Palestinian who planned Tel Aviv bus bombing killed in shootout


A Palestinian terrorist who Israel said was behind a 2012 bus bombing in Tel Aviv was killed in a shootout with Israeli security officials trying to arrest him.

Mohamed Aatzi, 28, was killed Tuesday morning during an exchange of gunfire in the West Bank Palestinian town of Bil’in during a joint operation of the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Security Agency, or Shabak.

Aatzi was among the planners of the Nov. 21 bus attack during Operation Pillar of Defense that wounded 29 passengers, according to a statement released by the IDF and Shabak.

He had been involved in activities of the Islamic Palestinian Jihad terror organization. Aatzi had been in hiding since the bombing and reportedly was planning another attack against Israeli civilians or army forces.

Two Palestinian men alleged to be Aatzi’s assistants, who have been jailed in the past for their involvement with the Islamic Palestinian Jihad, were arrested by security forces on Monday night and held for questioning.

“The outcome of this operation emphasizes that terror does not pay,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement. “Terrorists must know that there is no eluding the extensive intelligence and operational capabilities of the IDF, we will continue to seek out those that attempt to undermine and defy our way of life.”

Israel repatriates Palestinian terrorists’ bodies


Israel turned over to Palestinian officials the bodies of 91 terrorists.

The remains of 80 Palestinian terrorists, which had been buried in an Israeli military cemetery in the West Bank, were turned over to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank on Thursday. Another 11 bodies were repatriated to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Suicide bombers responsible for the deaths of more than 200 Israelis were among the bodies transferred. The Almagor terror victims association on Wednesday had ripped the government for the handover.

Included among the repatriated bodies was Ramez Aslim, the suicide bomber who attacked the central Jerusalem Cafe Hillel in 2003. Dual Israeli-American citizens Dr. David Applebaum, head of the emergency room at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and his daughter Nava, who was to have been married the day after the bombing, were killed in that attack.

Dozens of reserve soldiers were called into service to exhume the bodies during the month of May, Ynet reported.

The repatriation of the bodies is being called a good-will gesture to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. It reportedly was agreed to during a meeting in Ramallah earlier this month between Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal envoy, Isaac Molcho.

In ripping the government, the Almagor group’s chairman, Meir Indor, said that “The Netanyahu-Barak-Mofaz government is giving a boost to terror and abusing the bereaved families and the injured. This is a government without a heart and without a brain.”

An official ceremony to honor the terrorists was scheduled to be held Thursday in the PA’s presidential compound in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority civil affairs minister Hussein al-Sheikh told the Palestinian Ma’an news service. A ceremony also reportedly will be held in Gaza.

Palestinian hunger strikers denied release


Israel’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal for the release of two hunger-striking Palestinians.

In its decision on Monday, the court reportedly said that Bilal Diab, 27, of Jenin, and Thaer Halahla, 33, of Hebron, both members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, remained a terror threat to Israel and that a hunger strike is not enough of a reason to release them.

They have been on a hunger strike for 70 days and are hovering near death, according to reports.

The men are protesting being held in administrative detention. A prisoner can be held in administrative detention, without charges being brought, for up to four months; it can also be renewed.

Diab has been in an Israeli jail for nine months, and Halahlah has been in custody for 22 months.

The court said that the length of the time that the men had been in custody merited a review of the concept of administrative detention and that individual cases should be investigated more thoroughly.

Some 1,400 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are on an open-ended hunger strike launched three weeks ago. The mass hunger strike is calling for an end to solitary confinement and isolation; for allowing families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip to visit their loved ones; and allowing prisoners to have newspapers, learning materials and specific television channels. It is also protesting administrative detention.

Ten of the hunger strikers reportedly are currently under hospital supervision.

Hamas has threatened consequences if any of the hunger strikers die. “If that happens, you can expect both the expected and the unexpected from us,” Gaza City Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya said over the weekend.

Israeli prisons commissioner Aharon Franco last week told Palestinian hunger strikers that he had named a panel to address the prisoners’ demands, according to Arab news sources.

More than 4,000 Palestinian prisoners are being held in Israeli jails, with some 320 in administrative detention.

Two high-profile hunger strikers were released earlier this year after cutting deals with Israeli authorities.

Second Fogel family killer sentenced to five life sentences


A second Palestinian man was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences for the murder of five members of the Fogel family in a West Bank Jewish settlement.

Amjad Awad, 19, was sentenced Monday in a West Bank military court. He was convicted in November for the March 11 murders in Itamar, which is near his home in the West Bank town of Hawarta.

Awad also was sentenced to an additional seven years in prison on two counts of weapons trafficking and one count of conspiracy to commit murder, for a total sentence of 132 years in prison.

The panel of judges said it had considered giving Awad the death penalty. The judges also said in their decision that Awad “doesn’t have a fragment of regret in his heart.”

Awad and his cousin, Hakim Awad, murdered Udi Fogel, 36, and Ruth Fogel, 35, and their children, Yoav, 11; Elad, 4; and Hadas, 3 months, in a Shabbat eve attack on their home in the northern West Bank. Hakim Awad was sentenced in September to five life sentences plus five years, for a total of 130 years.

Three of the Fogel children survived the attack. Two were sleeping in a side bedroom and were not discovered, and a daughter was out of the house at the time of the killings. She came home to discover the bodies.

Munich massacre survivor still carries Olympic scars


SAN FRANCISCO (JTA)—The Munich Olympics were meant to be a defining moment in Dan Alon’s life—but not the way they turned out.

Alon was one of five Israeli athletes who escaped the 1972 massacre of Israel’s Olympic team by Palestinian terrorists.

Thirty-six years later, he still can’t shake what happened.

In Berlin last year to deliver a lecture, Alon noticed several Arabs on the staff of his hotel. He changed hotels immediately.

“I don’t feel secure,” says Alon, 63, a former Israeli fencing champion. “I have a paranoia that they are looking for me.”

In the first years after the attack, Alon says he was perpetually nervous, afraid to be left alone in a room. When he traveled abroad, he always went with someone.

For more than three decades, he barely mentioned Munich.

“I really didn’t talk about it, not even to my family or my friends,” says Alon, who recently retired as director general of an Israeli plastics company. “I tried to stay busy with my business, with my family.”

That changed two years ago with the release of Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” an epic film about the attack and Israel’s subsequent effort to hunt down those responsible.

“People started to call me and ask me questions,” Alon says.

Since then he has started writing a book about his experiences, and now he lectures at universities and in Jewish communities around the world.

On Sept. 5, 1972, at 4:30 a.m., Alon and his roommate, fellow fencer Yehudah Weinstein, were awakened by gunfire and frantic shouting. Several bullets blew through the wall over Alon’s bed. They were the shots, he says, that killed weightlifter Yossi Romano, who had been staying in the adjoining room.

Alon hurried to his window below, where he spotted a man in a white hat toting a machine gun. Several feet away, wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg lay dying on the ground.

Alon and four teammates—Weinstein, along with two marksmen and a speed walker—huddled in his room. The marksmen suggested shooting the gunman with their pellet guns.

“We decided not to do it,” Alon says. “We didn’t know how many terrorists there were, what kinds of weapons they had, what hostages they had.”

Eventually they agreed to sneak downstairs and outside as quietly as possible. One by one, treading lightly on a creaky, wooden staircase, the athletes descended the single flight of stairs, slipped through a glass door, and went over a first-floor balcony and through the garden to freedom. It took about 15 minutes.

One of the terrorists spotted them as they ran, Alon says, but he did not shoot.

Several hours later the Israelis’ teammates were dead.

“I blame the Palestinians, and I blame the Germans for the failure to [achieve the] release of the athletes,” Alon says. “But I don’t blame myself. I was only surprised that I survived.”

Four years before the attack, Alon took part in the Six-Day War as a technician securing bombs to fighter jets. Just a year after Munich, he did the same in the Yom Kippur War.

Since then he married – his wife, Adelle, is a nurse—and has had three children: Meir, 30; Pazit, 23; and Arik, 28, who has become a champion fencer.

Arik quit to attend college, Alon says, “so I quit, too. I play golf now all the time.”

After the killings in 1972, the Munich Olympics paused for a day, then resumed. Alon says it was the proper move. Not only would it have been unwise to “surrender to terror” and unfair to deny athletes the chance to compete, he says, but the world would have blamed Israel had the Games been canceled.

“For me, the Olympics are a sacred space for sportsmen,” he says. “I believe still that the Olympics are very, very good at trying to unite people around the world. Maybe we need more than one [Summer] Olympics every four years.”

Is there a way to stop rockets and avoid a Gaza fight?


Sderot is a city in the south of Israel, very close to the Gaza Strip. In the year 2007, it has been hit by 1,000 Qassam rockets and 1,200 mortar shells launched by the Palestinians.

