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
October 26, 2001
Issue number 350
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Bush's Mideast Charade By William Safire
To read the headlines, you would think a major rift was growing between the U.S. and its only dependable ally in the Middle East.
Our State Department "demands" that Israel end its forays into West Bank terrorist centers and promise never to respond punitively again. Israel "rebuffs" this angry order and "defies" the U.S. spokesman. Then Colin Powell brushes aside President Bush's cautious "as quickly as possible" and escalates the call for withdrawal to "immediate."
But the Bush administration knows full well that Israel cannot turn the other cheek when one of its cabinet ministers is assassinated. And it knows that at a moment when the U.S. is dispatching bombers and soldiers to kill the assassins of 6,000 of our citizens harbored by the Taliban in Afghanistan, it is the height of hypocrisy to demand that our ally refrain from hunting down killers harbored by the P.L.O.
Bush's advisers are also well aware that to insist publicly that Ariel Sharon do as we say, not as we do, begs for a "rebuff." Even Israel's dovish former foreign minister sees through it: "Imagine now that Sharon says, `Well, all right, I withdraw,' " notes Shlomo Ben-Ami. "Then what will be the image of Israel in the Arab world? Its deterrent capability, its steadfastness would be seriously eroded."
If the U.S. order to withdraw is both patently hypocritical and certain to be rejected, why are Colin Powell and his spokesman sent out to beat up on the Israelis?
One answer is obvious: This is supposed to show the Arab "street" that the U.S. is not pro-Israel, that we are evenhanded brokers of Palestinian peace. Our message is that it's O.K. for Pakistanis, Egyptians and Saudis to be with us against the bin Laden terrorists in Afghanistan because the U.S. does not blame Arafat when suicide bombers kill Israeli teenagers.
Another answer is "coalition building." For example: Because Iran is angry at being used as the route for the Taliban's heroin exports, and because its clerics also despise Iraq's Saddam Hussein — then maybe if we publicly castigate Israel and privately condone Iran's support of Hezbollah terrorism, "moderate" ayatollahs will not oppose our terrorist hunt in Afghanistan.
The charade in Washington is accompanied by a wink toward supporters of Israel in the U.S.: this "demand" supposedly helps Sharon politically. By making it possible for him to strike a courageous pose of standing up to the U.S. pressure, we help Sharon solidify his hard right, cool the dissension on his soft left and increase his popularity among embattled Israelis in the center. At the same time, columnists of my ilk are sent word that — Powell's ostensible tilt toward Arafat to the contrary — the president's hawkish heart is still in the right place.
All this diplomacy by deflection is too clever by three-quarters. Just as corrupt Arab potentates try to protect themselves from the fury of their downtrodden subjects by fanning hatred of the U.S. and the West, we are trying, through our charade of selective antiterrorism, to deflect that hatred over to Israel exclusively. (Don't blame us, it goes — see how we're pressuring the Jews on your behalf?)
Such buck-passing won't work. With logic, followers of Osama bin Laden will say, "By killing thousands of Americans, we got the U.S. to put pressure on Israel. In the same way, by panicking Americans with the threat of germ warfare, we will force the infidels to abandon their Jewish ally. And then . . ."
The consequence of our misbegotten diplomacy of deflection would be intensified attacks on America. The way to discourage war on our homeland is to show no weakness, to demonstrate forcefully that atrocities committed here gain no victories in the Middle East or anywhere.
This year Arafat invited the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to move from Damascus to the West Bank. The P.F.L.P. proudly claims that its hit men murdered the Israeli cabinet minister, an act of war. Israel is obliged to go after his killers just as we are duty bound to go after the killers of Americans.
