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Monday, July 05, 2010

Kristof visits Gaza, leaves without a clue

Nicholas Kristof, who we have just seen taking a guided tour of the West Bank and uncritically parroting the words of his tour guide, writes an equally clueless dispatch from Gaza.

The problem with closing off Gaza, quite aside from the injustice of collective punishment, is that it tends to foster just the extremism that most threatens Israel and the entire Middle East.
How many times must this idiotic truism be demolished? Israel has made concessions to Arabs and those concessions have stoked extremism (withdrawal from Gaza, withdrawal from Lebanon, a peace treaty with Jordan....) Hatred of Israel is independent of Israel's actions, and very dependent on Israel's continued audacity to exist. History has shown again and again that the quietest Israeli borders come after Israel fights to secure them. Arabs do not think like Westerners do, and Kristof's projection of his liberal ideas onto a completely different people with a completely different mindset is representative of everything wrong with Western efforts at diplomacy.

One can argue as to the effectiveness of the closure, but the idea that it has somehow made Hamas more extremist is beyond stupid. In fact, Hamas is now in a position where it is actively trying to stop rockets from being shot towards Israeli citizens daily - and those rockets were being sent by the thousands before the closure and before Cast Lead. This is an obvious counterproof to Kristof's thesis, yet it escapes him.

It’s very hard to gauge how popular Hamas is, but my vague sense is that Hamas may have lost popularity since the election in 2006 and since my last visit (2008). This doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Israeli policies, but rather with weariness with Hamas’s Islamism, nuttiness and intolerance. Antics like Hamas’s attacks on summer camps for kids are emblematic of how the group antagonizes ordinary people.
Hamas is a bloodthirsty regime that routinely tortures and murders its political opponents. Yet Kristof minimizes this reality by using words such as "antics" and "nuttiness."
People are just tired of Hamas, and if Israel would stay out of the picture there’s some hope Hamas could eventually be displaced.
Kristof implies that they are just like some outlying political party who managed to get into office by a fluke and will be gone by the next election, if only Israel doesn't interfere.

He has no idea of how much Hamas has solidified its grip on Gaza.

Hamas has ruthlessly removed any opposition from teachers' unions, student leadership, doctors' associations, mosques, and the news media. They have used supposedly democratic elections to become an autocracy. They have spent the past two years solidifying and entrenching their political and military hold on Gaza. How can Kristof visit Gaza and not know these basic facts? How can he even conceive that, even if Gazans are unhappy with Hamas (and they are), that they are not powerless?

Once again, we see that the most prestigious newspaper in the United States will happily publish nonsense from one of its senior columnists, and this received wisdom will now trickle down into the consciousness of ordinary Americans either from their reading it directly or from the moronic mindset influencing wire service agencies and countless local news outlets. Kristof is not merely wrong - he is mind-bogglingly wrong. Yet because he managed to visit Gaza - where he apparently did not speak to a single ordinary Gazan citizen and where his itinerary was vetted by Hamas itself - he is now regarded as an expert on the matter.

He is nothing of the sort. He is a dupe who didn't do even basic research and didn't ask a single hard question from his hosts.