A collection of the week's news from Israel
Issue number 296
Our sources tell us that there are still some members of the community supporting newspapers that refuse to report events in Israel accurately and are downright hostile to our interests. For those people we advise that the telephone numbers to cancel your subscriptions to the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail are (416) 367-4500 and (416) 585-5222, respectively. After you do that be sure to order your subscription to Toronto's best newspaper The National Post at (416) 383-2500. Be sure to tell them that you are subscribing because of their fair reporting on the Middle East. Chag Sameach, Ed.
The IDF is on as high alert as it has ever been for terrorist attacks. Although the PA claims it has re-arrested arch-terrorist Muhammed Def, Israel maintains that most of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists recently released by the PA have not been returned to prison. The army has already begun to withdraw tanks from the war-zones, and has even begun to reduce the number of soldiers in the areas. Meanwhile, severe and uncensored Palestinian incitement continues on television and radio, and warlike statements have not ceased from the mouths of PA officials: Tanzim leader Marwan Bargouti said that the intifada will continue, while Saeb Erekat said that Israel's abduction of the Ramallah lynchers is an "act of war." Imad Falouji, a Minister in the PA governing council, called on Palestinians last night to continue fighting against the "heart of Israel." "It is not logical for us to stop our violent struggle against Israel just because they have opened our airport and border crossings," he said. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned Arafat last night that he would not allow his country to be dragged into a regional war. (arutzsheva.org Oct 19)
Israel 'Hopes" for Ceasefire, Opens P.A. Airport
US President Bill Clinton was only able to extract an oral cease fire agreement between Barak and Arafat at this week's summit at Sharm-al-Sheikh. At a short press conference called at the end of the summit, Clinton declared that the two sides had agreed to immediately end the violence of the past several weeks, and that they would cooperate with a body that would supervise the cease fire arrangements. Clinton also said that the sides had given him the green light to set up a committee to investigate the source of the mini-war; the committee will present its conclusions to both Clinton and to UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan.
Barak summit spokesman and Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna pointed out that the Clinton declaration was the most the American President could get the sides to agree upon. "By their silence, they agreed with, or, I should say, did not disagree, with the pronouncement," he told Arutz-7 Tuesday. He further noted, "the talks were characterized by a lack of trust and suspicion between the sides... We cannot rely on their promise [of a ceasefire]. What happens in the field will be the litmus test." Soon after the Clinton declaration, Barak's spokesman Nachman Shai published a press release proudly announcing: "The goals of the Sharm a-Sheikh conference have been achieved, including, the establishment of concrete obligations to put an end to the current crisis including detailed security understandings on all relevant issues."
The statement also noted that "an international commission of inquiry has not been established. [Instead] US President Bill Clinton will appoint a fact-finding committee and publish its report." The release also noted that Arafat had taken upon himself "concrete obligations to halt the incitement." What the statement failed to mention was that Yasser Arafat had not agreed to disarm his Tanzim terrorist force. The communique also chose not to stress that, as President Clinton told reporters, Israel has committed itself to re-open the PLO's Dahaniya airport and to end the IDF's closure on Palestinian towns throughout Yesha. Some 18 hours after Israel fulfilled its new Sharm a-Sheikh obligation - Prime Minister Barak instructed the army early Tuesday night to take steps to ensure that the violence abates - the PA finally issued an official announcement at 2 PM Wednesday calling on its forces to hold their fire. Following a meeting between leading Israeli and PA army officials Wednesday to discuss arrangements for a ceasefire, the Israel Defense Forces opened the international crossings for Palestinians, opened the Dahaniye airport in Gaza, and removed the closure from around the Palestinian cities. The ban on the entry of Palestinians into Israel remains in force, however.
After Arafat's announcement, Palestinian streets in the autonomous cities were full of demonstrators demanding the continuation of the "struggle for Palestinian independence." Hussein a-Sheikh, a Tanzim leader, told the Jerusalem Post that the message of these demonstrations is that "the intifada is continuing." Tanzim head Marwan Bargouti, who said after the Sharm a-Sheikh summit that the intifada would continue, said Wednesday that he does not believe that Yasser Arafat will ask him to rein in his forces. He said that even if Arafat would ask him to do so, "[I] will not be able to control my people."
In Gaza an IDF officer was lightly wounded in the face by a firebomb thrown at him during Palestinian riots near an IDF position at Kfar Darom on Wednesday. Homemade grenades were also tossed at an army post there, and an Israeli citizen was wounded by gunfire shot from a passing Palestinian car. Palestinian forces are also shooting at IDF forces near Shechem and Jenin; the army has returned fire. Anita Tucker, a long-time resident of Netzer Chazani in Gush Katif, reported that a bullet was shot into her car from a Palestinian sniper standing on the street this morning; "it landed directly where my head should have been at that second, but miraculously it did not hit me," she said. Two soldiers were shot and wounded Tuesday night - one lightly, one moderately - while standing at a checkpoint south of Ma'aleh Adumim.
The Palestinians attempted an ambush on Israeli soldiers Tuesday night in Bethlehem; they called in a report of a "lynch" in the city, and when the soldiers arrived, Palestinians opened fire on them; no one was hurt. Heavy fire was shot at the Jewish homes in Hevron, all IDF posts in Gaza, and at Vered Yericho. Palestinians from Beit Jalla fired heavily on Gilo Tuesday; many families were evacuated from their homes for several hours, and the condition of a Border Guard policeman shot through his heart Tuesday continues to be very serious. The army and the Jerusalem municipality have fortified the endangered Gilo homes with concrete blocks and reinforced walls. The head of the Gilo local council described the atmosphere in Gilo to Arutz-7: "Mothers are afraid to let their children onto the streets... We never, in our worst dreams, could have imagined that the situation here could deteriorate so drastically." (arutzsheva.org Oct 17,18)
Italian Journalist Apologizes to P.A. For Filming of Lynch in Ramallah
A representative of Italian Television apologized to the Palestinian Authority for screening the video of the lynching of the two Israeli soldiers - and had his press card suspended. Riccardo Christiano, Italian TV's representative in Israel, wrote to the PA, "To my dear friends in Palestine, We bless you, and feel that we must clarify that the photos of the events in Ramallah were taken by a private Italian station, and not by official Italian TV… We emphasize to you that we respect the proper journalistic work guidelines with the Palestinian Authority. Be sure that we would never do something like that."
The letter was published in the PA's Al Hayat al-Jadida. Israel sent a sharp protest of the apology to the Italian government, and the Israeli Government Press Office suspended his press card. Soon after thr press card was revoked a terse statement to the press was released by RAI's general director, Pier Luigi Celli, announcing RAI's "immediate decision" to recall Cristiano to Rome. "He will no longer work for Jerusalem," Celli stated. "RAI had no knowledge of the letter and its content... [nor did RAI] agree with the content of the aforementioned letter." RAI representatives in Israel had no further comment. (arutzsheva.org Oct 18, Jerusalem Post Oct 19)
Palestinian Media, Police Helped in Lynch
The Palestinian media and police played important roles in the double-lynch of two Israelis in Ramallah last Thursday. The day before the lynch, in which one soldier was tied to a car and dragged until he was dead, an official Palestinian Authority Television broadcast a clip demonstrating the tying of a mannequin - representing a body - to the back of a car. This was confirmed the next day by Israeli Army operations commander Maj.-Gen. Giora Eiland. Zionist Organization of America President Morton A. Klein has compared this to the shocking case in Texas where white racists tied a black man to the back of their car and dragged him along until he was dead. In addition, a senior Israeli Army officer told the Jerusalem Post that the events leading to the murder were caused by the PA police, who stopped the two Israelis at a roadblock, but instead of guiding them back in the right direction, they brought them into Ramallah. Furthermore, an Italian Television video of the attack shows Palestinian policemen joining in the mob violence. (A7 Oct 16)
Israel Arrests 8 Lynchers
Israel acknowledged Wednesday that it had arrested eight Palestinians who were involved in the lynching of two Israeli soldiers last week. The arrests were enabled after the General Security Service discovered their hideouts. Palestinian sources had earlier said that several of them had been missing from their homes for the last few days. The two soldiers were brutally killed when a Palestinian mob crashed the Palestinian police station where they were being questioned. One of those arrested include the Palestinian man who was seen on the video clips waving at the mob with bloodstained hands from the police station window. (arutzsheva.org Oct 18)
96 US Senators Sign Pro-Israel Letter
Ninety-six out of one hundred US Senators have signed a letter expressing solidarity with the State and people of Israel at this time of crisis, while condemning the Palestinian leadership for encouraging the violence and doing little to stop it.. Senators Abraham (R., Mich.) and Byrd (D., WV) were the only Senators who chose not to sign. Senators Hagel (R., Neb.) and Gregg (R., New Hamp.) could not be reached by the deadline. (arutzsheva.org Oct 18)
Itamar Guards Arrested