Life in Sderot has become hell, but Israel finds it very difficult to defend it, because the people who launch the Qassams are hiding among civilians. Slowly but surely, however, Israeli patience is running out.

Is there a way to stop this ongoing terrorist attack on Sderot without entering Gaza with great force in an incursion that would most probably cost the lives of many Palestinians and Israelis?

Ernest, a reader from Florida, believes there is. He proposes to deploy Qassams and Katyushas in Sderot aimed at Gaza and operated acoustically: When the Palestinian Qassam hits Sderot, the blast will automatically trigger the launching of an Israeli Qassam or Katyusha on the heads of the people in Gaza who had been harassing Sderot. All that without an Israeli finger involved in the process.

I bounced the idea with some experts. A lawyer well versed in the laws of war called it “creative.” One law professor thought it fitted the principle of self-defense. A professor of philosophy, on the other hand, objected strongly: “What if our Qassam, even if technically launched by the Palestinians, hits a kindergarten in Gaza?”

I was left without a solution.

Then, I received an invitation to a conference at Hebrew University titled, “Democracy Fighting Terror With One Hand Tied Behind Its Back: Why, When and How Must This Hand Be Untied.” Bingo! Never mind the long title: This was exactly what I needed.

The speakers were professor Aharon Barak, former president of the Israeli Supreme Court, and professor Richard Posner, former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. No wonder that the huge hall at the Mount Scopus campus was packed with an anxious crowd.

However, when Efraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad, took to the podium to moderate the event, four young female students started heckling loudly. Obviously, they were not happy with the way Israel was fighting terror. I could hear them yelling something about the abuse of human rights.

There and then, the weakness of democracy was exposed. One thousand people, who had gathered solemnly to listen to the speakers, were taken hostage by four people who insisted on their right to protest. This collision of rights lingered for a while, until the four students were kicked out by the security guards, with the cheers of the relieved crowd. The lesson was that in a democracy, sometimes even the majority has its rights.

Finally, former Chief Justice Barak started speaking. The much respected judge was the one who had coined the phrase that in the battle against terrorism, democracy was fighting “with one hand tied behind its back.” In other words, in the rush to combat the terrorists effectively, human and civil rights should still be respected. The audience responded with a roaring applause.

Then Judge Posner gave his American point of view. He said that in times of grave danger, human and civil rights might temporarily recede. He reminded us that during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln — the greatest American president, in his words — unconstitutionally suspended habeas corpus, because he believed that saving the union was more important than protecting a specific right. When the crisis was over, the rights were re-established. Posner received the same volume of hand-clapping.

A limbo again.

As I left the auditorium, a friend told me about a psychologist sent to comfort the people of Sderot, who had been traumatized by the relentless shelling of their city. A mother of six told him that whenever the alarm went off, the people under attack had exactly 50 seconds to rush to the shelters before the Qassam rockets hit their target.

“Yet in that period of time” she said, “I can only carry two of them to safety. What about the remaining four?”

I pray that no Qassam rocket hits a kindergarten in Sderot and, God forbid, kills several children. All debate will then stop, and the tanks will start rolling.

In the meantime, keep trying, Ernest. And if anybody else has more creative ideas about how Israel should act, short of entering Gaza and stopping the terrorists by force, please let me know.

Uri Dromi is director general of Mishkenot Sha’ananim, a conference center in Jerusalem. He can be reached at dromi@mishkenot.org.il.

Would Iranian Nukes Only Kill Jews?


Will Iran’s nukes only kill Jews?

That’s the question Palestinians should be asking themselves. Because the answer is no.

There is no way to make a nuclear bomb that just kills Jews. There is no way to “wipe Israel off the map,” as Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sworn to do in a nuclear armageddon, without wiping out the Palestinians, as well.

A nuclear fireball detonated over Jerusalem would kill a substantial fraction of the city’s half-million Jews — and the city’s quarter-million Palestinians. But not only lives would be destroyed. Next to the Kaaba in Mecca, the most sacred site to Sunni Muslims in the world is the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, which comprise the Haram esh-Sharif, the noble sanctuary on top of Temple Mount.

A nuke would turn the noble sanctuary into radioactive dust. This is what Iran’s terrorist leaders are threatening to do. So all you Palestinians, all you Sunni Muslims out there, wherever you are, get the picture: Wiping Israel off the map means wiping your sacred noble sanctuary off the map, as well. It’s an inescapable package deal.

The Palestinians have more to fear from a nuclear attack on Israel than the Jews. Iran might be able to build a handful of firecracker fission (atom bomb) nukes in the 10- to 20-kiloton range. Set any of these off in an above-ground airburst to maximize lethality, and the heat fries everyone within a mile radius. The neutrons travel not much more and gamma rays much less, killing folks with radiation poisoning within a radius of less than 2 miles.

In other words, the radiation effects are very localized. Anyone 5 miles away would just get a sunburn. The greatest danger more than a few miles away is flying glass from blown-out windows caused by the shock wave. (Avoiding the flying glass was the purpose of duck-and-cover practice of diving under school desks back in the ’50s.)

Any effective nuking of Israel would thus have to score multiple detonations in Israel’s population centers. There is no way to do this in a country the size of New Jersey without devastating the Palestinian population at least as much as the Israeli.

In any nuclear attack on Israel, Iran would have to make a choice: Use its handful of bombs to hit the population centers or hit the Zechariah nuclear missile base southeast of Tel Aviv. Iran cannot do both.

It will take multiple direct hits to incapacitate Zechariah, collapsing the underground tunnels for the TELs (transporter erector launchers). These launch the Jericho-2 missile with a range of 2,000 miles carrying a nuke far more lethal than an Iranian firecracker.

Israel has at least 200, and possibly as many as 400, nuclear warheads, many of which are fusion (hydrogen bombs) in the range of 150 kilotons, many times more destructive than whatever the Iranians come up with. The Jericho-2 can easily reach Tehran or any other location in Iran. A nuclear strike by Iran upon Israel could precipitate the nuclear retaliatory annihilation of Iran.

The mullahs need to realize the name of Zechariah was chosen with a purpose for Israel’s missile base. It is Hebrew for: “God remembers with a vengeance.”

It is Sunni Muslims who need to be terrified of a nuclear Iran. And indeed, Ahmadinejad’s wipe-off-the-map bluster may be misdirection, for he must know that Israel and the Jews would survive his attack, and he and his country would not survive theirs. It is then more likely that Ahmadinejad intends to be an 800-pound Shiite nuclear gorilla, pushing around the Sunnis of the Middle East.

Sunni Saudi Arabia — hated by Iran’s mullacracy — would be defenseless. So would Sunni Jordan — hated by the mullahs. So would Dubai and the emirates. So would Kuwait. Iran is going to aim its nukes at them. They either become colonial subjects of Iran — or (get ready for this) make a deal with Israel and be placed under the protection of an Israeli nuclear umbrella.

They could try this with another nuclear neighbor, and a Sunni Muslim one at that: Pakistan. But Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is devoted to protection from India, and it is limited (around 25 or so low-kiloton fission warheads). An Israeli umbrella may prove an irresistible option.

“We can protect you from Iran,” should be Israel’s message to Sunni Arabs from Ramallah to Riyadh. “The only price for our protection is peace between us.”

Jack Wheeler is the editor of To The Point at

Hamas Adopts New Tactic: Political Role


 

Hamas, the Muslim fundamentalist movement and Palestinian terrorist organization, may soon become a decisive force not only in the struggle against Israel but in the Palestinian political establishment.

For the first time in Palestinian political history, Hamas will participate in parliamentary elections scheduled July 17. All political analysts predict that the party will make an impressive show of force.

Hamas candidates may win between 30 percent and 50 percent of the seats in the next Palestinian Parliament, predicted Matti Steinberg, a former adviser on Palestinian affairs to two heads of Israel’s General Security Service. If Steinberg is right, it would amount to a political revolution.

Hamas is heading toward electoral success using tactics that demonstrate its ability to act both as a terrorist organization and as a political party that seeks to influence the Palestinian political agenda. On the one hand, it flexes its muscles toward Israel, warning that the present “calming down” period could end at any time; on the other, it maintains the cease-fire for now, realizing that this is what the street wants.

In the last two weeks, Hamas has proudly raised both the militant and pragmatic flags.

Hamas was a major player in last week’s Temple Mount demonstration protesting the desire of devout Jews to visit the site, which is the holiest site in Judaism and also an important Muslim shrine. Hamas also took part in a mortar barrage aimed at Jewish settlements in Gaza, reacting to Israel’s killing of three Palestinian youths involved in arms smuggling across Egyptian border.

Hamas has threatened to drop out of the “calming down” agreement, but at the same time, it maintains the tense cease-fire for now.

