“I’ve come here to expose the brazen lies spoken from this very podium, against my country and against the brave soldiers who defended it,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations on Monday. You could almost hear the chime of the FASTEN SEAT BELTS signs coming on.
Netanyahu did not disappoint in the powerful speech following that declaration. He had strong words for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who has been bandying the word “genocide” around to describe Israel’s battle with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Not only is that a word guaranteed to produce a particularly strong reaction from Israel, but it’s a damn stupid thing to say when the blood-splattered monsters of ISIS are busy showing the world what “genocide” really looks like. It’s not as if one needs to crack open a cobwebbed history book for an accurate definition of the term.
Iran also came in for a thrashing in Netanyahu’s address. The Israeli Prime Minister is, to put it mildly, suspicious of Iran’s sudden reinvention as a junior partner in the struggle against ISIS and global terrorism. “Don’t be folled by Iran’s manipulative charm offensive,” he warned. “It’s designed for one purpose and for one purpose only: to life the sanctions and remove the obstacles to Iran’s path to the bomb.” He described that outcome as winning a battle but losing a war.
Netanyahu repeated a point he’s made several times in the recent past, saying that “ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.” The roots of that tree are sunk into militant Islam, which the Prime Minister was careful to distinguish from both “militancy” and “Islam” in general. He has a particular ideology in mind, and while it’s nowhere near as small or extreme as Western politicians like to claim, it’s something Netanyahu believes Israel and the West can make common cause with other Muslims to defeat.
The goal of militant Islam is world conquest, and as Netanyahu noted, its ambitions give it the ability to metastasize like cancer, as soon as it enjoys a taste of success. He castigated those U.N. members who claim to oppose ISIS while simultaneously supporting Hamas against Israel:
ISIS and Hamas share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control. Listen to ISIS??? self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This is what he said two months ago: A day will soon come when the Muslim will walk everywhere as a master. The Muslims will cause the world to hear and understand the meaning of terrorism and destroy the idol of democracy. Now listen to Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas. He proclaims a similar vision of the future: We say this to the West ??? by Allah you will be defeated. Tomorrow our nation will sit on the throne of the world.
As Hamas??? charter makes clear, Hamas??? immediate goal is to destroy Israel, but Hamas has a broader objective. They also want a caliphate. Hamas shares the global ambitions of its fellow militant Islamists, and that???s why its supporters wildly cheered in the streets of Gaza as thousands of Americans were murdered in 9/11, and that???s why its leaders condemn the United States for killing Osama bin Laden whom they praised as a holy warrior.
So when it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas. And what they share in common all militant Islamists share in common. Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabab in Somalia, Hezbollah in Lebanon, al-Nusra in Syria, the Mahdi army in Iraq, and the al-Qaida branches in Yemen, Libya, the Philippines, India and elsewhere.
Some are radical Sunnis, some are radical Shiites, some want to restore a pre-medieval caliphate from the seventh century, others want to trigger the apocalyptic return of an imam from the ninth century. They operate in different lands, they target different victims and they even kill each other in their battle for supremacy. But they all share a fanatic ideology. They all seek to create ever-expanding enclaves of militant Islam where there is no freedom and no tolerance, where women are treated as chattel, Christians are decimated and minorities are subjugated, sometimes given the stark choice, convert or die. For them, anyone can be considered an infidel, including fellow Muslims.
Netanyahu suggested these shake-and-bake caliphates are kidding themselves about who’s going to be “the master of the master faith,” and so are too many in the West:
Ladies and gentlemen, militant Islam???s ambition to dominate the world seems mad, but so too did the global ambitions of another fanatic ideology that swept into power eight decades ago. The Nazis believed in a master race. The militant Islamists believe in a master faith. They just disagree who among them will be the master of the master faith. That???s what they truly disagree about. And therefore, the question before us is whether militant Islam will have the power to realize its unbridled ambitions.