A mob of between 70 and 80 Arabs, armed with axes, hatchets, and knives began to march on Yitzhar Tuesday, and did not turn back even when the town's guards fired in the air. The guards then reportedly opened direct fire, killing one and injuring five. The two guards, residents of Itamar, were arrested, and a Petach Tikvah court ordered their custody extended for five days. Shechem Regional Commander Col. Yossi Adiri told Army Radio that the army found that the two were in mortal danger when they shot. Shomron Regional Council head Bentzy Lieberman warned that "their arrest is scandalous. They deserve a medal, and not arrest!" The arrests may cause Jewish lives to be lost, according to Lieberman, as other Israelis will be deterred from opening fire when necessary. "The army is on our side," he told Arutz-7. "An IDF investigation found that the shooting was carried out legitimately in the framework of self-defense, and the army insisted that they not be tried, and at the very least that their custody not be extended - but the police still acted as they did." (arutzsheva.org Oct 18,19)
Ancient Jericho Synagogue Set Ablaze by Palestinians
A mob of Palestinian Arabs from Jericho set the ancient "Shalom Al Yisrael" synagogue on fire last Thursday night, and the wood structure was burnt to the ground. Palestinians prevented Israeli fire trucks from putting out the fire. About two hours later, the Israel Air Force bombed a Palestinian Authority police academy building in Jericho, in retaliation. " Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau recalled that after the NRP's Chanan Porat and Chaim Falk turned to him almost seven years ago on the matter of the Jewish site in Jericho, "I turned to then-Prime Minister Rabin, and he promised that a yeshiva would be allowed to operate there. He later came back to me with a letter showing a special clause in the Oslo I agreement, stipulating that a 'Jewish spiritual center' would operate there, and that Israelis would be allowed to travel back and forth." Yisrael Medad, member of the Executive Board of the Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue - the name comes from the words that appear on the ancient mosaic floor there - released the following statement: "The act of senseless vandalism that is the destruction of the Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue in Jericho, stoked by evil minds and fed by a cruel hatred, will be answered. The 1,250-year old mosaic floor will be restored to the best of our ability, and Jewish prayers and sounds of Torah learning will again be heard in the city that was the first of the conquests of Joshua in the Land of Israel." (arutzsheva.org Oct 13)
Collusion Between the Terrorists and the Ambulances?
It appears that the PA's Red Crescent emergency medical services are informed in advance of Palestinian attacks on Jewish targets. Defense sources have found that the ambulances show up at the intended sites several minutes beforehand in order to proffer aid to Palestinians who might be injured. This demonstrates the extent of the cooperation between the Red Crescent and those who carry out the attacks. (arutzsheva.org Oct 15)
Jews Attacked Down Under and Elsewhere
Several firebombs were hurled at Jewish targets in Australia over last weekend. Fifty guests in the sukkah of Rabbi Pinchas Feldman, head of Sydney Yeshiva, were unhurt after a bomb was thrown at the sukkah late Saturday night. One participant reported, "We heard a thud and shouts of Allah Akbar! Miraculously the sukkah did not go up in flames, rather the bottle bounced off the sukkah, pouring the kerosene all over the sukkah but didn't ignite from the flame!" In Syracuse, New York, the FBI and local police are investigating the explosion of a synagogue that occurred last Friday night. A police sergeant said, "There is considerable damage, and we can't go in because there is danger of roof collapse." (arutzsheva.org Oct 15)
New Jewish Homes in Jerusalem
Beit Varsha, in Jerusalem's Old City near Flower Gate, was dedicated Thursday, and four Jewish families moved in. Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert participated in the ceremony. (arutzsheva.org Oct 19)
New Neighborhood in Bet El
A new neighborhood - Achuzat Gluck - was dedicated Monday in Mt. Yaakov - previously known as Mt. Artis - in Bet El. Ground for the new neighborhood was broken by Yoel Tzur in December 1996, in memory of his wife Ita and son Ephraim who were murdered only a week before by Palestinian terrorists. The intervening years saw protesting Bet El residents being pulled away from the site by army soldiers, many hours of negotiations between representatives of the army, government, and Bet El - and the construction of 74 housing units. Most of them are now occupied. A second neighborhood in Bet El, named Maoz Tzur in memory of Ita and Ephraim Tzur and their Chanukah yahrtzeit (anniversary of their death), was also recently completed, a mile south of Mt. Yaakov. (arutzsheva.org Oct 16)
Sukkot in Hevron, Jerusalem, and Chafetz Chaim
Although the traditional Sukkot concert did not take place yesterday in Hevron because of the security situation, the featured performer refused to be discouraged. Hassidic music star Mordechai Ben-David put on a private concert for Hevron residents Monday night in the Jewish neighborhood there. Jerusalem was on its feet Tuesday, as the Jerusalem Parade marched from one end of the city to the other. Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim's water park hosted - free of charge - the residents of the Shomron communities of Yitzhar, Brachah, Elon Moreh, and Itamar. For many of the children, it was the first time they left their homes since the Rosh Hashanah Arab Assault began.