Though Israel killed many of its leaders during the intifada, Hamas has retained its popularity — primarily because of the ineptitude of the ruling Palestinian Authority and corruption and infighting in the dominant Fatah Party — and wants to use that momentum to propel itself forward.

Several weeks ago, Hamas candidates scored landslide victories in municipal elections in several Gaza towns.

“On the one hand, people want a political process headed by [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], as was indicated in the presidential elections [in January],” Steinberg said in an interview with Bitterlemons.org, a Middle East Web site. “But on the other hand, people want clean stables, the end of corruption and personal security, and these are connected with Hamas.”

The July elections would be the first for Parliament in the Palestinian territories since 1996, and the first since Abbas succeeded the late Yasser Arafat as Palestinian Authority president in January. Arafat postponed elections that had been set for 2000.

Hamas boycotted the earlier elections, saying they were an outgrowth of the Oslo accords, which it vehemently opposed, because they implied recognition of Israel. Hamas is dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

Fatah, Abbas’ party, now controls most of the 88-member Palestinian Parliament. There is growing concern among Palestinian opposition forces that Fatah will defer the elections, because Fatah seems likely to lose many seats. Palestinian legislators are introducing amendments to the electoral law, hoping to postpone the elections.

The Central Elections Commission recently said that it would need three months from the time the law is approved before it can hold elections. Three months from July 17 was last Sunday — and no amendments had yet been passed. The issue was to be discussed sometime this week.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that if elections can’t be held as scheduled, the group would have to rethink its commitment to an informal cease-fire with Israel. Hamas agreed to the de facto truce on the understanding that Abbas would pursue reforms in the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas has said concerns about electoral manipulation are unfounded.

“We have no intentions or desire to delay these elections,” he told reporters at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah.

However, it’s not clear how much say Abbas has even in his own Fatah ranks. Abbas radiates political impotence, something President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon discussed at their meeting last week at Bush’s Texas ranch.

Hamas’ decision to move toward power sharing largely is due to the shift in Palestinian public opinion since Arafat’s death. A poll taken by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion after the Feb. 8 Sharm el-Sheik summit showed that about 60 percent of Palestinians were satisfied with the summit’s results. Approximately 70 percent said they were worried about the diffusion of weapons in Palestinian society, and wanted one central authority that could maintain law and order.

Without at least the appearance of a move toward moderation, Hamas risked being marginalized by a Palestinian public increasingly fed up with the terrorists’ efforts to draw Israel into confrontation. Hamas violence and the resulting Israeli retaliation has caused severe suffering among ordinary Palestinians during the intifada.

In addition, some changes in Israeli policy contributed to Hamas’ own change in tactics. They included the release of hundreds of prisoners, the disappearance of helicopter gunships from Palestinian airspace, the end of targeted killings of leading terrorists, a slowdown in arrests of suspected terrorists, a growing sense of personal security in Palestinian areas and the beginning of Israeli withdrawals from some Palestinian cities.

The group’s rhetoric remains nearly as belligerent as always, but the political consequences are different. A Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, said his movement wants to join the Palestine Liberation Organization, the main umbrella body for Palestinian groups, “to consolidate the resistance option in its capacity as the strategic option toward the liberation of Palestine.”

Zahar reacted to growing concern among secular Palestinians that Islam and democracy can not go together. The issue recently has been raised by Ghassan Khatib, the P.A. minister of planning, in an article on Bitterlemons. The Web site has dealt at length with Hamas’ growing power.

Secularists question whether Islamists who take power by democratic means are committed to maintaining democracy, Khatib wrote.

Fatah would be expected to rally its forces to face the challenge from Hamas. But Fatah, the ruling party, is preoccupied with an internal crisis that is developing mainly along the rift between the so-called old and new guards.

“Today in the eyes of most of the population, Fatah is identified with corruption and the disfunctionality of the P.A., whereas Hamas is considered clean by comparison,” Steinberg said in the Bitterlemons interview.

 

An Act Of Kindness Ends In Murder


It was an act of kindness reciprocated with murder.

Crane mechanic Moshe Hendler, 29, was on his way to wash up after a long day of work at the Ashdod port on Sunday when, along with a group of fellow workers, he ran into a young man asking for water.

They passed him a jug. An instant later, the man turned himself into a human bomb, taking the lives of Hendler and several others. Hendler’s father, Avraham, who works at the port, rushed to his son, who was sprawled lifeless on the ground.

Hendler — the father of a 6-month-old daughter — was buried Monday. He was one of 10 Israelis killed in a double suicide bombing Sunday at the industrial port on Israel’s southern coast.

Mazal Marciano, 30, was sitting in her office when the explosion went off, killing her instantly. Marciano worked as the marketing manager for the Nehemia Lahovitz meat products company.

Gal Lahovitz, who owns the company, said one of the suicide bombers blew himself up outside the trailer office where Marciano was working. She was the mother of two young sons, ages 2 and 5.

Although Ashdod largely has been free of violence during the three-and-a-half-year-old Palestinian intifada, Marciano’s relatives said they knew they probably would be hit by terror one day.

“We knew this round of terror attacks would reach us, too, and every time we saw pictures of terror attacks on television, we felt it would happen to us one day,” one of Marciano’s brothers said in the newspaper, Ha’aretz.

As after every attack, photos of the bombing victims were splashed across the front pages of Israel’s newspapers, and it was lead story on television broadcasts early in the week.

Among the dead was Avi Avraham, 33, who recently had been hired as a crane electrician at the port and who was married four months ago. His wife, Ettie, 27, rushed to the scene of the attack but was kept away by police barricades. Meanwhile, she kept calling his cell phone, but no one answered.

At the same time, the family of Zion Dahan, 30, frantically searched the hospitals. The search lasted until the family heard the news that Dahan was on the victims’ list.

Six months ago, Dahan had had a close brush with death when a cable came loose and hit him in the face, relatives said. This time, he found himself in the path of Palestinian terrorists, and he was not fortunate enough to escape.

After the bombing, some Israeli authorities suggested that the attack on the industrial port, where toxic chemicals are stored, may have been an attempted megaterrorist strike. They said the bombers may have intended to detonate themselves next to the port’s bromine tanks to release a cloud of poisonous gas into the surrounding area that potentially could have killed thousands.

Palestinian groups said they indeed had hoped to carry out a massive attack.

Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade jointly claimed responsibility for the attack, which was perpetrated by two 18-year-olds from the Gaza Strip. It was the first attack since the intifada began that was committed by Palestinians from Gaza, which is surrounded by an electronic fence.

Palestinians said Monday that the terrorists entered Israel by tunneling under the fence.

Morris Tuval, 30, who was a neighbor and former classmate of Marciano, also was killed in the attack. Filling in for a co-worker who could not make his shift, Tuval had just returned from an afternoon out with his friends, the well-known Israeli soccer players from the Ashdod team, Chaim and David Revivo. The three were childhood friends.

After lunch, David Revivo went to soccer practice, which is where he heard the two explosions.

“I can’t stop crying,” said Revivo, who described Tuval as “one of the greatest guys in the world.”

Also killed in Sunday’s attack were Gil Abutbul, 31; Dan Asulin, 51; Ophir Damari, 31; Avi Suissa, 55; and Pinchas Avraham Zilberman, 46.

Gaza Terrorists Target Americans


Any doubts about the close link between the war on terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have gone the way of a U.S. jeep loaded with diplomats on a dusty Gaza highway.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s roadside bombing, which killed three American security agents and wounded a junior official from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. But it had all the hallmarks of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli vehicles, and it set a new precedent for Palestinian violence.

President Bush blamed the Palestinian Authority for not cracking down on terrorist groups, despite numerous pledges to do so.

"Palestinian authorities should have acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms," Bush said in a written statement Wednesday. Their failure to do so, he said, "continues to cost lives."

An unwillingness to reform P.A. security forces and dismantle terrorist groups "constitutes the greatest obstacle to achieving the Palestinian people’s dream of statehood," Bush said, blaming P.A. President Yasser Arafat for hindering reforms.

The dead Americans were identified as John Branchizio, 37, of Texas; Mark Parson, 31, of New York; and John Martin Linde, 30, of Missouri. The three were on contract to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv through the defense contracting company Dyncorp, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said.

U.S. officials expressed outrage at the bombing.

In a phone call with P.A. Prime Minister Ahmed Karia, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Palestinians could not move toward statehood "without eliminating violence and terrorism."

FBI investigators are being dispatched to the region, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer told reporters in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli army sent tanks and armored vehicles, under cover of a helicopter gunship, to help the Americans evacuate the wounded man and the bodies of the victims.

Embassy officials who arrived on the scene to document the wreckage had barely managed to pull out their cameras when they were attacked by stone-throwing youths from the nearby Jabalya refugee camp. The Americans beat a hasty retreat as Palestinian police fired in the air to disperse the crowd.

