Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Israel's Morality and the World's Myopia

By Daniel Gordis

Any discussion of the manner in which Israel has conducted its armed
conflict with the Palestinians over the past four years demands, first
and foremost, clarity about the nature of the conflict and what is at
stake. Israel is at war -- not against "militants," or against those who
would seek to "liberate" the Palestinian people. Israel is engaged in a
war for her survival, against well-armed and increasingly well-trained,
highly disciplined groups of terrorists, who are wholly up front about
their agenda. Their agenda is not the liberation of the "territories"
that were captured in June 1967 in a war that Israel did not want. Their
agenda, as Hamas and Hizballah (among others) freely admit, is the
eradication of the "Zionist entity" from what should be, in their minds,
an exclusively Muslim Middle East.

This is not the Chechens against Russia. All the Chechens seek is
independence. Were they granted that, there is every reason to expect
that Chechen terrorism against Vladimir Putin's Russia would cease. The
same is true with the Basques in Spain. But not with Israel. The only
way that Israel could bring an end to the terrorists' attempt to destroy
any semblance of normalcy for Israeli life would be to cease to exist.
Israelis understand that, and they know full well that any other country
fighting for its very existence would be enraged at being judged as
Israel has been judged, particularly by Europe, in the last four years.

How this War Began

Israelis also remember when this war began -- immediately after Ehud
Barak called Yasir Arafat's bluff. Barak offered the Palestinian people
the state and the independence they had always said their decades-long
terrorist campaign had been designed to bring them. But in Barak's
agreement, Israel would have continued to exist. And that, in the end,
Arafat could not abide. So he, and a multiplicity of loosely aligned
terrorist organizations that include, but is not limited to Hamas,
Islamic Jihad, Hizballah, Fatah, Force 17, and the El-Aksa Martyrs'
Brigade sought to bring Israel to its knees by terrifying an entire
population into submission.

It is still said, ludicrously, that Arafat couldn't sign the Camp David
package because Barak's deal was not good enough. The West Bank,
according to some accounts, would have been divided into three cantons,
with Israelis retaining control over passage from one to the other.
Perhaps. The picture is unclear. But let us suppose that that claim is
true, and that Arafat had genuinely wanted a deal. The most effective
thing he could have done would have been to tell the tens of thousands
of Palestinians who then had the right to enter Israel to sit on the
Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway and on the highway between Tel Aviv and
Haifa. He could have invited CNN, whose presence would have made it
impossible for the IDF to use force to disperse the crowds. And Arafat
could have put the map of Barak's proposal on the back page of the front
section of the New York Times and showed the world why he could not
sign. Israel would have been forced to concede, and the maps would have
been altered.

No Peace in our Lifetime

But that was not Arafat's agenda. Thus, most Israelis now understand
that there will not be peace. Not in our lifetimes, and probably not in
the lifetimes of our children. There may be a cessation of hostilities
-- some years more violent and some years less -- but we now know that
to live here means to live and to raise our children in a permanent
state of war. That sentence, that "fate," has created anguish, despair,
sadness, and even hatred in Israeli society. And given that despair, and
the offer that was rejected, what is striking is the restraint that
Israel has exercised. Who else, knowing that no matter what else we may
do, we will always be at war, would exercise such restraint?

In Israel, the Kahanist notion of transferring Palestinian populations
out of the disputed territories is still considered racist and out of
the question. Shutting off the water or electricity or phones of these
populations for months on end, to force them to begin to exert pressure
on the terrorists, has never been seriously suggested. Has Israel ever
considered eradicating a town after it has knowingly harbored a suicide
bomber who then killed dozens of innocent civilians? Nor has Israel
chosen to fight the war exclusively from the skies, thus reducing the
danger to its own troops. Would any other country, fighting for its life
and knowing that the fight will never end, exhibit such moderation?

The World Ignores Israeli Restraint

The world, of course, ignores that restraint. It focuses not on American
tactics in Afghanistan or Iraq, or the Russians' war against Chechnya,
or the atrocities in the Sudan. Instead, it focuses on the mistakes
that, admittedly, have been made by Israel. The conduct of a small
minority of soldiers at roadblocks has been reprehensible (and judicial
proceedings are under way against many of them). The commandeering of
some Arab homes by troops is unquestionably distasteful, though
sometimes probably unavoidable. Innocent Palestinians, including
children, have been caught in the crossfire, and Israeli troops have
sometimes been careless and, occasionally, malevolent. Israelis know
that, and most are embarrassed by it.