There is one place where that could soon happen ??? the Islamic State of Iran. For 35 years, Iran has relentlessly pursued the global mission which was set forth by its founding ruler, Ayatollah Khomeini, in these words. ???We will export our revolution to the entire world until the cry ???there is no god but Allah??? will echo throughout the world over.??? And ever since, the regime???s brutal enforcers, Iran???s revolutionary guards, have done exactly that.
Listen to its current commander, General Mohammad Ali Jafari. And he clearly stated his goal. He said ???Our imam did not limit the Islamic revolution to this country, our duty is to prepare the way for an Islamic world government.???
Iran???s President Rouhani stood here last week and shed crocodile tears over what he called the globalization of terrorism. Maybe he should spare us those phony tears and have a word instead with the commanders of Iran???s revolutionary guards. He could ask them to call off Iran???s global terror campaign, which has included attacks in two dozen countries on five continents since 2011 alone.
You know, to say that Iran doesn???t practice terrorism is like saying Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees. This is ??? this bemoaning by the Iranian president of the spread of terrorism has got to be one of history???s greatest displays of doubletalk.
Not just anyone can slip a reference to Derek Jeter into a speech like this. Netanyahu went on to chip away at the Iranians’ pretenses of moderation, warned about the danger of letting Tehran get away with nuclear hijinks while focusing too narrowly on the Islamic State, and then brought Hamas into the discussion, repeating some points that cannot be made often enough:
Ladies and gentlemen, the fight against militant Islam is indivisible. When militant Islam succeeds anywhere, it???s emboldened everywhere. When it suffers a blow in one place, it???s set back in every place. That???s why Israel???s fight against Hamas is not just our fight, it???s your fight. Israel is fighting a fanaticism today that your countries may be forced to fight tomorrow. For 50 days this past summer Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israel, many of them supplied by Iran. I want you to think about what your countries would do if thousands of rockets were fired at your cities. Imagine millions of your citizens having seconds at most to scramble to bomb shelters day after day. You wouldn???t let terrorists fire rockets at your cities with impunity, nor would you let terrorists dig dozens of terror tunnels under your borders to infiltrate your towns in order to murder and kidnap your citizens. Israel justly defended itself against both rocket attacks and terror tunnels.
Yet Israel faced another challenge. We faced a propaganda war because in an attempt to win the world sympathy, Hamas cynically used Palestinian civilians as human shields. It used schools ??? not just schools; U.N. schools ??? private homes, mosques, even hospitals to store and fire rockets at Israel. As Israel surgically struck at the rocket launchers and at the tunnels, Palestinian civilians were tragically but unintentionally killed. There are heartrending images that resulted, and these fueled libelous charges that Israel was deliberately targeting civilians. We were not. We deeply regret every single civilian casualties.
He’s made the point that “Israel uses its missiles to protect its children, while Hamas uses its children to protect its missiles” in the past, but the contrast he drew at the U.N. was exceptionally stark, and he concluded with a direct rebuke to President Abbas, the Palestinian leader the civilized world can supposedly do business with:
And the truth is this: Israel was doing everything to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties. Hamas was doing everything to maximize Israeli civilian casualties and Palestinian civilian casualties. Israel dropped flyers, made phone calls, sent text messages, broadcast warnings in Arabic on Palestinian television, all this to enable Palestinian civilians to evaluate targeted areas. No other country and no other army in history have gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemies.
Now, this concern for Palestinian life was all the more remarkable given that Israeli civilians were being bombarded by rockets day after day, night after night. And as their families were being rocketed by Hamas, Israel???s citizen army, the brave soldiers of the IDF, our young boys and girls, they upheld the highest moral values of any army in the world. Israel???s soldiers deserve not condemnation but admiration, admiration from decent people everywhere.
