It has been interesting to watch how people are handling the tragedy of September 11. I’m not in the United States, so I can only assume what it is like for those there. Here in Israel, it has been rather fascinating. From amidst the horror and agony of watching the events of unnecessary terror unfold on our television, a moment of giggles resounded from Middle Eastern homes when the call for an Arab coalition against terrorism came from Arafat. What a joke. Now, when the pressure is on to get Arafat and his terrorists to think reason and compassion in order to solve the Middle East “problem” once and for all, the recent peace and seize fire has been shattered with devastating wild attacks, fueled by the one year anniversary of the start of the recent violence in the Palestinian Territories.
The Intifada, or uprising, is what the Palestinians call their cause and “war against Israel.” Israeli news is now calling all the acts of violence by the Palestinians “acts of terror” and terrorism. Hope seemed to ring anew when two days of “semi-cease fire” passed and Arafat and Peres met to discuss plans for a longer cease fire. Arafat and his staff committed to instigating the Mitchell Report with its plan for withdrawal on both sides, with Arafat arresting the terrorists he released from jail a year ago and to put an end to the violent attacks. While they were talking, Palestinians shot and killed more people, and now, days later, the violence continues with a wild attack on an Israeli settlement near the Gaza Strip. An English speaking resident recounted his horror when, while finishing their Succot holiday festivities in their home, a grenade was thrown into their living room. He threw himself over his children and protected them from the blast, shrapnel flying everywhere wounding but not killing himself and the children. He gathered his bleeding family together and hid them in a back room while he waited in the destroyed living room for “death to walk in the door.” Luckily, the Palestinian attackers concentrated their efforts elsewhere, killing and destroying as they went. Two Israeli teens, a boyfriend and girlfriend, were killed in the attack. A few days ago, according to the agreement Israel and the Palestinian Authority (Arafat) had just made, Israel had complied by pulling back their forces from the border and softened the restrictions on border access for Palestinians. Every time Israel pulls back and eases their restrictions, the suicide bombings and attacks escalate. Israel moves back in and cracks down, and quiet comes. Israel pulls back, and the violence escalates. It is waves pounding the shore with the push and pull of control.
Arafat continues his policy of promising to arrest known terrorists and put an end to the violence, and the evidence shows him doing nothing. Now, in retaliation for this terrorist invasion into their land, Israel’s might is being felt as they bomb and attack police stations and military sites in the Gaza Strip. On the international news, the reports are about the numbers of dead and the worries about cease fires and peace. Here, bloody faces fill the news again and again.
Chief of Police, Major Commander Shlomo Aharonishky, said today that the last year was the worst in the history of the country, from the point of view of dealing with terror. In his words, during 2001, 208 citizens were killed by terrorism. In total, there were 1,800 attacks in the last year, 90 of them in Jerusalem.
A lot of people told me that they really hoped that after September 11 Americans would sympathize with Israel. At first this may have been so, but in reality, as horrible as the September 11 terrorist acts are, there is no way Americans can sympathize with Israel unless they have actually lived under the constant threat of terror. The terror here is continuous. The United States has suffered three terrorist acts in the past decade. This past year, Israel suffered 1,800 terrorist attacks.
Arabs developed the art of terrorism in response to the European Crusaders who raped, maimed and pillaged without care through much of southern Europe, Turkey, and the Middle East for the “right and just cause of the Christian God.” Okay, let us not forget that most of it was just for greed. For the modern world, terrorism entered the vernacular in 1972 when Palestinian terrorists seized hostages and killed Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Yes, Palestine got its wish and its cause made front pages around the world. Since then, not only have the Palestinian terrorists continued their reign of terror on the world, they have continued their assault against Israel. Now, one of the terrorist leaders is chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Arafat. Incredible how the world turns. The world would like to believe a leopard can change its spots, and that Arafat has seen the truth in the useless nature of terrorism, but recent terrorism by groups he founded, took over, and control are intent on terrorism as the only answer to whatever solution Arafat thinks he wants.
Schneider Children’s Medical Center
Post Office Box 899
Petah Tikvah Israel
or call Fred Sopher 972-9-774-9178
SELA (Russian speaking victims of terror in Israel)
15 Havurot Shas Road, Neve Zedek
Tel Aviv 65456 Israel
In the early 1990s, after many peace negotiation trials and tribulations, Israel and Palestine had formed a tenable peace, with Palestinians free to cross back and forth into Israel with little or no control, finding jobs and making a decent living on Israeli soil. Palestinian children were finally getting an education and access to universities not available to most of their parents and grandparents previously, especially under Jordanian rule. To keep the Palestine issue in the media, Arafat would hold public announcements and threats to declare a Palestinian state, and rattle a few swords, but for the general population, life was finally good here. Business boomed and the economy stabilized and grew. When Arafat continued to not keep his commitment to declare a Palestinian state, working instead to turn Palestinian opinion back against the Israelis for a variety of reasons, some clear and some cloudy, tempers finally flared and a year ago a planned rebellion began again. Once again, Israelis live with daily terror along their border communities that grew together without seams during the peace times. Every day bombs are found and dismantled or safely exploded, with only a rare few escaping attention and doing damage. Car bombs and other disguised bombs are usually detected, but suicide bombers with heavy coats and bulky clothing can easily hide bombs attached to the body.
