A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
A collection of the week's news from Israel
March 22, 2002
Issue number 371
March 24, 4-5pm
Stand With Israel Rally with Deputy Minister of Immigration (and resident of Gush Etzion) Hon. Yuli Edelstein, Mel Lastman Square (Yonge north of Sheppard), Sponsored by Israel Now and UJA Federation.
Aliya B'Simcha, a grassroots group of people living in Yesha communities, is arranging an Independence Day pilot trip to Israel. The trip provides persons seriously considering moving to a Yesha community to look into housing, employment, schooling and other issues. Airfare is refundable to those who actually make Aliyah by the end of summer 2002 and buy a Bar Amanah house in a Yesha community within their first year on Aliyah. For more information, see www.jewishgroups.org/AliyaBSimcha
To the Diaspora By Amotz Asa-El
Bugsy Siegel, the legendary gangster who launched his career by extorting pushcart peddlers in the Lower Eastside, didn't live to see the Jewish state. Five months before the UN voted to establish Israel, Siegel was mowed down by a hail of bullets fired into his mistress's Beverly Hills palace, after having lost his partner Meyer Lansky's trust while pioneering Nevada's gambling industry.
Still, two years before his death Siegel met Hagana agent Reuven Dafne, who was desperately seeking money for the Yishuv's armament effort.
Siegel was initially disbelieving. "You mean to tell me Jews are fighting?" he asked, "fighting as in killing?" When Dafne said they indeed were, Siegel replied "I'm with you," and then sent, over a few weeks and in several suitcases, $50,000 in green bills.
Now Israel is at war again, but world Jewry often seems to lack even Siegel's kind of tribal instinct. Sure, the Diaspora is as anxious as ever. Many Jews, as the International Jerusalem Post's letter page attests, are brimming with advice, exegesis and reprimands for this or that facet of Israeli action or inaction. Like the Israeli public itself, some believe Ariel Sharon is handling the situation well and others think he is not; some think he is being too soft, others that he is too harsh, and most think Israel's public-relations operation is ineffective, not to say substandard and downright destructive.
Ordinarily, such criticism would be not only legitimate, but even desirable. Yet this is war, in some ways the most vicious that Israel has faced since 1948. Never since its inception has the Jewish state's home front faced such a systematic assault, and never since the War of Independence have ordinary civilians been such a prime, frequent and deliberate target. And since this is war, it also means that those who are with us emotionally, but not physically, would do well to tone down their critique of Israel and seek more constructive ways in which to channel their frustrations.
Blame for the disenchantment frequently voiced by Diaspora Jews concerning Israel's image lies not only with Israel, but also with them.
In the past, crisis in the Middle East meant Diaspora Jews were concerned mainly that Israel's depiction in their media might make them feel ashamed in the company of non-Jews.
Today, the problem is that Israel has become the most dangerous place for a Jew to roam, and that increasingly its citizens feel their country's very existence is at stake. That is what many abroad still don't get, and only mass public action - sponsored, financed and openly led by the Diaspora's official leadership - can make plain. Diaspora Jews can help put the Arab world on the defensive.
When Arab leaders talk - as they will in their upcoming summit in Beirut - about "occupation," Jews can rally (with Lebanese expatriates) outside Syrian embassies, demanding Assad first put an end to his own occupation of Lebanon before preaching to others. When Arab representatives speak of "freedom" and "human rights," Diaspora Jews should mobilize local legislatures - the way they did so effectively with the Soviet Union - in order to demand Arab regimes democratize, and cease jailing dissidents.
Most crucially, they should be trained to argue for our cause.They must repeat ad nauseam that Israel offered, through the president of the US himself, practically all the free world had asked it to offer, but Arafat chose war. They should know to say that Israel targets soldiers and their operators, and the Palestinians target civilians and the Western way of life. And when asked how come more Arabs die - they must know to explain that in World War Two Japan lost 1.9 million people as opposed to America's "mere" 298,000 (on all fronts); that ratio didn't make fascism one iota less immoral then, and it won't make it such today either.
