A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
A collection of the week's news from Israel
Kislev 11, 5761
December 8, 2000
Issue number 303
Husseini: Someday We Will Decide If Israelis Get a State
Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Faisal Husseini has said the Palestinians are waging a war of independence that will end only when the last Israeli settler leaves the territories, and that when Palestinians become a majority in the Holy Land, they will decide whether to allow the Jews to have a state, Israel Radio reported Wednesday. It quoted Husseini as saying that the clashes in the territories are not another intifada, or uprising, but a war of independence that will end only when the last Israeli leaves land captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. Husseini also said that in another few dozen years the Palestinians will constitute a majority in the area, and that it will be they who will decide whether to grant Israelis a state, if Israel continues with its present policies. (IMRA/Ha'aretz Dec 6)
Gush Katif Road Opened For Arafat
Gush Katif residents blocking the main route in Gaza, from Khan Yunis to Gaza City Monday, were forcibly evacuated by the army, in order to allow Yasser Arafat and his convoy to pass through. The Palestinians, who had received an earlier promise that Arafat would be able to travel the road to Egypt, had threatened that if the demonstrators continued to block the road, "we will force open the road ourselves." In fact, only minutes after the road was cleared of the Jewish demonstrators, Arafat and his convoy passed through. The residents had been protesting the decision to re-open the road to Palestinian traffic, despite the fact that Palestinian terrorists have carried out many attacks there - including the schoolbus bombing of two weeks ago which killed two teachers and wounded eight children (among them the three Cohen children who lost limbs). Some 40 protestors were arrested; they were replaced by other Gush Katif residents who continued to arrive on the scene afterwards and on the nxt two days. Many of the protestors said that army officers and soldiers had told them that the army had objected to the road's opening, but that the order had come down from the government. Asher Mivtzari, spokesman for Kfar Darom, said that the army recently took significant measures against the Palestinians, "which led directly to a drop in the attacks and shooting upon us. Now that the road is being opened again - the last time it was opened, the bus was bombed a few hours later - together with other measures that are being taken, there is a real fear that the attacks will resume."
Ezra Eldar, one of the demonstrators arrested on Monday, told Arutz-7, "We feel that the opening of the road will lead to the renewal of the shooting attacks. Our protest is meant not for the army, who has made it quite clear that they are on our side, but rather for the government. The army has cleared away all the trees and buildings from the sides of the road, so that the terrorists cannot hide there and kill us by ambush - but now that can simply drive here freely and shoot that way, so what is the point?" A new bypass road has been paved for Netzarim residents; it passes through Palestinian-controlled Area C, but the army feels it can protect it better than the old route, which passes by the Saja'iya refugee camp. On Wednesday, another protest by dozens of Gush Katif residents of the road was ended by police with the arrest of four protesters, and; within an hour, Yasser Arafat and his convoy again traveled the road. Arafat's convoy passed on the Jewish side of the road, with their guns pointed out the windows at the Jewish residents. (arutzsheva.org Dec 4,5,6)
Palestinians Attempt to Overrun Rachel's Tomb
An hour-long battle raged Sunday night at Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem between dozens of Palestinians and an IDF force. The Arabs attempted to approach the holy site - reaching within tens of meters thereof - but were repelled by the soldiers. Israel Air Force helicopters attacked Palestinian targets in the area. Army Radio reported Monday, in the name of a senior military source, that this was the fiercest Palestinian attack against Israeli security forces since the beginning of the current wave of violence. Voice of Israel Radio did not report on the battle. (arutzsheva.org Dec 4)
P.A. Says Lynching Was Israel's Fault
The Palestinian Authority responded Wednesday to the lawsuit against it by the family of Vadim Norvitch, one of two reserves soldier who were brutally lynched in Ramallah two months ago. The plaintiffs contend that the Palestinians unlawfully brought Norvitch and his fellow soldier Yosef Avrahami to Ramallah, and then actively participated in their murder in a Palestinian Police station. The plaintiffs' attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said that the PA's response to the suit was to blame the soldiers themselves for their deaths because they entered Ramallah illegally, and to lay responsibility on the State of Israel in that its actions led to the deterioration of the national and security situation in the PA, and in that it did not warn its soldiers not to enter Palestinian territory. Furthermore, the PA claims that PLO Chairman Arafat should not be listed as a defendant, as he is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. (arutzsheva.org Dec 6)
NY Times: Anti-Israel Hatred Is Not a Pivotal Issue
