Israel “a nightmare that gives Jews a bad name,” & other election comment

November 05, 2002

* Ignored in today's western media: Israeli kids murdered, injured yesterday in Kfar Saba shopping mall terror attack

 

CONTENTS

1. The Guardian: "To wash one's hands of Israel might seem like the enlightened thing to do"
2. "I understand the importance of peace because I saw the horrors of war"
3. "A nightmare trip to the mall"
4. "What were the Israelis busy with in November 2002?"
5. Sharon: I believe that Jews and Arabs can live together
6. "Painful compromises"
7. "Mofaz is not a 'predatory hawk'"
8. "Muslim Americans use their voting power" (Arab News, Nov. 5, 2002)
9. "A nightmare trip to the mall" (Jerusalem Post, Nov. 5, 2002)
10. "Israeli liberalism may not be dead. But it needs a lot of help" (Guardian, Nov. 5, 2002)


THE GUARDIAN: “TO WASH ONE’S HANDS OF ISRAEL MIGHT SEEM LIKE THE ENLIGHTENED THING TO DO”

[Note by Tom Gross]

This morning, Ariel Sharon decided to call early elections in Israel, probably scheduled for February 4 or 11. I attach extracts from various editorials relating to Israeli and American politics, with a summary first for those who don't have time to read them in full:

1. The Guardian (UK), November 5, 2002: "Most Israelis are not ready to embrace fascism or ethnic cleansing. They just want to feel safe. Right now, Sharon's hard line makes them feel safer than more moderate alternatives. This could still change. But the liberals in Israel do need our support. The hard right gets plenty of help from Jewish chauvinists, neo-conservative dreamers of pax Americana, and religious fanatics, both Jewish and Christian. The left gets almost none, because liberals in the worldwide diaspora regard the Zionist enterprise as an embarrassment, a nightmare that gives Jews a bad name. To wash one's hands of Israel might seem like the enlightened thing to do, but once the crazies take over, we will all feel the consequences." [The full article is at the END of this email dispatch.]

2. Yediot Ahronot (Israel's highest circulation newspaper). Today's editorial: "It is a foregone conclusion that Sharon will win." (Further extracts below)

“I UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF PEACE BECAUSE I SAW THE HORRORS OF WAR”

3. Interview with Ariel Sharon in today's Times of London, November 5, 2002: "I understand the importance of peace because I saw the horrors of war. That's how I see it. I lost my best friends in battles and I had to make decisions of life and death, of others and myself... I believe that Jews and Arabs can live together. It's not an easy thing but I believe we can reach an agreement... I think I am one of the only ones here at the present time that will have the power and the strength to tell the citizens of Israel what they have to do and to make compromises and painful compromises, to look into their eyes and say that." (Further extracts below)

4. Just as New York Times editorials of recent days have sought to interfere with domestic Israeli politics by telling Israelis that they should vote for left-wing parties, The Jerusalem Post editorial today appears to interfere with U.S. politics, hinting that American Jews should consider voting Republican. Extracts: "Since 1932, when [U.S.] Jews, along with blacks, abandoned their traditional political alignment with the Republican Party to vote for Franklin Roosevelt, it has been a given of American political life that Jews vote the Democratic ticket. Sometimes, this vote is decisive. Though American Jewry makes up only 2.5% of the total population, Jewish turnout in presidential elections can run to about 90%, meaning they count for as much as 5% of the overall electorate. Nonetheless, it should behoove American Jews to weigh their votes carefully this year. Today, a very different Bush administration stands solidly behind Israel for reasons that have more to do with ideological conviction than political calculation. This alone should make American Jews rethink their attitude toward the Republican Party."

“A NIGHTMARE TRIP TO THE MALL”

5. "Muslim Americans use their voting power". Arab News notes that Moslem-Americans have been more active in today's congressional elections than they have ever been before in nationwide U.S. elections. (Full article below).

6. Yediot Ahronot editorial (November 5, 2002): "Shaul Mofaz is not nearly as rightwing as most people seem to think... It is reasonable to assume that in a narrow Sharon government, he will be the level-headed, dovish marker." (Further extracts below)

7. Two people were murdered and 69 people injured (19 seriously) in yesterday's suicide bombing at the entrance to Kfar Saba shopping mall. The attack would have been far worse had a security guard not spotted the suicide bomber and prevented him from entering an electronics store. Both victims, one of whom was a 15-year-old schoolboy, were new immigrants from Argentina. Several infants are among the injured. (Article below, "A nightmare trip to the mall," The Jerusalem Post)

-- Tom Gross



ARTICLES AND EXTRACTS

“WHAT WERE THE ISRAELIS BUSY WITH IN NOVEMBER 2002?”

