Israel News

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

September 21, 2001
Issue number 345

News...

Mossad Warned CIA of Attacks?

Mossad officials traveled to Washington last month to warn the CIA and the FBI that a cell of up to 200 terrorists was planning a major operation, according to a report in the London's Sunday Telegraph. The paper said the Israeli officials specifically warned their counterparts in Washington that "large-scale terrorist attacks on highly visible targets on the American mainland  were imminent." They offered no specific information about targets, but they did link the plot to Afghanistan-based terrorist Osama bin Laden, and they told the Americans there were "strong grounds" for suspecting Iraqi involvement. A US administration official told the paper that it was "quite credible" that the CIA did not heed the Mossad warning: "It has a history of being over-cautious about Israeli information."   (Jerusalem Post Sep17)

Commentary...

Eight Thoughts on Mass Murder: The grim truths By David Gelernter

  1. You don't win wars by defending yourself. You win them by attacking the enemy. People say, "This is war," and they're right. But if our policy is merely defense and counterattack, this war can't possibly be won. The U.S. must take the initiative. The president should tell his service chiefs: Give me a plan of attack, now, against any known terrorist or terrorist state. They are all our sworn enemies.
  2. The U.S. ultimatum to Afghanistan. By the time you read this, we may already have delivered an ultimatum to the government (such as it is) in Kabul. We needn't and shouldn't wait for the investigation of the September 11 massacres to finish. We know what bin Laden is -- and if he didn't mastermind this mass murder, we want him anyway, because we don't play games with terrorists anymore. It is Afghanistan's job to find the man and hand him over. Our ultimatum should read: You have so many hours to turn him over, or prove to our satisfaction that he's not in Afghanistan. If you don't, we'll declare war and systematically destroy everything you own, every building and field, every shop and sheep in Afghanistan, one by one, until you hand the man over or there's nothing left. (Of course we'll always tell you our next target, so you can evacuate if you care to.) And if we wreak havoc and still don't get our man -- in the future, bloody-minded states might think twice before sheltering aspiring murderers.
  3. The topic is "guilt," not "responsibility." The president spoke well on the evening of the 11th. He spoke about "justice" and "evil." But in some ways we are still confused. People say that we have to find the "responsible" parties. What they mean is the guilty parties. Back in the '70s, terrorists would murder people, and ignorant, oblivious reporters would announce: "The PLO [or some other bloodthirsty barbarian group] has claimed responsibility." Every time you heard that phrase, your blood ran cold. Those reporters had turned themselves voluntarily into propaganda machines. They should have said: The PLO has "admitted guilt," or "claimed guilt" - a gruesome phrase that says something important. In the '70s, all sorts of enlightened Americans were politely interested in terrorism. We still haven't fully recovered from the harm they inflicted.
  4. Hunt and punish. The president said on the 11th that we would hunt down these murderers and punish them. Henceforth, when Israel hunts down terrorist murderers and punishes them, I assume the State Department will be enthusiastic.
  5. Closing the barn door. Experts have warned us for years about the self-imposed weakness of American intelligence, especially human intelligence. Our weakness reflects not merely the tragic moral confusion of recent decades (especially the late '70s), but our blind-idiot's faith in technology. Who needs mere "human intelligence" when we have the world's fanciest, highest-tech "signals intelligence"? (And who needs well-trained, well-armed servicemen when we have so many fancy machines?) We will now attempt to fix our intelligence-gathering operations. How many other catastrophic defeats will we suffer before we pay attention to our other screaming weaknesses? We've known for years that criminal nations would like to shoot missiles at us (or be able to threaten us with missiles) and are frantically trying to figure out how. We need a national crash project: ABM defenses within twelve months. We've let our military deteriorate, relentlessly politicized it, and allowed too many of our military training programs to be turned into jokes. Our guiding spirit has been: We're so rich and powerful, no amount of incompetence can hurt us.
  6. Remember Nablus. Yesterday we saw men, women, and children take to the streets to celebrate mass murder. We should never forget those pictures. Some organization ought to run a full-page Nablus photo with a headline like "Oslo? This is Oslo. Any more bright ideas?" We ought to round up a flock of multiculturalists -- the all-cultures-are-equal types -- and show them what Nablus and East Jerusalem looked like yesterday.
  7. Freedom and democracy had nothing to do with it. The president and secretary of state said that the massacres were an attack on freedom and democracy. Don't believe it. These murderers don't even know what freedom and democracy are. Their goals are to create suffering and death. Suffering and death for their own sakes are what they believe in.
  8. Pride. New York and Washington were attacked, not Paris and Rome -- and something tells me that Mideast terrorists are not about to attack Paris or Rome. No doubt internal Arab politics had something to do with the massacres, but in the end there is one reason why the United States is the target: We are the only nation in the world with the decency and heart to stand up for Israel. If Japan and Europe and the new democracies of Asia and South America cared about Israel's right to exist, and to defend herself, and if they stood up and said so -- I'll wait while the laughter dies down -- if they all were to say: We are against cold-blooded murder in America and Israel, we reject the ludicrous and evil claim that "moral equivalence" holds between Palestinians whose goal is to murder Jews and Jews  whose goal is not to be murdered . . . how could the mass  murderers ever choose among so many juicy targets? They'd  be paralyzed. But they're unlikely to face that dilemma, ever. Every man, woman, and child who died in the September 11 massacres is a witness to the greatness and majesty of the United States. They didn't ask or deserve to die for American greatness, but they did. We ought to tell the world: Save your crocodile tears. These are dead not merely to mourn but to honor, and we dare not fail to avenge them.   (National Review Sep 14)