But that the terrorist organizations have chosen to use civilian
neighborhoods as their bases is rarely mentioned. No one has dared
accuse Israelis of "eye-for-eye" tactics, blowing up buses or wedding
halls or restaurants, for such an accusation would be ridiculous. When
terrorists fled into the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Israeli
troops surrounded the church, but didn't storm it. Compare this to the
Americans' treatment of mosques in Najaf or Falluja, when their patience
with Moqtada Al-Sadr ran out, or what we know would have been the case
had Jews been hiding in a church or a synagogue and it had been
Palestinians pursuing them. All of this escapes the critical eye of a
watchful West.

So, too, does the IDF's consistent determination to do better. The
unsuccessful attempt in September 2002 to kill the Hamas chief, Ahmad
Yassin, which Yossi Klein Halevi discussed in his piece in this series,
had a history. Israel used a half-ton bomb because it acknowledged that
in its killing of Hamas chief Salah Shehade two months earlier, it had
erred. Then, the IDF chose a one-ton bomb, which did kill Shehade, but
which also killed fourteen bystanders, including children. The reaction
in Israel was swift, and visceral. Israelis were ashamed and appalled.
When Yassin escaped two months later, whatever disappointment was felt
that he survived was vastly exceeded by a certain pride that we'd
learned, that we had not made the same mistake again, and that despite
our desire to kill Yassin, we'd placed the value of innocent life first
and foremost. We also noted that the world took no notice of this
changed tactic.

In April 2002, when Israel pursued terrorists into the casbah in Jenin,
we did so on the ground, in door-to-door fighting, to avoid causing
unnecessary collateral casualties. Fourteen of our soldiers were killed
in one day. But the world -- instead of pointing to the difference
between Israel's handling of the battle and what would have happened
anywhere else -- accused Israel of a massacre. European papers reported
the massacre as fact, not as allegation. Kofi Annan, when asked about
Israel's denials, responded, "Can Israel be right and the whole world
wrong?" But when a UN investigation proved that there had been no
massacre, and that Israel had been right, did Annan apologize? Not a
word. Did European papers print retractions? By and large, they did not.

Myopia about the Separation Fence

The myopia of the world's judgment of Israel's morality is most obvious
with regard to the separation fence currently under construction. As the
Israeli political right correctly understands, the fence is a de facto
way of ceding land. If the fence were built, and if it worked, there
would be no need for Israeli forces to cross and to be a presence in the
daily lives of Palestinians. It would, of course, also dramatically cut
down on terror. But the world, buying wholesale into a Palestinian
disinformation campaign designed to make the building of the fence
impossible, refers to the "apartheid fence," rather than to the attacks
that led to its construction or the diminution in Israeli military
presence that it heralds.

Why, incidentally, do the Palestinians oppose the fence? Because the
fence would effectively end much of the conflict (although the Kassam
rocket attacks do portend that even the fence will not be a complete
solution). And, as we know, the end of the conflict is the last thing
that the Palestinians want.

The fence has, unquestionably, caused hardship for Palestinians. Some of
that is inevitable, given the way in which the two populations are
intermingled across the West Bank and around East Jerusalem. And some of
the route was ill planned. But compare the ruling of the International
Court of Justice at The Hague with that of the Israeli Supreme Court.
The ICJ demanded that Israel remove the wall in its entirety. Israel's
Supreme Court ruled that the fence was legitimate in principle, and it
agreed with the army that its purpose had been security, not an attempt
to steal Palestinian land. But still the court demanded that part of the
fence be moved to address the hardships it imposed on the Palestinian

The court of international opinion, however, seems not to have noticed
the extraordinary phenomenon of the Supreme Court of a country at war
ruling in favor of the population seeking to destroy it. Outside
observers wrote that "even the Israeli Supreme Court argued that the
fence is immoral." But the point was precisely the opposite. Even under
conditions of war, conditions that are unlikely to end any time soon,
Israel's democratic apparatus continues to function, even to the point
of protecting the interests of those waging war on the country in which
the court sits. Here, too, Israel placed the interests of innocent (or
not-so-innocent) civilians ahead of its own security interests. And
this, too, the world has ignored.

