Hamas celebrates one year in office
Experts See New Violence Brewing
Israelis and Palestinians may appear to be on the verge of a new peace process, but Israeli army generals and seasoned observers of the Palestinian scene predict a new round of fighting, perhaps as early as next fall, after Israel completes its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.
The generals point to continued weapons smuggling and other military preparations by Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, while the Palestinian watchers see signs of growing discontent and radicalization among the Palestinian public.
According to military intelligence estimates, if there is a new eruption of terrorism it will come from the West Bank and could include Kassam rockets being fired at towns and cities inside Israel proper.
Writing in the newspaper Yediot Achronot, military analyst Alex Fishman says the Israel Defense Forces’ central command, which is responsible for the West Bank, already is gearing up for a renewal of the intifada.
The thinking in army circles is that after the Israeli withdrawal the Palestinians will see Gaza as “liberated” but will view the West Bank, which still will have a strong Israeli military and settler presence, as “occupied,” Fishman reports.
According to the army assessment, the Palestinians will have an interest in keeping the peace in Gaza to show that they can run their own affairs. But the West Bank will be an entirely different story.
With dozens of Israeli settlements and army camps still in place, the Palestinians will argue that they are fighting to end the occupation there, just as, in their view, they did in Gaza. And they will adopt the same model — firing rockets at both military and civilian targets.
According to military intelligence, the Palestinians are making a major effort to obtain the materials they need to produce rockets in the West Bank, something that until now they have been able to do only in the Gaza Strip.
West Bank-based terrorists reportedly have placed large orders for weapons and explosives for the rockets from Bedouin smugglers. One of the routes to the West Bank would be from Egypt through Gaza; another would be directly from Jordan.
Moreover, army sources say, once the IDF withdraws from all West Bank cities, as it is set to do under the terms of the current lull, the Palestinians will be able to set up workshops and manufacture the rockets unhindered.
Fishman reports that the army sees the arms smuggling as a major threat and is doing all it can to block smugglers’ routes. He says it has established a special unit to this end and taken steps to enhance intelligence- gathering capabilities among the Bedouin.
Appearing before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in late March, Military Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash confirmed that the Palestinian terrorists are trying to export technological know-how from Gaza to facilitate the manufacture of Kassam rockets in the West Bank.
Farkash added that despite a steep decline in current terrorist operations, the militias are enhancing their capabilities for future attacks. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz also expressed concern.
During a visit to Washington, Mofaz said that Palestinians had smuggled Strella anti-aircraft rockets into the Gaza Strip, which he said “crosses a red line” for Israel. The Israeli fear is that if the Strellas are smuggled into the West Bank, they could be used against passenger planes taking off from Ben-Gurion Airport.
In addition, observers of the Palestinian scene report growing grass-roots frustration with the way the nascent peace process is developing. Israeli academics and Western diplomats whose work takes them into the West Bank note mounting popular discontent because ending the armed struggle so far has failed to change people’s everyday lives, as they had hoped it would.
Menachem Klein, a Bar Ilan University expert on the Palestinians, sees signs of growing radicalization, which he believes could erupt soon in violence. Klein notes that twice, within two weeks in March, jailed Palestinian militia leader Marwan Barghouti smuggled letters out from his prison cell calling for a return to armed struggle.
Three months ago, Barghouti backed Mahmoud Abbas’ candidacy for Palestinian Authority president, though Abbas’ entire campaign was based on ending the armed struggle. Klein argues that Barghouti, with his sharp political sense, would not have written the new letters unless he felt there was considerable support for the views expressed.
“The fact that Barghouti is calling for a return to the armed struggle shows that something very profound is happening on the Palestinian street,” Klein said.
Klein sees another expression of Palestinian radicalization in the way the secular Fatah Party and the fundamentalist Hamas movement, once divided by a huge ideological gulf, are growing closer. He notes that Hamas leaders are even calling for a “joint political program” — which might tame Hamas, but more likely would radicalize the entire Palestinian movement.
The bottom line for Klein is that he believes there is no way Israel and the Palestinians will be able to conduct a successful peace process. In his view, the two leaders already are conducting a “dialogue of the deaf.”
Abbas, he says, is only interested in negotiating a final peace deal, whereas Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — who believes the sides are too far apart on basic issues to strike a lasting deal — insists on long-term interim arrangements instead.
There is no possible meeting point, Klein says.
“I see a great danger of a blow-up. I don’t know when it will happen, but it’s almost inevitable. It’s in the DNA of the process,” he said.
Not all observers agree that the process is doomed to failure. But if there is to be any chance of success, the two sides must solve a more fundamental problem: how to synchronize the rhythm of mutual concessions even before peace negotiations begin.
For now, Israel is reluctant to hand additional West Bank cities to P.A. control until the Palestinians carry out promised security reforms, while the Palestinians are reluctant to make the reforms until Israel hands over the cities. The Palestinians also have not moved on promises to take weapons from wanted terrorists in the cities already turned over to their control.
In an editorial, the left-leaning newspaper Ha’aretz suggests that Israel take the initiative.
“[Israel] must, to the best of its ability, contribute to the process that Abu Mazen is having difficulty in carrying out,” it says, using Abbas’ nom de guerre. “Even if such assistance often entails security risks.”
In the meantime, leaders on both sides see no alternative but to contemplate the possibility of failure — a state of mind, pundits warn, that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Leslie Susser is the diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Report
Abbas Tries to Prove His Strength
Four months after he was elected president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas is fighting for his political life — and possibly for the survival of the peace process.
Last week, Abbas fought off militants’ attempts to challenge the authority of the Palestinian government and dismissed a number of senior officers who had failed to prevent the challenge.
Abbas forced the resignation of West Bank security chief Ismail Jaber after riots aimed at the P.A. president ended with shots fired at his Ramallah headquarters.
Abbas took the move primarily to prevent the possible collapse of his rule, but it also is an advance payment to President Bush, with whom he was scheduled to meet later this month. According to the U.S.-led “road map” peace plan, the many P.A. security bodies should be whittled down to three.
