Every once in a while I come accross some published article that, in my opinion, needs a printed response. This is the place for such response, and the offending article as well...
A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL, January 3, 2000
Monument to a murderer
Israelis and their American supporters who see the glass of peace in the Middle East as half empty often complain that Palestinians still spew hate against the Jews even though they are supposed to be partners in peace. The complainers are not all wrong, but there is plenty of hate closer to home.
Consider the case of Brooklyn-born Baruch Goldstein, who emigrated to Israel and joined the Jewish West Bank settlers on the heights above Hebron. In 1994 he went, armed, into a mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews, and opened fire, killing 29 Palestinians at their prayers. He was killed by enraged Palestinians when his magazine emptied.
Since then Goldstein's grave had become a pilgrimage site for haters, complete with a small plaza, prayer book case, and a stand for candles. On his tombstone are written the words ''martyr'' and ''clean hands and a pure heart.'' Those who believed in Goldstein's cause, which can only be described as an ethnically cleansed Greater Israel, flocked to the grave to pay their respects to their dark prophet.
Ran Cohen, an Israeli government minister, has rightly called the shrine ''anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, and anti-human.'' To his and Israel's credit, a Cohen-sponsored law calling for the destruction of shrines for hate crimes passed, and last week the bulldozers arrived. Angry settlers sobbed and
cursed the Israeli soldiers carrying out the government's orders.
The gravestone with its hate-filled inscription remains. ''A great disgrace has been wiped from our face,'' Cohen said. ''The other half of the stain will be removed when the shameful inscription is erased.''
The other half will be erased only when Arabs and Jews can erase the hate in their hearts. It may take generations, but it is incumbent on both sides to start tearing down the monuments to murder that litter the psychic landscape in that small space between the Jordan River and the sea.
RE: Monument to a murderer, Globe editorial on January 3, 2000
Your editorial, "Monument to a murderer," is an example of a "left handed compliment" - or putting the worst face on a good story. The essence of the story is that Israel is trying to eliminate hatred and bigotry by removing a "shrine" erected to a deranged man whose illness caused him to kill innocents whom he perceived to be mortal enemies not only to him but to his entire people. Similar crimes have been perpetrated in the U.S. by disgruntled workers such as postal clerks and office personnel. Instead of recognizing and commending Israeli action, your editorial chose to write a tirade against Israeli extremists, whose numbers are minimal while avoiding any mention of Palestinian Authority official policies of teaching and preaching hate and violence, promoting hero worship of terrorists, and spewing blood liable fabrications of gassing of pregnant women and the poisoning of water sources.
You did not mention that the "Jewish West Bank settlers on the heights above Hebron" whom Goldstein joined had returned to an area of Jewish habitation that existed from Roman time to 1929, when Arabs massacred more than 60 Jews, and the British forced the remaining Jewish population to evacuate the area. When you stated that Goldstein "was killed by enraged Palestinians when his magazine emptied" - you did not mention that he was torn to pieces by Moslem worshipers who seemed to have as much hatred for him as he had shown to them.
When you mentioned "Those who believed in Goldstein's cause, which can only be described
as an ethnically cleansed Greater Israel, flocked to the grave to pay their respects to their dark prophet," you did not mention that they were a tiny minority of Israels population, nor did you mention that many of that small minority suffer the effects of having been traumatized by the loss of dear family and friends in fifty years of war and terror, murder and mayhem that has been the official policy of the Arab world for the totality of the period of the existence of the State of Israel - and long before that state came into being, too.
You conclude with the words, "The other half will be erased only when Arabs and Jews can erase the hate in their hearts." This is very true, but you failed to mention that such a time will come much faster if Egypt warmed up its peace by inviting Israel to participate in film festivals and other conferences; if Saudi Arabia stopped publishing Hitlers "Mein Kampf," the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and other anti-Semitic smut; when Jordan will remove from its code of law the death sentence to anyone who sells land to a Jew; when Palestine T.V. stops showing and promoting summer programs for young children in which pre-teens are taught to use AK47 assault rifles to "kill the Zionist enemies to recapture the homeland - which they proclaim is all the area of the Israel."
It is time to print in bold print that Israels most common used word is "Shalom," which means peace. When the Arab and Moslem world have the same goal in mind and is willing to compromise to achieve this goal it shall, indeed, happen!
Rabbi Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Ponte Vedra, Florida
A local paper in Jacksonville, Florida, The Folio Weekly, published a comment on 11/21/2000. Here's my reaction for it, which contains the article in quotes.
Your article is so riddled with errors that any review has to be done line by line and possibly word by word. (I shall quote your words in italics.) Let me begin:
The clashes between Palestinian malcontents and Israeli soldiers have claimed more than 160 lives -mostly Palestinian- since mid-November. The term Palestinian malcontents is incorrect and misleading. The clashes are between people trained and indoctrinated by the Palestinian Authority, the governing body over 95% of Palestinians living in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza strip. These people are indoctrinated to hate Jews, and to do everything within their power to annihilate them off the face of the earth.
The violence is depicted by traditional media as a series of isolated skirmishes between relatively equal forces locked in a highly irrational territorial dispute, which obscures the real theoretic base of the conflict. The traditional media does not suggest that there are relatively equal forces - quite the opposite! The media erroneously depicts the Arab side as little David fighting the bad giant Goliath.
