Monday, April 10, 2006

What, you want me to STARVE? 

I'd like to talk a little bit about Hamas, as usual, but first a little diversion about parenting.

Have you ever had the experience of raising a really, really strong-willed child? Builds character, doesn't it?

The experts can talk all they like, but sometimes all the theories in the world melt away before a child's absolute determination not to wash his or her muddy paws for dinner. In these mutinous moments, the extreme clash of wills leaves a parent with a short list of options:
  1. Cave immediately, saving your credibility and your breath. Besides, it's not as if she was actually going to eat anything anyway, and you can always hose her place setting down after the guests have gone home.
  2. Spank the little Rambo-willed rebel until she realizes who's boss around here. Then spank her for using her salad fork on the melon. Then spank her for not passing the ketchup after you asked three times already. (The truly strong-willed are inclined to test.)
  3. Offer her a candy if she'll wash her hands like a good girl. Ok, two candies. And an extra hour of TV. After bedtime. Just wash your hands!
  4. Explain what the natural, Adlerian consequences are: that only people with clean hands are allowed to eat, so when she's washed her hands she can come to the table, and only then.
Aside from showing just how limited and neanderthal the potential contents of my parenting toolbox really are, the list pretty quickly narrows down to a single "least worst" alternative.

Of course you should feel free to use my comments section to suggest all of those idealistic creative solutions you use for dealing with your perfect little moppets instead of the heavy handed stuff I'm stuck on -- like explaining to them in detail why dirt doesn't belong at the table and respecting their intellects and crap like that -- I'd really appreciate it. And by the way, bear with me here; I'll manage to twist this post into something about Hamas within a paragraph or two if you stick with me.

I can't choose option 1 because I don't like to cave right away; I like to savor the experience, stretch it out a bit, yelling and screaming and hurling idle threats before finally surrendering. Option 2, spanking, while frequently tempting, is one I hope to avoid unless it's something really important, like turning off the VCR when I'm recording a Lakers game or something serious like that. Option 3, the candy, could work -- and I have used it for some things, like toilet training -- but after awhile kids develop an immunity to small doses of candy and I really don't want to share my adult size candy bars so it just doesn't cut it.

That leaves me, and probably a lot of parents, stuck on option 4: trying to set firm boundaries. But you have to be careful not to let it turn into a "well then I dare you not to step over THAT line" skit, so of course you have to play your cards right. There is a tricky part you have to get past before you can pat yourself on the back for your successful and all-wise parenting. It's the point when your child blames you for the consequences of her own misdeeds. "What, you're not going to let me eat? You have to! You want me to STARVE? I'm going to call Protective Services! What kind of person starves his own child!" This is often followed by a long, loud "WAAAHHHHH!"

It is so important at this critical juncture to ignore all the helpful hints around the table, "Why don't you just give her a little salad, and then she can wash her hands later?" There comes a time when a kid has to learn the idea that consequences are a result of her own actions, and accrue to her, not everyone around her. This sometimes calls for medicine that is cruel and bitter, but it must be swallowed nonetheless before the symptoms can get better. It's time to say, "No, when the only thing standing between a truly starving person and food is a little hand washing, those hands are going to get washed and washed quick. If you aren't willing to wash, then you aren't really starving." That's about it really.

Now the Hamas part.

Official aid to the Palestinian Authority, now run by terrorist organization Hamas, has recently been cut by many of its leading donors until Hamas makes a few changes in its unacceptable public statements and behavior. Even Al-Jazeera clearly understands the conditions under which Hamas funding has been cut:

"The path back to the road map is clear: Acceptance of the three principles. If it accepts the quartet principles or a new government comes to power that accepts them, funding can be restored," [State Department Spokesman Sean] McCormack said.

The three principles are that Hamas must renounce violence, recognise Israel's right to exist and express clear support for the Middle East peace process.
So the aid is not merely cut off punatively, but with clear conditions for its restoration. Hamas has a few very reasonable steps they can take to be allowed to eat at the table once more. How do they react?

The Palestinian prime minister and president have lashed out at the United States and European Union for halting direct financial aid to the Palestinian Authority.

On Friday, Ismail Haniya, the prime minister and a Hamas leader, denounced the decisions as "hasty and unjust".

"The world should respect the choice of the Palestinian people," he added.

President Mahmoud Abbas said that "the Palestinian people should not be punished for their democratic choice".

By cutting the aid, the US and EU were "punishing all the people, workers and families", he said.
Do you want them to STARVE?

Well, as you can see, they're pretty angry about this -- but not actually bothered enough to wash their hands so they can come back to the table. For now, they'd prefer to stand and simmer right where they are, dripping mud on the carpet, and accusing everyone else of trying to starve them. As Daled Amos points out, when just about all it takes is a clear statement of being willing to recognize a UN member state's right to exist, various Hamas spokesmen can do no better than an incoherent mumble that can't really be understood as compliance even with the benefit of a Hamas decoder ring.

Prime Minister Haniyeh telling us he won't moderate any Palestinian so-called aspirations for a bunch of foreign aid, or Al-Zahar feebly hinting at living peaceably with his neighbors and then denying Israel is a neighbor, well, apparently they're not truly hungry enough to moderate their behavior yet.

Sound familiar?

PS: Some of the parenting section was written with a Hamas-driven agenda in mind, and was tailored to highlight an otherwise pefectly valid point. Nevertheless, I'd like to set the record straight: I do have more parenting options at my disposal than I listed here. It's just that I didn't want my post to end up seeming to suggest we should tell Hamas a few jokes until they forget they want to kill us all and then ask them nicely once again to negotiate with us.

PPS: Any youthful misbehavior cited in this post was purely theoretical and bears no resemblence intentional or otherwise to my own children, who would never ever do such a thing. It's just bad comedy.

Parting Shot: Some more good posts on the subject of Hamas and foreign aid:

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: