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

 

17 Kislev 5760
November 26, 1999
Issue number 247

News...

Jordanian Guards Shoot Embassy Attacker

A Jordanian man waving a toy gun near the Israeli embassy in Amman was shot yesterday by Jordanian security personnel guarding the embassy. The man, a 20-year-old Omani citizen, was slightly wounded in the arm and arrested. An official Jordanian source reported yesterday that the man was "mentally unstable and had a history of mental and personal problems." Yesterday, at 1:30 P.M., the man approached the embassy waving what later turned out to be a toy gun and wearing what appeared to be a vest filled with explosives. The Jordanian guards, suspecting that the gun and vest were real and that he was about to attack the embassy, shot the man in the arm and arrested him.

Two years ago, a real attack took place on the Israeli embassy in Amman. (Ha'aretz November 24)

PLO Forces Enter Machpelah Cave

Armed PLO para-military policemen entered the Machpelah Cave (of the Patriarchs) in Hevron late this afternoon. HaKol MeHashetach news agency reports that the forces reached the Machpelah compound in a jeep convoy, accompanying the visiting speaker of the German parliament. For the first time, IDF soldiers permitted the PLO policemen to enter, despite the fact that this is in violation of the "Hevron Agreement" signed with the PLO by the Netanyahu government. David Wilder, spokesman for Hevron's Jewish community, told Arutz-7 afterwards, "It was just unbelievable. The Palestinians were giving orders, and telling us who could go where." Another spokesman said earlier that the incident is "just the next step in a process that will eventually see the handing of the entire Machpelah cave to PLO control." (Arutz-7 Nov 18)

Extra-violent Israeli-Arab Demonstration

Three policemen suffered broken bones, and four Israeli-Arabs were injured, in a large and violent demonstration outside the Prime Minister's Office today. Led by Arab Knesset Members and municipal leaders, the Arabs protested the economic situation in their localities. MK Ahmed Tibi claimed that the police beat him. Police say that they had to employ great force in what they called "one of the most violent demonstrations in Jerusalem in a long while," and said that some of the protestors attempted to burst through the gates around the Prime Minister's Office. (Arutz-7 Nov 24)

Back to Work in Gaza

Thousands of Arab workers from Gaza came to work today in the Jewish communities of Gush Katif, following a sudden about-face on the matter by the Palestinian Authority yesterday afternoon. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat canceled a previous order forbidding the workers from entering Gush Katif, following violent demonstrations by the workers yesterday and the day before in which the windows of Khan Yunis City Hall were broken. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that the army's working assumption is that the PA will attempt to find other avenues of conflict with the Jewish residents next week. "This was simply part of their gradual program of continued escalation with the Jews of Gush Katif," he said. Shlomo Kustiner, spokesman for the community of Netzarim, said, "For the long run, the Palestinians know that we are not dependent on them, because we are already employing many foreign workers, such as those from Thailand." (Arutz-7 Nov 24)

Israel Rejects Vatican Accusations

The Israeli Government completely rejects the accusations made by the Spokesman of the Holy See to the effect that Israel's decision regarding the dispute in Nazareth is intended to aggravate divisions between Christians and Muslims. We regret that such a statement recalls the time-honored routine of accusing the wrong party.

The Israeli Government's agreement - which includes several articles - to respond positively to the request of Muslim officials in Nazareth to build a mosque at the site stemmed from its attentiveness to the sensitivities of its citizens and the need to uphold freedom of religion for all.

It should be pointed out that attempts by Islamic bodies, such as the Supreme Muslim Council of Jerusalem, to prevent or postpone the construction of the mosque were rejected by those initiating the mosque's construction among the Nazareth Muslim community. The Israeli Government wishes to reiterate its uncompromising commitment to uphold public order in Nazareth and throughout the Holy Land and to enable all sectors of the population - regardless of their religion, and including the pilgrims who are coming to visit the holy places of all faiths - to enjoy peace and security. The State of Israel expects all those who hold these principles dear to join it in these efforts. (Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jerusalem, 24 November 1999)

FM Response to Egyptian Accusations

In response to journalists' questions, the Foreign Ministry Spokesman expresses his disgust that the Egyptian media is blaming Israeli sources for the crash of EgyptAir flight 990. The charges are mendacious and baseless. The tragedy of the EgyptAir crash shocked the Israeli government and people, which join in the grief of the victims' families. The Government of Israel sent a message of condolences to the government of Egypt. Just at the time when we note the 22nd anniversary of President Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem, libellous accusations are appearing in the Egyptian media in a manner which harms the path of peace chosen by Egypt. (FM Spokesman 21 Nov)