Fighting Terror, Powell-Style Jerusalem Post Editorial  

As America struggles to regain its composure after the devastating attacks last Tuesday against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Bush administration has been busy building an international coalition to combat terror. Wisely marshalling America's friends and allies abroad, President George W. Bush appears to be planning a coordinated assault, one that is aimed not just at the perpetrators of last week's atrocities, but also against the phenomenon of terror worldwide. 

Speaking in the Oval Office last Thursday, Bush said, "Make no mistake about it, this nation is sad. But we're also tough and resolute, and now's an opportunity to do generations a favor by coming together and whipping terrorism, hunting it down, binding it, and holding them accountable." Bush's resolute determination to crush terror was echoed by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who made it abundantly clear that America is planning to deliver a strong blow. Speaking to reporters, Powell said, "We will go after that group, that network, and those who have harbored, supported, and aided that network, to rip the network up." 

For Israel, it is particularly encouraging that the Bush administration is not  limiting its sights only to those directly involved in perpetrating last week's attacks in Washington and New York. No other nation in the world has had to endure waves of violence and terror as prolonged as Israel has. A concerted effort by the world community to stamp out terrorism once and for all will hopefully not overlook those who have used it with increasing frequency and ferocity against Israel over the past 12 months. But however much one might hope that America will now show a greater deal of understanding for Israel's predicament, there was a disturbing development this past week which suggests that might very well not be the case.

At an on-the-record briefing to the press on September 13, Powell went out of his way in his opening remarks to call upon Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat to meet in the coming days. Powell said, "I have also been on the phone... with Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat and with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of Israel... trying to begin those meetings that we have been talking about, which would lead to implementation of the Mitchell plan. I am still hopeful that something can be done in the next several days to have that first meeting, and we will be in close touch with the leaders as the next days unfold." And so, even as he takes part in planning an assault on America's terrorist foes, Powell nevertheless expects Israel to sit down and chat with its own terrorist adversaries. 

The absurdity of Powell's position becomes even more apparent when one considers some of his statements over the past year, when he did not hesitate to criticize Israel for daring to respond to terrorist attacks. On February 25, Powell blasted Israel's decision to limit the entry of Palestinian workers, telling a press conference that it was time for Israel "to lift the siege as soon as possible." On April 17, after Palestinians fired mortar rounds, hitting the southern Israeli city of Sderot, and Israel responded by entering Palestinian-controlled Gaza to halt the attacks, Powell described the Israeli move as "excessive and disproportionate." Under Powell, the US State Department has also condemned Israel's policy of targeting terrorists. Even the IDF's occasional destruction of Palestinian buildings used as staging grounds for attacks against Israelis has come under fire from Powell's spokesman. 

