Berkeley students chant for intifada [video]


A video of UC Berkeley students chanting in support of an intifada “just hours…after the stabbing of a 72 year old Jewish civilian on a bus” was shared on the Facebook page of pro-Israel group StandWithUs on Wednesday.

“Shocking: right now on the campus of UC Berkeley, students participate in a ‘day of action’ and explicitly chant ‘we support the intifada,’ just hours after this ‘intifada’ resulted in the stabbing of a 72 year old Jewish civilian on a bus,” according to the Facebook page of StandWithUs, which combats anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses.

“Where is their moral compass!?” the StandWithUs Facebook page adds, in reference to the UC Berkeley students depicted in the video, which you can view below.

Deadly incidents, many of them stabbings, have been taking place on an almost daily basis in Israel this past month, prompting observers to predict that an intifada—a Palestinian uprising—is imminent. If an intifada were to occur, it would be the third intifada since Israel’s founding in 1948. 

 

 

 

Shocking: right now on the campus of UC Berkeley, students participate in a “day of action” and explicitly chant “we support the intifada,” just hours after this “intifada” resulted in the stabbing of a 72 year old Jewish civilian on a bus. Days ago, this “intifada” led to the stabbing of a 13-year-old Israeli child in the streets of Jerusalem…and last week, the murder of Eitam and Naama Henkin in front of 4 of their children. Where is their moral compass!?#StopIncitement

Posted by StandWithUs on Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Akko riots expose Israel’s Arab-Jewish tinderbox


JERUSALEM (JTA)—The rioting in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Akko, which erupted after an Arab man drove through a Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur, shows just how combustible Arab-Jewish relations in Israel are.

Yet after four successive nights of clashes, in which rampaging Arabs stoned Jewish-owned shops and cars as Jewish mobs torched Arab homes, there was no sign of the violence spreading to other mixed-ethnic cities such as Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth or Lod.

Nor did the current Jewish-Arab tensions appear likely to reach the proportions they did following October 2000, when Israeli police shot dead 12 Israeli Arabs and a visitor from the West Bank in clashes across northern Israel that coincided with the launching of the second Palestinian intifada.

But the rioting in Akko is more than an isolated violent episode in need of containment. Even if the rioting abates, it is sounding warning bells for the Israeli government. Jewish-Arab tensions in Akko and in the country as a whole have been simmering under the surface for years. The rioting was an expression of Arab frustration and Jewish mistrust.

The latest trouble started on the eve of Yom Kippur, Oct. 8. On this holiest day of the Jewish calendar, everything in Israel comes to a halt. For the duration of the 25-hour fast, businesses and places of entertainment are shuttered, and the roads are virtually free of cars. Even completely secular Jews and non-Jewish Israelis refrain from driving in Jewish neighborhoods.

So when an Akko Arab drove his car into a Jewish neighborhood that night, reportedly blaring loud music, the act seemed like a deliberate provocation.

Angry Jews forced the car to stop, pulled out the driver and beat him. News of the beating quickly spread across the city, and from the mosques Arabs were called upon to avenge what by then had been exaggerated to “two Arabs murdered by Jews.”

Hundreds took to the streets, mostly young, masked men who marched into the main Jewish neighborhood smashing shop windows, shattering car windows, slashing tires and torching vehicles. In retaliation, Jewish mobs set fire to several Arab homes in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Police appeared to be overwhelmed by the rioters.

The pattern repeated itself for the next three days and nights. Gradually the police ramped up their response, and by Monday hundreds of police officers were deployed in the city backed up by the Israeli army’s border police. More than 60 arrests were made.

To help defuse the tension, Akko Mayor Shimon Lankri postponed Akko’s annual Fringe Theater festival, explaining that the political content of some of the plays could further aggravate tensions. In any case, he said, audiences would stay away given the new of the riots.

“This is not a time for celebrations,” he declared.

But some saw in Lankri’s announcement an attempt to punish the city’s Arabs, saying Arab businesses benefit most from the business the festival brings to the city.

Meanwhile, right-wing Jewish extremist groups and radical Arab agitators tried to fan the flames while Israel’s political leaders—including some Arab leaders—struggled to restore calm.

Some Jewish extremists called for a boycott of Arab businesses, while Hamas leaders urged Israeli Arabs to start a “third intifada.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused extremists on both sides of “holding the city ransom.”

Mostly, however, leaders on both sides issued appeals for calm and a quick return to coexistence. After meeting Monday with Jewish and Arab religious and community leaders in Akko, President Shimon Peres said he was optimistic and “surprised at the degree of willingness for dialogue on both sides.”

Earlier, Arab community leaders had issued an apology for the desecration of the Jewish holy day. The Arab driver went to a televised meeting in Jerusalem of the Knesset’s Interior Committee, where he said he had not intended any provocation but had made a terrible error of judgment: He said he thought that because it was very late at night, no one would notice his car driving into the mostly Jewish neighborhood where he lived.

In a square outside city hall in Akko, members of the Mapam-affiliated Shomer Hatzair youth movement built a sukkah and invited both Arabs and Jews to visit in a spirit of reconciliation.

One of the first guests was Arab Knesset member Abbas Zakoor, an Akko resident and a member of the radical Raam-Taal party. Arab Knesset members, who often resort to inflammatory language as they compete for an increasingly radicalized Arab constituency, have played a remarkably conciliatory role in the current unrest.

Paradoxically, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which were meant to resolve the Israeli-Arab predicament, have sharpened tensions between Israeli Arabs and Jews.

Israeli Arabs see their Palestinian cousins, once sworn enemies of the Jews, being offered full statehood, while they, citizens of the Israeli state, are ignored. They still recall with anger the October 2000 clashes in which Israeli police opened fire on Arab rioters. The Arabs point to the harsh police response—Israeli police don’t use live fire against Jewish demonstrators—as evidence of the double standard often applied to Israeli Arab citizens.

Similarly, some Israeli Jews point to the riots of eight years ago as a reminder that Israel’s Arab citizens cannot be trusted: When the Palestinians launched their intifada that month, Israel’s Arabs rioted in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The Orr Commission set up to investigate the 2000 clashes found “years of discrimination” against Israeli Arabs and urged the government to do more to promote Jewish-Arab equality and provide Arab and Jewish municipalities with proportionately equal budgets. This has not happened.

In 2006, Israeli Arab leaders moved to a more publicly critical stance on the Jewish state, producing a document seeking virtual autonomy for the Arab minority and calling for an end to the Jewish character of the state. Titled the “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel,” the paper demanded veto rights and autonomy in domestic affairs, rejected Jewish symbols of state and provided a narrative of colonial conquest by Jews, naming Israeli Arabs as the land’s only indigenous people.

With the background of the ongoing Israeli-Arab conflict and day-to-day tensions between Israeli Arabs and Jews, particularly in mixed cities like Akko, the rioting there really should have come as no surprise. All that’s needed is something incendiary to set the two sides aflame.

Elie Rekhess, the director of the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at Tel Aviv University, says Arab-Jewish relations in Israel are a powder keg waiting to explode. If Akko is not the trigger, something else will be, Rekhess says—unless the government finds a way to give Israeli Arabs a sense of truly shared citizenship.

Bombings Damage Peace Plan Further


Israel had feared an outbreak of terror attacks this week after its failed airstrike against the founder of Hamas and the resignation of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

The fears soon came true.

Two suicide bombings struck the Jewish State Tuesday, killing at least 15 victims and wounding dozens. The two attacks left the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan in tatters and marked a new surge of deadly violence in the nearly 3-year-old intifada.

Also this week, Ahmed Karia accepted a nomination to replace Abbas.

A suicide bomb attack at a crowded Jerusalem cafe on Tuesday night claimed at least eight lives, including the bomber, and wounded dozens. Tuesday night’s bombing, which wounded dozens, occurred at the Cafe Hillel in a trendy neighborhood of Jerusalem.

A security guard at Cafe Hillel, a popular hangout for young people in Jerusalem’s German Colony, tried to stop the bomber from going inside, police said, but the bomber managed to push his way in. That attack came just hours after another suicide bomber killed at least seven Israelis and wounding 15 others at a bus stop near the Tzrifin military base near Rishon LeZion.

Hamas praised both attacks.

Israel reacted to the attacks with a retaliatory strike of its own Wednesday, killing three people. A Hamas official, Mahmoud Zahar, who was the target of the strike in the Gaza Strip, escaped with light injuries. But his son, another family member and a bodyguard were killed, and his wife and daughter injured.

Also Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cut short his visit to India and returned to Israel to discuss other possible responses to the bombings.

The attack at the base drew pronounced U.S. condemnation.

"We certainly condemn in the strongest possible terms the horrific act of terrorism today," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "This underscores the urgency with which the Palestinian Authority needs to take immediate and effective steps to dismantle and disarm the terrorist capabilities of organizations that take innocent lives in order to prevent the peace process from going forward."

Israel’s airstrike Saturday in Gaza lightly wounded Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the blind, paraplegic cleric who founded Hamas, along with 15 others. Yassin was meeting with other Hamas leaders in an apartment building.

