Israel Report

September 2001         

The Coming Battles

by Reva Sharon
A seven-day memorial candle has been burning in my kitchen since Wednesday, the twelfth of September. That was the date Israel proclaimed an official day of mourning after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Flags were hung at half mast, and volunteers spontaneously donated blood for the wounded in America. I lit the candle then for the thousands who are presumed dead: thousands who have been slaughtered by terrorists, thousands brutally murdered like all those victims of barbarism in Israel. In the morning light from the window, a reflection of the candle within a tall cylinder of glass shimmers on the white kitchen counter like twin towers, like Americans and Israelis reflecting each other, mourning their victims.

When I heard The Battle Hymn of the Republic sung at the memorial service in the National Cathedral on Friday, I was shaken. Americans were preparing themselves for the battles of a war that has never been fought on this scale before: a war that President Bush called the First War of the 21st Century. A more accurate description would be the First Worldwide Battle in the 21st Century War on Terrorism. Israel has been engaged in this 21st century war for almost a year. It is the same war, and the sources of the brutal terrorist aggression are the same, no matter which cell of terrorists is responsible for which particular action. It is of vital importance that America, its allies, and the people of these nations better understand the nature of the enemy they are fighting, lest they stumble dangerously in their responses.

In the evening after the service at the National Cathedral and in churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques across America, Americans united in mourning held candle lit vigils. On Saturday night, a memorial rally for those lost in the terrorist attacks on America took place in Tel Aviv and was attended by thousands.

In the days since the horrific assaults against America, Israel has suffered over 100 terrorist strikes. From knife attacks to mortar strikes and drive-by shootings, these are attacks meant to take the lives of innocent people. And remember, the terrorists who hijacked the planes used knives and box cutters to terrorize and kill, until they turned those planes into weapons of mass destruction. Hannan Ashrawi and Saeb Erekat continually claim the Palestinians do not have weapons to protect themselves, but they do, and they use their automatic weapons, mortars, pistols, firebombs, car bombs, suicide bombers, knives, stones, and iron pipes to viciously murder and maim innocent children, women and men.

Two cracks in the unity needed to fight this protracted war on terrorism are beginning to emerge, and those cracks can cause serious danger. Both are the result of lack of knowledge, misinformation, and propaganda. Misled people of good will are taking up a peace banner and chanting give peace a chance in England and America. Madonna sang at such a peace rally in California on Friday evening. The banner is a false one; peace will not be restored by allowing barbarism to not only go unpunished, but to thrive. For peace and security to be restored, the war the terrorists have declared must be fought fiercely and won. The other danger is the propaganda campaign by a very large segment of the Muslim world and the media that is directly or indirectly trying to shift the blame for this tragedy onto Israel. During the program Q&A on CNN on Saturday night, Israel time, Jim Clancy, a CNN correspondent, stated that U.S. policies in the Middle East are what drives people into terrorism. Over and over, the mantra is repeated by Arab leaders that the cause of the terrorism against America is "America's policy in the Middle East," which anyone who has been paying attention knows translates into most languages as "support for Israel." Recently America's policy towards Iraq has been added as a secondary cause.

Before further addressing the importance of America's committing itself to fighting the war against terrorism, I would like to make my background clear. During the Vietnam War, I was an activist in the peace camp to end that war. The values I held then are the values I hold today. I never was a total pacifist and am not today. I do not believe there is any moral precept that one must be willing to be killed rather than take actions of self-defense. My enemy's life is not more valuable than mine. To allow oneself, and in this case civilization, to be destroyed because self-defensive actions are not employed, is to be a partner in the crimes. To think that you can negotiate with such an enemy, to believe the propaganda regarding why they commit such acts, is to aid an enemy bent on your destruction. You are not dealing with people who share your values concerning the sanctity of life, liberty and freedom. It is the defense of innocent life and civilization that is at stake in this war that terrorists have launched. It is a war that must be fought and won. It is the tragedy of all wars that lives are lost, especially innocent lives. And it should be understood that soldiers who fight in self-defense and to protect freedom are as innocent as civilians, especially in a war begun by an unscrupulous, barbaric enemy.