The dispute goes back to 1947, when the displaced Jews of Europe were given land held by Britain, which amounted to a transfer of colonial power from one illegal occupation to the next. The United Nations partition resolution of Nov. 29 gave Jews 55 percent and Arabs 45 percent of what was called Palestine. The Arab community has never been receptive to Israel and attempted to remove it in the failed 1967 war. Israel celebrated victory by annexing those areas known today as the West Bank and Gaza Strip, giving them 78 percent of the territory. (The Red Cross reported in 1974 that 19,152 Palestinian homes had been destroyed since 1967, sometimes with residents inside.) The dispute goes back not to 1947, but to 1919, when Britain was given a trust charter to help create a Jewish National Home in the Jews historic homeland. The Trust spanned the Jordan River and covered 45,000 square miles - approximately the land area of Pennsylvania. In 1922, after the Arabs rioted and shed Jewish blood in Northern Galilee, in one of the first acts of appeasement of the British governments that would lead to the second world war, Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State for War and Near Eastern Affaires in Lloyd Georges government, lopped all the land east of the Jordan River to create a kingdom for the Emir Abdullah, that became known as Trans-Jordanie - or Jordan. This land, an integral part of the promised Jewish National Home, with a land area or 35,000 square miles, created an Arab state on more that 75% of Palestine! The United Nations partition resolution of Nov. 29 gave Jews 55 percent and Arabs 45 percent of what was called Palestine. The U.N. proposed the creation of two states, one Jewish and the other Arab, that would live in harmony and peace, the ideals on which the U.N. was founded. However, as you point out, The Arab community has never been receptive to Israel and attempted to remove it in the failed 1967 war. Actually, you are not quite forthcoming with your statement. The Arabs threatened to initiate a blood bath in Palestine, kill all the Jews and throw their remains into the sea. The sovereign Arab nations, Egypt, Trans Jordanie, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, attacked the Jewish state immediately after its coming into being. The British made every effort to strip the Jews of arms for their own defense, while the United States, wishing to be even handed, slapped an embargo on arms shipments to the Middle East. The Jews, 650,000 on the day of Independence, fought against the armies of five nations with a combined population of more that seventy million, aided by a further one hundred million Arabs and Moslems in non-confrontation states. When Israel was founded it did not control any Arab land, it had not displaced even one Palestinian, making him/her a refugee. Yet the Palestinians fought the Jews with a passion born of hate and a desire to see the death of the infidels. No Palestinian state was established in 1948, or at the time of the agreement to stop shooting in 1949. Jordan took control of Judea and Samaria; Egypt ruled in the Gaza Strip, and neither Arab nation was called to task for not allowing the Palestinian state to be established. More than 6,000 Jews were killed in the War of Independence - about 1% of the Jewish population! (The Red Cross reported in 1974 that 19,152 Palestinian homes had been destroyed since 1967, sometimes with residents inside.) The Arabs continued to fight against the very existence of the Jewish state, pledging again and again to bring about its destruction. One of the ways in which Israel fights Arab terrorism is by destroying the home of convicted terrorists. The claim that homes were destroyed while occupied is a total falsehood - unless one speaks of homes that were destroyed while war was raging and the buildings were used by armed men to shield them from Israeli fire. The fact that Arab armed men use women and children as a shield is well documented.
The Palestinian settlements are geographically isolated from each other and neighboring Arab states, and its residents are forbidden to own land, vote or other things that only Jews can do. Israel is a democracy under siege. Palestinians are treated with as much civil law as is possible under the circumstances dictated by their own respect for the law. I was in Israel when there was relative calm, in 1967 to 1970. Arabs traveled freely between villages and towns, coming into the Israeli area, or going to Jordan, from whence they traveled all over the Arab world. Unfortunately the Arabs were radicalized by their fanatical leaders, and they began terror activities against Israel. That is when their freedom of movement was restricted. Arab Israelis are allowed to vote, and they have representatives in the Israeli congress, the Kneset. Arabs are NOT forbidden to own land it is Jews who are forbidden to own land in Palestinian Authority area, and anyone selling land to Jews is liable to death!
Most of the world regards a return to the pre 1967 borders as a reasonable compromise but, as is so often true, American feels differently. There are no moderates on the decision-making level in America; all fall firmly into the Zionist camp. The State of Israel proposed to return to the 1967 borders, with minor adjustments, as early as 1967! The Arabs countered this offer with a total rejection. NO recognition of Israel, NO negotiations, NO peace with Israel. The claim that There are no moderates on the decision-making level in America; all fall firmly into the Zionist camp is a canard, a ploy for Israel bashers to use to claim prejudice where none exist.
To understand why today's violence is especially interesting, look back to the 1993 Oslo accords and the famous handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, a handshake that symbolized nothing less than PLO surrender. I agree with the first part of this statement, one DOES have to look at the Oslo accords, but NOT because of PLO surrender quit the opposite, because of PLO duplicity. They signed an agreement they never intended to honor, got all they could out of it, and continue to pursue their goal of removing Israel from the map of the Middle East.
This is what happens when you have movements based on an individual personality; once Arafat grew tired of checking his bed for explosives every night, he quit his fight and took the cause of Palestinian independence with him. In exchange for meager land grants and the promise of "limited autonomy" over those areas, the PLO now tellingly known as the Palestinian Authority agreed, in effect, to serve as the brown-skinned exponents of Israel rule. Arafat is not tired of anything. He continues his game of terror and intimidation, killing more of his people than the Israelis, extorting protection monies from Arab potentates and dictators, spreading violence all over the world and putting Palestinian public monies in his bank accounts in Switzerland. Neither he nor any of his cohorts serve as the brown-skinned exponents of Israel rule. They break promises and act dishonestly and without honor.
Thus Arafat has little credibility among his own people, who now respond to the incendiary rhetoric of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This is the unknown factor that could make things really interesting in the near future. Quite the contrary! Arafat is the darling of his people, and his word rules the mobs, turning the violence spigot on and off.
The conflict is generally easy to frame in the U.S. With its strong Zionist political lobby, the slightest hint or accusation of sympathy to the Palestinian cause will end one's political career. I already dealt with this false statement, accusing anyone who is not against Israel of being part of a strong Zionist political lobby that does not think or know anything. If you are for Israel, you are a sheep in a herd, they claim, and forget about looking the facts squarely in the face.