"It’s us or them," Sharon told Israel’s daily Yediot Achronot over the weekend, referring to the leaders of Hamas. "They are dead men. We won’t give them any rest since they have just one goal, our destruction."

Karia condemned the suicide attacks.

"Such an act stresses once again [the need for] ways to end this killing," Karia said, speaking before the attack in Jerusalem. Karia said he regretted that innocent lives are lost "as a result of violence and counterviolence."

Karia, considered a pragmatist, is a veteran of the PLO and one of the architects of the Oslo accords. During the past decade, he has served in several positions in the Palestinian Authority. Most recently, he was speaker of the Palestinian legislative council.

On Tuesday, Karia told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz that in order for him to be successful as prime minister, Israel must halt its assassinations of Palestinian terrorists, freeze settlements in the West Bank and end its isolation of Arafat.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israel would not cooperate with a prime minister who followed Arafat’s orders and refused to crack down on the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure.

Tuesday’s terrorist attacks highlighted what that infrastructure can achieve.

"To see all these cars ground to a halt, and the helicopters in the air, the dozens of police cars and ambulances is to remember that we have a crying need for an unrelenting effort to stop this war," said Stephen P. Cohen of the Israel Policy Forum, who was in the Rishon LeZion area when the bombing occurred. "There could be no better use of the president’s time and efforts."

If Karia is to succeed, he will have to navigate the political waters better than Abbas. In his short-lived tenure as prime minister, Abbas repeatedly clashed with Arafat over Palestinian Authority policy, particularly regarding control of the Palestinian security services. But in his resignation speech before Palestinian lawmakers, Abbas placed the blame on Israel and the United States for undermining his government.

"The fundamental problem was Israel’s unwillingness to implement its commitments in the road map," he said. He also indirectly criticized Arafat and other Palestinian leaders, emphasizing "harsh and dangerous domestic incitement against his government."

After Abbas’ resignation, members of Sharon’s Cabinet repeated their calls for harsh measures against Arafat for undermining peace efforts. Some ministers called for exiling Arafat.

Israel and the United States accuse Arafat of supporting terrorist attacks and of blocking Abbas’ efforts to implement the road map. Israeli officials have even suggested that Arafat be killed. Palestinians warn that any successor to Arafat in the West Bank and Gaza would be marked from the outset as an Israeli patsy and that exile would amplify Arafat’s power.

Cycle of Bloodshed


There is a new rhythm to the terror attacks against Israelis: They are coming in one-two punches, leaving the country staggering.

On Saturday, March 2, a suicide bomber killed 11 people in Jerusalem, and the following morning, a Palestinian sniper killed 10 soldiers and settlers at an army checkpoint in the West Bank. Then on Monday, March 4, a gunman sprayed bullets at a Tel Aviv restaurant, killing three people. The following morning, a bus bomber killed a man in Afula, and a sniper killed a woman driving in the West Bank. On Wednesday, two Israeli soldiers and seven palestinians were killed as the Israeli army retaliated for a Hamas rocket attack Tuesday in the Negev.

These one-two attacks follow blistering Israeli barrages on Palestinian cities and refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, which kill 15 or more Palestinians a day. Right-wingers in the Sharon government want to use the full force of Israel’s military superiority to simply devastate the Palestinians, their leaders and the infrastructure of their society — to wage a war of unbridled destruction. The Labor Party, on the other hand, is hinting that it will leave the national unity government if the war continues to escalate with no political solution in sight.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Ariel Sharon repeats that he will not "drag Israel into a full-scale war." Instead he steadily escalates Israel’s military assaults, and the Palestinians do the same.

There are war clouds over Israel. The somberness and tension on the faces of people Tuesday morning after the lethal attacks in Tel Aviv, Afula and outside Jerusalem, were reminiscent of the mood here on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War.

Israel Television military correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai reported that security forces were currently aware of 30 different terrorists on their way to attacks in 30 different spots. Army officials say that since the start of the intifada, about 10 percent of planned attacks have been "successful." The other 90 percent have been foiled by soldiers, police or alert citizens or have gone awry, usually because a bomb failed to explode.

As the saying goes, do the math: Three out of 30 terrorists can kill a lot of people.

Israelis are reeling as terror attacks fall one after the other. People see that the government and the Army, while inflicting massive casualties and damage on the Palestinians, are not providing Israelis more security; the opposite is the case. Israelis want a solution, but they don’t want a solution that smacks of surrender, of suing for peace, because a cowering Israel would be defenseless against a Palestinian nation that smelled fear.

One sign of the unraveling of Israeli composure was seen in the pipe bombing of a Palestinian school in East Jerusalem, in which eight people, mainly students, were lightly injured. An unknown Jewish organization called, "Revenge of the Infants," claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the current situation, talk of "unilateral separation" — of withdrawing from Gaza and most of the West Bank, uprooting some 50,000 settlers and building a fortified border to keep Palestinians from entering Israel — has faded. Likewise, the recent proposal by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah — that Israel give the Palestinians Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in return for Arab recognition of Israel — isn’t being discussed seriously.

Still, few Israelis are prepared to assume control again for 3.5 million Palestinians. A majority favor land-for-peace, but in negotiations where Israel is dealing from a position of strength, or at least equality, not weakness.

Dr. Meil Pa’il, a veteran Israeli peace activist and military historian, proposes that the Army do what the right-wing wants — mop up the Palestinians, make them sue for peace but then negotiate a withdrawal from the territories. But while the current government might go along with the first stage of this plan, it is dead set against the second.

Israel’s gradual reentry into the territories is exactly what Yasser Arafat wants, says Ben-Yishai. Arafat’s strategy is to lure Israel into wreaking havoc in the territories, after which the international community would be compelled to send forces into the West Bank and Gaza to get between the two sides, thereby paving the way for the world to impose the solution it has long favored: a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, with Israel withdrawing its settlers and soldiers from those areas.

Many on the Israeli left would welcome international intervention; they are convinced the Israelis and Palestinians are incapable of settling the conflict, or even containing it, on their own. But neither the United States, NATO or any other Western power is interesting in getting involved in the Israeli-Palestinian war, and the Sharon government is not interested in welcoming them in.

The intifada’s damage to Israel is not only in security. The Finance Ministry says it has cost the Israeli economy some $5 billion — the equivalent of half the annual defense budget, or nearly two years’ worth of U.S. aid.

For the Palestinians part, they see the intifada as their "war of independence," says Palestinian affairs expert Reuven Paz. Their role model, he says, is the Algerians, who ran France out of their country after a seven-year guerrilla war that ended in 1962. The French killed over 200,000 Algerians in that war, while losing some 20,000 French soldiers and civilians. In the 18-month intifada, Israel has killed fewer than 1,000 Palestinians, while losing some 300 soldiers and civilians. The history of modern guerrilla war is a great source of encouragement for the Palestinians and of foreboding for Israel.

In or Out?


"We have no intention of reconquering the Palestinian areas," Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told a news conference this week, repeating a common refrain of the Sharon government. Then he added a new twist, saying that Israel would not reoccupy Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps "unless they force us to."

This is the direction Israel’s war against the intifada is taking. The status quo of the Israeli army’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza during the intifada is that soldiers deploy in and around settlements, around — but not inside — Palestinian cities and villages and patrol the roads between them.

However, ground incursions into Gaza and West Bank population centers — in Oslo terms, Area A — have become increasingly common, lasting for longer periods and involving more fighting and bloodshed as the guerrilla war goes on. The most visible example of Israel’s willingness to invade Palestinian turf is the siege that Israeli tanks and troops have laid to Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters.

Now there is a new incentive for Israeli infantry to go into Area A — the Kassam 2 missile, the first two of which were fired this week from Gaza. Palestinian missile launchers in Gaza and the West Bank have the ability to hit Ben-Gurion International Airport.

The missiles are primitive, inaccurate and in all likelihood less life-threatening than a suicide bomber. However, if they are employed against Israeli population centers, they create a situation whereby citizens of Israel proper cannot feel safe in their own homes. Sharon has warned that if the Palestinians fire the Kassam 2, it would ratchet up the war to a new level, and Israel would respond "in a manner that has not been seen until now."

By Wednesday, Israeli officials upped the ante. In what was described as Israel’s biggest operation in the Gaza Strip since the intifada began more than 16 months ago, large numbers of infantry, tanks and bulldozers entered three Gaza towns late Tuesday night.

As Palestinian gunmen, bombers and missiles come out of Area A in greater numbers, Israel’s leadership is coming up against a hard fact: If you want to fight terror, you have to go where the terrorists are.

There is a power vacuum in Gaza and the West Bank, and slowly Israeli troops are moving in to fill it. The difference between 1967-93 and 2002, however, is that the Palestinian population has ballooned to 3.3 million.

In addition, the Palestinians have tens of thousands of guns and heavier weapons, and hundreds — if not thousands — of young men and, evidently, a few women willing to die and kill for their cause. The one thing the Palestinans have less of than before is fear.

As Israel moves closer to the heart of the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli peace camp is moving in the opposite direction toward a unilateral withdrawal of soldiers and settlers from all of Gaza and isolated West Bank settlements. This marks a departure for the Israeli Left, which until now has favored a withdrawal only by negotiations with the Palestinians.

