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The recent assassination of Sheik Saruman Yassin raises among some Americans the question at what point should we reconsider our rather blanket support for the Israelis and show a more even-handed attitude toward the Palestinians? The answer, it seems to me, should be assessed in cultural, economic, political, and social terms.
Well, we should no longer support Israel, when:
The United States of America is the only country in history to have defined itself as Judeo-Christian. While the Western world has consisted of many Christian countries and consists today of many secular countries, only America has called itself Judeo-Christian. America is also unique in that it has always combined secular government with a society based on religious values.
But what does "Judeo-Christian" mean? We need to know. Along with the belief in liberty -- as opposed to, for example, the European belief in equality, the Muslim belief in theocracy, and the Eastern belief in social conformity -- Judeo-Christian values are what distinguish America from all other countries. That is why American coins feature these two messages: "In God we trust" and "Liberty."
Yet, for all its importance and its repeated mention, the term is not widely understood. It urgently needs to be because it is under ferocious assault, and if we do not understand it, we will be unable to defend it. And if we cannot defend it, America will become as amoral as France, Germany, Russia, et al.
First, Judeo-Christian America has differed from Christian countries in Europe in at least two important ways. One is that the Christians who founded America saw themselves as heirs to the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, as much as to the New. And even more importantly, they strongly identified with the Jews.
For example, Thomas Jefferson wanted the design of the seal of the United States to depict the Jews leaving Egypt. Just as the Hebrews left Egypt and its values, Americans left Europe and its values (if only those who admire Jefferson would continue to take his advice).
Founders and other early Americans probably studied Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, at least as much as Greek, the language of the New. Yale, founded in 1701, adopted a Hebrew insignia, and Hebrew was compulsory at Harvard until 1787. The words on the Liberty Bell, "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land . . . ," are from the Torah. Vast numbers of Americans took Hebrew names -- like Benjamin Franklin and Cotton Mather (kattan in Hebrew means "little one" or "younger").
The consequences included a strong Old Testament view of the world -- meaning, in part, a strong sense of fighting for earthly justice, an emphasis on laws, a belief in a judging, as well as a loving and forgiving, God, and a belief in the chosenness of the Jews which America identified with.
The significance of this belief in American chosenness cannot be overstated. It accounts for the mission that Americans have uniquely felt called to -- to spread liberty in the world.
This sense of mission is why more Americans have died for the liberty of others than any other nation's soldiers.
It is why those who today most identify with the Judeo-Christian essence of America are more likely to believe in the moral worthiness of dying to liberate countries -- not only Europe, but Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. That is why America stands alone in protecting two little countries threatened with extinction, Israel and Taiwan. That is why conservative Americans are more likely to believe in American exceptionalism -- in not seeking, as President Bush put it, a "permission slip" from the United Nations, let alone from Europe.
The second meaning of Judeo-Christian is a belief in the biblical God of Israel, in His Ten Commandments and His biblical moral laws. It is a belief in universal, not relative, morality. It is a belief that America must answer morally to this God, not to the mortal, usually venal, governments of the world.
That is why those who most affirm Judeo-Christian values lead the fight against redefining marriage. We believe that a pillar of Judeo-Christian values is to encourage the man-woman sexual and marital ideal, and to provide children with the opportunity to benefit from the unique gifts that a man and a woman give a child, gifts that are never replicable by two men alone or two women.
That is why those who most affirm Judeo-Christian values are unmoved by the idea that the war in Iraq is moral if Germany, France, China and Russia say so, but immoral if they oppose it. We ask first what God and the Bible would say about liberating Iraq, not what Syria and other members of the U.N. Security Council say.
That is why those who most affirm Judeo-Christian values believe that war, while always tragic, is on more than a few occasions a moral duty. Nothing "Judeo" ever sanctioned pacifism. Of course, the Hebrew Prophet Isaiah yearned for the day that nations will beat their swords into plowshares. But another Hebrew Prophet, Joel, who is never cited by those who wish to read the secular value of pacifism into the Bible, said precisely the opposite: "Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, 'I am strong!'"
And that is why those who want Judeo-Christian values to disappear from American public life affirm multiculturalism, seek to remove mention of God from all public life, and make Christmas a private, not a national, holiday.
