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11.20.12

The Obscenity of Hamas

The group came to power not by the ballot box but by violence. Now its leaders are playing a cynical and deadly game. Bernard-Henri Lévy on why Israel has every right to defend itself.

Obscenity.

Let’s put things straight.

The Israel Defense Forces left Gaza unilaterally and unconditionally in 2005, at then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s initiative. Since that time, there has been no Israeli military presence in the territory, which has been, for the first time in history, under Palestinian control.

The people who govern the territory, who, by the way, arrived on the scene in June 2007 not by the ballot box but by violence, following several months of bloody conflict with other Palestinians, no longer have, with respect to the former occupying power, even the shadow of the territorial dispute that, let’s say, Yasser Arafat’s PLO had.

Arafat’s claims, like those of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today, may have been excessive, poorly formulated, or partially unacceptable. But at least they were there on the table and allowed for the possibility of a political settlement, a compromise. Here, in the case of Hamas, what is on the table is no more than naked hatred. No words, no issues are up for negotiation, just a rain of rockets and missiles fired in accordance with a strategy that, because it has no purpose beyond the destruction of the “Zionist entity,” is a strategy that one can only describe as open-ended war.

And when Israel finally realized this, when its leaders decided to break with months of restraint during which they had put up with conditions that no other world leader ever would have tolerated—when, noticing with alarm that the pace of the shelling had risen from an average of 700 firings a year to nearly 200 in a few days and that Iran had begun to deliver to its clients FAJR-5 missiles capable of hitting not only southern Israel but the very heart of the country, up to the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, they resolved to respond and to do so decisively—when Israel finally responded, what do you think happened?

The United Nations Security Council, which has rarely been so eager to sit on its hands as it has in recent months, convened urgently to debate not whether Israel’s response was proportionate to the provocation it faced but rather whether the country even had the right to defend itself.

Britain’s foreign secretary, who presumably would not wish to see southern England bombarded by an organization that had returned to the path of terrorism, threatened to punish the Jewish state for doing its job of protecting its citizens with the loss of the last traces of support that Mr. Hague sees fit to accord it on the international scene.

No words, no issues are up for negotiation, just a rain of rockets and missiles fired in accordance with a strategy that … one can only describe as open-ended war.

Europe’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, began by exculpating Hamas for attacks that had been mounted in part, she said, by “other armed groups” and could do no better than to hypocritically deplore the “escalation of violence” by two sides that she claimed to view as equally extreme, in the same way that, when viewed at night, all cows are black.

In France, the Communist Party has demanded “sanctions.”

The Greens, almost entirely silent on Syria, Libya, and the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the forgotten wars of Africa and the Caucasus, are clamoring that “Israel’s impunity must cease.”

“Pacifist” demonstrators, who, like the Greens, have stayed home when it was Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad doing the killing, took to the streets to declare their solidarity with the only party in Palestine that rejects the two-state solution, and thus peace.

Not to mention the conspiracy experts who, comfortably ensconced in editorial offices and think tanks, can see in all this only the devious hand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supposedly is happy to have a new war to facilitate his reelection. I will not rehash here the analysis of the polls taken before the crisis, which showed that Netanyahu was already heavily favored to win reelection. Nor will I bother to spell out for such people, in whose eyes Israel is always the guilty party, why I, if I were an Israeli citizen, would not support the outgoing coalition.

And as for reminding all these clever thinkers that, if there is a cynical ploy at the bottom of this new tragedy, it is that of a Hamas establishment that is prepared to keep raising the stakes and plunging ahead, a Hamas not only prepared but determined to fight to the last drop of the last Palestinian’s blood rather than lose power (and the advantages of that power) to its sworn enemies within Fatah. What good would such a reminder do?

Faced with this chorus of cynicism and hypocrisy, faced with the double standard by which a dead Arab is worthy of note only if his death makes it possible to incriminate Israel, faced with an inversion of values that transforms aggressor into victim and terrorist into resistance fighter, faced with this shell game in which the outraged of the world shower praise on a brutal and corrupt hierarchy that has shown no pity for the vulnerable, for women, or for minorities, and who press their own children into battalions of little slaves sent to dig tunnels through which to smuggle the profitable contraband that brings them even greater riches— faced with this abysmal ignorance of the true nature of a movement that embraces The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as one of its fundamental texts and whose leader, Khaled Meshaal, until recently, worked from a comfortable villa in Damascus, only one word really fits: obscenity.