For nearly 17 months, Israel seems to have been caught in a political gridlock — stuck in a war of attrition with the Palestinians, with no attractive alternative being presented by the opposition. But the steady escalation of the fighting and bloodshed is beginning to force some movement — a polarization between the forces of the right, who still put their faith in soldiers and weaponry, and those on the left, who never had faith in those and have lost their faith in talking with the enemy, as well.

U.S. Aid Used for Basic


The 16-month-old intifada has taken its toll on American-supported projects in Palestinian areas, with money being shifted from infrastructure, health care and natural resources to more basic needs for a people in economic collapse.

Contrary to popular belief, U.S. aid does not go to the Palestinian Authority, government officials say.

The average of $75 million designated annually for the West Bank and Gaza Strip is distributed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Formerly earmarked for development projects, many of USAID’s projects have been suspended or terminated as priorities have shifted to more basic needs such as emergency employment programs and health assistance.

Larry Garber, USAID’s mission director for the West Bank and Gaza, said Israel’s security closures of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have left about 75,000 Palestinians unemployed. A majority of Palestinians, according to Garber, live on less than $2 a day.

International organizations such as the World Bank’s Holst Fund, the European Union and Arab states also provide money to the region, often giving funds directly to the Palestinian Authority.

With corruption rampant in the Palestinian Authority — one year, more than 40 percent of the Palestinian Authority’s $800 million budget could not be accounted for — congressional legislation prevents the U.S. government from giving money directly to the Palestinian Authority.

Instead, it provides aid to nongovernmental organizations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Garber said the agency tries to ensure that the organizations it supports are not linked to terrorist organizations.

But a Congressional Research Service report last April suggested that funds may be inadvertently landing in the Palestinian Authority’s hands.

"It is possible that some U.S. assistance provided to the Holst Fund, contractors, or private organizations does reach PLO members or organizations through indirect means, but it is not the intention of USAID or the Department of State to provide funding directly to the PLO," the report said.

The budget for assistance to the West Bank and Gaza has grown since 2000, as the United States maintained its commitment under the 1998 Wye Accords to provide the Palestinians an additional $400 million over three years.

Most of the $400 million has not yet been spent, as conditions on the ground are not ripe for development. If the money is not earmarked by the end of this fiscal year, it will be lost. But, there are "contingency plans" to prevent that from happening, Garber said.

A year ago, the State Department earmarked an additional $8.8 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency to address emergency needs of Palestinian refugees.

The additional aid places the Palestinian territories among the top five recipients of U.S. assistance programs in terms of total size, and probably the largest recipient on a per-capita basis, Garber said.

Historically, a majority of the aid has been spent on improving access to and management of water resources, providing services to local governments and strengthening legal and democratic institutions. A smaller amount has been spent on economic growth, health care and educational programs.

U.S. aid to the Palestinians has caused concern in Congress. last year, several pieces of legislation were introduced to cut nonhumanitarian aid to the region. However, none made it to the floor. Earlier this month, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) introduced a bill to cut all aid to the West Bank and Gaza. That bill still is pending.

Washington Reassesses


The Bush administration, reeling from a week of explosive developments on the troubled Israeli-Palestinian front, is reexamining even its limited efforts to win a cease-fire in the 16-month-old intifada.

That reassessment — that resulted in this week’s indefinite postponement of a new Mideast mission by U.S. special envoy Anthony Zinni — comes as officials here and in Jerusalem digest disturbing revelations about Yasser Arafat’s involvement in a recent arms smuggling scheme and his deepening involvement with Iran.

But few observers expect Washington to pull the plug on relations with Arafat, largely because they see no alternative to the Palestinian leader.

"There should be a major reassessment," said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). "The hesitation comes from the fact that no one in the government really seems to know what would happen if that reassessment led to a break with the P.A."

Zinni was expected to return to the region late this week. His last mission was effectively scuttled by the discovery of the massive Palestinian arms smuggling operation by Israel two weeks ago.

But on Monday, State Department officials indicated that a date had not been set for his return, signaling that even the limited goal of pressing for a reduction in the level of violence was being put on hold in the wake of the arms seizure controversy and the deteriorating situation on the ground. That situation included a flurry of new violence, and the promise of more to come.

On Tuesday, a major Fatah militia leader died in an explosion that Palestinian leaders termed an Israeli "assassination," but that Israeli officials called a "work accident."

The killing touched off a new rampage by Palestinian gunmen. Victims included Avi Boaz, 71, an Israeli civilian with dual U.S. citizenship, who was abducted and murdered; and Yoela Chen, 47, an Israeli woman, who was killed near Jerusalem. Israel Radio also reported that rockets capable of hitting many Israeli cities and towns had already been smuggled into Palestinian Authority-held territory.

This week, Israeli officials were spinning a story of a growing alliance between Tehran and the Palestinian Authority that began almost a year ago.

"While Washington is talking about signs of moderation in Tehran, the leaders there may sense that they can push the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the edge into all-out war," said an official with a major Jewish organization. "And if that happens, they want to be part of it."

News of Iran’s involvement comes at a time when pressure is mounting in Washington for an easing of sanctions on the Tehran regime; Iran’s apparent decision to stir the Israeli-Palestinian pot with tons of illegal weapons could bring that effort to a screeching halt.

"Assuming the facts are as reported and that Iran is now directly involved in supplying the P.A., it would be a major escalation," said Shaul Bakhash, a professor at George Mason University and a top Iran expert. "It would have serious repercussions for U.S.-Iran relations."

David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the arms smuggling incident and Iran’s role in it are "very troubling" and could lead to new U.S.-Israel friction as the allies bring very different perspectives to bear on dangerous new developments in the region.

"Israel views this ship incident as a seminal event which demonstrates Arafat’s duplicity beyond any shadow of a doubt; the Bush administration believes that anything it says publicly about it will take them down a road they don’t want to go on — a leap into the unknown of the post-Arafat era," he said

Israel expects a sharp change in U.S. policy to "marginalize and delegitimize" Arafat because the Palestinian leader was clearly preparing for more terror and possibly all-out war, Makovsky said.

But Washington, which believes that what follows Ararat will likely be worse, wants desperately to avoid judgments that would leave them no option but to cut relations with Arafat.

"Washington just wants to see this as a blip on the screen, Makovsky said. "I don’t see it that way. It’s a violation of all the Israeli-Palestinian agreements, and it undermines the very premise of peacemaking."

Washington also has different interests in dealing with the Tehran connection.

If Iraq is the next target in the U.S. war against terrorism, Makovsky said, U.S. officials "want the Israeli-Palestinian situation to be as quiet as possible — and they don’t want more conflict with Iran. So this incident doesn’t fit into America’s view of its interests.

Islam Is the Answer


I was visiting a dear Palestinian Muslim friend in Jerusalem some years ago during the first intifada. I had noticed that he was becoming more religiously observant at the time. His wife had begun covering her hair, and he was more punctilious in his prayers and in what he ate and drank. His cousin and business partner had made the Hajj pilgrimage, and he was also making plans to do so.

During one of our many conversations, he lamented the failure of the world to help the Palestinians create a future for themselves. The West had failed them, as had the communist world. The pan-Arabism of Egypt’s Nasser had failed, as well as had other expressions of secular nationalism. It was clear that he was seeking a political, as well as an existential, answer in his return to religious tradition. Islam had become a vehicle for his own personal and communal quest, and he was relieved and comforted by his increased observance.

I also noticed during that visit that many children were running around within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem with a T-shirt that said in Arabic, “Islam Is the Answer.” No question appeared on the T-shirt.

Back in the United States today, the public debate is beginning to slow over whether Islam is to blame for the horrific events of Sept. 11 and the great increase in terrorism by Muslims during the past few decades. It is slowing, in part, because Americans are gaining more insight into the complexities of the contemporary Middle East, thanks to the sudden surfeit of articles in the print media and on the Internet.

While much of the material out there is still shallow, partisan or simply full of errors, some excellent essays have been produced that have clearly raised the level of discussion. The debate seems to be concluding with a consensus forming around the position that Islam is not the cause of this terrorism. Rather, the cause is rooted in a complex bundle of factors.

These factors include the failure of the Middle East to compete with the West economically, politically and militarily in the modern era; and more than a century of Western colonialism, imperialism and now globalism that have successfully exploited Middle Eastern resources cheaply and caused great hardship and resentment among the local populace.

Other contributing factors are bad Middle-Eastern governments run by brutal and selfish leaders who have no desire to share the national wealth with their citizens, plus a narrowing of the direction of anger since America has emerged in the last decade as the greatest and most visible world power.

On the other hand, despite our growing realization that Islam is not the cause of this conflict, we have learned that — at least to those terrorists who justify their violence according to what they interpret as Islamic values — this is a religious war. We have not taken the bait. In fact, our refusal to target Islam, despite the religious rhetoric of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, has been exemplary.

It is true that the politics of this war require that we remain careful not to alienate Muslim countries and friends on whom we must rely today. But we have, as a whole, also demonstrated moral and intellectual integrity when we refuse to wage a war against Islam.