Concerns in the North

Ma'alot Mayor Shlomo Buchbut regarding Barak's planned unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon stated, "First and foremost are our security concerns. Secondly, the country must be prepared for various eventualities in many different ways - whether it be to ensure that there are sufficient shelters of good quality, or that there be a network of roads, as was prepared in Yesha in advance of the withdrawals there. For instance, our schoolchildren ride each day in buses alongside the border - the buses must be protected. The government must sit with us and be open with us regarding the future plans for this area. We also need to know what's going to happen in Southern Lebanon, where Israel took over many of the infrastructures - what will happen to the bases there, and where will the people there go, etc." (Arutz-7 Nov 21)

PLO: No Final Status Settlement Without Jerusalem

The Palestinian Authority has warned that there will be no final status settlement with the Zionist regime unless Israel recognized east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. A communiqué issued following the PLO weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah last night said Israel would have to withdraw from all territories captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The communiqué went on saying, "there can't be any final status settlement with Israel if the Jewish state doesn't agree to east Jerusalem becoming the capital of the Palestinian state." The statement also castigated the continued expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "The continued building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land constitutes a mortal threat to the peace process." The statement described the settlements as "totally illegal" and "in flagrant violation of international legitimacy and all relevant UN Security Council resolutions." Sa'eb Ureikat, the former chief Palestinian negotiator, said after the meeting the PA was not seeking to create problems. He accused Israel of refusing to carry out several interim agreements relating to the Third phase of redeployment and the introduction of new prayer arrangements at the Ibrahimi Mosque in al Khalil (Hebron). Israel and the PLO are still at odd over the implementation of the second phase of redeployment as stipulated in the Sharm-el-Sheikh agreement. The PLO said it wanted populated areas to be transferred to Palestinian administration. However, the Israeli government decided to hand over semi-desert and generally unpopulated areas, arguing that Israel alone had the right to decide the location of land to transferred to the PLO. (HAMAS News, Nov 20)

Porat Reveals Raviv "Bombshell" in Committee Meeting

MK Chanan Porat startled those in attendance at today's Knesset State Audit Committee meeting when he revealed new information on the relationship between the General Security Service, Avishai Raviv, and Yigal Amir. According to Porat, one of the three teenagers indicted by Att.-Gen. Elyakim Rubenstein last week (for participating in the fake swearing-in ceremony of the GSS-created Eyal organization) informed Porat that he was standing next to Avishai Raviv at the scene of the Rabin assassination on Nov. 4, 1995. According to the teenager, as soon as the shots rang out, Raviv yelled, "It's Yigal Amir!" At a later date, GSS agents approached the youngster and warned him "not to dare open his mouth against Raviv in court."

Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Seri reports that Porat, during his term as Chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, conveyed the above information in a confidential letter to Att.-Gen. Elyakim Rubenstein. According to Porat, the failure of the judicial establishment to deal with the matter forced him to go public with the story. (Arutz-7 Nov 22)

Construction of New Tunnels Begins

The digging of new tunnels, to connect Jerusalem's northern neighbourhoods with Ma'aleh Adumim - formally began today in the presence of Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert and Transportation Minister Yitzchak Mordechai. Five kilometres of roads running through the tunnels, costing some 250 million shekels, will be constructed over the next two years. Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said at the dedication that the new highways will also reach the communities of Kfar Adumim, Mitzpeh Yericho and Ma'aleh Ephraim, as well as other Jewish centres northeast of the capital. "Our goal is to create an infrastructure that eventually enables these places to become an inseparable part of metropolitan Jerusalem."(Arutz-7 Nov 22)

Let Them Drink Vichy Water

The level of the Kineret (Sea of Galilee) today is 213.20 meters below sea level, or 20 centimeters under what has long been known as the Red Line. The Ministerial Committee on Water Economy convened today, unrelated to an earlier call by Environment Minister Dalia Itzik for the declaration of a state of emergency in the country's water economy. At the meeting, Infrastructures Minister Eli Yeshai submitted a plan to publicize a tender for the desalination of 50 million cubic meters of water a year. Former Minister of Agriculture Raphael Eitan said that it is imperative to prepare to import water from abroad to meet next year's requirements because even if the Government immediately approved seawater-desalination project, the first drops of fresh water would not be produced until 2002. (Israel Line Nov 19 & Arutz-7 Nov 21 )(Meanwhile Barak continues to divert water to the Kingdom of Jordan and is rushing to give Syria absolute control over the headwaters of the Jordan River. --Ed.)

