Israel News

A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto

January 4, 2002
Issue number 360


Katsav Misses the Point    Jerusalem Post      Editorial 

President Moshe Katsav was thrust into the limelight earlier this week when former MK Abdel Wahab Darawshe sought to arrange for him to address the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah. It was not long before Darawshe's proposal, under which Katsav would offer the Palestinians a one-year armistice known in Arabic as a hudna, was leaked to the media, which effectively ensured the idea would be buried before it had gotten off the ground. But it is nevertheless worthwhile to consider Katsav's handling of the affair, which unfortunately was neither responsible nor very presidential. 

The possibility of a Ramallah speech was first broached with Katsav in a letter sent to him last month by Darawshe, businessman Eyal Ehrlich, and Haifa University Prof. Yosef Ginat. Speaking to reporters, Katsav confirmed that he had received "an interesting proposal" which he "did not reject." He then stated that he had passed the matter along to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and was awaiting his decision. 

Darawshe claims that he received Yasser Arafat's approval for the plan, so all that was necessary was for Israel to consent. "We wanted to bring about a cease-fire, but something wider then the cease-fire being discussed," Darawshe said. "The hudna is a wide-scale cease-fire that makes possible the ability to get to a sulha [full reconciliation] in the end."  

Whatever Darawshe's true intentions might be, the truth of the matter is that this entire episode was clearly little more than a public-relations ploy, one that only served to paint Israel as being the obstacle to achieving an end to the violence and bloodshed. Sharon acted correctly when he rejected the proposal. Indeed, even Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said that Darawshe's plan would not be helpful if implemented. 

The very idea that Israel should be the one to request a cease-fire, as if to imply that the burden of responsibility for the ongoing violence falls upon its shoulders, is patently absurd. For more than 15 months, the Palestinian Authority has been waging an unrelenting campaign of terror, one that has resulted in the deaths of some 250 innocent Israelis. The burden now rests on Arafat and the PA, and entirely on them, to bring about an end to the violence at once. By agreeing to the proposal, Arafat was simply trying to reduce the international pressure on him to combat terror. And there is no better way of doing so than by diverting attention, and blame, in Israel's direction. 

It is therefore particularly difficult to understand Katsav's handling of the matter. Rather than rejecting it out of hand, Katsav effectively passed the buck, dumping responsibility for its inevitable failure on the prime minister. Katsav surely knew that it was a non-starter, one whose leak was no doubt carefully timed by the PA to coincide with the imminent return of American envoy Anthony Zinni. By failing to bury the idea at the outset, Katsav inadvertently played right into Arafat and Darawshe's hands, prolonging the story and enabling the PA to score a few points in the battle for public opinion. 

The fact that Arafat is resorting to transparent propaganda ploys, such as the Christmas mass and the Darawshe plan, is perhaps the most telling sign yet that the increasing pressure on him to act against terror is finally beginning to sink in. It is therefore highly unfortunate that Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen has decided to pay Arafat a visit in Ramallah tomorrow. Whether or not it is intended as such, his visit will only serve to encourage Arafat's obstinacy still further, leading to him to believe that the cosmetic measures he has taken thus far against Hamas and Islamic Jihad are sufficient to win him international backing and support. It should be clear by now that visits and speeches in Ramallah are not what will bring about an end to Palestinian terror. It is about time that the leaders of the free world - whether Norwegian or Israeli - recognize this, and start acting accordingly.(Jerusalem Post Jan 2)

Zinni's Uphill Battle Jerusalem Post Editorial 

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat is reaping international praise for the substantial reduction in terrorist attacks over the past few days and, not coincidentally, US envoy Anthony Zinni is reportedly headed back here soon. As a former military man, however, Zinni should be able to tell the difference between a strategic break with terrorism and a pause to reload.

The Labor Party's new chairman, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, says he supports Foreign Minister Shimon Peres's talks with the Palestinians, and told Channel 2 that, if the Palestinians continue their current pace of arrests, "I think we can start implementing Mitchell." But even Ben-Eliezer said that suicide bombers are continuing to be trained as part of "an infrastructure for war."