It's been years since Diaspora Jewry took to the streets in full force. It last happened during the struggle for the release of Soviet Jewry, and previously on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War.
Of course, things have changed since then. Confronting Soviet totalitarianism provoked no one in the West, and the 1967 demonstrations hailed what was then perceived as a vulnerable community of Holocaust survivors. Today the Diaspora must act in the face of an often-hostile media that still portrays Israel as the Goliath that only we and our neighbors realize it is not.
Moreover, today many Jewish communities must contend with rapidly growing and increasingly confident Muslim communities alongside theirs.
Worst of all, the Jewishly-educated Jews who rallied for Israel in 1967 have frequently forgotten to educate their own children to be as Jewish as their parents.
The reluctance to loudly campaign for Israel is, therefore, understandable: the risks at stake, from failing to draw crowds to provoking anti-Semitism, are severe. However, none of these compare with the risks taken daily by pedestrians on Jerusalem's sidewalks, commuters outside Efrat, shoppers in Netanya, joggers in Jerusalem's promenade, or parents leading kids to bat mitzvas. To help stem this madness, Israelis now tell their brethren abroad what Mordechai told Esther when she hesitated to approach Ahasuerus and demand he rescind the decree to annihilate the Jews: This is no time to keep silent. (Jerusalem Post Mar 15)
Theater of the Absurd By Yosef Goell
Can one imagine a more obscene absurdity on the day after one of the worst spate of Palestinian terror attacks, in which 13 hapless Israelis were killed and more than 100 wounded, than the holding of a country-wide protest strike by Israeli Arabs in support of those very Palestinian terrorists? That strike was decreed by the Monitoring Committee of the Israeli Arab Leadership, a roof organization comprising most of the community's national and municipal leaders. In announcing the strike at a rally in the Central Galilee town of Sakhnin on Saturday, the committee declared openly that it would be coordinated with a similar Palestinian protest strike today in the Palestinian territories. The Sakhnin rally featured a telephone address by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Why do I say absurdity? Because only a fortnight ago the Or Commission of Inquiry investigating the bloody events around the Israeli Arab uprising of October 2000 saw fit to issue legal warnings to a long list of witnesses who had appeared before it. Included were top police commanders, along with former prime minister Ehud Barak and former internal security minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, who were warned that they could be harmed by its impending findings. To create a semblance of balance, similar warnings were issued to a smaller number of Arab Muslim leaders suspected of fomenting that uprising.
Since Barak's weak-kneed and wrongheaded decision to set up the commission of inquiry, the scenario has turned into the theater of the absurd. After nearly 18 months of anti-Israel terrorism and escalating fighting against the Palestinian enemy in the territories - in which more than 300 Israelis have been killed and more than 1000 wounded - radical Palestinian leaders in Israel are permitted to organize another pro-terror demonstration with impunity.
At the same time, the police commanders who have driven themselves to near collapse over the past 18 months in defending us against Palestinian terrorists, will have to hire lawyers to defend themselves before the commission.
We do not yet know the commission's exact findings, but we can guess from the balance and the tenor of the warnings it issued.
Much revolves around the question of exactly what it was that occurred in October 2000? Was it a spontaneous outbreak of protest over legitimate grievances that had been building up for years in the Israel Arab community?
Or was it a nationalist uprising from the midst of the Israeli Arab community whose affinity with Arafat's PLO had been permitted to grow unchecked since Oslo and which was orchestrated by its leaders to coincide with the outbreak of Arafat's uprising in the territories? At the time, I had no doubt that it was an anti-Israel uprising, and as such should have been put down forcibly. I wrote at the time that it was regrettable that 13 Arabs had to be killed. The ones at fault, however, were not so much the police, as the rabble-rousing leaders who left the police no choice. Yesterday's protest strike should finally put paid to the argument of "innocent" Israeli Arab rioters.