It is therefore difficult to escape the feeling that a regrettable type of double-standard is being applied by Powell when it comes to Israel. For some reason, he fails to condone Israel's counter-terror measures even as he proposes to use those very same measures against America's enemies. Moreover, just as one could hardly expect America to negotiate with the likes of Osama bin Laden, it is unreasonable to demand that Israel talk with Arafat. Indeed, according to US Senator Charles Grassley (Associated Press, September 14), American law enforcement officials now believe that Arafat's Fatah faction of the PLO may be linked with the terrorist network that carried out the World Trade Center attack.

In light of this, one can only hope that Powell will finally start to realize that Israel and America are confronting the same type of adversary, each of whom must be dealt with accordingly.  (Jerusalem Post Sep 16)

A Few Thoughts On Terrorism and Disinformation By Benjamin Zycher

I have not worked on the terrorism problem in several years, and I am hardly an expert on the groups and subgroups lurking in the shadows in the Middle East and elsewhere.  Nonetheless, facts are stubborn things, as Ronald Reagan once put it, and it is with the central facts that we must begin serious thinking with respect to the issue of assigning blame, directing retribution, and creating conditions and incentives yielding effective deterrence.

At the simplest level, the facts of this week can be summarized as follows.  Notwithstanding a budget of $30 billion or more, our intelligence services, using incredible technological tools of signals intelligence, were able to intercept every false electronic transmission issued by the Iraqis and others, while remaining utterly oblivious to the real plot that actually unfolded.  That suggests that disinformation---the use of false information for purposes of deception---remains a critical problem for our intelligence agencies, a point to which I will return shortly.  Within minutes, and certainly hours, of the events of Tuesday, our learned intelligence officials began to assure us that Usama Bin Laden is the most likely culprit; but it is wholly unclear as to precisely how this conclusion has emerged, since little or nothing could have been learned in those minutes and hours that was not known before and that could have been examined for veracity.

What is clear is that this was a highly sophisticated operation, requiring coordinated timing within tight constraints, and trained pilots able to fly not crop dusters, but 757s, and willing or forced to undertake suicide missions.  It required knowledge of the kinds of planes that would be scheduled required the coordinated hijacking of not just any planes, but ones full of fuel from different airports, and sophisticated knowledge of flight operations so as to fly over Manhattan in such a way as to avoid stalling the planes and avoid breaking the planes up, while missing 60-story buildings but hitting 100-story ones.  It required coordination of targeting within tight time limits, passports, safe houses, and all of the other ancillary needs of individuals undertaking covert operations.

What this means is that the events of this week were orchestrated by a modern state intelligence service, with substantial resources, bureaucratic, expert, and financial, and with the requisite political will and internal controls necessary to prevent infiltration, moles, leaks, and other sources of compromise.  It is clear to me that it is the Iraqi regime that has the ability, the resources, the motive, and the clear opportunity for this operation.  The argument that the central responsibility lies instead with an amorphous "network" run by a bitter Moslem living in the mountains of Afghanistan is, to be blunt, simply not plausible.  Indeed, the established record of the 1998 embassy bombings suggests that Bin Laden's network resembles nothing so much as a group of poorly educated, bumbling, backward fanatics, as Laurie Mylroie has demonstrated in her book "Study of Revenge."  Nonetheless, the argument that Bin Laden is the villain, however dubious, will be encouraged in the coming days---mark my words---by the "discovery" of an amazing series of false clues pointing to him.  I am convinced that these will be planted by the Iraqis.  And a substantial part of our intelligence services and public officials will believe them.

And that is the core of the problem.  Our intelligence services underwent a dramatic change in the late 1970s when William Colby---a man combining great confidence and abysmal judgment---decided that disinformation efforts on the part of our adversaries were a problem no more because our myriad electronic toys were on the job.  Satellites. Sensors. Listening devices.  Ubiquitous electronic surveillance.  All would create clear pictures out of what always has been the forest of mirrors of covert operations.  As appalling as it is, our intelligence services have evolved intellectually to a point at which they really believe that they cannot be fooled.

