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American Thinker
American Thinker
21 Oct 2023
Michael Widlanski


NextImg:Naming Names in the Middle East

If Shakespeare had grown up in Gaza or Jerusalem, he would never have written “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” because names In the Mideast cast their own reality and even change reality.

To understand the Mideast, don’t use Shakespeare as a guide, and don’t go to Harvard for politically correct but factually wrong appraisals from “analysts” who know precious little about Mideast languages and ways.

Israeli General Nimrod Sheffer, ex-head of IDF Planning Branch, went on Israeli tv this week advocating that Israel talk to Hamas about a ceasefire and return of hostages. Almost all Israelis disagree with that thinking. General Sheffer, a pilot, rose to the top of the Israeli military pyramid. Along the way, he went to Harvard for graduate work, bringing the dovish, clueless Harvard mindset to the Israeli army, to IDF Planning Branch.

That mindset -- relying mainly on high-tech and ignoring local facts of life -- failed miserably. Just as Al-Qaeda used box-cutters to humble America, Hamas used bulldozers to flatten Israel’s high-tech Gaza barrier. Many Israeli officers never thought “primitive” Hamas, like “primitive” Al-Qaeda, could be so calamitously successful.

Studying your enemy is key. Paying attention to culture, history and language -- the Hebrew bible and the Arabic Quran -- is the first step to getting some regional common sense as well as strategic intelligence

Terrorists from Yasser Arafat to Hamas and Al-Qaeda echo the anti-Jewish period of Muhammad, Islam’s founder, switching from “the Children of Israel” to “the Jews” -- al-Yahoud. When they do so, it means they are about to copy Muhammad’s even harsher actions from the later period of his life when three Jewish tribes in Arabia were evicted from Arabia, forcibly converted, or slaughtered.

When Arafat spoke in a mosque in 1995 and recalled how Muhammad dealt with Arabia’s Jews, it was a clear sign he would break every agreement with Israel and try to conquer it militarily. Arafat tried to cover his tracks and hide his plans, but Hamas has never hidden its ultimate aims. Israel’s Left fell for Arafat’s lies. Israel’s secular Left saw Arafat and his Fatah group as a means to peace and, believe it or not, as a means to control Hamas. Israel’s Left had no time for religious or historical analysis.

When Hamas took over Gaza in 2006, literally throwing Arafat’s people from tall buildings, it was a shock to the Israeli Left. It was also a shock for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who had encouraged Hamas participation in the Gaza “elections,” over the objections from hawkish Israelis. Those elections were “one man-one vote-one time only” -- the founding of the Hamas military state in Gaza. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now admits that he himself bought into the U.S./Israeli Left mindset that Hamas would play by western rules. Interrogations this week of captured Hamas terrorists reveal that Hamas consciously encouraged this wishful thinking. 

That is the main reason for the calamitous Hamas terror attack on Israel’s southern settlements. Senior Israeli military officers for the last 15 years and many Israeli policymakers -- including Netanyahu himself -- believed they could placate Hamas by allowing Gaza workers into Israel and encouraging greater financial aid and materiel. It turns outs that all the cement went into Hamas command bunkers and terror tunnels.

There are many ways to minimize the threat of Arab-Islamic terror. One is to call anyone who warn of the danger an “Islamophobe” -- as if they have a phobia, some unreasoning mental disturbance. Another way is to employ meaningless euphemisms constantly or constantly to see mirages of terrorist “moderation.” When you want to purify a bloodthirsty terrorist, you simply call him a militant. That is what the BBC, Reuters, UPI, AP, NY Times, CNN, and even Fox have done for years. When the “militants” actually act like terrorists, media outlets seem to suffer surprise.

Militants stage sit-ins in college libraries. Terrorists cut off the heads of babies.

Jimmy Carter and his State Department believed Iran’s ayatollahs were moderate in 1978 until they seized American hostages. Barack Obama came into office in 2009 trying to woo two of the worst Islamic terror concentrations in the world -- the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the ayatollahs.

Obama went to Cairo where he weakened Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, and helped destroy Egypt’s economy, playing footsie with the Brotherhood. Obama also bankrolled Iran with billions of dollars while he temporized on Iran’s nuclear bomb program. Much of the Mideast today is a shambles because of the wishful thinking and name-changing by presidents Carter and Obama.

If you do not want to be surprised by a terrorist enemy, pay careful attention to his speech and his actions, because the terrorist often tips his hand by the way he speaks. Their most important speech and their most important actions occur when they think they are talking and planning actions among themselves.

Both the PLO and Hamas have a covenant -- a guiding charter or constitution written in Arabic. The PLO pretended to change its charter, hinted it no longer wanted Israel’s destruction. This lie was swallowed by the U.S. State Department and Israeli leftists.

Most Israelis and Palestinians, polls show, no longer believe this lie. that’s why the Israeli Left -- particularly the Labor Party of Rabin and Peres -- now barely gets four seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

Between 1993 (when the PLO-Israel accords were signed) and today, there were just too many attacks on Israel supported by the PLO-led Palestinian Authority. Israelis simply do not trust the PLO.

The ironic thing is that most senior IDF general staff officers, groomed for years by Labor Party leaders and who tend to be left-leaning (including most directors of intelligence and planning branches) still support the PLO and the so-called two-state solution. So do many leading Israeli politicians (including right-of-center types like Netanyahu) who had convinced themselves that Hamas had moderated.

Netanyahu on the Right and Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid et al on the Left all bought the narrative that Hamas had gentrified, that it built skyscrapers instead of terror tunnels.

They thought Hamas was willing to swap ideology for money, to live alongside Israel. Sure, they said, Hamas launched some rockets, but it would “never do anything serious.”

They were dead wrong.

Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO head, is afraid of elections. West Bank or Gaza. He is seven years older than Joe Biden and sounds like he has marbles in his mouth. He would be overthrown in a heartbeat, maybe his last heartbeat, if Israel were not guarding him in Ramallah. He won’t last a year in Gaza.

This means that the Biden Administration’s plans to push Israel into transferring a conquered Gaza to the hands of the PLO-led Palestinian Authority are doomed to failure.

That’s just what we need: another failed state in the Middle East.

Even if Israel destroys Hamas militarily and kills its leadership, the radical Islamist tendency will likely defeat the corrupt “moderate” PLO. 

Hamas passed its charter in August 1988, and it calls for the murder or expulsion of all Jews in Israel. One of its passages speaks very clearly:

“Our fight with the Jews is very extensive and very grave, and it requires all the sincere efforts.”

Hamas’s invasion-pogrom on October 7, where 1,500 people were murdered in a matter of hours, was definitely “sincere,” and it is time that Israeli, American and other analysts treat terrorist threats sincerely.

 Dr. Michael Widlanski is an expert in political communication, a former reporter and college professor who was the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat (Threshold-Simon and Schuster). He was strategic affairs advisor in Israel ’s Ministry of Public Security, editing captured PLO documents. Earlier he advised Israeli negotiation teams at the Madrid and Washington talks in 1991-92. Dr. Widlanski was a visiting professor at Washington University in St. Louis in 2007-8 and at the University of California, Irvine in 2014, taught political communication for two decades at The Hebrew University and Bar Ilan University. Earlier he was a reporter at The New York Times and Cox Newspapers, war correspondent for Israeli Army Radio and Diplomatic Correspondent for Israel Television in English (IBA).

Image: NASA