It was lost amid the news of Israel's counterattack on Hamas in the past few days, but Hamas' leadership passed several new laws for Gaza in December. They've adopted the Sharia criminal code, which legalizes a number of medieval punishments including cutting off of hands, stoning, lashing, and crucifixion. Possession of wine will now get you 40 lashes in Gaza City. Thus does Hamas express its solidarity with its patron and inspiration, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Hamas is Iran's cat's paw. Tehran has been giving military training to Hamas operatives in Syria and in Iran. The Times of London reported last March that Iran's Revolutionary Guards were providing instruction to hundreds of Hamas fighters in field tactics and weapons technology. Iran is also believed to be the chief source of weapons for Hamas. The Iranians supply the ideology, the weapons, and the training. The Palestinians supply the blood. When the history of the 20th century is written, one of the most important post World War II dates will be 1979, the year Islamic radicals seized Iran and sparked the rise of Islamofascism around the globe.
Iran's handprints are all over the current crisis in Gaza. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has left little doubt that Iran's chief goal is to destroy the Jewish state. And yet, many commentators, even those sympathetic to Israel's predicament, have expressed grave doubt that Israel can achieve anything with a forceful response to the violence directed against her. As a liberal democracy, Max Boot has written, "whose actions are conducted under the intense scrutiny of lawyers, judges, opposition politicians, reporters and human-rights activists" Israel cannot adopt the sort of scorched earth practices that, say, Russia applied in Chechnya. And, as others have noted, because Israel has no desire and probably no stomach for reoccupying Gaza and imposing order, she is reduced to fighting small-scale wars simply to keep Hamas off balance. And in the process, Israel pays a terrible price in international prestige.
There is no question that the world condemns and detests Israel for the simple act of defending herself. And there is also no doubt that the Palestinians have become skilled actors in the victim drama. Without minimizing the real suffering of some innocent Palestinians, it is impossible to deny that others are busy producing doctored photographs and expertly arranged tableaux of "civilian" casualties for the credulous and biddable international press.
So while it is true that Israel does not wish to reoccupy Gaza, and cannot hope to negotiate peace with Iran's stalking horse, Hamas, there are other reasons to think that a forceful response to the missiles lobbed from Gaza is necessary.
The mindset of Israel's enemies is not like Israel's. Israelis think like Americans and Europeans. They believe in democracy and individual dignity. They respect rights and want nothing more than to be left alone. Their enemies believe in a struggle to the death. As Ze'ev Maghen has noted in Commentary magazine, the mullahs in Iran have interpreted Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and then from Gaza in 2005 not as goodwill gestures, but as signs of weakness and decrepitude. The Iranian daily Hamshahri was gleeful as Israel vacated Gaza: " The willingness of the Zionists to leave behind their synagogues in Gaza demonstrates conclusively that they have no God and therefore no religious connection to the Holy Land; they will now be easily ejected from all of occupied Palestine." By Palestine, the paper of course refers to all of Israel. Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, congratulated Hamas, declaring, "We, too, drove out the Israeli cowards." Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, interpreted Israel's withdrawal from Gaza as proof of the "justness of the Islamic struggle" and urged that if Muslims put their faith in Allah, "victory will be certain." Ahmadinejad himself has declared, based on Israel's willingness to hand over territory it had won in bloody conflicts, that "The Zionist entity has reached a dead end and is in a process of precipitous decline. ... All of the conditions are ripe for its removal" by means of an "explosion of Muslim rage."
For the past decade, beginning with the Oslo process, Israel has been unwittingly signaling to her enemies that she was exhausted and unwilling to fight for her life. That posture has given Iran and its proxies an intoxicating sense of possibility. Just as Osama bin Laden believed that the United States was profoundly weak and could be toppled by a good hard shove, so the Islamofascists believe that Israel is weakened and vulnerable. The current war in Gaza, if it is conducted wisely, can disabuse Israel's enemies of that pernicious suspicion.