Well, please allow me to differ.  The interpretation of intelligence requires dispassionate objectivity rather than a bureaucratic need to justify past and future budgets and bureaucratic turf.  Disinformation always has been and remains a huge problem to be dealt with through serious analysis rather than assumed away; and the plain reality is that our intelligence services have been so thoroughly corrupted by various forces that they cannot simply be "reformed."  The most recent example was the decision by the Clinton Administration to give the Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, a policymaking role, which inevitably meant that his policy preferences would color the intelligence reporting given decision makers.  More generally, an intelligence service that genuinely believes that it cannot be fooled, that finds it excruciating bureaucratically and politically ever to admit that it has been fooled, that does not bear adverse consequences when it is fooled, and whose budget rises when abject failure occurs, in reality will be fooled again and again, with horrendous consequences for our people.

And that is why Michael Ledeen is quite correct: The Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, must be fired immediately.  The head of the CIA counterterrorism bureau must be fired.  The same is true for the head of the Federal Aviation Administration security service, and the head of the FBI counterterrorism unit.  Were it not for the fact that the new FBI director was just sworn in, it would be mandatory that he be fired as well.

The plain reality is that the events of this week have Iraqi fingerprints all over them.  Again: It is Saddam Hussein with the means, motive, opportunity, and will.  Perhaps the Sudanese were involved; and possibly the Iranians and the Syrians as well, although I doubt it; I know only what I read in the papers.  But the approach of the last 15 years---a search for "those responsible" using courtroom standards as the evidentiary basis for policy decisions---combined with a decided dismissal of the disinformation problem means that the governments waging war through terror will not face serious penalties.  We simply cannot fight bombs with subpoenas and lawyers and investigators; the terrorism war is fundamentally a problem of national security rather than law enforcement, and the central questions are political and military rather than legal and procedural.

There may be reason for hope.  George W. Bush, for all his poor rhetorical skills, and not by any means the intellectual that Ronald Reagan was, nonetheless is a man of intelligence and for the most part has good instincts and solid judgment.  He will receive sound advice from several people, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld foremost among them.  There will be great political pressure to do far more than merely lob a few cruise missiles at some overseas warehouses.  But whispering in his other ear will be Colin Powell, a man of honor, a man of courage, and a man who for years has exhibited such incredibly bad political and policy judgment in so uninterrupted a fashion as to be unfathomable. There will be Brent Scrowcroft, the former national security adviser, who has not been right on a single issue---indeed, who has not had an original thought---in four decades.  And there will be former President George Herbert Walker Bush, whose tenure in office exhibited consistently poor policy judgment both domestic and foreign.  Whether this combination of pressures and advice will yield the correct policy---the use of overwhelming military force to remove Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Baathist regime from power and to install Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress in their place---simply remains to be seen.

The writer is Senior Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy.

Israel, the United States, and Evil: Counting  by Martin Peretz

For many months now, since the beginning of the second intifada (and, truth be told, for years before that), I had suspected that Americans simply couldn't grasp Israel's human losses. The numbers weren't big enough to truly register: three one day, thirteen another, maybe one the next. Up and down, ad infinitum, interrupted occasionally by a stretch of quiet (which meant, of course, not that bombs weren't sent--simply that Israel's sappers had defused them).

So I began to make the gruesome calculations in my head. Given that there are roughly six million Israelis and roughly 300 million Americans, the numerical equivalent to the 21 youngsters massacred at the Tel Aviv disco would be 1,050. The 15 innocents blown apart in the Jerusalem pizzeria equaled 750 American dead. Last Sunday, when terrorists with orders from Allah murdered five Israelis in Nahariya and on the Jordan Valley road, it was another 250 imaginary victims in the United States.

Now I no longer have to imagine. If this turns out (as seems likely) to be Islamic terror, it will not have been the first time Americans were targeted: There were the 241 Marines in Beirut who had come to protect Lebanon's Palestinians from the rage of the Maronite Christians. And the 19 soldiers in Saudi Arabia who died securing that country's oil for its indulgent and utterly blithe royal family. And the 17 sailors on board the USS Cole, whose deaths seem of little interest to the government of Yemen, which they were defending. Yet those were troops on foreign soil, just as innocent, of course, but at least somewhat cognizant of the risks. But the thousands and thousands of ordinary Americans ripped yesterday from their families and friends, from their hard work and their good works, from their joys and their melancholy--these Americans, whose final agonies were celebrated in the streets of Palestine and elsewhere in the Arab world, a world of captive minds, unworkable economies, and failed societies--weren't on the front lines. They need no equivalents and have none. They enter our history books as the involuntary but decisive instruments of a great and chastening lesson: that there is true evil in the world and that this evil cannot be placated. It must be fought and, sadly, it must be fought continuously and fiercely.