Jaber had been commander of the national security force, which with 15,000 police officers is the largest security body in the West Bank. Israel recently has exerted a great deal of pressure on Abbas to get rid of Jaber, considered too weak to cope with terrorists.
Avi Dichter, head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, recently met with Abbas and expressed Israel’s concern at the P.A.’s failure to reform the security services, disarm militant groups and stop terrorist attacks against Israeli targets. Even in Jericho and Tulkarm, the two cities Israel already has handed over to P.A. control, the Palestinian Authority is refusing to implement promises to disarm specific wanted terrorists and restrict their freedom of movement.
As a result, Israel has delayed handing over additional cities to P.A. control.
Abbas issued a presidential decree over the weekend mandating the forced retirement of thousands of police officers over age 60, cutting both the size of the armed forces and his budget. Yet in a confrontation with the core of his opposition, the Al Aksa Brigades, the terrorist militia of his own ruling Fatah party, Abbas backed down.
In an apparent initial attempt to restore law and order, P.A. officials last week ordered six terrorists who had found shelter at the Mukata, Abbas’ headquarters in Ramallah, to give up their weapons, join the P.A. security forces or leave the compound.
Instead, the men instead went on a rampage. They were joined on March 30 by other brigade members, who fired shots at the Mukata and in the streets of Ramallah and damaged businesses and restaurants that senior P.A. officials frequent.
Abbas was in the Mukata during the shooting, but escaped unharmed under heavy security. Similar incidents were reported in other places in the West Bank, especially in the Bethlehem and Tulkarm regions.
Some Al Aksa terrorists threatened to violate the truce declared Feb. 8 if the Palestinian Authority continued to pressure their men.
After the March 30 riots, Abbas ordered a crackdown on the militants. He fired the Ramallah commander, Younis al-Hass, whose men did nothing to stop the gunmen.
But he did not go further, and ultimately he agreed to a deal allowing the terrorists to keep their weapons. That showed Abbas still has a long way to go on implementing Palestinian promises to take the weapons from all but authorized members of the P.A. security services.
The riots, and Abbas’ failure to cope with them, intensified the P.A.’s internal crisis. To protest Abbas’ deal with the terrorists, the commander of the general intelligence forces in the West Bank, Tawfik Tirawi, resigned March 31, charging that his fellow security commanders were not doing enough to restore law and order.
As the commanders met with Abbas, Tirawi told him, “The commanders around you are not telling you the truth. I cannot work when others do not do their job and when the Palestinian resident is deprived of the necessary feeling of security.”
Abbas turned down Tirawi’s resignation and Tirawi eventually withdrew it.
P.A. Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei condemned the March 30 riots and called on Palestinians to abide by the law.
“These acts serve the interests of those who are against our people,” he said. “We must all respect the rule of law.”
But Qurei’s own relations with Abbas have deteriorated considerably in recent months. Ehud Ya’ari, Arab affairs analyst for Israel’s Channel Two television, reported over the weekend that Qurei was keeping information from Abbas in order to weaken the president.
According to Israeli intelligence, senior figures surrounding Abbas are compartmentalizing him, reporting to him in a distorted manner or ignoring his orders altogether.
Abbas might name Jibril Rajoub, the P.A.’s national security adviser, to Jaber’s old job as head of all West Bank security services. Can Rajoub meet the complex challenges of the job?
Rajoub, 52, was Yasser Arafat’s longtime national security adviser until the two had a falling out and Arafat fired him.
He is considered a pragmatist in terms of relations with Israel and is feared on the Palestinian street. If anyone can confront the militants, it is Rajoub.
Only if Abbas and Rajoub succeed in stabilizing the situation will the Palestinians be able to demand that Bush pressure Israel to speed up the timetable for handing over additional Palestinian cities and dismantling West Bank roadblocks.
Palestinian officials have claimed time and again in recent weeks that it has been difficult to gain popular support for anti-terrorist measures because Israel is dragging its feet on relaxing security restrictions.
They also have been discouraged by Israel’s plan to expand the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim to effectively link it to Jerusalem from the east, inconveniencing Palestinians traveling between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.
Israel rejects Palestinian claims that P.A. security forces have been so crippled by Israel’s anti-terror operations during the intifada that they now can’t act.
However, after four years of intifada, power on the Palestinian street flows from the barrel of a gun, and for many, especially the young, weapons are a major source of respect, authority and livelihood.
The militants are feared but at the same time are still popular, considered by many Palestinians as the heroes of the intifada.
Meanwhile, the fundamentalist terror group Hamas grows stronger each day. Abbas has to take drastic measures to take the P.A.’s reins, and Israel has to prove to the Palestinians that they can gain more with Abbas at their helm than anyone else.
If there is no progress, Hamas may turn out to be a decisive political force in Palestinian parliamentary elections scheduled for this summer. Then P.A. officials may rue their failure to confront the terrorist groups during the 12 years since the Oslo peace process began.
Israeli Airstrikes Up Ante in Gaza
A picture may be worth a thousand words — but not, it seems, when it comes to settling rival accounts of Middle East bloodshed.
The Israel Air Force’s (IAF) decision Tuesday, Sept. 21, to release classified footage of a series of anti-terrorist airstrikes in the Gaza Strip did little to allay uproar over the 14 Palestinians killed and dozens wounded in the operations.
By most accounts, Monday’s attacks were far from surgical. First, Israeli helicopters hit a Hamas armory in Gaza City. Hours later, they chased a car that had dispatched two gunmen at Gaza’s boundary with Israel.
The first missile missed the vehicle as it entered the Nusseirat refugee camp. The next did not.
Seen through the lens of an IAF drone, the situation in Nusseirat was, literally, black and white: The terrorists’ car stood alone in the narrow but empty lane until it disappeared in a compact puff of smoke.
"All our missiles hit their targets," a military spokeswoman said.
Violence also continued in the West Bank, where Israeli troops killed three Palestinian terrorists in separate incidents Wednesday.
In Hebron, a gunman who wounded two Israelis residents of the city in an ambush on the Tel Rumeideh neighborhood was shot dead. Hours earlier, soldiers killed a leader of the Al-Aksa Brigade who had been on Israel’s wanted list for three years.
In Kalkilya, troops killed a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in another predawn swoop.
In the Gaza missile strikes, the Israeli military said its footage showed that at least seven of the dead could be identified positively as members of Hamas.
"We didn’t see any massive gathering of people. We will not allow munitions to be launched when there is a massive gathering of people," a senior air force officer said.
But a bird’s-eye view does not do justice to a refugee camp’s cramped shanties and market stalls, all of them vulnerable to shrapnel.
Palestinian accounts of what happened in Nusseirat differed drastically. In addition to the target vehicle’s three occupants, they said, seven bystanders were cut down by the second missile.
Footage of dozens of casualties being hauled to Gaza’s hospitals was broadcast worldwide. Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat seized the opportunity with an appeal to the diplomatic "Quartet" of peace mediators — the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia — to stop Israel’s "military madness."
The sentiments carried to Jerusalem, where Israeli President Moshe Katsav offered condolences to the relatives of Palestinian civilians killed.
Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky, whose Shinui Party doesn’t shy from tough security issues, took matters a step further, calling on Israel to admit its error in launching the airstrikes and to compensate the victims for damages.
"It seems everyone is worried we might go gung-ho in Gaza, given what has happened recently," said a source close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, alluding to the Oct. 15 roadside bombing of a U.S. convoy in the Gaza Strip that killed three diplomatic guards.
But Washington’s cautionary tone on Israel’s countermeasures was unchanged. The State Department on Tuesday asked Israel to consider the consequences of its airstrikes.
State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Israel should "take appropriate precautions to prevent the death or injury of innocent civilians and damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure," but he reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorist attacks. Ereli also stressed that the Palestinian Authority "must move against those launching Kassam rockets."
One U.S. administration source noted that, with an FBI probe into the ambush underway, a conflagration would only complicate matters.
That might be inevitable. By Tuesday evening, Hamas had fired at least three more Kassam rockets, this time at the Negev town of Sderot, and there were mortar salvos against Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip. No one was injured.
"It appears that the fighting and violence have become a goal in themselves. The series of military actions yesterday were meant to provide an answer for the Kassams," columnist Alex Fishman wrote in the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot newspaper. "But this assault was just another round in an epic tussle in the mud."
Much of the Israeli rancor at the airstrikes seems to have been inspired by a recent petition in which several reserve combat pilots declared they would no longer take part in such operations, a move that drew charges of sedition from the defense establishment.
"This has become a conflict without questions," Fishman wrote. "Whoever asks a question, gets hit."
In a statement released in Beirut on Monday, leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad pledged to retaliate for Israel’s airstrikes.
"The two movements agreed to confront the Zionist aggression on our people in Palestine and to urge all factions and resistance forces to coordinate among each other to confront this aggression," the statement said.
Asked Tuesday about the civilian casualties, Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim said that the terrorist groups purposely hide in civilian areas, and bear the consequences.
"We were forced to stop the car and capture the terrorists who were in it. To our great regret, civilians were also hit during the strike," Brig. Gen. Ruth Yaron, a spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), told Army Radio. "But anyone who flees into a densely populated area puts the population at risk."
The airstrikes follow days of tension in the Gaza Strip since the killing of the U.S. embassy personnel.
P.A. security officials briefed the FBI team investigating the bombing but wouldn’t let the Americans visit suspects arrested in connection with the attack, let alone interrogate them.
At least some of those arrested were associated with the Popular Resistance Committees, a terrorist organization composed in part of disenfranchised P.A. members.
The group sometimes has challenged the rule of the Palestinian Authority, but both Palestinian and Israeli sources said the members arrested in connection with the convoy bombing have strong ties to P.A. security services. Such ties are typical among sponsors of terrorist attacks.
The arrests came after U.S. officials criticized the Palestinian Authority for its actions since the bombing, the first to target Americans since the Palestinian intifada was launched three years ago.
"Palestinian authorities should have acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms," President Bush said in a statement after the bombing.
The Popular Resistance Committees denied any role in the bombing, as did all other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas, whose attacks have killed U.S. citizens in the past.
"We consider our fight to be solely with the Zionist enemy, and we do not want to be involved in controversial secondary issues," the Popular Resistance Committees said in a statement issued Oct 16.
Just days later, discussion of the bombing was overshadowed by violent developments.
Gunmen from the Al-Aksa Brigade, the terrorist wing of Arafat’s Fatah movement, ambushed and killed three Israeli soldiers in the West Bank on Sunday. Palestinian terrorists also fired six Kassam rockets at Israeli settlements on Sunday.
Those attacks brought renewed calls for Arafat’s ouster, including remarks by Sharon as he opened the winter session of Knesset on Monday.
Sharon said the world gradually is becoming convinced that Arafat must be removed from power, especially after "he brought down the Mahmoud Abbas government, and he continues to undermine Ahmed Karia’s attempt to establish a serious government." The references were to the former and current P.A. prime ministers, respectively.
Just a few days before, Sharon had suggested a softening of Israel’s position, telling the Jerusalem Post that expelling Arafat "would not be good for Israel."
Israel’s defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, also announced over the weekend that if Karia remained as prime minister rather that resigning, as he has threatened, Israel would be interested in renewing negotiations with his government.
Mofaz’s remarks were a departure from the initial disinterest Israeli officials showed following Karia’s appointment in early September. In any case, such sentiments seemed destined to be overshadowed by renewed violence.
Mofaz decided to mobilize several hundred reserve soldiers to bolster the IDF after terrorists threatened renewed attacks. Hamas leaders vowed to stage an attack of such magnitude that it would "shake Tel Aviv."
