I once wrote a column at the beginning of the Intifada called "Living in a Parallel Universe." Once again, I feel I am back in that place, a great and solid barrier separating my reality from that the rest of the world seems to inhabit.
I hear President Bush in Africa talking about the "unconditional fight against terror," even as his administration pressures Israel to release dangerous murderers from the worst terrorist organizations from Israeli jails. If Israel was a normal country with a death penalty, this would not be possible. But we aren't. We endanger the lives of our people again and again, because of some ridiculous, passe attitude that may work in California, but doesn't work here, where jails have revolving doors.
Our leaders - heads of the government, heads of the army - give our newspapers daily headlines about "the lessening of terror alerts, the collection of weapons, the reduction of incitement ", etc. etc., once again lulling the Israeli public into a sleepy sense of "all's right with the world" - exactly what they did with Oslo. We, of course, read other articles. An interview with Itamar Marcus, head of Palestinian Media Watch, who pointed out that "on the very same day this week that the Israeli media and international leaders were praising the Palestinians for erasing graffiti from some of the walls in the Palestinian Authority, there was the school graduation ceremony which was broadcast on PA television."
The high school students were singing and dancing to this song:
"With words and with a rifle we will sing.During the first 10 weeks since Abu Mazen became prime minister and the Road Map was published, there have been a total of 304 Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks or attempted attacks, in which 50 people were murdered and 315 wounded. Moreover, the current hudna is being widely used by the terrorist organizations to resupply and rebuild their infrastructure, badly damaged by the Israeli army, who was winning the war against terror until Mr. Bush and Mr. Powell stepped in to give the terrorists a reprieve. They are recruiting suicide bombers, and building more Quasam rockets.
This is no substitute for a complete war against terror. To forgive Abu Mazen his incompetency, to let out terrorists, to let them rebuild is going to cost us in blood when the inevitable moment arrives and the Palestinians come up with a demand so unreasonable that even the jellyfish Israeli government won't be able to give in (hard to imagine such a thing these days...). Israel will be blamed, even as Israelis die.
We were in this movie. We saw the ending. I'm not capable of fooling myself twice, although most of my fellow countrymen don't seem to suffer from the same problem.
I don't have any answers. But I prefer to see the truth and at least know where we are headed. May God look down on us and save us from ourselves.
Naomi Ragen is a best-selling novelist and columnist who has lived in Israel since 1971. More of her writings can be seen at www.naomiragen.com.
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America knows how to be tough on crime -- unless it takes place in a friend´s backyard.
In Texas recently, a jury handed a 50-year prison sentence to 27-year-old Chante Mallard, after convicting her of murder for driving home with a man lodged in her windshield and letting him die in her garage.
Meanwhile in a U.S.-encouraged "confidence-building" gesture to criminals everywhere, Israel released 300 criminals from prison -- with a promise of more to come -- including a mass murderer known as Abu Sukar.
Sukar served just 28 years after being convicted of multiple murders for placing a refrigerator packed with explosives into a crowded square in Jerusalem, killing 14 innocents and maiming 60 more. Though responsible for more carnage than America´s own Charles Manson, the aging Sukar is unlikely to detonate another refrigerator bomb, which may be why he was among those chosen for this gesture of appeasement. If so, it´s a sorry excuse. There´s a reason Chante Mallard will spend the better part of her life behind bars, and it isn´t because she was likely to repeat her criminal performance.
Scholars and jurists have offered numerous theories to justify criminal punishment: Retribution. Deterrence. Incapacitation. Rehabilitation. But none is as compelling as that of -- as one American court put it -- "denunciation or condemnation."
Under that view, when a crime is committed, civilized society must express reprobation "as an affirmation and re-enforcement of moral standards." Any penalty insufficient to the offense would, in the words of the Model Penal Code, "depreciate the seriousness of the defendant´s crime."
Mallard got a half-century sentence, then, not because she was a particular danger to society, but because of the depravity of what she had done. The Texas jury, in coming down hard, not only enforced the law, but affirmed the moral standards behind it.
One of Mallard´s lawyers pleaded that she had just "made a wrong choice." But human beings, as moral agents, are judged by the acts they choose to engage in. As another criminal court once put it, "competent people, possessed of their faculties, make choices and are accountable for them." Mallard made the wrong choice all right, and now she´ll pay the price.
But it doesn´t do for America to hold transgressors here accountable, while making excuses for them elsewhere. Malefactors anywhere threaten the moral fabric everywhere. It´s long past time, then, that we properly condemn the world´s worst criminals, like Abu Sukar´s bosses -- the mega-mass murderer Yasser Arafat and his 40-year accomplice, Mahmoud Abbas, a.k.a. Abu Mazen.
Arafat is responsible for decades of wrongful death. In 1973, his thugs kidnaped three diplomats -- including two Americans -- from a reception in Khartoum, then tortured and murdered them. At a dinner that year with Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Arafat bragged about those crimes. Their seriousness is depreciated every minute he goes unindicted.
In another Arafat-sanctioned operation, the massacre of eleven athletes, including an American citizen, at the 1972 Olympic games, Abbas was the financier, according to the crime´s mastermind, Abu Daoud. The very value of human life is diminished so long as anyone responsible for those murders walks free.
More recently, the leaders of the (what else to call them?) Arabs-Who-Have-Usurped-the-Name-of-Palestine have overseen the murders of hundreds of children, targeted where they eat, sleep or play. The general AWHUNP population are accessories -- before and after the fact -- through their overwhelming approval.
Diplomatic considerations be damned -- such crimes demand an accounting.
An unrepentant Abbas vowed recently that there "will be no peace or security if even one Palestinian prisoner remains behind bars." Similar cries -- demanding freedom for criminals like mass murderer and terror operative Marwan Barghouti -- have echoed all over the West Bank and Gaza. Thus do thugs express their bankrupt view that the moral universe is untarnished when crime has no consequence.
Centuries of civilization say otherwise.
America should unambiguously say otherwise now by encouraging Israel to arrest and try criminals, not to release or negotiate with them, and to offer nothing but hard time to the population that supports and conspires with them, because crime must not pay. Such criminals are "competent people, possessed of their faculties," who have made their malevolent choices.
Morality itself risks slipping into irrelevance if we fail to hold them accountable.
Steven Zak is a writer and attorney in California.
3. IS IT SAFE?By Jack Engelhard - July 16, 2003
Suppose 1,300 Israelis had been slain in one day? Wouldn't that be war? Instead, that same amount of murder has been spread out over some two years. So what do we have? Merely a "situation."
Two years, one day, what's the difference?
That's still 1,300 Israelis dead.
In the event of such wholesale catastrophe within a 24 hour period, there'd be wailing, outrage, a summons to gather all tanks, ships and planes to destroy the enemy from land, sea and air. The nation would be mobilized, even the world would nod its affirmation as Israel recovers and retaliates to save its homeland.
Think back to October 6, 1973, when Egypt and Syria came calling. Israel rose up as one soldier. Or think December 7, 1941, when Japan came calling. Both were "dates which will live in infamy," FDR, and in neither case was there dithering.
What we have here, instead, are slight infamies -- yes, like being slightly pregnant.
For this enemy is clever. He goes retail.
Virtually every day more killings, five on Monday, eight on Tuesday...a wedding here, a bar mitzvah there...a kibbutz here, a moshav there...a bus...a restaurant...a man, a woman...a child...all that but never enough to awaken and startle the Israeli populace. As another conflict once had it: "acceptable losses."
President Bush himself has gotten sucked into the same wobbly thinking.
Back on May 1, on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, Bush said it's over in Iraq. Hmmm.
What about our American troops being picked off two at a time day after day? Bush is still declaring victory and American boys are still being shot dead -- more than 50 at the time of this writing.
Indeed, watching it on TV you double-take as to where the scenes are coming from, Iraq or Israel, for in both cases the enemy's tactics are the same.
Ambush. We have the enemy sneaking up from behind, sneaking in as a friend, and we even have women performing the task of suicide bombers. Is it Israel? Iraq? Take your pick.
Can the leaders of Israel and America be so deluded? Yes.
Do you remember the movie "Marathon Man" and that famous line from the Nazi dentist: "Is it safe?" Yes, it's safe says Bush and yes it's safe says Israel's Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen'l Moshe Ya'alon, who publicly decided, for the living and the dead, that the intifada is over. Just like Bush. So what if a few Israelis and a few Americans get killed every day? It's not like there's, heaven forbid, a war going on. What war? We won, didn't we?
How would it be, however, if those 50-plus Americans had all been killed in one day, one firefight? Still safe? Still no war?
Here's a news alert: both our countries are at war, and with the same enemy! Contrary to philosopher Francis Fukuyama, who announced the end of history, and in defiance of the leadership here in America and in Israel, there is a very big war going on and it's coming from radical Islam, whose ambitions are global domination.
Yes Virginia, the Koran has arrived and it has come to devour the Bible!
Don't take my word for it, for even such newspapers as the New York Times admit that Saudi Arabia is energetically exporting (extremist) Wahhabi Islam across the globe, even to a mosque near you.
Or consider France's leading intellectual, Bernard-Henri Levy, who visited Pakistan to research a book on slain Wall Street reporter Daniel Pearl. Ordinarily a leftist, Levy returned stunned by the depth and ferocity of radical Islam. Here's what he reported to Le Figaro: "Radical Islam is as much to be feared as the Communist and fascist totalitarianisms of yesterday." I agree and disagree.
Communism, for all its Stalinist ruthlessness, will end up being dumped as a footnote, and as for fascism -- even the Nazis did not raise up an entire generation to the cult of self-sacrifice. Who knows what's coming next from over the Islamic horizon...?
The end of history? No, it's only the beginning -- and is it safe? No, it is not safe.