I do not understand why so many people are so surprised by the radical evil emanating from the Muslim world. U.S. security has long known about its terror networks. The media has not altogether ignored them (although it is sometimes squeamish about stories without a simple moral equivalence theme). One person who may bear some responsibility for lulling us into complacency is our former president. He seemed to think he could charm those who lusted for lives (or apologize for those who so lusted). The Clinton White House was from time to time filled with Muslim- and Arab-American leaders very skilled in making light of moral enormity. They rationalized groups like Hamas and Hezbollah; some even refused to condemn Osama bin Laden by name. The Clintonites also denied the FBI the money it needed to shut down U.S.-based groups that raised money for jihad. And when terrorists took out our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, he retaliated with a one-shot, two-venue mini-bombing that accomplished exactly nothing.

This was a massive intelligence and security failure. Once again our border officials seem to have been lax in scrutinizing people coming into the United States from countries that are far from friendly. Would greater diligence amount to ethnic profiling? Probably so. But there is no natural right to come into the United States. It is a privilege. I have foreign friends who have been denied even tourist visas. And it's crazy that hard-working Haitians are harassed when they come to our shores and are then shipped back, while some quack Muslim cleric like Abdul Rahman, the prophet of the first World Trade Center bombing, is courteously ushered in. I know that many Arabs come here for the same good reasons others come: a free and good life for themselves and their children. Like other visitors and immigrants, we should scrutinize them carefully and then let them in and wish them well. But there are other Arabs and Muslims who want to bring their fanaticism with them, and some of that fanaticism is criminal. And we should make sure it stays in the Middle East, unless of course the great Scandinavian moralizers want to take them in. I find it nutty that among the proposals for how to solve the problem of the Palestinian refugees is for the United States to take some of them in. This would be importing certified resenters.

Maybe Osama bin Laden will turn out to be the prime organizer of this sneak attack on America. After all, in June he promised he would pull off something like this, soon. And when he denied culpability the day after the disaster, he added that he was happy it happened. Still, I doubt the guilt stops with him. Muslim terrorism is an amorphous and intricate vortex, but an integrated one. It receives help from many places and people--help in arms, training, disguises, passports, money, morale, and the fanatic fervor of the faithful. Many Saudis--maybe even the monarchy itself--finance it, if only to keep it engaged abroad and out of Riyadh. The very secular Syrian and Iraqi tyrannies facilitate the operations of all kinds of religious extremists as long as they make war against the regimes' enemies. It is time to intensify the military pressure on Baghdad before it gains nuclear capacity, and for Damascus to be held responsible for its indispensable patronage of Hezbollah, a certified ally of bin Laden's war on the West. It is no mystery which governments harbor these madmen, and they should now be quaking with fear.

But much of this does appear to be a mystery to Peter Jennings, who warned against stigmatizing Islamic groups and raised the rush to judgment over Oklahoma City. But this is a figment of Jennings's imagination; commentators have, in fact, been quite scrupulous. And what, after all, if Islamic terrorists didn't do it? Haven't they done enough without this spectacular satanic achievement? Jennings's solicitude does not surprise me. I first saw Jennings on ABC when, as a young TV journalist, he reported from the Munich Olympics. And I was filled with disgust that his subsequent career has only deepened. At Munich--I still remember it, 30 years later--Jennings tried to explain away the abductions and massacre of the young Israeli athletes. His theme: The Palestinians were helpless and desperate. Ipso facto, they were driven to murder. That's life.

