Imagine a world in which a democratic nation surrounded by hostile enemies is attacked daily by rockets and mortars aimed at its civilian centers. Then, after enduring months of assaults of increasing intensity, the besieged nation responds with surgical strikes directed at the sources of the attacks. In response to these defensive measures, thousands of people from dozens of nations rally to condemn the democracy. Its flag is trampled and set ablaze. Its expatriates are mocked and attacked. The wounds of historical injustices are re-opened.
Hard to imagine, isn’t it?
It’s happening right now in the Middle East, of course, where Israel has once again been cast in the role of evil villain oppressing the defenseless Palestinians in the tragic play that is the war in Gaza.
Ever since Hamas ended its ceasefire with Israel (a ceasefire to which it never fully adhered) and ever since Israel finally responded, much of the so-called “world community” has strongly, and often violently, condemned Israel. A burning car was driven into a synagogue in southern France, where an arson attempt was thwarted. A Jewish congregation was attacked in Stockholm, Sweden, where demonstrators attempted to burn down the Israeli embassy.
In Denmark, two Jewish men survived being shot by Muslim youths who had taunted them for months with verbal and physical assaults, once shouting “slaughter all the Jews.” In Athens 5,000 pro-Palestinian protestors demonstrated in front of the Israeli embassy. Some threw stones and fire bombs at police.
In Britain, the Community Security Trust, a Jewish group, said it had seen a rise in anti-Semitic incidents since the war in Gaza, 20-25 incidents in the past week alone, including an attempted arson on a synagogue in London. Protestors in Holland chanted “gas the Jews.” Other anti-Israel protests have taken place in Antwerp, Paris, Madrid, Cologne, Moscow and elsewhere.
In America, hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators took to the streets in Tampa, Florida. Some shouted, “Bring back the ovens,” at Jewish counter-protestors.
Such outrage stems in part from Israel’s so-called “disproportionate” response to months of Hamas attacks. But what exactly would the international community have Israel do? Give up more land? That’s been tried in Gaza, from which Hamas now launches its attacks.
Should Israel simply put up with the daily attacks that hold it hostage? It is becoming increasingly clear that much of the international community believes as the Hamas charter clearly states, that Israel ought to cease to exist altogether.
Hamas has held southern Israel hostage in the year and a half since it took over in Gaza. But it has also destroyed the lives of its 1.5 million subjects. In fact, Gaza’s economic plight has gone from bad to worse under Hamas rule. Most Gazans rely on food handouts from international organizations, and 97 percent of Gaza industry has shut down for lack of raw materials. Nearly half of the work force is unemployed, including tens of thousands of factory workers. Fuel shortages regularly cause hours-long power outages, and most businesses have been forced to shut down.
In a revealing development, physicians have noticed a disturbing trend of drug use among Gaza youths since Hamas took over. In an attempt to deal with the anxiety and stress of life under a terrorist regime, up to a third of young Gaza men have become addicted to pain-killers.
To listen to Hamas and its apologists is to believe that its failures are the fault of the Israeli embargo. But the embargo would be lifted if Hamas simply stopped attacking Israel.
A major reason why so many more Palestinians than Israelis have been killed is that Israel puts its people’s safety first and has developed a sophisticated system of bomb shelters and warning systems to protect them. In contrast, Hamas has done nothing to protect its people. In fact, as has been noted, Hamas hides among its civilians so that more Palestinians die and so that Hamas can use those deaths as propaganda to cultivate sympathy across the globe.
The Islamists, who have stated clearly and repeatedly that they value death as much as the West values life, have no qualms about killing their own people for the sake of propaganda. That is why they send women, children and even persons with disabilities out to do their bidding as homicide bombers.
It is fair to say that the Israeli military values the lives of Palestinians more than Hamas does, a fact that is evident by Israel’s routinely warning Palestinians before striking civilian areas where terrorists are hiding or stashing weapons.
Regime change is a prerequisite to peace in Gaza. While the Hamas leadership was democratically elected, not all democratically-elected leaders (see: Hitler, Adolf) are legitimate. Hamas’s mission is to wipe Israel off the map, and it has done nothing to show it is willing to deviate from that goal.
But, amid the devastation, there may be a glimmer of hope in Gaza. In June, a brave Gaza shop owner, put out of his business by the poor economic conditions, perhaps spoke for others as he lamented Hamas’s presence. Speaking to a New York Times reporter, he said, “Everything that has happened here has been a terrible mistake. It is a mistake for Islamist to get into power. But what can we do? Hamas is even stronger than a year ago. They can take me and put me away whenever they want.”
This week, amid reports of dead and injured civilians in Gaza, reporters quoted a mother of a teenage girl whose body was cut in half in the fighting. “May God exterminate Hamas!” she screamed.
If it is possible for any good to come of the war in Gaza, perhaps we can hope that discerning Palestinians begin to realize that their hope for a better future does not rest with the jihadists and their promises of another Holocaust. Until and unless that day comes, Israel must, and will, defend itself.