At Large

Tragicomic Strip

What Hamas learned from Hezbollah.

By 1.12.09

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About fifteen years ago, a movie whose name does not bear (if I'm spelling that right) mentioning thought it humorous to invent an Israeli girl named Ariel Sharon performing in a Florida club as… er, an ecdysiast. Her stage name was, you guessed it, The Gaza Strip.

That gag has turned deadly serious in recent years. It began when the not-yet-noticeably-comatose Prime-Minister-qua-General of the same name stripped Israel of its de facto sovereignty in that territory. The idea was to get almost two million Arabs off Israeli land, while giving them an opportunity to make something of themselves. They could autonomously begin improving their lot, show the world how hep they were to the 21st century and create an impressive model as a forerunner for an ultimate resolution of the "Palestinian Problem."

What actually happened was that the Gazans elected Hamas, who evicted Fatah, destroyed all the industrial buildings Israel had set up earlier, and announced their version of the Final Solution. Turned out to be unoriginal; some Austrian guy with a funny mustache had thought of it first. The good news is Hamas does not have the firepower to destroy Israel. What it does have is the ability to lob rockets randomly into a sizeable segment of Israel, putting about a fifth of its population at daily risk of death showering from the sky.

In a landmark essay which unaccountably did not earn a Pulitzer, I explained in these pages in July 2005 the potential for the terrorists to win the War on Terror. They can do it by specifically limiting themselves to small random strikes. By forcing entire populations to live in fear, they are just as effective as powerful nations with huge arsenals. Does it matter to an individual citizen whether he is facing a nuclear bomb to kill him as one of a million or a penny-ante rocket to kill him as one of nine?

Why does Hamas behave so unreasonably? This question befuddles Western intellectuals. They assign this intransigence to fanaticism, zealotry, mob hysteria, whether religious or nationalistic. What they miss is the cunning rationality of the Hamas approach. Hamas is holding all of Israel hostage, not merely Gilad Shalit. Just as the Somali pirates are the single most effective economic force in the world today, Hamas is an effective political force by employing similar methods. Why feed your hostages when you can leave them at home and lob rockets in their direction?

The climactic "strip," however, comes when you goad the big guy into striking back. Hezbollah modeled this in Lebanon. They were an illegitimate group, internationally vilified, as they launched rockets into Israel day in day out for years. But when it finally struck back, blasting a lot of buildings and people into Kingdom Come, Hezbollah hunkered down and took Israel's best shot. Here and there, a school gets hit or a hospital, a big shelter with a bunch of families jammed in, and the international demand for a ceasefire becomes overwhelming. At the end of the day, Hezbollah emerged as a legitimized movement, now a faction within the ruling coalition in Lebanon.

Hamas expects the same, and the signs are all there confirming this strategy. Articles are cropping up everywhere about the inevitability of dealing with Hamas as a real international player. Why, shunning them has been a Bush policy, rendering it Neanderthal by definition. The new Obama broad-minded open-minded progressive inclusive hope-oriented change-inspired visionaries will not make the same mistake. They would no more leave Hamas out of deliberations of Mideast policy than they would leave Oprah out of decisions defining the future of American culture.

It would be funny if it wasn't so sad. The mean little guy torments the nice big guy with little pinpricks until the big guy finally slugs him. At that point, all the do-gooders show up to brush off the little guy and prop him up. Wagging righteous fingers at the big bully, they go back home, leaving the troublemaker rewarded.

The United Nations has settled all this with a resolution. Resolved: new elections must be held in Gaza forthwith; Hamas may not participate; the rocket scientists in Gaza need to hold their fire; Israel may blast away until such time as the above three are implemented. Oops, my mistake. That was actually my proposed resolution. But that would be serious, like a term paper on Solzhenitsyn. More entertaining to watch the strip show.

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About the Author

Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator.