The National Catholic Review

The Israeli reprisal in Gaza is brutal but that does not justify the moral ignorance of protesters in European capitals and even New York City who condemn the Israeli reaction and not the action to which it was a response. (One protester on Fifth Avenue carried the sign, "Death to all Juice" but his intent was clear.) In the year coming to a close, Hamas has launched some 1,500 missiles into Israel, indiscriminately killing Jewish and Arab civilians alike, a figure I have not seen on my front pages but one which puts the Israeli reaction in some kind of perspective.

Pope Benedict XVI has called for an end to violence but how is that to be achieved? Reading the newspaper the last two days has been heart-rending in every regard, but the most chilling news had to be the intentional bombing of a university. This is chilling because we know that it bespeaks a truth we would rather not face, namely, that it is not poverty or deprivation that produces terrorism, but a political culture infected with millennial sensibilities. The terrorists who attacked America on September 11, 2001, like their brethren in Hamas, also had degrees to match their hatreds. We would prefer to think that injustice or poverty breeds terrorism because these we can alleviate, but defeating a political ideology and its manifestations is a more complicated task.

In World War II, the Allies recognized that only the complete defeat of the Nazi regime would ensure peace in the long-term. Negotiating with Hitler would not put an end to the horror because Hitler was the problem. This appears to be the calculation of the Israeli government about negotiating with Hamas: How to try and resolve outstanding issues with a regime that has repeatedly and demonstrably indicated that it does not want peace with the Jewish state? Destroying Hamas may be the only option.

But, as America learned in Vietnam, sometimes defeating a regime that has a repulsive political ideology but has co-opted the loyalties of the nation proves impossible. The Vietnamese communists became the vehicle for Vietnamese nationalism and the United States involvement only strengthened the communists hold on the nationalist mantle. It is not clear that the Israeli action might not have a similar effect. Opposition to Hamas was growing within Gaza and it remains to be seen whether the Israeli attacks will break Hamas or break the opposition.

The Israeli action has not moved the Arab governments in the region to defend Hamas. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have nearly as great an interest in Israel’s defeating the terrorists as Israel does. They know that there is no negotiating with these fanatics even while they overlook their own complicity in stoking the anti-Israeli fires over the years.

Of course, there remains one very simple way to break the cycle of violence in the Mideast: The Palestinians must unequivocally accept Israel’s right to exist and abandon their hopes for turning back the clock to 1966. As long as the Palestinians insist on half of Jerusalem, they will never have complete control of Nablus. And until their universities stop being recruiting grounds for terrorists, those of us who live in countries that insisted on the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany should be careful about condemning Israel.

We all want to break the circle of violence. But, Pope Benedict XVI, perhaps more than most, knows the nasty consequences of mixing fanatic ideology with politics for he witnessed those consequences as a young man. Hamas and its allies bring eschatology where Hitler brought the Occult mixed with Wagnerian Germanic mythology, but the effects are the same: a regime that is a curse for its own people and its neighbors. Peace can only come when Hamas is defeated.



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Anonymous | 12/31/2008 - 10:24pm
So Hamas just shot a few ''snow balls'' at Israeli ''windows''. I wonder how would John Stangle deal with those ''snow balls'' if they were shot at his windows? Would he just smile with understanding and distribute sweets to the dears? Probably not. Three years ago Israelis left Gaza. They took their army, evicted the settlers from the houses in which they were living for years, removed the roadblocks and stopped ''humiliating'' the Gazans. Instead, the Palestinians took this as a sign of weakness, elected Hamas, a terror Islamic organization whose openly declared goal is to destroy Israel. Since then, Hamas have lobbed thousands of missiles, mortar shells and other ordinance into Israeli territory. While Israel showed an exemplary restraint Hamas continue it's provocation. The Israeli PM even appeared on Arab TV stations to implore for the continuation of the truce but without any success. Prior to the expiration of the current ''hudna'' or ''tahdiya'', the Hamas warlords arrogantly declared that they will not renew the truce and shot at Israel at a rate of eighty missiles per day. Their arrogant statements and displays made it quite clear that they are spoiling for a fight. Therefore a fight is what they got. Now they are crying and whining. A little late it seems.
Anonymous | 12/31/2008 - 10:25am
It's OK for Hamas to lob thousands of rockets into Israel. Perfectly understandable, a lot of you think. Well it's not right, and Israel cannot continue to tolerate having their civilians terrorized daily. Hamas must acknowledge Israel's right to exist and promise to cease all attacks. If it does these two things, Israel will stop any attack and allow their state all rights. I am convinced that Israel must defend itself. The Palestinians could prosper with Israel's help and support, if they're willing to be peaceful.
Anonymous | 12/31/2008 - 7:41am
I agree with Valerie. However more inportant what of the Palestinians and the "right of return"? While a shared capitol in Jerusalem is the only reasonable way to eliminate one of many sticking points. The "right of return" is a far more complicated issue that One hopes someone is working on.
Anonymous | 12/30/2008 - 11:26pm
Re comment 3: Considering that the goal of Hamas is approximately the same goal that Hitler had concerning the Jews, comparing Hamas and Hitler is pretty accurate.
Anonymous | 12/30/2008 - 11:20pm
Thanks for the incisive commentary. I've been listening to BBC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and it's frightening how distant the reporting is from reality. Not one mentioned the 1500 missiles Hamas fired during the ceasefire. The typical snotty comment I hear is something like "home made rockets that rarely cause any fatalities" as if this somehow excuses the Hamas' action or intent.
Anonymous | 12/30/2008 - 10:56pm
well, as i recall the Catholic Church was none to opposed to Hitler, at least for an unseemly while, nor Franco's fascist regime. I wouldn't look to the Catholic Church for matters of personal or geopolitical morality if i were you...
Anonymous | 12/30/2008 - 7:53pm
I think Mr. Winter makes an essentially sound point here in terms of how one can deal with a group that mixes fanatical ideology with politics and, yes, race hatred. That's a pretty apt description of Hamas, which all on its own decided to break the cease-fire truce, knowing full when that if they did it nastily enough they would provoke a counter attack in self-defense by the Israelis. Hamas also knew, and therefore positively desired and wanted there to be civilian casualties, wo they could use their own flesh and blood as propaganda pieces, not even seeing fellow Palestinians as human beings, but simply means to their own fanatical ends. Gene Fisher
Anonymous | 1/6/2009 - 5:02pm
The point of the article is not to equate, per se, either side morally with Hitler. As per usual, we got the, "No, you're just like Hilter!" responses. The point is that you can't negotiate with the delusional. Hitler's was motivated by goofball ideas of the superiority of the Aryan race and of the German people. The Hamas militant's actions are primarily motivated by the afterlife and a belief that Israel should not exist at all. I wonder how people can so easily take sides, as if one or the other could "just" do this or that. The situation is a tricky one. It would be nice if they both didn't have legitamate claims to the same territory (unfortunately boned up from the start by the Brits). But they do. Hamas wants no Israel, implicitly avowing extermination, if they had the power. Israel takes no crap, believing that any show of weakness leads to more violence towards their own people. People seem to need to find the bad guy, as opposed to appreciating complexity. If it were that easy, folks would have fixed it by now.
Anonymous | 12/30/2008 - 1:33pm
Thank God someone gets it.
Anonymous | 1/1/2009 - 12:00am
Here is the one fact the article simply ignores and what tells you the 'sensibilities' of the author: as of January 1st, the Israeli government has killed 402 Palestinians while wounding an additional 2,098. Those are the numbers Mr. Winters cannot bring himself to write while he tells you about the 1500 attacks that have caused the deaths of 3 Israeli civilians and one soldier. I guess we know what his 'fanatic ideology' would lead him to ignore.
Anonymous | 12/31/2008 - 10:48am
Mr. Winters' use of the Nazi analogy is ironic, just as Israel's ongoing massacre in Gaza is dripping with historical irony. Mr. Winters compares Hamas to the Nazis in WWII, and even opines that "destroying Hamas may be the only option." Sounds a lot like "the final solution" to me. And tell me, which party in the present mess is using the overwhelming military means of state to exterminate hundreds of defenseless civilians at a time - civilians, I might add, who are corralled in a ghetto from which their movements and supplies are controlled by the military party? Ironic that the very people who were the victims of apartheid and genocide in WWII are now inflicting the same atrocities on their own neighbors. Israel has become the Nazis. Sadly, for a Jesuit publication, Mr. Winter is also apparently unaware of the distinction between just war and just actions in war. While Israel does have a right to defend itself, its slaughter of women and children is unjustified and indeed, illegal. If my neighbor sets my garage on fire, am I entitled to kill his entire family? I think not. In the end, Israel's actions are not just illegal, but counter-productive. Rather than eliminating Hamas (which had sunk to Bush-Bloagojovichian popularity levels amongst Palestinians before the ongoing slaughter), they have revived them. At the same time, Israel is demonstrating - just as it did in Lebanon in '06, and just as Bush, et. al. demonstrated over the past eight years - that cowboy diplomacy does not work, and that might does not make right.
Anonymous | 12/31/2008 - 9:49am
In Philadelphia there is a strong organization of Jewish people fighting for a free Palestine and for peace in the middle East. Every week they are on Walnut street. I was fortunate enough to meet these courageous people and I attended one of their meetings in 2004: there was a special guest, a young Israeli boy run away from Israel not to face prison. His crime? He did not want to join the army and kill Palestinians, he thought the political position of Israel wrong and was ready to face prison(like many young Israelians) and exile. I say this because I don't think these people could be accused of antisemitism. Even the Professor of Hebrew at Upenn once publicly declared the necessity to stand for a free Palestine. It is safe for me to stand beside these people and protest together with them, without being accused of racism! I guess the argument in the first comment could be reversed: why shouldn't Palestine be allowed to exist, and Palestinian children be allowed to grow up in a free land? Btw, just in case you were wondering, Fulvia is not an Arab name.
Anonymous | 12/31/2008 - 9:06am
The Arab/Israel problem is largely one of America's making going all the way back to the "Restoration Movement" in the 1820s. It was American Congregationalists that fostered Zionism, which fostered the Israeli state which gave us this endless, geotheocratic bloodshed. Without U.S. support, Israel would wither and die but Jews, Christians and Muslims all have a spiritual attachment to this tiny, benighted parcel of real estate.
Anonymous | 12/31/2008 - 3:55am
Gee, Steve, you simply don't or won't get it. You cannot make peace a group that has declared quite openly that your destruction is what is wants, really.
Anonymous | 12/31/2008 - 3:40am
Events in Gaza the past few days makes us feel like we're watching a re-run of a bad movie. It is no more likely that Israel will "defeat" Hamas today than it was that they would "defeat" Hezbollah in Lebanon. The problems will not submit to military solutions. In fact, these organizations welcome the Israeli military reactions. Hamas makes the Israelis itch by firing missiles, and pretty soon the Israelis scratch the itch in the only way they know how, with the result being a bloody wound.
Anonymous | 12/30/2008 - 7:08pm
Damn it. I must be naive. It is so simple. Let Israel exist. They are part of this earth. They have a right to exist. What nation has not fought for that right? I am sure that once you sit down and come to terms you will be able to live in peace and harmony. Israel has gone far and beyond to come to terms. And I am sure that they will continue to do so. That is why Hamas etc., must be defeated. People on both sides will continue to die. God, this has been going on since ancient times. Wake up! It will never end. We must strive to protect life, not destroy it. Allah, Jehovah, Christ, Buddha etc., did not professed nor preached martyrism to destroy life, but to protect it. Respect life. Learn to live with one another. If you cannot love one another, then lend a hand. Respect each other. As simple as that. In comparing Hamas to Hitler, Mr. Winters was just trying to make a point. That you cannot mix fanatical idealogies with politics. It has and it will kill inocent people. And it falls upon us, the more saner and realistic people to stop these idiots by giving them ultimatums. Either you stop and come to terms or we will stop you with whatever means it takes. Sadly enough, to the bitter end. Even though we have alot of differances in the U.S, we find the way to co-exist and respect each other's beliefs and idealogies. So why can't they? It is as simple as that.
Anonymous | 12/30/2008 - 5:33pm
Michael, undoubtedly it is horrible for the Israelis who have to endure the rocket attacks on their villages, which occasionally actually hit someone but always cause fear...but the Gazans have had to endure complete shutdowns of transports of food and medicines for months now because of Israeli intransigence. We are so polite in the U.S. that we cannot imagine getting to the point of responding with such force against the violence against the very real violence against our children on a daily basis, as the Palestinians do in Gaza, with their feeble attempts to fight back against the obviously overwhelming force of the Israelis (with the help of the U.S government, as always). Holy Father, stay away!
Anonymous | 12/30/2008 - 3:32pm
Wow!! Comparing Hamas to Hitler. It seems whenever some die hard advocate can't think of any rational argument they compare the other side to Hitler. I guess if you "condemn" Israel then you support Hitler. The Pope has condemned this violence. Does that mean the Pope supports Hitler. This argument is totally inane.
Anonymous | 12/30/2008 - 2:10pm
You know, every so often we read about some old gezer who takes his shotgun and blows away the kids who have been throwing snowballs at his house and otherwise bothering him. Do you get the analogy?

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