An attack foiled by the IDF on Friday night is emblematic both of what goes on in a period of supposed quiet and of the preparations mentioned by Ben-Eliezer. On that night, Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip fired on suspicious figures after an explosion went off near them. The next morning, they found the remains of a terrorist who had been wearing a belt of explosives and two LAW missiles. An IDF commander explained that these missiles "can penetrate armor and can cause serious damage." In the meantime, though Arafat's forces have finally been making some preventive arrests and may be trying to prevent some attacks they get wind of, the most dangerous terrorist leaders are being left untouched.

No argument can be made that Arafat has reduced the capability of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to engage in terrorism. Arafat has not even begun to implement US and European demands that these terrorist groups be dismantled and disarmed.  The number of attempted terrorist attacks has gone down from roughly 50 per day to "only" 10 per day. Even though no country in the world would define 10 attacks a day as a lack of terrorism, we can be sure that once again the pressure on Israel to negotiate will rise and the pressure on Arafat to make a strategic break with terror will fall. US Secretary of State Colin Powell is already urging Israel to ease up on its security measures in the territories in recognition of the progress that has been made.  The problem is that this process has a deadly familiarity to it. Each major terrorist attack is followed by pressure on Arafat, leading to a brief period of quiet, then the easing of pressure, then another murderous attack. Each time the pressure on Arafat has been greater, but each time he is able to ease the pressure with incomplete measures. And each time Israel pays for Western naivete in blood.

By now it should be clear that Arafat does not respond to carrots, only to sticks. Doves such as Ehud Barak and Shlomo Ben-Ami have long ago come to the conclusion that Arafat is incapable of signing any comprehensive carrot-based deal with Israel. No carrot is big enough to trump Arafat's reluctance to break Palestinian "national unity" and confront Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It is hard to escape the impression that the renewed Zinni mission and Peres's ongoing attempts to negotiate with the Palestinian leadership are, once again, a distraction from forcing Arafat to taking decisive action. These diplomatic forays seem to buy the Palestinian argument that Arafat can only act when he has diplomatic inducements. The record shows that the opposite is the case. Arafat reacts to diplomatic inducements by concluding that the pressure is off and he has once again avoided the need to act.  Carrots, rather than supplementing sticks, have the effect transforming the sticks into wet noodles. Though Zinni is new at this game, he was so  badly burned by his last experience that the futility of being nice to Arafat should be clear. It would be folly of the first order for the United States to ease the pressure on Arafat just as it has begun to work. If Zinni is not careful, the very fact of his presence will be taken by Arafat to mean that he has achieved a passing grade. If this happens, Zinni can expect that his next visit will be as unsuccessful as the last.   (Jerusalem Post Dec 31)

Profile: Sari Nusseibeh-Arafat's Mouth, but Saddam's Eyes and Ears By Michael Widlanski:

Several hundred banner-carrying members of the Israeli Left marched down Jerusalem's main streets today "to inaugurate a center for dialog and joint activities" between Palestinians and Israelis, but especially to help the

budding political career of an articulate Arab academic named Sari Nusseibeh, Yasser Arafat's representative in Jerusalem.

The demonstrators, most of them clad in black and protesting Israel's policies in the West Bank, were keenly aware that Nusseibeh, an Oxford-educated philosophy professor, was recently named by Arafat as quasi-minister for Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian Authority. The left-wing demonstrators, many of whom flew in from Western Europe, were also certainly aware that the government of Israel has been trying to keep Nuseibeh from holding public functions in Jerusalem because the Oslo Accords and Israeli law specifically rule out Palestinian state functions in Jerusalem. They said Nusseibeh was a "moderate" and that the Israeli government was acting foolishly in trying to silence one of the "voices of moderation" on the Palestinian side.

"Two weeks ago, Dr. Nusseibeh was arrested when he attempted to hold a reception at the hotel. Coalition leaders have expressed their hope that the government will not repeat the same mistake twice and desist from its attempts to silence the voices of moderation," asserted the statement by the Israeli-Palestinian Coalition for Peace.