CAMERA - The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting - writes recently that it "has identified scores of seriously inaccurate or distorted news reports [against Israel] that have warranted redress... When The New York Times, for instance, did a rare story (October 24) on anti-Jewish incitement by the Palestinian Authority media, the reporter referred to a Moslem cleric's speech broadcast on official PA television, but omitted entirely the virulent, hate-mongering passages - among them: "Have no mercy on the Jews no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them. Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them." There were exhortations to "butcher" Jews and "humiliate" them. The Times quoted a brief, innocuous phrase, concealing the anti-Semitism and anti-Israel incitement and suggesting Israeli apprehensions are overwrought... In response to criticism of [this] story, a senior editor declared that anti-Israel hate-mongering in the region is not, in the Times opinion, a 'pivotal' issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict." (A7 Dec 6)
Israel Recalls Families from Jordan
Israel has recalled home the families of its diplomats in Jordan, as well as all its women diplomats, following Tuesday night's attempted murder of an Israeli Embassy employee in Amman. The victim, Shlomo Ratzabi, was wounded in his leg by shots from a passing car, and drove himself to a nearby hospital. He was admitted to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Israel sees the attempt - the second of its kind in Amman in less than three weeks - most gravely. MK David Levy, a three-time Foreign Minister - he served under Yitzchak Shamir, and resigned from both the Netanyahu and Barak governments - told Arutz-7 that though the Jordanians are doing all they can to protect Israeli diplomats, "they have not done enough to instill a sense of the importance of peace with Israel among their people." (arutzsheva.org Dec 6)
Maj. Eldar Is Fired
The story of Maj. Haggai Eldar took another turn Wednesday, when he received - by fax - a letter informing him that he was demoted from his position as commander of a special reserves patrol in the Ramat HaGolan Brigade. The story began a month ago when Eldar wrote a letter to the IDF Chief of Staff, asking to be relieved of his rank; he was protesting several cases - he specified those of Madhat Yusuf at Joseph's Tomb and the hikers at Mt. Eval - "in which the army and its officers behaved contrary to the fundamental values of not abandoning wounded on the battlefield." Two weeks later, hundreds of reserves officers held a protest rally over the same issue. Eldar told Arutz-7, "I recently met with one of my senior commanders, who asked me if I was willing to return to my command. I agreed, and acknowledged that the threat I used was a severe one that should only be used sparingly. I said, however, that I was still waiting for an answer to my original letter." He continued, "Three days later, I met with O.C. Northern Command Gabi Ashkenazy, and I told him, 'I understand you want me to return to the army. This is fine, but I would just like a written response to the strong letter I wrote.' After two weeks, today's fax demoting me is the response I received." Eldar said, "They complain that I went to the press. But 15 officers wrote the IDF General Staff a letter on this matter before me, and they are still waiting, until this very day, for an answer. Is it better that no one should know the truth? What's going on here?" (arutzsheva.org Dec 6)
Helping Yesha and Gilo
Prof. Yochanan Shtesman, Dir.-Gen. of National Insurance Institute told Arutz-7 of a new initiative designed to help the residents of Yesha: "We see that it is hard for Yesha residents to get to our offices, so we decided that we will come to all Yesha towns, or at least many of them, to provide service. We will send a bullet-proof vehicle once or twice a month, depending on the size of the town."
Some 1,500 blankets, heaters, and emergency flashlights were distributed to the elderly and the needy in Gilo this week. The charity was made possible through the contribution of $150,000 by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, USA and HaKeren LeY'didut [Friendship Fund] of Jerusalem. (arutzsheva.org Dec 5)
Barak Facing Pressure from the Left
The left-wing of the Labor party demands that Ehud Barak reach an agreement with Arafat within a month and a half - or else it threatens to field a more left-wing candidate against him for party leader and Prime Minister. So reported both Ma'ariv and Yediot Acharonot Sunday. U.S. President Clinton told Justice Minister Yossi Beilin that he is willing to dedicate his last 50 days in office, until Jan. 20, to solving the problems of the Middle East; Beilin said that Barak must not turn down such an offer. Barak lashed out at those who set the left-wing ultimatum, saying today that setting a target date for the achievement of an agreement "does not serve Israel's interests and damages the proper management of the diplomatic process." Ma'ariv's political commentator Menachem Rahat said that the ultimatum to which Barak was referring "definitely exists, but those who are behind it do not wish to reveal themselves. I can only say that they come from among the left-wing of the party: Baram, Ramon, Beilin, Dayan, Tamir, Burg - it could be any of these. This is consistent with their desire to reach some kind of agreement with the Palestinians at almost any price." Rahat said the threat has put Barak "in panic. From last night's campaigning in the Israeli-Arab city of Tira, where he called on 'all Israeli citizens to return to the restaurants of Tira,' he ran to the home of his party's Secretary-General MK Ra'anan Cohen; the two of them decided that the party's primaries would be completed by the beginning of January. This of course was meant to head off the above dovish threat." Rahat said that Barak and his party both realize the crucial necessity of the Arab vote for their cause, "and another proof is that Labor party dues have been cut in half for two sectors - students, and Arabs. This is the simple truth: Without Arab support, Barak will have a very hard time winning," concluded Rahat. (arutzsheva.org Dec 3)