America and the world cannot hope to win against terrorism in a short war with few casualties. As President Bush has said, the war must be fought on many levels, military, economic, and political. What the Americans must remember is that concessions to undependable partners in the coalition will not bring the success that is needed. Experience should be the teacher here: during the Gulf War, the Syrians in that coalition refused to do battle with the Iraqis, and this so-called partner did little but stand around. After the conflict, it did not take long for the Arab countries in the coalition to betray America, one by one. The betrayals came in efforts to lift the sanctions against Iraq – once they felt safe, Syria, Egypt, Jordan and others apparently did not care if Iraq continued to acquire chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. They called upon the world to take pity on the Iraqi people they themselves had done nothing to actually help. They did not demand that Iraq use its resources to distribute food and medicine or to create businesses that would help people recover from the war, instead of spending huge sums for weaponry and building and maintaining palaces. The most recent betrayal was at the U. N. Conference Against Racism in Durban. A united front of Arab and Moslem nations led the attacks on the United States and Israel. What happened in Durban was a form of terrorism against innocent people. The aim of that terrorist effort was to so shame Israel and America that they would be isolated. And the purpose of that strategy was to so demoralize the targets that, like people lost in a wilderness, they would succumb to further attacks because of their isolation and their shame at not being able to overcome the obstacles.

Egypt is a target of the Islamic extremists and so would benefit from a war against those terrorists. However, Egypt is guilty of aiding Palestinian terrorists and in being a participant in the form of terrorism that includes trying to delegitimize Israel and destroy it by lies, racism, and hatred. Jordan is often described as a moderate friend of America, yet the King of Jordan, while expressing his sorrow about the attacks on America, tried to lay the blame on Israel and told America it must re-evaluate its policies in the Middle East, in order to eliminate the underlying causes of the terrorism. Jordan, like Egypt, has Islamic fundamentalists to worry about – so they, too, would benefit from America's battle. And they, too, like Pakistan, can be given ultimatums. Jordan supported Iraq in the Gulf War and has strong ties to that country. In fact, Islamists in Jordan have ties to bin Laden and were planning attacks against Americans and Israelis in Jordan during the Millennium celebrations. And what of Colin Powell's readiness to consider Iran because they made a statement of condemnation? Yes, Iran condemned the terrorist acts of September 11th but then followed that statement with an accusation that those horrific assaults on the United States must have been committed by Israel because only the Zionists could have organized them. Iran and Syria, both on America's list of countries that sponsor terrorism, in a coalition against terrorism? And Saudi Arabia, too—a country where wealthy people make huge donations to support bin Laden's activities?

It has been deeply distressing that, day by day, there is growing evidence that Israel may have to pay a price for this coalition. First it was the refusal of the offer of aid from Israel's seasoned rescue teams, among the very best in the world. The excuse offered was that they were not needed. But we all have seen the exhausted rescue workers in New York; certainly help was, and is, needed. And I have seen rescuers who had Canadian badges on their jackets; they were not refused. Israel Radio reported that although blood from Europe has been accepted by America, donated blood from Israel has been refused. Have these refusals been made in an attempt to appease the Arabs? Is this a method to keep Israel's profile low, despite what is needed?

United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a press conference on Wednesday, September 12th, just one day after the bombing, already put public pressure on Israel to have a quick cease-fire that would be arranged by Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat. This would mean Israel's granting dangerous concessions to a terrorist described by Ariel Sharon as Israel's bin Laden, a description that is apt and not an exaggeration. On Sunday, September 16, The Jerusalem Post reported, "US Secretary of State Colin Powell this evening said the United States will consider Pakistan's request not to include Israel and India in the emerging coalition against worldwide terrorism, Army Radio reported." It did not take long for that consideration to become policy. A Haaretz News Update on Tuesday September 18th states that Powell told the Qataris Al-Jazeera television station that Israel will not be included in any military action resulting from the terror attacks on the United States. Powell is directly quoted as saying, "I don't see Israel as playing a role in that kind of operation." He apparently would accept Israeli Intelligence. Echoes of the Gulf War – the United States was happy to accept Israeli intelligence then, although the U.S. was not forthcoming with intelligence information to Israel to insure Israel would not retaliate against Iraq. Haaretz further reported that Powell had a long conversation with Prime Minister Sharon on Sunday night, and again brought pressure on him in an effort to resurrect a CIA-brokered cease-fire that has never gone into effect, and to moving on to peacemaking gestures. Neither is in Israel's interest, both reward a year of terrorism launched by Yasser Arafat. Powell is clearly trying to buy the cooperation of Moslem countries at Israel's expense. American Jewish Organizations should protest this strategy before it becomes hardened policy. As a result of Powell's pressure, Arafat has once again declared a cease-fire. But there has been no cease-fire, there have been numerous incidents since, including 10 fragmentation grenades thrown at an IDF outpost.

Powell plans to target terrorists for assassination and enter territories where they are harbored to locate terrorists. These are exactly the measures that Israel has used against Palestinian terrorists and the Palestinian Authority which Powell continues to criticize when employed by Israel in the battle against terrorism - even during these days since the attacks on America. And I repeat again that there have been more than 100 acts of terrorism against Israel launched by the Palestinians in the last few days, in addition to many thousands of attacks in the past year. Yasser Arafat, who has given a green light to all forms of terrorism, proclaims that he is fighting terrorism by his actions against Israel! He wants to be included in the coalition. Hizbullah sends a message of sympathy to America. Hamas says its activities are only against Israel. Terrorists all!

