- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 4, 2002

If there was ever any doubt about the intentions of the murderous machine known as Hamas, a comment by one of its leaders following last Wednesdays cafeteria bombing at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in which at least seven people were killed and dozens injured, should dispel any lingering illusions.

Crowing about the innocent dead and wounded, the Hamas spokesman said Jews should leave Israel and "return to where they came from."

How long would the United States support a "peace process" if, say, white supremacists in America were bombing black churches and promising the killings wouldnt stop until African-Americans went back where they "came from"? For generations, African-Americans have come from America. For thousands of years, Israeli Jews have come from Israel. Murder comes from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Their killing machines operate from territory ceded to them by Israel in the false hope of getting peace for land.

Hamas, along with the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat, are part of a polluted mainstream of contemporary Arab thought. There are no living "moderates" among the Palestinians — at least none willing to step forward. They fear assassination if they dare challenge the killers.

Some Hamas members said the Hebrew University operation was in retaliation for Israels targeting of their leader, Salah Shehadeh, who was killed July 23 in an Israeli antiterror operation in Gaza.

That several civilians were killed in the Gaza bombing, including members of Shehadehs family, was the result of a deliberate strategy: The terrorists place themselves among civilians so that when Israel strikes, civilians will be incidentally killed and the focus will shift from the dead terrorists to Israels actions. Compare this with the deliberate targeting of Israeli babies, students and civilian adults by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups. For them, there is no "collateral damage." (They dont even exclude fellow Arabs, some of whom were injured in the Hebrew University attack.) The spoken and written goal is to eliminate Israel and place any remaining Jews in the region under the authority of an Islamic empire.

Western European and American policy toward the region has been based on many false assumptions, including the assumption that the Palestinians have been deprived of "their land" and giving it back will make them more hospitable toward Israel. Another assumption is that the deplorable conditions in which many Palestinians live fuels their anger. American liberals preached a similar doctrine in the 60s and 70s, trying to establish a link between poverty and criminal activity in this country, especially among minorities.

A new report by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass., suggests otherwise. The report, "Education, Poverty, Political Violence and Terrorism: Is There A Causal Connection?" looked at the jobs, educational level and family circumstances of 129 Hezbollah militants, based in Lebanon, who were killed in operations against Israel over the past 20 years. The study found that compared with the Lebanese population as a whole, Hezbollah members were less likely to come from poor families and more likely to have finished secondary school. A similar link between terrorism and educational attainment was found for Palestinian suicide bombers.

It may surprise some, but the study found no link between violent acts and poverty. Violence in the Middle East, the study says, seems to have increased when local economic conditions were improving, not getting worse.

What this ought to tell Western policymakers is that the murderous tactics being used against Israel are part of a political, educational and religious system that wont be swayed by Western notions of a "balanced approach" or appealing to an end to the "cycle of violence," as if moral symmetry exists between the two sides in the conflict. It doesnt, because the goals are different. Israel is prepared to co-exist with its neighbors. The Palestinians and most Arab states want to exist without Israel. On their maps, Israel does not exist. In their minds, they plot to eliminate it. In their hearts, they commit and condone murder to achieve this objective.

Why is this so difficult for the U.S. State Department and Western European leaders to understand?

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