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COHEN: The deadly callousness of Hamas

Of all the points of disagreement between Israel and Hamas, maybe the most profound is this one: Israel cares more about sparing innocent lives — including those of Palestinians — than does Hamas. Not only have Hamas and other militant groups this year sent more than 700 rockets crashing haphazardly into southern Israel, but Hamas instigated yet another war where the chief loser will certainly be its own people. If hell has a beach, it’s located in Gaza.

The Gaza Strip is a congested, fetid place. It is densely populated and in the slums and housing blocks, Hamas has hidden its weapons, explosives and rocket launchers. Israel has gone out of its way to avoid civilian casualties. Its air force has used new, highly accurate ammunition aiming for rocket-launching sites and government installations. For the most part, it has succeeded.

For Hamas, civilian casualties are an asset. Palestinians love and grieve as do other people, but Hamas leadership knows that the world has gotten impatient with Israel. Increasingly, many people now see Israel as the aggressor, as Gaza’s occupying power (never mind the 2005 pullout), and they overlook such trifles as the Hamas charter, which is repellently anti-Semitic and cites the discredited forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” In the Hamas cosmology, Jews are so evil that somehow, “they also stood behind World War II, where they collected immense benefits from trading with war materials.” This, you would have to concede, is a wholly original take on the Holocaust.

Many in the West heroically ignore such nonsense. They embrace Hamas as the champions of a victimized Third World people. In recent days, some editorialists have bemoaned the war and Hamas’ role in inciting it. But then comes the inevitable “however.”

“However, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu must also take much blame for stoking resentment among Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank for so long,” opined the Financial Times. The New York Times’ caveat came lower down in its initial editorial on the war: “But it would be easier to win support for retaliatory action if Israel was engaged in serious negotiations with Hamas’ rival, the Palestinian Authority.” Apparently, 700 rockets are not enough.

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