What was most striking about this morning’s bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv was not the fact that Hamas, whose military wing reportedly claimed credit for the attack, was resorting to a tactic of targeting Israeli civilians. That is, unfortunately for all concerned, an established practice on the part of Hamas, and part of the reason its leadership (to say nothing of ordinary Gazans) has spent the last week living in fear of Israeli air strikes.
No, what was particularly striking was the immediate reaction of ordinary Palestinians to the attack: Cheering.
According to Reuters:
“Hamas blesses the attack in Tel Aviv and sees it as a natural response to the Israeli massacres…in Gaza,” [Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri] told Reuters. “Palestinian factions will resort to all means in order to protect our Palestinian civilians in the absence of a world effort to stop the Israeli aggression.”
Sweet cakes were handed out in celebration in Gaza’s main hospital, which has been inundated with wounded from the round-the-clock Israeli bombing and shelling.
Now, the obvious point is that decent people don’t cheer attacks on innocent civilians. While decent people might recognize that, in modern warfare, civilian casualties are inevitable, those casualties are recognized as a necessary evil, not a cause for celebration. Cheering attacks on civilians is the mark of barbarians. This point is apparently lost on Hamas and its subjects (As an aside: Do the denizens of Gaza’s hospitals really have nothing better to do than celebrate civilian casualties by baking sweet cakes?)
More’s the pity too. I can’t think of a more effective way to undermine public sympathy for the Palestinian cause than for the Palestinians to be seen to be behaving like barbarians (summarily executing people and dragging their bodies through the street doesn’t help). More to the point, those actions legitimize the claims of Israeli hardliners that the Palestinians can’t be negotiated with – it’s hard to negotiate with people who think that killing your civilians is a good thing. Here’s a nickel’s worth of advice for the Palestinians: If you want support from decent people in your conflict with Israel, try to act like decent people. Celebrating attacks on civilians isn’t going to help you.