The Palestinians have been celebrating in Jerusalem and in all the cities in the P.A. administered cities. The Palestinian Authority has tried to cover this up by saying only a few misguided people participated, mostly children. The few photos that have been released prove otherwise; they show adults dancing and men shooting off weapons in joy. The P.A. has arrested and/or threatened the lives of photographers and journalists who witnessed these celebrations and videotaped or photographed them. The Associated Press is so intimidated, it will not release their tapes and photographs. But a few photos by others have been made public. The celebrations continue: Israel Radio reported that hundreds of Palestinian members of Hamas celebrated in Gaza, Ramallah and Jericho. And on Friday,September 14th, an update to the online edition of The Jerusalem Post reported that at the "rallies in Gaza and Ramallah, demonstrators waved pictures of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. Palestinian policemen seized videotapes of the event taken by cameramen working for foreign networks and ordered them not to film any further."

There have been attempts by bin Laden to target Israel, and there are intelligence reports that further attempts are being planned. In addition, Middle East Newsline reports that U.S. defense sources believe Bin Laden used a range of Islamic groups for logistics and support and are investigating the Fatah movement, headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman, Yasser Arafat, and the Iranian-backed Hizbullah.

The greatest danger to the free world comes from the terrorist enemies of civilization. They attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and it is believed they wanted to also destroy the White House and to murder the President of the United States. Not only was their aim the greatest possible loss of life, in order to terrorize the American people; they wanted the destruction of the symbols of America's economic, military, and political power. They believe that a terrorized population whose symbols are dust and ashes will fall to its knees. This is the same strategy that is currently being used against Israel. The Palestinian destruction of Joseph's Tomb and their turning it into a mosque, the continuing destruction of the archaeological remains of the First and Second Temple on the Temple Mount, the successive attempts to capture Rachel's Tomb - all are attempts to destroy the few concrete reminders of the long history of the Jews in their homeland. The terrorists continuously target innocent people with their bombings and barbaric killings, especially children and young adults; their goal is always to kill and injure as many as possible. Their bombs are packed with nails, screws and ball bearings for that very purpose. Admittedly, this weapon is not as spectacular or deadly as ramming airplanes into skyscrapers, but the motivation and the pattern are the same.

Israel must not be forced into negotiations under fire, and certainly not with Yasser Arafat, who is not a freedom fighter for his people but an unrepentant terrorist responsible for thousands of Israeli and Palestinian deaths. Currently he has waged his latest terrorist battle against Israel for almost a year. If there is to be a war against international terrorism, Palestinian terrorism must be included. America must not follow the lead of the French Ambassador to Israel, who recently stated that the terrorism against innocent American citizens is not the same as what is happening in Israel. This kind of statement gives comfort to the Palestinian terrorists. America does not negotiate with terrorists, and Israel must not be pressured to do so.

I cannot help but remember all the other times Israel has been forced into untimely actions that have cost Israel and the Jewish people dearly. I cannot forget that the Old City of Jerusalem might not have been occupied illegally by Jordan had the world not insisted on a cease-fire two days before Israel would have liberated the Old City from Jordanian forces. I cannot forget that during the Gulf War, the Coalition demanded Israel be left out and that Israel was pressured not to take action against the Scud attacks from Iraq. That non-action, and the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, has led the Palestinians to believe that Israel is weak and does not have the will to fight, two factors that encouraged them to initiate this year of terrorism.

And I cannot forget that during World War II, despite knowledge of what was happening at Auschwitz, the railroad lines to that death camp were not bombed, even though this clearly would have meant that more innocent Jews and others would no longer have been gassed to death there. Expediency was the excuse: the effort to win the war was given a higher priority than saving all those innocent lives. America must not fall into those traps again in this war against terrorism. Israel and the Jewish people must not be compromised in the effort to form a coalition. Pakistan is not an enthusiastic ally – the reason Pakistan has agreed to American conditions is that there is no alternative – economics and fear of being isolated are the motivation. The same would be true for many Arab states that may threaten the U.S. while using Israel as their excuse.

I have always felt that war is an insane way to solve disputes, but there are times when there are no options -when to appease or to cringe brings greater and greater disasters. What the terrorists unleashed in their attacks on America, on freedom, on civilization, are crimes against humanity. I feel such dread as I think of the long battles ahead. This is not vengeance; this is a war to preserve civilization and freedom, and to crush the network of cowardly terrorists who commit crimes against humanity. Hazak v'amatz we say in Hebrew. Be strong and have courage.

© Reva Sharon

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