But the demonstrators, including former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, probably did not know that before going to work for Yasser Arafat, Dr. Sari Nusseibeh went to work for Saddam Hussein trying to guide missile attacks on Israel. During the 1991 Gulf War, Nusseibeh was caught contacting Iraqi intelligence officials in order to help direct the SCUD rocket attacks of Saddam Hussein in which four Israelis were killed (one directly) and many wounded from 39 missile strikes. "While the rockets were falling it became clear to us that this gentleman was telephoning the Iraqi ambassador in one of the neighboring countries to tell the Iraqis where to shoot the missile," stated Col. (Res.) Shalom Harari, former Arab Affairs Advisor for the Israeli Defense Ministry. In an exclusive interview with The Media Line, Harari described how the "moderate" Nusseibeh would tell Iraqi officials, for example, "Don't shoot in the Negev but rather shoot some place else for better effect."

Nusseibeh was arrested by Israel's counter-intelligence agency, the Shin Bet (today known as SHABAK) and put in administrative detention without trial for several weeks. After the Gulf War ended, Israeli officials, under pressure from the Israeli Left allowed Nusseibeh a kind of "plea bargain" under which he voluntarily left the country for three years, said Harari, today a researcher at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. "Sari Nusseibeh is a strategist and an ideologue with a long-term perspective," asserted Shalom Goldstein, Arab Affairs Advisor for the Jerusalem Municipality. "He is someone who is able to take a breath and plot a future path," said Goldstein, who has closely followed Nusseibeh's political activities.  "For him 'Peace Now' is just an intermediate object," said Goldstein who  cited statements by Nusseibeh to the Arabic language press showing that Nusseibeh is in favor of a full "right of return" by Palestinian Arabs, leading to a step-by-step demographic victory over Israel.

The writer lectures at the Rothberg School of Hebrew University and is senior analyst at The Media Line. ( Dec 28)

Arabian Fights: How the Saudis Lobby By Lawrence F. Kaplan

Asked in a recent Washington Post interview whether the United States had been pressuring Israel at the behest of Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Colin Powell responded, "we are not doing this because we have an obligation to pay off one side or another." Powell got it half-right. We have no obligation to the Saudis. But we’ve been paying them off nonetheless. And, until the terror bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa two weeks ago, it looked like Israel would be the one to foot the bill.

According to popular wisdom, Riyadh’s leverage over the Bush administration’s Israel policy derives from the events of September 11--the price Washington pays for maintaining its vaunted "coalition." But, in truth, the Saudis have been lobbying the Bush administration to turn its back on the Jewish state since its first day in office. The very next day, in fact, King Fahd’s cabinet issued a statement urging the new president "to press the Israeli side to implement international resolutions, stop procrastinating, lift the blockade, and put a halt to the bloodshed." And they had reason to believe he would. Having converted their Gulf war contacts into business contacts, the men who guided foreign policy in Bush I (and who, it was assumed, would help do the same in Bush II) boast unusually close relations with the Saudis. The elder Bush, for example, decamped for the Carlyle Group, a Washington investment firm favored by Saudi elites—including the bin Laden family, with whom Bush Sr. has met twice.

During his first months in office, however, W. defied expectations. Far from pressing the Israelis, the president enshrined in official policy his campaign pledge of unconditional support for Israel—a stance not particularly well received by Saudi Arabia’s potentates. As a result, Crown Prince Abdullah still has yet to accept a standing invitation from Bush to visit Washington. The president, then, has found himself in a bind: A staunch supporter of the Jewish state, his administration has nonetheless gone to excruciating lengths not to offend a regime that would prefer that state never existed. In April, for instance, when Israeli soldiers fired on a convoy of Palestinian officials, Yasir Arafat called Abdullah, who called Prince Bandar, the monarchy’s man in Washington and Colin Powell’s former squash partner. Bander, in turn, phoned Dick Cheney. And, within an hour, Powell was upbraiding Ariel Sharon on the phone. (The Egyptians complain about Israel just as loudly as the Saudis, but they’re relegated to official channels.) Then, in response to further Saudi complaints, Bush dispatched Powell on a peacemaking mission to Israel in June.

