Osama Bin Laden is dead, but we mustn’t lose sight of our major focus in the Middle East—stopping the advance and attacks from radical Islam and supporting our critical allies. Instability remains.
As America moves forward in crafting a response to the changing landscape in the Middle East, there are questions we should be asking: Will our actions make the world more stable or less stable? Will our actions support our long-term allies? Will this stop the advance of radical Islam?
While Hamas and Fatah groups have signed a unity pact in support of Palestinian statehood, Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in Gaza, reacted to Bin Laden’s death: “We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood…. We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior.” In the days following Bin Laden’s death, it’s clear that many share such sentiments.
Even though Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the attack that saw five members of an Israeli family stabbed to death in their home in a West Bank settlement "despicable, immoral and inhuman," a poll conducted by a team of Israeli and Palestinian pollsters that surveyed nearly 1300 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem found that 32 percent supported the attack. Palestinians talk of peace, but missiles are still being fired into Israel from Gaza.
There are more ominous signs. Egypt Airlines has stopped flights to Israel and taken Israel off their maps, the blockade of supplies into the Gaza Strip has been lifted, and the Muslim Brotherhood is well positioned to take advantage of early elections. The attacks on Christian churches, the merciless sexual assault on CBS reporter Lara Logan by an Egyptian mob, and the presence of some Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups within the ranks of rebel forces in Libya cannot be overlooked.
The world desperately wants peace, but at what cost? Ronald Reagan reminded Americans, “Trust but verify.” With the turmoil racing through the Middle East and the temptation to support rebels high, it’s easy to accept words without actions and to forget to support Israel, our most important ally. Pressuring Israel to give up land gained in a war Arabs initiated to bring on an illusion of peace is nothing short of asking Israel to commit national suicide.
The pressure on Israel is growing. Even UK Prime Minister David Cameron told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that unless Israel “engages seriously in a meaningful peace process” the U.K. will consider endorsing the Palestinian end-run for statehood through the United Nations General Assembly. Recently, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon termed the Israeli control of the territories obtained in the 1967 war “morally and politically unsustainable,” and called for the division of Jerusalem. Ban said, “A way must be found for Jerusalem to emerge as a capital of two states, Israel and Palestine, with arrangements for holy sites acceptable for all.”
Israel is not the problem. Judge Richard Goldstone, Chairman of the United Nations Human Rights Council report on the 2008-2009 Gaza war that declared both Israel and Hamas guilty of war crimes, recently said that he now believed Israel isn’t guilty of war crimes. He said the report “would have been a different document” had he known then what he knows now. Israel had refused to participate in its own defense. Goldstone said he had now concluded that Israel had caused civilian causalities due to errors of judgment, not intentionally.
Calling on the UN to rescind the Goldstone Report, Netanyahu said, “Israel didn’t intentionally harm civilians, its institutions and investigative bodies are worthy, while Hamas intentionally fired upon innocent civilians and didn’t examine anything.” In response to the recent Palestinian unity pact, Netanyahu observed, “How is it possible to achieve peace with a government, half of which calls for the destruction of Israel and even praises the arch-murderer Osama bin laden.”
When a Koran is burned by a Christian ministry in the United States, Christians from around the world condemn the act but Islamic extremists still killed UN staff and attacked churches in the Middle East. According to Asia News on March 25, a mob of Islamic extremists attacked a Pentecostal church in Hyderabad, India, killing two Christians and burning some copies of the Bible. Did Christians around the world kill Islamic believers for burning two Bibles? Of course not!
Where do you stand? Do you stand with people who attempt to create fear with their rockets and terrorist acts or do you stand with a country that has demonstrated restraint in the face of continuing provocations and limited retaliation to targeted attacks on terrorist leaders? Do you stand with the surviving members of the Fogel family or the people who condoned and celebrated their deaths? Do you support countries where gays are still tortured or one where they are free to exercise their preference? Do you support countries where religious conversion can get you stoned to death or do you support a country where you can bring in a Bible or the Koran and profess faith as a Jew, a Christian or an Islamic believer?
Thankfully, not all members of the Islamic faith are radicals, but as Seth Godin writes, “The worst voice of the brand ‘is’ the brand, we either ignore your brand or we judge it, usually with too little information. And when we judge it, we judge it based on the actions of the loudest, meanest, most selfish member of your tribe. When a zealot advocates violence, outsiders see all members of his tribe as advocates of violence. … I wonder, then, why loyal and earnest members of the tribe hesitate to discipline, ostracize or expel the negative outliers. ‘You're hurting us, this is wrong, we are expelling you.’ What do you stand for?”
In America, the many supportive comments from many Islamic groups on the death of Osama Bin Laden and their outrage at the killing of Christians in response to the burning of the Koran by a Florida minister are welcomed, but such public sentiments seem rare in the Middle East.
Yes, America must support responsible Islamic leaders and believers, but let’s never forget to stand strong with Israel in this time of turmoil.