Israel isn't Hamas' only target
Rotarians and Lions beware: You may not know it, but you are enemies of Hamas, the terrorist group-cum-political organization that now controls the Gaza strip.
This is not a joke.
In January, before we became obsessed with the economic meltdown, all eyes were on Gaza and the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The world was outraged at the ferocity of Israel's military reaction to the missiles launched into Israel by Hamas.
Israel was accused of firing upon civilians, engaging in collective punishment and displaying a completely disproportionate response to minor provocations. There were calls for war crimes prosecutions.
It is easy to conclude that Israel has a violent hair trigger when it comes to its security, but few of Israel's critics acknowledge what – and who – Israel has to deal with on a daily basis. Nor do they acknowledge Hamas' own role in the suffering of the Palestinian people.
After all, Israel withdrew entirely from Gaza in August 2005, forcibly evacuating settlers, dismantling synagogues, even disinterring the bones of Jews who had been buried in a Gaza cemetery. Not a single Jew remained to "defile" the land.
Relishing its total control over Gaza, Hamas promptly turned the land into a launching pad and fired some 2,299 mortar shells and 1,685 rockets into southern Israel over the three-year period following Israel's departure. These launches occurred literally on a daily basis and were often timed to coincide with children leaving their homes and on their way to school.
Finally, in December, when Hamas' missile and mortar launches against Israel's southern cities and towns had increased dramatically, and when Hamas began to employ new and longer range missiles in its attacks, Israel struck back fiercely, relentlessly and violently.
Ground and air forces pummeled Gaza, destroying neighborhoods, hospitals and community centers. Because Hamas stored its weapons, staged its attacks and launched its missiles from densely populated civilian areas – including homes, hospitals and community centers – Israel struck these very sites, albeit after warning the civilian population ahead of time.
There was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over Israel's use of "disproportionate" force and "indiscriminate" fire. The United Nations in particular decried Israel's actions, although its outrage has been more muted recently, since its staff has been held at gunpoint and its storage facilities commandeered and looted by Hamas.
Still, did Israel need to react so forcefully?
Take a moment to read the Hamas Charter, the founding document on which the Islamic Resistance Movement is based:
• "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." (Hamas Charter, Preamble.)
• "Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realized." (Hamas Charter, Introduction.)
• "Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement." (Hamas Charter, Article 13.)
• "For a long time, (our) enemies have been planning, skillfully and with precision, for the achievement of what they have attained. ... With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world. ... They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. (Hamas Charter, Article 22.)
Are these precepts merely the ravings of a harmless fringe group?
When thousands of rockets and mortar shells are launched against you, when the group that launches them is sworn to your extinction, when that group explicitly repudiates peaceful solutions, and when they see themselves as martyrs in a battle to the death, you have to take the threat seriously.
My heart breaks for the people of Gaza. Their future has been infected by a political cancer.
But Hamas' deadly ideology, its conspiracy theories, its rockets, mortars and culture of martyrdom make it a threat not only to Israel and to Jews, but to civilized persons – including Rotarians and Lions – everywhere.
If Hamas lived next door to you, how would you have reacted?
Perry B. Newman is a South Portland resident and president of Atlantica Group, an international business consulting firm based in Portland, with clients in North America, Israel and Europe.