Announcements of festive Sukkot celebrations in Jericho's Shalom al Yisrael synagogue and Joseph's Tomb yeshiva were printed and circulated before the destruction of these sites occurred, and can still be read in many of the weekly Torah sheets distributed in the synagogues. On the other hand, the Binyamin town of Psagot - where the IDF stationed tanks last week and the residents had to descend to their bomb shelters because of the heavy gunfire rained down upon it by nearby Ramallah residents for several nights - was the site of a festive Sukkot celebration Sunday night. Among the close to 1,000 celebrants was 7-year old Oded Zand of the Golan moshav Keshet. He told an Arutz-7 correspondent that he came with dozens of other Golan residents on the three-hour trip (each way) simply to "strengthen the people who live here." Aharon Valenci, head of the Upper Galilee Regional Council, told the crowds, "Whatever happens here, we're with you." (arutzsheva.org Oct 15,17)
Christians Support Israeli Jerusalem
A unique petition calling for a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, signed and endorsed by millions of Christians worldwide, was presented on Saturday night by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem to Diaspora Affairs Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior. The occasion was the ICEJ's 21st Annual Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, which, despite the violence that has rocked the region and caused many tourists from canceling their trips to Israel, was attended by over 4,000 delegates - more than 90% of those who had signed up. The petition was signed by over 100,000 Christians from 118 countries, and was endorsed by Christian ministries representing another 15 million members around the world. The petition supports "Israel's exclusive claim to sovereignty over united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We commend Israel for its exemplary record in guaranteeing access to the biblical sites in Jerusalem and throughout Israel, and support the continuation of Israel in this role." Patrick Goodenough, of the ICEJ, recently told Ruth Matar of Women in Green on Arutz-7 that when he and a friend once went up to the Temple Mount to pray, "we were prevented from doing so by Moslem Waqf officials there." Ruth Matar then played, on air, a quote of Yasser Arafat explaining his refusal to agree to Israeli sovereignty on the Mount with the words, "I cannot betray the Christian people." (arutzsheva.org Oct 16)
Sermon on PA Television: "Kill Those Jews and Americans"
On Oct 13, the official Palestinian Authority television station broadcast live a Friday sermon in the Zayed bin Sultan Aal Nahyan mosque in Gaza. The sermon was also rebroadcast repeatedly. The speaker is Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, Member of the PA-appointed "Fatwa Council". (Translation courtesy of MEMRI)
On killing Jews and Americans:
"O brother believers, the criminals, the terrorists - are the Jews, who have butchered our children, orphaned them, widowed our women and desecrated our holy places and sacred sites. They are the terrorists. They are the ones who must be butchered and killed, as Allah the Almighty said: 'Fight them: Allah will torture them at your hands, and will humiliate them and will help you to overcome them, and will relieve the minds of the believers..."
"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 - and those who stand by them - they are all in one trench, against the Arabs and the Muslims because they established Israel here, in the beating heart of the Arab world, in Palestine. They created it to be the outpost of their civilization and the vanguard of their army, and to be the sword of the West and the crusaders, hanging over the necks of the monotheists, the Muslims in these lands. They wanted the Jews to be their spearhead..."
On making peace with Israel:
"Even if an agreement of Gaza is signed - we shall not forget Haifa, and Acre, and the Galilee, and Jaffa, and the Triangle and the Negev, and the rest of our cities and villages. It is only a matter of time. The weak will not remain forever weak, and the strong will not remain forever strong... If we are weak today... and we are not able to regain our rights, then at least we have to pass on the banner - waving high - to our children and grandchildren..."