But some things defy spin, like the death of Muhammad al-Dira, 12, shot by Israeli soldiers while the cameras rolled. It's perfectly all right for snipers to take head shots at rock-throwers from the safety of distant rooftops, but executing a child as he tries to flee can only be justified by the killers in one way. Watch it, we have a complete reversal here! The spin is by a news media that was duped by Palestinians who employ snipers to head shots at Israelis from distant rooftops not the other way.
In the words of Rabbi Yocov Perrin at the 1994 funeral of Dr. Baruch Goldstein, who machine-gunned 29 Muslims at prayer in the Hebron mosque: "One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail."("Arab" is used generally to refer to Palestinians, Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese and others of relatively similar ethnicity and political inclination. They don't really like being generalized this way, but they really don't like being shot while trying to pray.) There is, in Israel, among five million Jews, a militant fringe of less than one percent, who have become quite unbalanced after fifty years of constant Arab violence against Israel and world Jewry. They are NOT accepted or even allowed political expression. To quote them and give them credence is similar to representing American political thinking by the ideals of the KKK.
Arabs are subhuman. The barely concealed attitude of Israeli leaders toward the indigenous population matches old colonial attitudes toward blacks and Indians, for good reason. Only extreme force can maintain such an illegitimate order, so extreme force it is. Israel is noted for being the only civilized country that openly advocates torture, but only for Palestinians. Routine abuses of rights of privacy searches, seizures, deportation occur to combat "terrorism" in what ever hazy form it may take. One would think that Jews, having bravely survived what Chomsky called "the most fantastic outburst of insanity in human history," would be the last group to use such brutal methods of control against other human beings. But it happens daily in Israel, with financial and diplomatic support form the United States. This system is bad for all involved. The costs to Arabs are clear, as are the costs to Americans and Jews: continued erosion of credibility, hostile conditions across the region, and 52 years of bad karma just waiting for exploitation by the first fundamentalist zealot (ex: bin Laden with the rhetoric and resources to stage an intifadah harder to dismiss (or dispatch) than a bunch of kids with rocks. This last paragraph repeats the same issues already spoken of above. The Arabs are subhuman claim is obviously false, as Israel does give its Arabs all rights of citizenship. The attitude of Israeli leaders can best be exemplified by the friendship extended to Saadat when he came to Israel, the genuine admiration shown to king Hussein, and the continued energy expended by Israelis in an effort to bring peace to their land and their neighbors. To be sure, the costs to Americans and Jews is well known there is a cost in lives lost or twisted by injury, as well as a cost in lost chances for a productive life. However, the costs to Arabs is less well known. We think that it is the same as our costs, but with a different MINDSET, their goals, their aims, and their plans for the future are quite different from ours. While it is true that there are many good Arab people who would like nothing better than to live in peace and enjoy the fruit of their labor that is not the typical Arab and Moslem idea and ideal. They scorn our standards and our culture. Arab nations are not democratic. Moslem teachings are not universalist and accepting of other religions. Christians and Jews are bunched together as erroneous teachings because they do not accept Mohammad as the final prophet and his teaching, the Koran, as the final authority in religious teaching. Indeed, the rhetoric and resources to stage an intifadah are not 52 years of bad karma they are this generations Islamic world war against Western culture and Western civilization. That is why the people of the United States support and admire the Israelis who carry the banner of Maccabees and Minute Men freedom to choose who, how, and when we worship..
TIME MAGAZINE December 18, 2000
This one is a BAD BAD article to end the year!
Fields Of Fire
Israeli forces are using lethal tactics to douse a fiery Palestinian revolt. How justified are they?
BY MATT REES/GAZA CITY
1. the Boy and the Stone
Wael Imad wanted a one-way ticket to martyrdom. It was an early morning in late October, just as the latest Palestinian riots were gathering strength, when the lively 14-year-old entered his father's tiny used-furniture store in Jabalia, a ramshackle town in the north of the Gaza Strip. "I won't be able to come see you tomorrow, Daddy, so can you give me two days' allowance right now?" he asked. Mohammed Imad, unsuspecting, forked over the money. It was less than a dollar, the cost of a shared taxi to the Israeli outpost at Erez, where young Palestinians clashed daily with the guards. Wael left the store and met school friend Hussein Hamoudeh. "I need to go only one way," he told Hussein. "I'll come back in an ambulance."
The next day Wael raced to the front of the riot. It was midmorning on Oct. 22. As he and his friends hurled stones at the Israeli positions, the soldiers shot rubber-coated metal pellets. They zinged past the boys. When they hit, the pellets are supposed to leave a painful welt. But at ranges of less than 25 yds., they can be lethal. Friends recall how Wael sweated in the sun as he raced up the sandy bank to the first of several barbed-wire fences around the Israeli defenses. Hussein called to him to come back. He was too close. The Israelis would target him. Wael pushed ahead. "Martyrdom was calling him," his elder brother Fawzi says.
A rubber bullet thwacked into Wael's shin. Thin and small for his age, he reached down and rubbed the stinging wound with one hand. In his other hand he held a stone. As Wael straightened to throw it, another rubber bullet smacked into his brow between the eyebrows. He fell back, unconscious. Medics rushed the boy to Gaza City's Shifa Hospital. Hussein hurried to Wael's mother Mozna. "Wael has been shot," he told her. Mozna, 40, dashed to Shifa with deep foreboding. Said she: "The moment I heard he had been hit in the head, I knew he was dead."