Kurtzer’s cultural attaché was in the convoy, which was on its way to meet with Palestinian candidates for Fulbright scholarships to U.S. universities.

"It remains to be seen" if the program will be suspended in Palestinian areas, Kurtzer said.

According to Palestinian sources, Fulbright alumni in Gaza had been instructed not talk to the press as a probe began. That was an indication that authorities were covering all angles of an ambush that clearly targeted U.S. diplomats, a first for this round of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Arafat called the bombing an "ugly crime" and pledged to find the culprits. So did Karia.

Analysts did not expect the attack to affect U.S. commitment to the "road map" peace plan. But, they said, if the Palestinians fails to find the culprits, it could erode any remaining U.S. confidence in P.A. anti-terror efforts.

Palestinian terrorist groups sought to distance themselves from the attack.

"We view it as inappropriate to target Europeans, Americans or any nationality other than the occupation forces [of Israel,]" an Islamic Jihad leader, Nafez Azzam, told Reuters.

While Washington weighed its options, Israeli officials made clear that they do not consider this a random act of bloodshed but, if anything, a blood bond between two old allies.

"It’s not just because of U.S. support for Israel as such, but it is because of what Israel and the United States both together stand for," Sharon adviser Ra’anan Gissin said of the motives for the attack.

"They stand for life, for liberty, for democracy here, for pursuing peace," he said. "These victims are victims because of the gallant and very courageous policies that President Bush has been carrying to try and promote peace and hope to the people of the Middle East."

Real Peace Moves, or Just Politics?


After more than two years of a downward spiral in
Israeli-Palestinian relations, the prospect of a new regional balance after an
anticipated American war on Iraq is concentrating Israeli and Palestinian
minds.

Both sides want to be ready for any new American demands
after the dust settles in Baghdad. And so, after months of icy silence, Israeli
and Palestinian officials have started talking again — and the upshot could be
a new cease-fire.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says his aim is to create a
basis for a major peace initiative later in the year. His critics, however,
aren’t so sure: They accuse Sharon of going through the motions to keep the
international community happy and to lure the Labor Party into his coalition.

Talks have been taking place on three levels:

Sharon himself met Ahmad Karia, the speaker of the
Palestinian Parliament, to discuss renewing the peace process and what it could
offer the Palestinians;

Sharon’s bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, has been discussing
cease-fire terms with the Palestinian Authority’s interior minister, Hani
Hassan, who is in charge of Palestinian security affairs; and Ohad Marani,
director general of Israel’s Finance Ministry, negotiated with P.A. Finance
Minister Salam Fayyad the transfer of $60 million in Palestinian tax money that
Israel had withheld since the intifada began in September 2000.

In addition to those cynics who say Sharon’s recent flurry
of moves aren’t sincere and intended to attract the Labor Party to the
government, others say Sharon simply recognizes that the overthrow of Iraqi
dictator Saddam Hussein will create a window of diplomatic opportunity in the
region, and is signaling to the international community that he is prepared to
move toward a Palestinian state as envisaged by President Bush.

But Sharon doesn’t want to be rushed. Therefore, he recently
set up a team under dovish Likud Party legislator Dan Meridor to coordinate
future moves with the United States, preempting pressure on Israel from the
international community, especially the European Union.

Meridor is said to be working on a new Israeli-American
peace plan based on understandings reached by Sharon and Bush in a number of
recent conversations.

Sharon also invited Fayyad to his farm, where he outlined
reforms the Palestinian Authority must make before serious peace talks can
resume.

Sharon’s main demand is that P.A. President Yasser Arafat be
stripped of his executive powers and pushed into a ceremonial role, with real
power transferred to a prime minister. Fayyad is a leading candidate for the
job — and would probably be the first choice of Israel and the United States.

In the few months since he took charge of Palestinian
financial affairs, Fayyad has proven himself competent and trustworthy,
sincerely committed to Bush’s vision of Israeli and Palestinian states living
as peaceful neighbors and cooperating economically.

With Fayyad as prime minister, Israeli and American
officials believe Bush’s two-state vision could become a reality. But it’s not
clear whether Fayyad has sufficient standing among the Palestinian public to
win the job. Nor is it clear whether American and Israeli support will hurt
Fayyad’s chances of taking power.

Most pressing, however, is a cease-fire, without which
nothing will go forward. In talks with Hassan, Israeli officials are reviving
the idea of a “rolling” cease-fire that would begin in a limited geographic
area and, if it holds there, would spread until it encompasses the entire West
Bank and Gaza Strip.

At that point, Israeli troops could withdraw to positions
they held before the intifada began, and more comprehensive peace talks could
begin.

The trouble is that similar ideas have been tried before and
failed. Putative cease-fires in Gaza and the West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Hebron
failed to hold when the Palestinian Authority declined to confront terrorist
groups.

Hassan suggested that things will be different this time.
Speaking in Nablus last weekend, he said he soon would present a detailed
Palestinian proposal for a cease-fire beginning in Ramallah, where Arafat has
been holed up in his battered headquarters for more than a year.

This time, Hassan said, a cease-fire would be respected by
all parts of Arafat’s Fatah movement, including Al-Aksa Brigade terrorists who
have carried out dozens of bombings and other attacks against Israel.

Hassan acknowledged that one of the main reasons for the
Palestinians’ newfound seriousness is the anticipated war on Iraq, which he
believes will radically change the rules in the Middle East.

The Palestinians must change course, he believes, by
stopping terrorism and turning to political moves.

“It is time to harvest the political fruits,” Hassan said,
“and we cannot afford to make any mistakes this time.”

Both Jordan and Egypt are actively involved in the efforts
to revive the political process. On Sunday, Weisglass went to Amman to brief
the Jordanians, while Ephraim Halevy, the new chief of Israel’s National
Security Council, has been keeping Egypt updated.

Jordan and Egypt also are motivated by visions of a changing
Middle East: Egypt especially hopes to impress a presumably victorious United
States by helping to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Egypt has made a major effort to get all Palestinian
terrorist organizations to stop attacking Israel, and risked losing face when
the radicals refused.

Undeterred, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak invited Sharon
for talks in Sharm el-Sheik, the first invitation by an Arab leader since
Sharon was first elected prime minister in February 2001.

Still, some pundits argue that Sharon is only feinting
toward a peace deal to entice Labor into his coalition. If so, it’s not
working.

Labor Party leaders say they don’t believe Sharon has any
real intention of moving toward peace. In a recent meeting with Amram Mitzna,
they note, Sharon lectured the Labor chairman on the importance of Netzarim and
Kfar Darom, two Gaza Strip settlements that Mitzna says should be evacuated.

Mitzna maintains that Sharon’s attitude to the settlements
shows he isn’t ready to make peace, and that he wants Labor in his coalition so
he can drag his feet indefinitely. Sharon aides retort that the prime minister
sees a post-Iraq situation in which peacemaking with the Palestinians will be a
real possibility: After Saddam falls, Sharon reckons, Arafat will be the next
to go.

Then, Sharon said, people like Qurie, Fayyad and Hassan, who
want a new deal for the Palestinians, will be able to make reciprocal moves toward
peace without hindrance.

Community Briefs


Angeleno Killed in Terrorist Attack

Dr. Moshe Gottlieb, a chiropractor who moved to Israel from Los Angeles in 1978, was among the 19 people killed in the June 18 bus bombing in the neighborhood of Beit Safafa, near Gottlieb’s home in Gilo.

Gottlieb, 70, was on his way to Bnei Brak, where he volunteered every Tuesday at a clinic treating children with Downs Syndrome, hyperactivity and chronic pain.

He built a successful chiropractic practice in Hancock Park before moving to Israel, and was an active member of Congregation Shaarei Tefila. Gottlieb, who was buried in Jerusalem, is survived by his wife, Sheila; one son; one daughter; 12 grandchildren; and brother, Judah Gottlieb of Hancock Park. Contributions may be sent to Jewish Children’s Museum, 332 Kingston Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11213. — Mike Levy, Staff Writer

SFSU Cuts Off Funds for Palestinian Group

San Francisco State University (SFSU) has cut off funding for one year to a Palestinian student organization for its confrontational actions during a pro-Israel peace rally on campus. In addition, the university administration put the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) on probation, while also issuing a warning letter to the campus Hillel chapter.

The actions, announced by the university’s news bureau on Friday, June 21, followed an investigation of the May 7 confrontation between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students, during which police had to escort some Jewish participants to safety. No injuries were reported, but the San Francisco district attorney’s office is reviewing the events. After viewing videotapes and questioning witnesses, university investigators found that anti-Israel demonstrators had violated campus rules by yelling racial and ethnic epithets, using bullhorns and drums and failing to remain in their designated area.

