Last January, Hamas won an overwhelming majority in parliamentary elections for the Palestinian Authority. The victory of this terrorist organization, whose explicit goal is to wipe Israel off the map, has shocked the world. Why are the leaders of the Western world so surprised by this development? Why did Hamas win, despite the predictions of all the experts?
The leaders of the Western world are surprised because Israel has gone to great lengths to pacify the Palestinians, withdrawing from Gaza and surrendering control of the area over to the Palestinians. Israeli leaders expected the Palestinians to respond to this withdrawal by ceasing their terror attacks against Israel.
The assumption underlying this policy of appeasement was that the Arabs living in Gaza and the West Bank merely desire independence from Israel, and that terror is just their way of pressuring Israel to pull its army out of these territories. The Israeli occupation, it is said, has made life very difficult for the Palestinians. Israeli soldiers continuously patrol the area and Palestinians have to go through lengthy security checks when they travel. Once Israel pulls the settlers and soldiers out of the territories, the Palestinians will be able to achieve independence and will have no reason to continue terrorist acts.
However, Israel’s policy of appeasement failed miserably. Instead of pacifying the Palestinians, the withdrawal from Gaza has only strengthened their aggressiveness towards Israel.
Immediately following the withdrawal, Hamas launched a public celebration of its “victory over Israel.” Claiming that their attacks drove the Zionist enemy out of Gaza, Hamas distributed posters exhorting more Arabs to support their organization and join their ranks. Its leaders declared that they would respond to this retreat by expanding their war against Israel.
Over the months since then, Hamas has consolidated control over the Gaza Strip. Thousands of new recruits have flocked to its green banners. Hamas has armed its vast terrorist army by smuggling weapons into Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah border crossing–which Israel opened as a peace offering to the Palestinian Authority. Fugitive terrorists have found asylum in the Strip, along with specialists on terrorism and missile technology sent by Iran, the group’s primary source of funding. This strengthening of Hamas led, ultimately, to its victory in the elections. Israel’s retreat from Gaza has given Hamas the power and the public support it needs to launch a third Intifada.
The appeasement policy has achieved the exact opposite of its intended results, because this policy was based on a mistaken premise. Contrary to the wishful thinking of Israeli leaders, Arab terrorists want a lot more than an end to the occupation.
The Arabs’ terror-war against the Jews started in the 1920s, long before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, let alone its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967. Israel occupied these territories in the Six Days War as a direct response to Arab aggression. Following the occupation, Israel enabled the free passage of Palestinians from the occupied territories to Israel. However, following the 1987 Intifada, Israel applied some restrictions on Palestinians’ entry to Israel as a measure of self-defense, and these restrictions increased in direct proportion to continued acts of terror by Arabs. Similarly, the IDF actions in the territories are increased after each new wave of attacks on Israel. The difficulties of living under the occupation were entirely self-inflicted by the Palestinians, when they forced Israel to take these defensive measures. The Israeli occupation and the restrictions on Palestinians are the result–not the cause–of Palestinian terrorism.
By embracing Hamas, the Palestinian Arabs do not aim merely to drive Israel out of these territories and form their own state. While gaining control over as much of the land as possible is certainly one of their goals, their actions follow from a much deeper motive. The organization they have elected to lead them was established for the sole purpose of destroying Israel. Hamas leaders vow that they will not stop until this goal is accomplished. Suicide bombing is not only their immediate tool of getting more land; it is also the best weapon they currently have to kill as many Jews as possible.
Hamas’s call for the annihilation of Israel is not some “extreme misinterpretation” of Islam. The Muslim religion requires the total submission of the individual’s mind to God’s will. It demands the regimentation of life under Islamic law. And the Koran commands the death of those infidels who dare to resist.
Israel, in contrast, acknowledges the right of each individual to think and live for himself. Although a Jewish State, its secular system of government protects the rights of all citizens, regardless of creed or race. Israel is an island of reason, civilization and liberty within a sea of blind faith, primitivism and tyranny. The Muslim world hates Israel not in spite of its values, but because of them. The very existence of Israel is a reproach to Islam. Consequently, the Muslim world can settle for nothing less than Israel’s destruction.
The Gaza withdrawal has not only provided the terrorists with an immediate reward for their aggression, but has also emboldened them to continue fighting for the total destruction of Israel. More appeasement will only encourage more terror, until the Israelis have nothing left to give.
Israel has the right to exist for the same reason that Muslims want to destroy it: because it protects the rights of its citizens–including its Arab citizens–to live freely and pursue their happiness. Instead of apologizing for its success and giving more power to its avowed enemies, Israel must assert its right to exist and defend itself.
The leading candidate for Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, is planning to forge ahead with further withdrawals and concessions, planning to apply Sharon’s policy of disengagement to the West Bank. Instead of continuing the appeasement policy by handing the West Bank over to Hamas, Israel must take a stand and fight back.
Corinne Bloch has a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in biology. She is currently working on a Ph.D. in neurobiology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Ph.D. in philosophy at Tel Aviv University.