Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Double Standard Israel Faces (and So Do We)

News of Israel's long expected strike into the heart of Hamas' power and influence in Gaza brings yet another round of Palestinian complaints of civilian deaths and the accompanying round of Israeli assurances as to the precision of their targeting and attacks. Does the world media hold Hamas to the same standard? Do "moderate" Arab governments who reflexively denounce Israel for its defense measures EVER criticize Hamas (publicly) for their indiscriminate use of rockets and missiles against civilian targets? No. We never see these things.

What really sticks in my craw are the breathless mentions of "mosques" as targets. Normally, the law of armed conflict treats mosques (and hospitals and other religious sites) as "no-go" zones for attack. Normally I say, because those sites lose this protected status when used as part of a war making operation. In the case of Islam, where civil and religious authority are mixed--by design--the extension of this status to mosques makes little sense. It is EXACTLY in the mosques where insurrection and mayhem are planned, it is in the mosques that weapons are stored and it is to the mosques that these miscreants retire after carrying out their attacks.

As we continue to confront this cross-civilizational enemy (that's right, I do see this as a "Clash of Civilizations"), we are going to have to understand the nature of the opponent better. Here are a few suggestions.

1. There is little or no distinction between the social, religious, and civil in Islamic society. "Render unto Caesar" makes no sense to a population who sees it all as being rendered unto God. Where we do see attempts to insert secular authority in Islamic lands, there is an inevitable tension between it and conventional religious authority. In fact, it is this tension that has given birth to many of the major Islamic terror organizations in existence today.

2. Not all civilians are innocent. Hamas exists and thrives due to a huge amount of support from the civilian populations into which it has woven itself. Part and parcel of that support is to have taken on a good many of the functions of civil government, providing an option for the local population as to whom they go to for services. We saw the extent to which Hizbollah exploited this relationship in Southern Lebanon a couple of years ago as Israel tried to defend itself from cross boarder attacks from Lebanon. Hizbollah and Hamas are not holding down terrorized populations; they are the heroes of local populations who see them as the authority in their jurisdiction. The civil populations are culpable in their own targeting.

3. It is in the Levant that our ongoing civilizational struggle will see its major theater of operations. Just as the Cold War was hot only through third party surrogates, we are unlikely to fight Iran and/or the world Islamic terror front head on. Israel is the dog we have in this fight, and we will have to continue to see to her defense and protection as a bulwark against Islamofascism.

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