Earlier in the week, university spokeswoman Ligeia Polidaro told the Los Angeles Times that SFSU authorities closed down the GUPS Web site because it displayed an animated image throwing a rock against a Star of David and carried a link of another Web site that accused Jews of ritual murder. Polidaro said the warning letter was sent to Hillel because some of its members also hurled racial and ethnic slurs and hung flags in the Student Center without permission, while one member used a bullhorn.

Disciplinary proceeding are pending against three students, whose affiliation was withheld by the university.

The disciplinary actions already in effect were spelled out in a university news release, in which SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan emphasized a number of constructive steps toward a "a fall semester devoted to civil discourse" on the 27,000-student campus.

Planned initiatives include creation of the president’s Task Force on Intergroup Relations: Focus on the Jewish and Palestinian Communities, and a retreat for student leaders, including representatives of both groups. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Teacher Inspects School Programs in Asia

Marla Osband, director of early childhood education at B’nai Tikvah Congregation in Westchester, just returned from Korea and Okinawa, representing the National Association for Education of Young Children (NAECY). Osband helped the organization in deciding whether five SureStart nursery school programs for at-risk children should become accredited. As a NAECY commissioner, this is the third time the educator, who has taught at B’nai Tikvah for 25 years, was selected for an overseas validation visit.

The process involved observing the schools’ curriculum, staff/child interaction, health and safety and other factors. "When a school makes a commitment to get accreditation,"Osband said, "they are making a commitment to saying that they’re going to give the highest quality of education to their children. What I’m trying to do is verify that what they’re saying is happening in their schools."

Osband was named Nursery School Teacher of the Year in 1997 by Childcare Information Exchange Magazine. — Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Education Writer

Richman Announces Valley Mayoral Run

Ending months of speculation, Assemblyman Keith Richman (R-Northridge) announced Wednesday that he would run for mayor of the proposed Valley city, should secession pass.

Richman said he made the decision to run based on what he believes are years of neglect of the Valley by the city of Los Angeles.

"I am very concerned about issues of public safety, the economic environment in the San Fernando Valley and education," Richman said.

Richman, 48, a physician, has been in Legislature’s Budget, Health and Insurance committees, as well as the special session of the Energy Cost and Availability Committee, which met last year to work toward resolving the state’s energy crises. His district covers the North Valley, West Hills and portions of Thousand Oaks. The assemblyman is up for reelection in his district but said if he wins both offices and the Valley secedes, he will resign from the Assembly.

Richman’s most likely opponent for the position of mayor is State Sen. Richard Alarcon, 48, a Democrat serving the 20th District. Although he had not as of press time made a formal announcement, Alarcon told The Journal that he has been weighing heavily the possibility of such a run. — Wendy J. Madnick, Contributing Writer

Paths to Peace?


Even before the first Israeli tanks swept into Ramallah at the start of Operation Protective Wall, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was being asked what he intended to do the day after the tanks withdrew. From day one, it was clear that the operation would not in itself put a stop to Palestinian terror. No matter how badly the terrorist infrastructure was hit, it would be only a matter of time until the suicide bombers were back on Israel’s streets.

Unless, that is, there was some political solution to the Palestinian- Israeli conflict.

But how best to achieve it? During the past few weeks, as more suicide bombings claimed more Israeli lives, and the scale of Israeli retaliation intensified, there has been a flurry of new ideas. Some, despairing of any hope of a negotiated deal between Israel and the Palestinians, advocate unilateral measures or externally imposed solutions.

There are three basic approaches: incrementalism, unilateralism and international intervention. All three hold out some hope — and all three are deeply flawed.

Both Sharon and the American administration have been inclined to continue along the slow incremental path from violence to cease-fire to graded political re-engagement, outlined in the "Tenet-Mitchell" framework, named for CIA Director George Tenet and former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell. The idea was to rebuild mutual confidence and trust after the collapse of the attempts to resolve all the issues in one fell swoop at Camp David in July 2000 and Taba in January 2001.

Badly burned by the failure of the permanent-status exercise, the parties lowered their sights and accepted the step-by-step approach.

But it didn’t work. The trouble with Tenet-Mitchell was that it left the endgame open. Sharon was not prepared to spell out his vision of final status until the Palestinians stopped the terror. To do so, he argued, would be to reward violence and encourage more violence.

The Palestinians, however, were not prepared to stop the violence until they knew where the political process was leading. To break the vicious circle, the Americans offered their vision of final status — two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side.

But the plan was too vague for the Palestinians. It said nothing about Jerusalem or refugees.

Moreover, as Palestinian terror escalated, and world opinion restricted Israeli retaliation, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat became convinced that violence was paying off and saw no reason to stop it.

Now new ideas to resuscitate the failing incrementalist approach are being put forward.

Ya’acov Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet, suggests a carrot for the Palestinians — every month of quiet will be rewarded with the evacuation of an Israeli settlement.

More realistically, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is trying to build a wide international coalition with the Europeans and moderate Arab states to pressure the parties to at least start the incrementalist process.

Operation Protective Wall, besides trying to smash the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, was also ostensibly an attempt to pressure the Palestinians into declaring a cease-fire and starting Tenet-Mitchell.

But will a humiliated and discredited Arafat be in any mood to declare a cease-fire? And if he does, will his badly hit security services be able to maintain it? And why should he want to stop the terror, after the wave of world sympathy, especially European, the latest chapter of violence has gained him?

The assumption that Arafat will not call off the violence and that there is no partner for dialogue on the Palestinian side has led many Israelis on the left and the right to propose unilateralist solutions.

The basic idea is that Israel withdraw unilaterally to a new line from which it can better defend itself and begin talks with the Palestinians, who would create their own state, on a political solution as soon as they are ready.

Sharon’s growing emphasis on buffer zones to prevent suicide bombers from reaching Israeli population centers, reiterated in his early April policy speech to the Knesset, is a version of unilateralist thinking, and is indicative of the prime minister’s conviction that there is no chance of any agreement with the Palestinians as long as Arafat is leader.

The key question for the unilateralists, of course, is where you draw the new line.

Meir Pa’il, a former far-left Knesset member, would pull back to the 1967 borders and put up a sophisticated electronic fence to stop the bombers getting through. The advantage of Pa’il’s line is that it would constitute full withdrawal in accordance with U.N. Resolution 242 and would be seen by the international community as bringing Israeli occupation to an end.

The concomitant disadvantage is that it would mean giving the Palestinians all the land for none of the peace and little incentive to make peace. It would also entail dismantling all the settlements and moving over 200,000 settlers out of their homes without a peace agreement to show for it.

Labor Party leaders, like former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Knesset member Haim Ramon, therefore, propose withdrawing from 75 percent to 80 percent of the West Bank, leaving most of the settlements intact, and negotiating the remaining 20 percent to 25 percent of the land and other outstanding issues on a state-to-state basis.

The advantage of the plan is that it could trigger a negotiating dynamic. The disadvantage is that the international community would regard Israel as still in occupation of Palestinian territory.

A team under minister-without-portfolio Dan Naveh, who was former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians, has also been working on a unilateral separation plan. It has Israel moving back to wide buffer zones along the old 1967 borders and in the Jordan Valley, and may prove to be the blueprint for Sharon himself.

The trouble with this scheme is that it would gain no international support and be vigorously resisted by the Palestinians and the Arab world. The lack of international enthusiasm for unilateral solutions and the fact that by definition they do not include an end to the conflict has spawned solutions based on the international community imposing its will on both parties.

Left-wing Meretz leader Yossi Sarid wants to see an American mandate in the Palestinian territories, nursing the Palestinians to statehood and peace with Israel along the lines of the Saudi peace initiative. The new mandate, which is also being backed by former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, would have U.N. sanction and would automatically replace the Israeli occupation.

American or NATO soldiers would be stationed between Israel and the Palestinian territories to protect both sides. This view is gaining momentum in some diplomatic circles, especially in Europe.

Jerome Segal of the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies adds a precise set of conditions the Palestinians must meet for statehood, including recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and accepting international weapons inspectors.

The advantage of the imposed solution is that it is final and underwritten in the most emphatic way by the international community.

The question is whether outside countries would be prepared to make the commitment, and even if they did, whether they would be able to impose their will on both sides.

What would they do if the terror persisted and if some of it were aimed at their own forces?

When Powell arrives in Israel later this week, he and Sharon may find themselves out of sync.

Powell will be trying to revive the incremental approach, while Sharon seems to have moved on to a unilateralist mindset.

The result could be an American leap of faith to greater international involvement, first to cool the situation and then, some time down the road, to impose a solution.

One idea being considered is the convening of a 1991 Madrid-style international conference of all major players and all Middle Eastern countries.

Arafat’s Choice


Last week, as a Palestinian terrorist murdered 22 Israelis sitting down to their Passover seder, the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade became the first group affiliated with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement to be added to the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organization since the United States normalized relations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization after the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993.

