Yesterday Haifa, tomorrow who knows?

April 02, 2002


[Note by Tom Gross]

Many of the people on this email list live in North America, and several of you have expressed interest in European media reaction to the six suicide bombings of recent days.

Below, is reaction from Britain. The coverage has been focused less on the suffering of Israelis, the murder of at least four Holocaust survivors in Netanya, and the daily ritual of funerals in which at least three members of single families are laid to rest. Instead, typical headlines are:

50 British protesters caught in Israeli siege (Daily Telegraph),
Sharon accused of 'second holocaust' against Arabs (The Times)
British students act as shields (The Times)
Britons join 200 in human shield (Guardian),
Sharon hits back with a vengeance (Financial Times)

It should be pointed out that these British and European "peace" activists, along with a number of foreign journalists, are accused by Israel of trying to smuggle out of Yasser Arafat's compound over a dozen Palestinian fugitives wanted for involvement in terrorism against Israeli civilians.

Below are segments of articles in the British press from recent days. The notes in square brackets are mine.

-- Tom Gross


[Lord Gilmour, a former Secretary of State for Defense for the British Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher, writes in the London Observer, the Guardian's Sunday sister paper. As is fast becoming the case among many European anti-Israel activists, he cloaks his arguments with quotes taken out of context by left-wing Israelis -- Tom Gross]

Let there be justice for all, Mr Bush
By Ian Gilmour
The Observer
March 31, 2002

"The appalling events in the Middle East are the predictable results of the negligence and prejudice of the Bush administration. The Bush administration has long known that for it to remain largely passive while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict grew steadily worse would sooner or later ensure an explosion. ... As the speaker of the Knesset said a few weeks ago, Israel now has 'a violent government out to destroy the Palestinian authority to avoid giving up the settlements'.

If Bush and Cheney hoped that Sharon's treatment of Arafat would bring him to heel, they badly mistook their man, as I saw for myself in Ramallah a few days ago. As the peace activist and former Knesset member Uri Avnery said of Cheney: 'When an overbearing Vice President dictates humiliating terms for a meeting with Arafat he pours oil on the flames... persons who lack empathy for the suffering of the occupied people would be well advised to shut up.'

Arafat was relaxed but defiant. He was particularly scathing about the Israeli claim that justice for the Palestinian refugees would entail Israel being swamped by millions of Palestinians.

As Michael Ben-Yair, Israel's attorney general between 1993 and 1996, wrote in Ha'aretz earlier this month: 'The intifada is the Palestinian people's war of national liberation. We enthusiastically chose to become a colonialist society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, engaging in theft ... we established an apartheid regime.'

Israeli organisation Peace Now has spotted 34 new settlements started since Sharon became Prime Minister. When I was driving round the West Bank last week and seeing both these new settlements and the growth of the old ones, that seemed, if anything, an underestimate.

As Michael Lind, an Israeli journalist, puts it, Bush's 'reflections on the conflict seem to have been written by the Israeli lobby' in the US. In an illuminating article in Prospect magazine, he points out that the Israeli lobby distorts US foreign policy and makes anything more than the mildest criticism of Israeli taboo in the mainstream media. 'Until Americans have ended this corruption of our democratic process,' Lind concludes, 'our allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East will continue to view our Middle East policy with trepidation.'"



[As usual, The (London) Guardian locates anti-Israeli Jews to lead its coverage against Israel. Here is one commentator writing the day after the Passover massacre, in reaction to it, focusing not on the Israeli victims but on the Israeli government -- Tom Gross]

Michael Kustow (Guardian March 29, 2002): "I've postponed my trip to Israel until the autumn; I'm staying in London not only because I'm afraid of getting killed, but also because, as a diaspora Jew, I'm part of a conflict for which I can't avoid some responsibility. It's like having relatives whom you love, who won't listen to your advice or warnings, and who are digging their own graves. To see your blood relatives going down a blood-soaked blind alley hurts. To realise that the most pitiless violence is the violence of the traumatised former victim, clinging to past wounds from generation unto generation, is the bitterest pill to swallow."