There are good Muslims and bad Muslims, just as there are good Christians and bad Christians. We have been careful to separate Islam and terrorism. But many of us still feel uneasy. If there are lots of good Muslims out there, as we suspect, why aren’t they standing up en masse and condemning the likes of Osama, Hamas and Islamic Jihad?

This is very troubling. If Islam is not the cause, then why aren’t Muslims doing more to separate themselves from the radicals? We just aren’t getting what we really want from the “good Muslims” we know are out there. We want them to show us that they are just like us, that they are civilized like we are, that they share our American values of pluralism, universalism and individual autonomy and freedom.

It’s not going to happen. Not now and not soon. Oh, there are clearly some Westernized Muslims who have assimilated our core American values, and there are other moderates here and abroad who struggle with the difficult and problematic religious teachings of Islam, just as we do with our own religious teachings. However, modern Islam is different in fundamental ways from modern Christianity and Judaism. We need to know more about this, as well.

While Islam is clearly not the cause of the increase in terrorism, it has been used successfully as a powerful vehicle for it. Islam’s holy scriptures and traditions, its laws and its customs, its very self-concept as portrayed in its classic sources provide Muslim believers with a set of assumptions and principles that can easily be understood to justify violence against non-Muslims, and especially non-Muslims who are perceived as threatening Islam or its adherents.

Of course, one could say the same thing about Judaism and Christianity. The Christian Inquisition and Crusades killed tens or hundreds of thousands of people who either weren’t Christian or who weren’t Christian enough. And although Jews have lacked the political and military power to wage war on non-Jews for thousands of years until only recently, the forced conversions of the Idumeans in the first century BCE and today’s vigilante killings of Palestinians by Orthodox Jewish settlers clearly demonstrate that Judaism may also have been recruited in order to justify the persecution and slaying of the Other.

The Hebrew Bible has many passages that call for war against the opponents of ancient Israel. The biblical worldview establishes a universe divided into two social groupings: Israel and everybody else. And the everybody else, the Other, is almost always considered the enemy.

Israel needed to carve out a safe haven for itself, where its unique monotheistic theology could be put into ritual and moral practice, and the political environment was such that it had to do so through military means. God is even depicted in the Bible as fighting on behalf of Israel so that it would succeed. Some verses even call for the complete destruction of certain peoples living in the Holy Land who were obstructing Israel’s entry, an act that today would be universally condemned as genocide.

Biblical laws and stories clearly depict a historical context in which warring was common and in which violence was a normal part of life. In fact, it seems that it was because of the violent nature of the world in which ancient Israel lived that it longed for a future when violence would cease entirely, even to the extent that a lion and a lamb could lie together in the same field without fear.

The Bible depicts a violent reality, and the religious system of the Bible incorporated that reality into its own ethos. But today, there are no people who practice the religion and mores of the Hebrew Bible. There are no more Israelites. Only Jews and Christians.

Although both Judaism and Christianity accept the divine sanctity of the Hebrew Bible, both religions emerged after the biblical period, during the period of Late Antiquity when the Roman Empire controlled Palestine and much of the Middle East. It is common knowledge that Christianity is different from the religion of the Old Testament, but some are still unaware that Judaism (sometimes referred to as Rabbinic Judaism, as opposed to the religion or the Judaism practiced during biblical times) is a different religion from that of the Hebrew Bible.

What is different about it? Nearly everything: its liturgy, its forms of worship, its codes of laws and its theologies.

Both Christianity and Judaism emerged as weak religious expressions under the yoke of a very powerful and businesslike Roman Empire. This is not to suggest that, in contrast to the Biblical Period, the era of the Roman Empire was not rife with violence as well. It was, although the nature of its violence was different and tended to be directed downward from the top, in contrast to the biblical situation, in which all the actors tended to play on a common field.

The point is that neither Christians nor Jews found that violent actions against the pagan Romans brought it success. The rare times violence was attempted resulted in disaster.

Therefore, although both Judaism and Christianity inherited the violent traditions of the Bible, they buried or ignored the old exhortations to violence as best they could in their newly emerging post-biblical religious literatures. One cannot find a god of war in the religious literatures of emerging Christianity or Rabbinic Judaism, no divine call for war or conquest. Both religious civilizations had to be content with a kind of religion that would no longer be anchored to a land or a polity, as had biblical religion. These vital aspects of biblical religion simply dropped out of the religious expressions of its heirs.

It was always theoretically possible, of course, to make an end run around Jewish or Christian tradition in order to go directly to the ancient texts of the Bible, still held sacred by both new religions. Some Jews and Christians occasionally did so during the long ages from Late Antiquity to Modernity in their attempt to revive certain pre-Christian and pre-Rabbinic ideas. However, it was always a great effort, because it meant countering the new foundation texts of Christianity and Judaism, and it often failed. When Christianity found itself a political and military power as well as a religious system, it was forced to combine Caesar’s and God’s jurisdictions, and many of its leaders had no problem doing so.

But it was forced to develop a new and innovative system to justify warring. It was not part of the foundation texts of Christianity. Some Jews in Israel now find that they need religious, as well as nationalist, reasons to justify their taking up arms, but they are forced like their Christian compatriots centuries earlier, to develop a justification that ignores much of the foundational messages of Rabbinic Judaism.

Exegesis is powerful. Where there is a will, there is often a way to locate the right sacred texts and then find a way to read them so that they can be understood to support a broad array of beliefs and behaviors. But in Judaism and Christianity, engaging in such activity in relation to warring was an effort and sometimes required real interpretive pyrotechnics. The basic religions themselves and their formative sacred texts did not offer much support.

This is not the case for Islam. Islam emerged out of seventh century Arabia, a place and a time of much physical fighting and aggression. Pre-Islamic Arabia consisted largely of tribes in perpetual war against one another.

Fighting was built into the culture in a complex and integral way, because it served to keep down the natural growth in human population in an extremely harsh physical environment that could support only small numbers relative to area. Warring would distribute and redistribute limited resources (from raiding and plundering) and ensure survival of the fittest.

Raiding between tribes was such a part of the universal culture that three or four months of the year were designated as “time-out” periods, when no fighting was allowed. This was necessary in order to allow trade between tribes that were constantly battling, and to promote mixing of the gene pool between tribes otherwise always separated and in a state of war. Raiding and battling was so deeply imbedded into the pre-Islamic Arabian ethos that the great British scholar of Islam, W. Montgomery Watt, referred to it as the old Arabian “national sport.”

Islam emerged out of this environment, which resembled far more the environment of the Hebrew Bible than that of the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity. And Islam had to fight to survive. It was opposed by powerful individuals and tribes, and it had to defend itself for its own survival. As it evolved into a religious system, that system began to resemble the organization of the tribes of Arabia.

The early Muslim community referred to itself as the Umma, a term that has the meaning of nation, religion and tribe (from the word umm or mother). Muhammad the Prophet was rejected from his own tribe of Quraysh and banished from the community of his birth.

He created a new concept for Arabia in the umma (religious tribe) when he settled in Medina. He found that his religious tribe, like the kinship tribes throughout the rest of the Arabian Peninsula, was in constant conflict with the other tribes in the area. It was only natural and only to be expected that in order for his followers to survive in such a harsh economic and political environment, they would have to fight their way to establishment.

The Koran, the divine revelation sent down by God to Muhammad through the intermediacy of the angel Gabriel, confirmed the need for fighting. In some verses it gives permission to the early Muslims to fight in defense; in others it encourages the Muslims to go out and initiate the fighting.

In fact, many verses urge the early Muslims to go to war when they didn’t seem to want to: “Fighting is commanded of you even though it is hateful to you; but it may well be that you hate something that is good for you, and it may well be that you love something that is bad for you; God knows, but you do not” (2:16). Dozens of koranic verses promote fighting against unbelievers — that is, those Arabs in the vicinity that were organized around kinship tribes rather than the new religious tribe-community of Islam.

The second most sacred religious literature in Islam, the Hadith, comprising the sunna (words and behavior of the Prophet Muhammad), also has a great deal to say about warring. Entire books of sunna, with such titles as The Book of Jihad or The Book of [military] Campaigns, contain the record of anything Muhammad said or did in relation to war. In the later legal literatures, this material was systematized and formed the basis of treatises and law codes about war and fighting.

Warring thus became deeply integrated into the Muslim self-concept, and this occurred quite early on in the emergence of the religious civilization of Islam. As is well-known, the early Muslim community became extremely successful at fighting, and within a generation after the death of Muhammad, succeeded in conquering the great Persian Empire and pushing the Byzantine Empire off most of its Middle Eastern holdings.

This incredible and quick success also became integrated into the Islamic worldview. Muslims, like Christians before them when the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, saw history as proof that God loved the religion of the victors. The astonishing success of the conquest demonstrated the truth of Islam. Islam was held up by its followers as the perfect religion, the best expression of monotheism.

As in the case of biblical religion, Islam soon saw the world in the binary terms of believer/non-believer, but because it had become a great world power, it established this worldview in relation to a much larger piece of world geography.

The binary nature of the Islamic worldview is best- expressed by the two terms, Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. The former is the world of Islam, in which Islam is the hegemonic religio-political system, where Islamic law obtains and where Muslims and non-Muslims live under Islamic rule.