I am not arguing that the bulk of the million-strong Israeli Arab minority has overtly thrown in its lot with our external Palestinian enemy. But I am clearly asserting that a large part of their leadership - from Islamic fundamentalist Raed Salah, through MKs Azmi Bishara, Ahmed Tibi, Abdul Malik Dahamshe, Mohammed Barakei and Taleb a-Sanaa - have and it's high time that we stop pussyfooting around and treat them as the subversive "fifth column" they are.
One step in that direction has been taken with the recent indictment of Bishara. It may well be the decision to put him on trial will prove self-defeating. What is much more important, however, is to prepare the legal groundwork for disqualifying him, Arafat adviser Tibi, and all other Arab parties and individuals openly identifying with our Palestinian enemy from running for any political office, in Israel, whether in the Knesset or in local government.
Israeli Arabs are admittedly in a difficult situation. No one can deny them the right to feel for their Palestinian kinsmen. But that right does not include openly and actively choosing the Palestinians' side in their declared war against Israel. The sorry events of October 2000 were but a small hint of the terrible price they could pay for such a wrongheaded choice.
In their precarious situation, our Arab compatriots deserve a much better leadership than the one they have chosen. (Jerusalem Post Mar 11)
The Suicide of the Palestinians: Beyond barbarism in the Middle East.
by David Gelernter
We ought to face squarely the origins of the Palestinian descent into barbarism. In July 2000, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak made a peace offer that stunned Israel and the world: Israel would re-divide Jerusalem--would turn over large pieces of its ancient capital to the same people who had destroyed its synagogues, desecrated its cemeteries, and banned Jews from entering when they last ran the show. Arafat rejected the offer. Then in September 2000 the new wave of murderous violence began, supposedly triggered by Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount.
In short, the Palestinian response to Israel's generous peace offer was, "Drop dead." How could that possibly have happened? A trick question--because the obvious but wrong answer is so close to the right one that it's hard to tune the right one in. You have to fiddle the dial back and forth. Yet the difference between the two is crucial. The "lesson of appeasement" is not that appeasement is futile. Appeasement is not futile, it is dangerous. Israel's enemies claim that Israel herself provoked the ongoing Palestinian pogrom, and in a sense they might well be right. Outlaws interpret an openhanded offer as weakness, not generosity. They interpret weakness as an incitement to violence. You can goad a dangerous animal to attack by threatening or by shrinking back. Unless you want to fight, the only safe maneuver is to stand still.
Everyone knows about Munich, September 1938: Britain and France generously donate a big slice of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, in exchange for "peace with honor," "peace in our time," and the Brooklyn Bridge. Many people know about the Kristallnacht pogrom, November 1938: Germany's approach to the Jews turns from mere oppression to bloodthirsty violence. Kristallnacht was "triggered" by the murder of a German diplomat by a deranged Jew. But some (not all) historians point out the obvious: A leading cause of Kristallnacht was Munich itself. Hitler read the Munich agreements as a proclamation by England and France stating: "We are weak; you have nothing to fear; do what you like."
The analogy is not close, just close enough. Israel is no Czechoslovakia and was not sold down the river. Barak made his offer freely and in good faith. But to a significant number of Palestinians, the offer obviously said: "We are weak; you have nothing to fear; attack." Appeasement doesn't merely fail to prevent catastrophe, it provokes catastrophe.
Now everything has changed, and we are only gradually coming to grips with the implications. Evidently the whole world is outraged by Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Even before the new violence, the world's outrage was hard to swallow. Some Israelis live among Arabs in settlements on the West Bank, some Arabs live among Jews in "settlements" (otherwise known as towns and cities) in Israel proper. What's the difference? The Israeli settlements are new, the Arab ones old. But if old settlements are legitimate and new ones aren't, what are all those mosques doing on the Temple Mount? Some European journalists refer to the great Temple Mount plaza as the "supposed" site of ancient Israel's holy temple--as in, "that beat-up white shell on the hill in mid-Athens is supposedly the 'Parthenon.'" The plaza was expanded to its current enormous size by King Herod of Judea during the final years of the last century B.C.E. During the peace talks two thousand years later, in July 2000, a Palestinian negotiator helpfully explained why Barak's offer of control but not legal sovereignty over the Mount had been rejected: "We can't sell our Haram to the Jews," even though (he forgot to add) they built it. (Arabs refer to the Temple Mount as the Haram.)