Wednesday was a day of national mourning in Israel, of mourning for the innocent Americans murdered in ways to which Israelis are long accustomed. This is a fraternity bonded in blood. All over Palestine, however, multitudes assembled and screamed with joy, "God is great!" This ugliness is probably spontaneous, but in its own official newspaper, Al hayat al Jadida, the Palestinian Authority declared: "The suicide bombers of today are the noble successors of their noble predecessors ... the Lebanese suicide bombers who taught the US Marines a tough lesson (in Lebanon) ... and then with no preconditions, threw the last of the remaining enemy (Israeli) soldiers out of the (security) zone. These suicide bombers are the salt of the earth, the engines of history ... they are the most honorable among us." Sad to say, we Americans no longer need any instructions in how it feels to be an Israeli. The murderers in the skies have taught us all too well. We are all Israelis now.  (The New Republic Sep 24)

The writer is editor-in-chief and chairman of TNR.

 How Suicide Bombers Are Made By   Fiamma Nirenstein

[This article, from the September issue of Commentary Magazine was written prior to last week's atrocious terror attacks against the US.  -ed.]

During his historic visit to Syria last May, Pope John Paul II was unexpectedly upstaged by the country's young new president, Bashar al-Assad. Greeting the pontiff at the airport in Damascus, Assad used the occasion not to declare his own hopes for mutual understanding among the world's great faiths but-rather less in keeping with the spirit of the moment-to mount a vicious attack on the Jews. They have "tried," he inveighed in the presence of the Pope, "to kill the principles of all religions with the same mentality with which they betrayed Jesus Christ," and in "the same way they tried to betray and kill the prophet Muhammad."

So spectacular a venting of hate could hardly pass unnoted, and thus, for the duration of a news cycle, the usual fare of Middle East reporting-rock-throwers and settlers, bombings and retaliatory strikes, ceasefires and "confidence-building" measures-gave way to tongue-clucking over the charged words of the Syrian president. As the New York Times lamented, Assad had not only "marred" the Pope's visit but had reinforced his own "growing reputation for irresponsible leadership." So the coverage generally went, admonishing a new leader whose inexperience and immaturity had seemingly led him to embrace, as the Times put it, "bigotry."

Largely ignored amid all this was a far bigger story-a story not about a petty tyrant but about the poison that rose so readily to his lips. As few journalists either knew or thought it worthwhile to relate, such sentiments as Assad expressed are hardly uncommon in today's Arab world. Wherever one looks, from Cairo and Gaza to Damascus and Baghdad, from political and religious figures to writers and educators, from lawyers to pop stars, and in every organ of the media, the very people with whom the state of Israel is expected to live in peace have devoted themselves with ever-greater ingenuity to slandering and demonizing the Jewish state, the Jewish people, and Judaism itself-and calling openly for their annihilation. Only by turning a determinedly blind eye to this river of hatred is it possible to be persuaded that, after all, "everybody" in the Middle East really wants the same thing.

The anti-Semitic propaganda that circulates in such abundance in the Arab world draws its energy in large part from the technique of the "big lie"-that is, the insistent assertion of outrageous falsehoods about Israel or the Jews, the more outrageous the better. The examples are truly numberless. In Egypt and Jordan, news sources have repeatedly warned that Israel has distributed drug-laced chewing gum and candy, intended (it is said) to kill children and make women sexually corrupt. When foot-and-mouth disease broke out recently among cattle in the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Israelis were quickly accused of intentionally spreading the illness (despite the immediate mobilization of Israeli veterinary groups to treat the animals).

Especially garish have been the fabrications directed at Israel's response to the now year-old intifada. Earlier this year, at the world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, a thunderstruck audience heard Yasir Arafat himself declare that Israel was using depleted uranium and nerve gas against Palestinian civilians. Official PA television obligingly furnished "evidence" for this charge, broadcasting scenes of hapless victims racked by vomiting and convulsions. Another recent film clip from Palestinian television offered a "re-enactment" of an assault by the Israeli army on a Palestinian house, culminating in the staged rape and murder of a little girl in front of her horrified parents. As for Israeli victims of Arab terrorists, the PA's Voice of Palestine radio assured its listeners in April that Israel was lying about the assassination of a ten-month-old girl by a Palestinian sniper in Hebron; in fact, the commentator explained, the baby was retarded and had been smothered by her own mother.