"...We will not give up a single grain of soil of Palestine, from Haifa, and Jaffa, and Acre, and Mulabbas [Petah Tikva] and Salamah, and Majdal [Ashkelon], and all the land, and Gaza, and the West Bank..."
"...Let us put our trust in Allah, close ranks, and unite our words, and the slogan of us all should be, 'Jihad! Jihad! For the sake of Palestine, and for the sake of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa!'"
On divine rewards for warfare:
"O brothers in belief, the beautiful bride has a costly price and dowry... Our bride is paradise, O brothers in belief... The cost and the dowry of this bride, the dowry of this paradise, is that we fight in the path of Allah, and kill and be killed."
"Allah has purchased from the believers their persons and their property in return for the promise that they shall have paradise, for they fight in the cause of Allah, and they slay the enemy and are slain." (MEMRI Oct 16)
Palestinian Strategies -
Arafat's advisor for strategic affairs and member of the PLO Central Committee, Hani Al-Hassan, in a symposium in Gaza, said: "The present Intifada enabled the Palestinians to change the old rules of the game, and thwarted Barak's attempt to place the responsibility for the stalemate in the peace process [on the Palestinians].. The Intifada increased the PA's force. It consolidated the strategic stance of the PA and proved the unity of the Palestinian people everywhere. . (Al-Ayyam (PA), Oct 12)
Factions Cooperate -
The Supreme Supervisory Committee of the Nationalist and Islamist Forces published a communique signed by twelve Palestinian factions, including Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. It asserted that, "The Intifada will continue until the aggression is repelled and the realization of all its goals." It called for the unity of struggle in order to "disarm the settlers, expel them, and destroy the settlements." Additionally, the communique called upon students to take part in the activities of the Intifada during and after school hours. (Al-Ayyam, Oct 12)
Officials on Prisoner Release -
The head of the Preventive Security Apparatus in Gaza, Muhammad Dakhlan stated: "The release of some Hamas people is an ordinary, natural, and simple step, compared to the steps we are going to take in the future." (Al-Ayyam, Oct 12)
In an interview with the Qatari television, Al-Jazeera, after the murder of the IDF soldiers in Ramallah, Dakhlan said, "The Intifada will continue until victory." (Al-Jazeera (Qatar), Oct 12) (MEMRI/arutzsheva.org Oct 12)
History is long and merciless in the Middle East. The suicide bombing of the destroyer in the port of Aden and the turmoil in Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are, above all else, violent expressions of the old confrontation between Islam and the West. America, no less than Israel, is inextricably tied to the Muslim-Christian tug-of-war that began in the seventh century when Arab armies first conquered Palestine.
Unfortunately, America's foreign policy has usually ignored the fact that the United States walks in the footsteps of Europe in the Middle East. America, the successor to Britain, sees itself as of the new world, not the old, able to be "friends" with anybody regardless of race, creed or religion.
American exceptionalism holds the ironclad belief that a secular tradition of toleration, moderation and compromise can transcend the religions and animosities of older societies. This naivete, complemented by the naivete of many on the Israeli left who downplay religion the defining feature of men's lives, has provoked the Middle East's present strife far more an Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount.
The Clinton administration has tenaciously pursued a peace process that Muslims regard as an insult to their pride.
For decades, the State Department has operated under the assumption that with the right batch of Israeli concessions the Arab world would tire, cut a deal and recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Muslims from Tangiers to Tehran may be willing to concede that Israel exists because, as the Soviets used to say, the correlation of forces allows no other alternative. But they rebel against the idea that Jews have a legitimate, historic right to a state west of the Jordan river, which is, after all, the ultimate objective of the peace process. For decades, the State Department has operated under the assumption that with the right batch of Israeli concessions the Arab world would tire, cut a deal, and recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state.
There is no doubt that the Middle East is no longer a hotbed of competing virulently anti-Israeli Arab nationalisms. Pan-Arabism, Ba'athism and Nasserism have all given way to new national identities, in which the Muslim component has regained considerable ground. And for a Muslim, who views Islam as God's final revelation and can recall with vividness and understandable pride nearly a thousand years of Muslim triumph and superiority over Christendom, the presence and strength of Israel is a painful reminder of Islam's long fall from power. Though esteemed for their knowledge, Jews are usually characterized in Islamic tradition as cowardly and weak. Losing to Christians during the last 300 years has been bad enough; losing to Jews since 1947 has been especially galling.