"New" and "old" depend on your point of view. Jews have as much right as anyone to settle on the West Bank. But it long seemed to me (as to many other American Jews) that, leaving right and wrong out of it, the settlements were causing Israel more grief than they were worth and ought to be stopped. But everything has changed. Who in his right mind could still believe today that to stop building new settlements (or even to abandon old ones) would appease the Palestinians? On the contrary: Such a move is likely to be dangerous, as Barak's offer turned out to be.
We now know what Palestinians want, and what they think of Israelis. After all, what exactly is the point of sending killers to massacre children at random? What do you accomplish? You impose hatred. You ask Israel, in effect: What do we need to do to make you all (not some of you; everyone) hate us? To make you unable to look at a Palestinian without revulsion? To force you eventually to take the terrible step of setting up enclaves where Arabs are banned? Palestinians don't want to live peaceably among Israelis; the natural conclusion is that they think about Israelis as they choose for Israelis to think about them.
Everything has changed, including (for many of us) our ideas about Islam. We ought to have paid more attention to the latest developments. We now learn that suicide bombers are told to expect a heaven full of comely virgins as their next assignment. To the suicide-murderers, those waiting virgins are real as dirt. The killers call themselves "martyrs," but in their own minds they are the next thing to sex criminals. "Pardon me, sir or madam, do you know why I plan to murder your child? Because the authorities are offering me great sex--and, after all, I don't get many opportunities."
People who think this way are shielded from view, up to a point, by their own sheer evil. They are painful to contemplate. We instinctively look away, as we do whenever we are confronted with monstrous deformity. Nothing is harder or more frightening to look at than a fellow human who is bent out of shape. And moral deformity is the most frightening kind by far. How can Muslims of good faith allow such people to call themselves Muslim? But they do allow it. What does that mean? And is it possible that we have located here, in this inspiring vision of heaven as a whorehouse, the most loathsome idea in the history of human thought? This is the civilization that condemns "licentious" America?
And what is Israel to do? Kill terrorists? Lock up incipient terrorists? Fine, but not enough. Develop the Palestinian opposition also. People who say there is none can't be serious. Among all those mothers and fathers of children who have become suicide-murderers, not one? Not one who believes: "The 'leaders' who did this to my child must be stopped"? Of course you don't dare say such things in the territories. But surely (one optimistically assures oneself), Israeli intelligence could locate a few such families if it tried, and if they were removed to safe ground and protected. . . ."Safe ground" couldn't be Israel or America, or the credibility of this new opposition would be fatally compromised. But it could be Europe. (Khomeini preached the Iranian revolution from France.) Those few families would be mere people, not "leaders," not politicians. But prospective leaders and politicians would come. Being (as a rule) without passion themselves, they are drawn by passion. The Palestinian leadership would try hard to silence these families and their followers, but the message would get through: Our barbaric leadership is destroying us.
But what of Europe? Not long ago I picked up a copy of Le Monde, which reports on the recent meeting where work was started on a constitution for Europe--the goal being to allow Europe to campaign, as the equal of any great power, "pour affirmer ses valeurs," to assert its values; and you can't help but wonder, exactly what "valeurs" are we talking about? Indifference? Complacency? Spiritual exhaustion? "European values" (certainly "French values") has come to sound like "Palestinian moderates"--a contradiction in terms. To any instance of Western man--American or not, Jew or gentile, male or female--Europe's spiritual collapse is heartbreaking. It is strange but true that the only European country one can picture (by the remotest stretch of the imagination) cooperating on the sly with Israel to help create a Palestinian opposition is Germany--or maybe, if the United States made an issue of it, Britain.