Israeli Hi-Tech Flourishing
Despite the violence and unrest in Israel of late, the country's hi-tech sector remains unaffected. On the average, two to three new hi-tech companies continue to be established every day in Israel, including since the Rosh HaShanah Arab Assault began. Israel now boasts some 4,000 hi-tech companies - the largest concentration in the world outside of California. A Goldman Sachs report issued during the current wave of Arab attacks said that the security situation has had no particular impact on technology in Israel, noting that research and development centers are located far from the flashpoints. Foreign investment in Israel over the last quarter has also shown no signs of crisis. The Sony Corporation in Japan recently acquired control of its second Hebrew internet portal - Tapuz - for $7.2 million, and Hewlett Packard has invested $100 million in the Indigo digital color printing company based in Nes Tziona. Silicon Valley-based Applied Materials announced its intentions to expand its operations in Israel, with a goal of increasing revenue here to $1 billion. The company plans to donate $9 million to further hi-tech education in Israel - $7 million to the Technion in Haifa, and the remainder to Jerusalem's Hebrew University. (arutzsheva.org Dec 3)
IDF soldiers shot in the air against rock-throwing Lebanese citizens near the gravesite of the Talmudic sage Rav Ashi today. Israel has warned Lebanese, Syrian, and Hizbullah elements against carrying out attacks against Israeli targets. Yossi Ben-Aharon, former head of ex-Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir's office, explained today why the government's approach to the situation in the north is in error: "We must limit our warnings and threats… Instead, now that we have carried out the UN resolution to the last inch, we must respond to any attack from across the border not with threats, but with actions - and not only in accordance with their attacks upon us, but in a much stronger fashion, so that they will understand that it is not in their interests to provoke us…" Ben-Aharon, who led the negotiations with Syria in Madrid under the Shamir administration, also noted what he called "a constant weakness of the Labor governments since 1992." He said that the oft-repeated statements by leading government and military officials that the only solution in the north is a diplomatic one "are an invitation to the other side to take military and terrorist measures... Rabin, too, made this terrible blunder, by saying, 'We will deal with terrorism as if there are no negotiations, and we'll negotiate as if there is no terrorism.' This has been proven to be a total disaster... I hope that all our leaders have learned the lesson that you cannot negotiate with an adversary that is threatening and attacking you at the same time." (A7 Dec 3)
Shots Fired on Another Jerusalem Neighborhood
Arab terrorists fired at an Israeli vehicle traveling on the outskirts of Pisgat Ze'ev, a northern-Jerusalem neighborhood, last Friday afternoon. No injuries were reported. Pisgat Ze'ev is situated adjacent to the Arab village Shuafat. Pisgat Ze'ev is the second neighborhood of the nation's capital to be fired upon in the Rosh HaShana Arab Assault. (arutzsheva.org Dec 1)
Arafat Forces Secure Friday Prayers on Temple Mount
Thousands of policemen and IDF soldiers were situated on the Temple Mount today for the first Friday prayer service of the month-long Moslem festival of Ramadan. A senior member of the Jerusalem District police told an Itim reporter today that a group of Yasser Arafat's "Force 17" soldiers arrived at the Temple Mount early in the day and remained throughout the services. For the first time since the onset of the Rosh HaShanah Arab Assault, Moslems of all ages who are Jerusalem residents and Israeli citizens were permitted to attend services there. Tens of thousands were in attendance. Voice of Palestine reported on Israeli police preparations for the Temple Mount Moslem prayers by saying "dogs were brought in to attack Palestinian worshippers." (A7 Dec 1)
PLO Airport Back on Track
Israel has re-opened the Palestinian airport in Dahaniya, Gaza. It was closed a month ago for security reasons. The reason for the decision: A "good will gesture" and "confidence-building" measure offered by the Barak government to Arafat's PLO. (arutzsheva.org Dec 1)
Barak Does Not Need Pledge to "End Conflict"
Ehud Barak has waived his Camp David demand that the PLO end its long-standing conflict with Israel. According to the latest Barak proposal, Israel would agree to a "graduated final-status arrangement" to include the immediate transfer of yet more Judea and Samaria lands to the PLO, Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state, and the postponement of negotiations over Jerusalem and Arab refugees for several years. PLO spokesmen say the organization want the Jerusalem and refugee issues dealt with now. "Without this, there will be no peace and no security," an Arafat aide asserted today. (arutzsheva.org Dec 1)
Sunday, a Palestinian terrorist assaulted and stabbed an Israeli man in his neck at the A-Ram junction in northern Jerusalem; he is listed in serious condition. Soldiers shot at the attacker, but did not catch him - and he in fact was able to wound another Israeli during his escape. Earlier, in the same location, an Israeli truck was set afire, after Palestinian rioters attacked it with rocks; the driver ran away in fear of his life, and the Arabs then burnt the truck. A similar event almost occurred at the Kalkilye bypass road; Arabs attacked a truck with rocks, but the driver drove away with no injuries.
