Linda S. Heard
It’s indisputable that Hamas is winning in the court of global public opinion and understandably so, when almost 2,000 Palestinians have been killed, including over 440 children. The sight of toddlers’ mutilated bodies has even galvanized housewives in Kentucky to lend their support on social media to Hamas, which is becoming increasingly viewed as a group of heroic freedom fighters instead of the terrorist organization designated by the US, the UK and several other western nations.
Indeed, President Jimmy Carter is now leading the charge to legitimize Hamas as a political party, a move that’s gathering pace in some western political circles, although as long as Israel has Washington in its camp, that’s unlikely to happen.
Nevertheless, Israel is already suffering a backlash in terms of boycotts, divestments, an absence of tourism, which you know is on the brink of becoming a groundswell when American celebrities have been furiously tweeting anti-Israel slogans risking their names appearing on a Hollywood blacklist as several have discovered to their cost and when the Jewish billionaire George Soros was driven to sell his trust’s shares in Israel’s Soda Stream. Bolivia has gone as far as to label Israel “a terrorist state”.
As my regular readers will be aware, I’ve been a long time supporter of the Palestinian cause but I also stand up in defense of human values, which is why it pains me to witness pro-Palestinian activists and new sympathizers resort to the most virulent hate speech, anti-Semitic slogans and propaganda of the type Israel has long been rightly accused of disseminating. There’s an old saying that’s appropriate here. “When fighting the enemy, be careful of becoming the enemy you’re fighting.”
Suddenly, anyone who makes a stand in favor of Hamas gets a halo. An example is Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who resigned her senior ministerial position in the UK’s Foreign Office, citing a difference of opinion with her government on Gaza. Dare anyone point out that she admits to being a Conservative Friend of Israel or that her ex-business partner was a convicted criminal and member of the extremist radical group Hizb ut Tahrir or that she appointed the Muslim Brotherhood founder’s grandson to her Freedom of Religion committee!
Those truths are discarded by her new cheerleaders and anyone who utters them or suggests her resignation may have been motivated by last month’s Cabinet reshuffle and her demotion as Chair of the Conservative Party comes under attack. Bring up that she remained silent during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9 when 1,400 Palestinian residents of Gaza were killed and, again, in 2012 – and you are painted as a Zionist mouthpiece. For sure, truth really is the first casualty of war.
This phenomenon has a name. It’s called cognitive dissonance. People shy away from the discomfort of confronting two conflicting beliefs at the same time; they prefer to embrace nice tidy thought packages and black-and-white concepts. But there is nothing tidy about this 68-year-long conflict. There are no handy sound bites to sum up the Palestinian plight. And, sadly, when one side is bundled-up as all good and the other totally bad, the middle ground for discussion, true understanding and the need for compromise recedes into nothing and is replaced by raw hate.
Moreover, such willful one-sidedness is dangerous in that it shuts the door on moderation in favor of extremist views. It’s no accident that the black flags used by IS that’s been chopping off the heads of children and threatening Christians and Yezidis to convert or die by the sword in Iraq, were fluttering over a housing estate near London’s Canary Wharf a few days ago or that, on Saturday, some of the 150,000 – 200,000 marchers for Gaza who crowded London’s streets and squares were carrying Iranian and Hezbollah standards along with effigies of the Prime Minister calling for his “beheading”.
The British parliamentarian George Galloway, a man I used to admire for his pro-Palestinian and anti-Iraq War stance, has crossed the line of reason by calling for an Israel free constituency, even free of Israeli tourists; never mind that Israelis have joined the worldwide protests with banners such as “I’m ashamed to be Israeli” while several have destroyed their Israeli passports. Dislike of a nation’s policy should not be translated into wholesale racism by anyone in authority. I was also disappointed to find that a prominent Palestinian-American, whom I have long considered to be a friend holding moderate opinions, is now the managing editor of the Middle East Eye, investigated by the UAE daily The National for being under the sway of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Jazeera and which has been actively spewing anti-Egypt, anti-UAE propaganda.
Such romanticizing of Hamas is having a knock-on effect with all jihadist organizations reaping the benefits no matter how ruthless and bloodthirsty they may be. Yes, Israel must accept the blame for its disproportionate rampage and, most notably, for keeping 1.8 million Palestinians locked up for eight years in a prison camp called Gaza as well as putting a Palestinian state inside a coffin. But those Hamas leaders calling the shots from the safety of Doha and Beirut are no innocents either.
They’ve turned down at least six cease-fire proposals accepted by Israel and are refusing to stop rocket fire, an Israeli precondition to allow for the resumption of talks in Cairo.
Extremist shifts and the use of diabolical language to trade insults are resulting in burgeoning anti-Semitism throughout Europe and hardening positions on both sides.
Unless wisdom can make a come back, the Palestinians will gain nothing while terrorists of all stripes will enjoy the last laugh.