A quick read of the Arabic press, particularly the Palestinian press, with its calls to holy war, ought to give pause to those who still believe that with just one more Israeli concession - East Jerusalem - the Arab world will convert "Jewish Crusaders" into legitimate neighbors.
Palestinian Arab nationalism is younger than its Israeli Jewish counterpart, but the Muslim reluctance to concede that "Muslim lands" can ever legitimately be relinquished to infidels is age-old, imbedded into Islamic law and custom.
Palestinian Arab nationalism, born through conflict with Palestinian Jewish nationalism and intellectually nourished since 1948 by virulent anti-Semitism imported from the West, reinforces the religious perspective to see Israel as an alien power.
The Clinton administration, like the Bush administration before it, unwisely chose to advance as quickly as possible the "peace process," attempting in effect to force the Palestinians and those Arabs allied to their cause to make de facto recognition of Israel de jure. Washington has in essence been demanding that they in broad daylight forsake their history and their faith as they had come to understand them. They quite naturally have declined.
The Americans and the Israelis have done in only 10 years what America's enemies in the Middle East could only have dreamed of doing. Laid low by two decades of miscalculation, Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization were revived by secret and then open diplomacy with Jerusalem and Washington.
Washington encouraged and Jerusalem delivered concession after concession to Mr. Arafat even though he, when speaking in Arabic to the Arab world, never abandoned the Palestinian Arab claims to all of Israel.
Further east, Saddam Hussein may not yet have rebuilt his army, but he has made immense progress in demonstrating that Arab radicals still know how to stand up against the West.
When Israel precipitously withdrew from Lebanon, abandoning the allied South Lebanese Army to the mercy of Hezbollah, a wave of pride rippled through the Middle East. When Prime Minister Ehud Barak made concessions at Camp David touching East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the "Arab street," to which Mr. Arafat is connected at the navel, saw Israel and America on the run. From that moment, violence in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan was inevitable.
If the United States had moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem at the end of the Gulf War, it would have sent a crystal clear signal to enemies and friends that America's writ and Israel's legitimacy are nonnegotiable and indomitable. It went in the other direction, toward the peace process and evenhandedness.
The peace process will not change the anti-Western fundamentals of the Middle East. Both Washington and Jerusalem will have to live in an imperfect, sometimes violent world, where peace is found in heaven and not on earth.
The writer, a former Middle East specialist in the CIA, is author, under the pseudonym Edward Shirley, of "Know Thine Enemy: A Spy's Journey into Revolutionary Iran." (The New York Times Oct 14)
The current, ongoing crisis, we are told, may be the worst ever faced by Israel. In many ways, the threat of an INTERNAL enemy exceeds that of an external foe.
For though we have demonstrated amazing success in the past when engaging an attacking force from without, never before have we confronted a situation where our attackers are already among us, in our own cities and towns, armed with significant firepower and dedicated to our destruction.
Despite the threat, I am confident that we will persevere in our noble cause. But I want to know: Will we in Israel fight alone?
I have no doubt that the world at large will condemn us, whatever we do - Jews, after all, have no right to self- defense - and the international mediais chomping at the bit to show us as the cruel aggressor, facts be damned.
But what about our fellow Jews around the world? What will be THEIR response as this war intensifies? Will they stand, as it were, shoulder-to-shoulder with us in this struggle, or will they go through the motions of obligatory concern and then leave us to our own designs?
Already, there are ominous clouds on the horizon. American Jews are canceling reservations to Israel in huge numbers. Flights arriving to Ben-Gurion airport - normally crowded at this holiday season - are arriving virtually empty. And those Jews already visiting Israel are scrambling to get out: Two Yeshivot in Jerusalem catering to foreign students have sent their students home and temporarily locked their doors; several others are virtually deserted. Numerous hotels have also closed for lack of business.
One can only imagine the fallout once the REAL pressure begins.
But World Jewry will be making a tragic mistake if it believes this crisis is restricted to the Jews living between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.
This is no localized, Middle-Eastern conflagration, fought between "Israelis" and Palestinians. This is no less than a battle for the survival of the Jewish People, the whole Jewish People. The bloodthirsty rioters who lynched our soldiers, desecrated Joseph's Tomb and burnt down the ancient synagogue of Jericho were not expressing some pent-up resentment at being second-class citizens, or furthering some geo-political quest for independence: They were demonstrating - nakedly, openly - their fanatical obsession with killing Jews and eradicating the Jewish presence in our homeland.