Saturday, two soldiers were moderately hurt in Hevron; Arab shots were fired at a group of Jewish children there - no one was hurt. Gunfire was opened on Psagot, Adurayim Base south of Hevron, IDF positions near Kalkilyeh and Beit Haggai - the army responded in the latter case with tank shells - and elsewhere.
Monday, on the Jericho by-pass road, a roadside bomb exploded near a passing Egged bus; no one was hurt. Arabs fired on Psagot, N'vei Tzuf, Beit Haggai, and on a bus north of Ofrah; the IDF returned fire in most of the cases. A soldier was lightly injured by shrapnel during Palestinian gunfire on an IDF outpost in Gaza. There were three terrorist-attack attempts in the Shomron: Around noon, between Chomesh and Shavei Shomron, an Israeli car was heavily damaged by gunfire; the occupants were unhurt. The security coordinator of the north-Shomron town of Avnei Hefetz - east of Tulkarm and Netanya - was fired upon by Palestinians near Shavei Shomron. He was miraculously unhurt. An IDF patrol was similarly attacked further north, near Kadim; no one was hurt. In Gaza, an explosion killed a Hamas terrorist as he was preparing to prepare a bomb.The terrorist had been responsible for the killing of Lt.-Col. Meir Mintz in 1993, as well as other terrorist attacks and bombings.Palestinian shooting continued in several locations: Gilo, Psagot, Hevron along the Jenin bypass road, towards Bezek base near Jenin, several places in Gaza, etc. An Israeli was lightly by gunshots near Peduel, outside Ariel; he was treated in a nearby hospital.
Tuesday, a terrorist attack attempt occurred between the Arab village of Otzarin and the Jewish town of Migdalim: Shots were fired on a Nature Reserves Authority car and another Israeli vehicle; no one was hurt, but one vehicle was damaged. Ariel Jerafi was killed by terrorists there eleven days ago, and another Jewish driver was seriously wounded several days later. Residents of Migdalim, between Tapuach and the Jordan Valley, held a demonstration there last week, but were told by an army officer that it is safe to travel along the route.Yet another recent favorite of the Palestinian terrorists is near Avnei Hefetz, in north-western Shomron, where an explosive device was found and safely dismantled this morning. Palestinian terrorists fired on an Israeli bus near Ma'aleh Levonah, while further north, shots were fired on a Shomron Regional Council vehicle near Elon Moreh. The terrorists fired from behind concrete blocks placed there by the IDF, but missed their target. An Israeli ambulance was stoned and its front window knocked out on its way to Beit Shemesh. This was the 45th Israeli ambulance to be stoned by Palestinians since the current violence began. IDF soldiers detected and shot at Palestinian terrorists who were placing a bomb between Ganim and Kadim; the terrorists escaped. Palestinian fire was shot at several IDF outposts at night; no one was hurt, and the soldiers returned fire... Also, for the first time, the Jewish town of Ma'aleh Levonah - near Shilo, 15 kilometers north of Ramallah - was shot at, as were Psagot, Dagan in Efrat, and Gilo... Palestinians also shot at IDF forces in Shdemah Base and near Peduel, as well as at an Egged bus near Kiryat Arba... For the third night in a row, a bomb went off on the Jericho by-pass road; no one was hurt.
