With Israel in retreat from Gaza, perhaps it is time to bury cliches, as well as the dead. So many op-eds on Israel’s behalf have told us that Israel “loves life” more than the enemy does; that Israel’s army is the most “humanitarian” ever; that Israel’s real objective is the military equivalent of immaculate conception — shock and awe, while retaining total innocence.
True enough, but Jewish readers of these pieties should keep in mind Israel is far from the first country to try to spin the absence of victory into virtue. Historically, it is not the winners who brag of their virtue; losers do.
After the American Civil War, it wasn’t the North but the defeated Confederacy that developed the cult
of the Southern gentleman, exemplars of chivalry and propriety in contrast to the barbarians that burnt Atlanta.
When the British were losing their empire, the loss was explained, as in the title of one book about Egypt, “No Country For A Gentlemen,” the gentlemen being the British, of course. The British would have you believe they could have kept Palestine, too, but the Stern Gang didn’t fight fair, they weren’t gentlemen.
Rather than feeling grand when reading about how much more civilized the Israelis are, and therefore how handicapped Israel is against Hamas, readers might want to consider whether or not it is a good thing that Israel’s self-portrait in the media is that of the “helpless gentleman,” a character closer to Ashley Wilkes than to Winston Churchill.
Media fairness, in fact, requires Jewish readers to consider sources in the Arab media that dispute the notion that Arabs are oblivious to their own death, and that the Israeli attack made Arabs more supportive of Hamas than before.
In the Jordan Times (Jan. 19), Nermeen Murad writes, “We need to ask the ‘resistance’ movement whether it has reached the outcome [for which] it sacrificed 1,400 innocent Palestinians. Is human life more, or less, valuable than land, and even more relevantly, more important than the reins of power?”
In Kuwait, Lidia Qattan writes in the Arab Times (Jan. 14), “young children are dying, their life truncated by the greed, arrogance, false pride and narrow-sightedness of the fighting parties.” That’s plural, blaming Hamas, too. “Resorting to violence to regain one’s right is more a sign of weakness than bravery. The strong is the one who thinks ahead of consequences, and adopts other means than violence, to regaining back his rights from a stronger adversary.”
An editorial in the Arab Times (Jan. 5) stated, Hamas “has led the Palestinians to hell and made them face Israeli armor.” Was Israel “condemned” by the world? The Arab Times doesn’t think so: “Israel has successfully convinced the U.S, European Union and other countries to support its cause amidst divisions in the Arab region.”
Some American op-eds have suggested that Hamas has Gaza’s loyalty because it offers “social services.” On the contrary, said the Arab Times. Considering all the suffering, “Hamas seems to have offered nothing to its people. Hamas will be held accountable for their lies…”
Hamas, said the Kuwait editorial, “used the media to spread half-truths from their hideouts at the expense of innocent children, women and elderly … If Israel is killing our people in Gaza, the crimes of [Hamas leader Khalid] Meshaal and his followers under the pretext of resistance are much worse, because they have encouraged Israel to kill the people and destroy Gaza by firing rockets. That gave Israel the right to lobby for international support to defend its people.”
Has Israel’s war united Arabs behind Hamas? No, says the Gulf News (Jan. 18): “The collective Arab response to Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip has been polarized and fragmented.”
No, agrees Huda Al Husseini writing in Asharq Al-Awsat (Jan. 17). “The protests that have been taking place around the world demonstrate support for the people of Gaza; not one banner showed support for the Hamas movement.” (There are photos that dispute that). Al-Husseini charges that Hamas’ “rejection of the peace process has played a key role in destroying any hopes for peace when it began suicide operations in April 1994 … Propaganda does not feed anyone or satisfy hunger … The Palestinian people in Gaza are the ones who are dying and [who] elected Hamas on the basis that it would rescue the people from the corruption of Fatah, and provide them with a decent life, not embroil them in a disproportionate war.”
Does Israel have to worry about American pressure? No, the Arabs feel the pressure. Beirut’s Daily Star (Jan 14) noted that the U.S House of Representatives voted 390-5 for a resolution affirming “Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza.” A day earlier, “the Senate overwhelmingly supported Israel … a routine reaffirmation of the chokehold that Israel enjoys over the elected representatives of an otherwise healthy democracy.”
Does Israel need fear a U.N. scolding? No, says an editorial in the Gulf News (Jan. 18). Editor Abdul Hamid Ahmad writes that “Israel has again shown the entire world that it is above everything and everyone — the UN, the international law … the entire planet stands powerless … What is the power that Israel has, but other countries do not? Why is there unlimited sympathy for Israel, even when it massacres children and the innocent in the repeated wars it has waged on Arab states?”
The Saudi Gazette (Jan. 19) knows that “Hamas has been firing its rockets into Israel from Gaza for some eight years. Firing those rockets has accomplished absolutely nothing. They have killed a small handful of Israeli civilians during that time, a travesty in and of itself no matter what one’s position on the larger issues is. Killing civilians,” says an editorial, “has earned no favorable attention to Hamas or the Palestinians and is never likely to do so.” The rockets “were designed as provocations and … provoked an Israeli response.”
The Saudi paper adds, “What kind of political party conducts itself in such a way so as to guarantee the slaughter of its own people?”
Of course, every Arab paper has a loathing of Israel, but there’s no question that Hamas is far more vulnerable in the Arab world than Jewish conventional wisdom might suppose. Yes, there are martyrs-in-waiting but there is also an Arab mainstream, reflected in their media, where real human beings feel pain and a definite sadness, and they blame Hamas. They don’t believe that Israelis are gentlemen or chivalrous. If anything, it was Israel’s brutality that did the trick, bombing that mainstream into introspection.
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