That is why every attack is accompanied by mass chanting of "Itbach el-Yehud," "Slaughter the Jews." That is why the Palestinians teach their children that Jews never lived in Israel, that the Western Wall is a Moslem shrine, that Joseph's Tomb is a mosque, not a Jewish holy place. For the Palestinians, there ARE no Jewish holy places, because they deny Jews the right to live at all. To the Palestinians, there are no distinctions between "Zionists" and "non-Zionists" or between "settlers" and Peace Now members; no "good Jews" or "bad Jews:" There are only Jews, and they must all be eliminated, preferably in the most brutal fashion.
And if World Jewry believes it can seclude itself, ostrich-like, in its cozy little sanctuaries of the West, it is shockingly mistaken. The antisemites of the planet - believing that this may well be the opportunity to deal Judaism a death-blow - will come out of the woodwork in droves. The burning down of synagogues in France, the spate of anti-Jewish cartoons and commentaries in America, the mass rallies in support of the "poor Palestinians" throughout the Moslem world - and in "civilized" England - all serve to remind the Jew that you can run, but you cannot hide.
Think for a moment, if you can bear it, what Judaism would look like if the fanatics prevailed and Israel disappeared: Global Jewish scholarship, which has flourished as never before since the State was founded, would be decimated. Jewish communities scattered around the world, already devastated by high levels of intermarriage and assimilation, would shrivel even
further; within a short time, many would simply cease to exist. Jewish Pride, which has allowed Jews to openly display their Jewishness and rise to positions of prominence all over the world, would suffer a staggering blow.
Jews everywhere would be humiliated, terrified and terrorized, easy prey for every Jew-hater in every country. Most devastating of all, the focus, the direction, the forward-motion of Jewish History embodied in Israel would come to a sudden, sickening halt. There would be no winners; only losers.
The Jewish World is like an eyeball: If it becomes scratched in any part, the whole eye tears. But when Israel is the part affected, then the tears are endless, and we wander like a blind man in the dark. Jews of the world: You must not desert Israel in our hour of need, but must support us unabashedly: politically, financially, physically. Jewish leaders are fond of stressing the primacy of Jewish unity, even trumpeting the slogan, "We Are One." The time has come, I fear, to prove it. (Jerusalem Post Oct 16)
The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana
At Sharm al-Sheikh last year, Ehud Barak signed what has so far been his only agreement with Yasser Arafat. Today, the two will return to the Egyptian resort town on the Red Sea in order to attend a farewell party for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and to say good-bye to the American team that has accompanied the negotiations for most of the last decade. In a bitter twist on Moshe Dayan's famous statement ("better peace without Sharm al-Sheikh than Sharm al-Sheikh without peace"), today's events will be "Sharm al-Sheikh without peace."
There are still people in Washington who hope to work out a new timetable for talks on a final-status agreement between Barak and Arafat, with the goal of pulling out the American bridging proposals at the appropriate moment and giving Bill Clinton one final diplomatic achievement before he leaves the White House. But the chances of this happening appear to be zero, and American administration officials know this.
Sandy Berger, the U.S. national security advisor, who in recent weeks had taken command of the peace process, and the U.S. peace team, led by Dennis Ross, are now engaged in soul-searching. Their eight years of work under the Clinton administration have ended in a series of humiliating defeats, which reached their peak this summer at the Camp David summit - whose failure led to the current violent confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The effort to achieve an agreement between Israel and Syria, which included three meetings between Clinton and Hafez Assad and dozens of trips to Damascus by various secretaries of state, ended in a total impasse. The agreements between Israel and the Palestinians (Oslo 1 and Oslo 2) and between Israel and Jordan were achieved through direct negotiations between the parties, without American involvement. The American peace team's only achievements were the Hebron and Wye agreements, imposed by force on the Netanyahu government.
"Where did we go wrong?" the American mediators are now asking themselves.
The answer appears to be a combination of messianic faith in the peace process, a lack of understanding of the reality of the Middle East and complete blindness to the world views of leaders such as Assad and Arafat. Clinton and his aides were apparently incapable of understanding the concept of national honor and the religious extremism that prevail in the Arab world. Their attempts to describe Syrian and Palestinian policy in terms of a balance of power or interests caused them to be continually surprised anew by the stubbornness of the other side.