There are largeR questions about Israel's role in the world that have been pressing for years, but nowadays seem to grow more acute by the hour. The axioms that underpinned Zionism have been turned inside out. Modern Israel was conceived as a safe haven for Jews. It had other reasons for existing--but safety, and the dignity that only comes with safety, were Zionism's emotional mainsprings. In recent decades, though, especially since the end of Soviet tyranny, the safe-haven idea has lost cogency like an unwound watch running down. In the last few years, Israel has started to look (on the contrary) like the most dangerous place for Jews in the world--if we exclude the small Jewish communities that still exist in Arab countries. Israel must change the way in which it explains itself. (Yoram Hazony made essentially this claim in his seminal "The Jewish State" of 2000.)
When we look at Israel today, it is crucial that we not allow Palestinian barbarism to distract us from another part of this picture: the everyday heroism that lights the whole place up from end to end. A large proportion of Israelis have relatives or connections abroad, mainly in the United States, and they could run to safety if they wanted to. Who would blame them? Who would even have the theoretical right to blame them? But overwhelmingly they have chosen to stay and stand fast. The whole population, man, woman, and child, is holding (is refusing to abandon) a dangerous forward position under fire. It's hard for Israelis to praise Israeli courage, but Americans ought to.
Why do they do it? Partly for powerful negative reasons. It isn't easy to leave home; and many Israelis are determined that Jews will never again be driven from their homes into alien lands by thug mobs. But there is more to Israel than resolve in the face of a uniquely tragic history. Israel still pays its way using the world's only emotional currency denominated entirely in negative numbers. It needs a new currency with positive markings.
Israeli thinkers ought to speak less about the tragedy (or the ordinariness) of Israel's 3,000-year history, and more about its luminous greatness; ought to talk up the nation's brilliant prospects, and the central role it has played from Moses to Wittgenstein in creating and molding Western civilization. They don't like to talk this way, but they ought to steel themselves and do it anyway. "The Jew is a desert region," Wittgenstein wrote, "but underneath its thin layer of rock lies the molten lava of spirit and intellect." Israeli thinkers have talked enough desert; it is time to talk lava. Much of the world is at a spiritual lowpoint right now, dragging its belly on the ground. Israel has known before what to do about that. Israel has addressed the whole world and wrought spiritual revolutions, and ought to do it again now.
The writer is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.
Israel Under SeigeBy Ehud Olmert
Life on the front line in the war against Arab terrorists.
Responding to terrorist attacks and attending funerals are the two most dreadful public duties elected officials are called upon to perform. For the mayors of many Israeli cities they have also become a routine part of our work.
For those of us in Jerusalem, this week began as tragically as the last. First, on Saturday, March 2, we witnessed the terrorist bombing outside a synagogue in Jerusalem, as the Sabbath drew to a close. Then, barely had the city been granted a moment's grace to recover from its shock, bury the dead and conclude its mourning rituals before the senseless carnage, this time in the crowded Moment Cafe a week ago today, began the now-familiar rites anew.
As Vice President Dick Cheney now travels throughout the region building support for America's expanding war on terror, our Palestinian peace partners seem intent on escalating their campaign to reduce the daily lives of Israelis to an unremitting stream of ambulance sirens, shattered bodies and funerals. As I responded to Saturday night's bomb blast scene, I thought of the other funerals I attended last week, a total of five in the course of three days. On Sunday, March 3, I had been asked to eulogize an entire Jerusalem family, a mother, father and two small children. Their only mistake was standing in the street outside a family bar mitzvah celebration when a suicide bomber walked up next to them and detonated himself.
Then last Saturday night, another Palestinian bomber successfully blew up an entire coffee bar full of twentysomething patrons. As I arrived at the Moment Cafe the ambulances were evacuating the bodies of a young couple who now would never attend their wedding, planned for May 15.
This is the reality Mr. Cheney will find in the Middle East and it is the logical conclusion of the disastrously ill-conceived Oslo Accords. That reckless process revitalized a vanquished Yasser Arafat and brought tens of thousands of armed guerillas into the administered territories from PLO bases around the globe. Once widely demonized as Saddam Hussein's closest ally during the Gulf War, Mr. Arafat has managed to acquire a sheen of legitimacy even as he personally directs the violence against Israel.