Composed of Arafat loyalists, funded by Fatah through the Tanzim militias, and assisted in coordination of their attacks by members of Arafat’s Force 17 security services, the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade has dramatically outpaced Islamic extremist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad in attacks on Israelis. Since the beginning of the year, reports indicate that close to 70 Israelis have been murdered, and more than 500 have been wounded in terrorist attacks attributed to the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade alone.

The designation was eagerly anticipated in Congress, where I recently joined Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) in sending a letter signed by over 235 U.S. representatives urging President Bush to place the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, along with the Tanzim and Force 17, on the list. We applaud this move as a serious indictment of Arafat for the free rein he has given terrorist groups and as a warrant for the Bush administration’s close examination of the extent to which high level Palestinian officials are involved in planning and financing attacks. Unless Arafat makes a decisive choice to isolate and eliminate the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade’s operations, he and his entire organization must be viewed as terrorists, and as such should be subject to severe diplomatic and financial sanctions.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership’s continued refusal to implement a U.S. brokered cease-fire demonstrates that Arafat is unwilling to take even the most basic steps for security cooperation. Even as Gen. Anthony Zinni has attempted to facilitate a meeting between Vice President Cheney and Arafat by arranging United States-brokered talks between Israeli and Palestinian security forces, Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade suicide bombers have struck central Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

This comes only three months after it was revealed that senior Palestinian officials were arranging the Karine-A shipment of arms at the same time they negotiated the Tenet plan and approved the Mitchell report. The shipment, which contained Iranian-supplied Kassam rockets and at least 2,200 kilograms of the TNT and C-4 explosives used in suicide attacks, was another flagrant display of Arafat’s lack of credibility in dealing with Israel and the United States.

Until Arafat abandons his strategy of relying on terrorist attacks to put pressure on Israel, he is incapable of sincerely negotiating a cease-fire. Until he stops supporting, sustaining and supplying terrorist factions, he will continue to undermine U.S. efforts to restore stability in the region. And, until he takes action to confiscate the terrorist weapons, close down bomb-making labs, and arrest the militants training to become suicide attackers, he leaves Israel with no choice but to take all measures necessary to defend its citizens. It was right for Cheney not to meet with him. It is appropriate for the United States to consider him not just an obstacle, but an opponent of our efforts for peace and our war against terrorism.

The Man Who Knows Too Much


“American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us,” by Steve Emerson (Simon & Schuster, $26).

It began by happenstance

CNN reporter Steve Emerson was stuck in Oklahoma City on Christmas 1992 with nothing to do and wandered by the city’s convention center, where a gathering of the Muslim Arab Youth Association was taking place.

Inside, he found “books preaching Islamic jihad, books calling for the extermination of Jews and Christians, even coloring books instructing children on subjects such as ‘How to Kill the Infidel.'”

Later, after listening to speeches urging jihad against the Jews and the West from luminaries such as the head of the Hamas terrorist group, Emerson called his contacts in the FBI to inquire whether they were aware of this bizarre meeting.

They were not.

A year later, Emerson attended a similar Muslim conference in Detroit that included representatives from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terror groups. It also included an appearance by a befuddled senior FBI agent.

When a member of the hostile audience asked the agent for advice on how to ship weapons overseas, Emerson relates that the G-man said, matter-of-factly, that he “hoped any such efforts would be done in conformance with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms guidelines.” Apparently, the FBI official had attended the radical conference under the mistaken impression that it was “some kind of Rotary Club.”

That anecdote demonstrates the ignorance and passivity shown by the government on the threat from Islamic extremists in the United States.

Investigator of terror

In 1993, the reporter left the cable network and struck out on his own as an investigator of terror networks in this country. Working with a small staff, he founded The Investigative Project, which has specialized in bringing to light the facts about the ways these dangerous extremists have used our open society as a staging ground for international terrorism.

His award-winning 1994 film, “Jihad in America,” broadcast over PBS, introduced the topic to a wide audience. Emerson amassed a vast library of vital information about the activities and ideology of these terror groups and became one of the country’s leading experts on the topic. But, as he tells the story in his new book, “American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us,” the path he has trod has not exactly been smooth.

The broadcast of his film sparked death threats that the FBI took seriously. And the sizable number of domestic apologists and fellow travelers of these terror groups soon made Emerson the focus of their misinformation efforts.

Emerson was smeared as being anti-Muslim by some Islamic and Muslim groups. The mainstream press often treated the charges as true.

Emerson did stumble in 1995 when, responding to inquiries about the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, he said the crime fit the profile of Islamic groups. When that was proved untrue, Emerson wound up with egg on his face.

That mistake proved to be what Emerson admits is “an albatross around my neck,” but it did not stop him from continuing his research and regularly appearing in The Wall Street Journal and as an expert witness for congressional committees. Long before most Americans had ever heard of Al Qaeda, Emerson warned that its members were planning attacks on the United States.

The FBI was barred by law from snooping on domestic groups hiding behind the facade of charitable organizations. But Emerson went where the government feared to tread.

This information made him invaluable, but it also gave him the air of a Cassandra. Though he was able to keep The Investigative Project going, his warnings were largely ignored.

Banned by NPR

In 1998, for example, critics who accused Emerson of being an anti-Muslim bigot were able to pressure National Public Radio (NPR) to ban him from its airwaves. An NPR producer promised an Arab group “he won’t be used again.”

After this outrage was exposed, NPR falsely claimed there had been no blacklisting of Emerson. But he has yet to be heard on NPR since.

The Sept. 11 attacks vindicated Emerson, but that hasn’t stopped the torrent of abuse directed his way. Although he has become something of a media celebrity in the last few months as a regular on the talking-head news shows (he’s become a paid consultant for NBC), for many in the Muslim world and on the American left, he remains a target.

On Nov. 14, The Washington Post published a profile of Emerson that rehashed every misleading attempt to discredit him. The Post’s John Mintz never questioned the credentials of some of Emerson’s critics, and took an “evenhanded” approach to their accusations that he was anti-Muslim. He also brought up ridiculous charges that Emerson works for the Mossad, although the only evidence for that seems to be that he is Jewish. No wonder the reporter does his best to play down his religion.

The trendy Webzine Salon.com also took up the cause of trying to discredit Emerson. In a disingenuous piece posted on Jan. 19, the site accused Emerson of ruining “an innocent professor’s life.” The case involved Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian professor of engineering at the University of South Florida in Tampa, whom Salon claimed was merely an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights.

In fact, Emerson’s book details Al-Arian’s leadership of the American wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad — a group that is responsible for the murder of scores of Israelis and Americans. He used his tenured position at the Tampa college to set up a nonprofit organization that became a clearinghouse for the group’s fundraising (including the “sponsoring of martyrs” — in reality, suicide bombers) and propaganda in this country.

Al-Arian, who is an American citizen, was able to evade prosecution, but subsequent exposés by The Tampa Tribune inspired by Emerson’s work led to the closing down of Islamic Jihad’s Tampa branch. And after his story was aired on Fox News and NBC’s “Dateline,” the university finally fired the professor.

Despite the slander, Emerson has persisted. And though his new book gives the impression of being something of a quickie post-Sept. 11 effort, the slim volume has a lot to offer for the general reader who wants an introduction to the topic of Islamic extremists on the loose in America.

In its discussions of Osama bin Laden’s American connections and the vast support networks set up here for the benefit of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Emerson provides a concise analysis of this phenomenon and the clear dangers it poses for our national security.

Emerson also spends a chapter talking about moderate American Muslims who oppose terror. That information is heartening, but it is tempered by the fact that these moderates themselves admit that extremists dedicated to jihad have taken over “80 percent” of American mosques and most American Muslim organizations.

He knows the war against terror is one that will go on for a long time without a clear-cut victory. More than 3,000 deaths testify to the truth of the picture that Emerson has painted for us of the danger from Islamic radicals. But in spite of threats and slanders, he continues to voice warnings about our vulnerability.

But even after Sept. 11, are we truly listening?

Mating Call or Terrorist Revenge?


A new weapon may have emerged in the Palestinians’ battle against Israel — the "siren call."

In several ads in New York’s Village Voice newspaper, Palestinians — or people posing as Palestinians — solicit romantically available Jews or Israelis to take them "home" to Israel.

"You stole the land. May as well take the women," reads one ad. "Redhead Palestinian ready to be colonized by your army."

Another makes a similar point: "Shalom baby! Hot Palestinian Semite gal hoping to find my perfect Israeli man. Let’s stroll the beaches of Akka and live and love in Jerusalem. No Fatties."

Some Jewish leaders say the unusual barrage of ads — at least 18 in the one February issue — is some kind of publicity stunt. Others fear a more serious ploy to infiltrate Israel and realize the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees to homes they fled in Israel.

Still others remember the incident last year when a Palestinian woman struck up a cyber-romance with an Israeli teenager to lure him to Ramallah, where he was murdered.

