A Hard Dose of Moral Clarity Needed in the Middle East

Just four days after eight Israeli high school students were massacred by a Palestinian terrorist in Jerusalem, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino used the most shocking example yet of moral equivalence in explaining Vice President Dick Cheney’s upcoming trip to the Middle East. The trip was made necessary, said Perino, because “Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are moving fast enough on their respective obligations to end violence and curb expansion of settlements.”

To openly equate the deliberate murder of unarmed high school boys with the bureaucratic decision to permit the construction of new apartments is more sad evidence of how far the U.S. has retreated from its signature claim: that moral clarity is a necessary component to victory in the war against terror.

To get a sense of how detached our diplomats are from the real world, imagine a doctor refusing to re-examine his treatment of a patient whose condition deteriorates after each treatment. In the Middle East, no matter how chronic the patient’s condition, nor how sick the same treatment makes him, nothing ever changes. The prescription is always the same poisonous medicine, only at higher doses.

How about demanding a new doctor, or at the very least, a new diagnosis? Maybe it is time to replace a 60-year regimen of moral equivalence — always cynically calibrated to justify the increasingly barbarous tactics of terrorists — with a plan centered upon the moral clarity the Bush administration has at times championed with, such eloquence.

Moral clarity requires that Hamas be judged according to a standard of objective fact, not political expediency. Whether elected or not, Hamas is not a partner to negotiate with. It is a terrorist entity that must constantly be combated and eventually destroyed. No matter its claims to gullible journalists, there is no moral distinction between Al Qaeda and Hamas. The goals they both advocate are illegitimate and immoral. The tactics they use can never be justified, excused or tolerated. The attempt to apply such false distinctions not only strengthens Hamas in its war against Israel, it also encourages Al Qaeda in its war against us.

Moral clarity demands that we recognize Palestinian “nationalism” for what it is: the only “liberation movement” ever created with the goal of destroying a sovereign state and killing all its citizens. Yes, Hamas — working together with a credulous United Nations, European Union and even some in our own State Department — has achieved some lamentable tactical success by convincing a gullible world that the conflict’s victim is really the aggressor and vice versa. But that does not, and can never, change the facts.

Moral clarity also demands that the world reject Hamas’ contrived grievance that Israeli occupation of Gaza justifies its more than 4,500 attempts to murder Israeli civilians with rockets fired from inside territories it controls in Gaza. Moral clarity demands reminding the world that there has been no Israeli occupation of Gaza since 2005 and that the Israeli military occupation that preceded it was not an illegal conquest of territory acquired in a war of aggression but rather the legal capture and subsequent administration of territory won in a defensive war.

Moral clarity demands recognition that there is no problem of Palestinian refugees that was not created by Arabs themselves. The Palestinians who fled their homes in 1948 did so as the result of a war started by seven Arab armies who invaded Israel on the day of its birth. Had those Arab armies not invaded Israel in an attempt to destroy it, no Arab residents would have lost their homes.

There is not a single internationally accepted program of diplomatic settlement (no matter how ill-advised) proposed since 1917 that Israel has ever rejected, while there is not a single internationally accepted program of diplomatic settlement proposed since 1917 that the Palestinians have ever accepted.

Moral clarity thus demands that the world denounce the Palestinian goal of destroying Israel as illegitimate and immoral and that, as such, all tactics used to achieve an illegitimate objective must be condemned as unjustified and indefensible.

The other reality that such a policy would foster is the world community’s recognition that Israel’s objective of self-defense is legitimate, and that all tactics used to defend itself must be judged accordingly. The more time that diplomats conflate the tactical actions of Hamas’s attempts to destroy Israel with the tactical actions of Israel trying to defend itself the more Hamas is legitimized and encouraged. It is a prescription for death on all sides. An emboldened Hamas thus increases the likelihood that both Israeli civilians will be purposefully murdered by Palestinian terrorists and innocent Palestinians will be killed by accident by an Israeli army defending itself against those who attack it and seek shelter in their midst. The sad results of the efforts so far makes it certain that it’s time for a new course.