Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why Hamas Can't Win

Why Hamas Can't Win

By Antonio C. Abaya

Written on Jan. 14, 2009

For the Standard Today,

January 15 issue

At least not in the short or medium term. Meaning, in the next three to five years. But beyond that, all bets are off.

In its January 19 issue, TIME magazine devoted its cover story to "Why Israel Can't Win." The writer, Tim McKirk, who does not have a Jewish name, argues that "The offensive in Gaza may degrade Hamas' ability to menace southern Israel with rocket fire, but, as with Israel's 2006 war against Hizballah, the application of force won't extinguish the militants' ideological fervor….."

I do not think the Israelis are unaware of that point. What the Israelis are trying to do is to buy time for more moderate Palestinians to come to the fore and accept a two-state solution that would give the Palestinians their own homeland or state, and at the same time allow the state of Israel to peacefully co-exist with it.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, made up largely of Arafat's Fatah, has come around to that point of view. Many important Muslim countries – Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, all formerly hostile to Israel – have since accepted the existence of Israel as a fact of life.

But the Hamas, which defeated the Fatah in Gaza elections in 2006 and then drove Fatah out of the Gaza Strip, maintains the traditional hard line position that the State of Israel must be destroyed and the Jews driven to the sea.

Not by coincidence, a view loudly and publicly shared by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs of Iran, and by eminent non-state entities such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and various Islamic militant groups all over the Muslim world.

Given such a hostile and belligerent next-door neighbor, Israel cannot be blamed for maintaining a strong military position.

By firing more than 500 rockets and missiles into towns and cities in southern Israel over the past three weeks, Hamas was deliberately provoking the Israelis to react with maximum force, which the Israelis did.

If the MILF or the Abu Sayyaf or some other Islamic secessionist group were to fire 500 Katyusha rockets into Zamboanga City from their hideouts in Basilan Island, wouldn't or shouldn't the Philippine armed forces react and retaliate with maximum force as well, assuming that it had such force in its arsenal?

In 1962, when the Soviets started positioning ballistic missiles on the island of Cuba, less than 100 miles from the state of Florida, the US government under President John F. Kennedy mobilized its nuclear might to confront the Soviets, with the implied threat that it was ready to go to (nuclear) war unless the Soviets removed their missiles.

I do not recall if the liberals at that time pilloried Kennedy for the "lack of proportionality" in his reaction, given that the Soviets had not even fired a single missile.

Of course, the present Gaza crisis did not start with the Hamas firing rockets into southern Israel in late December 2008. That was, claim the Hamas and its liberal allies, a reaction to the land and sea blockade that Israel imposed on Gaza years ago.

But that blockade in turn was the Israelis' response to the smuggling of arms into Gaza from Syria and Iran. Without the blockade, Hamas militants would have acquired more lethal and sophisticated weapons, the kind that the Hezbollah used against northern Israel in 2006.

The whole Middle East crisis is one of blame and counter-blame, retaliation and counter-retaliation, but it all boils down to: who really owns the land that the Jews and the Arabs have been fighting over since 1948, or sixty long years ago.

By now most of Palestinians now living have never seen the land that their parents and grandparents claim was theirs. Similarly, most of the Israelis now living have never known any other land than the Israel that they know as home. So who owns the land?

In my article Who Owns Manhattan? (Oct. 23, 2001) – archived in – I asked : "Who owns Manhattan? Is it the descendants of the Manhattan Indians who were its early inhabitants before the coming of the white man?

"Or is it the descendants of Dutch settlers from the Dutch West India Company who had bought it in 1626 from the Manhattan Indians for beads, cloth and trinkets worth $24 in today's money and named it Nieuw Amsterdam?

"Or is it the descendants of the British colonists who forced the Dutch out in 1664 and renamed it New York?

"Or is it the descendants of the American revolutionists who took possession of the city (from the British) in 1783 and later made it the capital of the new United States of America…"

The answer, of course, is: The land belongs to whoever can maintain sovereignty over it. And that means establishing a working government, promulgating a regime of law and order, making possible the growth of an economy based on commerce and industry, and successfully defending it against the incursion or invasion by outsiders or the revolts of domestic malcontents..

By this criterion, Hamas cannot win the argument since they have effective control over only a very tiny portion of the disputed territory.

If earlier occupation were the sole or main yardstick for ownership, then Manhattan and the rest of continental America would belong to the descendants of the Cherokees, the Sioux, the Blackfeet, the Chippewas, the Navajos, the Apaches, the Pueblos and dozens of other Amerindian peoples; the whole of Latin America would belong to the descendants of the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Incas, the Quechas, the Aymaras, the Caribs, the Guaranis and dozens of other Amerindian nations; Australia to the Aborigines, New Zealand to the Maoris, South Africa to the Hottentot pygmies, Hokkaidp in Japan to the Ainus, Siberia in Russia to the Sibirs.

Sarah Palin's Alaska would belong to the Inuits. Which would be a good thing for her since her husband is half-Inuit, and she is more qualified to be Ice Queen of the Inuits, than vice-president or president of the USA.

By the same token, Mindanao would belong to the lumads, not to the descendants of Muslim settlers from Borneo or Christian settlers from Panay and Ilocos. And Central Luzon would belong to the Aetas.

And, yes, the disputed territory of Palestine or Judea would belong to the Jews since their ancestors, with the same ethno-linguistic and religious identity as the present-day Jews, lived there for at least two thousand years – interrupted by involuntary vacations in Egypt and Babylon - until they were driven out by the Romans in the year 70 AD, almost six hundred years before the birth of Islam.

But, of course, in the long term (beyond five years) Hamas can win. But that's for another article. *****

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