The troops will withdraw in a couple of days. But the proper response to our ally's self-defense is to understand Israel's lonely anguish and applaud its resolve. Such a principled expression of presidential steadfastness should be, in Secretary Powell's word, "immediate." (New York Times Oct 25)
Confronting Antisemitism: What Is to Be Done? By Ruth R. Wisse
Even more important than the actions to be taken by the American government in response to the attack of September 11, is understanding the nature of the undeclared enemy. Most wars carry the signature of their belligerents. The present attack was launched by enemies who deny their involvement and try to conceal their identity. Fighting such a war requires, above all, intelligencebut intelligence in every sense of the word: not only a better network of informers and operatives, but also a sounder grasp of the political nature of the adversary. All clues lead to the Middle East, which is also where our understanding would have to begin.
The apologists for the attack on America supply one overriding motive for Arab ragethey say America is being punished for its support of Israel, which is held responsible for the conflict in the Middle East. Human intelligence cannot take this claim at face value. How can Israel, which occupies one-sixth of one percent of the lands called Arab, be responsible for the political dissatisfaction of 21 Arab countries? How can the 13 million Jews in the world -- almost 5 million fewer than they were in 1939 -- be blamed for the problems of the 250 million Arabs, who have brotherly ties to one billion Muslims worldwide?
And yet there is a measure of truth to the Arab allegation that the Jews are responsible for their misery: their obsession with the Jews and with Israel indeed retards their progress and poisons their life. The original refusal of the Arab countries to accept the partition of Palestine as voted by the United Nations on November 29, 1947 became the cement of a politics of denial, rejection, and blame that has held together the Arab world, and exemplified its attitude toward the democratic West. The Arabs denied Jews their right to their ancestral homelanda right many times more obvious than, say, that of the Hashemite King to Jordan, and then blamed the Jews for denying the Palestinians their homeland. Arab governments sacrificed the Palestinian Arabs to a fate of refugees so that they could hold Israel responsible for their displacement and misery. The politics of blame is incompatible with any mature assumption of political responsibility, and the pursuit of such politics over the past 54 years has created the infrastructure for terrorism unleashed.
We have seen a version of this same political scenario before. Antisemitism was the common coin of Europe from the end of the 19th century to the end of World War II, reaching from France in the west, through Germany and Central Europe, to Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. Hannah Arendt identified antisemitism as the common denominator of fascism and communism, but it also inspired many nationalist parties, until Hitler channeled its energy to consolidate the Third Reich. The use of the Jews as a political target was symptomatic of a fear of democracy in all its aspectsindividual rights, a competitive economy, and the freedoms of an open society. Because antisemitism was directed against the Jews, it didnt overly concern most other people. Some even thought that letting off steam against the Jews might alleviate frustration, or organize protest, or serve some other positive aim. But blaming the Jews was only a symptom of the refusal to adapt to enlightenment and emancipation. The relative ease and success in attacking the Jews turned antisemitism into the most popular ideology of modern Europe.
Of all the European political ideologies, antisemitism is the only one to have taken root in the Middle East. (Hitler succeeded in destroying the Jews of Europe, even though he failed in all his other ambitions.) Arab leaders rule autocratically, claiming to know what is best for their peoples, and to stay in power they must try to explain why they do not bring about the improvements that they promise. Whereas rulers could once control their populations without communicating directly to the masses, the modern world requires telling the people why they should accept the regime that is being imposed upon them. Israel, a tiny polity with a magnified image, is the answer to an autocrat's political predicament. Problems with public health? Israel is polluting the water supply. Homeless refugees? Israel usurps Arab lands. Restless youth? Israel's democracy is a satanic influence. The deflection of so much political dissatisfaction and so many real and escalating social problems into aggression against Israel eventually reaches fanatical proportions, fueling apocalyptic scenarios of destroying the Satan, and the protector of Satan, the United States.