Still, Riyadh wasn’t happy. In fact, that very same month, Saudi anger boiled over. In a June meeting that set the stage for special envoy Anthony Zinni’s current stay in the region, Powell met with Abdullah in Paris, where, according to a senior administration official, "[Powell] got the full treatment—‘appoint an envoy, recognize [Palestinian] statehood, speak out, do this, do that.’" At about the same time, U.S. ambassadors throughout the Arab world began warning Foggy Bottom that the Saudis meant business: Washington must either step up its mediation, they cautioned, or risk a breach with Riyadh.

Poppy’s national security adviser Brent Scowcroft—a vocal champion of the Saudis who has since been installed as a director of Pennzoil and Qualcomm, firms heavily invested in Riyadh—chimed in, warning that America’s Arab friends were "deeply disappointed with this administration and its failure to do something to moderate the attitude of Israel." Two weeks later, Scowcroft, Bush pere, and the president himself repaired to Kennebunkport. There the former president did something unprecedented. With the current president apparently in the room, George Sr. picked up the phone, called Abdullah, and assured him that Bush Jr.’s "heart is in the right place" and that he could be counted on "to do the right thing."

But the Saudis still weren’t convinced. During July and August, Abdullah sent Bush several letters, each more shrill than the last, beseeching the president to "pull the reins on Mr. Sharon," as an Abdullah spokesman describes the correspondence. According to a White House adviser, one of these letters threatened a return to the "summer of 1973," a reference to the Arab front that united against Israel prior to the Yom Kippur War. Another, reported The Wall Street Journal, warned, "We are at a crossroads. It is time for the United States and Saudi Arabia to look at their separate interests. Those governments that don’t feel the pulse of the people and respond to it will suffer the fate of the Shah of Iran." It was this threat, received in late August, that finally prompted the administration to reverse course and, in the first week of September, to convene a principals meeting at which Saudi discontent was explicitly tied to the launching of a peace initiative.  Powell and CIA Director George Tenet urged the president to meet with Arafat at the United Nations and recommended that Powell deliver an address endorsing a Palestinian state—an address that was even then being drafted by State Department peace processor Aaron Miller. The administration would then follow up with the dispatch of a special envoy to Israel. Bush agreed with the idea and, for good measure, sent the Saudis a letter, which, according to Foreign Minister Prince Saud Faisal, indicated "that the United States had come to a full realization that it was time for a new effort."

Then came September 11. Given that 15 of the hijackers were Saudi, one might have expected the monarchy to be somewhat chastened. Far from it. "After September 11," a senior administration official explains, "[the Saudis] just wanted to change the topic from themselves. So they turned the volume up even louder." Yet, fearful of appearing to reward terrorism, the White House postponed Powell’s speech. Even so, Bush publicly declared his support for a Palestinian state and declared that "the world ought to applaud" Arafat "for trying to control radical elements." Until November the administration also resisted placing Hamas on its list of newly sanctioned terrorist groups. And the State Department, echoing the Saudi contention that such groups were merely "resisting occupation," said it now distinguished between terrorism based on "political issues" (violence directed against Israelis) and terrorism that seeks to "destroy societies" (violence directed against Americans).

None of this, however, seemed to make the slightest impression on the Saudis. Indeed, in a November 9 interview with The New York Times, Foreign Minister Saud Faisal complained that he was "angrily frustrated" with the younger Bush, whose stance on the peace process "would make a sane man go mad." A week later, under pressure from the Saudis as well as Powell, Bush agreed to revive the initiative. It was decided that Powell would give his speech on November 19 at the University of Kentucky. But exactly what he planned to say remained the object of bitter disagreement, with Pentagon officials—including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld—and the White House political staff questioning the wisdom of a renewed Middle East initiative. Bush himself tempered some of Powell’s language and Israeli officials even offered suggestions. Nonetheless, Powell did deliver the speech, which demanded that "the occupation must end." He also announced the appointment of General Anthony Zinni as his special envoy to the region, a choice Israeli officials suspect was made with the Saudis in mind. (Zinni, the former chief of American forces in the Middle East—excluding Israel—maintains exceptionally close ties to the Saudi royal family, who call the general "our commander" and go falcon hunting with him.) And Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns assured the Saudis that Zinni would remain in the region until "progress" was made.

