Most Mid East leaders know reality of Hamas - West must catch up

By Richard Kemp, August 21, 2014
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Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal

Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal

Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batsh complains that Israel is trying to break the Palestinians' will. That is precisely what Israel should be doing. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are, by their own decision, at war with Israel. And in war, the primary objective must always be to shatter your opponent's will to fight.

Israel's greatest constraint in its efforts to break Hamas's will, and thereby secure peace, is the unwillingness of the international community to recognise the true nature of the conflict.

So many fail to see that in its truce demands, Hamas is not looking to achieve freedom or greater prosperity for the people of Gaza. It's not that Hamas does not care about its civilian population. It does - and its care is defined by the utility of its people as weapons of war against Israel.

Many can be pressed into service as cannon fodder or for digging tunnels. But the main role of the people of Gaza is to bleed for the cameras. Their purpose is to pile on international pressure against Israel, to foment and intensify anti-Israeli and antisemitic hatred in the Middle East and around the globe.

Since coming to power in Gaza, Hamas has not used funds and resources provided by the EU, the US and other Western nations to improve the lot of the civilian population. Its priority has always been to build a war machine to attack Israel, including the construction of a vast underground city.

And in its present negotiations in Egypt, Hamas does not want open borders, free movement of double-use materials, a seaport and an airport for the benefit of the citizens of Gaza. It wants them to build up its arsenal and facilitate the annihilation of Israel.

Meanwhile, the Western world is horrified by footage of Iraqis lined up and shot in the back of the head by Islamic State terrorists in scenes reminiscent of the Nazi Einsatzgruppen; outraged by forced conversion and massacre of Yazidis; and stunned by the decapitation of a US journalist by a British-accented jihadist.

Yet few seem able to comprehend that the very extremist ethos that drives the barbarians who are subjugating ever-expanding swathes of Iraq and Syria, and who threaten Jordan and Lebanon, also drives Hamas. The difference is not in the depth of religious fanaticism or the extent of bloodlust, it is only in current tactics.

Consequently, the same political leaders, commentators and human rights groups that demand something must be done to curb the horrific excesses of the Islamic State are fostering its equivalent in Gaza. What Western governments cannot see, many governments in the Middle East can. Countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan understand that Hamas and all it stands for is a threat not just to Israel but also to them.

As Hamas continues to break ceasefire after ceasefire by launching rockets at Israel's civilian population, the Israeli government will continue to respond with military force. It has no alternative - to defend its people and its territory is every government's inalienable obligation. When civilians die as a result, world leaders should hold to account Hamas, the group that caused and willed these deaths, rather than instinctively pile ill-judged pressure on Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu cannot and should not make concessions to Hamas that reward the aggression that has killed nearly 2,000 of its people and some 70 Israelis, and would undoubtedly lead to the deaths of many more. And the international community should not try to press him to do so.

Western leaders must do their best for the immediate needs of the people of Gaza. But in the long-term interests of both Gazans and Israelis, they must also do everything in their power to undermine and delegitimise Hamas, and demilitarize the Gaza Strip. Hitherto, the actions of the EU, the US and the UN in particular have frequently strengthened the hand of Hamas. By so doing, they have contributed to the bloodshed in Gaza.

Richard Kemp is a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan

    Last updated: 1:23pm, August 21 2014