Wednesday, August 20, 2014 Av 24, 5774

Abbas vs. Hamas

June 16, 2005
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After last week's rocket attacks against Sderot - inside of Israel - as well as in Gaza settlements scheduled to be evacuated this summer, observers are once again pondering how to react. But who is the real target when Hamas terrorists launch missiles at Israeli targets?

According to some who follow Palestinian targets, the answer is clear: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

There is no denying that the jockeying between the longtime aide to the late Yasser Arafat and his Islamic rivals is real. And the accepted mode of sending a message or proving one's bona fides in Palestinian politics has always been measured in Jewish blood.

So it is logical to assume that one of the goals of Hamas' provocations is to undermine Abbas' credibility - in Jerusalem and in Washington - as a man of peace. By shooting at Israelis with impunity from Gaza, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are eager to prove that they, and not Abbas, are the real powers on the ground. This also bolsters their support among Palestinians, since terrorism is still more popular in that particular demographic than peacemaking.

But to understand these facts is not necessarily to absolve Abbas or to accept at face value the description of him as that peace-loving leader. Abbas' failure to act decisively against Palestinian terror groups is widely explained as an act of political survival, but this excuse doesn't quite work. If Abbas is too weak to stop the activities of Hamas - or even those terrorists from the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade on his own payroll - then he's also too weak to make anything positive happen on the ground.

As it so happens, the Palestinian leader can vindicate his image as a peacemaker rather easily: He can use the considerable military force at his disposal, if he wishes.

The question is: Does he have the gumption to do so?

I.Q. and Illness

The publication of a study linking a genetic predisposition for intelligence among Ashkenazi Jews with the same group's vulnerability to various diseases troubles a great many people. Any talk about a group sharing specific traits strikes some of us as tantamount to racism. While Jews may enjoy the notion that we, on average, seem smarter than other people, that presumption might lead others to draw the opposite conclusion about still other groups.

All of this rightly makes a number of Jews - as well as other Americans - distinctly uncomfortable.

But facts are facts, and it's hard to argue that the overwhelming level of Jewish achievement in the last century is mere happenstance. Just as you cannot credibly ignore the role of genetics in determining our likelihood to contract various diseases or other maladies, so, too, is it silly to pretend that genetics has no effect on other things such as intelligence.

Historians and scientists may debate the reasons for a genetic outcome that links smarts with sickness. But it doesn't take a degree in biology or bioethics to understand that the isolation of the Jewish people over the centuries because of the low rate of intermarriage and the high rate of persecution might result in a concentrated result.

That's all well and good, but the real issue here is what all these smart Jews are doing with their intelligence.

High SAT scores are nice, but a community-wide commitment to Jewish education would be a much more persuasive indicator that Jews were actually on top of things. The widespread failure to commit sufficient resources to this attainable goal seems proof of a marker the Utah study didn't mention: shortsightedness.

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