Dalai Lama Joins Interfaith Prayer for Rain

Linking hands with Jewish, Moslem, and Christian clergymen, the Dalai Lama yesterday prayed for rain at the shores of Lake Kinneret. The event occurred during an interreligious conference at Beit Gavriel on Lake Kinneret, organized by the Inter-religious Coordinating Council in Israel and Jubillenium, a commercial company dealing in millennium-themed activities. Speaking at a press conference after the joint prayer, the Dalai Lama admitted that he had reservations about the efficacy of his prayer, but said it could not hurt. (JP Nov. 24)

 

Yeltsin to Visit Israel Soon

Russian President Boris Yeltsin will visit Israel on January 6, 2000 to meet with Israeli and PLO leaders. Yelstin has scheduled meetings with President Ezer Weizman, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Levy and PLO Chairman Yaser Arafat.(Israel Line Nov 22 )

PLO Is Building New Casino in Ramallah

PLO sources reported today that the PLO has begun building a large casino on the outskirts of Ramallah. The new casino will the second within the PLO autonomous enclaves. The sources said the same Austrian company that built the "Oasis Casino" in Jericho, Casino Austria, is building the new casino in Ramallah. The two casinos are to be supervised by Yaser Arafat's advisor Muhammad Rashid. Many Palestinian political and religious figures have criticized the opening of casinos not far from the Al Aqsa Mosque, arguing that gambling and other unethical practices associated with casinos are starkly incompatible with Islam. Observers notice that since the advent of the PA more than six years ago, immoral practices such as prostitution and alcoholism have risen considerably. (HAMAS News, Nov. 18)(Based on the Jericho experience it will finally be safe and politically correct for Israelis to visit Ramallah. —Ed.)

Israel's Plane Deal Doesn't Fly with US

Boeing wanted the next contract with El Al - as it always had in the history of Israel's national airline - and Airbus, the European consortium, wanted to break in. Airbus probably won points for creativity. It offered El Al the world's first flying synagogue with a rotating ark containing the Torah scroll that could be swiveled around to face Jerusalem no matter where in the world passengers were flying.

But El Al officials say it was ultimately the attractive prices offered by Airbus that prompted its surprise decision last month to buy three or four A330s for US$300 million to US$350 million, as well as three Boeing 777's for about US$400 million. "We bought the best products for El Al, and we intend to enjoy the best of both worlds whenever possible," says El Al spokesman Nachman Kleiman.

"As long as they're a nationally owned airline, I don't think they can do whatever they please," says one US official, who asked not to be named. The flap is far from finished. US officials are again lobbying Israel to reopen the bids. "The administration does have a certain level of frustration over Boeing," the US official says. "We feel that there should be another tender offer, and Boeing should be given the chance to bid again. (Christian Science Monitor Nov 18)

 

 

Quotes for the week...

FM Levy on Red Lines

 

 

Commentary...

The Search for Justice -- by Daniel Doron

The publication last week of two documents: one, the State Attorney's Office protocol suggesting a cover-up by its top members; the second, a remarkable interview with Hebrew University Law Prof. Ruth Gavison, raises many questions about the legal system's ethos and role. Gavison, a distinguished jurist, criticizes the legal establishment for acting as a closed guild, and for trying to impose a Western, secularist, liberal ethos on a pluralistic society. But actually, the legal establishment, especially the Justice Ministry, is thoroughly illiberal.

Sure, it believes in "human rights," but it seems convinced that the coercive state, the collective, is the prime instrument for their attainment. This is why it so regulates and legislates every sphere of life; why it encourages the extension of the state's power so far, why some in it believe that everything can be adjudicated, and why it cannot brook opposition from institutions promoting other values, such as religion. Many Israeli laws open by forbidding everything, and only then make little room for citizens to act. As a result, we have a most litigious society. The courts are so clogged that they cannot deliver timely, reasonably priced, and enforceable justice. Many thousands of cases drag through inefficiently administered courts for ages, costing litigants a fortune for often unenforceable decisions. A toothless law encourages offenders to flout it with impunity. It promotes the dangerously lawless society we have.

The courts pride themselves on guarding human rights, but they tolerate many thousands of false arrests and allow the police to hold suspects in custody indiscriminately and for long periods. Suspects' reputations are routinely ruined by leaks from publicity-hungry police - as happened recently to the unfortunate elderly couple falsely accused of misinforming the Knesset of Amnon Rubinstein's death.

