In a step fraught with danger, Israel is uprooting its citizens and withdrawing its military from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. That Palestinian terrorists are rejoicing over this momentous pullout is hardly shocking. That the United States is also applauding is contemptible. Worse still, America is demanding more concessions of land: Secretary of State Rice has insisted, “It cannot be Gaza only.”

Why is America urging Israel to make such perilous concessions? The rationale is that the withdrawal will open an unobstructed path for the “downtrodden” Palestinians toward a self-governed ethnic state. Such a state, Washington hopes, will alleviate their suffering and establish peaceful co-existence between Israel and the Palestinians.

But such a state will intensify the misery of the few genuinely freedom-seeking Palestinians by entrenching a tyrannical regime. The Palestinian Authority, a provisional governing body, has drained the lifeblood out of its citizens, trampled on their rights and, despite receiving billions in foreign aid, kept them in devastating poverty. Under the PA’s anarchic reign, rival “security forces” arbitrarily seize property, arrest and jail people without charge, and summarily execute dissidents.

The actual victors of the withdrawal are terrorists and their vast legions of reverent supporters in the Palestinian population. The motto emblazoned on banners throughout Gaza expresses their belief, borne out in practice, that violence works: “Gaza Today. The West Bank and Jerusalem Tomorrow.” The withdrawal has strengthened their resolve, not to achieve peace, but to destroy Israel. “We’re going to keep our weapons,” one terrorist told reporters, “because the battle with the enemy is a long one.” A cleric allied to Hamas, which has carried out umpteen suicide bombings in Israel, observed that “when we offer up our children [as ’martyrs’], it is much better than choosing the road of humiliation and negotiations.”

As some have observed, with a populace and leadership so hospitable to terrorists, in time the Palestinian territories may succeed Taliban-ruled Afghanistan as a training ground for jihadists, lusting to murder not only in the streets of Jerusalem and Baghdad, but also London and New York.

Israel’s retreat from Gaza — rightly celebrated by terrorists — is neither a means of fostering peace, nor a solution for the plight of innocent Palestinians. Why, then, does America support it?

Because Washington holds that Israel has no moral right to assert its interests, but the Palestinians do. Their quest for statehood enjoys Washington’s wholehearted support, encouragement and financing as an incontestable entitlement — even if they tyrannize themselves and terrorize Israel. But if Israel pursues its interests, by contrast, Washington considers that a moral transgression. Israel could, and for a time did, easily protect the lives and property of all individuals within its borders and the contested territories, by smashing aggressors and imposing its rule of law on Palestinians (which innocent Palestinians welcomed). But Washington refuses on principle to endorse such assertions of Israeli interests.

Why this double standard? Our leaders believe in altruism: the view that one’s highest moral duty is to selflessly serve the needy — and thus that the world’s “haves” must sacrifice for the sake of its “have-nots.” The productive, on this abhorrent view, have no moral right to pursue their own interests; their only justification for existing is to serve the needy. Because Israel is strong and prosperous, it is thereby forbidden from imposing its will on the destitute Palestinians — even though it is the innocent victim of Palestinian aggression. Because the Palestinians are weak and poor, they may demand anything they wish — including a state with which to terrorize Israel.

It might seem that President Bush is being hypocritical: forbidding an ally, Israel, from fighting terrorism effectively even as U.S. forces wage a “war on terror.” But observe that in fact he is being devastatingly consistent. For Bush, Iraqis are entitled to the sanctity of their Mosques — but our troops are forbidden from rooting out insurgents hiding and sniping from within; Iraqis are entitled to textbooks, hospitals, sewers, roads — but, in defending themselves, our troops must place the lives of Iraqi civilians (some of whom are or aid insurgents) above their own. Attesting to the cost of this sacrificial policy is the burgeoning U.S. death toll.

And Washington has refused to impose on Iraq a constitution that would make the new regime non-threatening — as we did in Japan after World War II. In the name of satisfying the poor Iraqis’ demand for “self-determination,” President Bush has pledged to recognize as sovereign whatever regime the Iraqis vote for — even a militantly hostile Islamic theocracy that, in unison with Iran’s mullahs, clamors for “Death to America.”

Neither Israel nor the United States can vanquish Islamist terrorism unless it repudiates the corrupt morality of altruism, which enjoins the sacrifice of the successful as an ideal. Victory can only be achieved if one is convinced of one’s moral right to live and to act consistently to achieve one’s goals. Every self-effacing step that Israel takes — in lockstep with America and with our blessing — encourages the terrorists with the belief that their success is achievable.