As Israel goes deeper into Gaza, and intensifies its bombardment of Hamas in Gaza City, a chorus is beginning to be heard: Israel is now committing war crimes; the conditions of the people there constitute a humanitarian crisis; the only solution is negotiations with Hamas for a cease-fire that will give Gaza’s beleaguered and innocent population breathing space to begin rebuilding its shattered city.
As awful as the situation in Gaza is, an important point was made today by law professor Irwin Cotler of McGill University. Cotler shows that Hamas is violating six different provisions of established international law: deliberate targeting of civilians; attacking with rockets from within civilian areas; abusing humanitarian instruments to launch attacks, such as using ambulances to transport weapons; public incitement to genocide; and the recruitment of children into armed conflict.
Cotler’s main point: The situation in Gaza is tragic, but “there has to be a moral and legal clarity as to responsibility. When Israel responds and civilians are killed because Israel is targeting an area from which rockets were launched, then it is Hamas which bears responsibility for the deaths, and not Israel.”
Despite Hamas’ actions, foreign policy experts like Richard N. Haass, president of The Council Foreign Relations, believes that diplomats can easily reach an agreement. As he sees it, the final outcome is clear: “Hamas will agree to stop firing rockets into Israel; the Israelis will pull back their forces from Gaza.” It all seems so doable to Haass. All it takes, he thinks, is to learn the lessons of the agreement in Northern Ireland that led the IRA to give up armed struggle and work within the political system. It worked, according to Haass, because the British Army convinced the IRA that it could not “shoot its way into power.” And British diplomats showed the minority Catholics that they could get a fair deal by renouncing arms and embracing politics.
The problem with Haass’ analogy is that Hamas is not the Catholic population of Northern Ireland. They suffered from a lack of civil rights and access to scarce jobs, which were reserved for Protestants. Catholicism was not an ideology that vowed death to Irish Protestants simply for being Protestant.
Hamas has revealed that its goal is non-negotiable. Its very raison d’etre is to destroy Israel as a nation, and to kill Jews as a religious duty. Watch this video provided by Memri. Here you will see one Hamas leader saying “Killing a single Jew is the same as killing 30 million Jews.” Another vows that “the annihilation of Jews here in Palestine is one of the most splendid blessings.” As Marty Peretz writes, “they are not fooling.” And no one has put it as well as The Atlantic’s correspondent, Jeffrey Goldberg, who in yesterday’s New York Times wrote: Both Hamas and Hezbollah, fierce competitors for the Muslim’s allegiance, both “share a common belief that Jews are a cosmological evil, enemies of Islam since Muhammed sought refuge in Medina.” And like Peretz, he agrees that its anti-Semtism is sincere. As the Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan, who was killed by Israel a few weeks ago, told Goldberg: Jews “are a curse to anyone who lives near them.”
As for a cease-fire, any such act would be a tactical withdrawal until Hamas could achieve its final goal, eradication of Israel by the forces of Islam. Hamas, Goldberg concludes, “cannot be cajoled into moderation.” And so I ask Richard Haass, how will he and other diplomats- even skilled ones like Dennis Ross- show Hamas “they will get a fair deal by renouncing arms and embracing politics?” They can’t and they won’t be able to. That would only occur if the diplomats promised them that they can attain the destruction of Israel by diplomatic means and with the world’s cooperation.
Haas claims that “talking- negotiating-will deliver more than fighting.” Hamas does not want what Haass would like to believe they will accept: “a viable Palestinian state based on 1967 lines.” Fatah’s leadership might accept such a deal, but it is Hamas that is at war with Israel, not the Palestinian authority in the West Bank. One thing is certain; Haass’ dream that the “radicals [will] evolve and become more moderate” is a pipe dream, as is his hope that they will learn the only way to gain a Palestinian state is by “trading in their guns.” This is the erroneous thinking that led to their being allowed to run in the elections. The only Palestinian state they would accept is the one currently known as Israel-all of Israel, and not just a portion.
Diplomats like Haass say they want a Jewish State that remains “democratic, Jewish, prosperous and secure.” So do I, and so do most Jews. That goal, however, cannot be met unless Hamas suffers a major defeat from which it cannot recover.