But as Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out in his book on terrorism of 1995, the United States is the larger agency of change, the most powerful democracy in the world, and the real target for which Israel is but a practice range. There are those who believe that if the United States were less supportive of the state of Israel, the aggression of Arab and Muslim extremists would evaporate. Quite the contrary. Israel has been the front line of democracy's defense, and its perceived weakening quickens their ambition. It is highly probable that the daring attack on America was inspired by Israel's appeasement of terrorism in 1993, when it rewarded Arafat -- until then, the worlds leading terrorist -- by placing him in charge of the Palestine Authority. The terrorists calculated that if terror tactics could persuade Israelis to make such unheard-of concessions, then America will surely also lose its nerve if terror is brought within its shores.
If the Arabs cite Israel as the main cause of their extremism, it means that their extremism can only be halted once they change their attitude to Israel. The present threat will not diminish until the Arab world begins to adapt to the process of democratization that the West has been undergoing for a few hundred years. The first requirement of such adaptation is self-accountability, and the essential sign of such self-accountability will be the ability to accept the reality of a Jewish state. The fuel of antisemitism is more explosive even than the jet fuel that brought down the World Trade Center. The longer it is accommodated or encouraged, the greater the danger to the worlds leading democracy. Once we understand that, we will better know what is to be done -- and what isn't. The example of Europe in the 1930s is a blueprint of what happens when antisemitism is ignored. (Harvard Crimson Sept 24)
The writer is Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, co-faculty advisor of the Harvard Salient, a contributing writer to the Crimson and is author of the book, If I Am Not for Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews.
C(ertainly) N(ot) N(ews) = CNN By Naomi Ragen
I think we really need to find a new name for CNN, or reinterpret its present acronym. Ever since it’s sister company AOL.Com got a 20 billion dollar investment by Sheik Alaweed, it’s needed one badly. Remember the Sheik? He was the one in the red kafir looking like a little gnome who toured Ground Zero with Mayor Giuliani, and then offered 10 million dollars to the city, suggesting that if the U.S. corrected its terrible policy against the Palestinians it might not deserve another attack ( of course he didn’t say that…not exactly…) Remember what Giuliani told him in the name of all New Yorkers, all Americans, and all peace-loving people about what he could do with his tainted Saudi dollars? I think we need to tell CNN what they can do with their biased, pro-terror “news” reports, and their factually-challenged reporters.
Well, I’ve certainly made my views about CNN’s Mideast reporting clear over the last few months. I’ve been quiet recently, not because CNN reporting has improved, but because- especially here in our part of the world- under Mike Hanna’s able leadership of the Jerusalem Bureau, it has become so boringly predictable. Take yesterday. The reports of Palestinian casualties inflated by uncorroborated Palestinian reports, dutifully reported by CNN. The true figures were five dead, all of them gun-toting Palestinians actively resisting the Israeli raid on the Palestinian village sheltering the murders of Minister Rechavam Zeevi. Israeli forces were led to the village by two captured members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who sang like the yellow canaries they are. Israelis prevented Palestinian ambulances from coming through? Well, everyone here has seen the numerous uses of such ambulances to carry explosives through army lines. CNN might have mentioned that. Even if this time they were real ambulances, who’s to blame for their well deserved reputation?
It’s all so transparent.
And then Mike Hanna, his beefy red face sweating from the anguish of Israeli incursions into the peaceful little bucolic olive-grove lined Palestinian village (CNN always talks about olive trees… BBC always brings in Manger Square in Bethlehem, as in “ Palestinian activists brought their dead to Manger Square in Bethlehem”…Never mind that they’re Muslims and have been using the Church of the Nativity as a barricade from which to shoot into children’s bedrooms in Gilo…) his righteous, apartheid-honed conscience urging him on, his mellifluous reporter’s voice heavy with emotion, he answers a question about the parallel between American raids on Afghanistan, and Israeli raids on Palestinian terrorists, by leaving out the word terrorists. Israeli attacks on Palestinians obviously can’t be compared to American raids on Afghani terrorist supporters of Bin Laden.
Not if that’s the way you phrase it, Mike. No parallel there. You made sure of that, didn’t you?
