There was a time when even inveterate haters of Israel refrained from making common cause with terrorists, jihadists and exterminationists. That time has passed.
Hamas, the terrorist organization that has ruled Gaza since 2007, has said clearly that there “is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad.” Engaging in a “peace process” leading to a “two-state solution” — out of the question. Hamas’ goal, as stated in its covenant, is to “obliterate” Israel.
The wars waged by Hamas against Israel in 2008, 2012 and 2014 did not produce that result. So this time around, Hamas has been trying something different: a “March of Return.” Over recent weeks, about 40,000 Gazan civilians, not least women and children, have been persuaded, prodded, bribed or tricked into attempting to illegally cross the border into Israel and serve as human shields for armed Hamas commandos.
This is a blatant violation of the law of armed conflict yet few journalists, diplomats and politicians — certainly precious few who identify as “progressives” — have seen fit to condemn or even criticize Hamas. On the contrary, many encourage such war crimes. Their aim, consistent with that of Hamas, is to portray Palestinians as victims and Israelis as bloodthirsty demons.
Unlike their adversaries, Israelis go to extraordinary lengths to spare civilians. They try to warn them off or back them off using tear gas and rubber bullets. They employ deadly force only against those believed to be invading sovereign Israeli territory with lethal intent.
Here’s how we know they’ve been successful: Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official, said last week that “50 of the 62 martyrs were Hamas.” In other words, 80 percent of those felled by Israeli bullets were combatants. Name a military that has ever done better under similar conditions.
Nevertheless, Israelis continue to be slandered. To take one egregious example, Emily Thornberry, the United Kingdom’s Labor Party shadow foreign secretary, last week stood up in Parliament and accused Israeli “snipers” of shooting Palestinian children in the back “hundreds of meters from the border,” using explosive bullets intended to “wound multiple internal organs.”
To be precise, she said “it is alleged” that Israelis are doing that. She didn’t specify who made the allegation. That’s unsurprising. Over the centuries, blood libels have never required a factual basis to achieve what they are intended to achieve.
You might be curious to know what Ms. Thornberry has had to say about the 500,000 Syrians who have been murdered in recent years by dictator Bashar Assad, assisted by the rulers of Iran and Russia. The answer: very little. However, a few days ago she did remark that Mr. Assad has a greater “depth and breadth of support than is recognized in the West.”
Other commentators have insisted that Gazans have been staging “peaceful protests” while characterizing the Israeli response as a “slaughter.” Also widespread has been the baseless charge that President Trump deserves blame, that none of this would have happened had he not moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Hamas’ leaders, ironically, have been more forthright. Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza, has candidly said that the aim of the March of Return is to “tear down the border” and “tear out their [Israeli] hearts.” He also praised “the sacrifice of [Palestinian] children as an offering for Jerusalem.”
A reminder of how Hamas came to rule Gaza: In 2005 then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon removed, in some instances forcibly, the Jewish communities that had been established in that territory which, it should be noted, Israel had seized from Egypt in 1967 following a defensive war.
His hope was that Gazans would choose to peacefully coexist with their Israeli neighbors across the new border. Perhaps this “land for peace” formula could then be extended to the West Bank.
Instead, of course, Hamas waged and won a civil war against its rival, Fatah. It then began firing missiles into Israel. When that failed to have the desired impact, Hamas began building tunnels into Israel to facilitate the kidnapping and killing of Israelis. A “blockade” of Gaza was the response to these acts of terrorism — it was not the cause.
What’s more, Israelis have allowed truckloads of food, fuel, medicine and other supplies to enter Gaza day after day via the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Hamas warriors recently set that facility ablaze. Won’t that increase Palestinian suffering? Yes but, again, that’s the idea. For Hamas and its friends, the worse the better.
I think it’s time to recognize that the line between Israel-hatred and Jew-hatred has all but disappeared. In the 20th century, the goal of extreme anti-Semites was a Europe without Jews. In the 21st century, the goal of extreme anti-Semites is a Middle East without a Jewish state. Not everyone who defends Hamas and bashes Israelis supports the extermination of Israel but all are enablers of those who do.
Zionism originated as the movement to build a modern Jewish state in part of the ancient Jewish homeland. Israel soon became a refuge for Jews from around the world — including the hundreds of thousands who were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries after World War II. They and their descendants today constitute half Israel’s population. No one is demanding their “right of return” to Iraq, Egypt, Libya or Lebanon.
To be a Zionist now means supporting Israel’s right to survive, and Israelis’ right to defend themselves from Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic State, al Qaeda and others whose intentions are openly genocidal. By implication, that also tells us what it means to be an anti-Zionist.
• Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.
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