Wednesday, shots were fired towards Israeli factories near Tulkarm. An Israeli was wounded by rocks hurled at his car south of Tapuach..(A7 Dec 3-6)
Barak Popularity at Low Point
A recent Gallup Poll has found that if elections to be held today, former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would trounce incumbent Prime Minister Ehud Barak by over 17% of the vote. According to the same survey, Sharon would defeat Barak - but only by a margin of 2%. Speaking in today's Jerusalem Post, veteran pollster Rafi Smith says that support for Barak is at a low point, and that nearly half of Barak supporters in 1999 elections would not vote for him today. (arutzsheva.org Dec 1)
Palestinian Children Yearning Martyrdom, Encouraged by Parents
By Itamar Marcus
'When I become a Martyr, give out Kannafa' [sweet cake]. These are the words that 14-year-old Wajdi Al-Hattab often said to his friends in the days prior to his death in the riots, as reported in the official Palestinian Authority daily paper. The paper went on to report his 9th grade friends' reaction to his death: "they swore they would carry on, down the road of shahada [Martyrdom for Allah]." [Al Hayat Al Jadida, 9 November 2000] A 12 year old boy who died in the fighting named Karam, so yearned for his own Martyrdom, that he wrote his own "death announcements" on the walls of his own home. [ibid, November 30, 2000]
The scene has been replayed over and over during the past two months: Palestinian children going up against Israeli soldiers, even in situations involving gunfire and life-threatening situations. Many children are wounded or even killed as a result. What motivates children to place themselves in such dangerous situations, so that at times it seems that they are seeking death?
From the PA media and education the apparent answer is that the children are pushed by their parents, teachers, friends and the education they receive in the Palestinian Authority schools glorifying death as Martyrs ["Shahid" death for Allah] as a supreme virtue. As the number of those killed rises, the Palestinian media extols and exalts not only those killed, but also their willingness to die as Martyrs for Allah, emphasizing that dying a Martyr's death was the realization of their hopes. By examining closely what the children and their parents are saying it is likely that there are young children who are going directly to areas of conflict with the clear goal of endangering their lives, in order to their please their parents, friends, and teachers.
The following are a number of stories among many that were prominently reported in the Palestinian media. In particular, note the positive attitude of parents toward their children's death, and the statements of injured children that they seek a higher goal, death and Martyrdom.
"The Martyr Wajdi Al-Hattab (9th grade) responded to the call of Allah and achieved the Martyrdom that he yearned for, so that it would clear the way for the liberation of Al Aksa and Palestine from the defilement of the occupation. He would always say to his friends: 'When I become a Martyr, give out Kannafa [sweet cake]. He always spoke about his uncle who became a Martyr in southern Lebanon, and yearned to become a Martyr like him and [now] he attained what he yearned for. He reached the highest levels with Allah… [Wajdi's gym teacher relates:] Wajdi asked me to give out Kannafa if he becomes a Martyr… His classmates swore that they would continue in the path of Martyrdom until the liberation of Jerusalem…" [Al Hayat - Al Jadida, 9 November 2000].
"The danger of injury of the boy Saber Al-Ashkar (aged 18), paralysis and permanent disability, just added to his mother's determination to encourage her sons to participate in the Intifada riots…. and the fact of his injury by a live bullet did not cause her to mourn… She said that she had [previously] lost her older son Iyad, and described him as the first flower that appeared in her life. She is not interested in anything but encouraging her sons to self-sacrifice and Martyrdom for the land of Palestine…" [Al Ayyam 1 November 2000]
"A PATV broadcast conducted conversations with 2nd grade school children. An interviewer spoke with a child who had thrown stones [in the riots]: Interviewer: "You threw stones at the army and injured your leg. Will you throw again?"
Interviewer: "You aren't afraid to die?"
Child: [embarrassed, hesitant]
Interviewer: [indicates "No" to the child by shaking her head in the negative]
Child: "No." [PATV 19/10/00]
[Headline]: "The Boy Martyr Karam Al-Kard [age 12] announced of his own death on the walls of his home" [article text] "Prior to his being injured... Karam announced his own death on the walls of his home and attributed to himself Martyrdom and its honor, in his handwriting on the walls. The notice read: 'The Al-Kard family announces the death of its courageous Martyr Karam Fat'he Al-Kard..." [Al Hayat Al Jadida, Nov 30, 2000]
"The Martyr Wajdi [aged 14, said] to his father: 'I will bring you a Shahada (Martyrdom) that you will be proud of for the rest of your life'. His mother says: 'My son is not my son only, he belongs to his noble Palestinian people… One of his friends said that the last words of the Martyr, that he repeated over and over, spoke of the significance of Martyrdom and on becoming a Martyr." [Al Hayat - Al Jadida, Nov 8, 2000].
"[He] sacrificed his son (aged 18) in order to redeem the homeland and Jerusalem. He stated that becoming a Martyr is a tremendous source of pride and a medal on his chest... he added that his son always spoke about martyrdom and his desire to become a Martyr." [Al Hayat - Al Jadida, Nov 9,. 2000].