It’s so utterly predictable. So utterly Mike Hanna. So utterly CNN. So utterly Sheik Alaweed. So utterly pure, unadulterated piles of …you get the picture.
What we need to do is hold a contest to find a better name for the new network that claims to be reporting the Strike Against Terror. Something that will make it clear exactly which side in this strike the network identifies with. Where they are getting their funding. And what they, and their “sister” network Al Jazeera, so liberally aired for all the West to see, hope to accomplish with their constant propaganda - their terrorist supplied pictures of bandaged children--in undermining Coalition efforts to protect innocent lives all over the world.
I also think we need to contact the FCC. Isn’t it against the law for a television network to be unduly influenced by a foreign power? Being part of a corporation that accepted a 20 billion dollar investment from a Saudi Prince, who’s made his sorry views public, should certainly be investigated. You lawyers out there, take a look at it?
Can we get the FCC to revoke CNN’s operating license? Suggest it? Campaign for it?
It the words of Eliza Doolittle: Wouldn’t it be love-a-ly?
Ramadan-a-Ding-Dong: The fretting has already begun.
By Jonah Goldberg
We're about to enter the chapter of this story where Very Serious People fret about how bad it would be to continue our campaign of bombing Afghanistan forward into the Stone Age during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (which refers to the time when Allah revealed the Koran to Mohammed, not to a David Mamet movie about a salesman who lives out of a Ramada hotel). "Authentic" Muslim spokespeople say it would be bad to bomb during Ramadan, and as sure as you can say "sensitivity training," guilty white folks will take them at their word.
Indeed, the fretting has already begun. Ibrahim Hooper, of the faux-moderate Council on American-Islamic Relations, says: "It's a period of heightened spirituality, and of course people's sensibilities are more acute at those times, so it could have consequences if it is still going on at that time." University of Richmond law professor Azizah al-Hibri explained to USA Today that "We need to keep in mind the sensitivities of the Muslim world. If [Bush] fights during Ramadan that will give Bin Laden one more tool to argue to the Muslim world that the United States is disrespectful of their religion."
First of all, let's just get the inconvenient facts out of the way. Muslims have been killing each other, and other people, during Ramadan for centuries. Mohammed himself opened a clay urn of whup-ass on tribes outside Mecca during Ramadan, in 624 AD. Iraqis and Iranians killed each other over Ramadan with great aplomb during their war. Anwar Sadat of Egypt launched the Yom Kippur war on Israel during Ramadan, with little respect to his own religion and even less for Israel's. Besides, as Tod Linberg of Policy Review points out, if we did stop bombing because of Ramadan, that would send the signal that we are waging war against Muslims - instead of against terrorists, as we keep insisting.
Now, of course, I know firsthand that religion can make everyone prickly. For example, just last week I made an innocuous statement about how it's a bit "irrational" for Catholics to avoid meat on Fridays or for Orthodox Jews to stick to every tenet of kosherism. I'm still getting e-mail from indignant Thomists and Talmudists telling me how ignorant or bigoted I am. I'll save the argument for a corrections column (though please remember, there's nothing pejorative to the word irrational), but suffice it to say some people are very quick to get very defensive about their religious practices and beliefs.
Which is why I think it would be really insensitive to murder the Pope.
Now, I'm not saying I'd like to kill the Holy Father. I can honestly say I love this Pope and I really, really like the Catholic Church. But if you're offended simply by glibness about murdering John Paul II alone, imagine how angry you'd be about someone who really wanted to do it.
Well, one such person is Abdul Hakim Murad, a colleague of 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi "Play With" Yousef. In 1995, Murad washed his hands in the kitchen sink of his Manila apartment, apparently forgetting this is a major "Don't" on the bomb-maker's "Dos and Don'ts" list. The bomb-making chemicals still in the sink mixed with water and started a big fire. When the Philippines's equivalent of the FBI investigated, they uncovered a plot to blow up 11 U.S. Airliners and destroy CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.
