February 1, 2006
Hamas Victory Has Brought Moment of Truth
By Ed Koch

The great Israeli statesman, Abba Eban, once said about the Palestinians that they “have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” He was so right.

At Camp David in July 2002, Yasir Arafat rejected then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer of Palestinian statehood in more than 90 percent of the West Bank and in Gaza with Jerusalem serving as a joint Israeli-Palestinian capital. That offer was viewed by most Israelis and many supporters of Israel around the world as far too generous. It is an offer that should have been accepted and, in all probability, will never be made again and shouldn’t.

Arafat’s reason for rejecting Barak’s proposal was that it required the Palestinian Authority to accept a provision that ended any expectation or right of Palestinians to return to any part of Israel from which they had fled in 1948. He said at the time that if he had agreed to that provision, he would have been assassinated. He was probably right to fear that fate. Now, nearly a year and a half after his death, Hamas has defeated Fatah, Arafat’s party, by a margin of nearly two to one. Since the Intifada began in 2000, Hamas has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis at the hands of suicide bombers. Hamas is committed to the goal of one Palestinian state “from the river [Jordan] to the sea [Mediterranean]” and seeks to eradicate the Jewish state of Israel.

The exiled political head of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, now in Syria, said after the election, according to The New York Times, “Hamas would not ‘submit to pressure to recognize Israel because the occupation is illegitimate and we will not abandon our rights’ nor would it disarm, but would work to create a unified Palestinian army” under its direction…and Meshal “defended attacks on Israeli civilians.”

The charter of Hamas says of historic Palestine “no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it.” That charter calls for “rais[ing] the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” The Times’ analysis reports “[The charter] calls for the elimination of Israel and Jews from Islamic holy land and portrays the Jews as evil…It describes the struggle against the Jews as a religious obligation for every Muslim.”

What are the options for the Israelis? One would be to join with those who say that Hamas doesn’t really mean it. The apologists cite the corruption of Fatah as an excuse for Hamas’ win in a democratic election and claim that Hamas will moderate over time, as it adjusts to governing. That’s what many Jews and Christians in Germany and elsewhere said of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. In those days, while trying to accommodate Hitler, apologists cited the Versailles treaty and its onerous provisions for reparations as excuses for the electoral success of Hitler who came to power lawfully in a democratic election.

Many Palestinians, like Iranians led by current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Islamic fanatics, support the statement of Osama bin Laden’s second in command, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who said of Jews, Christians, Hindus and others, “I vow by the One who raised the seven layers to Heaven (i.e. Allah) and who has beheaded tyrants that the leader of America has been thoroughly humiliated. Our heroes have defended this place. They have entered legend. Killing the infidels is our religion, slaughtering them is our religion, until they convert to Islam or pay us tribute.”

Israel and the rest of the world should take these fanatics at their word, just as Mein Kampf foretold Hitler’s plan for Europe, the Jews and the world. The Islamic fanatics whose views are often described as fascist -- and there are hundreds of millions of them -- have launched a war of civilizations: Islam against the West. This war will continue for a long time to come. In the minds of Islamic fanatics, Israel and the U.S. are at the top of the list of nations they see as standing in their way to victory.

The Times in its news analysis of January 30th, reported that, “At a conference in October titled, ‘The World Without Zionism’ …[the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] effectively called for wiping not just Israel off the map, but America too. ‘Many have tried to disperse disappointment in this struggle between the Islamic world and the infidels,’ he said. ‘They say it is not possible to have a world without the United States and Zionism. But you know that this is a possible goal and slogan.’”

The Times reported on the same day that in Baghdad, “Bombs exploded Sunday outside four Christian churches and the office of the Vatican envoy, killing 3 people and wounding at least 15, in a rare and seemingly coordinated set of attacks on Iraq’s dwindling Christian community.” The fanatics see most of the nations in Europe and elsewhere ultimately buckling and pleading for peace at any price. Europe will soon be tested when it is asked to continue to give the Hamas Palestinian regime millions of dollars in subsidies, most of which will be used to pay the salaries of those supporting or individually intending to commit terrorist attacks against Israel now, and later throughout in the world. Will they pay that tribute? I believe they will.

The only realistic option for Israel is not to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until the Palestinians in Gaza, where they have self rule, form a new government that arrests terrorists, disarms the population and proves that it has accepted the two-state solution. Its good faith must be evidenced not simply by words and by eliminating murderous covenants from their charter. It must be established by actions, and the passage of time proving the bona fides of those actions and words.

On the first occasion of an attack on Israel by Hamas, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has promised a response of great magnitude. In my judgment, that is exactly what is required. If Europe had reacted that way when Hitler marched into the Rhineland in 1936, he would never have marched into Poland in 1939 and begun World War II which exacted death tolls of an estimated more than 60 million people throughout the world. The Hamas victory has brought us to a moment of truth. The question is, will there be appeasement and a return to the era of Neville Chamberlain, or will the nations of the world stand up to the Islamic terrorists and defeat them, as Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt did the Nazis and Japanese.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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