How the World Saved Hamas 20 Years Ago
by Daniel Greenfield
The conclusion of Israel’s campaign against Hamas, complete with an enforced ceasefire and a victory for the Islamic terrorist group, should come as no surprise at all. Long before the blockade of Gaza, the terrorist group’s greatest weapon was the sympathy of the world.
Twenty years ago, on December 1992, Israeli forces responded to Hamas atrocities by arresting over a thousand Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists and deporting 415 of them into Lebanon.
Among those expelled were two co-founders of Hamas, the current Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, and several top military commanders; members of a terrorist movement whose charter listed theocracy and genocide as its goals. Their expulsion from the country was a comparatively mild response, considering that many of them would later be killed by Israel in targeted strikes over the next decade.
The expulsion of top Hamas leaders from Israel would have made it difficult for the terrorist group to continue its operations in Gaza and the West Bank. It would have dampened their strategic use of terrorism and made it easier to implement a peace plan. Only a madman would have objected to it.
Or so one might think.
The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 799 which “strongly” condemned the deportation of “hundreds of Palestinian civilians” and expressed “its firm opposition to any such deportation by Israel”. It further demanded that Israel “ensure the safe and immediate return to the occupied territories of all those deported.” United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali called for taking “whatever measures are necessary” to compel Israel to take back the terrorists.
Among the countries voting for Resolution 799 was the United States, which had not blinked at Kuwait’s post-war expulsion of 200,000 Palestinians, but had hinted at sanctions against Israel over the expulsion of 415 terrorists.
Meanwhile in a year which had seen numerous massacres and atrocities, not least of these taking place in Afghanistan during the sieges of Kabul where the various factions targeted schools and rounded up enemy civilians into shipping containers and then set those containers on fire, the tragic plight of the terrorists became the leading human rights issue of the day.
In a story headlined, “Deporting the Hope for Peace”, Newsweek sympathetically described the Hamas terrorists “shivering in the cold.” The New York Times reached for the poetic describing the hillside they were camped out on as “desolate”; though it’s hard to see how desolate it could have been when it was surrounded by reporters. The Christian Science Monitor wrote of them huddling “under heavy rain.” The media spent more time providing weather updates from Lebanon than it did covering the local weather.
The Red Cross brought in three truckloads of food, blankets and tents until the Hamas terrorists were living better than many Hurricane Sandy victims are today. The Christian Science Monitor wrote sadly of a mechanical digger excavating a sanitation area for them among “jagged rocks”. The Associated Press provided detailed coverage of their cases of diarrhea turning the bowel movements of Islamist terrorists into an item worthy of international coverage.
Despite the truckloads of supplies, a few days later Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, the future leader of Hamas, described by the Associated Press only as a Gaza physician, demanded that the UN and the Red Cross bring them food, water and fuel because they were already starving and forced to fast to stay alive. The media breathlessly reported that the temperature had dropped to below freezing and the men were on the verge of death.
In reality, the deported terrorists had food and water brought in from local villages and their “desolate hillside” would become an enclave of television sets, fax machines, copy machines, cell phones, a fridge filled with soda and a satellite dish beaming Iranian television shows to them. Rantissi, who would later boast, “By Allah, we will not leave one Jew alive in Palestine” was living better than many of his victims.
One Associated Press story described a deportee eating a breakfast of jam, cheese and bread or beans and chickpeas with lemon sauce, and then a lunch of tuna fish or sardines, and then complaining, “I’m so sick of this food. I eat only to stay alive.”
Bill Clinton said that while he understood Israeli concerns over Hamas, “which is apparently bent on terrorist activities of all kinds”, he was opposed to Israel actually deporting the terrorists. American and European officials continued to pressure Israel and the media continued to run stories on what they described as the “crisis of the deportees” while bemoaning that there was no coverage of the subject, even while they were incessantly covering it.
Eventually everyone got what they wanted. Israel agreed to take the terrorists back and the terrorists agreed to return, citing as their chief reason, insufficient TV coverage of their antics.
The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists returned to Israel and twenty years of terror and war followed. Peace would have likely been unworkable in any event, but it became far more unworkable when an Islamist terrorist group with a conveyor belt of suicide bombers and close ties to Islamist movements around the world was introduced back into the mix.
For months international diplomats and correspondents had insisted that the path to peace required returning Hamas’ leadership to Israel. Their path to peace made actual peace impossible. Israel could have non-violently expelled Hamas leaders; instead it was forced to assassinate them one by one, usually with collateral damage, which the same correspondents and diplomats then bemoaned.
Each concession that Israel made to terrorism sharpened the violence that would come in the next encounter as the terrorists grew stronger and Israel became more desperate to stop the escalating violence. Each time diplomats and reporters rewarded Hamas, rivers of blood flowed across the land.
Twenty years ago the media and the diplomats did exactly what they did now. They turned Hamas into victims and pressured Israel to resolve the situation. After enough pressure Israel complied, Hamas won and war became once again inevitable.
Hamas is still around because the diplomats and the media want them around. That is as true today as it was twenty years ago.