And, they discovered that al Qaeda operatives intended to murder the Pope when he visited Manila. They found street maps delineating the path of the Pope's entourage, and clothing matching that of papal aides. Murad revealed all of the details when the Filipino authorities teased him, calling him mean names like poopy-face and fart-breath. Okay, actually they tortured the stuffing out of the guy (but he really only gave it up when they threatened to extradite him to Israel, heh, heh).
Putting aside the unfriendliness required to blow up the airplanes and the CIA, killing the Pope is a really bad thing to do. As Eddie Murphy pointed out years ago, killing the Pope lets you skip the long lines and go straight to Hell.
More to the point, and I think I'm on safe ground when I say this: It is really, really insensitive to the religious sensibilities of Catholics. In fact — this is a stab in the dark, mind you - but I think it's just about the most offensive thing you can do to Catholics.
Now, I know that bin Laden and al Qaeda aren't truly representative of the more than 1 billion Muslims in the world. But that's not really the point. The point is that the people we are at war with - and there may be untold millions of them - couldn't pass a multicultural sensitivity-training course even if some fatwa said they'd get 72 virgins in this life for doing it. If they believed the West and Islam were in a holy war before September 11; if they thought the Pope was a legitimate military target; if they believed America was a crusader nation - it seems pretty unlikely we can change their minds now, when we're dropping bombs on Afghanistan.
Indeed, it seems like the very people who were supposed to help us win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world are against us. For example, yesterday's New York Times contained a fascinating piece on Sheik Muhammad Gemeaha. Gemeaha was the Imam of the 96th Street Mosque in New York City, and a poster-child for the sort of "moderate Muslims" the Times insists are more representative of Islam. Just days after September 11, the Egyptian-born holy man gave an interview to an Arab newspaper claiming that the U.S. government was persecuting Muslims, that Jewish doctors in New York were poisoning Muslim children, and that everyone knows Jews were responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center (you can find most of the interview at the indispensable Middle East Research Institute website). Gemeaha then headed back to Egypt. The Times seems baffled that a fellow Brie-eater could have been such a bigot.
Whether such bigotry is a natural outgrowth of Islam or an outgrowth of the various stagnant cultures of the Middle East is a debate for another day (though nobody seems to agree with my emphasis on culture). But either way, it's worth noting that the Middle East, and the Muslim world generally, are home to the greatest feelings of religious intolerance in the world. Anti-Semitism is the official position of numerous Arab governments and, as Princeton historian Bernard Lewis has noted, the Arab world is the only place where virulent Nazi views are still in popular currency. (It's always been that way. When the Israelis caught Adolf Eichmann, the leading Saudi Arabian newspaper read: "Arrest of Eichmann, who had the honor of killing six million Jews.") Today, it is the official position of the Syrian government that Jews blew up the World Trade Center, and nobody in the Middle East will even bother to disagree. And yet we're supposed to believe that these people are the victims of religious intolerance.
Organized Muslim groups in this country and the elites of various Muslim dictatorships abroad take advantage of America's myopia about such things. These groups claim it's bigoted to suggest that Arab or Muslim societies are even remotely bigoted. It reminds me of Al Gore's debate strategy, where he would call his opponents vicious, mean-spirited, horrible people who resorted to "negative attacks." Then, once his opponent responded by saying, "That's not true," Gore would respond with: "See, another negative attack! He's calling me a liar! That proves it!"
I can sing the praises of American pluralism all day. But the one time it falls apart is when it becomes a one-way street. It only makes sense to respect other religions when the adherents of that religion respect you back. Otherwise, taking the high road only gets you run over. Any group of people willing to celebrate Nazism or to murder the Pope, doesn't have enough sensitivity to deserve any in return. (National Review Oct 24)
Selling the Rope By Daniel Doron
'Greedy capitalists will sell us the rope by which we will hang them," Lenin gloated. But not even Lenin could imagine that a capitalist West would be stupid enough to provide the hangman's ropes gratis (US labs supplied anthrax to Iraq!) and even assist its enemies to perfect their gallows with loans and information.
