Hamas moderates and Israel’s celebrities

Another outcome of this round of fighting has been the need of the Israeli Left to find a reason to critique the operation.

Bomb Shelter (empty) 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Bomb Shelter (empty) 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Just a day into the conflict the students at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev were sent home, and most didn’t just go back to their apartments in Beersheba, they left for the north. Assaf Farhadian, one of the students who didn’t flee, wrote an op-ed in Yediot Aharonot claiming that he was “staying here to tell the world.”
His imagery was apocalyptic: “Beersheba was deserted, empty, silent.”
There are two major groups of people in Beersheba: The wealthier students who come from out of town to Beersheba to study, and the impoverished “masses” who live in Beersheba. Beersheba is, after all, one of those wonderful 1950s planned development towns set aside for the poor “new immigrants” from Russia, Ethiopia and Jews from Arab countries.
These are people who don’t have a second home on a kibbutz to go stay at, a car with which to flee to the north or the finances to simply leave their apartments.
Some of their apartment buildings lack proper shelters, with the excuse being that they are “old” buildings.
As one of the young people who stayed behind, Mr. Farhadian shouldn’t be the exception, but the rule. The students from BGU should have stayed in the city that they live in to set an example.
The irony is that in many ways those who left are in more danger, statistically, of being harmed in an accident on roads in the north of the country than they would be had they stayed in Beersheba.
The flight of the BGU students was merely part of a larger exodus from the south which affected middle and upper class communities.
A story on television Channel 10 revealed that many youth from the kibbutzim in the south had been sent by organized busload to stay at other kibbutzim out of harms way. This is, of course, in contrast to how the kibbutzim behaved in the 1948 war, when the people doggedly stayed behind and fought the invaders. For instance, the children of Yad Morchechai were only evacuated at night in a Palmah operation on May 18, 1948, with the kibbutz already in the jaws of the invading Egyptian army.
BUT 2012 Israel is not 1948 Israel. In 2012 the rule is to flee as fast as possible. People in Tel Aviv canceled parties, “my friends heard a siren and they are in the shelters,” and decided to relocate to Jerusalem, and then there were sirens in Jerusalem and they lamented as if the end of the world was coming: “I thought I was safe at last, now what?” It makes one wonder when they would stop fleeing.
Since Hezbollah’s rockets can reach Haifa and Hamas’s can reach Tel Aviv, will everyone cram into Netanya (which is between Haifa and Tel Aviv) next time? It is important to recognize that it is the very people now fleeing Tel Aviv because of four or five rockets who for too long have been willing to tolerate without protest the people of Sderot living under rocket fire.
All the fleeing should also remind people that during the Second World War in London there were evacuations, primarily of young civilians, to outlying areas.
The Royal family, however, remained in London throughout the years of bombing. When asked why she wouldn’t leave, Queen Elizabeth answered, “the Princesses will not leave us, I cannot leave the King and the King will never leave.”
By contrast Israel’s intellectuals, “leading personalities” and celebrities such as Amos Oz and Yoram Kaniuk were too busy signing a petition demanding the government talk to Hamas to show much physical solidarity with the people affected.
If the only thing that keeps people in their homes during rocket fire is poverty and the lack of means to flee, it isn’t a good sign for the country as whole. If the royal family of England could remain in their home during the bombings of London, when 20,000 people were killed, one could imagine that people in Israel could stay for a week through rocket fire that rarely, thankfully, kills anyone.
ANOTHER OUTCOME of this round of fighting has been the need of the Israeli Left to find a reason to critique the operation. Just hours after Hamas’s Ahmed Jabari was assassinated, the editor of Haaretz, Aluf Benn, published an article titled, “Israel killed its subcontractor.”
Benn described Jabari as Israel’s “border guard in the south” who was “in charge of maintaining Israel’s security in Gaza.” The insinuation is that Jabari worked for Israel; he was what Palestinians call a “collaborator.”
It is not uncommon to hear some Palestinians claim that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Security Forces in the West Bank work to aid Israel’s security and that they therefore “collaborate” with Israel against the aspirations of the Palestinians.
But I’ve never before heard Hamas accused of being a movement working to keep Israel secure. Secure from what, from itself? Is that like the mafia that offers you protection, from the mafia? The argument here is that any Palestinian organization not actively engaged 100 percent of the time in murder and terror is, in effect, collaborating with the Jews. The logic of Israel’s radical Left, living under this warped analysis, is that every state that keeps the peace on the border with its neighbor is “a subcontractor” working for the neighboring state. It couldn’t possibly be that two states might both live in peace and this would be in their best interests.
In an incisive report in The New York Times by Ethan Bronner, it was revealed that Jabari was the man behind making Hamas a more disciplined force and outfitting it with more advanced Iranian rockets.
Yet the obsession of believing that Hamas is “moderating” continues. Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar, who recently wrote a book in Hebrew called “Getting to know Hamas,” claimed that in effect it is Israel that is not cooperating enough with the moderating Hamas.
This is symptomatic of the way naive Westerners in general view Islamic movements; under the lens of moderation, such that the more extreme they are, the more moderate they are said to be provided they are not actively engaged in acting out their most extreme tendencies.
Thus a regime that executes women by firing squad for alleged “moral offenses” is considered a “moderate” movement – because there is an even more radical Salafist movement that argues the women should be stoned to death.
One only need Google “moderate Taliban” to see how far some take this fiasco.
This is why, when Hamas politician Abu Marzouk gave an interview to The Forward‘s Larry Cohler-Esses earlier this year, Shlomi Eldar was quoted as saying, “I think the mere fact that he is speaking to you” is important. When the mere act of speaking to a Jew is considered a great moderating gesture, we are living in a strange world. After all, the Nazis spoke to Jews, too.
As Cohler-Esses proudly wrote, it was a “first-ever indepth exchange between a senior Hamas leader and a Jewish publication.”
Craving Hamas attention without even bothering to ask if perhaps Hamas is smart enough to realize that making itself seem more moderate will lead the West to open its arms is dangerous. Rather than welcoming the “first ever” interview with the Jewish publication, Jews should have been outraged that their newspaper grants legitimacy to radicals. One can acknowledge slow shifts in Islamist policy, such as Mohamed Morsi, who is now being lauded for saying the word “Israel”, without pretending that this portends great liberalizing influences.