The Martyr Muhammad Abu Tahoun wrote down his final words on his notebook: 'The Martyrs will attain Paradise, and I will be with them, Allah willing…'" [Al Hayat - Al Jadida, Nov 9, 2000].
"The father [of Mohammed Hiza' Halas, 23]: ... [He has] great pride that his progeny has become a Martyr .... With regard to his mother, she says that her offspring wished to become a Martyr and she anticipated it." [Al Hayat - Al Jadida, Nov 2, 2000].
"Our blood is a sign of our fighting for our precious Palestine" [A teacher, next to pupils on Palestinian Television, Nov 2, 2000].
"What pushes our children and youth to the arenas of death?... [Ramadan Saadi Abd Rabbo, an injured 13-year-old, said:] 'my goal is not to be injured, but rather something higher: Martyrdom.'" [Al Hayat-Al Jadida, Nov 8, 2000]
"The wounded 11-year-old, Amr Qarut, wants to win the honor of a Martyr's death... and he insists on continuing the [violent] struggle." [Al Hayat - Al Jadida, Nov 6, 2000].
"The wounded Sa'ed Awad Allah [aged 11], from the Jaballiya [refugee] camp said: We are all potential Martyrs for Jerusalem and the Homeland" [Al
Hayat - Al Jadida, Nov 6, 2000].
"We must battle until we achieve peace on our own and until our blood will not be spilled for naught, we must battle and die in order to attain all that we want." [8-year-old girl Halah Badir] [Al Ayyam, Nov 2, 2000].
"[22-year-old Tauzem Musa Abu Def's] brother... feels honor and pride from his brother's becoming a Martyr, ...and added that he intends to continue on the path started by his brother." [Al Ayyam, Nov 2, 2000].
" I will take my soul in my hand and toss it into the abyss of death.And then either life that will gladden friends or death that will anger the enemy. The honorable soul has two objectives: Achieving death and honor." 'Song of the Martyr' recited by schoolgirls. (the poem appears in 5th, 6th and 12th grade PA school books) [PATV, Octr 27, 2000]
This current promotion of Martyrdom is part of a long-term phenomenon in the Palestinian society. PA television in 1998 described two mothers' joy at their children's "Martyrdom" in the Intifada, as follows:
Narrator: "… the heroine was shot …and her pure blood flowing and her pure spirit joyously going to her creator…."
Girl's Mother: "I asked: who is she that died? She told me 'it's your daughter.' I said: 'Thank Allah, thank Allah. We have a right to liberate our homeland and we will liberate it. It is our honor to fall … She would say "it doesn't matter, I will die for the redemption of the homeland", meaning I want to die for the redemption of the homeland… Intisar fell and it is an honor for us and an honor for our children…"
Relative of the family:…"Every time she heard a bang [she said] 'someone was shot, I hope that next time it will be me, I want to die as a martyr'. [PA TV - Oct. 7, 1998]
Mother of Muhammad ["martyred" in the riots]: "…I hope that all my children will be martyrs…" [PA TV - Sept. 9, 1998] (Palestine Media Watch Nov. 30)
The accolades came in fast and thick the night Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister of Israel in a landslide over Benjamin Netanyahu. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman hailed the neophyte politician as a "statesman" who could bring an end to the country's "national nightmare." Similar gush was heard from the Clinton Administration, which had dispatched its political hit team of Carville, Greenburg & Shrum to defeat the evil Bibi and, it was assumed, Give Peace a Chance.
That was 17 months ago. Since then, Mr. Barak has done just about everything people like Mr. Friedman and Mr. Clinton have wanted him to do. He made a good-faith offer to Syria to return nearly all the Golan Heights. He withdrew the Israeli army from its outposts in southern Lebanon. He went to Camp David and reportedly made Yasser Arafat an offer beyond anything the Palestinian strongman could have expected given previous Israeli conditions. The offer is said to have included 90% of the West Bank and half of Jerusalem.
And where has this got him? Syria imperiously rebuffed the Golan offer because it amounted to a mere 99% of its demands. Hezbollah has been launching attacks into northern Israel on the claim that a sliver of Lebanese territory remains in the "occupiers" hands. (Even the U.N. disagrees.) The Palestinian leadership did not waste much time in tagging the new Prime Minister as "Barakyahu." When the opportunity presented itself in the form of Ariel Sharon's allegedly provocative visit to the Temple Mount, they launched their latest bloody "uprising." Now Israel is facing up to a real horror: terrorist bomb attacks within Israel proper, something that didn't happen even in the "nightmarish" Netanyahu years.