This is, however, what a morally, and hence politically confused West kept doing. It found it hard to recognize that even more than aggressive communism, fundamentalist Islam is an implacable enemy. It will not be mollified by gestures of goodwill or by tolerance of its fanatic belligerency. Only containment by overwhelming force can enable the West to successfully resist its deadly challenges.
True, the West, namely America, does face a difficult dilemma: It must fight a very popular Islamic fundamentalism without making it seem like a Christian-Muslim war. It is feared that a "clash of civilizations" may further inflame the Muslim "street" and threaten several regimes, especially Arab ones controlling vital oil resources. Their disintegration may have grave strategic and economic repercussions, and cause severe losses to powerful business interests.
The danger is, of course, real, but US policymakers seem confused how to best tackle it. So they repeat policies that make the West vulnerable by seeming culpable and weak. They must have imagined, for example, that they could mitigate extremist anti-US passions - which a Saudi-and-Pakistani-created Taliban has inflamed - by suddenly professing friendship and generosity toward the Afghan people; or that by forcing Israel to make dangerous concessions to Arab terrorism, peace would come to the Middle East, and enable America to hide from Muslim rage behind its putative "coalition."
But as Prof. Bernard Lewis pointed out in his brilliant 1990 essay "The Roots of Muslim Rage," it "goes beyond hostility to specific interests or actions or policies or even countries and becomes a rejection of Western civilization as such, not only what it does but what it is, and the principles and values that it practices and professes." America, the Big Satan, is conceived "as innately evil, and those who promote or accept [its values] as the enemies of God," that must be destroyed.
Muslim rage has religious, social, political, historic and economic roots far deeper than the Arab-Israeli conflict. The American pretense to build a make-believe coalition based on client Muslim regimes that many, perhaps most, Muslims consider apostate, and irredeemably repressive and corrupt, only further inflames Muslim rage, as everybody, except for the State Department, seems able to see.
A US campaign against fundamentalist terrorism would probably be informally facilitated by Saudi Arabia and Egypt simply because it is directed first and foremost against them. But, having learned from the Iraqi imbroglio that the US might lack the willpower to really uproot terrorism and win a conclusive victory, they offer only lukewarm and conditional support that does little to shield America from Muslim rage. In addition, they channel the rage their "coalition" with America provokes against Israel. They also hedge their bets by paying the terrorists off and by winking at the assistance they are given by their nationals and even by elements in their intelligence community.
Besides demonstrating through its forgiving attitude toward Palestinian, Syrian, and Iranian terrorism that its war against terrorism may not be as determined as it protests, the US also signals that in difficult circumstances it may not protect the vital interests of even its closest allies.
How else could the Arabs interpret the fact that until September 11, the US passively suffered repeated terrorist outrages, failing even to protect its own territory from obvious threats; or that after, the mighty US is too timid or apprehensive to demand that Iran stop sponsoring international terrorism and supporting operations by the Lebanese and Saudi Hizbullah, that murdered so many Americans and brazenly continue attacking American allies and interests.
In spite of President Bush's repeated assurances that the war against terrorism will be waged against any state that harbors and assists terrorists, an unreformed terrorist Syria was invited to join the anti-terrorist US coalition, even honored with a seat on the UN Security Council (with US acquiescence). Meanwhile, Israel is repeatedly castigated for defending itself against Palestinian terrorism, and master terrorist Yasser Arafat is rewarded with a promise of a Palestinian independent state, which he will promptly turn into another irredentist rogue state.
"Power is first and foremost the basis of “legitimacy in the Muslim world” [so] our Muslim allies are primarily concerned with only one thingÉ will we be victorious?" Reuel Gerecht, a former CIA Middle East expert judiciously observed.
