The Israeli reprisal in Gaza is brutal but that does not justify the moral ignorance of protesters in European capitals and even New York City who condemn the Israeli reaction and not the action to which it was a response. (One protester on Fifth Avenue carried the sign, "Death to all Juice" but his intent was clear.) In the year coming to a close, Hamas has launched some 1,500 missiles into Israel, indiscriminately killing Jewish and Arab civilians alike, a figure I have not seen on my front pages but one which puts the Israeli reaction in some kind of perspective.
Pope Benedict XVI has called for an end to violence but how is that to be achieved? Reading the newspaper the last two days has been heart-rending in every regard, but the most chilling news had to be the intentional bombing of a university. This is chilling because we know that it bespeaks a truth we would rather not face, namely, that it is not poverty or deprivation that produces terrorism, but a political culture infected with millennial sensibilities. The terrorists who attacked America on September 11, 2001, like their brethren in Hamas, also had degrees to match their hatreds. We would prefer to think that injustice or poverty breeds terrorism because these we can alleviate, but defeating a political ideology and its manifestations is a more complicated task.
In World War II, the Allies recognized that only the complete defeat of the Nazi regime would ensure peace in the long-term. Negotiating with Hitler would not put an end to the horror because Hitler was the problem. This appears to be the calculation of the Israeli government about negotiating with Hamas: How to try and resolve outstanding issues with a regime that has repeatedly and demonstrably indicated that it does not want peace with the Jewish state? Destroying Hamas may be the only option.
But, as America learned in Vietnam, sometimes defeating a regime that has a repulsive political ideology but has co-opted the loyalties of the nation proves impossible. The Vietnamese communists became the vehicle for Vietnamese nationalism and the United States involvement only strengthened the communists hold on the nationalist mantle. It is not clear that the Israeli action might not have a similar effect. Opposition to Hamas was growing within Gaza and it remains to be seen whether the Israeli attacks will break Hamas or break the opposition.
The Israeli action has not moved the Arab governments in the region to defend Hamas. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have nearly as great an interest in Israel’s defeating the terrorists as Israel does. They know that there is no negotiating with these fanatics even while they overlook their own complicity in stoking the anti-Israeli fires over the years.
Of course, there remains one very simple way to break the cycle of violence in the Mideast: The Palestinians must unequivocally accept Israel’s right to exist and abandon their hopes for turning back the clock to 1966. As long as the Palestinians insist on half of Jerusalem, they will never have complete control of Nablus. And until their universities stop being recruiting grounds for terrorists, those of us who live in countries that insisted on the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany should be careful about condemning Israel.
We all want to break the circle of violence. But, Pope Benedict XVI, perhaps more than most, knows the nasty consequences of mixing fanatic ideology with politics for he witnessed those consequences as a young man. Hamas and its allies bring eschatology where Hitler brought the Occult mixed with Wagnerian Germanic mythology, but the effects are the same: a regime that is a curse for its own people and its neighbors. Peace can only come when Hamas is defeated.