Arafat, for one, was pleased, thanking King Fahd in Riyadh one week later for playing "an active role in moving the U.S. position toward a Palestinian state." And Saudi Prince Alawaleed exulted that "Washington is doing exactly what we asked for." But his fellow princes weren’t so sure. "The fact that Powell asks Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to make an effort to stop the violence in Palestine is disappointing and impossible to satisfy," Okaz, an official Saudi newspaper, commented the day after the speech. "[The Saudis] thought the speech was soft," an administration official said a few days later, "and they’re still calling."

But no amount of Saudi griping could overcome what happened next. The Palestinians welcomed Zinni to the region with a parade of suicide bombers, who, in the space of one day, killed 25 Israelis. As a result, the former general’s mission effectively ended before it began, wasting the political capital the Bush administration had expended at Saudi behest. And since the attacks, members of the White House national security team claim Bush has lost whatever little trust he once possessed in Arafat. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, have also turned squarely against the Palestinian leader. At a meeting in the aftermath of the attacks, they asked how the United States would know if Arafat was upholding his pledge to clamp down on terrorism. The answer came back: when that clampdown prompts internecine violence on the Palestinian street, a standard that has since become an unofficial barometer for measuring Arafat’s sincerity. Even Powell and Burns were said to be livid at the Palestinian leader. In his meeting with Sharon the day after the attacks, Bush, according to Israeli officials, said Israel could take whatever action it deemed necessary, short of ousting Arafat and dismantling the Palestinian Authority. As for the Saudis, a senior administration official claims Bush "was already chafing at the complaints, and ... he won’t be inclined to take their advice again any time soon."

But how soon is "any time soon"? This week the Saudi foreign minister met with Bush again, ostensibly to be reminded what steps his country must take to crack down on terror. Instead he ended up reminding the president what steps must be taken to crack down on Israel. Nor have administration officials tempered their public—and phony—exultations about "across the board" Saudi cooperation in the war against terror. National Security Council Senior Director for Near East Affairs Bruce Reidel, who has revealed himself to be a much closer friend to the Saudis than to the Israelis, will be stepping down later this month. Yet administration officials say the candidates most likely to replace him—Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense Alina Romanowski—may prove even less supportive of the Jewish state. The Israelis also worry that, as soon as the violence abates or Arafat takes cosmetic steps to restrain Palestinian terrorists, the administration will heed Saudi counsel once more. Of course, the president could always follow his own instincts instead. They’ve certainly proved far superior to his father’s, not to mention the rogues whispering in his ear.

The writer is a senior editor at TNR.  (The New Republic Dec 24)

The Myth Of The Palestinian PeopleBy Yehezkel Bin-Nun

"Palestinians doubt Blair can deliver," announces the BBC. "Four Palestinians die in West Bank," reports CNN. "IDF demolishes building used by Palestinian gunmen," announces Israel's government run Channel  1 News. The modern media is filled with stories about the Palestinians, their plight, their dilemmas and their struggles. All aspects of their lives seem to have been put under the microscope. Only one question never seems to be addressed: Who are the Palestinians? Who are these people who claim the Holy Land as their own? What is their history? Where did they come from? How did they arrive in the country they call Palestine? Now that both US President George Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (in direct opposition to the platform he was elected on) have come out in favor of a Palestinian state, it would be prudent to seek answers to these questions. For all we know, Palestine could be as real as Disneyland.

