that defusing of symbols and removal of excuses worked out.

Britain’s new Prime Minister David Cameron calls for ending the blockade and the latestevents, the American officials say, “have given Hamas a dangerous lift.”

Right, and no doubt ending the blockade will send them crashing down. No, it will give Hamas a far, far bigger lift.

Don’t these people have any clue of how Middle East politics works? Hamas would be seen as the victor over Israel and the West. The dismantling of the blockade will be taken as proof that their methods work and that the Palestinian Authority gets nothing done. Similarly, it will be one more proof—soon to be followed by nuclear weapons—that Iran is the patron to have, not America.

Yet these arguments aren’t even part of the current debate. Of course, an underlying problem is that battling Hamas is seen as a purely Israeli interest. Only when the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip became a base for subverting Egypt and other Arabic-speaking countries and when the region is flocking behind Iran’s banners might these great geniuses discover what they’ve done. Hopefully, they won’t get a chance to find out and are saved from the consequences of their own stupidity by those they revile and slander at present.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.


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