Israel's army and its political leaders know that Palestinian casualties, particularly among children like Wael, serve only to inflame the Aqsa intifadeh further. The Israeli army maintains that it has refined its tactics in the past few years in an attempt to reduce the number killed at demonstrations. Yet a TIME investigation reveals that Israel's loosely drawn rules of engagement permit soldiers regularly to shoot at children. Hostile protesters younger than age 18, whether armed with guns or Molotov cocktails, even stones, are fair game when Israeli soldiers find their actions threatening. In many cases, Israeli attacks can be indiscriminate, such as machine-gun fire into crowded neighborhoods. Children are frequently victims in these cases as well. Medical officials estimate that 40% of the Palestinian dead in Gaza in the latest violence were under 18. (Israeli officials say they have no way of counting Palestinian casualties.) The U.S. and the U.N. have both accused Israel of using excessive force. International investigators headed by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell arrive in Israel this week to probe the sources of the 11 weeks of violence that has claimed a total of almost 300 lives, Israeli as well as Palestinian. Last week's fighting--10 were killed on Friday alone--was the most brutal in the past month.
Part of the problem in investigating and monitoring these deaths is that Israeli rules of engagement are interpreted subjectively by whichever soldier happens to be senior man on the scene. In some cases, that can leave the decision in the hands of a conscript just out of high school. Army regulations say that in regular situations, a soldier should shout a warning before shooting and that the first shots should be aimed for an attacker's legs. But anytime Palestinians open fire on Israelis, the warning stages are bypassed. Orders are to shoot to kill right away.
This story is not about the responsibility for the violence of the Aqsa intifadeh. If it were, Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority would surely bear at least an equal share with Israel's government. In the intense pressure of the urban battlefields, however, the high number of Palestinian deaths signals that Israel has not met its responsibility under the principles of the U.N. to rely on the "intentional lethal use of firearms only...when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
2. Children and Bullets
Wael Imad's stricken mother arrived at the chaotic main gate of Shifa Hospital. The yard in front of the hospital was crowded with bloodied young men and people searching frantically for injured relatives. Mozna Imad gave her name to an orderly. As soon as she spoke, she was surrounded by doctors and nurses. They carried her off to a single-story white structure in the corner of the yard. This was Shifa's morgue.
Doctors at Shifa had tried for an hour to save Wael, but it was hopeless. X rays of the boy's skull taken from the front show a perfectly circular entrance above the bridge of the nose. From the side, an X ray exposes an identical round shape resting against the back of the skull. The rubber bullet passed through the boy's forehead and brain. It smashed against the back of his skull, fracturing it, before coming to rest. At the morgue, Wael's X rays lie in a manila envelope, one of a pile, certifying the dead of the Aqsa intifadeh. There are 94 files recording the "martyrs" of the Gaza Strip. Here too is the rubber bullet that killed Wael. Its thin coating of black rubber was stripped away by the impact, leaving it a ridged, fawnish metal ball about half an inch in diameter and as heavy as a wristwatch. Before anyone invented high-tech machine guns and tank shells, this was the kind of bullet people used when they wanted to kill one another.
Mozna and Mohammed Imad buried Wael with a bloody gouge between his eyes where the bullet had entered. He still clung to the stone he had been about to throw. The surgeon at Shifa had been unable to free the rock from the rigor mortis in the boy's hand.
These are the deaths that keep Dr. Abdel Razq Masry awake each night. The only pathologist in the Gaza Strip, Masry records each of the intifadeh's victims. On Dec. 2, he went early in the morning to the morgue at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis. Laid out on the stainless-steel dissecting table was the small body of Mohammed Arja. Masry looked at the records sent up from Rafah, the town on the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt where Arja had been shot the previous day. The boy was 11. "I was angry as hell," Masry says. "I'd like to explode like one these damned bullets, I'm so angry."
Arja had been shot while he walked with his father to buy fruit, according to family members. The boy peered around a concrete barrier near the border fence and, as he turned, was hit by a large-caliber round through his neck. The exit wound tore out the boy's throat. Masry filled the throat with gauze, sewed the skin over it and put the child into one of the morgue's Japanese-made freezer trays at 3[Degrees]C. He pulled off the green mask he wears over his bushy gray beard as he works on the cadavers and went to his office to catch up on his death reports. He had a backlog.
3. Soldiers and the Tomb
The tall, crew-cut young man lifted a Maccabi beer bottle and bragged like a high school quarterback after a perfect touchdown pass. His friends sat around him, munching falafel at a simple restaurant in a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip. Their faces shone with admiration. The braggart pointed to his M-16A3. On the barrel of the assault rifle, with its special adjustments for use by a sniper, was a 2-in. silver cross etched into the black metal. "I got my first kill, and my commander put this on the gun for me," said the 20-year-old conscript.
He is a sniper in the Givati Brigade, serving in the Gaza Strip. The previous night the soldier had stood guard at Morag, a Jewish settlement near the Egyptian border. With his night-vision goggles, he noticed six Palestinians creeping toward the settlement. They dug a hole to hide a roadside bomb outside the settlement. Quietly he called his commander by radio and asked permission to strike. By the time he got the go-ahead, three of the Palestinians had left. Still, two were killed and one wounded. Then the company commander awarded the crosses. Amid the sniper's admiring friends was another sniper. He was quiet and sullen. His barrel bore no cross. "Not yet, but I'll get one," he muttered.
These snipers are the linchpin of Israel's military strategy in the Aqsa intifadeh. After the violent Hasmonean Tunnel riots of September 1996, started when Israel opened a tunnel near the golden Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the army decided to prepare for an even more terrible outbreak. Major General Giora Eiland, head of the army's operations division, was at the heart of this planning. A former commander of the Givati Brigade, Eiland insisted a few years back on buying the M-16A3 for the army, though most other generals didn't see the urgent need. Eiland believes it was a smart decision. Unlike the older model M-16s, the A3 is specifically designed as a sniper rifle.