When I came to Israel, I was more on the side of the Palestinians. After two years stuck in the middle of the road, I am definitely shifting sides. I am just not impressed with the Palestinian leaders and people for not stopping the violence and terror and for not finding a compromise somewhere in the middle of all of this. I am also finding a new appreciation for the Palestinian people and a lack of respect for their leaders. These people are also living in fear of Arafat and his henchmen and the control they have over their lives. I wonder if they even believe the twisted propaganda that comes out of the mouths of their officials. Brent and I stood in shock while we listened to a really astute television reporter from the BBC interview Arafat representative, Arakat, about a roadside bomb that was set off just as a school bus was passing over it, killing and seriously maiming little school children. When asked, “Why attack a bus load of children?” Arakat turned it right around to blaming Israel, twisting his words around so that Brent and I actually started to feel some compassion for the horrible plight of the Palestinians – then we woke up and shouted, “Why did you attack a bus load of children?!?” He never gave a real answer, just spin.
I really believe that if the Palestinians made peace with Israel, the first step would be to hold honest democratic elections and get rid of Arafat and his manipulating control. Then money like water would flow into their small areas like a flood to support and encourage the peace process, benefitting everyone with education, food, water, construction, and business would come their way willingly. When the river dries up, say a hundred years or so down the road, then they can create another ruckus and the leaders of that time will have to deal with it. But for now, let the waters flow, guys.
There is a lot of brainwashing by militants of children and youth who are taught by their religious leaders that if they die in a suicide bombing, especially if they take Jews with them, they will be greeted by 70 virgins and be treated like royalty in the afterlife. Their families are paid thousands of dollars for the sacrifice of their children to the “intifada” or holy war, some of it coming from Sadam Hussein in Iraq. This is more than the whole family working full time would make in several years, so the loss of a young man is worth keeping the family flush. I don’t understand. In death, they are paraded and celebrated with great shows of honor and respect. I still don’t understand, but I try.
Is attacking with military might an appropriate response to suicide terrorists? I don’t know that either, but Israel isn’t getting their retaliation by mindless terrorism or suicide bombers of civilians. I’ve yet to hear of a single Israeli military attack against civilians (except those who got in the way of military action) for the purpose of killing only civilians. The famous live television footage of a Palestinian father holding his dying son as they were caught in the crossfire proved to not be shot by Israelis but Palestinians. Israel forces were around the corner, and unless bullets can suddenly turn corners – but Israel was blamed and held responsible by the international community as well as the Arab world for the boys public death. In all of the killing, Israel doesn’t target civilians, but I have heard and seen plenty about the mutilation and murder of young men and women, adults and children, Jews and non-Jews, even foreigners and tourists, by Palestinian suicide bombers choosing restaurants and discotheques for their terror. If this was a “war”, why aren’t the Palestinians targeting government agencies, military bases, security offices, electricity plants, industrial plants, things that can really cause damage and chaos within the country? No, they only target the innocent citizens.
How can Americans empathize with this? How do you negociate with such people? When the World Trade Center and Pentagon were hit, everyone, including me, was shocked; our sense of well-being shattered. The results of this shock has rippled throughout the American and world economy with airline travel down (out of fear), tourist travel down, buying down, investments down, everything down and dropping. In Israel, such attacks are not only expected, they are anticipated. Jews, in general, have a long history of suffering and persecution, only recently by terrorists. So the Jews came to Israel with a hope of peace and a land of their own, but they know that the persecution for being Jewish will continue, a kind of never ending suffering. Because this self-fulfilling prophecy holds true, they adjust to life with terrorist bombs, increasing and changing their security to adapt to the new terrorist techniques. Living with day to day terrorism is much different than life in a country who has had three major terrorist actions in less than 10 years.
For a moment, Israel stood alongside the world in their shock and dismay, empathizing with America and hoping the empathy was returned. Yet, the continuous taste of terrorism is still different than a mild sampling. It will be interesting to watch how this plays out and to see how the Israeli perspective changes towards the US and the rest of the world as the US plays its antiterrorist hand. Will the US include Palestinian terrorists in their targets? We wonder.
Tel Aviv, Israel