Snap Judgment: Martyr Complex

It's not food and medicine, but guns and explosives that Hamas leaders seem most focused on.

By
May 18, 2006 14:27
Snap Judgment: Martyr Complex

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Last weekend two more victims of the April 17 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv died in hospital, bringing the total number of victims to 11. The latest to die was Daniel Wultz, a 16-year-old boy visiting from Florida, who had the misfortune to stop by the same felafel stand where the bomber chose to strike. His death was made public last Sunday, just about the same time the government announced that the IDF had intercepted a boat off the coast of Gaza trying to smuggle in nearly a ton of explosive material, described by one commander as "enough to arm 100 suicide bombers." Neither of these stories attracted (with a few notable exceptions) much international media coverage - certainly not in comparison to the flood of stories and reports in the past month about the hardships in the Palestinian territories, following the decision by the international community and Israel to suspend financial aid to the Hamas-ruled Palestinian Authority. And that's a shame. Not because the world shouldn't know about Palestinian hospitals running short of medicine, or Palestinian families that can't feed their kids; of course they should. But unless they also know about Daniel Wultz dying in his hospital bed, and the repeated attempts by Palestinians to smuggle in the tools of terrorism, they will be misled over the reasons behind, and the responsibility for, that suffering. Some of those who oppose the halt of direct aid to the new PA government until it accepts three basic conditions - cessation of terror, recognition of Israel's right to exist, and fulfillment of prior agreements - contend that this step is undermining the "democratic process" of the PA, because Hamas was the clear winner in January's elections. This is a curious argument. No one disputes the legitimacy of Hamas's victory. Does this mean though, that the policies of every government which is democratically elected have to be accepted without challenge by the international community simply because of that fact? If that's the case, one wonders why Israel hasn't been given this privilege during the past 58 years. As it is, the massive amounts of international aid the Palestinians have received over the years shouldn't be taken for granted; there are, after all, many other impoverished peoples and nations that don't receive even a small percentage of such help. The international community assists the Palestinians at great expense because they believe it is in their interests to see a resolution, or at least an easing, of the Israeli-Arab conflict. If however, a Hamas-led PA shows little interest in working toward peace - if its policies, in fact, encourage the opposite - then the US, EU and of course Israel are under no obligation to support it. IN FACT, they are obligated to oppose it, especially after the Hamas leadership made statements supporting the Tel Aviv bombing that took the life of Wultz and 10 other innocent victims (including a French tourist and two Romanian workers). The Hamas government has made clear where its priorities lie. Although it complains that it is now unable to pay salaries to public employees, including the tens of thousands of policemen and soldiers already on the PA payroll, Hamas still found the money (perhaps in the funding it receives from Iran) to create a new 3,000-strong "security force" under the command of Palestinian Resistance Committee (PRC) terrorist leader Jamal Abdul Samhadana. The Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, reacting to the suspension of aid, declared in a speech last week in Qatar: "We [Hamas] ask all the people in surrounding Arab countries, the Muslim world and everyone who wants to support us to send weapons, money and men." As the recent interceptions at sea demonstrate, it is not food and medicine, but guns and explosives which seem to be the most desired imports nowadays among some of the Gazan Palestinians. No one, however, especially Israel, wants to create a situation in which ordinary Palestinians have to suffer unduly, because of the recklessness and intransigence of their leadership. The question then is how to alleviate their hardship, without aid being channeled and exploited by a Hamas leadership all too ready to sacrifice the well-being of the Palestinian population in pursuit of its extremist aims. This is hardly a new or unique problem for the international community. During the 1990s it faced a similar challenge in enforcing sanctions on Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime; as that experience showed, Saddam had no hesitation in exploiting and corrupting the "oil-for-food" program designed to ease the suffering of his people. Similarly, the world is looking to aid the starving citizens of North Korea, in a manner that will add neither legitimacy nor support to Kim Jong Il's cruel and reckless rule. THE ISRAELI government has committed itself to both supplying and facilitating humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, even though this policy carries both long-term political and short-term security risks. Though little reported in the foreign media, Palestinians continue to be treated in Israeli hospitals, even though several attempts have been made by terror groups to use Palestinian patients as suicide bombers. And the Karni Crossing, through which most food and medical supplies make their way into Gaza, has been the site of several terror attacks, including one just last month carried out by Samhadana's PRC. As for the US and EU, they must resist pressures to compromise on their aid embargo of the Hamas-led PA, even while they work on the knotty problem of aiding ordinary Palestinians through other channels. This process will take resources and patience. Maintaining such resolve won't be easy in the face of TV reports of Palestinians struggling to support their families, and articles about medical supplies that aren't getting through to Gaza. But the international community should also keep in mind those less reported stories, about terror victims like Daniel Wultz, and the smuggled shipments of explosive that do get through to Gaza and the West Bank to make such attacks possible. Hamas has for decades has promoted a culture of hate against Israelis, in order to convince individual Palestinians that blowing themselves up in a crowd of civilians is preferable to seeking change by such non-violent means as diplomacy and negotiation. If the international community is to truly help the Palestinians in a time of hardship, it must do so in a way which ensures that Hamas is in no position to now make a martyr of the entire Palestinian nation. The writer is director of The Israel Project's Jerusalem Media Resource Center. www.theisraelproject.org

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