There’s the story of the mother determined that her five-year-old child should one day be headed for a top college. She decided to pump him with new vocabulary words at every opportunity. When little Charlie came home from school one day, his mother promptly asked, “Charlie, what’s the difference between ignorance and indifference?” Totally uninterested, he shrugged his shoulders and muttered, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”
|David A. Harris|
At times, that’s the sense I get about today’s response to Hamas.
It’s as if there is an ignorance – perhaps a willful ignorance, perhaps just intellectual laziness – about what Hamas, which rules Gaza, really means. No, it is not just another political party in some far-off place, but something far more ominous.
Hamas was created in 1988. Its stated goal is the destruction ofIsraeland its replacement by an Islamic state. Let its covenant speak for itself: “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims. Let the eyes of the cowards not fall asleep.” Or another telling excerpt: “The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews [and kill them]; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!'”
Twenty years later, the covenant remains unchanged. Hamas, classified as a terrorist group by the U.S., European Union, Canada, and Japan, remains true to its mission. As Hamas has declared in repeated public statements, “Palestineis Arab Islamic land from the river to the sea, including Jerusalem. There is no room in it for the Jews.”
To view Hamas as a group fighting for nothing more thanIsraelto return to the 1967 lines – or as a credible negotiating partner – stretches credulity to the breaking point. Remember that when Hamas calls for an end to the “occupation,” it sees all ofIsraelas occupied, not just territories acquired in the 1967 war of self-defense.
And then there’s the indifference, as if the Israel-Hamas conflict was nothing more than, say, a Middle Eastern version of the Hatfield-McCoy dispute. You know, the notion that the parties have always been fighting, will always be fighting, and no one really understands (or cares) what they are fighting about.
The conflict is not about inertia, much less symmetry, equal responsibility, or that antiseptic “cycle of violence.”
Rather, it is a conflict with regional and global implications. Every nation with a stake in democracy, pluralism, and peace can ill afford to see Hamas achieve legitimacy, much less success.
The worldview of Hamas extends far beyondIsraeland the Jews. By its own words, it seeks global Islamic domination, the restoration of the transnational Caliphate, rejection of Western values, and the repudiation of basic human rights. It aspires to the “utter destruction” ofAmerica. Its closest allies are Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
Ask journalists about Hamas’ commitment to press freedom since it seized power. Ask the tiny Christian community in Gaza what life is like under radical Islamic rule. Ask women how much freedom they have, other than to produce children for the “cause,” as the Hamas Covenant stipulates. Ask gays what rights they have. Ask supporters of Fatah, who were pummeled and tortured in the violent Hamas seizure of power in 2007, how much latitude they have.
Ignorance and indifference may be tempting escape valves, but they don’t begin to solve the problem.
Israel today faces an entirely unique situation.
It is bordered by a rogue entity led by a group openly calling for its destruction, acquiring ever more advanced weaponry, cavalierly using civilians, including children, as human shields, and celebrating death and destruction in Israel.
Israelis a democratic nation that has repeatedly declared its commitment to a two-state settlement with the Palestinians, has a vested interest in a stable and prosperous Gaza, and goes to unprecedented lengths to avoid civilian deaths.
When has another nation at war contacted civilians on the other side in advance to warn them of impending strikes? When has another nation at war exported humanitarian supplies across its border to assist those on the other side? When has another nation at war continued to admit those on the other side in need of medical care to its hospitals?Israelis doing all three.
These actions speak toIsrael’s entrenched values as a democratic society. They speak to its desire to differentiate between Hamas, the sworn enemy, and the people of Gaza. And they remind us that the outcome of this conflict will have profound repercussions for the region and the world.