(A View of the Absurd an op-ed column published in Comteq Communications on July 11, 2003.)
The Israeli government has taken the first steps toward making a compensation claim against Iraq for the 123,000 Iraqi Jews who were expelled from that country following the creation of Israel in 1948.
This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg, as between 1948 and 1960 some half a million Jews were forced to leave Arab and North African countries to come to Israel. Today the legal questions that surround these Jewish refugees have become central to the success of the road map and the wider Middle East negotiations.
In light of the world attention given to the 720,000 Palestinian refugees displaced during Israel's 1948 War of Independence, the Jewish refuges are often referred to as "the forgotten refugees."
Collectively they are known as the Orientals - or by their Hebrew name, Mizrahim. Their arrival placed a massive strain on an Israel that was already experiencing severe economic difficulties, with many of the Orientals being initially housed in tents and transit camps away from established population centers. Soon many of these camps assumed the permanence of small or medium-sized towns known as development towns (some 33 were established between 1948-57, mainly in the Galilee and Negev). The rest of the immigrants were absorbed into around 300 agricultural communities established between 1948-54.
Israel's reaction to the Orientals, while by no means perfect - there was initial widespread discrimination against this group from established Israelis - compared favorably with the reaction of Arab governments toward the Palestinians who sought refuge in their countries. Here the central aim of Arab regimes has been to stop the transit camps in which the Palestinians arrived from taking on the appearance of permanent towns. In this respect most of the camps were not allowed to develop the infrastructure needed for even the most basic comforts such as sewage systems and secure housing.
Arab leaders argued that any sign of permanence would diminish the Palestinians' claim to the "right of return" - to their original houses in Israel. Privately, the same leaders confessed, and still do today, that any attempt to formally incorporate the 1948 refugees into Arab states would lead to political and social instability.
For the past 50-plus years the Palestinians have been living in disgraceful conditions as the result of the Arab leadership's use of them as political pawns with the aim of securing international sympathy for the Palestinian cause and condemnation of Israel, which - in their eyes - caused the tragedy.
The question of cause is extremely important as it will have legal ramifications when it comes to eventually settling the Palestinian refugee crisis by means of compensating the refugees for loss of property. In democratic Israel the debate over blame for the Palestinian exodus has been raging since the release of official documents covering the period - Israel, unlike Arab states, opens its archives to researchers.
Even Israel's own post-Zionist revisionist scholars have concluded there is no evidence to suggest the existence of any premeditated plan to remove Palestinians from Israel.
In places, Arabs were forced to leave as a result of the fighting (villages on the Tel Aviv- Jerusalem road); in other cases they were told to leave by the Arab High Command (those living in Haifa). But at no time was there an Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing.
Sadly, the same cannot be said about the Jews who were expelled by order from Arab lands. The rationale that Arab leaders used for the effective expulsion: The Jews were removed in retaliation for the Palestinian exodus from Israel.
Recent research on the plight of Iraqi Jews has revealed this to be rubbish. Even prior to the Palestinians exodus plans were being shaped to remove the Jews.
THE CURRENT Arab leadership is, unsurprisingly, extremely sensitive about these charges. One of the shrewdest politicians in the Arab world today, Farouk Shara, the Syrian foreign minister, addressed this charge directly at the United Nations in 1991, stating that Jews living in Muslim lands had never experienced any discrimination.
What the current Arab leadership fears is documents coming to light in liberated Iraq that will provide enough hard evidence for Israeli and American lawyers to build a compelling case for compensation for the Jewish refugees. Sadly, it's highly probable that other Arab regimes are busy shredding all remaining evidence of wrongdoing.
Unlike their Palestinian counterparts the Jewish refugees do not seek the right of return to their country of origin. After much initial hardships the Oriental Jews have come to play a full and exciting role in making Israel the great melting pot it is today.
What the Jewish refugees desire is recognition of their plight from the world - and compensation for what they were forced to give up such as homes and businesses.
The Israeli government must educate the world about its refugees. On the political level it should use this card carefully. The simplest framework would be an Israeli offer not to pursue the claims of its refugees if the Palestinians drop their refugee claims.
As for the Palestinians, they should start proceedings against the Arab states that have hosted their refugees in appalling conditions for the past 55 years.
The writer is director of the Centre for Israeli Studies, Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College, London.
WORLDWIDE PROTEST AGAINST THE ROAD MAPThis Sunday, July 20, 2003, pro-Israel organizations from around the world and in Israel will be holding mass rallies against the US-backed Road Map plan, aimed at creating another Arab state in Israel's heartland.
Women in Green and the Manhigut Yehudit faction of the Likud will be demonstrating on Sunday morning, 9:30am at the Rose Garden, opposite Prime Minister Sharon's office.
Demonstrations in other cities around the world are as follows (as provided by Ken Heller (KJHNHA@aol.com):
Washington, D.C: Across the street from the White House on the ellipse, 2:00 pm.The website http://www.israpundit.com/archives/001636.html is also being updated with information.
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