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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.

Comments (27)

Excellent analysis and one ... (Below threshold)
Corky Boyd:

Excellent analysis and one of your best commentaries.

The best thing to do is to ... (Below threshold)

The best thing to do is to continue withholding aid.
Let them learn that actions have consequences. Just like good parents teach their children. Funny the Arabs are all brothers until they have to reach for the check. Or is it their arrogance that they insist that we subsidize them?

No doubt that for an encore the Globe will advocate that we stop trying to cut of AQ's funding. And the ISM will try to provide shields for AQ.

Yeah, look at at how well t... (Below threshold)

Yeah, look at at how well the embargoes worked when we tried that in Iraq.

Oh, wait a minute. It didn't work in Iraq.

Never mind.

(chanting) 'Don't overthrow... (Below threshold)

(chanting) 'Don't overthrow Saddam; let the embargoes work!!'

"Oh, wait a minute. It didn't work in Iraq."

Guess there wasn't a 'rush to war' in Iraq after all.

Who's the terrorist here? ... (Below threshold)

Who's the terrorist here? Hamas was elected and, as has been said many times: "Elections matter."

I agree with Brad. Election... (Below threshold)

I agree with Brad. Elections matter.

The Palestinian people chose a political party that explicitly (as opposed to implicitly) supports terrorist tactics -- this is as much a hostage situation as when a criminal poses an accomplice as a fake hostage. I used to feel sorry for the Palestinians, but my sympathy bled away years ago as I realized they had no interest in peace, except the "peace" that comes from death. And actually, a civil war between Palestinian factions might be less deadly for the Palestinian populace as a whole than an open war between the PA and Israel.

Who's the terrorist here... (Below threshold)

Who's the terrorist here? Hamas was elected and, as has been said many times: "Elections matter."

What is your point? Hamas was elected, so if we don't fork over money then we are the terrorists? Wrong. Elections matter, like you said, and the Palestinians elected a political party whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel. Therefore, that political party gets no funding from us. That makes us terrorists?

Great commentary Jay. We ca... (Below threshold)

Great commentary Jay. We can not denounce terrorism and then support it financially."YOU MAKE YOUR BED YOU LIE IN IT" COMES TO MIND.

What is your point... (Below threshold)
Mike G in Corvallis:
What is your point? Hamas was elected, so if we don't fork over money then we are the terrorists?

That's exactly what Brad means. "Enlightened liberalism" has come to this.

I think you need to use a t... (Below threshold)

I think you need to use a three point approach in the face of hostage taking, if you don't want to face it repeatedly. This approach needs to be stated publicly as non-negotiable policy, and then held to ruthlessly to be effective.

1. Give the hostages up for dead.

2. Use extreme, disproportionate measures to identify and kill the hostage takers and their masters.

3. Use extreme, disproportionate measures to frustrate the goals of the hostage takers and their masters.

It is horribly hard nosed, I know, and I don't know if I could stick to it if there was any personal involvement.

But, I think it would work, and would discourage the taking of hostages, since it makes the exercise a losing proposition. It is tough on the first batch or two of hostages - but it could serve to make them the LAST batches of hostages.

The passengers on Flight 93 made this decision, in a way - and I think their example did more for the safety of air travel than a thousand TSA's.

Hey Lee , have You sent You... (Below threshold)

Hey Lee , have You sent Your monthly union fees to Hamas yet? they cant afford the latest improvised explosive device without it! c'mon cough it up they're really hurtin this month!

Excellent commentary.... (Below threshold)

Excellent commentary.

Hamas has no interest in peace at all, but it is hardly a shock that they expected the western aid to keep flowing freely. After all, Arafat's Fatah never kept up their end of the bargain from Oslo. Terrorism and "infitada" were not restrained, and the cash kept coming.

The Palestinians are reaping the bitter harvest of the hate they've sown for the last 40 years or more. They dress their toddlers up as suicide bombers, and send their teenagers out as the real thing. If their bloodlust is now turned inward, each against the other, it cannot be said it is something they have not created themselves and richly deserve.

Perhaps the survivors will eventually choose life and peace over the Islamist death cult, but it surely seems there is no chance of that until after the coming civil war.

I'm still trying to figure ... (Below threshold)

I'm still trying to figure out why we in the West give any money to Palestinians when Arab countires are amongst the richest in the world?

"What the Globe is endorsin... (Below threshold)

"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."

No, no, and no a million times more.

The primary responsibility of any legitimate goverment is to create an environment where its people can provide for *their own* well-being.

Great Story, but the tactic... (Below threshold)
Fred Dawes:

Great Story, but the tactic is used here in the USA, Our people are hostages of mexico and its people. watch what happens in the USA Over the next weeks, its the start of a race and civil war here, that will end in the third world war, read Clash Of Civilization.

Truly a fine and perceptive... (Below threshold)

Truly a fine and perceptive post. But I can't agree that hamas has taken the palestinian people hostage, for in this case the hostages voted for their captors. Just as hamas must not shrink from the responsibilities of their governmental role (and we must not assist them in doing so), we cannot allow the palestinian people to complain of a sudden, convenient amnesia concerning who chose the current state of affairs.

We can send the Lee's and t... (Below threshold)

We can send the Lee's and the mak44 a/k/a the Marxist economist stuffed up the bunghole with Semtex to deliver the ransom payments. It's the only useful thing they will ever do for decent society.
A new spin to killing two birds with one stone.

Um, you might want to look ... (Below threshold)

Um, you might want to look in cubby Clam's ass first. Apparently he keeps his perscription drugs there.

Actually, Cuban Poop. Why don't you do something decent for society by enlisting in the US Army? You seem real good at armchair leadership. Surely you can put some of those skills to use in Iraq serving the country.