In a moment of honesty, one senior American official admitted yesterday to The New York Times that the administration had failed to grasp the depth of resentment among the Palestinian population. We succeeded in forging an understanding among Israeli and Palestinian elites, he said, but not among the people.
How did it happen that the American government, with all its formidable intelligence capabilities and its close contacts in the region, failed to discover the Palestinians' hatred for Israel? Perhaps Washington simply didn't want to hear. It hoped that the global processes of "an end to history" and the American leadership's longing for free markets and democracy would somehow appear in the Middle East as well - until the violent outbreaks of the last two weeks finally bared the bitter reality. (Haaretz Oct 16)
The world has had no trouble determining who the villain of the past two weeks is: Israel has been almost universally condemned for its use of "excessive force." And at first glance, the truth of this assertion seems self-evident. The vast majority of the casualties have been Palestinian, the argument goes, so the IDF must have been overreacting.
Yet a closer look reveals a puzzling inconsistency in Israel's behavior: Sometimes it has used force; at other times it has exercised an almost unnatural restraint. And it is only through analyzing the pattern of Israel's choices that the question of whether its use of force was in fact "excessive" can be answered.
To start, let us consider a few examples of restraint: On October 1, an Israeli border policeman bled to death at Joseph's Tomb because the Palestinian Authority refused to let him be evacuated to a hospital. In response - Israel did nothing.
On the night of October 4-5, a ceasefire agreement was negotiated in Paris. At the last minute, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat refused to sign, signaling that the violence would continue. In response - Israel nevertheless withdrew its forces from the areas specified in the agreement, just as if it had been signed.
On October 6, in an effort to defuse tensions, Israel agreed to withdraw all its forces from the Temple Mount and let the PA handle security for Friday prayers at the mosques there. The PA responded to this gesture by allowing Moslem "worshipers" first to stone the Jews praying at the Western Wall below, forcing Israel to evacuate all Jews from the site, and then to storm the Israeli police station on the Mount and to firebomb and torch a second police post by the Old City walls. Israel had to retake control of the holy site by force, leaving two dead. In retaliation - Israel did nothing.
On October 7, still trying to reduce the friction, Israel agreed to withdraw its forces from Joseph's Tomb - a site over which Israel was granted control in the Oslo accords - in exchange for the PA's promise to protect it. It took the PA all of a few hours to violate its promise and let a mob completely destroy the ancient site. In response - Israel did nothing.
Also on October 7, Hizbullah kidnapped three soldiers. In response - Israel did nothing.
On October 12, two reservists took a wrong turn and wound up in Ramallah, where a mob led by Palestinian policemen brutally murdered them and mutilated the bodies. Israeli security experts warned that the country could not afford to do nothing again if it wanted to have any deterrent capability left. Prime Minister Ehud Barak therefore agreed to let the IDF bomb five Palestinian targets - after it first warned everyone in the area to leave and gave them several hours to do so. Total number of Palestinians killed in the attacks, according to Palestinian sources? Zero.
In fact, there has been one thing, and one thing only, to which Barak has permitted the IDF to respond with lethal force: a direct threat to the lives of Israeli civilians or soldiers. In the case of such a threat, the IDF has been permitted to use whatever force it deems necessary to protect Israeli lives. And it has carried out this mandate successfully - hence the uneven body count.
But does it truly constitute "excessive force" for an army to protect its own citizens, even at the expense of the deaths of some of the attackers? Would it be more moral for Barak to let his own people, whom he is sworn to protect, be killed instead, so that the world would like Israel better?
This, in fact, is exactly the choice that Yasser Arafat has made. By permitting and even urging teens and children to join attacking mobs alongside men with automatic rifles, he has virtually guaranteed that some will be killed in the crossfire - but the Palestinians will thereby score points in the public relations arena. Barak has chosen instead to order the army to defend civilians, even at the price of losing points in the PR battle. One leader has sacrificed his people's lives for PR gains; the other has sacrificed public opinion to protect his people's lives.
By any normal standard of human morality, Barak's is the only honorable choice. It is also the choice that every one of the Western leaders now so critical of him would have made in his stead, and indeed, the choice their people would have demanded.
All of which leaves us with only one unanswerable question: Why is the world insisting on playing Arafat's game? (Jerusalem Post Oct 17)