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April 24, 2006

Hamas continues fulfilling its mission—waging terrorism—so why is The New York Times shocked?

Dear Friend of FLAME:

Last week Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed nine innocent people, and the Palestinian ruling party, the terrorist group Hamas, promptly praised the act. Are you surprised? We weren't either, but apparently the editorial board at The New York Times was shocked, because they issued a top-of-the-column editorial that chastened Hamas for its "stupid" response.

On the one hand, we should be glad when the nation's most influential paper applies its influence to condemning the enemies of Israel and the United States---and we are. On the other hand, though, The Times' surprise at Hamas' reaction reflects an underlying naiveté that is downright scary, since it completely misreads the intentions and murderous threat of the Palestinians' new government. Before we discuss this disturbing Times editorial further, please read it yourself:

The Face of Hamas
New York Times, April 16, 2002

After the Palestinian election, the burning question was which part of Hamas would dominate the new government: would it be the political organization that provides a desperate people with vital services, or the terrorist group that advocates the violent destruction of Israel? Now we have the answer, in Hamas's monumentally cynical and dimwitted applause for the bombing that killed nine people and wounded dozens in Tel Aviv on Monday. In contrast, Israel's prime minister-designate, Ehud Olmert, has taken the high road, at least for now. Israel didn't launch a big reprisal attack. Mr. Olmert's office said Israel would instead revoke the residency permits of Hamas officials living in East Jerusalem, and the Israelis conducted raids in the West Bank and made arrests. Mr. Olmert's cabinet also approved a police crackdown on the smuggling of Palestinians into Israel, tightening what is an already tight noose around Palestinian territory.

That's really what makes Hamas's response to the suicide attack not just immoral, but stupid as well. The attack was presumably not carried out by Hamas; Islamic Jihad said it was responsible. But Hamas is no longer just a terrorist ally of Islamic Jihad. Last time we checked, it is the government of the Palestinian people. It cannot just sit on the sidelines and cheer terrorist attacks that were renounced by the same Palestinian Authority that Hamas now controls.

In a democracy, Hamas cannot reject positions ratified by previous Palestinian parliaments without first going back to the Palestinian people for a vote.

Hamas's support for terrorism encourages Mr. Olmert's strategy of a unilateral separation from the Palestinian people. It's a sure bet that if Israel carries out this separation without input from the Palestinians — as it is now doing — the Palestinians will not end up with enough land for a viable state.

Finally, lest Hamas forget, it is flat broke. The coffers it inherited from Fatah are empty, and both the United States and the European Union have rightly refused to bankroll a Hamas government that preaches and practices terrorism, denies that Israel has any right to exist, and refuses to abide by peace agreements signed by previous Palestinian governments. Hamas has received pledges from Muslim states — notably $50 million each from Qatar and Iran — to help make up some of the shortfall. But that doesn't come close to the $300 million the United States had pledged, and it would behoove Hamas to remember that the Gulf states in particular are notorious for not keeping their promises.

First, The Times' surprise about Hamas reflects profound ignorance of its own news reports over the past twenty years and of the very public mission statement of Hamas, freely available on its website (and in translation at The Times apparently thinks that despite hundreds of suicide bombings and rocket attacks on Israeli citizens and despite Hamas' publicly declared intentions to kill Jews and destroy Israel, the group is nonetheless primarily a social services organization, dedicated to the welfare of the Palestinian people.

Rather than give Hamas credit for being a highly focused political and military force dedicated single-mindedly to its Islamist mission, The New York Times patronizingly refers to Hamas as "dimwitted," because the terrorists don't see the world as liberal, peace-loving Americans do.

Earth to New York Times: Hamas vehemently proclaims that it is the mortal enemy of Israel and that it wants to kill Jewish people. They aren't dimwitted. To the contrary. They've proven to be extremely effective killers and very difficult to stop, even by the likes of Israel's world-class intelligence and defense services. Can The Times really believe that Hamas would transform itself because of an editorial scolding---especially one that so profoundly misunderstands and misrepresents the group's nature?

Next The Times gives Ehud Olmert a gold star for Israel's (so far) restrained response to the April 16 attack, implying that the 60-year-old Middle East conflict is basically a schoolyard squabble, whose resolution depends on "breaking the cycle of violence." The New York Times sounds like the Mideast's schoolmarm: "Just because he hit you, doesn't mean you have to hit him back."

For the same reason The Times refuses to believe that Hamas is acting with intelligence and evil purpose, it refuses to believe that Hamas is at war with Israel. But as we all can see and read, it is at war with Israel. Which, of necessity, means Israel is at war with Hamas and must defeat Hamas . . . or be defeated. Again, if there's one thing The New York Times' world news coverage over the last 100 years confirms, it's that a war is never over until one side wins and the other side is defeated.

In addition to The Times' patent failure to acknowledge the facts of the conflict between Israel and Islamic terror, its editors would block Israel from moving forward with the only option left to it---short of wholesale bombing of Palestinian cities---to achieve some level of security from suicide bombers and daily rocket attacks on its population centers.

Given the decades-long failure of the Palestinians to restrain terror attacks against Israel and the Hamas government's sworn commitment to destroy Israel---nothing resembling a peace partner within a thousand miles---Israel has embarked on an intentional strategy of disengaging unilaterally from the Palestinians. That means a security barrier that protects Israeli citizens. That means sealing borders to Gaza and the West Bank from Palestinian workers. That means killing Palestinian terrorists and their leaders.

Does The New York Times really expect Israel to hold off protecting its borders and its people, including those in the disputed territories, until some day Hamas and the Palestinian people magically turn peaceful and reasonable? It would seem so.

Finally, The New York Times editorial reminds Hamas that if it doesn't make nice, the Palestinians are not going to get any more money from us nice, peace-loving Western nations. Which was exactly the logic that finally convinced Arafat. Brother Yassir figured out how to wangle billions of dollars from the West for decades by seeming to recognize Israel (though never removing the goal of destroying Israel from the charter of his Palestinian Liberation Organization) and by sitting through interminable "peace" talks, while never quite agreeing to peace, despite a dozen or more generous offers.

Understandably The Times editorial board feels better about giving money to villains who make noises about peace (no matter what they really think or do), than giving money to people who openly admit they are Islamist terrorists and anti-Semites, as Hamas does. But let's not repeat the history lesson Arafat taught us so painfully: Hamas should not receive a cent until it renounces terrorism, disarms the Palestinians' many terrorist militias, and recognizes Israel.

What is this penchant we humans have for denying the facts in the face of our beliefs? Of course it's nothing new. "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest," observed the singer/poet Paul Simon. The stakes are usually not so critical when we're talking business or social or love matters . . . but when we're considering national security---life and death of a nation and its people, whether here in the U.S. or in Israel---we ought to force ourselves to be rational.

When our enemy tells us they're fighting to create a world run by Islamist fundamentalists, when the enemy condemns all Jews as monkeys and tells its children to kill them, when the enemy persistently wages war through terrorist murder of civilians, isn't it time we take that enemy seriously? Come to think of it, isn't it time we fight back?

Best Regards,

Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME

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