Now, here is what Hamas did. Here is what Hamas did. Hamas embedded its missile batteries in residential areas and told Palestinians to ignore Israel???s warnings to leave. And just in case people didn???t get the message, they executed Palestinian civilians in Gaza who dared to protest. And no less reprehensible, Hamas deliberately placed its rockets where Palestinian children live and play. Let me show you a photograph. It was taken by a France 24 crew during the recent conflict. It shows two Hamas rocket launchers, which were used to attack us. You see three children playing next to them. Hamas deliberately put its rockets in hundreds of residential areas like this ??? hundreds of them.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a war crime. And I say to President Abbas, these are the crimes, the war crimes, committed by your Hamas partners in the national unity government which you head and you are responsible for. And these are the real war crimes you should have investigated or spoken out against from this podium last week.
Then he excoriated the U.N. Human Rights Council for letting Hamas skate on all those war crimes, while putting Israel’s conduct under a microscope, which is sadly nothing new for the HRC. He warned that such conduct legitimizes the use of “human shield” tactics, guaranteeing they will be used by terrorists again in the future. And he linked the whitewash of Hamas’ tactics with the resurgence of anti-Semitism:
The human rights ??? that???s an oxymoron, the human ??? U.N. Human Rights Council, but I???ll use it just the same. The council???s biased treatment of Israel is only one manifestation of the return of one of the world???s largest prejudices. We hear mobs today in Europe call for the gassing of Jews. We hear some national leaders compare Israel to the Nazis. This is not a function of Israel???s policies. It???s a function of diseased minds. and that disease has a name. It???s called anti-Semitism. It is now spreading in polite society where it masquerades as legitimate criticism of Israel.
For centuries the Jewish people have been demonized with blood libels and charges of deicide. Today the Jewish state is demonized with the apartheid libel and charges of genocide ??? genocide. In what moral universe does genocide include warning the enemy civilian population to get out of harm???s way, or ensuring that they receive tons ??? tons of humanitarian aid each day even as thousands of rockets are being fired at us, or setting up a field hospital to aid their wounded?
That’s an interesting little aside from Netanyahu, noting that it’s an oxymoron to speak of “human rights.” One reason for this is that rights are reciprocal. They come with responsibilities. But terrorism depends on the asymmetrical applications of responsibilities: Israel gets held to something even higher than the highest possible standards, lambasted for failing to achieve a supernatural level of perfection while Hamas’ entire strategy is one war crime after another. Imagine sitting the senior leadership of any militant Islamic organization down and telling them to follow the same procedures Netanyahu lauded the Israeli Defense Force for following – send humanitarian supplies to your adversaries, establish field hospitals where they can be treated, put your soldiers’ lives at risk to minimize civilian casualties. They’d laugh you out of the room. They’re happy to score political points in international forums by whining about the alleged failure of Israel to meet those standards, but they consider the standards themselves absurd – they have no intention of meeting the responsibilities of civilized conduct themselves. Why, if they had to fight the way the IDF does, they wouldn’t start wars at all… and that caliphate isn’t going to establish itself without bloodshed.
The West can expect similar games to be played in the battle against ISIS. Students of American politics recognize this gambit as one of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”: Make the enemy live up to his own book of rules. The Gaza showdown between Israel and Hamas is important to the larger struggle against militant Islam not only because of the way it exposes this tactic, but because Israel and the Palestinian conflict have become a sinkhole for the West’s moral energy. Too many people shrug and say “well, look at what Israel does to the Palestinians” when horrific deeds from Islamists make the front pages. It’s become a blanket excuse for savagery, sometimes accompanied in Europe and the United States by mumbling about the Crusades.
The immediate objective of terrorism is legitimacy, concessions, a seat at the table. Every crumb of legitimacy is a banquet to them. As Netanyahu pointed out, people who use war-crime human shield tactics are winning an enormous victory when those who consider such tactics illegal concede that they are justified. That’s how barbarians call the bluff of civilization. They don’t have to make civilized people resort to savagery, at least not at first. The first step can be making civilized people concede that savagery is acceptable from their enemies. Lowered standards are a crack in moral and intellectual castle gates that should never be lowered, not even an inch. The West is confident in its military, economic, and technological supremacy, but all of those calculations will be erased on the day Iran detonates its first nuclear weapon. And even without nuclear weapons, history records few victories by nations who doubt themselves over those who do not.