JTA correspondent Gil Sedan, in Jerusalem, contributed to this report.
IDF at Odds With Militant Activists
The bad blood between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and a group of international pro-Palestinian activists continues to grow as more members of the group are injured in Israeli anti-terror operations.
A British activist was shot in the head last Friday as a group of foreign and Palestinian protesters approached a unit of Israeli tanks posted near the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The incident ignited a crossfire of words and accusations between the IDF and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
Thomas Hurndall, 21, from England, suffered a head injury that left him brain dead. He was the third casualty from the ISM in a month.
The ISM is a movement of international activists working for "Palestinian freedom and an end to Israeli occupation," according to its mission statement, sometimes through illegal protests and rallies.
Though members of the group call themselves peace activists, they work only to protect Palestinians from Israeli anti-terror actions, making no attempt to protect Israelis from Palestinian violence.
Hurndall was shot when a sniper on an IDF tank allegedly fired on a group of protesters marching toward them in an effort to thwart an IDF incursion into Rafah. This Palestinian city, which straddles the Gaza-Egyptian border, is one of the main zones for arms smuggling into Palestinian areas. The IDF said a tank fired only one round in the area that day. It had targeted and killed a Palestinian sniper who was hiding in the upper stories of a nearby apartment building, firing at a column of armored vehicles, military sources said.
Still, Hurndall’s shooting is a disturbing addition to a string of recent bloody confrontations between the IDF and the ISM.
Only a few hundred yards from where Friday’s incident took place, American activist Rachel Corrie, 23, was killed several weeks ago when she tried to prevent a bulldozer from demolishing a terrorist’s home. Witnesses said the bulldozer crushed Corrie, a student from Olympia, Wash., and immediately backed up. The army, which characterized the death as an accident, said the driver didn’t see Corrie.
Last week, Bryan Avery, 24, of Albuquerque, was shot in the face while walking with a fellow activist in the West Bank city of Jenin. The IDF said it was not aware that Israeli soldiers had shot Avery, but said soldiers had been targeting Palestinian gunmen in the area.
"This goes beyond the pale," ISM leader Tom Wallace said. "It was a sniper [that shot Hurndall], and we know from experience they don’t miss. The photograph clearly shows that he was wearing a bright orange vest, that he was clearly not a combatant. This man was going to pick up a child."
Wallace said he considers the shooting a criminal act.
According to ISM activists and an Associated Press photographer, Hurndall ran to scoop up a child out of harm’s way when he was shot in the back of the head.
While the IDF has expressed sorrow at the chain of injuries, it says ISM activists increasingly cross the line of neutrality. One example occurred on March 27, when IDF forces launched a manhunt for a top Islamic Jihad terrorist in Jenin.
Intelligence information led the IDF to believe that Shadi Sukia was being hidden in a Jenin compound that holds a bank, a Red Cross office and the ISM office. After combing the entire building and finding nothing, the soldiers asked two ISM activists if they could search their offices. ISM coordinator Susan Barcley refused. The soldiers insisted, forcing their way in. The intelligence information proved correct: Sukia had taken shelter with the ISM. Both he and Barcley were arrested.
"Many of the ISM activists are nothing short of provocateurs," an IDF source said. "They try to incite the Palestinians. They’re almost spoiling for a fight."
An infamous photograph of Corrie, for example, shows her with her head covered like a religious Muslim woman, burning a mock American flag in the Gaza Strip. The IDF source intimated that Corrie’s death, though regrettable, was preventable.
"That day they were running amok around the soldiers, not letting them do anything. Even when the armored units pulled back, they chased them," the source said.
Some of ISM’s tactics are daring, Wallace admitted. Others might call them downright foolish.
"ISM’ers often break curfew, just to show how ridiculous it is and because curfews are illegal according to international law," Wallace told JTA.
The IDF source said the army maintains close relations with many humanitarian organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, but has yet to find a modus vivendi with the ISM.
"If the ISM’ers in Jenin had nothing to hide, why prevent the soldiers from coming in [when they were looking for Sukia]?" the IDF source asked.
Elli and Dinah
Rabbi Elli and Dinah Horovitz z”l, Murdered by Palestinian
Terrorists, Sabbath Eve, March 7, 2003.
Like most people these days, I keep close tabs on the news.
On Friday morning, March 7, when I read on the Internet that a couple was
murdered in Kiryat
Arba, my ears perked up because my cousins live there.
But so do about 7,500 other people. We were out all Saturday
afternoon, and came home for a short time before setting out for an evening
concert. But before leaving I had to check the news once again. There it stared
me in the face. The murdered couple was identified. I screamed for my husband.
“Look, it’s my [dad’s] cousin Leah’s son, Elli [Elnatan], and his wife, Dinah
[Debbie]. They murdered my cousin.”
I was reminded that the Horovitzes are not the first people
in our family to have been murdered in Hebron. In 1929, my great-aunt Chancha’s
husband was murdered in the Hebron riots of that era in which the Arabs
decimated the Jewish community.
We are an international family. Like many other Jewish
families, we are everywhere — Israel, the United States, Europe, Australia,
South America. We have such a cohesive bond that in spite of the fact that we
represent a variety of political beliefs and religious backgrounds within
Judaism, there is a commonality that binds the family together. That glue is
our strong belief in the destiny of the Jewish people and to our irrevocable
attachment to the land of Israel. So our family is like a microcosm of the
Rabbi Elli Horovitz was a man of peace, a man of great
erudition in Jewish learning, but also a person with a ready smile and a beauty
of spirit who loved nature and music. He and Dinah, beloved by their hundreds
and hundreds of students, were cut down at the height of their flowering.
Thousands attended their funeral. He lived for a period of time with his aunt
on Kibbutz Hulata, a nonreligious kibbutz in the north of Israel, where he came
to understand Jews whose religious outlook was different from his, and he
learned to love nature, grow fruit and cultivate a generosity of spirit.