Internationally, too, the situation has worsened. An Israel that found itself ostracized under Mr. Netanyahu's government is now nearly a pariah state, routinely accused of the excessive use of force, war crimes and even genocide. This despite the fact that Israeli soldiers have in the present crisis acted only defensively or reactively, going so far as to warn Palestinians in advance where helicopter gunships are going to strike. Meanwhile, the Clinton Administration that did so much to bring Mr. Barak to power has offered only halfhearted support for Israel, terrified as it is that in so doing it might offend Mr. Arafat. Not that it helps: Mr. Arafat has now taken to denouncing the U.S. for providing Israel with military support.
All this came to a head on Tuesday, when Mr. Barak, facing a vote of no confidence, was forced to call for new elections, probably to be held within the next six months. Current opinion polls show that Mr. Barak would lose narrowly to Mr. Sharon or otherwise be trounced by Mr. Netanyahu, should the former prime minister choose to throw his hat in the ring. As it is, Mr. Barak may not even make it that far: members of his own party are disgruntled and may challenge him for the leadership.
So what's been learned from all this? Tom is confused. The current fighting, he says, "makes no sense." The Israeli strategy is "whacky" and the Palestinian one "insane." Saying the world's gone mad is, of course, what people often do when their predictions prove wrong. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright thinks the peace process can "move ahead" as soon as the violence ends. But she, of all people, should know that you can never go home again.
Israelis, however, do seem to be learning something. They are learning that the international support generated by territorial concessions can last only as long as it takes the Palestinians to gin up another grievance and there's an endless supply of those, from hassles with work permits to the "right of return" for refugees. They are learning that goodwill gestures are taken by their enemies as a sign of weakness, not goodness. They are learning that Palestinian demands are non-negotiable, calling into question the utility of negotiation. They are learning that to have formal relations with their neighbors counts for little, as the recall of Egypt's ambassador last week showed. They are learning, in short, that after more than a half-century of existence they are still fighting a war for independence.
So Israelis will soon go to the polls and change the composition of government. That they alone among their neighbors can do this is not a fact much commented on in the Western press (much less in the Arab one). But as little Israel again comes under siege -- from Hamas terrorists, Tanzim militiamen, Hezbollah guerrillas as well as sanctimonious Westerners â?" it bears notice that this little country remains free, and brave and, it now seems, a little wiser. (The Wall St. Journal Dec 1)
From the moment he joined with the opposition in calling for new elections, Prime Minister Ehud Barak has made one thing abundantly clear: He will pursue any diplomatic agreement that he sees fit before those elections take place. Barak states that not only does he have the right to seek such an agreement, but the responsibility to do so. Barak's stance, however legal, is anti-democratic and should be reconsidered.
Barak has three arguments for his pursuit of a diplomatic agreement even after his government has fallen: his original mandate from the people, his authority as a sitting prime minister, and his responsibility to address the current security and diplomatic crisis. Each must be considered seriously, but together they do not give Barak the right to do whatever he wants.
Barak did receive a strong mandate from the people to negotiate a final-status agreement with the Palestinians. Of course, few of the voters who backed him would have guessed exactly how far Barak was willing to go to obtain an agreement at Camp David. But the people did elect Barak to use his judgment, and many Israelis are probably willing to accept that what Barak offered was, in rough terms, a plausible price for a final-status deal.
The mandate argument falls apart, however, when it comes to Barak's continued pursuit of a deal despite Yasser Arafat's rejection of the Camp David proposals and the attack he launched against Israel to bury them for good. The Palestinian aggression that began in October is in different category, in terms of both severity and significance, than the original intifada and the "tunnel riots" of September 1996.
The previous two resorts to violence were in no way justified, but Arafat could get away with the argument that the peace process was in the first case non-existent, and in the second case stuck. In the current instance, no one could argue that Israel is not serious about taking Oslo to its logical conclusion: a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza.
The most straightforward explanation of Arafat's refusal at Camp David and his out-of-the-blue attack is not an attempt to gain another percentage point in an interim redeployment, but a rejection of the entire premise of Oslo: that Palestinian statehood could be established in peaceful negotiations with Israel.
Arafat's attack also calls into question an even more fundamental premise of the peace process: that Arafat's Palestinian state, regardless of size or shape, would sign an end-of-conflict peace treaty with Israel.
Barak had a mandate to complete Oslo; his mandate did not envision the premises of Oslo being torn to shreds. Barak, as he says, had the right and responsibility as prime minister to forge Israel's response to the new reality. But as a democratic leader, he also had the responsibility to do so while seeking some measure of consensus for his strategy. Now that the public and the Knesset have clearly rejected his handling of the new reality, he has no right to proceed as if his original mandate stands intact.