[Here we have what appears to be a justification for suicide bombers by a senior columnist for the London Guardian. (This is typical of much opinion in the European print and broadcast media.) -- Tom Gross]

Peter Preston (The Guardian, April 4, 2002): "The Israelis use their heavy-duty kit to blast the remnants of PLO authority. The Palestinians wrap teenage girls in Semtex and send them, smiling sweetly, to devastate supermarkets and cafes. Are they - the inexhaustible legions of Hamas and Hizbullah - to be condemned for that? The Palestinians are completely outgunned and outclassed. No one – apart from Arabs bearing wan words – comes to their aid."



[Here, an Israeli leftist criticizes Israeli society and Palestinian suicide murderers in the same breath -- Tom Gross]

David Grossman (Guardian, April 2, 2002): "Evil things are happening to both peoples. Fear causes no less damage to the soul than explosives cause to the body. Israeli society is becoming more and more violent, aggressive, and racist, and less democratic. Palestinian society is undergoing an even more dangerous process. A society that becomes accustomed to sending its young men and women on suicide operations aimed at murdering innocent civilians, a society that encourages such actions and glorifies their perpetrators, will pay the price for this in the future. The price will be paid in their attitude towards life itself, life as an inalienable sacred value."



[Here is a senior columnist for the London Independent:]

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (Independent, April 1, 2002): "Meanwhile, among western Muslims, emotions are rising in ways I have not seen before. They live as free citizens in a powerful democracy, but feel powerless to stop the destruction of Palestine by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon or to demand answers on what exactly is going on in Afghanistan (surely one of the least reported of all wars) or at Camp X-Ray, and now to arrest an unjustifiable war against the crushed people of Iraq."



[Here is the Chief Middle East correspondent for the London Independent:]

Robert Fisk (The Independent, March 30, 2002): "Of course he [Arafat] doesn't send the bombers off on their wicked missions to restaurants and supermarkets. But he does know that every suicide bombing destroys Sharon's credibility and proves that the Israeli leader's promises of security are false. But the Jews of Israel are not going to run or submit to an endless war of attrition. Even if Sharon is voted out of power – a prospect for which many Israelis pray – the next Israeli prime minister is not going to negotiate out of fear of the suicide bomber."



[John Simpson is the chief foreign affairs correspondent of the BBC, the BBC's Christiane Amanpour -- Tom Gross ]

John Simpson (Sunday Telegraph, March 31, 2002): "The only country that now fails to realise that the terrorist attacks of September 11 are now as much a part of history as the blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem is the United States. For most governments around the world, the destruction of the Taliban in Afghanistan closed the account."



Financial Times (main editorial, April 1, 2002): "The bombing in Haifa on Sunday, claimed by radical Palestinian groups, was yet another horrific act in the cycle of destruction and revenge. Mr Sharon's claim that the solution lies in the destruction of the Palestinian Authority and the isolation of Mr Arafat is dangerously misguided. His reliance on Israel's military power and his refusal to outline a fair vision of peace threatens disaster to the Jewish state, with no Israeli able to feel secure."



Hussein Agha and Robert Malley (Guardian, March 29, 2002): "Refugees should be given the choice to return to the general area where they lived before 1948 (along with the choice to live in Palestine, resettle or be absorbed by their current country of refuge if the host country agrees). Many of the refugees want to go back to their original homes. But these homes, and in many cases the entire villages where they were located, either no longer exist or are now inhabited by Jews. The next best option from the refugees' own perspective would be to live among people who share their language, religion and culture – that is, among the Arab citizens of Israel. Israel would settle the refugees in its Arab-populated territory along the 1967 boundaries. Those areas would then be included in the land swap with Palestine and end up as part of the new Palestinian state."



The Guardian (main editorial, April 2, 2002): "The current deterioration in the Middle East, which has a direct impact on his [Bush's] options over Iraq, can be laid directly at the door of this neglect. Isn't it time for the man who wields such power over the rest of the world to discover at closer hand how that world feels about his strategy? Mr Bush never seems to think about how the other guy might feel. It would do him good to find out."



Ian Buruma (Guardian, April 2, 2002): "There is a lot wrong both with the US and Israel, especially now. But why, in a world where dictators slaughter their own citizens with poison gas, or use rape as a systematic tool of oppression, or incite one ethnic group to exterminate another, do these two democracies produce such spitting, eye-rolling rage? Why do some western intellectuals get more worked up about George Bush than they do about Saddam Hussein, and more about Ramallah than Kashmir? Suicide-bombing is understandable, but harsh treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay inexcusable. It is true that anti-Americanism and anti-semitism are linked, historically, and dovetail nicely in the demonology of anti-capitalism. But, especially in the case of Pinter, anti-semitism is surely a bit implausible. (Not that Jewish anti-semitism does not exist; think of Karl Marx.) No, I think the foaming rages have a different source, to do with guilt and fear."