The Dar al-Harb is the world of war. This is the rest of the world not yet under Islamic rule. Muslims have interpreted the meaning of world of war in two basic ways: it can refer to an uncivilized world where lack of good government and religion cannot avoid constant warring among its own peoples, or a world in which Islam is in a state of constant war. This binary worldview is deeply ingrained in the religious civilization of Islam.

As the scholar Majid Khadduri, put it in his opus on war and peace in Islam, “The Islamic state, whose principal function was to put God’s law into practice, sought to establish Islam as the dominant reigning ideology over the entire world.” But like all empires, the caliphate could not expand ad infinitum, and it eventually weakened and disappeared.

The religion was forced to come to terms with the failure of the universal state. It did so in a variety of ways, but it never severed itself from the combativeness of the Koran and Hadith, as did Judaism and Christianity from the martial worldview of the Bible.

No New Testament or Talmud mitigates the militancy of the foundation texts of Islam. It is still there and largely unchallenged, and it still infuses the worldview and self-concept of Islam.

Neither did the discourse of modernity enter Islam as it did Christianity and Judaism. Islam had its reformist movements during the first part of the last century, to be sure, but they have become largely discredited because of their close association with the West and the activities of first colonialism and then imperialism. Muslims may choose to ignore or moderate the militant nature of classical Islam and its binary division of the world, but this takes some effort and must be a conscious act.

Such an approach is much more likely when Muslims are living in a pluralistic Western society than when they are living in the Dar al-Islam. It is easy and natural for Muslims in the Islamic world who are unhappy with their lot to observe the West as a world of infidels who, indeed, had a part in bringing on their suffering. It also is easy and natural for Muslims in the Islamic world to long for the good old days when the Islamic state provided adequately for the physical and spiritual needs of its citizens.

Islam, like all world religions, is an extremely complex phenomenon. It has its ascetics and mystics, as well as its militants, moderates and radicals. Most Muslims are neither ascetic nor militant. They are simply people who try as best they can to live out their lives fully and happily within the framework of a deep and wise religious civilization. Like most people, they abhor the death of the innocent, they believe in fair play, and they long for compassion as well as justice.

But with all this, Muslims who have grown up within the framework of Islamic civilization tend to see the world in certain ways that are fundamentally different from most Westerners. Especially among the angry and disillusioned, Islam has become the answer. The problem is that there are just not enough questions.

Dr. Reuven Firestone will be teaching “Introduction to Islamic Civilization,” beginning this January. For information, call (213) 749-3424 ext. 4242.



Reuven Firestone is professor of medieval Islam and Judaism at Hebrew Union
College in Los Angeles. He has authored “Jihad: the Origin of Holy War in
Islam” (Oxford University Press, 1999), “Journeys in Holy Lands: The
Abraham-Ishmael Legends in Islamic Exegesis” (State University of New York
Press, 1990), “Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims”
(Ktav, 2001) and dozens of articles on Islam and its relations with Judaism
and Christianity.

Palestinians Escalate Conflict


The Palestinian intifada, which began as a civil uprising against the Israeli occupation, is rapidly becoming a low-intensity war between armed forces. And the low intensity is getting higher and higher by the day.

The conflict escalated on Monday night when Palestinian gunmen lobbed five 82mm mortars from the Gaza Strip into the Israeli desert town of Sderot, 4 kilometers north of the border. Although no one was hurt, Israel retaliated with tank, helicopter and naval shelling of Palestinian police and other security bases. One policeman was killed and 36 other Palestinians wounded.

For the first time, ground forces entered areas under exclusive Palestinian control, cutting the 365-square-kilometer strip into three zones, each isolated from the other to prevent the movement of weapons. The army sealed all routes in and out of the strip, including the land crossing into Egypt and the Gaza airport.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s spokesman, Ra’anan Gissin, told me, "We had to act like this because using mortar fire on a town was a grave escalation for the purpose of killing innocent civilians. They fired at 6:30 in the evening, when the streets are full of people doing their shopping or going home from work. If one of the mortars had hit the town center, we would have had dozens of casualties. And we know for sure that these attacks are directed by the Palestinian security forces."

The home-made mortars fired on Sderot are seen by Israelis as crossing a red line. Mortars have been deployed against Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and against the border kibbutz of Nahal Oz, but the 18,000 residents of Sderot thought they were safely out of the battle zone. Sharon’s sheep ranch is barely 8 kilometers further north.

Although the mortars are a short-range weapon, Israelis fear that the Palestinians will feel free to extend the war to other population centers using more ambitious arms.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo accused Israel of perpetrating a massacre. "This is the harshest attack we have borne since 1967," he said. "We shall go back to the United Nations Security Council and demand that they dispatch an international force." Israel has consistently refused to accept such a force, and the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution to deploy international monitors.

Israeli commentators saw the escalation as an expression of Palestinian frustration that the intifada is earning them no dividends. "They are frustrated at the poise displayed by the Israeli public," Sever Plotzker wrote in Yediot Aharonot. "Frustrated at the harsh criticism voiced by the Arab world about the intifada in its latest stages. Frustrated at the cold shoulder the new American administration has turned to Yasser Arafat. Frustrated at the slow but clear change in European public opinion, from understanding Palestinian violence to rejecting it. Frustrated at the economic deterioration, the civil unrest and the social destitution."

Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, claimed responsibility for the mortars, but Israeli spokesmen accused Arafat’s myriad security services of transforming themselves into "terrorist organizations." Earlier this week, the Palestinian Authority reinforced Israeli suspicions of collusion by releasing Mohammed Deif, the most-wanted Hamas terrorist, from preventive detention.

Israeli troops pulled out of Palestinian territory barely 24 hours after they entered. This followed American condemnation of the incursion as "excessive and disproportionate," though Israeli officials insisted that they left because their mission was completed. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said during a visit to Sderot: "I hope that this was a one-time event and the Palestinian leadership understood the message."

As with the air strike on a Syrian radar station in Lebanon on Monday, the Israeli advance into Gaza was a carefully calibrated operation. Sharon’s team does not want to provoke the Arab states into a wider conflagration, nor does it want to alienate world opinion, just when it seems to be turning against Arafat. Israel did, however, leave its new roadblocks in place. Gaza remains divided.

The Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers deliberately did not enter populated areas. They attacked Palestinian police stations and uprooted orchards which provided cover for the mortars. "We have no quarrel with the Palestinian population," Ben-Eliezer said. "We have a quarrel with the Palestinian leadership, which is leading matters on the road to chaos."

At the same time, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres informed his Syrian counterpart, Farouk Ashara, that Israel was not seeking escalation in Lebanon. In a message relayed via the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, he said it was a signal to the Syrians that they had to restrain Hezbollah. Ashara, who was visiting Moscow, relayed back that Syria too was not interested in escalating the conflict, though he defined Hezbollah operations in the disputed Sheba Farm as "legitimate."

Changes in Attitude


There were more police than customers in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market last Friday morning, when Jewish families would normally stock up for the weekend. Downtown, the strolling, shopping and coffee-bar crowds had deserted the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall for the fashionable German Colony.

Six months after the outbreak of the intifada, Israelis are quietly making adjustments. Palestinian suicide bombers have targeted the market and the mall before and could target them again. People ask themselves, why take the risk? If they can afford to use private cars or taxis, they avoid traveling by bus, another prime target.

There is no hysteria, but the same prudence shows elsewhere. The highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is jammed as never before during the morning and evening rush hours. Drivers have stopped using the alternative route that runs from Modi’in, south of Ben-Gurion International Airport, and enters the capital through the northeastern suburb of Ramot.

This road strays into Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank, though it was built to bypass the few Arab villages along its way. The army maintains checkpoints and patrols, but there have been isolated shootings. Motorists have been killed or wounded. Again, why take the chance?

Despite an air of business as usual, the intifada has changed the way Israelis live and the way Israelis think. The only difference between doves and hawks now is that the doves mourn the death of the Oslo peace process, while the hawks dance on its grave. Even if Ariel Sharon eventually tempts Yasser Arafat back to the negotiating table, it will take years to rebuild the minimum public confidence necessary to make a deal work.

An opinion poll published last weekend in the daily Yediot Aharonot logged the depth and the range of the disenchantment. Half the sample said the uprising had reduced their belief in the chances of making peace. As many as 58 percent of Israelis said their opinion of the Palestinians had changed for the worse during the intifada. Even more, 66 percent, had lost faith in Arafat.

Asked whether their political positions had changed, 37 percent said they were more hawkish. In reply to separate questions, more than 70 percent supported the assassination of Palestinian leaders who were linked to terrorism and the imposition of economic sanctions on the Palestinian population.

The left, which hoped for more, is in despair. The same Yediot poll found 36 percent of left-liberal Meretz party voters taking a worse view of the Palestinians and 59 percent disappointed in Arafat. Assassinations and sanctions drew 31 percent and 28 percent respectively among Meretz voters, who would have taken to the streets against such policies six months ago.