The army's plan, developed in the past few years, was intended to keep control over Palestinian rioters without soldiers' shooting into crowds. Instead, Eiland's snipers would take positions above the rioters, picking off only the ringleaders and anyone carrying a gun or a Molotov cocktail. The strategy was a centerpiece of Operation Ebb and Flow, the army's code name for the low-level warfare it has waged around the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for more than two months. The accuracy of the snipers was supposed to reduce casualties. It was a logic that seemed clear after the scattershot exchanges of the tunnel riots killed at least 75 in a few days. What went wrong? Eiland has one of the army's keenest analytical minds. He speaks almost entirely in neatly memorized lists, usually organized in fives. His clear, blue eyes don't blink as he runs through the army's mistakes. Foremost is Israel's failure to acquire nonlethal weapons for riot control. At riots on the edges of every Palestinian town, the army progresses quickly from tear gas to rubber-coated metal bullets to live ammunition--though Eiland says the last step comes only when a soldier feels his life is clearly in danger or when Palestinians open fire. But the army wants to have a nonlethal solution, a way to keep angry protesters frozen 200 to 300 yds. from soldiers.
Part of the problem is that the sniper fire and rubber-bullet fire aren't as precise as hoped. Ricochets and wind deflection can send sniper bullets off target, killing bystanders or child rioters instead of gunmen. Rubber bullets can be lethal when used at short range.
The army angrily rebuts accusations that it's going over the top. There have been more than 3,100 live-fire incidents in 11 weeks. Such attacks, Eiland says, demand a live-fire reaction--but not, he insists, a free-fire one. Eiland tells TIME that the army is preparing to court-martial a soldier and an officer for firing live rounds when there was no clear threat to their life. But restraint has been a tough sell in Israel. Posters and banners read: LET THE ARMY WIN. Even centrist politicians argue that the army's hands are tied and that its "restraint" costs Israeli lives.
Tell that to the residents of the Aida refugee camp. Last week they became the shooting range in a battle between Israeli soldiers manning the fortress around Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem and Palestinian gunmen from the Tanzim militia. The battle was fought with machine guns and helicopter-launched missiles. But it also showed that the Israeli army believes it is fighting with one hand tied behind its back.
Late last Monday, Lieut. Colonel Yossi Mor peered through the 3-in.-thick bulletproof glass on the guard tower at Rachel's Tomb. The Jewish holy site had been under fire from three sides for four hours. Bullets slammed into the glass, bludgeoning it with starfish cracks, like ice on a pond. Mor spotted a muzzle flash from the Tanzim next to Aida's main mosque, 300 yds. away. "They want to make me hit the mosque and get the people more fired up," he thought at the time. Mor picked up the red phone that is on a direct line to his commander, Colonel Marcel Aviv. They spoke quickly, then Aviv listened in as Mor guided a helicopter into place above the target. At Mor's command, five missiles hammered into the refugee camp. Two hit the upper floors of the rough, cinder-block home of Omar Da'ajna. The Palestinian cook later said his children "shook like a tree in a storm" as they sheltered on the ground floor.
By midnight, the Palestinian gunmen stopped shooting. Mor, dour and darkly bearded, watched them pull back from the edge of the graveyard behind the tomb. They had got to within 40 yds. of his men. Mor picked up the red phone and called Aviv again, asking permission to take a squad into Aida to go after the shooters. Aviv was willing to hit the Palestinians hard. He had ordered a grenade machine gun to fire on the Palestinian town of Beit Jala that night, after Tanzim fighters opened up on the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo. But this was too much. Aida is in Area A, under the complete control of Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Sending soldiers in there would be dynamite. "No, Yossi," he said to Mor, "there are orders on this. We'll have to be patient."
4. Gunmen and Thunder
The Tanzim gunmen crouched at the side of the house. They aimed their Russian-made Kalashnikov rifles at the hilltop, where the edge of the Jewish settlement of Bracha glowed faintly through the trees. The bullets whizzed harmlessly through the night. At a range of half a mile, and fired by inexpert marksmen, they were no great threat. Minutes later, the Tanzim cleared out, leaving the residents of this small street on the edge of Nablus to face Israel's retribution. A heavy machine gun ripped through the metal gate that had provided the gunmen with their cover. Across the street, a tank shell thundered into Faisal Malawani's storeroom. The next morning, the charred concrete was still too hot to touch.
Israel's response to Palestinian riots has drawn the criticism of human-rights organizations. But also sometimes problematic is Israel's targeting of Palestinian gunmen who shoot from populated areas. Few argue that the Israelis should not shoot back when they come under fire. Israeli officers assert that they must respond to such attacks with considerable and accurate force. Palestinian sources concede that the Tanzim often fire from built-up areas, hoping Israel will strike back with superior firepower, angering ordinary Palestinians and pushing both Palestinians and Israelis into a yet more radical situation. The imbalance of firepower has inflamed Palestinians almost as much as the death of child rioters.
To try to deal with this, Israel is constantly refining its rules of engagement. It reviewed its tactics in the 1996 violence thoroughly. In Gilo, Colonel Aviv sent highly visible tanks to shoot at gunmen in Beit Jalla in order to boost residents' morale. But tanks are at their best firing over longer ranges and could take out an entire family if their aim is slightly off. Aviv moved in detachments of large-caliber machine-guns and grenade guns that do the job with less likelihood of a big and costly mistake. Still, as recently as last Friday, Israeli tanks were firing regularly at armed Palestinians, a sign also of the fact that the battle zone is becoming more lethal every week.
With Adil Salman's sons, the tanks made no mistake. Salman picks through the destruction of the old stone house near Nablus where his sons Nahid and Sami died last month. Adil is 67. He stoops shakily to pick through the rubble around the shallow indentation in the ground, a yard across, where the tank shell landed. Rearranging his white kaffiyeh with one hand, he reaches out for a piece of silvery metal. It is a foot long with 10 parallel grooves near one end, part of the shell that killed his sons. Nahid and Sami Salman were Tanzim gunmen. They went to this building on the edge of the village of Kafr Khalil to shoot at the side of the main road into Nablus. The tank's return fire was a direct hit. Adil straightens up and leans against the remains of the doorway. "We are fighting them with stones and old guns. They are fighting with planes, tanks and missiles," he says. "But whatever power they have, we will win, with God's help." As he speaks, the old man notices that where his hand rests on the stone wall, there is a long,
splattered bloodstain. He stares at it and is quiet.