The Arab press has also helped itself to the rich trove of classical European anti-Semitism. Outstanding in this regard has been Al-Ahram, Egypt's leading government-sponsored daily. One recent series related in great detail how Jews use the blood of Gentiles to make matzah for Passover. Not to be outdone, columnist Mustafa Mahmud informed his readers that, to understand the true intentions of the Jews, one must consult The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, in which the leaders of the international Jewish conspiracy acknowledge openly their "limitless ambitions, inexhaustible greed, merciless vengeance, and hatred beyond imagination. . . . Cunning," they allegedly declare, "is our approach, mystery is our way."* In a class of its own is the effort of Arab and Islamic spokesmen to distort or dismiss the record of Nazi genocide. Indeed, nowhere else in the world is Holocaust denial more warmly or widely espoused. A conference of "scholars" held in Amman in mid-May concluded that the scope of the Nazi war against the Jews had been greatly exaggerated, a claim enthusiastically parroted by the Jordan Times. On Palestinian television, Issam Sissalem of the Islamic University of Gaza recently asserted that, far from being extermination camps, Chelmo, Dachau, and Auschwitz were in fact mere "places of disinfection."

On April 13-observed in Israel as Holocaust Remembrance Day-the official Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida featured a column by Hiri Manzour titled "The Fable of the Holocaust." Among his claims: that "the figure of 6 million Jews cremated in the Nazi Auschwitz camps is a lie," promulgated by Jews in order to carry out their "operation of international marketing." A few weeks later, at a well-attended pan-Islamic conference in Teheran, Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, used his opening remarks to make a similar point. "There is proof," he declared, "that the Zionists had close ties with the German Nazis, and exaggerated all the data regarding the killing of the Jews . . . as an expedient to attract the solidarity of public opinion and smooth the way for the occupation of Palestine and the justification of Zionist crimes." Occasionally, to be sure, the same organs of anti-Semitic opinion that deny the Holocaust do find it necessary to affirm that it took place-but only so that they can laud its perpetrators. A columnist in Egypt's government-sponsored Al-Akhbar thus expressed his "thanks to Hitler, of blessed memory, who on behalf of the Palestinians took revenge in advance on the most vile criminals on the face of the earth. Still, we do have a complaint against [Hitler], for his revenge on them was not enough."

Another variation on this theme is the now incessant comparison of Israel itself to Hitlerite Germany. In the eyes of Al-Ahram, "the atrocities committed by the Israeli army show . . . how those who complain about Nazi practices use the same methods against the  Palestinians." For its sister Egyptian paper, Al-Akhbar, the ostensibly dovish Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres is in actuality "a bird of prey, a master in the killing of the innocents," and a man responsible for deeds that "make Israel worse than the Nazis." In May, a columnist for Egypt's Al-Arabi wrote, "Zionism is not only another face of Nazism, but rather a double Nazism." Unsurprisingly, President Assad of Syria also favors such language, recently asserting that "Israel is racist, [Prime Minister] Sharon is racist, the Israelis are racist. They are more racist than the Nazis."

The effect of this relentless vilification is not difficult to discern. In the Arab world, where countervailing sources of information about Jews and the Jewish state are rare to nonexistent, Israel has been transformed into little more than a diabolical abstraction, not a country at all but a malignant force embodying every possible negative attribute-aggressor, usurper, sinner, occupier, corrupter, infidel, murderer, barbarian. As for Israelis themselves, they are seen not as citizens, workers, students, or parents but as the uniformed foot soldiers of that same dark force. The uncomplicated sentiment produced by these caricatures is neatly captured by the latest hit song in Cairo, Damascus, and East Jerusalem. Its title: "I Hate Israel."

From such hatred it is but a short step to incitement and acts of violence. Arab schools teach not just that Israel is evil, but that extirpating this evil is the noblest of callings. As a text for Syrian tenth graders puts it, "The logic of justice obligates the application of the single verdict [on the Jews] from which there is no escape: namely, that their criminal intentions be turned against them and that they be exterminated" (emphasis added). In Gaza and the West Bank, textbooks at every grade level praise the young man who elects to become a shahid, a martyr for the cause of Palestine and Islam. The lessons hardly stop at the classroom door. Palestinian television openly urges children to sacrifice themselves. In one much-aired film clip, an image of twelve-year-old Mohammed al-Dura-the boy killed last September in an exchange of fire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen-appears in front of a landscape of paradise, replete with fountains and flowers, beckoning his peers to follow.

