In Toronto, on Thursday, I witnessed a little incident of some value to the interpretation of world affairs. It happened on a crowded westbound King Street trolley, trapped at Yonge Street by the early rush hour crowds. (Ottawans may envy any kind of functioning transit service.)
Three young men, whom one might characterize as voluntary members of the underclass from the way they were dressed (expensive ghetto gear), jumped the back door of the trolley, in order to avoid paying fares. It is the sort of thing people just get used to in a decaying society. The drivers have their hands full processing paying customers through the front entrance, and can hardly be expected to guard the rear.
But in this case, the driver more than noticed what was happening, apparently through his rear-view mirror. He shut the front doors, stalled the car, and elbowed his way through the standing passengers to confront his unpaid guests. "I've got bad news for you punks," he declared, loudly. "I am not a liberal." Upon being told this, they left the car peacefully. Though I should add that, this being Toronto, the passengers looked more astounded by the driver's declaration than by the punks' behaviour.
In my humble opinion -- shared with all those with some elementary understanding of the art of policing -- the leading cause of anti-social behaviour is permission. People, and young punks especially, will do things that even they know are malicious because no one will stop them.
The worst possible conditions exist, as today, when the surrounding society is befogged with idiotic, decadent notions, such as the idea that the punks are themselves "victims" of some material deprivation, when what they have in fact been deprived of is the iron fist of the law.
We see this phenomenon writ large in Gaza, where the punks are organized into a terrorist militia called Hamas. It is unnecessary to consider their Islamist ideological credentials, only to witness their deeds. These are people who were under the impression that "society" -- by analogy "the world community," and the diplomatic draughtsmen of innumerable "roadmaps to peace" -- had granted them permission to wing thousands of rockets gratuitously into Israel.
And that world community is now the more astounded when Israel replies, in effect, "I am not a liberal," than it ever was by the incessant pounding of the Qassams. We have the spectacle of the suits at the United Nations running about declaring truces that both Hamas and Israel will ignore. Hamas is still winging rockets; Israel has declared no intention of stopping until the rockets stop.
As Claudia Rosett, the leading journalistic investigator of UN perfidy, has been documenting for some years now (in her weekly Forbes.com column and elsewhere), the punks of Palestine have benefited from a level of permission that amounts to direct encouragement.
Since the complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 (that was supposed to bring an enduring peace), Hamas has been able to consolidate its political power over the enclave, while consolidating Gaza's economy around just two industries: terrorism and foreign aid. There is no other economy in Gaza, and there has been no credible attempt to build one.
The UN Relief and Works Agency has acted as the great enabler. Set up in 1949 as a temporary agency to house, feed and resettle fewer than one million Arab refugees (Israel received an approximately equal number of Jewish refugees from around the Arab world), UNRWA has grown by bureaucratic persistence into a vast, permanent welfare organization for the 4.6-million descendants of its original "client base" -- and for their descendants, into the indefinite future. It provides for them with a staff and budget several times larger than the combined UN effort on behalf of all the other refugees on the planet.
That UNRWA does not operate in a vacuum, but has instead woven itself into the regional matrix, is evident from the history. The agency's camps, which have grown into permanent settlements, are distributed not only through Gaza and the West Bank, but around Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Arab governments in each of these jurisdictions absolutely refuse to naturalize these permanent residents, almost all of whom were born on their soil, on the claim that they must rightfully be "returned" to the territory Israel now "occupies." Thus UNRWA facilitates the use of these so-called "refugees" as a dagger pointed at Israel's throat.
Moreover, almost all of UNRWA's staff is locally recruited Palestinian, and thus the entire operation is open to subversion to the ends that they decree. For instance, this week, as the Israelis have alleged, the use of a UN school as an arms cache, use of the building as a defensive fortification by Hamas gunmen, use of its inmates as "human shields."
There are root causes of the current conflict, going, as all agree, right back to the foundation of Israel (by the UN) in the late 1940s. The continued existence of UNRWA is the principal one, creating the conditions for Islamist terrorism to flourish, and it is time that root cause was addressed.
Thanks to Cletus