WITH REPORTING BY JAMIL HAMAD/NABLUS, AHARON KLEIN/ BETHLEHEM, AND MARK THOMPSON/WASHINGTON
Here's my letter to the editors of TIME:
Your article "Fields Of Fire" is a travesty against fair reporting of the news. There is not one society, anywhere in the world, that would allow "children of stones" to disrupt life in their land. Your reporter should have began with the question "what kind of asociety allows "Wael Imad [to want] a one-way ticket to martyrdom?" Your reporter should have asked what was it that set the mind of a young child to want to throw stones and become a casualty far away from his home, so that he had to take money from hisfather to ride a taxi to an army outpost. Your reporter should have questioned why a smart boy like that would run past barbed wire fences in the face of warning from his friends, as they reported, "Hussein called to him to come back. He was too close. " They did not ask, and they did not report the background of the child's death.
Your reporters did not mention that Waed grew up under Palestinian control, an Authority that was granted to his people by the government of Israel, in an act of good will that was calculated to bring about the implementation of he Oslo accord, where Israel recognized Waed's rights to life and autonomy, while his teachers and leaders accepted the legitimate right of Israelis to peace and tranquility in their territory. Your reporters did not mention that the men behind theguns in the "outpost" at Erez were there because the Palestinian authority had more than forty thousand 'police' men armed with asault rifles and machine
guns, rocket launching granade guns and explosives which they inteded to use to kill the Jewish residents of villages and towns throughout the Land of Israel, contravening the spirit and the word of the Oslo accord, using subterfuge and deceit to achieve their goal: the expulsion of all the Jews from 'their homeland' of Palestine - which is all of Israel!
Nor did your reporters mention that the 'soldiers' were, in fact, not much more than children themselves. Boys of eighteen and nineteen, led by officers aged twenty, commanded by major rank officers of twenty five. You did not point outthat many of these boys are the children of fathers, or brothers of other boys who in a previous time of "children of stones" lost their lives because they took pity on a twelve years old Arab child, and paid the ultimate price of their lives when the child wielded a rock that killed as swiftly and mercilessly as the rubber pellet.
Your reporters twist the truth and try to get of the hook by over simplifying Arab wrong-doing. "And Palestinian hard-liners have committed their own atrocities,
beating two Israeli reservists to death and attacking an Israeli settler bus, killing two teachers and maiming several children." Palestinian "hardliners?" How about the entire squarefull of frenzied citizens of Ramallah? "Beat to death?" How about lynched innocent men that had been taken into custody bythe police? How about murdered and mutilated, and the perpetrators displaying their blood soaked arms (!) to a cheering and approving lynch mob? "Settler bus?" How about a school bus, carrying children to school? "Maining?" How about mutilating children, making them lose limbs, and wishing to take lives.
How does one fight an intractable enemy who wishes to see your entire nation wiped out? Do not think I am using inflamatory words to excuse the cause of Israel! I am actualy recalling words I heard a sheikh speak in a radio carried sermon from a mopsque in Gaza a number of weeks ago. As for the Palestine Authority's policy, one need only look at their official web page, where a map of Israel carries the legend "occupied Palestine." As for accessive force being used -- compaire your own report of 3,100 incidents with some 300 deaths to American peacekeeping records in Somalia, Panama, and the Gulf War... Israel is in a war, make no mistake about it. There will be casualties, and if the Palestinian leadership prepares its children for martyrdom, I guess there will be dead children. Let them put down the stones, andthe explosives, and the threat of Jihad, and walk in the ways of peace - and they will be amazed to discover how quickly Israeli brash young men with crew cut hair and a winning smile become partners in prosperity, brothers in building a better future for all peace-loving neighbors.
Charley Reese published an article, "Palestinians can absorb whatever Israel hurls at them" on July 17, in the Orlando, Florida Sentinel
The Israelis bulldozed another 14 Palestinian homes this week in a refugee camp in Gaza. The United States said the act was "provocative."
Actually, it was a war crime. Actually, what the Israelis have been doing to the Palestinians has been correctly characterized by the International Red Cross as war crimes and by a United Nations official as "an affront to civilization."
But, hey, you misled, sleeping Americans, you don't know what a breakthrough it is for the U.S. State Department to utter even the mildest criticism of some Israeli atrocity.
Wow. Golly gee whiz. Old George W. Bush promised he would provide leadership, and that's real leadership, calling a war crime "provocative." Finally, after eight months of refusing to utter even that bland a criticism, he managed to say the destruction of homes so precious to such terribly poor people is "provocative."
It is such an improvement over Warren Christopher. When he was secretary of state, the Israelis were indulging in one of their periodic and gratuitous artillery attacks against villages in South Lebanon.
A group of about 100 Lebanese women and children fled to a United Nations compound for safety. It didn't matter. The Israelis fired on it deliberately, as a subsequent U.N. investigation demonstrated. They were all killed, along with the U.N. peacekeepers. Bits and pieces of their flesh hung like grotesque decorations, dripping blood from shattered debris and blasted trees.
Do you know what Christopher said?
"The United States urges both sides to show restraint."
I wonder how he expected the shattered flesh of the dead Lebanese women and children to show restraint. Perhaps he thought that they should not bleed so profusely from their wounds. I think that was the very first time I felt ashamed to be an American, listening to that rat-faced, cold-blooded international lawyer brushing off an atrocity like a crumb on his expensive coat sleeve.
One day, Americans are going to wake up from more than 50 years of Zionist propaganda and suddenly feel like strangers in a strange land, to borrow the title of an old science-fiction work. They're finally going to see the simple truth:
Israelis drove Palestinians out of their own country and confiscated their land and wealth. Israelis refused to allow (and still refuse) Palestinian refugees to return, despite United Nations resolutions instructing them to do so.
