Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Women and Children First

This is the JINSA take on the "disappointing" turnout Hamas generated for its protest against Israel not letting it bombard the civilians in Sederot with Kassams with absolutely total impunity.

The big, much-ballyhooed "human chain" across Gaza was a big bust - an interesting bust, but a bust nonetheless.

About 20,000 Gazans took part, less than half the number Hamas called for and less than participate in a good Gaza funeral. Media reports attributed the low turnout to the rain - and indeed, there is nothing quite as nasty as cold February rain in a Mediterranean city.

There is, as usual, a contrarian's view - a more hopeful one.

The Hamas principle was women and children first. Not into the lifeboats or out of the burning building, but first to face the beefed-up Israeli military forces on the other side of the Gaza border. Maybe Gaza's women and children didn't want to go first, and so they didn't go at all. Maybe, absent the ability to shop as they did when they burst through the Egypt/Gaza border, they stayed home. Maybe, one can hope, some of Gaza's men were uncomfortable or humiliated to be told to march behind the women and children and so they stayed home.

Hamas rules Gaza with an iron fist and everyone there has been set against everyone else. Israel faces daily shelling with ever more precise rockets, and Gilad Shalit remains a prisoner of Hamas in violation of international law. But beyond that, the manager of Gaza's only Christian bookstore was abducted and killed; the YMCA library, which had been a resource for Muslim as well as Christian high school students, was burned to the ground; Hamas TV encourages children to hate and kill (recently they were encouraged to "bite and eat" Danish people); gangs of Hamas teenagers are encouraged to fight gangs of Fatah teenagers. Gaza is an outpost of bloody misery and anarchy - last year's civil war ousted Fatah leadership, but a great many Fatah members remain stranded there.

One might hope Palestinians would ask themselves on occasion how they descended into this abyss. Part of the answer would be that they were given lousy leadership in the form of Yasser Arafat and his gang brought from Tunis under the Oslo Accords; they inherited lousy leadership in the form of Abu Mazen when Arafat died; and they elected lousy leadership when they chose Hamas. All of this - including allowing Hamas, a terrorist group, to run for election - was done with the active participation of the American and Israeli governments. The result has been the isolation, radicalization and impoverishment not only of this generation of Palestinians, but the ruination of the next as well. Children taught what these children are taught will not become healthy adults, if they live long enough to become adults at all.

Maybe the low turnout was due to some dawning recognition in Gaza, as there was in Anbar, that a radical, terrorist government will devour its own as well as its enemies. And maybe in Gaza, as there was in Anbar, people will look for a way to throw out that which they had previously accepted. The unfortunate difference may be that when the people of Anbar were ready, American forces were there to help affect the change. The Palestinians have little hope of rescue from their own folly and their own jailors.

On the other hand, let's not ascribe too much intellectual understanding to the Gaza civilians - maybe it was just the rain.

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