No doubt that as Mr. Cheney is treated to endless cups of strong coffee in Middle Eastern capitals, he will be plied with demands that the United States pressure Israel for concessions. As they have done since the beginning of this long conflict, our neighboring kings and dictators will spin yarns portraying the region's only democratic nation as an aggressor, and alleging that U.S. support for the Jewish state is the source of anti-American sentiments.
Along with their dismal records on human rights and their regimes' outlawing of free speech, Mr. Cheney will be encouraged to overlook the fact that virtually all the rhetoric turning the Arab streets against the U.S. is being pumped out by state-controlled media. Indeed, the Arab world's support for Palestinian terrorist organizations has not diminished even in the wake of Sept. 11.
The U.S. must act in its own self-interest, of course, but it must also recognize Israel's need to continue to carry out policies to safeguard its citizens. The unprecedented waves of suicide bombings that have engulfed us in recent months have required Israel's security services continuously to rethink the methods they employ in meeting the new challenges of protecting the public's safety.
Facing the tireless terrorist organizations that have spent the last eight years smuggling illegal weapons and explosives in for use against Israeli civilians requires unrelenting vigilance. And yet nothing can guarantee that our law enforcement agencies will be successful each and every time a suicide bomber sets out for a downtown cafe. The Palestinians have turned too many of their homes and communities into terrorist laboratories and launch pads. Nothing short of the comprehensive confiscation of weapons and arrests of the terrorist leaders would thwart the danger that menaces us.
At a time when we are under such serious attack, when our streets and markets have been turned into battle fronts, and no neighborhood in the country feels entirely secure, we can only develop a thicker skin in response to the daily reprimands and criticisms from both our allies and enemies. Either by negligence or design, the world community seeks to weaken our resolve by repeatedly comparing our legitimate acts of self-defense with the terrorism we are struggling against. It is a frustrating double standard that causes foreign diplomats to spend countless hours complaining about each of Israel's alleged infractions while refusing to even once take sanctions against Mr. Arafat for his documented role in the terror.
Those who sincerely seek a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should set about demanding that Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian leadership answer some of the hard questions they have evaded for the more than eight years that the Palestinian Authority has been in existence. Mr. Cheney might ask how, for example, such enormous quantities of terrorist weapons and explosives, like those that have devastated Jerusalem in recent days, have been illegally stockpiled inside the Palestinian Authority.
There are other mysteries worth exploring with Mr. Arafat and other Middle East leaders as well. Who is behind the manufacturing of the Kessem missiles that have begun to rain down upon us? How are Hamas and Islamic Jihad permitted to maintain offices and training bases inside the Palestinian Authority? Why are so many members of Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction engaging in suicide attacks?
The red line maintained by every civilized society is repeatedly and intentionally crossed by the Palestinians. The terrorists continue to target wedding halls, pizza places, cafes and schools with ghastly results. As I stood, last Saturday night, in the midst of the shattered remains of the trendy Moment Café, I shuddered at the thought of a people that believes this sort of destruction is a legitimate path to statehood. I agonized, too, over the sickening reality of leaders who send youngsters out with belts of explosives and nails, and then proudly claim responsibility for the attack. With these Palestinian partners, how can Israel be expected to negotiate peace?
In the years that followed the Six-Day War until quite recently, Israel's ever-optimistic political left promoted the naive belief that compromises by both sides of the conflict could lead to a lasting political accommodation. They adopted and popularized the slogan of "Give Peace A Chance."
With great risks and disastrous results, we did just that. For the eight and a half years of the Palestinian Authority's existence, we gave Mr. Arafat a chance. The gamble killed many Israeli citizens and Palestinians, and it left too many families grieving. Now Israel must prepare itself for what comes next.
