Of course the usual suspects started squawking about our having "abandoned a more even-handed approach." But what sort of idiot would take an even-handed approach to Hamas? Unless you count pounding it with both fists.
In a column three years ago, I quoted Article 7 of the Hamas Charter: "The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: 'The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.'"
I think I'll plant me some Gharkad trees. Because the question now is not what sort of compromise one might reach with people who talk like that but why you'd want to. It is a point of pride with radical Islamists that they are in love with death. Hamas certainly is: Other people's if possible, ideally Jews, lots of Jews, but if not, then the deaths of one's neighbours and family and if all else fails one's own. Only on the last point do I sympathize.
Hamas is flat-out loathsome. During the Cold War, I was frustrated by those who drew a spurious moral equivalence between the West and the Soviet Union. Now I miss them. Communism was evil, stupid and dangerous, to be sure. But it didn't say God would one day finish the work Hitler started.
Periodically I encounter people arguing that Israel, though not perfect, should be preferred because it is democratic, has free speech, has a sizable peace movement, and extends to its Muslim citizens an extensive array of rights denied not only to Jews but to Muslims in Israel's neighbours.
Such people note that other democratic governments urging "restraint" on Israel cannot even say what this restraint would be, except it involves Jews submitting to a rain of terrorist rockets these same governments would not tolerate hitting them. They also point out that Israel actively seeks peace with neighbours who run newspaper stories based on the blood libel and TV series based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Sometimes they discuss the political usefulness of xenophobia, specifically anti-Semitism, for regimes unable to satisfy their citizens' desire for freedom, prosperity or anything else worth having.
I pay these arguments little heed. Not because they are wrong but because they are so obviously right that they manage to be beside the point. No one of good will and sound mind is unaware that Hamas dreams of exterminating Jews and dancing in the gore. People's position on the Middle East nowadays is based on how they feel about that fact, not whether they know about it.
On that basis I welcomed Michael Ignatieff's lucid statement last Thursday that "Hamas is a terrorist organization and Canada can't touch Hamas with a 10-foot pole. Hamas is to blame for organizing this, for these rocket attacks and then for sheltering among the civilian population. And Israel is justified in continuing military operations." And while I'm giving credit where it's due, in her confirmation hearings as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton bluntly told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee "We cannot negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and agrees to abide by past agreements." Curiously, the emphasis on past agreements is a nice touch; although Hamas's perfidy is hardly its most atrocious characteristic, this condition makes even a tactical deception harder to perpetrate on the U.S. which, of course, would also have voted no if it were on the UNHRC.
If the situation in Gaza were reversed, with Hamas overrunning Israel, civilian casualties would not number in the hundreds but the hundreds of thousands and the UN would do nothing. If Israel's defences were to crack, its neighbours would conduct the "war of extermination" and "momentous massacre" promised by the Secretary-General of the Arab League in 1948, and the world would not lift a finger even if it could. Or rather, some governments would cheer. Others, like the sanctimonious Scandinavians, would wring their hands and urge mutual restraint.
To be alone in one's position on Israel in the UNHRC is no embarrassment. It is the only place of pride.
[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]