The Meretz leader, Yossi Sarid, a pillar of the peace camp, has publicly warned Arafat that he is playing with fire. "He would do well," Sarid said, "to stop flitting from country to country and to stay in Gaza and Ramallah to begin making order. This anarchy is bringing both his people and ours to a terrible disaster. Arafat should beware of arousing the suspicion that he is more interested in an armed struggle to establish the Palestinian state than he is in the Palestinian state itself."

Disabusing the Palestinian leader of any illusion that Meretz would buck the consensus and champion his cause, Sarid added, "As a group that has displayed understanding and solidarity for the Palestinian people and that has demanded an end to the oppressive occupation, it is important for us to make clear to Arafat that we live among our people, that our people’s suffering is our suffering, and that we do not intend to accept this blind terror."

So far, all the signs are that Arafat is not impressed. After a brief interlude of "peaceful" marches on Israeli army checkpoints, the Palestinians have reverted to shooting and bombing. Snipers have become more lethal and more accurate, killing not only a 10-month-old baby in Hebron, but soldiers near Nablus and Bethlehem.

The sharpshooters are not "rogue elements." They acquired their weapons and learned their skills in the mainstream militias, or in Arafat’s security services. Some are still in uniform.

In response, Sharon’s national unity government is abandoning its policy of relative restraint (which is not, of course, how it looked to the Palestinians) and renewing the rocket attacks and assassinations pursued by Ehud Barak before the February election. Monday’s helicopter liquidation of an Islamic Jihad bomber in the Gaza Strip was the 15th in the series. Israel is no longer putting up a smoke screen of deniability.

Gloomy commentators are predicting a long, uncertain haul. Escalation is the watchword, a war of attrition the prospect on both sides. It looks as if it will be a while before the shoppers go back to the Mahane Yehuda market.

High Morale


As Israeli-Palestinian violence hits the six-month mark, Israeli military officials report that soldiers remain motivated to serve in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Senior military officials report that reservists, who account for 70 percent of the army’s 639,150 troops, are reporting for duty at higher rates than before the intifada began. This contrasts with past years, when reservists often found excuses to evade service.

According to Brig. Gen. Avinoam Laufer, head of the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) planning and logistics division, about 95 percent of reservists who have recently been drafted have reported for duty.

This compares to about 85 percent who reported for duty before Palestinian violence began last September.

"The feeling among reservists, like in the public at large, is that something must be done," Laufer said, adding that in recent years soldiers’ motivation has tended to rise when times got tougher.

The army does not yet have clear indications about how the intifada is affecting new recruits or conscripted soldiers.

Soldiers currently being drafted were polled about their attitudes last year, before the wave of violence began.

Those polls indicated that there had then been a 4 percent decline in the motivation of young Israelis to serve in combat units.

That decline came against the backdrop of political developments in which Israel appeared to be on the brink of peace deals, Laufer said.

"When there is a feeling that we are moving toward a good peace, motivation tends to decline," he said. "When the situation deteriorates, motivation goes up."

Nevertheless, Laufer admits that during the first intifada, between 1987 and 1993, there was a clear deterioration in the motivation of reservists to serve as the conflict dragged on and soldiers were called repeatedly to police the Palestinians.

The apparent increase in motivation, as measured in terms of reserve turnout, comes amid a rising death toll.

Since the violence began in late September, 67 Israelis — 38 civilians and 29 soldiers — have been killed by the Palestinians.

Israel has killed at least 348 Palestinians over the same period.

For Israel, the death toll is very high when compared with the number killed by Hezbollah gunmen during the last five years of the Israeli presence in southern Lebanon.

Between 1995 and 1999, about 25 Israeli soldiers were killed in Lebanon. Even that death toll was enough to break the Israeli consensus over maintaining a presence there.

Palestinians were jubilant when Israel withdrew from Lebanon last year, citing Hezbollah’s war as a model the Palestinians themselves should follow.

Israeli military officials, however, said the Palestinians were making a "crude miscalculation" if they hope to copy Hezbollah tactics and wear down Israeli society and military morale through a war of attrition.

If the Palestinians concluded from the Lebanon case "that with a big enough pile of bodies we will go home or go somewhere else," they misunderstood Israeli policy, said one military official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"If that’s the logic, if they think they will pile up the numbers and get a Lebanon outcome, it’s a historic confusion of the accidental and the existential," the official said.

Military assessments of Israel’s staying power come amid reports that the Palestinians may be reassessing their strategy.

Some Palestinians are said to be calling for public protests with a lower level of violence alongside the guerrilla-style warfare by armed militias that has been the staple in recent months — and that has cost the Palestinians a degree of international sympathy.

As recently as Sunday, however, another Israeli was wounded in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank.

While the continued violence appears to have rallied Israeli soldiers and society behind the national unity government’s refusal to negotiate under fire, there are some signs of cracks in the consensus.

Yesh Gvul, the movement that supports soldiers who refuse to serve in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, says it has handled 10 cases of conscripted soldiers and fielded calls from up to 80 reservists who refuse to help suppress the current intifada, including a "high proportion" of junior officers.

Yesh Gvul — Hebrew for "there’s a limit" — was created to protest Israel’s presence in Lebanon.

The group says 168 reservists went to prison during the 1982 Lebanon War for refusing to serve, while another 200 went to prison during the 1987-1993 Palestinian intifada.

Even the relatively small numbers are significant, however, since in the past, young conscripted soldiers almost never dared to challenge military discipline by refusing to serve, according to Peretz Kidron, a Yesh Gvul activist.

Kidron also said that most reservists who refuse to serve in the territories have been given other assignments instead of jail time — as the army wants to avoid public controversies that might affect morale.

"Outright refusal is the tip of the iceberg, and that has an enormous impact on army morale far beyond the numbers involved," Peretz said. "They know that every time they throw one guy in jail, another 10 get the idea."

Peretz also said Yesh Gvul has found in the past that many reservists will heed the call of duty the first time around — but will think twice if called up again.

Tamar Hermann, director of the Tami Steinmitz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, said Israelis from across the political spectrum are rallying around the flag.

"Even those Israelis who supported unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon are now much more skeptical of such a move so close to home in the West Bank," she said.

But Hermann’s polls also show that, while Israelis have a high level of confidence in the IDF, 50 percent of the respondents do not believe there is a military solution to the current conflict, compared with only 41 percent who think more force would help.

"Israelis think some force should be used to suppress rising Palestinian violence, but they do not see it as a way out of the conflict," she said.

An Intifada Casualty Named Atarot


The Atarot Industrial Park, located at the edge of a Jerusalem Arab village and right on the border of the Palestinian Authority, was meant as a forerunner of the "New Middle East": Arabs and Jews making money together, not war. Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz, Israel Aircraft Industries and some 200 other companies opened operations here, about 40 of which were Arab-owned. They employed some 4,000 people, roughly two-thirds of them Arabs from Jerusalem and the West Bank.

That was before the Al-Aqsa intifada broke out in September. Since then two Atarot employees have been shot to death outside the park after work. Another on her way home was shot and paralyzed. Other Atarot employees — Arabs as well as Jews — tell of driving past gunfire to and from the job. Stonings are so common they aren’t considered worth mentioning.

Since October, about 40 companies have abandoned Atarot, and the employee population has gone down by approximately one-quarter, says park manager Ilan Roman. But Jacques Siton, standing on the loading dock of his Odeyah cosmetics company, figures the real attrition rate is more than half. "This place has turned into a ghost town," he says.

Located on the perilous Jerusalem-Ramallah road, the sprawling, 425-acre park’s main entrances have been blockaded to keep out saboteurs. Hundreds of broken windows line the gray and olive-drab buildings facing the park’s perimeter fence. "Rocks, Molotov cocktails," explains security guard Yaron Cohen.

Next door is Atarot Airport, which has been closed during the intifada; the thousands of rocks covering the now-idle runway explain why. Along the rest of the park’s border are the Jerusalem Arab villages of A’Ram, Beit Hanina, Bir Naballah and Atarot, and, sitting on the outskirts of Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority’s Kalandia refugee camp.

A reporter and photographer are met at one of the park’s blockaded entrances by Cohen and his Israeli Army escort Geva, who is wearing a bullet-proof vest; Cohen says he ordinarily wears one, too.

They stop at a bathroom near the perimeter fence and the reporter gets out of the car; Cohen tells Geva to go with him. "Over there is Kalandia," explains Cohen, pointing a couple of hundred yards beyond the fence.

Driving around they see a man who, as the saying goes, looks Arab. Cohen pulls over the van and Geva asks him where he’s from. "Beit Hanina," he replies. "Where do you work?" asks the soldier. "Strauss," says the Arab, referring to the Israeli dairy company. Geva examines the man’s blue Israeli ID card — as distinct from the Palestinian Authority’s orange and green ones. "Have a good day," he says.

Later it turns out that Strauss, which had a storage and distribution facility here, moved out a few months ago when independent truckers told the company they would no longer run the risk of driving in and out of Atarot. Told about this, Cohen turns to Geva. "You see? We screwed up," he says. "From now on, if an Arab tells you he works at a company that’s been closed, you give him straight to the Border Police."

In addition to Border Police jeeps, vehicles of regular Israeli police, Army soldiers and private security companies patrol the park all day and night.

