How the West mocks its own anti-terrorism narrative

In Hamas, Israel faces a similarly repellent terrorist organisation as Islamic State, imbued with the same level of fanaticism and savagery. But the West refuses to see that reality, making a mockery of its own anti-terrorist narrative

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Jeremy Havardi
On 5 October 2014 10:41

Right now, an international coalition is launching a determined attack against the terrorists of Islamic State. World leaders well understand that the theocratic barbarians of IS are a mortal threat to everything we stand for, with the latest horrific killing of Alan Henning just another reminder of their repugnant brand of jihadist extremism.

They know that, left unchecked, IS would expand aggressively across the Middle East and threaten to destabilise the entire region.

But there is a double standard at work here. For Israel faces a similarly repellent terrorist organisation imbued with the same level of fanaticism and savagery. It is called Hamas. But in recent years, Israel has been forced to battle against this threat without a supportive western coalition standing behind it.

Israel's determination to weaken and isolate Hamas is condemned by policy elites in the West. Those same elites, however, are somewhat muted now that IS is facing an international onslaught.

If the West is justified in launching a sustained offensive against IS, so too is Israel against Hamas. If the West can use devastating aerial force against IS targets in Iraq and Syria, Israel is entitled to the same policy in Gaza. Why is the targeting of Hamas terrorists considered 'disproportionate' when no such criticism is made of attacks on IS forces?

Indeed, Israel's use of force is surely more justified, given that Hamas is perched right on its borders. Hamas is not a remote threat to Israel, as IS is to America and Europe. Its terrorists have been able to launch vast numbers of weapons into Israel with the intent to cause mass slaughter.

Unlike IS, Hamas has been able to build death tunnels into her enemy's territory, literally underneath the places where children are sleeping. Thus if it is legitimate to use force against terrorists thousands of miles from home, how much more legitimate is Israeli militarism against a terror group existing but a stone's throw from its border.

The double standards don't stop there. There are reports that IS may be using civilians as human shields in order to exploit dead children for media purposes. But if the US does inadvertently kill civilians in its air strikes, it is hard to imagine the State Department condemning such deaths as an outrage.

No doubt State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, will blame IS for the war crime of using human shields. She would be absolutely right to do so. But recall her words during Operation Protective Edge when she declared that the US was 'appalled' by the 'disgraceful [attack] outside a UNRWA school'. Evidence later emerged suggesting that Hamas had staged the deaths by bringing some dead bodies to the site.

But if the State Department is prepared to insulate US forces from criticism, the same standard must apply to Israel. Then again, it is unlikely that Americans will have to face a relentless, rolling commentary on each and every attack in Iraq and Syria. By contrast, Israeli attacks went under the media microscope from the first day of Protective Edge, another double standard.

Of course, there will be no UNHRC investigation into American 'war crimes' or the actions of any of the Arab countries now attacking IS. Only Israeli militarism is considered such a breach of human rights and international law as to warrant this contemptuous treatment.

Nor will our political elite be demanding a ceasefire with IS in order to resolve the conflict ‘politically’. Yet John Kerry kowtowed to the demands of Hamas when he attempted to broker a ceasefire between the parties this summer.

By doing so, Kerry was treating Israel and Hamas as equal parties to a territorial dispute. In reality, one was a UN member state (and key US ally) and the other, an internationally outlawed terrorist organisation.

Can one imagine the same mistake being made in regards to America and IS? Today, it is inconceivable that any major world power would accept the inclusion of IS in an Iraqi government or demand that such an outcome was desirable for Iraqis. Yet those same countries still urge Israel to negotiate with a Palestinian Authority united with Hamas.

So where do these double standards come from? It cannot be because Hamas is less murderous than IS. Hamas terrorists have killed over 1,000 Israelis, and many hundreds of Palestinians have died at their hands too.

Were they to be given control of more land and sophisticated weaponry, the death toll would be vastly higher. Nor is one more inherently 'reasonable' than the other. Both terror groups have systematically ignored every principle of international law and morality. They are equally virulent in their hatred of Jews and share a contempt for western morality and values.

Left to their own devices, both groups would ethnically cleanse the entire region and impose a barbarous form of medieval Islam on its beleaguered inhabitants. It certainly isn’t because Israel shows far less concern for civilians than other countries engaged in this type of asymmetric warfare.

In a recent interview, Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said that Israeli soldiers were taking 'every feasible step to prevent innocent loss of life among the civilian population'.

It seems that western policymakers are so obsessed with viewing the Arab-Israeli conflict as a territorial dispute that they are automatically inclined to view a ‘war’ on Hamas as a tragic mistake. Only negotiation can truly resolve the standoff with all Palestinian groups, they argue.

But instead, they must view Hamas and IS as fundamentally the same. They are both deranged jihadi death cults, part of the global Islamist war against western interests and values. Neither can be reasoned with or accommodated through negotiation. Both are equally beyond the pale.

But one of them is gaining perverse encouragement from the West by its successful exploitation of dead bodies. That is an egregious double standard, and it must stop.

Jeremy Havardi is a journalist and the author of two books, Falling to Pieces, and The Greatest Briton

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