By Hugh Ash

SO three kids – two Israelis and an American with dual-Israeli nationality – are kidnapped and brutally slain, after trying to hitchhike home from their college, just over the border in the West Bank.
 So what? It’s just another bloody incident in a litany of ‘tit-for-tat’ killings that pockmark the Middle East’s longest-festering dispute, right?
 No, wrong!
 The premeditated savagery employed by Hamas goons to snuff out the brief lives of Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-ad Shaar, both aged 16, along with 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach, was anything but another, mere example of what is cynically dismissed an interminable ‘cycle of violence’.
 Neither was the killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian youngster kidnapped in East Jerusalem last Wednesday, whose body was found in nearby woodland.
 Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, immediately condemned the Arab boy’s murder as ‘reprehensible’, while Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, summarily blamed it on vengeful Jewish extremists, despite reports Mohammad’s family were embroiled in a bitter, inter-clan vendetta.
 Inevitability, the tragedy has sparked rioting, with hordes of Palestinian youths taking to the streets and venting their anger by stoning Israeli soldiers.
 Predictably, too, Israelis are in shock and rage at the deaths of their sons and security forces have reportedly rounded up 400 known Hamas associates, at least 50 recently released in a deal foisted on the Jewish state by the US that freed over 1,000 prisoners as part of the cack-handed ‘peace process’.
 So a new chapter of violence is written, the narrative littered with the usual, distorted, clichéd labels.
 A ‘cycle’ implies symmetry; ‘tit-for-tat’ a vindictive reaction; ‘moral equivalence’ – a term much favoured by devious PA spinmeisters – justification for resorting to terrorism.
 All of which is arrant nonsense by any loose stretch of logic. Because there is an immeasurable gulf between deliberately terrorising civilians and a democratic government taking legitimate counter-measures to defend its people.
 So, when roguishly false ‘moral equivalence’ is cited to balance the scales between attacker and victim, the true meaning of morality takes a kicking.
 Sadly, this is too often the case due to skewered reporting from the region and the ‘halo effect’ of warped NGO representatives, who will equate the Palestinian mother celebrating the ‘martyrdom’ of her deceased, terrorist son with the grieving mothers of, say, the three murdered students.
 Would the same truth-benders, I wonder, justify a depraved religious credo as reasonable mitigation for the brutes who slayed Drummer Lee Rigby in a London street or the 9/11 plane hijackers and 7/7 bombers?
 I doubt it. All but the seriously unhinged agree these were calculated acts of barbarity, quite rightly branded as terrorism.
 Yet, when Israelis are the victims, more often than not, the hard-line, pre-judgemental Left – via its Western cheerleader media – is quick to pardon each Palestinian atrocity and condemn every Israeli response as ‘disproportionate’, as if both sides were fighting by the Queensberry Rules.
 Hamas, which hasn’t denied a role in the students’ slaughter and praised the kidnapper-killers, doesn’t play by rules, unless it’s squirming on the back foot and appealing to the international community for intervention.
 That threatened to be the case last week, when Israeli jets pounded missile-launchers in Gaza and troop reinforcements arrived at the enclave’s border in a show of strength that said, ‘We will not tolerate further fusillades of rockets – stop firing them or suffer the consequences.’
 So far, thanks to Egyptian mediation, a mini-war has been averted, if only temporarily.
 Despite countering with a threat to ‘open the gates of Hell’ if the Israelis come calling, one reason for a truce is that the Islamic psychopaths – ‘militants’ if you’re a Guardian reader or BBC News fan – face a fresh dilemma.
 Newly-won credibility, payback for ending their 10-year feud with Abbas’s Fatah party and joining a Palestinian ‘unity government’ in May, is on the line, providing anyone in Gaza is savvy enough to predict the diplomatic fallout that’s likely to impact if they can’t behave like responsible parliamentarians.
 The announcement of the unholy pact, however, was the deal-buster for Netanyahu to exit the ‘peace process’, irrespective of how serially-bumbling US arm-twisting had further fanned hostilities between the two parties.
 But, even the White House conceded Israel couldn’t negotiate with a regime that included cutthroats who refused to recognise its right to exist or renounce their pledge to murder Jews anywhere, anyhow.
 Astonishingly, though, President Obama immediately applauded the Palestinian initiative, conveniently forgetting that he – along with most key players on the international stage, including the EU – had long ago branded Hamas ‘a terrorist entity’.
 This expedient, however, is completely in synch with the fog surrounding White House foreign policy, which now casts a kindly eye at the terror-mongers of Iran to get the West off the hook in Syria and Iraq.
 That may explain why some Obama allies wish he spends even more time on the golf course than in the Oval Office, as he tries to outdo Jimmy Carter as the most lame-brained US leader since World War Two.
 Meanwhile, after the executions of the Israeli teenagers and amid lingering, mutual distrust between Fatah and Hamas, Abbas’s embryo of a ‘unity government’ now finds itself tiptoeing on quicksand.
 Part of its formation was an accommodation, allowing Hamas thugs the freedom of the West Bank. Now, based on strong intelligence, two of them – Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme – are in the frame as chief suspects for the student murders and the embarrassed PA chairman is beginning to rue the hand of friendship he offered his worst enemies.
 Which is why Abbas promised Israel the co-operation of his police and secret service in hunting down the killers, because suddenly he’s realised there’s more to fear from his new business buddies than the wrath of Netanyahu.
 To me, this seems like morality biting back in the true sense of the word.
To read more of Hugh Ash’s comments, follow his award-winning, online blog – Views From The Mallorca Pier – at hughash.wordpress.com

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