This past Sunday, The New York Times ran a story encapsulating all that is wrong with the Western world's approach to extremist Islamic fundamentalism.
In a report appearing in its first section, the paper revealed a startling bit of news: "Red Cross offers workshops in international law to Hamas."
That's right. The global institution, which claims that it works "to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles," is busying conducting seminars for terrorists in Gaza on how they can be, umm, more humanitarian when attacking Israel.
What's next? Teaching table manners to the Taliban? The Times article goes on to describe the three-day seminar that the Red Cross conducted for Hamas last month. It included role-playing and case studies, noting that "one exercise involved an armed group firing on an invading tank from the garden of a civilian home near a hospital." How educational! Mamadou Sow, head of Red Cross operations in Gaza, breezily noted to the Times that earlier this year, when he presented Hamas leadership with a critique of their conduct during last summer's Gaza war, they "welcomed it" and "indicated that they are a learning organization."
The article does not indicate whether Sow was able to maintain a straight face while uttering such inanity.
But lest you suspect that Hamas' indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets at Israel may indicate that it is somewhat indifferent to the value of human life, Red Cross leaders went out of their way to stress that "they have seen an increasing commitment from Hamas leaders and linemen alike" to respect international humanitarian law.
"For the first time," said Jacques de Maio, Red Cross director for Israel and the Palestinian territories, "Hamas is actually, in a private, protected space, expressing a readiness to look critically at a number of things that have an impact on their level of respect for international humanitarian law."
Curiously, de Maio made no mention of the two Israelis Hamas is believed to be holding captive, Avraham Mengistu and an unnamed Beduin, or of the organization's refusal to take responsibility for their fates. So much for their "respect for international humanitarian law."
The gathering was one of six such workshops organized by the Red Cross for Hamas' Kassam Brigades this year, in addition to two more for other, unnamed terrorist groups.
This is an absolute outrage. It is morally obtuse and strategically shortsighted for the Red Cross, or any other body, to relate to Hamas as though it can be transformed into a nicer, gentler band of thugs.
Hamas, like radical Islamic fundamentalists elsewhere, is driven by a supremacist ideology of hate and theology of murder, one that is not susceptible to embracing the norms of Western civilization.
Trying to instill in Hamas and other jihadists the values of international humanitarian law is like attempting to teach an alligator to clean its teeth after eating its prey. It might improve the critter's appearance, but it won't affect its nature as a killing machine.
Indeed, just consider some of the things that Hamas has been saying publicly over the past 10 months.
In December, on the occasion of its 27th anniversary, the terrorist group organized a celebration in Gaza City attended by thousands of people that included a march by 2,000 of its armed members. Addressing the crowd, Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya vowed that, "This illusion called Israel will be removed. It will be removed at the hands of the Kassam Brigades."
And in February of this year, Hamas spokesman Mahmoud a-Zahar called on Iran to provide the organization with funds and weapons so that it could "destroy the Israeli occupation."
Then, at the end of March, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told reporters that, "Hamas is not seeking to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza Strip but to liberate the whole of Palestine from the Israeli occupation."
These statements are all in accordance with the Hamas charter, which openly calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
So with all due respect to the Red Cross, its efforts are futile, and amount to little more than a naive waste of time, energy and money.
The do-gooders at the Red Cross may be well-intentioned, but they are clearly ignoring Hamas' raison d'etre, which is decidedly unhumanitarian – genocidal, in fact.
And by engaging with Hamas, they are necessarily conferring legitimacy on an organization that both the United States and the European Union consider to be a terrorist group.
Sadly, this silliness exemplifies how many in the West continue to view Islamic extremists, as though they are merely misguided people who can be shown the error of their ways.
It shouldn't need to be said any longer, but here goes: seminars and workshops may be great for countering alcoholism, drug abuse and other ills of society, but they are not the way to fight jihad.
In the life-and-death struggle with Islamic extremism, nothing less than defending ourselves will do.