Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hamas's Inevitable Israeli Apologists

First published in the Jewish Press.

The election of Hamas to governance of the Palestinian territories was met with general dismay in the West and broad declarations of a boycott against the organization until it recognizes Israel’s right to exist and conclusively abandons its terror war against the Jewish state.

Yet many in Israel, and Israel’s supporters elsewhere, worried that Western governments would soon begin to ignore Hamas’s genocidal rhetoric, its support for ongoing terror and dedication to Israel’s annihilation, and would seek to establish relations with the Hamas government and provide it international aid. Russia’s prompt reaching out to the Hamas leadership only reinforced such concerns.

The anticipated Western compromises with principle have not been long in coming. In recent days, for example, Norway announced that Hamas representatives would be visiting Oslo and meeting with government officials, and France’s President Chirac insisted the international community must pay the salary of the Hamas-led Palestinian regime’s employees.

Those interested in Israel’s welfare should be no less worried about inevitable concessions to Hamas from another direction –– voices in Israel that will seek to rationalize Hamas, downplay its genocidal agenda and its threat, and promote Israeli contacts with the new Palestinian government.

Indeed, some Israelis were doing so preemptively in anticipation of Hamas’s election victory. In late January, days before the vote, left-wing journalist Uri Avnery rhapsodized about pleasant contacts with Hamas supporters, urged negotiations with Hamas, saw no good reason to avoid such talks, and blamed Israel for blocking the path to peace.

Shimon Peres has suggested that the only pre-condition for negotiations should be Hamas’s refraining from violence.

If the past is any guide, Israeli voices both calling for talks with Hamas and blaming Israel for the absence of progress toward peace will grow more numerous and shrill. Moreover, they will inevitably advocate for accommodation of Hamas not only in Israel but in Europe and America as well. And they will convince some there to follow their course, while they will be used by others abroad –– individuals, groups and governments –– to justify those others’ own inclinations to appease Hamas.

This will be so no matter how tenaciously Hamas adheres to its annihilationist agenda. Indeed, no attackers of Israel, however genocidal their rhetoric or however aggressively they have translated their rhetoric into bloody assaults, have failed to win themselves Israeli apologists. (Thus, for example, the recent inauguration of a Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University was picketed by some TAU faculty who defended the Iranian regime and protested its being tarred as radical, anti-Semitic and terror-supporting.)

For, as is almost inevitable within chronically besieged communities, the very fear the attackers instill and their constancy in pushing the attack virtually guarantee that some among the besieged, in their desperation for relief, will seek to rationalize the threat, insist the enemy can be reasoned with, and promote accommodation and concessions that they delude themselves into believing will end the threat.

This has been a recurrent phenomenon in the history of the Jewish Diaspora, and it has been a constant in Israel in the face of the persistent Arab siege.

Israeli apologists for Hamas have existed for as long as the organization has been engaged in anti-Israel terror. Pro-Hamas apologetics were somewhat muted during the Oslo years, but only because those Israelis supportive of Oslo –– including members of Israel’s pro-Oslo governments –– were eager to whitewash Yasir Arafat and his Palestinian Authority. They sought to cast Hamas and Islamic Jihad as the anti-peace camp determined to sabotage Oslo through violence, in contrast to Arafat’s supposed dedication to compromise and peace.

Oslo-era governments and their followers pushed this line even though they were fully aware of Arafat’s collusion with Hamas in its terror campaign, his open praise of Hamas and its martyrs, and his encouraging of Palestinian youth –– in PA media, schools and mosques –– to emulate those martyrs’ path.

But even during the Oslo period, Hamas had its Israeli defenders. For example, the late Ehud Sprinzak, then a professor of political science at Hebrew University, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in October 1997 titled “How Israel Misjudges Hamas and Its Terrorism.” Sprinzak explained that Hamas’s suicide bombings were simply a response to “humiliating Israeli actions,” cited approvingly Hamas statements to this effect, and criticized Israeli leaders for seeking to “demonize” Hamas. Sprinzak was silent about Hamas’s explicitly declared objective of pursuing to the end Israel’s destruction, a reality he preferred to ignore.

Hamas will no doubt remain true to its genocidal agenda and continue to promote and pursue Israel’s extermination. With no less certainty, some Israelis will engage in apologetics for those who want to destroy Israel, and their op-eds will appear not only in Israeli media but in the The Washington Post and New York Times as well.