Actually, we should deal wi... (Below threshold)

Actually, we should deal with Hamas, but only under a specific circumstance. In fact, I hope that the Busth administration is dealing with Hamas (secretly, of course) right now.

Recall that Machiavelli tells us that any political movement that dominates its opposition and destroys it will itself split into two parts.

I have a feeling that Fatah's going to go the way of the dodo and the Whig party before too long. And once Fatah does die out, the dominant Hamas will itself fracture.

With luck, one of the Hamas fragments will be less militant than the other. Perhaps they'll only wish for Israel to catch a mild head cold, or something.

And once that faction emerges, the United States and the West needs to be there to nurture that faction and/or nudge it into political dominance. And given that, I hope there is back-channel communication with likely future Hamas leaders as I write this.


Hamas and Fatah: regular te... (Below threshold)

Hamas and Fatah: regular terrorist and lite terrorist. Please. let them kill each other off.
There are more than enough Arab countries in the world as it is. It's time to aid and encourage subjugated minorities like the Copts in Egypt and the Kurds to throw out the Arab oppressors out of their lands.

I agree that Hamas needs to... (Below threshold)

I agree that Hamas needs to publically state that they are in favor of a two state solution, and renounce their calls for the destruction of Israel. I think it will come. But in the meantime, I'm curious how you think they should be providing for the needs of their people when Israel collects the taxes for the PA and refuses to disburse the money while Hamas is in power?

This is one spot where the elections do matter. Israel is collecting tax money from Palestinian citizens and refusing to turn it over to the duly elected Palestinian Authority. I have no problem saying we shouldn't give additional aid until Hamas acknowledges Israel's right to exist, but let them have their tax money and reopen the crossing (with security) between Gaza and Egypt so they can buy food.

Eljay perhaps you haven't n... (Below threshold)

Eljay perhaps you haven't noticed but Hamas and Israel are at war. Don't you think it tad pretentious to expect the Israeli's to finance their enemies? Do you also expect that the US help finance AQ? The Palestinians elected Hamas, they deserve to suffer for their evil stupidity.
In the meantime lets demand an immediate end to the oppression of the Copts by the Arabs and their illegal occupation of Egypt.

Eljay, cubanbob is right. A... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Eljay, cubanbob is right. Ask Hamas and they'll tell you: they are in a state of war with "the Zionist Entity." So you have a non-state organization that just took control of a non-state authority declaring war on an actual legitimate nation-state, whose existence Hamas refuses to to acknowledge. It's the kind of twisted logic you only can get when you mix the UN with Islamist whackjobs.

That being said, Israel should NOT keep the Palestinian tax revenues for itself. And it's not. It's all going into an escrow account until something else can be figured out, because there's NO WAY IN HELL they should turn over money to Hamas. They already find enough money to commit their acts of terrorism.


Israel and Fatah were for a... (Below threshold)

Israel and Fatah were for all practical purposes at war, too. Fatah and Hamas both have the destruction of Israel as a goal listed in their charter. Israel turned over the tax revenues to Fatah for years, and the rest of the world provided aid to them. What, exactly, is the difference?

The Palesitinans elected Hamas because Fatah's leaders have been incredibly corrupt, skimming huge amounts of the foreign aid into offshore accounts and becoming rich while Hamas's humanitarian arm has funneled a lot of money donated by other Arab countries into building schools and medical facilities in Palestine. Of course they looked like the better deal to the Palestinians. The vast majority of those people are innocent schmucks being manipulated by the leaders for political gain.

So the money should just sit in an escrow account while people starve and riot? Why should they continue paying taxes? It will lead to a breakdown of whatever society is left there. Even without turning the money over to Hamas, Israel could use it to pay the salaries of teachers and administrators who are going unpaid now.

Regardless, my point was you can't have it both ways. You can't cut off all sources of income into a goverment and then ask why it isn't taking care of its people without asking for foreign aid. How can it?

Eljay your point is what: i... (Below threshold)

Eljay your point is what: if the Israeli's made a foolish mistake in turning over tax receipts to Fatah they should now continue the same mistake with Hamas? If the Palestinians starve, that is their problem. Not ours. If Arafat's widow would rather live in extravagant luxury in Paris while her people starve, that is not our problem. If Arab oil tick princes would rather spend their ill gotten gains on mega yachts and debauchery rather than feeding their brothers that is not our problem. If the Palestinians leaders would rather engage in power plays among themselves instead of feeding their people, that is not our problem.

The Palestinians are not poor innocent schmucks. Just schmucks. They can die, emigrate or become a real civil society and make a genuine peace with Israel that is their choice. Israel owes them nothing. In the meantime when will the Arabs stop oppressing the the Copts? Will the Arabs end their illegal occupation of Egypt?

Israel owes them the benefi... (Below threshold)

Israel owes them the benefit of the collected tax money. They don't have to give that money to Hamas, but if they aren't going to allow it to be used to provide basic government services in the Palestinian Authority, they should stop collecting it at all and allow the PA to collect the money and provide the services. They can't become a real civil society without funds. At least give them a chance.

Eljay, if you want to get s... (Below threshold)

Eljay, if you want to get someone to be nice to you, it helps your cause to stop shooting at them.
In the meantime according to the news reports I've read the Israeli's are applying the collected funds to past due utility bills owed to them. Power and water. Unless you expect the Israeli's to provide their enemies food, water, medical services and electrical power while they are being shot at.

Personally if it were up to me I would cut them off completely and apply the funds to war compensation. But apparently they are better folks than I am.
End the illegal and unjust Arabist occupation of Coptic Egypt!






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