The general impression given in the media is that Palestinians have lived in the Holy Land for hundreds, if not thousands of years. No wonder, then, that a recent poll of French citizens shows that the majority believe (falsely) that prior to the establishment of the State of Israel an independent Arab Palestinian state existed in its place. Yet curiously, when it comes to giving the history of this "ancient" people most news outlets find it harder to go back more than the early nineteen hundreds. CNN, an agency which has devoted countless hours of airtime to the "plight" of the Palestinians, has a website which features a special section on the Middle East conflict called "Struggle For Peace". It includes a promising sounding section entitled "Lands Through The Ages" which assures us it will detail the history of the region using maps. Strangely, it turns out, the maps displayed start no earlier than the ancient date of 1917. The CBS News website has a background section called "A Struggle For Middle East Peace.'' Its history timeline starts no earlier than 1897. The NBC News background section called ''Searching for Peace'' has a timeline which starts in 1916. BBC's timeline starts in 1948.

Yet, the clincher must certainly be the Palestinian National Authority's own website. While it is top heavy on such phrases as "Israeli occupation" and "Israeli human rights violations" the site offers practically nothing on the history of the so-called Palestinian people. The only article on the site with any historical content is called "Palestinian History - 20th Century Milestones" which seems only to confirm that prior to 1900 there was no such concept as the Palestinian People.

While the modern media maybe short on information about the history of the "Palestinian people" the historical record is not. Books, such as Battleground by Samuel Katz and From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters long ago detailed the history of the region. Far from being settled by Palestinians for hundreds, if not thousands of years, the Land of Israel, according to dozens of visitors to the land, was, until the beginning of the last century, practically empty. Alphonse de Lamartine visited the land in 1835. In his book, Recollections of the East, he writes "Outside the gates of Jerusalem we saw no living object, heard no living sound...." None other than the famous American author Mark Twain, who visited the Land of Israel in 1867, confirms this. In his book Innocents Abroad he writes, "A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We reached Tabor safely.... We never saw a human being on the whole journey." Even the British Consul in Palestine reported, in 1857, "The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is that of a body of population..."

In fact, according to official Ottoman Turk census figures of 1882, in the entire Land of Israel, there were only 141,000 Muslims, both Arab and non-Arab. This number was to skyrocket to 650,000 Arabs by 1922, a 450% increase in only 40 years. By 1938 that number would become over 1 million or an 800% increase in only 56 years. Population growth was especially high in areas where Jews lived. Where did all these Arabs come from? According to the Arabs the huge increase in their numbers was due to natural childbirth. In 1944, for example, they alleged that the natural increase (births minus deaths) of Arabs in the Land of Israel was the astounding figure of 334 per 1000. That would make it roughly three times the corresponding rate for the same year of Lebanon and Syria and almost four times that of Egypt, considered amongst the highest in the world. Unlikely, to say the least. If the massive increase was not due to natural births, then were did all these Arabs come from?

All the evidence points to the neighboring Arab states of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. In 1922 the British Governor of the Sinai noted that "illegal immigration was not only going on from the Sinai, but also from Transjordan and Syria." In 1930, the British Mandate -sponsored Hope-Simpson Report noted that "unemployment lists are being swollen by immigrants from Trans-Jordania" and "illicit immigration through Syria and across the northern frontier of Palestine is material." The Arabs themselves bare witness to this trend. For example, the governor of the Syrian district of Hauran, Tewfik Bey el Hurani, admitted in 1934 that in a single period of only a few months over 30,000 Syrians from Hauran had moved to the Land of Israel. Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill noted the Arab influx. Churchill, a veteran of the early years of the British mandate in the Land of Israel, noted in 1939 that "far from being persecuted, the Arabs have crowded into the country and multiplied."

Far from displacing the Arabs, as they claimed, the Jews were the very reason the Arabs chose to settle in the Land of Israel. Jobs provided by newly established Zionist industry and agriculture lured them there, just as Israeli construction and industry provides most Arabs in the Land of Israel with their main source of income today. Malcolm MacDonald, one of the principal authors of the British White Paper of 1939, which restricted Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel, admitted (conservatively) that were it not for a Jewish presence the Arab population would have been little more than half of what it actually was. Today, when due to the latest "intifada" Arabs from the territories under 35 are no longer allowed into pre-1967 Israel to work, unemployment has skyrocketed to over 40% and most rely on European aid packages to survive.