Kenneth Jacobson, associate national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said that before Sept. 11, he might have dismissed the ads as a gimmick. Now he’s a little more skeptical. "It’s as if some in the Palestinian world [may be looking for] ways to begin to inject more and more Palestinians into Israel proper," Jacobson said.

For its part, the Village Voice said this was the only phone call they received about the ads, and that the advertising department would "review the ads in question," said the paper’s public relations director, Jessica Bellucci.

"We feel they don’t raise any red flags," she said, but "we’re going to continue to monitor [them] and then take appropriate actions necessary."

That could mean pulling ads if they are fraudulent.

Jacobson said the ADL hasn’t received many calls on the ads, but after Sept. 11, "When we see something we might dismiss as ludicrous, today we have to give it some due attention, because we know crazy and dangerous things have happened and can happen again," he said.

Ido Aharoni, spokesman for the Israeli Consulate in New York, said the ads are a "kind of guerrilla P.R. warfare that" reflects negatively on those who placed them.

Yet, he doesn’t think the ads warrant further concern.

"I don’t think it’s serious. I don’t think it’s for real," Aharoni said. "Here’s a relatively inexpensive way to reach hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers."

In addition, he noted, such ads are protected under the First Amendment’s free speech provisions.

Bellucci of the Village Voice said the paper sees "trends from time to time" in the personal ads that may highlight religion, for example, or sexual orientation.

The Palestinian ads are "in keeping" with the background and interests of the Voice’s diverse readership, she said.

World Brifs


Beit Jalla Action Postponed

Israeli military sources were quoted as saying the army had postponed a planned action in Beit Jalla by a day. The media reports said the operation, aimed at stopping Palestinian gunfire in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, was delayed in part because of American criticism of Tuesday’s military incursion into the Palestinian-ruled city of Jenin.

Palestinian Militants Arrested

Israel arrested several Palestinian militants that planned to carry out a terrorist attack near Haifa. The militants, arrested last week, were members of a suspected Islamic Jihad cell, according to details allowed for publication. Several Israeli Arabs also were arrested in connection with the incident.

Israeli undercover security forces also killed a member of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction Wednesday in Hebron. Imad Abu Sneineh was suspected of involvement in shooting attacks. Israel defends its policy of “targeted killings” of suspected Palestinian terrorists, but the international community condemns what it calls “assassinations.”

Israeli Astronaut Set for 2002

Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, will blast into orbit on May 23, 2002, the prime minister’s office announced Monday. The announcement followed a meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and NASA administrator Daniel Goldin. The two also agreed to continue cooperation between Israel and NASA.

Stem Cell Reaction Mixed

Jewish groups offered mixed reactions to President Bush’s decision to allow limited federal funding for research on existing embryonic stem cells.

Groups praised the government’s first step but expressed hope that the scope of funding could be expanded in the future.

The National Council of Jewish Women, however, said it is “deeply disappointed” by the president’s Aug. 9 announcement, calling it too narrow and restricting

U.N. Alters Zionism Resolution

A purported compromise on a resolution denigrating Zionism as racism at the upcoming U.N. conference in South Africa is “subterfuge,” according to a Jewish official. In the current draft, the term “occupying power” simply replaces specific references to Zionism and Israel, said Jason Isaacson, director of government and international affairs for the American Jewish Committee. Still, the document “is written for no other purpose than to single out Israel,” Isaacson said, contradicting comments Tuesday from a South African official who said that the Zionism-racism issue had been removed from the conference agenda.

Israel’s Nude Offensive

The Israel Defense Force is using female soldiers to lure Palestinian rock-throwers to their doom, according to the Gazan weekly Al-Hayat al-Jadida. The female soldier performs a strip show, luring the Palestinians away from their piles of stones. She then produces a gun and fires on the hapless crowd, according to the paper, which did not explain where the nude soldiers hide their guns. The IDF called the story “totally ridiculous.”

Jews Teach for America

Several North American Jewish organizations, including the federation system and Birthright Israel, hope to have a Jewish version of Teach for America in place by next summer, according to Ron Wolfson, vice president of the Los Angeles-based University of Judaism. The project, which Wolfson describes in the latest issue of the Jewish Life Network’s magazine and which the university is spearheading, would recruit hundreds of college students and alumni of Israel trips to teach in Jewish schools and would train them in a Jewish teachers’ “boot camp.”

Five Jews Killed in Crash

Five Orthodox Jews from Brooklyn were killed in a helicopter crash near the Grand Canyon.

The five tourists killed last Friday were part of a group of about 20 friends and family on a four-day vacation at the Bellagio hotel-casino in Las Vegas. “They are all active in the communities, they’re all friends,” New York City Councilman Noach Dear said of the victims. “They were a lot of fun to be with.” The sole survivor, Chana Daskai, suffered burns over 80 percent of her body.

Two N.Y. Rabbis Sentenced

Two New York City rabbis were sentenced to nearly three years in prison for embezzling $2.5 million meant for training counselors for elderly Holocaust survivors. Efroim Stein and Jacob Bronner pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy charges.

Prosecutors said Stein slipped funds to his synagogue and to subcontractors in exchange for kickbacks and falsely put his relatives on the payroll as trainers.

Shoah Denier Offers Deal

Holocaust denier David Irving offered to pay Penguin Books $210,000 if the publisher as well as historian Deborah Lipstadt drop all further claims against him. Last year, a British court ordered Irving to pay Penguin’s and Lipstadt’s legal costs, estimated at $3 million, when he lost a libel suit against them over Lipstadt’s book “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.”

Russian Leader Slammed

A Russian Jewish leader is being attacked in the media for seeking charges against a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church for publishing and distributing an anti-Semitic tract, according to the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union.

Church leaders in Yekaterinburg are defending the diocese’s distribution of the book and accusing Mikhail Oshtrakh of “inciting antagonism toward Jews.” The prosecutor’s office said it is investigating the issue.

British Group Warns of Attacks

A group that monitors anti-Semitic incidents in Britain is warning that Palestinian terrorists may expand their activities to target Jews around the world.

The Community Security Trust points out that Hamas’ Web site asks rhetorically, “Aren’t all Jews and Zionists fighting your own brethren and targeting you all?”

A Hezbollah-controlled television station, meanwhile, reported that a group allied with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement issued a threat to attack “Zionists and their U.S. allies anywhere, inside and outside occupied Palestine.”

Coordinating Terrorism


As the United States and other Western powers try to reduce Israeli-Palestinian tensions, Iran moved this week to fan the flames.

In a bid to become the hub for anti-Israel activities, Iran invited Arab terror groups — including Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad — to a two-day meeting in Tehran to coordinate strategy against Israel.

The view from Tehran is that the anti-Israeli front should intensify its activities to take advantage of Israel’s present “state of instability and weakness.”

The conference brought together a “Who’s Who” of Israel’s enemies, yet it was greeted with relative indifference by Israeli officials. As far as they are concerned, Iran’s role as a backer of militant groups has been clear for some time.

Just the same, the militant powwow represented something of a success for Tehran.

A non-Arab country, Iran has for years tried to shift the focus of the struggle against Israel from the Arab world to the broader Islamic world and has positioned itself as Israel’s archenemy.

Until now, many Muslim countries have distanced themselves from Iran and its fundamentalist regime. At a conference of Islamic states last November, for example, Iran failed to get the attendees to take steps to isolate Israel on the world stage.

This week, however, lawmakers from 30 Islamic countries — including Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Yemen — attended the conference, which intended to increase coordination among the rejectionists instead of competition and make the struggle against Israel more effective.

Salim Zanoun, chairman of the Palestine National Council, and Ikrami Sabri, the top Palestinian Authority-appointed Muslim cleric in Jerusalem, were on hand at the Tehran conference to look after the P.A.’s interests.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, opened the conference Monday with a declaration that combat, not dialogue, was the way to deal with the Jewish state.

“The strength of Islamic resistance lies in its ability to wreak crushing blows against Israeli actions and not in relying on diplomatic efforts and mediation of others,” he said. “Supporting the Palestinian people is one of the important Islamic duties.”

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, often described as a relative moderate on domestic issues, showed that he is little different from the ayatollah when it comes to Israel.

“The oppressed people of Palestine,” he said Monday, are “the victims of Zionist discrimination and aggression.”

The organizer of the Tehran conference was Ali Akbar Mohtashami-Poor, a former Iranian ambassador to Syria who is considered one of the founding fathers of Hezbollah.

Menashe Amir, head of the Persian department of Israel Radio, said Mohtashami-Poor is a close associate of Khatami, whom Amir in turn described as “just as hostile toward Israel as the radicals in Tehran.”