Subsequently, he chose to live in Kiryat Arba, adjacent to Hebron, not out of
political conviction, but because Hebron was one of the oldest Jewish areas,
the place that drew him spiritually and religiously. The flora and fauna of the
area also possessed him. Just hours before he died, he and his wife hiked out
to the hills near Hebron to enjoy the beautiful wildflowers in bloom.
I have been consumed these past few weeks by this latest
horrific tragedy, communicating with relatives and friends all over the world,
researching Internet stories about my cousin’s life and death, and just
thinking. I have started a file of the letters I have received from people on
several continents who have been touched by this tragedy. As shocking as the
story is — the devout couple murdered in cold blood at Sabbath dinner by Arab
terrorists posing as Jews dressed in religious garb — people have emphasized
one distinctive theme in their notes of condolence to me. They confess that
they are angered even more acutely when they find out that the murdered persons
were connected to a friend or relative of theirs — however distant.
Suddenly, I felt the closeness of a family originally called
Zines and sensed the unity of all these relatives in diverse parts of the
world. I circled these cousins around me, and then I reached out to friends who
were similarly moved, ultimately to all other Jews. In the final analysis, we
Jews are all reminded about connections — how we are connected to our friends
and relatives dispersed all over, and how we are connected to the center of our
ancient world in Israel.
One note of condolence said: “The Middle East conflict is a
horrible abstraction until someone is murdered who has a direct connection with
whom we know at home. I sympathize with your loss, and understand the pain that
you and your family endure. I also understand that it resonates with the larger
pain of the Jewish predicament in the Middle East.”
Another: “I was so sad to hear of this tragedy, but now that
it seems so close to home, it really tears my heart apart. Please, give your
family my love, and tell them that many people in the Diaspora cry and pray for
My family tree named Zines, to which Rabbi Elli Horovitz and
Dinah belonged, starts, as far as we know, with an ancestor named “Dina” (not
related to Dinah Horovitz) who lived in Safed in Israel in the mid-1700s. We
don’t know how much further back our roots go in the land of Israel, but with
the cruel murder of cousins Elli and Dinah merely for their devotion to their
Jewish roots, it surely goes back to Father Abraham and Mother Sarah.Â Â
Gerry Segal Teitelbaum is the founder and president of the Los Angeles Judaica Collectors Club. She is currently working on articles for the Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly and Midstream magazine.
Sharon Vows More Targeted Killings
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is vowing to step up targeted killings of suspected Palestinian terrorists. Israel’s practice of targeted killings is not new, but Sharon’s statements again threw a spotlight on the controversial policy.
He made the comment following a terror attack Dec. 27 at a West Bank yeshiva, in which four students were killed and 10 others wounded. Reflecting the odd vagaries of Middle East politics, his vow also came as Israeli and Palestinian officials began reviewing the latest draft of a U.S. "road map" for achieving peace in the region.
Speaking at a Cabinet meeting Dec. 29, Sharon said that he and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz had agreed to strike at terrorists, those who help them and those who send them. Also speaking at the meeting, Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein criticized the targeted assassinations policy, saying it must only be used as a last resort, when all other attempts to arrest wanted Palestinians have failed.
In the deadly yeshiva attack, two Palestinian gunmen dressed in Israeli army uniforms and armed with rifles and hand grenades infiltrated the settlement of Otniel south of Hebron. They entered the yeshiva through the kitchen, firing at students and guests who had gathered for Shabbat dinner.
One of the students on kitchen duty managed to lock the door leading from the kitchen to the dining room, preventing the terrorists from entering the dining room. All four of the students who were in the kitchen were killed.
One gunman was killed in a half-hour shootout with Israeli troops. The second terrorist fled but was found later and killed by Israeli soldiers. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it came in retaliation for the slaying a day earlier of one of its leaders in the Jenin area.
The four Israelis killed in the attack were buried Dec. 29. They were identified as Pvt. Yehuda Bamberger, 20, of Karnei Shomron; Zvi Zieman, 18, Re’ut; Gavriel Hoter, 17, Alonei Habashan, and Staff Sgt. Noam Apter, 23, Shilo.
In another development, an Israeli undercover unit arrested three members of Islamic Jihad near Hebron on the same day the four Israelis were buried, Army Radio reported. Mofaz said soldiers have arrested more than 1,200 Palestinians in the past two months in what he described as an unprecedented campaign against suspected terrorists.
The leader of Hamas on Dec. 27 called for additional attacks against Israel. During a rally of 30,000 supporters in Gaza City, Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin said discussions between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement about temporarily suspending attacks on Israeli civilians will not prove fruitful.
"The march of martyrs will move forward," Yassin said. Activists at the rally blew up a model of an Israeli tank and burned U.S., British and Israeli flags.
Israel blamed Arafat for the Otniel attack, saying the Palestinian Authority has failed to clamp down on terror. A Palestinian official said Israel’s policies, including the targeted killings, were to blame for the ongoing attacks.
Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian officials began reviewing the latest draft of an international diplomatic initiative aimed at ending more than two years of violence. The draft of the road map was given to the two sides after President Bush met in Washington in December with other members of the so-called diplomatic "Quartet" — Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
Israel persuaded Bush to agree not to publish the draft until after Israeli elections are held Jan. 28. In the meantime, each side was expected to review the draft and draw up responses.
According to the Jerusalem Post, which published details of the road map, there were few changes in the revised draft. According to the newspaper, the first stage of the road map calls for both sides to call for an end to violence and commit to stopping incitement.
The plan also calls for a complete freeze on Israeli settlement activity and for visible steps by the Palestinians to fight terror. The Palestinian Authority is called on to undertake political and security reforms.
The second stage begins with Palestinian elections and concludes at the end of 2003, with the establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders. It also calls for an international conference convened by the Quartet.
The third stage, lasting until the end of 2005, calls for a second international conference that would include final-status talks on borders, refugees, settlements and Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Political sources in Jerusalem were reportedly satisfied with the latest version, Israel Radio reported. Though Israel has begun drawing up its response, it is not expected to be submitted until after the elections, the report said.
