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A Cease Fire in Gaza Will Reward Hamas

Many years ago, on my first trip around the world, I was struck by how the children in the Middle East — Arab and Israeli alike — were among the nicest looking little children I had seen anywhere.

It was painful to think that they were going to grow up killing each other. But that is exactly what happened.

It is understandable that today many people in many lands just want the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop. Calls for a cease-fire are ringing out from the United Nations and from Washington, as well as from ordinary people in many places around the world.

According to the New York Times, Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping for a cease-fire to “open the door to Israeli and Palestinian negotiations for a long-term solution.” President Obama has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire” — again, with the idea of pursuing some long-lasting agreement.

If this was the first outbreak of violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis, such hopes might make sense. But where have the U.N., Kerry and Obama been during all these decades of endlessly repeated Middle East carnage?

The Middle East must lead the world in cease-fires. If cease-fires were the road to peace, the Middle East would easily be the most peaceful place on the planet.

“Cease-fire” and “negotiations” are magic words to “the international community.” But just what do cease-fires actually accomplish?

      In the short run, they save some lives. But in the long run they cost far more lives, by lowering the cost of aggression.

At one time, launching a military attack on another nation risked not only retaliation but annihilation. When Carthage attacked Rome, that was the end of Carthage.

But when Hamas or some other terrorist group launches an attack on Israel, they know in advance that whatever Israel does in response will be limited by calls for a cease-fire, backed by political and economic pressures from the United States.

It is not at all clear what Israel’s critics can rationally expect the Israelis to do when they are attacked. Suffer in silence? Surrender? Flee the Middle East?

Or — most unrealistic of all — fight a “nice” war, with no civilian casualties? General William T. Sherman said it all, 150 years ago: “War is hell.”

If you want to minimize civilian casualties, then minimize the dangers of war, by no longer coming to the rescue of those who start wars.

Israel was attacked, not only by vast numbers of rockets but was also invaded — underground — by mazes of tunnels.

There is something grotesque about people living thousands of miles away, in safety and comfort, loftily second-guessing and trying to micro-manage what the Israelis are doing in a matter of life and death.

Such self-indulgences are a danger, not simply to Israel, but to the whole Western world, for it betrays a lack of realism that shows in everything from the current disastrous consequences of our policies in Egypt, Libya and Iraq to future catastrophes from a nuclear-armed Iran.

Those who say that we can contain a nuclear Iran, as we contained a nuclear Soviet Union, are acting as if they are discussing abstract people in an abstract world. Whatever the Soviets were, they were not suicidal fanatics, ready to see their own cities destroyed in order to destroy ours.

As for the ever-elusive “solution” to the Arab-Israeli conflicts in the Middle East, there is nothing faintly resembling a solution anywhere on the horizon. Nor is it hard to see why.

Even if the Israelis were all saints — and sainthood is not common in any branch of the human race — the cold fact is that they are far more advanced than their neighbors, and groups that cannot tolerate even subordinate Christian minorities can hardly be expected to tolerate an independent, and more advanced, Jewish state that is a daily rebuke to their egos.

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  • DogmaelJones1

    Nice essay, Mr. Sowell. But the naked truth is that no matter what Israel does to placate “world opinion” and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran and all her other enemies — which now includes the U.S. — Hamas and its Islamic allies will want to erase Israel precisely because it is “more advanced” and a reproach to all their dreams of dominion over the whole human race (the global caliphate). A cease fire on the terms of Israel’s enemies is simply an invitation to commit suicide. Israel must not only destroy the maze of tunnels or flood them with sewage from Israel, but erase Hamas permanently from the face of the earth before it can expect to enjoy peace.

  • Darius

    This is a very insightful essay. Dr. Sowell is one of the wisest individuals I have ever come across. Kudos to you sir.

  • Phineas Worthington

    I’d like to see a return of the idea of unconditional surrender. Its worked in the past and it can work again. Israel should accept nothing less in Gaza.

  • writeby

    Just for the record:

    · May 15, 1948, approximately one year after the UN had recognized the rights of both the Jews and the Palestinians to establish independent states in the Middle East, and one day after the Jews had announced the establishment of such an independent state for themselves – to be called, Israel – Egyptian, Trans-Jordanian, Syrian, Lebanese, Saudi Arabian, Iraqi and Yemeni armies attacked Israel.

    · After Israel had won that first Arab-Israeli War, 75% of the land previously partitioned by the U.N. as the future home for Arab Palestinians was annexed by the Arab nation of Trans-Jordan.

    · In the following decades, nearly all of the remaining 25% ended up under the control of the Arabs; yet not one inch of it was set-aside for the Palestinians.

    · Since 1948, the Arab tyrannies have attempted to destroy Israel, either by conventional war – in 1956-57, 1968 and 1973 – or through terrorist bombings over a period of nearly a 1/2 century, the following being a miniscule list of but a few over an eight year period:

    o 19 October 1994: Hamas militant sets off bomb, killing 23 on a Tel Aviv bus.

    o 24 July 1996: Unidentified Arab bomber kills six passengers and himself on a bus outside Tel Aviv.

    o 31 March 2002: An Arab terrorist attacks a restaurant in Haifa, northern Israel, killing himself and 14 Israeli Jews and Arabs. On the same day, another Arab bomber kills himself and wounds four people in an attack on an office for paramedics at the Jewish settlement of Efrat, south of Bethlehem.

    o 29 March 2002: An Arab woman bomber kills herself and two others at a Jerusalem supermarket.

    o 7 May 2002: While Bush and Sharon meet in Washington, a homicide Arab bomber murders 16 Israelis and kills himself in a pool hall in Tel Aviv.

  • writeby

    To do that, we need to return to the concept of “declared war.” Which the USA ought to have done re: Iran & Saudi Arabia on 912; and Israel ought to have done re: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, etc., at the very latest, in 1973.

    Then there not only could be, but would be such surrender–instead of the “ties” that have proliferated since Korea in 1952.

    Moreover, with such a concept (declared war) comes a distinction between laws passed “for the duration” of the war and permanent laws for peace time, the former being repealed once the war has ended.

    Thus, we have our security and we retain our freedom.

    Buh-buh post 912 (needing a day to declare and then to nuke the aforementioned into dust): TSA airport searches, Patriot Act, etc., etc.

    And bye-bye Hamas, PLO, etc.

  • Phineas Worthington

    Well stated.

  • DRT

    Agreed, well said. The only way to end terrorism is by declaring war on and destroying the states that sponsor terrorism. Nothing less will work.