Israel's Vigorous Debate about its Conduct of the War

This democratic ethos of Israeli society points to yet another unique
dimension of the conflict. In what could not be a more radical
difference between Israel and the Palestinian Authority waging war on
it, Israel is a country in which a vigorous and open debate about how to
balance the needs for security with Jewish humanitarian values
continues. Despite my own belief that, in all, our conduct of the war
has been restrained, not every Israeli agrees. Some Israeli young men
have refused to serve over the Green Line, and recently, several had
their military service cut short, with no serious repercussions. A much
publicized group of pilots announced that they would no longer fly
certain missions that they considered morally problematic. Driving
Israel's highways, one can often see protesters holding signs that say
"hayalim amitzim lo maftzitzim," or "Brave Pilots Don't Bomb." Whether
or not one agrees, we have a right to take pride in a democracy in which
such issues are openly debated, where freedom of the press reigns, where
the Talmudic tradition of virtually unlimited debate on issues of
morality continues.

Where are the Palestinians arguing in their streets for a cessation to
the bombings, to the Kassam rockets, to the shootings, so that their
lives can be restored to normal? On the security fence, one sees
hundreds of instances of graffiti accusing Israel of apartheid-like
policies, demanding that the fence be removed. But where are the
graffiti calling for an end to the terror that brought the fence in the
first place? Or the graffiti that note that, if only Arafat had
continued to negotiate, none of this would have happened? That voice,
sadly, is not heard.

At this writing, Ariel Sharon is leading an attempt to have Israel
withdraw from the Gaza Strip and a handful of settlements on the West
Bank. And what has been the reaction from Gaza? A barrage of Kassam
rocket fire that has killed Israeli children and consumed entire Israeli
towns with fear, all designed to make the pullout impossible. Because
pulling out of Gaza would show the world that Israel is not interested
in holding on to these territories forever, something the Palestinians
are desperate for the world not to see. Because pulling out of Gaza
would give Israel a more manageable line of defense, which the
Palestinians do not want. And because pulling out of Gaza would force
the Gazans to recognize that their poverty and their suffering are not
the products of Israeli policy, but predated Israel's conquest of the
land in 1967 and will follow it as well.

How did Israel seek to counter the Kassam barrages? By Operation "Days
of Penitance" in October 2004 -- again on the ground, again with
casualties -- and not from the air, which would have been safer, but
which would have undoubtedly caused much more collateral damage.

Despite the many complexities of the Israeli-Arab conflict in general,
and of the current conflict with the Palestinians in particular, certain
basic facts are clear: Israel tried to create a Palestinian state. When
that offer was met with a war of terror, Israel tried to build a fence
that would keep the terrorists on one side and its soldiers on the
other. When the fence was treated as an "apartheid fence," Israel tried
to pull out of Gaza, which the Palestinians are now seeking to make
impossible. The world calls Israel racist, but the only population that
Sharon is considering moving is the Jewish population in Gaza, not the
villages that openly harbor the terrorists who seek to kill our
children. And all this unfolds within the context of a democratic
society that -- in keeping with thousands of years of Jewish tradition
-- passionately argues whether our responses have been too draconian, or
insufficiently considerate of the Palestinians (some complicit and some
not), who have sadly been caught in the crossfire of a tragedy unleashed
by their own leaders.

Israel's Moral Campaign against Terror

Yossi Klein Halevi argues (in another article in this symposium) that
Israel's victory in this war on terror may some day be seen as one of
the greatest victories of Jewish history. That may well be true. But
Israel's conduct of this war will also be seen, I suspect, as one of the
most moral campaigns against terror, a sickening phenomenon that is
likely to grip the Western world to an ever greater extent over the next
few years.

