True Peace in the Middle East
by Ak'Bar A. Shabazz (bio)
It seems the longer hostilities between Israel and Hamas militants controlling the Gaza Strip drag on, the more public opinion will turn against Israel. Too many Palestinian civilians are hurt and dead.
Shock and awe over civilian casualties is exactly what Hamas wants, which unfairly penalizes Israel for actions for which both sides deserve blame. Hamas seems to find the propaganda value of civilian deaths as strategically important as their supply of rockets and bullets.
While Europeans gets lathered up over Middle East unrest, Americans tend to yawn. There is little love here for Hamas. Americans identify with the Israeli government's steadfast desire to protect its citizens. Current events are considered yet another chapter in an endless cycle of violence.
A similar detachment appears to be shared by the combatants. Hamas uses hospitals, schools and other civilian centers as hiding places for personnel and weapons at the peril of innocent bystanders. Israel similarly shows little hesitation targeting suspected Hamas weaponry in spite of the risk of collateral damage.
Israel may gain a strategic victory by eradicating such targets, but Hamas scores a propaganda victory if something such as an apartment building is destroyed and residents are killed.
Recalling lessons from the 2006 conflict in Lebanon, Israeli leaders should realize it's almost impossible to completely prevent vigilante action in urban areas, and even more difficult without hurting civilians.
Most likely, this will end in a cease-fire and stalemate - and many, many dead.
Israel will likely be excoriated abroad, perhaps even by members of the new Obama Administration. If Hamas survives and continues to fire artillery and missiles into Israel - the reason for the incursion - they effectively will have won. A future incursion cannot be discounted. Round and round it goes.
Peace should be obtainable, but not this way. It should go without saying that Hamas is not a legitimate partner to peace. It is little more than a street gang posing as a political party. Like the radicals running Iran, its leaders seek to destroy Israel and spread a repressive and violent version of Islam throughout the Middle East and the world. They further seek to silence moderate Muslim voices who have always disagreed with them and their interpretations.
While many would like to interpret the Obama victory as a complete repudiation of the policies of the Bush Administration, it's apparent that there needs to be an infusion of good old-fashioned American liberty in the Middle East as was sought during the Bush Administration.
The fact that Obama retained Robert Gates as his Secretary of Defense validates this Bush-era mindset.
Violent gangs cannot be considered legitimate political parties. Equally unacceptable is when basic rights such as the right to move, travel, vote and own property can be taken away at any given moment - things most Americans take for granted.
Hamas must be delegitimized, dismantled and stripped of any so-called "recognition" it may have gained in the past. It was a huge mistake for the Bush Administration to treat the 2006 election any differently than if the Disciples, Vice Lords or some other street gang suddenly began running for office alongside the Democrats and Republicans in Chicago.
This, however, doesn't leave Israel off the hook. Although it is an important regional ally, its military operations and treatment of a minority Arab population should be held to American standards. If the Israelis allowed freedom of legitimate movement, commerce and property, it would severely discredit the terrorists and give Palestinians something to cherish and protect.
Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and other moderate Muslim countries with good relationships with Israel can also assist by supporting truly free elections. Any subsequent re-emergence of the militant factions met by a coalition of Muslim countries would blunt public scorn from being directed solely at Israel.
Peace can be achieved. The roadmap to peace can be found right here in this country.
# # #
Ak'Bar A. Shabazz is a member of the national advisory council for the Project 21 black leadership network and president of Shabazz Enterprises. Comments may be sent to [email protected].
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints
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