How Oslo Harmed Israel
Nine years have passed since the signing of the Oslo accords on the White House lawn. Is Israel better off or worse off as a result of Oslo?
During the first seven years following the accords, more than 300 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists — far more than the number killed during the seven years before Oslo. Since October 2000, when the Palestinian Authority launched its all-out war against Israel, another 600 Israelis have been murdered — a total of nearly 1,000 fatalities since the Oslo agreement. From the standpoint of personal security, Israelis are far worse off today than before Oslo.
The terrorism has caused a drastic deterioration in the quality of life. People are afraid to go into shopping centers, nightclubs, movie theaters and restaurants. They are afraid to ride buses. If they attend a wedding, a bar mitzvah, even a Passover seder, they know they could be risking their lives. Israelis are frightened and demoralized.
And who can imagine what life is like for the wounded — the thousands of Israelis who have been left permanently maimed as a result of terrorist attacks. After a bombing, the media report on the fatalities, but little is heard about the many more people who suffer injuries that literally shatter their lives. They are truly the forgotten victims of Oslo — the ordinary Israelis who now must struggle through life without a limb or without sight or hearing, with faces and bodies burned or deeply scarred.
The Oslo accords created the conditions that led to this increased terrorism. As part of the agreement, Israel set free thousands of imprisoned terrorists; many of them quickly returned to their terrorist ways.
Oslo gave Yasser Arafat his own territory and his own autonomous governing agency, the Palestinian Authority (PA). That made it possible for him to shelter groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to shield them from Israeli capture. In the PA territories, these groups have been able to set up training camps and bomb factories and improve their techniques. They never would have been able to become as lethal and effective if Israeli forces had remained in control of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Oslo even put guns in the terrorists’ hands. As part of the agreement, Israel supplied the PA security forces with thousands of rifles that were supposed to be used to fight against terrorists. Instead, they have been used to murder Israelis.
The Oslo accords also facilitated the creation of the Palestinian Arabs’ culture of hatred and violence. Before Oslo, when Israel controlled the territories, it could control the curriculum in Palestinian Arab schools, and it could prevent hate-mongering clergymen from preaching in the mosques. But with Arafat and the PA in charge, anti-Jewish hatred and violence were actively promulgated in the official PA schools, media, mosques and summer camps.
Today, every child in the PA’s schools reads the textbook, "Our Country Palestine," with a banner headline on its title page that says: "There is no alternative to destroying Israel." Similar hatred is featured prominently in speeches by PA officials and sermons by PA-appointed religious preachers, such as the sermon given by Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya in a mosque in Gaza (and broadcast repeatedly on PA television) in which he declared: "Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them."
Thanks to Oslo, an entire generation of young Palestinian Arabs is being raised to hate and murder Jews. Reform Judaism’s leader, Rabbi Eric Yoffee, was right on the mark when he called the PA "murderous" and "bloodthirsty," and said its media use "neo-Nazi language" to foster "a culture of hatred" against Jews and Israel.
A recent Israeli government report noted that "slitting the throats of Israelis is a rehearsed drill taught to Palestinian children at summer camps organized by Arafat’s Palestinian Authority." Would such a thing have been possible if Israel still controlled the territories?
Jewish religious sites have also been victimized as a result of the Oslo process. The PA was given control of the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem (Nablus) and the ancient Shalom al-Yisrael synagogue in Jericho. It burned down both of them.
The Tomb of Joseph is now a mosque. The Tomb of Rachel is now within easy shooting range of PA-controlled Bethlehem, and the result is that Jewish worshippers are constantly the targets of shooting attacks. The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron — burial site of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — is now situated in a city that is almost entirely under PA control, meaning that Jews now literally risk their lives if they want to pray in the cave, which is one of Judaism’s holiest sites.
The Oslo agreements also made possible the emergence of what the Forward once called "the world’s smallest police state." With Arafat in charge and the West turning a blind eye, the PA routinely shuts down dissident newspapers, arrests and tortures Arafat’s critics and abuses women and Christians.
The Oslo process has also promoted the appeasement of terrorists. Soon after the Oslo accords were signed, it became clear that the PA was aiding and abetting Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Yet the U.S. State Department pressured Israel to make more concessions to appease the terrorists and their helpers.
Even after the PA launched its terrorist war against Israel in October 2000, the State Department continued pressing Israel to give up land, to ease up its counterterror actions, and more. Then last autumn, at the very height of PA terrorism, the U.S. rewarded and appeased the terrorists by offering them a sovereign state that would leave Israel behind borders just nine miles wide.
Elsewhere, America fights terrorists; in the Mideast, it appeases them. This, too, is the result of the Oslo process, and it seriously undermines America’s war against terrorism. Terrorists everywhere see the change in U.S. policy in favor of Palestinian Arab statehood, and inevitably conclude that terrorism pays.
The new chief of staff of the Israeli army, Moshe Ya’alon, said recently that the Oslo process has brought Israel to the point that the Palestinian Arabs now "constitute an existential threat to Israel," and are "mobilizing the Palestinian people for war with the goal of bringing about Israel’s collapse. What they are after is not to arrive at the end of the conflict, but to turn Israel into a Palestinian state."
The Oslo accords have left Israel with a graveyard full of fatalities; thousands of orphans and widows; a demoralized populace; a strong, heavily armed dictatorship in its backyard, and an alarming U.S. tilt in favor of Palestinian Arab statehood. The pre-Oslo years were far from idyllic, but they were much better than this.
There is a part of Mt. Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem that one rabbi there calls, "the burial area for the nation’s unborn victims." There you will find the graves of women who, at nine-months pregnant, were murdered by terrorists. A husband and wife are buried side by side, killed just after they learned she was pregnant with twins. There lies the Gavish family — a grandfather, his daughter, son-in-law and grandson. A year ago this week, five members of the Schijveschuurder family were killed in the bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem. In cemeteries throughout Israel, long graves are dug beside short ones.