Unfortunately, Israel is often a barometer of what the Western world
will next face. When Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in June
1981, condemnation was virtually universal. Today, the Western world
knows that Israel may have saved the world from disaster. The same is
true with the battle against Islamic terror. As the battle spreads, and
as Westerners in Britain, France, Spain, and the United States
experience ever more terror firsthand, the world will come to admire the
restraint and fortitude with which Israel has fought for her life.
Ultimately, I believe, Israel's conduct of this war -- with all its
warts -- will be a model toward which much of the currently critical
world will one day aspire.

(c) 2004 Daniel Gordis

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Fact: In October 1946, Kfar Darom (a current settlement in the Gaza Strip) and ten other Jewish communities were established, in order to avert the British plan of disengaging the Negev from the Jewish State.

Fact: Kfar Darom was established on the site of the 3rd-4th century Talmudic Jewish town of Kfar Darom. The Jewish farmer, Tuvia Miller, planted an orchard in Kfar Darom, which was destroyed during the 1936-39 anti-Jewish pogroms. The newly established 1946 Kfar Darom was uprooted following the 1948 Egyptian military invasion. Would the 1967 rebuilt Kfar Darom be uprooted by the Jewish State?

Fact: Gaza and Tiberias substituted Jerusalem during 135-600 AD- as a pilgrimage site - following Jerusalem's decimation by Rome.

Fact: Gaza's Jewish community was uprooted during the 1929 anti-Jewish riots, which annihilated the Jewish community of Hebron.

Fact: The Castil family headed a large of Jewish refugees from Spain (1492), who bolstered the Gaza Jewish community. The traveler Ovadia of Bartenura documented the 1488 Gaza Jewish community.

Fact: The Ottoman Empire facilitated settlement of Jews in Gaza.

Fact: The 17th century Gaza Chief Rabbi, Israel Najarah, composed the hymn "Ya Ribon Olam" and was buried in Gaza.

Fact: The eerie Shabtai Zvi declared himself a Messiah at the Gaza synagogue.

Fact: The Gaza synagogue was located on the hilltop, which is currently named by Arabs, Khart Al-Yahood (the Jewish neighborhood). The synagogue was destroyed, in 1831, by Egypt's Ibrahim Pasha.

Fact: The known travelers Georgio Gucci (1384) and Meshulam of Voltera (1481) praised Gaza's Jewish community for its wine production and wealth.

Fact: The Old Testament refers to Gaza as an integral part of the Land of Israel: Abraham was punished for his disengagement from Grar (today's Dir Al-Balakh, Genesis 21); The tribe of Judah inherited Ashdod, Ashqelon and Gaza (Joshua 15:47, Judges 1:18); King Solomon and King Hezekiah controlled Gaza (Kings A 5:4 and 18:7). Jonathan the Maccabee liberated Gaza in 145 BC, Simon the Maccabee settled Gaza and King Alexander Yanai-Janeus renewed Jewish presence there in 96 BC.

Fact: Rome's Constantinus The Great failed to convert and uproot Gaza's Jewish community (4th century).

Fact: Rarely have nations agreed to trade away land for peace. Never have nations agreed to disengage themselves from their Cradle of History in return for peace. Can a nation disengage itself from its roots without dooming its future?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Ending the Arafat era

By Yoram Ettinger
Washington Times, OpEd, Nov. 30, 2004

A prerequisite for the emergence of a moderate Palestinian regime is the
elimination of the rogue Palestinian regime. A precondition for the holding of a
free Palestinian election, and for the attainment of a durable
Israeli-Palestinian accord, is the uprooting of the regime, which has ruthlessly dominated
the Palestinian scene since 1964. The "old Palestinian regime" has been the
role model of international terrorism, inter-Arab treachery, serial
non-compliance with agreements, hate-education, corruption and suppression of
Palestinian human rights.

Just like Taliban and Ba'ath terrorism, Palestinian terrorism has not been a
personalized problem (Yasser Arafat), but rather a regime problem
(PLO/PA/Hamas). Japan and Germany were transformed into peaceful nations, upon the
drastic dismantling of their rogue regimes. None of the old guard top officials
was allowed to participate in the new regimes. The entire old guard was
disenfranchised, in order to pave the road for moderate leaders, minimize
intimidation and facilitate free election.