In 1967, the Israelis attacked and took the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Since then, they have ruled it and still rule, despite U.N. resolutions against their actions.
Now, after dragging out so-called peace negotiations for 10 years "how can the simple question, "When are you going to withdraw from the territories you illegally occupy?" take 10 years?" the drama is heading toward a climax.
The Israelis have tried economic strangulation. They have tried to force the Palestinians to accept a chopped-up pseudo-country. They have tried killing their children, demolishing their homes and assassinating their leaders.
They tried uprooting their agricultural orchards and sealing the Palestinians off from normal travel. By the way, where are you environmentalists while the Israelis commit this environmental atrocity Don't you know how long it takes for an olive tree to reach maturity and
start bearing fruit? I thought you were concerned about the environment. Oh, excuse me â" not when it's a Palestinian environment. My mistake. I sometimes forget who is a hypocrite and who isn't, because there are so many these days.
What's next, of course, is for the Israelis to take off the bloody glove and commit one super massacre in an attempt to drive the Palestinians out or to break their spirit. This is what the Palestinians expect. They are bracing for it. They know that the Israelis have elected the one politician, Ariel Sharon, willing to do it.
They figure they can absorb that blow. If the survivors can rise from the rubble and say to the Israelis, "You can bury us here, but you can never drive us out of our own country," then the Israelis will have exhausted their options. They will dump Sharon and replace him with somebody who will finally, at long last, do some serious talking.
It's already terrible what the Palestinians are going through, and this new assault, when it comes, will be far worse. They need the support now of decent people with the courage to stand up for human rights. As you can see, the Bush administration prefers to remain on its knees. Most members of Congress are afraid even to do that. They prefer the supine position, total prostration.
If you can't find the courage to speak out against evil financed with your tax money, then at least watch as Palestinian children show you how real men and women live and die with honor.
At first I saw red, and I felt blue... So I wrote a reply and sent it in...
Mr. Reese does not have the most elementary knowledge of Israels struggle to survive in face of Arab and Moslem violence of more than a hundred years. He is not aware that Jews have lived in that land since the days of David and Solomon and even earlier. He is not aware that they were removed from the land by force, exiled and enslaved and made to suffer for eighteen hundred years. He is not familiar, it seems, with the fact that Jews are a compassionate people who stood at the forefront of civilized behavior for more than three millennia.
Complaining About "Israelis bulldozed another 14 Palestinian homes" and calling it "war crimes" is akin to calling a surgeon who removes a cancerous limb to keep a patient alive "a crazy butcher." Uttering words like "Wow. Golly gee whiz" may make him very folksy - but it does not entitle him to hurl insults and inaccuracies at a nation under siege.
It is very telling that Mr Reese chose to raise the issue of the incident at the U.N. camp rather than issues of the last nine months of violence. Indeed, Lebanese civilians were killed and wounded - because of a continuing threat to the existence of Israel that has existed since the 14th of May, 1948, when Israel was attacked by seven Arab nations on the day of its founding. Let us not forget that Israel invited its neighbors to live in peace. Let us keep in mind that the first "crime" in the Arab-Israel relations was the attack by seven member states of the United Nations, signatories to the U.N. Charter, calling for the resolution of international disputes by negotiations, rather than war.
The United Nations General Assembly voted to create a Jewish and an Arab nations on November 29, 1947. The very next day the first Jewish casualties lay dead. A Jewish man and woman were killed in a bus in Jerusalem. Is the fact that there were only two dead make it any less terrible than "about 100 Lebanese women and children?" Is it the fact that Israel is NOT having the same number of casualties that bothers Mr. Reese? Does the fact that the Arabs refuse to negotiate any kind of an end to warfare not move him at all? Does the fact that Israelis, from 1948 to this very day, insist on the right to self preservation while offering an olive branch to their neighbors seem that unreasonable?
Mr. Reeses "simple truth" are neither truth nor simple!
He claims that "Israelis drove Palestinians out of their own country and confiscated their land and wealth." but the facts are that there has never been a Palestinian state, and the land in question used to belong to the state that held sovereignty in 1881 it was the Ottoman Empire. In 1922 it was Great Britain, and after 1948 it was the sovereign State of Israel for the territory under Israels control, Jordan for Judea and Samaria, and Egypt for the Gaza district. Israel did not prevent the creation of a Palestinian state from 1949 to 1967. Who did? Who refused to move on from armistice agreements to peace and resolution of the refugee issue during those years? Who promised a "second round" to change history and restore Arab hegemony and engaged in an arms race that cost billions? A tithe of that amount could have settled all the refugees, the Arabs who left Israel, and a like-number of Jews who left everything they owned behind and escaped Arab lands for the haven of the new Jewish state.
Mr Reese states, "In 1967, the Israelis attacked and took the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Since then, they have ruled it and still rule" which is quite correct. He just fails to mention that Israel sued for peace at U.N. headquarters immediately after the guns fell silent - and were answers by Arab defiance in the resolution of the Khartoum Arab conference, "NO recognition, NO negotiations, NO peace." That is why neither the democracies nor even the totalitarian regimes forced Israel to return lands conquered in a defensive war at a great cost in Israeli lives.
Now we come to the crux of the issue, and Mr. Reeses greatest distortion of facts. He says, "after dragging out so-called peace negotiations for 10 years" in fact, there have been no peace negotiations! The Oslo agreement was a pre-peace accord, calling on the sides to make accommodations to learn to live with one another, to build confidence in each others good will and honesty. Israel recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Israel turned over to the PLO (who, by their own definition, were the sworn mortal enemy of the Jewish state, seeking its total destruction) first Jericho and the Gaza strip, and eventually the territory where 95% of Palestinian Arabs live. Israel agreed to the establishment of an armed police force and even gave the Palestinian Authority the weapons to arm that police force. The PLO was supposed to renounce violence and the resorting to arms to resolve the conflict. Yet, from the day of the signing of the accord they continued the violence, they reneged on the promise to avoid violence, they increased the hate propaganda in their media, in print, in the schools, and on T.V. and radio. They have killed hundreds of Israelis, some of them with the very arms Israel turned over to them to police their own people.