The writer is mayor of Jerusalem. (Wall Street Journal March 16)
Is Anybody Listening? By Saul Singer
The Palestinians may be the first nation in history to be offered a state on a negotiating platter and yet insist on launching a war of independence anyway
Yasser Arafat's health may not be what it once was, but the world seems convinced that he is hard of hearing. "YOU CAN HAVE A STATE," said first Israel, then the US, and now a unanimous UN Security Council. "You can stop fighting now," the world keeps trying to tell Arafat, as if he is an unruly child, having trouble focusing. The message to Arafat of this week's historic UN Security Council resolution was simple: stop terror and a state is yours. Israel, for its part, is completely on board - not a peep of protest from Jerusalem. So why is it not time to put away the guns and take out the confetti? Why does everyone assume the resolution will make no difference?
Part of the reason is that the Palestinians may be the first nation in history to be offered a state on a negotiating platter and yet insist on launching a war of independence anyway. At Camp David, Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton practically begged Arafat to take the state he said he wanted, with half of Jerusalem as his capital. Arafat was offered the "Saudi plan" (withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines with minor adjustments) and turned it down - before the bullets started flying.
The Yossi Beilins of the world argue that Israel's offer was not good enough, but this is not serious. You cannot argue at the same time that the Palestinians are pragmatists who are ready to make a deal that Israel can live with, and yet they decided to launch a war rather than negotiate.
The more logical explanation is that Arafat does not accept the bargain on the table: a state for peace. If he wants a state at all, he wants a state without any agreement with Israel, or with an agreement that leaves the conflict open - that is, a state without peace. Neither of these choices should be granted any legitimacy, because they amount to not giving up on the dream of destroying Israel. Yet even the US has trouble admitting that Arafat's goals are illegitimate.
In an especially revealing exchange on Wednesday, President George W. Bush was asked if he thinks Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "shares your concern for those not involved in terror." Bush responded, "I do. But, unlike our war against al-Qaida, there is a series of agreements in place [between the Israelis and Palestinians] that will lead to peace. I certainly hope that Prime Minister Sharon is concerned about the loss of innocent life." In other words, Israel is not simply fighting terrorists who must be destroyed, but a once and future partner in peace agreements. And in this context, there is a question over whether Israel is fighting too dirty. In reality, there is no reason to apply a different moral standard when fighting terrorism under different political circumstances - in all cases civilian casualties should be minimized and understood to be morally on the shoulders of the terrorists themselves, not those exercising their right to self defense.
In the US, this understanding went so far as to deny even an interest in civilian casualties. Based on press reports, one American professor calculated that at least 3,800 Afghan civilians died in two months of the US fight against terrorism there. Yet at the time, Fox News' Brit Hume wondered: "Civilian casualties are historically, by definition, a part of war, really. Should they be as big news as they've been?" Another well-known journalist, National Public Radio's Mara Liasson answered: "No. Look, war is about killing people. Civilian casualties are unavoidable." Liasson suggested that the US should simply make clear that "we are trying to minimize them, but the Taliban isn't, and is putting their tanks in mosques, and themselves among women and children."
Arafat's dogged refusal to accept a state suggests that his goal is not a legitimate one. But even if it were, the moral calculus is the same in Israel's fight as in America's. The same journalists who thought it was obvious that the Taliban should be blamed for where they hid themselves should ask why Palestinian terrorists hide in crowded refugee camps.
There is a moral chasm between Israel and the Palestinians: Israel has been trying to minimize civilian casualties, the Palestinians have been trying to maximize them. Rather than "hope" that Sharon shares his sensitivity toward civilian lives, Bush should praise Israel for taking operational risks that the US would not have dreamed of taking in Afghanistan, and paying the price for it in the lives of its own civilians and soldiers. (Jerusalem Post Mar 15)
Where Bush Rewards Terror By William J. Bennett
The administration's policy in the Middle East just took a dramatic turn in the wrong direction. This turn at once marks a concession to terrorism and a violation of principle. Just as Israel was defending itself from unremitting, unbearable terror, President Bush stated that what Israel was doing -- targeting terrorists and militarily occupying the land they were coming from -- was "not helpful." As this paper reported, "[T]he State Department urged a complete withdrawal from all Palestinian cities and refugee camps retaken in the withering two-week crackdown." The New York Times reported that "Secretary of State Colin L. Powell had delivered a blunt private demand to Prime Minster Ariel Sharon to withdraw from the Palestinian-controlled areas to help American efforts to broker a cease-fire."