Not only pre-state Arabs lied about being indigenous. Even today, many prominent so-called Palestinians, it turns out, are foreign born. Edward Said, an Ivy League Professor of Literature and a major Palestinian propagandist, long claimed to have been raised in Jerusalem. However, in an article in the September 1999 issue of Commentary Magazine Justus Reid Weiner revealed that Said actually grew up in Cairo, Egypt, a fact which Said himself was later forced to admit. But why bother with Said? PLO chief Yasir Arafat himself, self declared "leader of the Palestinian people", has always claimed to have been born and raised in "Palestine". In fact, according to his official biographer Richard Hart, as well as the BBC, Arafat was born in Cairo on August 24, 1929 and that's where he grew up.

To maintain the charade of being an indigenous population, Arab propagandists have had to do more than a little rewriting of history. A major part of this rewriting involves the renaming of geography. For two thousand years the central mountainous region of Israel was known as Judea and Samaria, as any medieval map of the area testifies. However, the state of Jordan occupied the area in 1948 and renamed it the West Bank. This is a funny name for a region that actually lies in the eastern portion of the land and can only be called "West" in reference to Jordan. This does not seem to bother the majority of news outlets covering the region, which universally refer to the region by its recent Jordanian name.

The term "Palestinian" is itself a masterful twisting of history. To portray themselves as indigenous, Arab settlers adopted the name of an ancient Canaanite tribe, the Phillistines, that died out almost 3000 years ago. The connection between this tribe and modern day Arabs is nil. Who is to know the difference? Given the absence of any historical record, one can understand why Yasser Arafat claims that Jesus Christ, a Jewish carpenter from the Galilee, was a Palestinian. Every year, at Christmas time, Arafat goes to Bethlehem and tells worshippers that Jesus was in fact "the first Palestinian".

If the Palestinians are indeed a myth, then the real question becomes "Why?" Why invent a fictitious people? The answer is that the myth of the  Palestinian People serves as the justification for Arab occupation of the Land of Israel. While the Arabs already possess 21 sovereign countries of their own (more than any other single people on earth) and control a land mass 800 times the size of the Land of Israel, this is apparently not enough for them. They therefore feel the need to rob the Jews of their one and only country, one of the smallest on the planet. Unfortunately, many people ignorant of the history of the region, including much of the world media, are only too willing to help.

It is interesting to note that the Bible makes reference to a fictitious nation confronting Israel. "They have provoked me to jealously by worshipping a non-god, angered me with their vanities. I will provoke them with a non-nation; anger them with a foolish nation (Deuteronomy 32:21)."

On second thought, it may be unfair to compare Palestine to Disneyland. After all, Disneyland really exists.   ( Dec 26)

The Splendor of the ShomronBy David Wilder

A few days ago I participated in a unique tour with some friends visiting from New York to the Shomron, north of Jerusalem. We spent the day with Shilo community resident, Era Rappaport, a wonderful tour guide and an amazing personality. I’d like to try and convey some of the emotions that I experienced while touring this beautiful part of Eretz Yisrael.

We began our day in the Psagot community, which is actually in Binyamin, just south of the Shomron. Psagot, overlooking Arafat -controlled Ramallah was one of the hardest hit communities since the Oslo war began. Under fire, day and night, for weeks and months at a time, Psagot’s brave families held fast, successfully weathering the murderous attacks.

Not to far from Psagot is one of the most important communities in Yesha, Bet El. Founded in the late 1970s Bet El houses two of Yesha’s prominent leaders: Rabbi Shlomo Aviner and Rabbi Zalman Melamed. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, dean of Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim is responsible for much of the land redeemed in the Old City of Jerusalem. An extremely prolific writer and an influential educator, Rabbi Aviner was one of the leaders of our return to Yesha.