The battle over whether America remains Judeo-Christian or becomes secular like Europe is what this, the Second American Civil War, is about.
Recently Israel killed its "bin Laden," a defensive act which most of the world and the media, strongly condemned. How do you think the EU and UN would react if the United States announced tomorrow that the real Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan? The answer is clear - the world would celebrate the end of bin Laden's reign of terror.
Why the double standard? All terrorism committed in the name of religious extremism is wrong, no matter which group takes responsibility - whether it's called al-Qaida, Hamas, or any other name.
Ahmed Yassin inspired and personally approved a Hamas bombing of a discotheque in 2001 where 21 young people were killed and 120 wounded. One of Hamas's terrorists bombed a dining room at the Park Hotel in Netanya where 30 people were killed and 140 injured during a Passover Seder dinner in 2002. A Hamas suicide bomber destroyed a commuter bus in Jerusalem on June 18, 2002, killing 19 people and injuring 74, many of them children on their way to school. A leader who encourages this kind of despicable behavior, and an organization like Hamas which uses these tactics, are beyond the pale of civilized society and deserve to be eliminated.
Yassin is sometimes referred to as the "spiritual" leader of Hamas. What sort of "spirituality" espouses calculated murder and genocide against Israelis and Jews around the world? Does Yassin belong in the same league as Mother Theresa or Gandhi?
If Yassin was a "political" leader, as he is also sometimes called, what perverted political platform advocates a policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Jews? Isn't Yassin's kind of political agenda the same as - or equal to - Hitler's? Strangely, Jack Straw and other European leaders don't seem to notice the similarity.
The media calls the killing of Sheikh Yassin an act of vengeance. Instead it is part of an ongoing Israeli effort to attack terrorism at its source. Israel must take defensive actions aimed at curtailing a brutal Hamas terrorist campaign aimed at killing as many Israelis as possible. Hamas cannot be allowed to fulfill its publicly-stated goal of bringing about Israel's total destruction.
The media claims that this action will be counterproductive. History does not support their prediction. Shortly after the 2002 Hamas massacre at Netanya, Israel invaded the West Bank and began to actively eliminate terrorist leaders. According to the Wall Street Journal:
"The results, in terms of lives saved, were dramatic. In 2003, the number of Israeli terrorist fatalities declined by more than 50% from the previous year, to 213 from 451. The overall number of attacks also declined, to 3,823 in 2003 from 5,301 in 2002, a drop of 30%. In the spring of 2003, Israel stepped up its campaign of targeted assassinations, including a failed attempt on Yassin's deputy, Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Wise heads said Israel had done nothing except incite the Palestinians to greater violence. Instead, Hamas and other Islamic terrorist groups agreed unilaterally to a cease-fire."When leaders like Yassin are eliminated, their organizations are disrupted as underlings struggle to take power, while simultaneously having to keep in the shadows to avoid becoming the next leader to be eliminated. These activities allow them very little time to plan their next terrorist attack.
As President Bush said, the war on terror is a long-term proposition. Even if terrorist actions increase in the next few weeks, democracies like Israel have no choice but to wage - and win - a war of survival.
Some media pundits counsel Israel to set an example for the Palestinians by taking the moral high ground. How can killing someone who calls for the destruction of your state and citizens be viewed as immoral?
But more importantly, why do these pundits give up so quickly on demanding that the Palestinians "undertake visible efforts ... to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning attacks on Israelis," as their leaders agreed to under the Road Map?
Can you say "double standard"?
The Western world sees Hamas as a terrorist organization seeking Israel's destruction, but treats the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a peace partner, either actual or potential, for Israel. The fact that Israel continues to seek contact with PA leaders heightens the clear distinction made between the PA and Hamas.
But the distance between Hamas and the PA has been shrinking for years. And the way the PA has responded to the killing of Yassin shows just how close the two groups actually are. The PA has gone far beyond its expected level of condemnation of the killing, and has eulogized Yassin as a leader representing all the Palestinian Authority.
PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, for example, told PA TV that just as "Yassin united the Palestinians in his life he united them again in his death." Yasser Arafat's official daily, Al Hayat Al Jadida, published a cartoon of a wheelchair shaped as a map of what the PA calls "Palestine" (which erases all of Israel) thereby stating graphically that Yassin and "Palestine" are one and the same.
In an unprecedented move, PA television ceased all regular programming for days, and except for brief news reports broadcast only slides of the Koran sung to mournful tunes. In the Arab world, this Koran broadcasting is usually reserved for the deaths of heads of state, as was done on Syrian TV after the death of Hafez Assad. That PA TV treated Yassin in this fashion demonstrates his elevated stature among PA leadership and PA society.
Anyone listening to PA leaders' pronouncements in Arabic over the years has recognized that there never was a meaningful ideological divide between the PA and Hamas. It is well understood, for example, that Hamas believes Islam demands Israel's destruction. As the Hamas charter states, "Palestine is an Islamic Wakf the liberation of Palestine is an individual duty binding on all Muslims everywhere."
Less noted is that PA religious leaders have repeatedly made identical rulings. Even when the Oslo Accord appeared to be in its heyday, Yousuf Abu Sneinah, preacher of Al-Aksa Mosque, issued this ruling on PA TV: "The land of Palestine is a Wakf for all The liberation of Palestine is an obligation for the entire Islamic nation " (April 30, 1999).
The perception is that a difference between Hamas and the PA is that the latter, at least in principle, had given up using violence to reach its political goals. Yet it was Arafat who said in 1999, literally anticipating the current terror war: "The agreements won't liberate the land. Every centimeter needs struggle, and the land needs blood" (Al Hayat Al Jadida, January 25, 1999).
When Hamas started using suicide terrorists to kill Israelis in 1996, the PA condemned the killings in English. But in Arabic, PA leaders made it clear that there was no difference in attitude, only a division of labor.
Muhammad Dahlan, then head of Preventive Security in Gaza, said that the presence of Hamas "is important and essential in the cooperation in the building." Hani Alhasan, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, explained the role of Hamas: "Unity is in the nature of construction, and it is incumbent upon us to divide the work among the builders." (Al Ayyam, August 31, 1997).
As long ago as 1997, after the bombing at Tel Aviv's Apropos cafe, a member of the PA Legislative Council expressed his condolences to the family of the suicide bomber during a session of the Legislature, and "his words were interrupted by the applause of the members of the [PA Legislative] Council" (Al Hayat Al Jadida March 27, 1997). It should be stressed that all this cooperation was openly expressed in PA society long before the current terror war began in October 2000.
After starting the terror war, the PA completely erased any differences between the "builders" by creating its own suicide terror unit, the "Aksa Martyrs Brigade," which has committed numerous suicide terror attacks identical to those of Hamas.
If there is any difference today between Hamas and the PA, it's in their attitudes toward temporary agreements with Israel.
While the Hamas charter states, "There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad," the PA has argued that temporary agreements can be used to gain strategic territory from which to fight more easily for Israel's destruction. Then PA minister Abdel Aziz Shahin explained this just months before the PA started the terror war: "The Oslo agreements [were] a foothold and not a permanent settlement, since war and struggle on the land is more efficient than a struggle from a distant land... The Palestinian people will continue the revolution until they achieve the goals of the '65 revolution..." – that is, the destruction of Israel (Al-Ayyam, May 30 2000).
Faisal Husseini called the Oslo Accords a "Trojan Horse... the Oslo agreement, or any other agreement, is just a temporary procedure... according to the higher strategy [Palestine is] 'from the river to the sea.'" (Al-Arabi – Egypt, June 24, 2001).
Today, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas both embrace the use of terror to fight Israel. The only meaningful difference between them is the acceptance or rejection of political process as a vehicle to destroy Israel.
Mr. Marcus is founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch. Ms. Crook is PMW's North American representative.
"I wouldn't suggest either of them feels immune ... Anyone who kills a Jew or harms an Israeli citizen, or sends people to kill Jews, is a marked man. Period."- Ariel Sharon, when asked by an interviewer if Arafat and Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah were possible targets for Israeli attacks. This was suggested recently by both Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon, Sharon said he wouldn't contradict their statements.
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