Life is about giving credit where credit is due: Jewish right-wingers and centrists were wrong - and left-wingers right - about some things. That's as true for American Jews as it is for those in Israel. The American Jewish Left, like its Israeli counterparts, was right that Israel couldn't afford to ignore the demographic disaster that holding on to lands where millions of Palestinians lived represented. The Right never had a coherent answer to this challenge. The decision of Ariel Sharon to reverse course and withdraw from Gaza for reasons that had heretofore been the positions of his foes left American Jewish right-wingers high and dry. This has given members of the so-called "peace camp" a reason to feel a degree of satisfaction - and they are entitled to it. But, unfortunately, this wisdom does not extend to other aspects of the Left's prescription for Israel. After all, the American Jewish left also spent the 1990s touting Yasser Arafat and his Fatah-led Palestinian Authority as a true partner for peace. This wasn't just limited to the Oslo-inspired euphoria of 1993, when mainstream American Jewish leaders were embracing Arafat like a long-lost relative. Leftists continued in this fashion throughout the decade, even as proof of Arafat's unwillingness to keep his word about peace became apparent to all except those whose ideological blinders failed to let them see the light. The Left may have been right about demography. But it was dead wrong on its insistence that the Palestinians wanted peace and could be trusted to hold fast to their agreements. Empowering terrorists did not make them peace partners; it led only to a greater number of dead Jews. The collapse of Oslo eventually resurrected Sharon's political career, but, ironically, his subsequent decision to seek a centrist path has given new life to the Left and emboldened it on another issue. ONLY ONE year after Arafat's designated successor, Mahmoud Abbas, took power, his Fatah Party was trounced in balloting that brought Hamas, an Islamist terrorist movement, to power. Hamas and its leaders will not recognize Israel or renounce terror. It's true that Arafat and Abbas did so, while clearly intending to continue their war anyway (a point they made in Arabic to Arab audiences when they thought the West wasn't listening). But Hamas's hate for Israel and the Jews is so deeply ingrained in its religious beliefs that it will not stoop to such subterfuges merely to ingratiate itself with the chattering classes. Surely this means that the chorus of apologies and excuses for Arafat that characterized the Jewish Left's attitude to the PA during Oslo would not be repeated for Hamas? No serious American Jewish group could stand up for a continuance of American funding of the PA now it's in the hands of self-avowed terrorists. But instead of the Left repenting of its foolish refusal to see the truth about the Palestinians, it's repeating its mistakes with Hamas. Palestinian elections weren't even over before many on the Left began speaking of looking for "moderates" among the Hamas cadres. And joining with such inveterate Israel-bashers as former president Jimmy Carter, they began calling on President George W. Bush and the Europeans to back off on their threats of an aid cutoff. Spokespeople for groups like the highly influential Israel Policy Forum, as well as the persistent Americans for Peace Now, want foreign cash to keep flowing to the PA to give Hamas a chance. WHILE ACKNOWLEDGING the nasty nature of the terror group, leftists are playing the same game as when they were wooing Fatah terrorists. Hamas will "do business" with Israel, they claim, if we let it. IPF spokesman MJ Rosenberg writes that Hamas can be "trusted" to keep a truce with Israel, even as he ignores the fact that Palestinians expect it to keep fighting. Leftists tell us that cutting off Hamas will lead to more Palestinian extremism, as if anything could be more extreme than Hamas's eliminationist covenant of hatred for Jews and Israel. Even worse, they play upon our sympathy for the Palestinians when they assert that an aid cut-off will only increase hardship for them. Is it fair, they ask, to punish everyday Palestinians for making a democratic choice? The answer is: Of course it's fair! If it's the Palestinians' will to be represented by those who pledge an unending war - with Israel's destruction and the mass slaughter of Jews as its end goal - they should be held accountable for that choice. Moreover, to continue the flow of aid to the PA will confer upon the leaders of Hamas a mantle of legitimacy that they'll use to solidify their hold on power. Working with Hamas or giving its leadership "a chance" to strengthen the foundations of a terrorist infrastructure unhindered is not pragmatic. It's insanity. And it's lunacy to do so using the same arguments that were employed to whitewash Arafat. BUT THE problem is that by using their considerable influence in this country on those who share their views - on editorial pages of papers like The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer - the Jewish Left isn't just spinning harmless fantasies. With Europe bending on the question of Hamas's legitimacy, the ability of the Left to undermine the consensus against aiding Hamas could drive a dangerous wedge between Jerusalem and Washington. It should be remembered that the war against Israel's legitimacy is still being waged across the globe. Resolutions calling for divestment - a form of economic warfare - continue to gain ground within Protestant churches and among academics. Thirteen years of attempts at a peace process via concessions has brought about a situation where Israel is more reviled than it ever was before. And what answer does the American Jewish left have for this dispiriting spectacle? Just more breast-beating about Israel's faults, its need for forbearance in the face of violence and calls for the administration to reject the advice of the Jewish state's centrist leaders and keep feeding more cash into the coffers of a terrorist state. Much of the Jewish Right has owned up to its mistakes and has now adopted more realistic policies. It's high time for the Jewish Left to do the same before a repetition of its tragic miscalculations causes even more harm. The writer is executive editor of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.