In early June, just two weeks after the fatal collapse of a Jerusalem wedding hall, PA television broadcast a sermon by Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi praying that "this oppressive Knesset will [similarly] collapse over the heads of the Jews" and calling down blessings upon "whoever has put a belt of explosives on his body or on his sons and plunged into the midst of the Jews." Slogan-chanting mass demonstrations, with Israeli and American flags aflame and masked gunmen firing shots into the air, reinforce the message. One need look no further to understand how children grow up wanting to be suicide bombers-a pursuit that won a fresh wave of media acclaim after a bombing at a Tel Aviv discothèque took 21 Israeli lives and that according to a recent poll has the approval of over three-quarters of Palestinians. "This missile," wrote an ecstatic Palestinian columnist, meaning the bomber himself, "carried a soul striving for martyrdom, a heart that embraces Palestine, and a body that treads over all the Zionist invaders."

Virulent anti-Semitism is no less essential in maintaining the region's most militant and totalitarian-minded regimes. Such standing as Syria's Bashar Assad now enjoys in the wider Arab world derives in large part from his unceasing denunciations of Israel and the Jews. For his part, Iraq's  Saddam Hussein has repeatedly made known his readiness to destroy the "criminal Zionist entity." Should his own efforts not suffice, he has even sought divine aid, ending his speech at the recent Arab summit with the pithy entreaty, "God damn the Jews."

As for "moderates" like King Abdullah of Jordan and President Mubarak of Egypt, offering a wide latitude to anti-Semitic vituperation enables them to demonstrate their own populist bona fides, to show their sympathy with the Arab "street." Do they themselves endorse such views? Of course not, they hasten to declare, disingenuously suggesting that nothing can be done about it since under their regimes even government-owned newspapers and television stations possess the right to speak their mind.

That moderate Arab leaders have remained mum in the face of rising anti-Semitism may be all too understandable, considering their overall records as statesmen. The West's moral and political leaders should be another matter, but they are not. In the days after Assad' s anti-Semitic diatribe in Damascus, one waited in vain for the Pope-the same Pope who has recognized the state of Israel and visited the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem-to utter a word of protest. The incident was, in many respects, a replay of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton's refusal to confront Suha Arafat when, at an event in Ramallah two years ago, the wife of the PA's president accused Israel of deliberately poisoning Palestinian air and water. And if any of the assembled leaders at the world economic conference in Davos thought to protest Yasir Arafat's lies publicly, their intervention has not been recorded.

One source of the general silence may be a subtle form of racism, or what George W. Bush in another context called "the soft bigotry of low expectations." The Arabs, it is implicitly suggested, are a backward people, not to be held to the civilized standards of the West. In this reading, rabid

anti-Semitism is just another feature of Arab culture-the same ancient culture that is often also portrayed, with reason, as one of the world's most civilized and sophisticated.

Many Westerners who fastidiously ignore the Arabs' outrageous lies and insults about Jews also believe that the Arabs do, after all, have a legitimate grievance against Israel, however excessively they may at times express it. Once the substantive demands of the Palestinians or the Syrians are met, this line of thought goes, their hatred of Israel and the Jews will likewise subside, it being just a form of politics by other means. Throughout the Oslo years, the government of Israel itself seemed to share this attitude, systematically ignoring or explaining away the Arabs ' unremitting verbal incitement.

But if we have learned nothing else from the latest intifada, it is that the Arab world's grievance against Israel has little to do with the minutiae of dividing up territory and political authority. It has to do instead with the entire Zionist project, with the very existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East. What Westerners (including some Israelis) dismiss as so much unfortunate rhetoric is an exact articulation of that grievance, whose goal is not to achieve but to prevent accommodation. For how can one accommodate a people who are nothing but murderers of children, instruments of world conspiracy, sworn enemies of religious and historical truth, and perfecters of Nazi brutality-a people who according to Islamic authorities must be driven out and killed, their body parts "spread all over the trees and electricity poles"? No, anti-Semitism in the Middle East is not just politics by other means; it is an end in itself.

* Translations from the Arab press made available by MEMRI) (Commentary Magazine Sep 2001)


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