Monday, December 05, 2005

Palestine and the "War on Terror"

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I just watched a documentary where a journalist embedded with Hamas toured the Israel/Palestine borders with militants and their political figureheads. It painted a stark, terrifying picture of a brutal conflict that is spiraling further and further out of control.

One of the highlights was meeting an individual patrol militant, a young man in his early twenties who spoke emotively about the murder of members of his family:

Each and every night he kisses his mother goodbye because he might never see her again, a rather large, smiling woman who sheds a tear as she clutches her son tightly... and then, carrying his machine gun he ventures out onto a patrol carrying missiles and bombs. He loves his gun... with his gun he has protected civilian Palestinians, and helped "liberate" them in the Gaza Strip.

At one stage on the patrol, within a mile of the Israel border, three members of the Palestinian Authority emerge trying to discern whether the militants intend to launch missiles into Israel. Assured that it is a purely defensive mission, they leave laughing happily amongst each other. The Palestinian Authority members are outmanned, out gunned, and have absolutely no authority whatsoever. Neither do they have a political constituency.

The parallels between Hamas and the support the IRA retained in N.Ireland is profound. Election after election is being delayed by the Palestinian Authority because Hamas representatives are projected to win. Hamas is the only effective security force for Palestinian citizens… it provides social work, healthcare, and financial assistance for victims of Israeli bombing campaigns and other forms of persecution. Just like Catholics in N. Ireland had no other place to turn than the protection of the IRA, Palestinian civilians feel exactly the same way. At one point in the documentary a released Hamas prisoner returns to his town, greeted by thousands of celebrating men, women, and children.

The role of Hamas in Palestine is fundamentally informed, not by Islamofascism, or the hatred of the United States, but by their violent conflict with Israel, in which both sides bear some responsibility. The root cause of the terrorist threat we face in the west is not the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and it would be naive to reach that conclusion, but the catalyst, and political fuel for Islamic terrorism begins and ends in Palestine. That's where the infrastructure and political ideology justifying violence and homicide spreads from. The problem for peace and progress is that the leaders of Hamas are cynically capitalizing on the weakness of the Palestinian Authority. Why are we not funding this legitimate government properly? Why are we not providing them with everything they need to assert their authority?

N.Ireland proves that deep seated hatred informed by decades of conflict is irresolvable. Paisley and Adams detest each other as much today as they did in early 90's or 80's. But, via the political process, and the commitments to ceasefires and the laying down of arms, the circumstances that future generations will be born into will be different... a child in 2020 will not grow up with bombs and persecution. The deep seated hurt on both sides can only be healed within that context by future generations.

You cannot defeat Hamas. You cannot kill every Hamas terrorist. The more you kill, the more innocent people get hurt, and in the long run the more terrorists you create. You have to establish a functioning political process and show people that their grievances can be far more effectively expressed and resolved without the need to resort to violence. But, for this to be effective we have to think beyond moral absolutes, sacrifice absolute justice, and give people reason and security to lay down their arms.

Because, in this picture below, it is the weaponry and commitment to violence ... not the expression of faith… that we are at war with.

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