Some say you can get justice in Israel only if you pay hundreds of thousands of shekels to elite lawyers respected by the courts, or if you press issues that enable the judges to extend "human rights" to their utmost limits, by practicing unbridled judicial activism. As a result, the law's basic responsibility, the daily protection of citizen's persons, basic rights and property is neglected. In her Ha'aretz interview last Friday with Ari Shavit (one of Israel's few truly independent journalists) Gavison distances herself from any criticism that may appear political, such as Shas's. Yet she confirms that the attorney-general, the State Attorney's Office and the Supreme Court all adhere to a strict "ideological collectivity" that represses most criticism.

They are made immune by an adulating media, which sees in them a bastion of Western secularism (of the leftist persuasion, I may add). They are also involved, she charges, in severe conflicts of interest (which they are quick to prosecute in others). They are self-appointed and self-perpetuating, without the minimal checks and balances or outside input or review. Practicing a double standard, they often apply the law selectively. "...Certain people who have in fact done problematic things are being investigated or prosecuted, but at the same time, other people who did equally grave things are neither being investigated or prosecuted," she charges.

Gavison feels that there is "an element of persecution in the present system." It tolerates too many "rotten apples" within it, closing ranks against criticism. The system is "so deeply flawed" she believes, "that it is no longer clear whether it has the strength to pull itself up by its bootstraps." A depressing conclusion. She is not the only one to have reached it. In I Have Seen Them All, Dan Margalit writes, in the context of the Aryeh Deri affair: "...if the State Attorney's Office would have dug deep into this difficult issue of public figures and their families receiving expensive gifts and being entertained lavishly...by wealthy Jews abroad - some of Israel's mythological figures would have sat in the dock" (p. 275); Margalit then concludes (p. 286), "already in 1981 I ...did not believe anymore that the State Attorney's Office did not have its own interests, its personal scores to settle, that it was above petty vengefulness."

The legal establishment's bias, Gavison believes, stems from giving "priority to the values of one group...", presuming to be "a supreme moral arbiter." It undercuts their "...legitimacy as supreme judicial authority...[and] endangers the legitimacy of the legal system," she states.

Arrogating power, acting without proper transparency, the legal establishment "sweepingly avoid[s] public discussion" of the constitutional changes it promotes under the guise of administrative reform, she further claims. "We are liable to wake up one morning and discover that we have a rigid constitution without having known or seen or read or being asked for our opinion about it."

Some of our best and brightest serve in the legal system. But it is an extremely statist system, that extends its power beyond any reasonable reach. This means that the law becomes ineffective, and that, if we are not careful, finding justice will become even more difficult than it already is. (JP Nov 24)

Insidious Trial Balloon --by David Bar-illan

It is one thing for the marginal anti-Zionist group Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) to support the Palestinian demand for the Right of Return; quite another for Labor MK Yossi Katz to do so. The Gush Shalom phenomenon is old hat. Even before the state was established there were those - mostly Communists and disciples of "Brit Shalom" - who opposed Zionist goals. There have even been some cases of prominent Zionists - most notably Moshe Sneh - who defected to the anti-Zionist camp. But Katz is neither a dissident nor a defector. He is a Labor MK in good standing, in charge of relations with the Palestinians, and he agrees to accept the principle of "return" of descendants of Arab war refugees. He not only cites what he considers Israel's moral debt, but argues that this is the only way to true peace. The moral argument is baseless. The suffering of the Palestinian Arabs since 1948 is an enormous human tragedy: The Nakba was indeed a catastrophe of historic dimensions. But, as Prime Minister Ehud Barak has asserted, Israel cannot assume responsibility, let alone guilt, for that war. "It was a conflict we did not desire and did much to prevent," he declared.

This disavowal of responsibility has nothing to do with whether the refugees left on orders from Arab leaders, or because they panicked when they heard egregious tales of atrocities, or were forced out by Israeli troops. What really happened was a combination of all three. Yet the only ones responsible for the war's refugees and all its other consequences - including the flight of 800,000 Jews from Arab countries - were those who initiated the hostilities. There is no disputing who they were. Even the Palestinians agree that their leaders, and the Arab regimes that invaded Israel at their behest, rejected compromise and chose war. While Israel consented to forfeit its claim to half the country for the sake of peace, the Arabs did not.