But the prospects for a decisive US victory diminish the longer it follows the wrongheaded advice of those who shaped failed US policies toward Iraq and the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post Oct 25)
Arafat must Drop Terror or Fall Jerusalem Post Editorial
Israel and the United States have both embarked on military campaigns, each country against the most immediate terrorist threat it faces. Though Foreign Minister Shimon Peres does not seem to like the analogy, the parallels between the Taliban and Yasser Arafat's regime are real.
Peres chided Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for making the analogy between Arafat and the Taliban, asking, "What does he want to do, start bombing the Palestinian cities the way the Americans are bombing Afghanistan?" This formulation is insulting to both the US and Israel, because it sounds like the US is bombing Afghan cities, and that Israel might contemplate such a step. Actually, the US is targeting, in as pinpoint a way as possible, the Taliban's military assets and bin Laden's training camps. Israeli closures unfortunately have a harsh affect on all Palestinians, but Israel has attempted to use lethal force very precisely, against specific targets and even specific terrorists.
If there is a strategic similarity to the US and Israeli positions, it is that both countries have been trying to force regimes to break with terror, while preserving the possibility of friendship with people suffering under those regimes.
The US is pursuing its dual policy with almost equal public emphasis on both parts. Once Afghanistan's air defenses were suppressed, among the first American priorities was to drop aid packages to the Afghan people. It is certainly not fair to say that the US is "bombing Afghanistan," when it is clear that the US is concentrating on military assets and terrorist camps, and going to considerable lengths to avoid civilian casualties.
The goal of the American military campaign is to replace the Taliban regime, but only because that regime refused to eject the terrorist network that it is harboring. Though the purpose of the US campaign is not really freedom for the Afghan people, if the US is successful, Afghans will have an opportunity to dig themselves out of their dark age.
Israel is in a very similar position with respect to Arafat's regime.
Israel has no desire or interest to be in military conflict with the Palestinians, but has been forced down this road to defend itself against terrorism. Israel also has no quarrel with the Palestinian people, assuming they are willing to build their state peacefully alongside Israel. But Israel, like the US, is now in a fight with a terrorist-supporting regime that must give up terrorism or fall.
Though Israel, like the US, is acting primarily in self-defense and not in an altruistic effort to help another people out of its oppression and suffering, the byproduct of the Israeli effort could be a better government for the Palestinian people.
Peres also frequently argues that the alternative to Arafat is Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which would hardly be an improvement. It is not at all clear, however, that this is the case. The Palestinians could be taken over by their own bin Ladens, but they know that the result would be a terrible blow to the Palestinian cause. It would be ironic if, following September 11, the Palestinians would adopt a regime that not only harbors terrorists but is run by the worst of them.
It is certainly a possibility, and perhaps even likely, that if Arafat's regime were defeated because it would not reject terrorism, that those who have argued that Arafat made a strategic error would come to the fore.
In any case, Israel's message to the Palestinians is similar to the American message to the Afghans: We wish, for your sake and ours, that you had a better government, but we have no choice but to fight any government of yours that attacks us or harbors terrorists who do.
With a degree of defeatism that is surprising in a leader who prides himself on vision, Peres sees only why Israel cannot make its case in the world. "I told Arik [Sharon]: you say there is no such thing as good terrorism and bad terrorism," Peres said in a televised interview. "That is true, but by the same token there is no such thing as good occupation and bad occupation. No one in the world will be prepared to accept the continued occupation of the territories." In other words, there is no parallel with Afghanistan, Peres argues, because America is not occupying Afghanistan, but in the world's eyes we are occupying Palestine. But it is the job of the foreign minister to explain the truth: Israel has been trying desperately to leave territories to which it also has legitimate claims, and has been prevented from doing so by the lack of a true partner for peace.
In other words, Israel has the same lack of interest in ruling over Palestinians that America has in ruling over Afghanistan. By the same token, both Israel and the US have an active interest in new or changed regimes that have abandoned terror and, incidentally, are better for the people they govern. (Jerusalem Post Oct 22)