How strange that the same people who complain about Israel occupation or Arab land insist that Israel has an obligation to employ Palestinians. Mr. Reese says, "The Israelis have tried economic strangulation" Please, does Israel have to accept possible terrorists to come into its homes and businesses so that they would not suffer economic harm? And, by the way, where was his complaint when the Arab world engaged in an economic boycott of Israel for more than fifty years? Why does he complain about "uprooting their agricultural orchards" but has no complaint of thousands of acres of forests destroyed by Arab arsonists? Why complain of "sealing the Palestinians off from normal travel" and say nothing of Palestinians shooting Israeli men, women and children, innocent civilians, killing some, maiming and devastating many others?
Mr. Reese does not mention what the Palestinians themselves have stated - that their goal is the erasing of the Jewish state. They speak of Israelis as "Occupiers," but they are not talking of the land that was in Jordanian and Egyptian hands before 1967! They are speaking of the entire land mass west of the Jordan river. They want Jerusalem, complete, and Tel-Aviv as well. As Arabs escalate the violence, they malign Israels leaders - Sharon this month, Barak last year, and all the others that came before them. However, the leaders are all good men, brave and honest and compassionate, willing to give respect and help to any and all who will live in peace with them.
The American people are aware, thank God, that Israel is a sister nation, a land founded on law and on love of peace and brotherhood. They also know that "real men and women" are not those who are willing to throw stones at soldiers who do not wish to shoot at them, that "real men and women" are not the ones who are willing to explode a charge placed by some other "patriot" on their body, to kill innocent boys and girls, to enter an x-rated paradise where they can engage in gratuitous perverted sex forever as a reward for their hateful act of violence.
Mr. Reese does not konw, I think, that many Palestinians are sick and tired of a leadership that takes for granted that the people are willing to live in poverty and die without end and without meaning for the politicians glory and profit. There is evil in the Middle East, Mr. Reese and it is newsmen like you who help perpetuate it. Real children dont have an inkling of an idea, and should not have an idea, of how "to live and die." They should be protected by their parents and their society. They should be taught love and justice and mercy. They should learn to respect their neighbors - and they should have no shadow of death hiding them from the blessing of the Mediterranean sun. Talk peace, Mr. Reese. Avoid hate and strife, preach life!
On February 2nd, 2003, Shukri Salameh wrote a letter to the editor of the Jacksonville, FL Times Union whose title was"Israel did not comply with resolution." I went this reply:
To the Editor:
Mr. Shukri Salamehs letter requires an answer. It is a bare-faced lie that the Palestinians inhabited the land for two thousand years. Arabs came out of the Arabian desert after the advent of Islam in the seventh century, but the Holy Land was never a great center of Arab population, and certainly by the middle ages it had become a "God forsaken" land that men shunned as well. In 1867, the great American author, Mark Twain, visited the Holy Land, and wrote about it in his book, Innocent Abroad: "...There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extend, not for 30 miles in either direction... To this region one of the prophecies is applied: I will bring the land into desolation; and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it... No man can stand here by deserted Ain Mallahah and say that the prophecy has not been fulfilled!
"Gray lizards, those heirs of ruin, of sepulchers and desolation, glided in and out among the rocks or lay still and sunned themselves..." But then Jews started to come back to the land from exile, and reclaim its waste. They built farms and planted orchards of fruit trees. Until the British Mandate of 1921 there was no "Palestine," there was only "Southern Syria," and Moslem Arabs were attacking Jews in the few villages that the Jews built on lands they purchased from landowners who took advantage of Jews wishing to return to their ancient homeland.
As for the second half of the twentieth century: five Arab nations that were members of the U.N. in 1947, and therefore pledged to peaceful resolution of international disputes, declared a war of annihilation against the U.N. recommended Jewish state. It was they who prevented the creation of the Arab Palestinian state, while the Jews called for peace and cooperation between Jews and Arabs for the benefit of both people.
"Illegal occupation" is a propaganda catch phrase Israels neighbors use, referring not only to areas occupied in 1967 after yet another attempt to overrun and destroy the Jewish state, but to all areas that are in the hands of Jews. And yes, Mr. Salameh, it is an Islamic issue. Ask the Christian Arabs who have been persecuted, intimidated and scared out of their homes and businesses in Bethlehem and elsewhere. You know very well that the graffiti in the refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank used to read, "First the Saturday people - then the Sunday people..."
While whispering the magic formula of "U.N. resolutions" which Israel supposedly violated, would he please explain how a "Palestinian Authority" came into being? Was it Egypt that created it? (NO!) Was it Syria? (NO!) Was it the U.N.? (NO!) It was Israel, the only nation in the history of the world who defended itself against a threat of annihilation five times, won all five wars, and then, in a show of magnanimity and good will, returned occupied territories three times the size of it national territory to Egypt - and gave a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction a chance to prove that it could become a civilized national entity striving for peace.
However, the "Palestinian Authority" failed to build bridges of peace, choosing instead to train children to commit suicide murders to further its nefarious cause. After a century of unremitting violence and perfidy - who would be foolish enough to believe the peace proclamations of men whose hands are red with the blood of the innocents of four and five generations?
Is there hope? Always! However, any Arab who wishes to see peace must first give Israel a couple of generations of non-aggression. Cease and desist from bellicose claims of "fire and blood to reclaim the homeland" and raise children to play chess and soccer rather be "shahids."
"It has been told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you: only to do justice, and to love loving mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." [Micah 6:8]
Rabbi E. Ben-Yehuda,
Beth El Beaches synagogue
Ponte Vedra, Florida