While the Iranians were busy this week trying to make themselves the central address for attacks on Israel, they may have competition from an unexpected corner.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Ra’anan Gissin, claimed Tuesday that billionaire terrorist Osama bin Laden is trying to establish a “terrorist” infrastructure among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Gissin made the claim after Israel arrested a Gaza lawyer it suspects of involvement with bin Laden, whose terror operations are based in Afghanistan.

If true, this could represent the opening of a new chapter in terrorist attacks on Israel.

Setting Differences Aside


A national unity government appears increasingly likely as envoys from the Likud and Labor parties work to overcome some snags in negotiations.

Both Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon and outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Barak appear determined to forge a unity coalition that will remain in power until the end of the Knesset’s term in November 2003.

The Palestinian rejection of President Clinton’s peace proposals has made it relatively easy for Israel’s two major parties to set aside their differences over the shape of a final peace deal and agree on a platform vague enough for each to accept.

Israeli-Palestinian tensions escalated further following Wednesday’s car bomb attack near Holon. Four female soldiers, three male soldiers and a civilian were killed and 17 other people were injured when a Palestinian driver slammed his bus into a crowded bus stop.

According to leaks from the two parties, they have so far agreed to the following guidelines for a unity government:

It will be committed to advancing a peace involving "painful compromises" by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority;

It will be bound by previously signed agreements, but not by proposals considered during negotiations that fell short of an accord;

It will work toward interim peace deals with the Palestinians, rather than the comprehensive agreement sought by Barak and insisted on by the Palestinians; and

It will not build new settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but will allow existing settlements to expand in line with "natural population growth."

Potential pitfalls in the negotiations were avoided by vagueness and omission on key points.

As a result, there is no specific reference — at least in the leaked versions — to the future of Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods. Likud officials had demanded an explicit commitment to keep the entire city under Israeli control.

Nor is there a call to dismantle isolated settlements. Labor had wanted this, but the pro-settler National Religious Party has threatened not to join a unity government if such provisions are included, and the Likud does not want to lose any of its "natural partners."

By midweek, the unity negotiations had slowed somewhat. In part, this slowdown was due to Barak’s demand that the government’s platform say that Israel will agree to the creation of a Palestinian state.

In the past, Sharon has said that he would not oppose a Palestinian state but has set conditions for such a state that Labor does not accept.

If a unity government is established, it seems likely that the cabinet will contain eight Likud and eight Labor ministers, along with some 10 other ministers from the religious and rightist parties and from the Russian immigrant Yisrael Ba’Aliyah Party.

Some Laborites raised their eyebrows when the defeated prime minister insisted on running the party’s negotiations with Likud, just days after he told the nation that he would leave the Knesset and resign as Labor leader when Sharon took office.

The eyebrows climbed even further when it emerged that — his resignation notwithstanding — Barak was considering an offer to be Sharon’s defense minister.

That exacerbated the tension between Barak and Labor’s elder statesman, Shimon Peres. Peres is still fuming over Barak’s refusal to step down during the campaign to allow Peres to represent Labor.

Looming over the negotiations is the shadow of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who remains the most popular politician in the country, according to polls.

A key Netanyahu supporter, Likud legislator Yisrael Katz, convened a meeting of Likud Central Committee members this week to protest Sharon’s offer of the defense portfolio to Barak. Katz argued that Barak already has proved a total failure in the post, which he held simultaneously with the premiership.

The real reason, political commentators said, is that Katz, and presumably Netanyahu, believe a Sharon-Barak partnership would have a good chance of staying in power for the rest of the Knesset’s term.

Political commentators say Sharon and Barak are bound by a common desire to thwart any potential Netanyahu comeback.

Of course, that desire won’t make it into a unity government’s policy platform. But it will nevertheless be there, commentators say, between every line.

Blown Deal


Bill Clinton is wasting his time. The chances of a meaningful Israeli-Palestinian deal before he hands over the presidency to George W. Bush on Jan. 20 are negligible. Yasser Arafat has blown it. Ehud Barak, with the best and bravest of motives, has blown it. Peace is on hold, and it will take more than a government led by the uncompromising Ariel Sharon, campaigning on the slogan “Only Sharon can bring peace,” to revive it in months or even years to come.

The final straw came this week with the revelation that Palestinian General Intelligence, Arafat’s intelligence service, was behind the bombing of a Tel Aviv bus, which wounded 14 people two weeks ago. If the Shin Bet internal security service has its facts right, that destroys any vestige of faith in the Palestinian leader’s will to live side by side with a Jewish state.

A suspected terrorist was arrested hours after leaving a pipe bomb under the seat of a no. 51 bus, which he detonated with a cellphone as it passed down crowded Petach Tikva Way. He was identified this week as Abdullah Abu Jaber, a 25-year-old Palestinian refugee who grew up in a camp in Jordan. He entered Israel illegally two years ago and found work, astonishingly, as a security guard at a beachfront cafe complex in Rishon Letzion, south of Tel Aviv.

Israeli security sources say he was recruited by relatives in the West Bank town of Nablus and was put to work by the Palestinian General Intelligence, commanded by the chairman’s cousin, Moussa Arafat. Abu Jaber is said to have confessed to the bombing and reenacted it for investigators. He smuggled in the bomb from Nablus, which is under Palestinian rule, and was paid 200 shekels ($50) for the assignment.

According to the security establishment, as many as 80 percent of the Palestinian shootings and bombings since the intifada erupted at the end of September were perpetrated by people who either work for the Palestinian Authority or are connected to it. At least 43 Israeli soldiers and civilians have been killed and 500 wounded in more than 2,770 such incidents. Arafat’s Fatah movement claimed responsibility for another recent bombing, which wounded 40 people in Netanya.

It is hard to remember that six months ago, Israelis were shopping across the old Green Line border in Qalqiliya, dining in Ramallah and gambling in Jericho. It began to go wrong at Camp David in July. Seven years after the Oslo breakthrough, Barak judged that the Palestinians were ready to end the century-old conflict. He went for broke, offering Arafat the rest of the Gaza Strip, more than 90 percent of the West Bank and shared rule in Jerusalem, which would be the capital of the Palestinian as well as the Jewish state.
To Barak’s and Clinton’s chagrin, Arafat said: “No.” For him, the end of the conflict had to mean the righting of what the Palestinians perceive as an historic injustice. He tried to put the clock back 60 years. Despite the commitment they made in the Oslo accords, the Palestinians were not, it seemed, reconciled to the establishment of a Jewish state with a Jewish majority in the disputed homeland.

For them, ending the conflict had to entail a Zionist acknowledgment of guilt. Not only had Israel to evacuate all the territory occupied in the 1967 war, it had to allow up to 3.5 million 1948 refugees to return to their old homes inside Israel. And it had to recognize Muslim hegemony over the Temple Mount; Arabs still talk as if the Jews’ connection to their holiest site is merely a matter of conjecture.

Inspired by the Hezbollah harassment that persuaded Barak to pull Israeli troops out of Lebanon last summer, Arafat reverted to violence. “The only language the Israelis understand,” his information minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told an Israeli interviewer, “is the language of force.” First the kids with the rocks, then the Fatah Tanzim militiamen and Palestinian police with AK-47 automatics thought they could do a Hezbollah. The first intifada, which broke out in 1987, spawned Oslo. The second intifada, they believed, would spawn a Palestinian state on Palestinian terms.

The mayhem of the past three and a half months remind me of nothing more than the Arab riots chronicled in Tom Segev’s iconoclastic new history of the British mandate, “One Palestine, Complete.” The same hatred, frustration and violence on the Palestinian side, the same insensitivity to Arab concerns and interests on the Jewish side.

I asked Segev, a columnist on the liberal daily Ha’aretz, what lessons today’s Israelis should learn from the mandate era. His reply was bleak, unless you delude yourself that Israel can either ignore the neighbors or evict them.

“The situation is different today in the sense that Israel is a very strong country,” he said. “The existence of Israel is no longer in danger. So we are facing the Arabs from a very different point of view. We should learn that the Arabs need many years of national existence as a state before they can sign a final settlement with us. The establishment of a Palestinian state should be one of the first steps in seeking peace negotiations, not the final outcome of the negotiations.”

Segev pointed the difference between the psychology of Israelis and the psychology of Palestinians. “A very deep change,” he argued, “has happened in Israeli society. Israelis are more secure, Israelis are more mature, Israelis don’t think collectively any more. And they have realized the merit of peace.

“Israelis are ready not only for peace, but to pay a very high price for peace. And the Palestinians, I think, are not. The Palestinians need to form their institutions and get some achievements and make their mistakes and have a second and third generation to whom national existence is no longer a miracle, just as the third generation of Israelis is able to make peace, because national existence is no longer a miracle for most Israelis.”

Meanwhile, we are stuck with a lame-duck Clinton, a discredited Barak, an Arafat who cannot shove the genie back in the bottle — and a Sharon who, like the doomed French Bourbon kings, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

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