[Here is Michael Gove, one of the few British commentators who actually writes from an informed viewpoint both in respect to current events and from an historical perspective (Gove is a longtime subscriber to this email list) -- Tom Gross]

Spare us from any more Middle East peace plans
By Michael Gove
The (London) Times
April 2, 2002

A diplomatic settlement by Israel would show only that suicide bombing works.


"Qualified optimism in Afghanistan and Iraq should not, however, detract from the pessimism one must feel when surveying the real front line in the West's war. For Terrorism is winning in the Middle East. Israel today, like Czechoslovakia 63 years ago, has become democracy's salient which evil means to overwhelm. Just as in the Czech lands, men who live by violence and feast on weakness are testing the limits of our resolution. The lesson of Czechoslovakia was a simple one: evil must not prosper by violence if yet greater violence is to be averted."

"For Yassir Arafat, his allies in Hamas and his sponsors from Riyadh to Baghdad, the loss of Palestinian life is irrelevant. The indifference of the leaders of the intifada to the death of their own people was openly articulated by Arafat at the weekend with his call for "martyrs by the millions".

"Arafat and his allies are willing to bear any human cost to secure political advances. Therefore, one cannot end Arafat's terror simply by offering a way out of further bloodshed, as peace plans seek to do, or even through inflicting military losses on the enemy, as the Israeli Defence Force is doing, because the enemy ultimately does not care how much blood its people shed. Terrorists care only about winning. To defeat terror one must prove that it will not secure political gains. Israel needs a government that can grasp that logic properly, which will tighten its security policy accordingly, explain fluently to the West that its struggle is democracy's struggle, point out that there can be no peace in the Middle East while the regimes which sponsor terror survive, and then refuse to engage with peace plans until terrorist violence has ceased. The Israeli politician who best understands this is Binyamin Netanyahu.

Any "diplomatic settlement" wrung out of Israel as a consequence of the current terror campaign will only guarantee further terror, for it will have delivered a political yield for an investment in violence, secured a better forward base for the terrorists’ stated goal of exterminating Israel, and indicated to tyrants from Baghdad to Damascus that the West was unwilling to hold the line.

Worse, it would advertise to the world what al-Qaeda hoped to establish on September 11: it would show that suicide bombing, if prosecuted for long enough, will work. Yesterday Haifa, tomorrow who knows?"


Selection of Quotes:

Amram Mitzna, mayor of Haifa (March 31, 2002): "There is no longer a front and a rear. The whole country is a battlefield."

Yasser Arafat (March 29, 2002): "Nobody is shaken, afraid, or retreating. We are going to Jerusalem, giving millions of martyrs on the way."

George Bush (March 30, 2002): "The Iranians must step up and stop sponsoring terrorism. The Syrians must participate... there has got to be a united effort against terror."

Donald Rumsfeld (April 1, 2002): "States like Iran, Iraq and Syria are inspiring and financing a culture of political murder and suicide bombing. The people in Syria ought to know that their government is facilitating the flow of weapons and financing and terrorist activity down from Iran and into Lebanon and into Israel."

Kofi Annan (April 1, 2002): "Israel's presence inside the compound of Chairman Arafat and its military actions in the West Bank and Gaza can only produce a further deterioration and the loss of more innocent Palestinian and Israeli life, and should be ended immediately."

Shimon Peres (March 31, 2002): "The idea to return human sacrifice to the altar of political ambition is barbaric and dangerous. It is dangerous not only to Israel, but for the rest of the world if this will become a tactical strategy. Everybody may use it. We have to do whatever we can, morally, legally, politically, and militarily to stop it. This crime will spread to the whole world."

Shimon Peres (March 31, 2002): "No one in Israel can understand why the Palestinians are fighting and killing, since whatever they are demanding was offered to them at Camp David, namely a Palestinian state. What they are trying to achieve by murder they could have gotten on the negotiating table."

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.