Until now, many of us who venerate democracy over dictatorship and decency over terror found welcome relief in President Bush's Middle East policies. Unlike his predecessor, he had refused to bestow upon Yasser Arafat the mantle of a responsible state actor, to bring Arafat to the White House and to pressure the democratic state of Israel to make concessions to the dictatorial Palestinian Authority. President Bush was seen as the most pro-Israel president in recent memory and thus as the one most supportive of democracy in the Middle East.
We seem to have forgotten that Palestinians celebrated in the streets on Sept. 11. Many in the Arab world understand what our Department of State does not: America's fate and Israel's fate are one and the same. Both countries are democracies. Both respect religious and ethnic diversity in citizenship. Both allow their citizens -- we could call them the "democratic street" -- to determine their political and economic policies. Both countries boast a thriving commitment to freedom of speech and press. No such things can be said of the Arab nations, some of which are our allies, some of which are not. And while Palestinians celebrated the slaughter on Sept. 11, Israel lowered its flags.
Last September the United States was forced to deal with what Israel had been dealing with since its founding in 1948. Yet, if Israel concluded that the U.S. war against terrorism was responsible for the escalation of suicide bombings in Israel and asked the United States to refrain from its campaign in Afghanistan and withdraw its troops, we would be shocked and would refuse to do so. The United States has a right to defend itself and to root out those who would kill as many civilians as possible. Israel, our fellow democracy, has that same right -- and let us not forget that those who would destroy us are those who would destroy Israel, too.
A message has been reiterated with this recent turn in policy. It was first sent in 1991, when the United States asked Israel not to defend itself after Saddam Hussein launched Scud missiles at it during our liberation of Kuwait. The message was sent again when Arafat was given the respectability of multiple visits to the White House shortly after he allied himself with Hussein in the Gulf War. The message is this: Jewish blood is cheap. Kill civilians, expand suicide bombings, and you will be rewarded: Terrorism works. The message may not be deliberate, but it is tragically clear.
Israel is being pressured so that we can assuage countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Yet, it just so happens that those countries are responsible for the reappearance of the worst forms of anti-Jewish propaganda since Joseph Goebbels. A recently published Saudi government newspaper article claimed the Jewish holiday of Purim requires that "Jewish people must obtain human blood so that their clerics can prepare the holiday pastries. . . . [This] is a well-established fact, historically and legally, all throughout history." A recent Egyptian government daily claimed a Palestinian suicide bombing at a Jerusalem cafe was "heroic."
Meanwhile, Arafat has allowed the continued operation of Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza as well as the growth of the suicidal Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. His Fatah emblem covers the entire state of Israel with two rifles and a grenade. Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not the problem for the Arabs. Democracy is the problem. Israel's existence anywhere is the problem. Jews are the problem. This was not supposed to happen again. The world, we thought, would long note what the long march of Jewish blood libels, mixed with the ceding of land to dictators, caused.
We pressure Israel and make no demands on our Arab allies to cease the dissemination of medieval, terror-inspiring propaganda. Instead, the president appeased Saudi Arabia by inviting Crown Prince Abdullah to visit him at his home in Texas -- as if we owe the Saudis any favors, as if they don't owe us a great many explanations. And we are beginning to, yet again, bestow respectability on Arafat.
The Arabs' conclusion? Speak platitudes in English, foment terrorism in Arabic, and the United States will apply pressure to fellow democracies over and against those who rule by bullets rather than ballots. These lessons in double standards bode tragic for democracy, not just here at home or in Israel, but across the globe. (Washington Post Mar 20)