Hostages to fate

One of the uglier situations in life is the hostage scenario. Threatening the innocent with harm or death is a powerful weapon, one that can — and does — give most anyone pause. It has a long and established history.

Originally, it was intensely personal. If you wanted someone to do something, you would threaten somebody they cared about. Family members were a good source of material.

In more modern times, though, as morals and ethics have evolved, you needn’t bother with finding someone connected with your opponent. Just some random innocents would work almost as well, being both easier to obtain and less likely to inspire a personal vendetta.

It’s a tactic that has gained much favor in the Middle East in the last few decades. One cannot hear the word “hostage” without almost immediately linking it to that region of the world. Israeli Olympic athletes, American embassy workers, and too many airliners full of passengers have indelibly linked “hostage” with the endless conflicts over there.

One element that is consistently overlooked is the tacit admission of moral inferiority by the hostage-takers. They are saying that “you value the lives of the inncent more than we do,” and even take a perverse pride in their callousness.

During the run-up to the first Iraq war, Saddam seized a ton of Westerners as hostages, placing them as “human shields” around sensitive military targets — a gross violation of the laws of war. Only the fact that at the last minute he relented and released them spared the US-led coalition the agonizing decision of whether or not to attack those targets.

One of the odder developments in the history of hostages is the emergence of that oddest of odd ducks, the human equivalent of the lemming, the willing hostage. These are those people who seek out the opportunity to be a hostage, who willingly place themselves along the hostage-takers in the hopes that their “innocence” will deter action. The tools of the International Solidarity Movement are the best exemplars of this, as they think they can end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by standing alongside the Palestinian terrorists and their facilities and hope that their whiteness and Western citizenship will give Israel pause in striking back. It is incredibly telling that the ISM tools (and that derogatory term is so appropriate, as they are cheerfully letting themselves be used and exploited by the terrorists) do not place themselves in harm’s way by riding Israeli buses or other likely targets of Palestinian terrorism. They are freely acknowledging that the Palestinians not only have no problems with killing innocents, but do so deliberately.

Today, we have two examples of the latest evolution of the hostage tactic. Iran, as I noted earlier, is threatening an entire nation with violence if the United States — or the rest of the world — does not permit Iran to continue its quest to possess nuclear weapons. They are freely stating that if any nation commits any act against Iran, Israel will be hit, and hit hard.

And in this morning’s Boston Globe, we have an editorial that calls for “humanitarian” assistance to the Palestinian people. The Globe says that to perpetuate our policy of no dealings with Hamas is punishing innocent Palestinians, citing specifically “children, hospital patients, and elderly pensioners.” They are calling for the West to bypass Hamas and put funding directly into the hands of Palestinian Authority employees, teachers, and health workers.

It’s a fine, noble, sentiment. It’s also incredibly stupid.

What the Globe is endorsing is to relieve the Palestinian Authority of the primary responsibility of any legitimate government: to provide for the well-being of its people. And make no mistake about it: after the elections, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are one and the same. Any distinctions drawn between them are utterly meaningless.

The West’s policy is simple: we do not deal with terrorist organizations. If one of those organizations should happen to take control of a government — even through apparently legitimate means — nothing changes. They are simply a terrorist organization that has made a stunning success.

There is a very simple solution to Hamas’ financial problems: they can stop acting like a terrorist organization and work on becoming an actual government. The first step would be to say they no are no longer committed to the destruction of Israel. A second step would be to exert some authority and cut down on terrorist attacks, such as the endless srtream of rocket launches, against Israel. One of the defining elements of a government is that it holds a monopoly on military power — there are no independent armies or police forces.

At that point, negotiations with Hamas would be possible — even appropriate.

At this point, though, Hamas is fully committed to its original, stated goal: the destruction of Israel and its replacement with an Islamist state. In the service of that goal, it is willing to do anything it can.

Hamas’ election was not a move towards legitimacy for them. It was a tactic. By taking the reins of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas has done the unimaginable: they have taken the entire Palestinian people hostage, and are demanding the rest of the world do what it ought to — provide basic services and sustain its people — while it continues on its only goal.

The Globe says we should pay the ransom, pick up the slack, and care for the Palestinian people in the ways their own freely-elected government refuses to do so. They say that if we don’t, it could trigger the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and an open civil war.

But let’s think about it. Would that be the worst possible thing?

A civil war among the Palestinians would pit Hamas against Fatah, with all the rest of the various and sundry terrorist groups picking sides and struggling for advantage.

In essence, the terrorism they have inflicted on Israel and other nations for decades would be brought home, and the Palestinian people would see — up close and personal — the carnage they have supported and cheered when inflicted on others. And while innocents would likely suffer, they would be inadvertent, not the deliberate targets they are now.

I believe that war is inevitable for the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is hell-bent on wreaking destruction, and has been for their entire existence. The only variables are when and against who.

Life is too often not about choosing between good and bad, right and wrong, but bad and worse. Finding the least worst option. And in this case, I think that between an open war between the Palestinians and Israel would be worse than a civil war between the Palestinian terrorist organizations.

The Globe wants to keep postponing this conflict as long as possible. I think that postponing it is only making it worse, like holding the lid on a boiling pot. Unless steps are taken to relieve the pressure, all you achieve is to make the inevitable even worse.

It would be nice if the Globe’s vision was right. But it would also be nice if the world was all sunshine and daisies.

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