Hamas is a bully aided by a bigger bully, Iran. And, just as strident and threatening human bullies get away with their aggression so long as no one calls their bluff, so Hamas has been getting away with murder and torture because the UN and many states won't call its two-faced self-portrayal as the victim in the piece. In the struggle to take over Gaza from Fatah, it went on a rampage that killed hundreds of Palestinians. Even during this most recent assault, in early January, it executed Fatah members for violating their house arrest. A few weeks ago, Hamas determined to hurt yet more of its compatriots by introducing Islamic hudud punishments to the Strip, from amputations and stonings, to crucifixions and hangings.
Like all bullies, it likes to taunt its victims. It did just that for years after Israel left Gaza, firing rockets every day into towns like Sderot or Netivot. No one who has dismissed these rockets as harmless homemade toys has ever had the guts to spend a few weeks in Sderot, scurrying from shelter to shelter. And, oh yes, it also built up an arsenal (supplied by Iran) of Grad missiles that certainly aren't anybody's toys.
Like all bullies, Hamas likes to make boastful threats. Its 1988 Covenant is replete with them. It threatens to destroy the State of Israel by violence and violence alone. It says it will never accept the work of conferences or peacemakers, and only jihad will solve its problems. Meanwhile, the Palestinians see their lives drained away in a culture that embraces death and martyrdom, their children exposed to a steady diet of military training and preparation for violent death as suicide bombers.
Even if the Palestinians want peace, Hamas won't let them have it, because Hamas knows best, and jihad "is the only solution." Don't believe me, read the Covenant. It likes nothing better than killing Jews, and the bigger bully in Teheran thinks that's a damn fine thing too. No one says a word, because the UN is dominated by the Islamic states, and the Western governments know where the oil comes from, and nobody likes the Jews much anyway. The people calling for the end of Israel while they march on the streets of London and Dublin aren't all Muslums by any means.
There can be no greater indication of this boastfulness than what has happened in recent days. Having taken a heavy battering from Israel, Hamas now proclaims a "great victory," and its supporters dance in the ruined streets of Gaza, drunk on their own demagoguery. For all its bluster, Hamas, like all bullies, is a coward at heart. Watch those films of Hamas gunmen dragging screaming children along with them to act as human shields, watch how they fire from behind the little ones, knowing no Israeli soldier will fire back. And even as they put their own children's lives at risk, they shout to high heaven that the Israelis are Nazis and the Jews are child-killers. This blatant pornography spreads through the Western media, and people never once ask "what does this look like from the other side," because they are addicted to the comforting news that the Yids are baby-killers as they'd always known, that they do poison wells, that no Christian child is safe come Passover. Hamas has become proficient at resurrecting the blood libel, just as its fighters use the Nazi salute, just as their predecessor in the 1930s and '40s, Haj Amin al-Husseini, conferred with Hitler about building death camps in Palestine and raised a division of SS troops in Bosnia to fight for the Reich.
We watch The Diary of Anne Frankon television, and some of us attend Holocaust Remembrance Day events, and others pay lip service to Jewish victimhood; we like our Jews emaciated and helpless under the SS boot. But the moment real Jews stand up and show themselves the stronger for all their deaths, it awakens an atavistic fear, and people recoil from them. Jews in uniform, how unseemly. Jews beating the bully, how unheard of. Jews with their own state, what upstarts.
IN MY home country of Ireland, we glamorize the great nationalist heroes who rebelled against the bullying forces of imperial Britain in the uprising of Easter Sunday 1916. In France, they venerate the heroes of the Resistance against the occupying forces of Nazi Germany. In Spain, they have not ceased to heap praise on those who fought against the forces of fascist bullies and lost. To stand up against an enemy bent on your destruction is everywhere counted an act of bravery. But not when it comes to Israel. In 1948 and 1967 and 1973 and 2006, Israel fought off overwhelming forces who made no secret of their plans for an imminent massacre of the Jews. But nobody now seems to care, no one lauds the courage the Israelis displayed, and no one praises the extraordinary restraint they showed in victory.
In a bizarre reversal of all their commitment to human rights and the struggle of men and women for independence and self-determination, the European Left has chosen again and again to side with the bullies and to condemn a small nation struggling to survive in a hostile neighborhood. It is all self-contradictory: The Left supports gay rights, yet attacks the only country in the Middle East where gay rights are enshrined in law. Hamas makes death the punishment for being gay, but "we are all Hamas now." Iran hangs gays, but it is praised as an agent of anti-imperialism, and allowed to get on with its job of stoning women and executing dissidents and members of religious minorities. If UK Premier Gordon Brown swore to wipe France from the face of the earth, he would become a pariah among nations. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatens to do that to Israel and is invited to speak to the UN General Assembly
Israel guarantees civil liberties to all its citizens, Jew or Arab alike, but it is dubbed "an apartheid state"; Hamas, ever the bully, kills its opponents and denies the rest the most basic rights, but we march on behalf of Hamas. The Left prefers the bully because the bully represents a finger in the face of the establishment? Almost no one on the Left has any understanding of militant Islam. Their politics is a politics of gesture, where wearing a keffiyeh is cool but understanding its symbolism is too much effort even for intellectuals.
I have personally had enough of it all. The whining double standards, the blatant lies, the way their leaders have forced Palestinians to suffer for 60 years because peace and compromise aren't in their vocabulary and because they won't settle for anything but total victory. Painful as it was, in the 1920s Ireland created a republic by compromising on the status of the North. Ireland subsequently became a prosperous country and, in due course, one of the hottest economies in the world. When the Israelis left Gaza in 2005, they left state-of-the-art greenhouses to form the basis for a thriving economy. Hamas destroyed them to the last pane of glass. Why? Because they had been Jewish greenhouses.
The writer is the incoming editor of the leading international journal Middle East Quarterly and the author of a blog entitled 'A Liberal Defence of Israel.'