Nadav Shragai, writing in Ha’aretz newspaper, commented that part of the strategy of the Palestinian terrorists seems to be to wipe out generations at once, to eradicate the old with their young. Think of the Park Hotel Passover massacre in Netanya, when, in an instant, entire families were killed. Terror 2002 is a reinvention of Terror 1802. The pogroms that instilled such fear and hopelessness among Jews in 19th century Eastern Europe have come to modern-day Israel.
It is too easy to describe Wednesday’s Hebrew University bombing as senseless. Think of it instead as part of a strategy that, like the pogroms, targets a nation’s future.
At press time, there are seven confirmed dead and scores more seriously wounded after a bomb went off at a crowded cafeteria on the university’s Mt. Scopus campus. Hamas has claimed responsibility (see page 17).
The Hamas leaders want the world to believe that the attack at Hebrew University was retaliation for Israel’s attack in Gaza City last week that killed Hamas leader Sheik Salah Shehadeh along with 14 civilians, among them nine children. Much of the outrage and criticism over Israel’s actions came from within the country itself, and undoubtedly some of it emanated from professors and students of the Hebrew University.
Even in democratic Israel, Hebrew University is a beacon of tolerance and understanding. Consider its founder, American-born Rabbi Judah Magnes. In the mid-1920s, Magnes formed Brith Shalom, an intellectual society devoted to bringing about a binational state for Jews and Arabs. Among its influential members were Hebrew University professor Gershom Scholem and philosopher Martin Buber, who warned that a Jewish presence in Palestine not founded on Jewish-Arab brotherhood was, "doomed to destruction."
The university has long been a reflection of that spirit. "It’s so open," said Sofia Aron, a Los Angeles native attending Hebrew University from UC Davis. "Some of the Arabs have signs in their dorm rooms [that read] ‘Death to Israel,’ and Israel permits it." Aron told one of our reporters shortly after the attack. "The university is a very liberal place," she said. "Why was it targeted?"
As Aron and the rest of us are beginning to understand, terror logic is not political, it’s pogrom-ical. Forget about Hebrew University’s liberalism (I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the Peace Now activists among its professors). Think of the Arabs who are at this point consistently murdered by their fellow Arabs in these attacks.
Arab Israelis are assumed to be among the casualties at Hebrew University. Of course Hamas expected this: 10 percent of the university’s student body is of Arab descent, and the university has continued to employ numerous Arab workers. In addition, a suicide bomber at a Haifa restaurant earlier this year killed even more Arab Israelis, as have attacks on buses and bus stops.
Again, the strategy is not military to political. Arab Israelis don’t fight on Israel’s behalf or support the current government. But a society where Arabs and Jews work and learn alongside one another is anathema to the terrorists, and Hebrew University in many ways set an example in that regard for the rest of the nation.
Consider the recently released Arab Human Development Report 2000, produced by the United Nations and an Arab development fund. The report takes Arab nations to task for an inept, decaying system of higher education. No wonder, according to the report, 51 percent of Arab young people say they would like to leave their countries in search of greater opportunity and freedom elsewhere. (Download the report at www.undp.org/rbas/ahdr.) In the Middle East, Hebrew University is not just a haven of higher learning, but of diversity and dissent.
But again, attacking Hebrew U. is terror logic for you: If you’re willing to murder your own Arab brethren, why hesitate to kill those who sympathize with their plight?
The only explanation: because they were young, because they were the future.
U.N., Refugee Camps and Our Money
Why is the United Nations running refugee camps like Jenin, for people who claim to be living in their own land? How could a refugee camp under U.N. auspices become a world center for recruiting and training suicide bombers? And why is the United States essentially bankrolling these camps when wealthy Arab oil sheikdoms barely contribute?
According to U.N. records, the United States finances more than one-quarter of the cost of operating the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In 2000, for example, the United States pledged more than $89.5 million toward the more than $337 million total that UNRWA raised from all nations and sources in the world. By comparison, Saudi Arabia pledged $2.5 million — less than 1 percent of the UNRWA total and a minuscule fraction of the American contribution. Oil-rich Kuwait pledged $2 million. Syria pledged $37,209. Egypt pledged $10,000. Iraq and Libya apparently had difficult years; they pledged nothing, although Iraq sends bounties of $25,000 each to the families of suicide bombers.
The UNRWA is a subsidiary of the United Nations. Its commissioner-general, appointed by the U.N. secretary general, is the only head of a United Nations body authorized to report directly to the General Assembly. The UNRWA was founded by Resolution 302(IV) of Dec. 8, 1949, and to this day remains unique within the world body as a relief agency assigned to serve only one class of people.
All the world’s other refugees are served by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR serves the needs of more than 21.8 million refugees in 120 countries ranging from the Balkans, Colombia, West Africa and Chechnya to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Timor and the Horn of Africa. Palestinian Arabs alone are under the aegis of the UNRWA.
Locally recruited "Palestinian refugees" make up 99 percent of UNRWA’s staff in the 59 refugee camps that UNRWA operates in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the disputed territories that Israelis call "Judea and Samaria" and that the Arab world calls "the West Bank." The majority of UNRWA camps and nearly 60 percent of their residents are in the three Arab countries, the remainder are in the areas administered by Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. According to the UNRWA, it is the main provider of basic social services in all those camps.
The UNRWA’s largest budget item is its school system, which comprises half its budget and two-thirds of its staff. In all, the UNRWA operates 266 schools with 242,000 students in the area administered by the Palestinian Authority. In the aftermath of Israel’s military incursion into the UNRWA refugee camp in Jenin, that agency has been under a microscope, partly because it has schooled four generations of Jenin children. According to the UNRWA, its schools use the same curricula and textbooks as do the host government schools. Palestinian Authority textbooks incorporate maps of the Middle East that omit Israel, and their texts delegitimize Israel, Judaism and Jews.
