On Thursday, March 6th, I attended a briefing on Capitol Hill sponsored by the New America Foundation, which served as a venue for a number of congressmen, notably Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), along with New America Foundation Scholar Daniel Levy to discuss their observations after returning from a recent trip to Gaza. Despite having traveled to both Gaza and Sderot during their trip, the congressmen showed video only of ruined Gazan buildings, which their translators and guides claimed were factories for “ice cream and biscuits” and a “daycare” destroyed by Israeli fire. They told also of visiting the American School in Gaza, which was struck by Israeli fire. Of course the long proven track record of Hamas’ use of these civilian centers as launching pads for terror was never once mentioned.
Both Congressman Baird and Congressman Holt recalled visiting the site, and both found idyllic textbooks “blown to smithereens” amongst the rubble. A curious similarity which recalls the Hezbollah propaganda of placing toys amongst the rubble during the Second Lebanon war, a tactic which was exposed by internet bloggers, but ignored by the mainstream media.
All the Gazans, encountered, were “friendly,” “uninterested in politics,” and not “anti-American or even anti-Israel,” according to the congressmen. In fact, as the Representatives themselves said, they encountered no Hamas members, or Hamas propaganda, or textbooks inciting hatred anywhere in Gaza. Not that, it seems, the Congressmen would have been much dismayed if they had found Hamas members, or seen its vile propaganda. Several times during the discussion the terrorist group was described as a, “constituency-based” organization without objection by any participant, as if the terror group were any other political party in the world. How many “constituency-based” organizations have charters calling for the extermination of another race of people, or throw their rivals off the roofs of buildings, or shoot members of the opposite parties in the leg to cripple them, as was widely reported of Hamas both during the August 2006 take-over of Gaza and during the Israeli operation in Gaza respectively?
Instead the panel participants took pains to emphasis, “Hamas is not Al-Qaeda.” And while it’s true that the two organizations have differences and disputes regarding tactics and priorities, their Islamist ideology, and their goal of a world based on Islamic Shariah, are fundamentally the same.
While the tragic shelling of Sderot and the Western Negev was mentioned, it was only in passing, invoked as shield of equivalence against accusations of bias, in the formulation that “there is wrong on both sides,” as though suffering 7,000 rocket and mortar attacks, and enduring the frustration of waiting at border crossing terminal, are morally equivalent. Suicide bombing was attributed to a “lack of hope,” rather than to the myriad of sermons, television programs, textbooks and other incitement which openly encourages children to become a shaheed.
In conclusion the panel urged that Gaza-Israel border crossings be opened to traffic to a greater extent under the ludicrous proposition that by allowing greater road access, it will somehow diminish illegal tunnel traffic. In addition there was support for the proposition that a unity government be formed between Hamas and Fatah, and that the U.S should deal with that Palestinian government. Instead of discussing ways that U.S humanitarian and reconstruction aid for the people of Gaza might facilitated while being kept out of the hands of Hamas, as the United States is both morally, and legally obligated to do, the conclusion was to, in effect, legitimize Hamas as a player with which we can do business.
Stretching the Definition
Facing Down Iran
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