From this flows the responsibility for the war's ravages. Israel is no more responsible for the fate of Palestinian refugees than the Allies were for the fate of 12 million Germans they forcibly displaced during and after World War II. What is left, then, is the pragmatic consideration. Katz believes that resettling 100,000 refugees in Israel will bring peace. Yet the Palestinian leaders, with remarkable consistency, keep saying that if Israel really wants peace, it should let the whole Palestinian diaspora return. Not all five million Palestinian refugees may want to settle in Israel, they say, but clearly 100,000 would be just the beginning.

To argue over these numbers is to argue about how long Israel's death throes would last. Not only because once Israel agrees in principle to such a move there will be no way to limit the Arab influx, but because the very purpose of the "return" is to destroy Israel as a Jewish state. In fact, by creating an Arab majority within a few short decades, such a move will also destroy Israel as a democratic society. The country will become yet another Middle Eastern tyranny, with a rapidly vanishing Jewish population: the fulfilment of the Palestinian dream.

Barak seems acutely aware of this danger. In New York this week he reiterated that resettling Arab refugees within the state's borders is a non-negotiable red line. But the recent history of red lines is hardly reassuring. What seemed unthinkable only a few years ago is now accepted as inevitable. To recall what Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres said about the unacceptability of negotiations with the PLO, the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the presence of an Arab army west of the Jordan River is to realize how pliable red lines can be. To many, such pliability is a mark of progress, a rejection of arid rigidity. But this would be true only if the intentions of Israel's adversaries also changed. It is enough to peruse the latest Palestinian Authority Teachers' Manual, which instructs teachers to inculcate their pupils with everlasting hatred for "terrorist, racist, fascist, Nazi Zionism," to realize that no such change has occurred.

The treatment of the Katz affair will be a test of Barak's credibility. If Katz is relieved of his duties and unequivocally denounced by his party, Barak's pledges will be taken seriously. If Katz's trial balloon is dismissed with a slap on the wrist, Barak's red lines will be perceived as nothing more than a cynical exercise in deception. (JP nov 24)

 

In Their Footsteps -- by Noam Arnon

As members of the Jewish people, we are privy to a unique perspective on reality, a view at variance with the approach of modern man. A notion generally accepted by modern man the world over is that we, as members of the present generation, lie at the center of reality; modern man thus serves as the yardstick for defining legitimate values, intentions, and actions. Previous generations - their lives, values, and strivings - are obsolete, a mere historical memory. This approach is reminiscent of a view cited by Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) Chapter 9: "But the dead know nothing ... the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now long perished; they no longer have a share in anything that is done under the sun." And what of the future? It remains inaccessible, clouded in uncertainty. Modern man thus finds himself vacillating between a forgotten past and an unpredictable future. The net result is technological progress alongside spiritual anarchy, the moral collapse of society, the family, and the individual.

For the Jew, on the other hand, the past and future are ever-present. The life of our nation is one continuous stretch; ancient historical events are alive and make a moral claim on the Jewish people throughout the generations. Our forefathers - our "Avot" - Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov - are not simply characters of some ethnic folk legend, symbolic "father figures," or vague historical memories; they serve as authentic sources of moral authority and national identity. Their values are our values, their beliefs - our beliefs, their strivings - our strivings, their Land - our Land, their destiny - our destiny. Judaism does not relate to its forefathers as having died. On the contrary: for the Jew, the Patriarchs are simply those "who sleep in Hevron." This conception of Jewish identity is of course at odds with that of many prominent Jews, such as Israeli luminary Shimon Peres. Peres - the Chief Visionary of the "Empty Tomorrow" - has openly stated that he accepts the situation in which young Israelis are participants in a worldwide culture of jeans, t-shirts and the internet. For the believing Jew, however, this generation is much more: it is another vital link in the chain of the eternal, true inheritance of the Jewish people. We, as faithful bearers of that inheritance, are treading the path navigated for us, intent on finally attaining the object of our ancient yearning: redemption for the Jewish people and, as a result, for the entire world.