Under the UNRWA’s auspices, the number of refugees it serves has grown from 914,000 in 1950 to more than 3.8 million today. Thus, the overwhelming majority of its population are the children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of those who first were placed in UNRWA camps in 1950. Between 1947 and 1950, approximately 750,000 Jewish refugees were driven from Arab countries in the Middle East. There was no United Nations agency to serve their health, educational and social needs, so they were absorbed directly into the Israeli polity, and their offspring bear no indicia of refugee status.
Israel reports that approximately half the suicide bombers who have struck over the past 19 months were residents of the Jenin UNRWA camp or terrorists who were trained there. It also is odd that a "refugee camp" under United Nations auspices has emerged as a terror center where Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Tanzim and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade terrorists run wild, stocking arms, building bomb-making factories and recruiting and training children educated at UNRWA schools to detonate themselves. Perhaps oddest of all is the American role as chief bankroller.
With Washington now scouring its outlays in the face of projected budget deficits, it is remarkable that America continues to pump scores of millions into a U.N. program that has institutionalized dependency among four generations of Arabs — while the oil princes barely contribute. It is remarkable, too, that the refugees and their descendants are still living in squalor a half-century after the helping hand first was extended.
This makes no sense. In a time when U.N. fact-finding commissions are all the rage, here is a subject for congressional fact-finders to investigate: Why are we throwing away all those tax dollars?
A Royal Concern
At the height of the Yom Kippur War, when Israel was rushing all available combat troops to the Syrian and Egyptian fronts, an Israeli official was asked who was defending the eastern border. “King Hussein,” he replied, “as usual.”
The ailing monarch has not always been the truest of Israel’s friends. Jordanian troops destroyed the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City in the 1950s. They allowed Palestinian terrorists to infiltrate from the West Bank when it was under their rule. The king sent his army into battle in the 1967 Six-Day War (and even dispatched a token force to the Golan in 1973). But, for nearly three decades, he has provided a stability that enabled the Jewish state to prosper and to start coming to terms with its less compliant Arab neighbors.
Hussein’s latest medical crisis — and his abrupt replacement last month of Prince Hassan with his eldest son, 37-year-old Prince Abdullah, as heir to the Hashemite throne — worry Israelis more than they like to admit. The smooth transition predicted for Hassan, the king’s brother and crown prince for 34 years, can no longer be taken for granted. It is threatened by hostile forces, from within the country and abroad.
“Abdullah is an unknown quantity,” Professor Shimon Shamir, a former Israeli ambassador to Amman, told me. “We don’t know him, nor do the Jordanians. There is reason to be concerned. The Jordanian system has been wounded. The royal house’s prestige has been weakened by the way Hassan was dismissed.”
The worst thing for Jordan would be a succession struggle, pitting the able and understandably disappointed uncle against his untested nephew. Syria, Iraq, the Palestinians and the Islamist opposition might all be tempted to seize the opportunity and overthrow the pro-Western dynasty that has ruled there since Britain created the emirate of Transjordan for Hussein’s grandfather in 1921.
The Syrians have never been reconciled to Jordan’s separate existence within what they claim as “Greater Syria.” They sent tanks across the border in 1970, when Hussein was crushing Yasser Arafat’s “Black September” revolt. Only American and Israeli intervention deterred them from driving on to Amman.
Over the years, Syrian intelligence has infiltrated arms and agents into Jordan to foster dissident movements. Damascus-based Palestinian opposition groups have plotted more than once to attack Israeli tourists visiting Petra. The Jordanians blame their northern neighbor for two attempts on Hussein’s life since 1996 alone, a car bomb and a missile fired at the king’s plane.
Jordanians also fear that Iraq might seek revenge for the Hashemites’ acquiescence in last year’s Desert Fox bombardment of Baghdad by the United States and Britain — and Jordan’s tolerance of American-sponsored Iraqi opposition elements now operating from its soil. Although the king sided with Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War, Jordan detected the hand of Iraqi intelligence behind bread riots among the king’s normally loyal Bedouin subjects in 1996.
If the Hashemites run true to form, they will rally around Prince Abdullah, but no one can be certain at this stage. Inspired reports, accusing the ambitious Hassan of scheming behind his brother’s back, are sowing bad blood. The charges range from the serious to the trivial, from an order to prepare the army for the king’s death to rumors that Hassan’s Pakistani-born wife, Princess Sarvath, was changing the wallpaper in the royal palace.
Ambassador Shamir expected the new regime to find a way to use Hassan’s experience. “We can hope that he will be allowed an input,” said Shamir, a Tel Aviv University Middle East historian. “I think he will want to contribute. He is not the kind to organize a faction or palace intrigues. The royal family will want to control the damage.”
Danny Rubinstein, a writer on Palestinian affairs, argued that Abdullah would win a breathing space among the 60-plus percent of Jordanians who are of Palestinian origin because his wife, Princess Rania, is the daughter of a West Bank refugee family. Both King Hussein and Prince Hassan are tainted in Palestinian eyes by memories of 1970, when Jordanian troops killed and wounded up to 30,000 rebel Palestinians.
“Abdullah was born in 1962,” Rubinstein wrote from Amman in Ha’aretz. “He was only 8 years old during the events of Black September. The new crown prince has no Palestinian blood on his hands. As far as Jordan’s Palestinians are concerned, that is his biggest advantage.”
Shimon Shamir added a word of caution. “What will determine Palestinian loyalty,” he said, “is Abdullah’s policy. If he continues Hussein’s policy of supporting the Palestinian Authority in its quest for a state, they will back him. The fact that he has a Palestinian wife will add a symbolic dimension.”
Ha’aretz’s defense commentator, Ze’ev Schiff, suggested that if Israel wanted to help, the best way would be to negotiate a viable Palestinian state — and to keep Israeli promises of joint economic ventures, such as the new airport designed to serve the twin Red Sea resorts of Aqaba and Eilat.