Jewish and Arab businessmen say their friendships have survived the intifada, even if an element of unease has crept in. But among security guards — Jews at Jewish companies, Arabs at Arab companies — all trust seems to have gone. "If an Arab guard offers us a cup of coffee, we won’t drink it," Cohen says. "It could be poisoned."

The Arab-owned Sbitany and Sons electrical appliances company used to have 25 Jewish salespeople working out of Atarot, selling to Israeli retailers. "But after the intifada began they said it was too dangerous for them to keep coming here, so we rented office space in Tel Aviv for them," says deputy general manager Maged Shahwan.

Most Atarot employees commute by company van. "Some are bulletproof, some aren’t," says Roman. Large companies like Israel Aircraft Industries and Wella toiletries can afford bulletproof vests and buses for their employees. "They walk around here like lords," says Siton, noting that public utilities technicians also arrive at Atarot in bulletproof vests.

The Army’s encirclement of Palestinian villages and cities, and its closure of Israel to Palestinians, has obviously placed tremendous obstacles before the bulk of Atarot’s workforce. Some Palestinian employees have special passes to get through Army checkpoints. Others sneak past them. One Atarot worker is said to leave his Hebron home at 3 a.m. and hike over the Hebron hills to get to work in the morning. Still other Atarot employees from the West Bank just stay home.

Arab workers from East Jerusalem don’t have it easy, either. Operating a forklift on Odeyah cosmetics’ loading dock, Jamal Abdallah, who lives near the Mount of Olives and has been working for owner Siton for seven years, notes that with Israeli soldiers checking Arabs so carefully at roadblocks near the industrial park, the tie-up can last as long as two hours. "Sometimes I just turn around and go home," he says.

If there is one business that symbolizes the evolving hopes attached to Atarot, it is probably Hatifei Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Snack Chips), owned by Avi Ben-Ezra, a religious Jew from Rishon Lezion, and Khaled Salah, a Palestinian from Hebron.

Ben-Ezra used to buy snack foods from Salah’s factory, and four years ago they went into business together at Atarot. Employing 15 Arabs from Jerusalem and the West Bank, they produce "Bambalulu," which, according to park manager Roman, is "the best bamba (peanut butter puff) in the Middle East."

Ben-Ezra says, "We’re living out the peace, a religious Jew and a Palestinian together."

Contacted by phone at his home, Salah, who owns 80 percent of the company, tells a less optimistic story. "I haven’t been able to get to Atarot for two months. I can’t get out of Hebron because of the Army’s closure," he says. "That’s why I’m thinking of shutting the company down. You can’t run a business like this."

The Great Awakening


Israel’s Jews did not vote for Ariel Sharon by a margin nearly unprecedented in any functioning democracy because they believe he has a magic solution to halt the intifada. Fewer still believe that he is capable of bringing a final resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

They voted for him not despite his age, but because of it — because of his link to an era when Israel was far more confident of the justice of its cause and optimistic about the future than today. Sharon’s election signals a national awakening to the importance of national identity and national will, a recognition that our security is inextricably linked to national morale. It is telling that Sharon’s most concrete campaign promise was to retain the Education Ministry in Likud hands.

The election marked the death of Oslo, not just as a diplomatic process but also as an ideology. That ideology is fundamentally hostile to national identity.

National identity, in the eyes of Oslo’s most ardent supporters, is the great enemy of peace. If people would just stop thinking of themselves as Jews or Muslims, Israelis or Palestinians, conflict would disappear.

Oslo’s supporters convinced themselves that the world is moving towards a universalistic brotherhood of man, in which people will view themselves simply as human beings, nothing more or less. Propelling history in that direction, argues Thomas Friedman, is globalization. In the global village, people are primarily defined by their common desire to partake of increasing material bounty. Nothing else matters.

Shimon Peres’s “New Middle East,” in which hotels are more important than battalions and the cure-all for Palestinian unrest is greater economic investment in the Palestinian economy, was predicated on precisely such a view of man as driven by purely material concerns. That view rendered Oslo’s true believers incapable of comprehending the Palestinians. They saw the Palestinians as nothing more than reflections of our own desires. Knowing that Bashar Assad shared their love of the Internet was enough to convince them that peace with Syria must be close at hand.

Those for whom love of the Land of Israel came to be seen as a dangerous anachronism could not understand those in whom that love still burns; those for whom national identity is an unwanted holdover from a distant past could not understand those for whom it is everything.

For nearly a decade such views prevailed among Israel’s opinion-making elites and through them filtered down to the population at large. On recent evidence, however, the scorn for national identity no longer holds sway. The recent rejection by the Knesset Education Committee of the ninth-grade world history textbook “A World of Changes,” once hailed for daring to expose the truth behind the myths of Israel’s founding, is but one piece of evidence.

The overwhelming election of an unreconstructed, old-line Zionist like Sharon is another. “Israeli Jews expect Sharon to mend Zionism’s broken tools or totally reconstruct them, so that Zionism can take root once more, not only in the soil of this land, but in the hearts of Israelis,” Nadav Shragai wrote a week before the elections.

Even among the elite opinion-makers, chinks have appeared in the armor of post-Zionism. Nothing better indicates the turning tide than Avirama Golan’s hysterical lament in Ha’aretz about “authors and philosophers, politicians and publicists suddenly … enthusiastic about national and political unity.”

What changed the tide? Primarily the shock of the intifada, joining Palestinians and Israeli Arabs in common cause. Confronted with the fervor of Palestinian nationalism, Israeli Jews began to search once again for a comparable source of strength to sustain them against the onslaught.

The sense that something has gone dramatically wrong was further heightened by the alacrity with which Israel accepted President Clinton’s plan for giving sovereignty over the Temple Mount to Arafat. Suddenly slaying every sacred cow and shattering every taboo no longer seemed such a good idea.

Many shared Yair Sheleg’s wonder at the willingness to concede the most sacrosanct sites in Jewish history, symbolizing 2,000 years of longing to return to the Land of Israel, simply to obtain some temporary peace and quiet from a vastly inferior enemy. They sensed that Arafat made such a sticking point of the Temple Mount in order to further cut off the Jews from their past, to force us to admit that the place is of greater importance to Moslems than Jews, because in Palestinian eyes a lack of connection to the past is a sign of weakness.

Yet, as Sheleg pointed out, Barak would never have dared to such concessions unless Israel’s “academic, cultural and media elites” had been ruled for a generation by those for whom national identity is irrelevant, surely not worth as much as a “little quiet and integration into the global village.”

Israel’s Jews today neither seek a false uniformity nor yearn for a halcyon past that never existed absent all social strife. Yet they do seek a rekindled sense of some bond between us. One can hear that yearning in Amnon Dankner’s mea culpa for himself and his colleagues on the left who for the past two decades nurtured “a large and thriving industry of hate, scorn, and arrogance to anyone who did not share their views: to those of Eastern descent, to those with right-wing ideologies, and especially to the religious nationalists and charedim.”

So filled with empathy for the plight of the Palestinians and understanding of their demands was the left, Dankner confesses, that it had no empathy left for fellow Jews, “only pure, unsullied, sulfuric hate.”

Correcting the trends of a decade and more will require more than dusting off a few tired Zionist slogans. The past will not return. We have raised two generations ignorant of basic Jewish belief and practice to a degree unimaginable to the founding fathers. The influx of hundreds of thousands of non-Jews makes all the more difficult the forging of a national identity. And finally, Zionism’s very success in building a state has deprived it of a great project to fire the soul.

Yet finally acknowledging the problem of national identity is surely an important first step to solving it.

Tragedy or Exploitation?


The photograph of the Palestinian father cradling his terrified son moments before the boy was killed in Gaza this fall was viewed live on television and reproduced on the front pages of newspapers around the globe. Like the photograph of the boy with hands raised standing in the Warsaw Ghetto, nobody who saw desperate Jamal Al-Durrah vainly trying to shield 12-year-old Mohammed can ever forget the terror in their eyes.

From the day that the French television photographer snapped the pictures, the image has mesmerized the world. For Arabs, Mohammed became an icon for all victims of the intifada; his image plastered on countess posters. In Egypt, even tissue boxes were manufactured bearing his likeness.

His father, himself wounded, was interviewed by the world’s leading journalists, appearing on prime-time television in the United States. There was a media pilgrimage to Amman to conduct interviews by Al-Durrah’s hospital bedside. Israeli journalists joined in; Al-Durrah appeared in the Israeli press, on radio and on television.

Israel was well aware of the extremely negative propaganda effect of this incident. Although shortly afterwards the Israel Defense Forces accepted responsibility for Mohammed’s death, some insiders felt this admission was rash and premature. Among them was Maj. Gen. Yom Tov Samia, the army’s southern commander. Samia conducted an investigation and an abortive campaign to reenact the shooting in an effort to prove that it was Palestinian shooters who had felled the boy. But the Israeli army had already demolished the wall against which the pair had leaned. Samia’s efforts came to naught. The picture had done its damage, or its work, depending on one’s point of view. Even if it could be scientifically proven that Israelis hadn’t fired the lethal shots, it didn’t really matter to the world any more.

Now, more than four months later, the photo is once again in the spotlight.