The detailing of the stories of the Avot and their children - in which we analyse every one of their statements and actions in a myriad of ways - is very indicative of the Jewish attitude towards the forefathers. Our sages even made a point of incorporating this message into the very first words of the silent Amida prayer, which we recite three times each day: "Blessed are You our G-d, King of the Universe, the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak, and the G-d of Ya'akov..." Only after we understand His role as a G-d that taught and guided the Avot, do we then relate to Him in terms of His actual qualities - that He is "mighty," and "awesome." Our sages went a step further: they taught us that this blessing, that of "Avot" - is the most crucial of the entire 19-blessing prayer. This means that if a person did not focus on the meaning of these central words, even if he concentrated on the remaining 18 blessings, he has not fulfilled his obligation, and must repeat the entire prayer! The verse "Sh'ma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad" - "Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One" - can be understood, not only as declaration of faith uttered by the Jew, but as a call to our father Ya'akov, who rests in the Cave of the Machpelah: "Hear our cry, Yisrael (Ya'akov) - our father 'who rests in the Machpelah' - We, the Jews of today, remain faithful to your teachings. "Hashem is still our G-d, Hashem is One." (Based on an article from 'Lechathila, Arutz-7 Nov 17)

Mrs. Arafat's Allegations --by Richard Cohen

By now, stands of trees--stout and tall--have been felled so that columnists and editorialists can say that Hillary Clinton goofed in the Middle East. The unanimous verdict is that she should have quickly protested the remarks of Suha Arafat, Yasser Arafat's wife, and maybe not have gone to the West Bank in the first place. If the first lady resumes her vaunted listening tour of New York state, apparently this is the word she'll be hearing: klutz. But permit me to say that while Mrs. Clinton was surely a bit slow to condemn the remarks, the wrong woman is being excoriated. After all, it was not Clinton but Arafat who said Israel was using cancer-inducing poison gas on civilians. And the remark was not, you might find it hard to believe, uttered in the course of the New York senatorial race but in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict. It is therefore about something serious--not New York politics but life and death in the Middle East.

The speaker, after all, was not some ill-informed villager but the cosmopolitan first lady of Palestine, as much at home in Paris as she is on the Gaza Strip. For her to utter such an ugly statement shows she believes some pretty vile anti-Israel canards--and she assumes her audience does, too. The most ominous interpretation you can put on Suha Arafat's diatribe is that she didn't think she was being all that outrageous. If that is the case, who can blame her? The demonization of Israel--and of Jews in general--is standard throughout much of the Arab world, where some textbooks are polluted with language equating Zionism with Nazism. Palestinian political figures sometimes seem to be in a contest to see who can sound the stupidest about Israel.

In 1997, for instance, the Palestinian representative to a human rights conference in Geneva falsely accused "Israeli authorities" of having "infected by injection 300 Palestinian children with the HIV virus." A year earlier, Egyptian tabloids carried the rumour that a certain Israeli-made chewing gum contained an aphrodisiac that caused women to sexually assault men. In fact, the gum was made in Germany. (Maybe it contained an ingredient to induce punctuality.) In the Arab world, a sudden thunderstorm can, without fear of ridicule, be blamed on Israel or the CIA. Under the Palestine Authority, such calumnies continue to be uttered and, to a lesser degree, published in the press. The Wye accords say this is not supposed to happen, and American diplomats say the situation in the press is improving somewhat. But these same Middle East experts also say that Arafat has done little to muzzle his subordinates and prepare his people for peace with Israel.

The Israelis, on the other hand, are attempting to adhere to the spirit of the accords. For example, they are issuing new textbooks that accurately reflect that the 1948 War of Independence was hardly the mismatch of Zionist myth and that, on occasion, Arab civilians were both intimidated and killed. To some, this is shocking, but it makes Israel no worse than other nations, ours included.

On the Palestinian side, however, not much is being done. The sleazy comparison of Zionism with Nazism--the wearisome belittling of the Holocaust or, just as bad, its expropriation as something that is now being inflicted on Palestinians--persists. Some of this is understandable. Palestinians did lose their land. They were--and still are--occupied by Israel. Many of them live wretched lives in squalid camps and--yes--it appears Israel has hardly been vigilant about protecting the West Bank's ecology. Still, Suha Arafat's remarks about the "intensive use of poisonous gas by the Israeli forces" echoes her husband's 1983 unsubstantiated allegation that Israel was "poisoning Palestinian schoolgirls." Has nothing changed since then? This must be how matters are discussed at home and among the Palestinian elite. It explains why Mrs. Arafat could so blithely use Hillary Clinton's visit to say something so ugly and just plain absurd. She believes. After all, she did not recant, she merely apologized for embarrassing Mrs. Clinton.

All this has certainly hurt Hillary Clinton's political standing in New York, but it has damaged an idealistic view of the peace process even more. It makes you wonder if Arab and Jew can ever live together or if separation of the two peoples is the only solution. The answer to that question is Yasser Arafat's to provide. If language is a window into the soul, then what can be seen by Suha Arafat's remark is ignorance and hate--and, by implication, a desire to settle the score. (Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company)


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