Abu Mazen has been the de facto No. 2 in the PLO since 1989, while he and
Abu Ala' have been Mr. Arafat's top confidants at the helm of the Fatah, PLO
and PA regimes since the late 1950s. They starred in the Palestinian cell of
the Muslim Brotherhood — the mentor of Hamas terrorism — and were forced to
flee Egypt for terrorism. In 1959, they joined Mr. Arafat in establishing the
Fatah organization, and were accorded a safe haven in Damascus. However, in
1966 Fatah executed Syrian intelligence officers, and was chased out of Syria.
In 1968-70, the late King Hussein provided the Fatah-led PLO with logistic
and operational platforms to terrorize Israel. But in 1970 the PLO attempted to
topple the Hashemite regime through terrorism, triggering a bloody strife
and PLO's expulsion from Jordan to Lebanon. Abu Mazen and Abu Ala' were there,
consulting Mr. Arafat. During 1970-82, the PLO perpetrated a series of civil
wars in Lebanon, with Abu Mazen's and Abu Ala's active participation. The
PLO's subversive operations caused hundreds of thousands of casualties, leading
to Syrian occupation of Lebanon and to the demise of its Christian
population. The latest chapter of PLO's inter-Arab treachery occurred in 1990, when
the organization spearheaded Iraq's plunder of Kuwait — a country which hosted
the Fatah since 1959, absorbed 400,000 Palestinians, enabled them to rise to
top business and civic positions, and imposed a surcharge tax for the PLO.
Subsequently, Kuwait has severed all contacts with the PLO/PA leadership,
expelling most of its 400,000 Palestinians.

In 1972, Abu Mazen handled the financial aspects of the 1972 Munich Olympic
Games massacre of 11 Israeli athletes. He steered pre-1989 PLO ties with
ruthless East European regimes and the Soviet Union, wrote a thesis on Holocaust
Denial at Moscow University, co-managed PLO hijacking of Western planes
during the early 1970s and the murder of U.S. ambassadors in 1972.

A few days following the signing of the 1993 Oslo accord, Abu Mazen, Abu
Ala' Dahlan and Rajoub engineered a series of PA-Hamas understandings.
In fact, Dahlan and Rajoub head PA 'security' units, which have exceeded
Hamas' terrorism. According to the understandings, PA/Hamas joint strategy
(Israel's elimination) would be advanced by tactical accords with Israel, by
diplomacy and by terrorism. In addition, they stipulated that Palestinian unity
would supersede any agreement with Israel, calling for an end to PLO-Hamas
fighting, while urging escalation of anti-Israel 'resistance.'

Palestinians nickname Abu Mazen, Abu Ala', Dahlan and Rajoub 'Mr. 20
Percent' for the kickback, which they extort for doing business in the PA. The four
senior PLO leaders led — under Mr. Arafat — the PA propaganda machine, which
hailed the September11thterrorism, praising Saddam Hussein's and Osama Bin
Laden's anti-U.S. operations. They have introduced, along with Mr. Arafat, the
anti-United States and anti-Jewish hate-education to PA schools, mosques and
media, which has constituted the engine of homicide bombing. They have
assisted Mr. Arafat in masterminding unprecedented hate-education, terrorism,
deception, systematic and violent abrogation of commitments, repression of
Palestinians and corruption.

The Palestinian Authority is not the solution; it is the problem.
Legitimizing top leaders of the PA, such as Abu Mazen, Abu Ala', Dahlan and Rajoub — in
defiance of their horrific track records — constitutes a victory of wishful
thinking over moral clarity. The suggestion that the four are moderate
compared with Mr. Arafat, is to suggest that the Boston Strangler was moderate
compared with Jack the Ripper. It sends a devastating message to terrorists: Not
only can you get away with murder, but you shall be rewarded. It energizes
global terrorism, deters moderation, precludes free Palestinian elections and
undermines the cause of peace. In 1993, wishful thinking smothered Israeli and
Western policy-makers. It provided Mr. Arafat with unprecedented legitimacy,
triggering unprecedented terrorism. How many innocent lives will be
sacrificed on the altar of Abu Mazen and Abu Ala'?

Ambassador Yoram Ettinger is an editor and consultant who lives in