Insatiable extremism

Kassams prove even territory does not sate Islamists' appetite.

Kassam is jihad  298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Kassam is jihad 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Roni Yihye, 47, a father of four, was murdered on Wednesday in the latest rocket assault from the Gaza Strip. His death came a day after the 80th birthday of Ariel Sharon, the general and politician who ended a long career of outmaneuvering hostile Arab forces by withdrawing completely from the Gaza Strip. And it followed the latest anti-Israel broadside from the UN's Human Rights Council, whose rapporteur John Dugard wrote earlier this week that "a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror, such as acts committed by al-Qaida, and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation... As long as there is occupation, there will be terrorism." The combination of Yihye's murder, Sharon's birthday and Dugard's misguided report brings the current untenable reality apropos Gaza into sharp focus. Led by Sharon, more than two years ago, Israel wrenched its settlers and withdrew its soldiers from the Gaza Strip. It left behind an unprecedented opportunity for Palestinian state-building and an international commitment to create a Singapore in the impoverished Strip, not to mention millions of dollars in farming equipment, including a world-famous complex of greenhouses. All these were wasted. No other national liberation movement has ever garnered so much support and so much hard cash, nor been offered the opportunity to take major steps toward full independence by the unilateral withdrawal of the loathed "occupier" from a sizable proportion of its claimed territory. No other national liberation movement has ever spurned such opportunity with so determined an insistence on the terrorizing of neighboring civilians. Israel is gone from Gaza. Yet Hamas has intensified its attacks on Israel. Palestinian refugees remain in their blighted camps. The notion of progress toward viable institutions of democratic governance is a bad joke. The ruthless rocket attacks from civilian areas in Israel-free Gaza that have traumatized southern Israel and that claimed the life yesterday of Roni Yihye cannot be honestly construed as "acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation." It is long past time for the learned diplomats of the UN, and all too many other international statespeople, to stop excusing the Islamist supremacists and ignoring their avowed and insatiable ambitions. This newspaper recognizes that for Israel to remain at once Jewish in character and democratic, it must relinquish territory to which it claims a biblical and historic right and separate from the Palestinians. It looks forward to the day when the Palestinians will live peacefully, and independently, alongside Israel. But Sharon's "disengagement" did not advance that day. And the failure is that of the Palestinians. A mindset that loathes Israel more than it seeks its own freedom will not be remade by Israeli withdrawal or endless international funding and sympathy. A leadership inciting against Israel in its media, mosques and school system will not be rejected by the Palestinian public so long as much of that population is mired in a bigotry that inculcates permanent victimhood, refuses to recognize any shred of justice to Israel's sovereign claims and extols the virtues of violence and death. Perceived legitimization for such violence, furthermore, can only exacerbate the tendency. What the international community must do is show its abhorrence of the rocket attacks and other violence and incitement, eschew the Palestinian leadership that encourages them, and energetically support the faint voices of moderation and educational programs that offer the prospect of a changed Palestinian mindset. The Islamists' strategy, updating enemy efforts to destroy this state, has been to so dishearten and bleed us that we dismantle the country and the instruments of our self-reliance, and go quietly into a Hamas or Hizbullah caliphate, or (as the Iranian version has it) get on a boat for Poland. But Israelis are not packing their bags. Under Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and now Ehud Olmert, we have sought somehow to separate from the Palestinians. What the Hamas-inspired murderous rocket fire across the Gaza border should long since have made plain to all, however, is that even territory cleared of every last vestige of Israeli presence does not sate the appetite of the Islamists - who, terribly, happen to constitute the parliamentary leadership freely elected by the Palestinian public, and the murderous sole rulers of Gaza.