His counterpart, Rabbi Zalman Melamed is also a brilliant Torah scholar and the dean of Bet El’s yeshiva. However Rabbi Melamed’s crowning glory is none other than Arutz Sheva, which he founded and directs.  This popular radio station, the third-largest station in Israel, also broadcasts live in English, Hebrew, Russian and other languages on internet. We visited the Arutz Sheva studio and heard from both Yedidya Atlas and Baruch Gordon, both of whom participate in managing the station. It is impossible to overestimate Arutz Sheva’s influence, both in Israel and around the world. This is one of the very few media outlets which broadcasts news the way it really is, not the way the left interprets it. The Arutz Sheva website has literally thousands and thousands of viewers daily and every day their news  postings reach close to a million people. Our group was also greatly impressed by a showing of Arutz Sheva’s video broadcasts, accessible on their web site, and hopefully a forerunner to a new age of television in Israel.

After a visit to Shilo, we continued further north to Har Grizim, the Grizim mount, which overlooks Shechem. I have to say, that despite the breathtaking view, overlooking vast land areas in the Shomron, I had very mixed emotions standing there. Below us, within viewing distance, was one of Israel’s most sacred sites, Kever Yosef, Joseph’s tomb. It was particularly touching, seeing this site, because only a few days later, on Shabbat, we read in the weekly Torah portion of Joseph’s death at 110 years of age in Egypt, some three thousand five hundred years ago. Hundreds of years later Joseph’s bones were taken from Egypt and later buried in Shechem, at the place now known as Kever Yosef, Joseph’s tomb.

My first inclination is to say how sad it is, knowing that this holy site has been captured and occupied by our enemies, knowing that Jews may not visit this site, and may not pray at this site. But in truth, sad is not the right word to express the true emotions we felt. Perhaps anger, perhaps frustration, perhaps a gnawing realization that many Israelis, many Jews, do not understand the importance and significance of such a site, religiously, historically, culturally.  While also knowing that if we in Hebron did not live here today, keeping Hebron Jewish for the Jewish people, Ma’arat HaMachpela would probably look as does Kever Yosef today - a declared Mosque, with access forbidden to anyone not Moslem.

One of the anomalies of the last few months is Israel’s position concerning Kever Yosef. According to the Oslo Accords, Joseph’s tomb was to have remained under Israeli security control, freely accessible to Jews. The site was abandoned to the terrorists over a year ago, with an Israeli soldier bleeding to death inside the compound during the final battle.

Not too long ago, following the brutal murder of Minister Rehavam Ze’evi Israel returned to Shechem, as well as other cities in Yesha. Why didn’t we then liberate Kever Yosef? Why didn’t Ariel Sharon, recognizing Israel’s entitlement to this extraordinary site, assert Israel’s right to again control Kever Yosf? What could have been a more appropriate reaction to the killing of an Israeli minister by Arab terrorists whose goal is the destruction of the State of Israel. Yet it didn’t happen. Despite Israel’s extended stay in Shechem, Yosef remained deserted, left in the hands of Israel’s terrorist adversaries. It’s very difficult to comprehend.

Leaving Har Grizim, we traveled East, reaching the peaks of the Shomron Mountains, and the community of Itamar. We didn’t stop in Itamar proper, rather we continued up the steep roads, feeling like we could easily fall off the side of the mountain, until, about three-quarters of the way up, we stopped. There we found a real log cabin, built by one of the genuine pioneers of our day, a man named Avri, who settled this land with his own two hands. After a few families joined him, also building homes, Avri continued up the mountain, reaching the very top. There, he continued building, literally settling the land. Today a number of families, with their children and a group of volunteers work the land and raise cows, sheep and chickens.

As the sun set we prayed in a small wooden synagogue, with an unbelievably incredible view surrounding us, from all directions, something of a paradise. Such is the bliss of  pioneering fortitude, with a feeling of really being on top of the world. The climax of our tour, day blending into night, and a wondrous harmony of Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael - the people of Israel blending with the Land of Israel, bonding with the pure spirit of our sacred Torah - guiding us in our quest for true peace, tranquillity and unity.

At this point all I can leave you with is a hope and prayer that each and every one of you should be privileged to enjoy the same kind of day that we had with Era Rappaport, in the heart of Eretz Yisrael, in heights of the Shomron.(Jewish Community of Hebron Dec 31)

The writer is a spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hebron.

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