MSNBC is currently conducting a public poll on its Web site to choose the photograph of the year 2000. To date, 480,000 votes have been cast for 49 entries. The shot of Al-Durrah and his son, titled “A Death in Gaza,” has garnered more than 39,000 votes and is currently in sixth place. The five ahead of it are all sentimental images of animals.

A callous propaganda war is raging to exploit this personal tragedy. In recent days, Jews have received e-mails informing them of the poll and urging them to vote for other photos, trying to calculate which has the best chance of overtaking “A Death in Gaza.” “Obviously,” they write, “we have to try to stop it from winning.” Forward the message on to “everyone you know as well!” instructs the e-mail. Instead of taking the lesson of the picture to heart, people who ought most to be disturbed by its implications are implored to try to minimize it.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians are busy disseminating e-mails, too, instructing exactly where to click in order to vote for “A Death in Gaza.” They stress the importance of casting a ballot, since winning may get it renewed exposure, and caution that “once the opposition sees this they will also begin to vote heavily.” Apparently this tactic is not a new one, for the Palestinian e-mail continues: “In the past, we have generally managed to outvote them!”

As bloody as our days have become, it has been said that the real war is the war of the media. Unlike claims that horrific scenes are often staged by cameramen anxious for a scoop, no one dreams of impugning the integrity of the photograph of Al-Durrah and his late son. Yet there seems no limit to the lengths taken to hit home one’s point of view.

The wrong conclusion to reach after reading about the MSNBC poll is to race to one’s computer and to vote either for or against “A Death in Gaza.” An ideological vote either way compromises the voter’s integrity and demeans the dignity of the subjects.

If one picture is worth a thousand words, this one may well be worth a million. Its real lesson is to put all parents in the Middle East on notice. If the perverted hatred which fuels some on both sides overtakes us all, every parent — Arab or Jew — is in jeopardy. Even the parent who tries to keep his children safely inside, out of harm’s way, may some day find himself crouching in front of a stone wall trying to shield a son or daughter, both of them caught in the crossfire. And chances are, no one will be around to take their picture.

The Mobs Rule


One of the things that continues to astound me is the attention the world media pay to the intifada. Let a few Palestinian teenagers start hurling stones, and you can count on CNN to record the event as if it were history in the making, instead of what it really is: a prepackaged segment of the evening news, the proof of which is that the stonings cease the second the cameras stop rolling. For me, the real story has never been told: namely, where do all those stones come from? Is there a Libyan arms factory devoted to turning out rubble?

For the life of me, I can not fathom how the Arabs manage to get propaganda mileage out of sticking youngsters in harm’s way. It’s no secret, after all, that the Palestinians thrive on martyrs, and the younger the better. One minute, a kid is throwing rocks and the next moment he’s died in the crossfire, and instead of taking the Arabs to task for placing children, Hitler-fashion, in the front lines, the civilized world is encouraged once again to condemn Israel.

This whole notion, though, that world opinion should be determined by testosterone-driven displays of adolescent bravado is a disturbing trend. It was brought home for me when, in the wake of the first Rodney King verdict, thousands of young hooligans ran amuck, looting and burning. That sorry episode was declared a political rebellion by lots of people who should have known better; it was, in fact, nothing more than an excuse to misbehave on a grand scale, with virtually no fear of being held accountable. As I said at the time, it’s a rebellion when you toss the tea overboard; it’s plain old fashioned rioting when you take the tea, or, rather, the TV, home with you.

I always wondered if those people who attempted to elevate the pillaging to something it clearly wasn’t also believe the miniriots that greet sports championships in our major cities are political in nature. I suppose if a dozen vehicles get overturned and set ablaze, and one of them happens to be a patrol car, some folks will invariably drag in "oppressed people" and "civil disobedience." As a rule, they are the same bunch of knotheads who defend graffiti (so long as it’s not sprayed on their walls) as folk art.

When you have generations of kids being indoctrinated with the nobility of dying for a cause, you will never lack for suicidal volunteers. It is, after all, from the ranks of the young and highly impressionable males that those who aspire to running with the bulls in Pamplona, joining kamikaze squads and spilling their blood for Yasser Arafat are inevitably drawn. But when you get past all the ballyhoo and baloney, it all comes down to boys showing off for girls.

The instinct itself isn’t either good or bad. It’s just what it is. What is important is that the rest of the world should not be blinded to the truth and shouldn’t be sucked in by the basest form of propaganda.

In short, tossing stones should not be confused with a holy mission when, in fact, it is nothing more or less than the way young Palestinians get their rocks off.

Leaving Lebanon


Israel signed the Oslo peace agreement with itsold enemy, Yasser Arafat, because by 1993 the alternatives had becomeinsufferable. The Palestinian intifada, a revolt of thestreet, was sapping the morale of the Israeli army, fighting a futilesix-year battle with one hand tied behind its back. Nightlytelevision footage of soldiers in combat fatigues, chasing teenageboys wielding slingshots and petrol bombs, was undermining Israel’sdeterrent credibility in its confrontation with the Arab states aswell as its international moral case.

Something similar is happening now over Israel’smilitary presence in Southern Lebanon. Israel keeps a few hundredtroops dug into a narrow 75-mile long “security belt” from theMediterranean to the foothills of Mount Hermon, varying in depth fromtwo and a half miles to eight miles, alongside its surrogate SouthLebanese Army. Others enter on day and night patrols. But they havefewer and fewer answers to an increasingly sophisticated foe, thehighly-motivated Shi’ite Muslim Hizbollah militia. And the Israelipublic, inspired by a campaigning group of soldiers’ mothers, is nolonger convinced that the price of this war of attrition is worthpaying in the lives of its young conscripts.

Last year 39 soldiers died in combat north of theGalilee border and 93 were wounded. A further 73 were killed when twotransport helicopters collided on their way to the battle zone. Sofar this year, the army spokesman has logged four dead and 36wounded.

The Iranian-sponsored Hizbollah plays hit-and-runwith missiles, mortars and roadside bombs, then melts into the hillyscrublands of southern Lebanon or hides behind the civilian shield offriendly villages. Israel, which has burned its fingers there in thepast, is inhibited about using the full weight of its firepower –tanks, artillery and air strikes — against a guerrilla opposition.Once again, Israel is being made to look vulnerable.

Hizbollah rubs salt in the wound by sending videoteams in with its raiding parties and distributing the footage to thelocal and international networks. Israel television’s two channelsare their best customers.

Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition hasconcluded that the time has come to get out of the quagmire. Israel,it insists, has no territorial ambitions in Lebanon. The purpose ofthe security belt was and remains to protect the towns and villagesof Northern Israel from harassment by Hizbollah and hostilePalestinian militias.

Now, Netanyahu, supported by the defenseestablishment and ex-General Ariel Sharon, who sent the tanks intoLebanon in 1982, is seeking a way to do the same job from south ofthe border. The question is how. Can the Lebanese army be persuadedto deploy in the south and restrain Hizbollah, as it did with themyriad militias that flourished during the civil war of the ’70s and’80s? Israel believes the army is strong enough now for the task. Butwill the Syrians, who maintain close to 40,000 troops of their own innorth-eastern Lebanon and call the shots in Beirut, let it?

Senior Israeli and Lebanese officials have beenmeeting discreetly in Europe to explore the options. The French (asthe former Lebanese colonial power) and the Americans are offeringdiplomatic support. The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan,is probing. The Lebanese are interested. The Israeli “occupation” isan affront to their sovereignty. The instability threatens theirambitious economic recovery program. But they are not masters intheir own land.

Damascus has signaled its opposition to anegotiated evacuation. President Hafez Assad’s prime interest is toget Israel out of the Golan Heights, a Syrian plateau which itconquered in 1967. He would like nothing better than to trade peacein Lebanon for land on the Golan. If the Israelis won’t deal, heprefers to make them sweat.

In the absence of Syrian approval, Israel isdebating alternative scenarios. Lebanon may be too weak to sign astructured deal on its own, but it has hinted that if Israel went,its troops would fill the vacuum. It has also suggested that it wouldnot accept a Syrian veto as Assad’s last word. There is too much atstake for Lebanon.

Would an unwritten understanding satisfy Israel’ssecurity needs along the northern border? Defense Minister YitzhakMordechai, and Israel’s veteran Lebanon troubleshooter, Uri Lubrani,think it might. A credible deal with Lebanon might prompt theAmericans, with the backing of the United Nations, to persuade Assadto acquiesce.

Ariel Sharon is not convinced. Instead, theInfrastructure Minister has proposed that Israel pull outunilaterally in stages, then announce that any attack on Israel’sborder communities, or on its South Lebanese Army allies, would evokea massive response – not only against Hizbollah, but against theLebanese civilian infrastructure and the Syrian garrison.

Both approaches are on the agenda, though criticsfear that the Sharon plan would risk a broader conflagration with theSyrians. The Prime Minister is encouraging Mordechai and Lubrani totest the ground, however long it takes. Last weekend, the Cabinetadded its seal of approval.

The boys will not be home for Pesach, but for thefirst time Israel is arguing not about whether to pull out, but how.As Ron Ben-Yishai, a military commentator, put it in themass-circulation Yediot Aharonot: “Something is starting tomove.”