Barak is correct to argue that calling of elections does not strip him of prime ministerial responsibilities, particular during a crisis. But here too his unchanged legal authority does not mean that democratic legitimacy makes no demands of him.
In the US, for example, which happens also to be in a transition period, there is an unwritten rule that outgoing presidents do not take actions that will be binding on their successor without coordinating with the president-elect. The winner of the election is not known in Israel's case (or in the US, for that matter), but Barak is already a "lame duck" awaiting either a renewed mandate or booting from office.
Barak claims that it was he who really wanted a unity government and that the Likud's intransigence and lust for power prevented its formation. If this is true, and certainly if it is not, Barak should do the next best thing: coordinate as closely as possible with the opposition on strategy in the current crisis. If such coordination is necessary on tactical measures, it is obligatory regarding any diplomatic agreement that will affect the nation's future for many years to come. (Jerusalem Post Nov 30)
I've said it before and I'll say it again: There will be no lasting or real peace in the Middle East until Arabs stop demonizing Jews.
Many Arabs like to say they lived in harmony with their Jewish brothers and sisters until the state of Israel was created in 1948. This, like so much of official and unofficial Arab rhetoric about the Jewish state, is a lie.
In 1840, a vicious rumor began spreading in Syria. A priest, Father Toma, supposedly went to the Jewish Quarter of Damascus and never returned. The story was that the priest was slaughtered by a group of rabbis and other Jews. Not a drop of blood was spilled. It was collected, so the infamous "blood libel" story went, and used to make Passover matzoh.
The result of this rumor was the death, torture and plunder of countless Jews throughout the Arab world.
That was 160 years ago, but guess what? The blood libel story is alive and well and making the rounds of the official Arab press and television shows. Last month, alone, it resurfaced in two prominent places.
On Oct. 24, the Palestinian Liberation Army Mufti, Sheikh Col. Nader Al-Tamini, said in a television debate on the Qatari Arabic cable news channel Al-Jazeera that there can be no peace with the Jews because they suck and use the blood of Arabs on the holidays of Passover and Purim.
Just four days later, the official Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram published a full-page article by columnist Adel Hamooda titled, "A Jewish Matzoh Made from Arab Blood." It retold the infamous blood libel story of 1840 in great detail, recounting it as a documented historical fact.
The author went on to explain that the Jews' "bestial drive" to add the blood of non-Jews to matzoh is at the root of the violence and killing of Arab children in Israel today. Arab children, he wrote, are often found torn to pieces without a single drop of blood in their bodies.
"The most reasonable explanation is that the blood was taken to be kneaded into the dough of extremist Jews to be used in Matzohs to be devoured during Passover," he wrote.
Huh? That's the most reasonable explanation? The answer is yes to the hysterical propagandists of the Middle East.
The "blood libel" story has been told over and over again through the years. But it has more currency today in the Arab world than perhaps ever before.
Why? Because you can't tell a lie about Jews that is too big for the Arab governments, Arab schools and Arab press. As an Arab-American, I wish that were not true. But it is.
It is also true that as long as such lies are spread, there is no chance for improving relations between Jews and Arabs. There is no chance for peace between Israel and her neighbors. There is no chance for reconciliation between these two peoples.
Unfortunately, I can predict the reaction from many of my Arab brothers and sisters: "Great! We don't want peace with these monsters. We don't want better relations. We don't want reconciliation with the Jews. We want only victory over them!"
As one of the very few commentators of Arabic heritage who dares to point out the obvious incredibility in such horror stories, I will be called names. I will be vilified. I will be threatened, intimidated and harassed.
That's OK. Somebody's got to say it. Someone has to tell the truth. It's long past time -- about 160 years past time -- that someone stood up and characterized these ugly rumors as exactly what they are, unforgivable blood libels against an entire people.
Please don't tell me this is a two-way street. Sure, some Jews are guilty of hot rhetoric about Arabs. But nothing like this. Nothing. Nowhere. Not now or ever. Hate speech like this would not find its way into any newspaper in Israel. No television station would broadcast lies of this magnitude. No, this is an Arab problem -- hateful hyperbole run amok.
The first step to true and lasting peace in the Middle East must be to shatter the foundation of lies beneath the never-ending negotiations, one-sided concessions and the war of attrition that lead nowhere but to more bloodshed, death and destruction. Can we at least agree to put the blood libel stories to rest, once and for all? (WorldNetDaily.com Nov 30)
The writer is editor and chief executive officer of WorldNetDaily.com Translation into English was done by MEMRI.