November 5, 2002, Yediot Ahronot, reprimands Israeli politicians for their behavior over the last week. "Historians who, in 50 or 100 or 150 years, search archives on Israel's history will rip their eyes out in amazement: What were the Jews busy with, the Israelis, in November 2002, when they are up to their necks with security, political, economic and social problems? What did they do... Unbelievable: At this difficult time the two people aiming for the crown of leadership are dealing with the subject who manipulated who... For God's sake, what are they dealing with up there? Terror attacks continue... The report on the number of people living below the poverty line should shock the nation, the credit rating is on its way down and in Jerusalem they are reveling in comfort." The editors assert that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon does not have a choice and will have to call elections, in which "it is a foregone conclusion that Sharon will win, because he is perceived, justifiably, as a natural leader."

 

SHARON: I BELIEVE THAT JEWS AND ARABS CAN LIVE TOGETHER

Ariel Sharon was interviewed in today's Times of London, November 5, 2002. The following are some extracts:

Ariel Sharon: "I know I have been portrayed as a general looking for war. Many other headlines speak of that. That's what people say. But I understand the importance of peace because I saw the horrors of war. That's how I see it. I lost my best friends in battles and I had to make decisions of life and death, of others and myself."

"Iran makes every effort to possess weapons of mass destruction on the one hand and ballistic missiles. That is a danger to the Middle East, to Israel, and a danger to Europe."

"I believe that Jews and Arabs can live together. It's not an easy thing but I believe we can reach an agreement. I don't want to pretend about talking to Arabs because I meet Arabs, here and on our farm at home. I would like to very careful not to pretend but I think I am one of the only ones here at the present time that will have the power and the strength to tell the citizens of Israel what they have to do and to make compromises and painful compromises, to look into their eyes and say that."

"I told them many times that I would like to see Europe more involved. I don't expect that they will be fully supporting us, but what I do expect is a balanced approach. I should say regretfully that there is no balanced approach."

"I don't want to deal with what will be the function of Mr Arafat but he must be disconnected completely from the security/terror organisation and of course he should be fully disconnected from the control of the financial side because as long as he controls the financial side and the security organisation controlling terror it's very hard to expect that there will be reforms."

"You ask me if we are going to hold the sword all our lives. If we have to do it, we will do it, but I hope that it won't be necessary. There are those among the Palestinians who understand that they will not be able to achieve anything by force. Those that are ready to speak peace, I am ready to talk and negotiate with, as a matter of fact I am in contact with them now."

 

“PAINFUL COMPROMISES”

The following is extracted from the editorial in today's Times of London (not from Sharon's interview):

The Times (November 5, 2002): "The Prime Minister implies that only a man of his personal and partisan background could negotiate a secure peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Many of his opponents privately concede that this may be true, but doubt whether Mr Sharon really wishes to introduce the 'painful compromises' that he has mentioned.

His sincerity and capacity in this regard will be properly tested only when a meaningful opening for negotiations emerges again. That could take place if sweeping reforms are adopted by the Palestinian Authority and, realistically, once the Israeli electorate has spoken. Mr Sharon may then, despite the present understandable pessimism, have the chance to make serious progress. He would, though, require some reliable allies around the Cabinet table who shared that objective."

 

MUSLIM AMERICANS USE THEIR VOTING POWER

Muslim Americans use their voting power
By Barbara Ferguson
Arab News
November 5, 2002

Americans go to the polls today in a crucial mid-term election to decide 34 Senate seats, 435 House seats and 36 governorships.

Today's elections will determine which party will control both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

To regain the Senate, Republicans who lost the majority control in 2001, when Vermont Sen. James Jeffords left them to become an Independent now must pick up one seat. In the House of Representatives, Democrats must win six seats to regain the control they lost in 1994.

Tufain Ahmad, a trustee of the US-Pakistan Association of the Washington metropolitan area, said the Muslim American community has been active, as never before, in this year's elections.

"Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive strikes, a unilateralism in the Bush foreign policy and the administration's onslaught on civil liberties affecting the Muslim community at large," is why Muslim Americans have felt the need to become active and vocal, he said.

Asked how this will be reflected in Muslim American votes, Ahmad said: "In the last election, Muslims voted for Bush, because they thought that during the debates he appeared more concerned about the situation for Muslims, and he said he was against Arab profiling; that gave some hope the Muslim community that he would be fair and reasonable to our community.

"Unfortunately, after 9/11, the situation has completely changed and Muslims feel discriminated against, whether they are US citizens or US immigrants, students, or on visit visas in this country," said Ahmad, a businessman who has lived in Potomac, Maryland for 30 years.

"It appears there will be a shift in the voting pattern of Muslims, and a substantial number of Muslim votes will be cast for the Democratic candidates, as opposed to the Republicans," said Ahmed.

He said Muslims, for the first time ever, have become active in political rallies and fund-raising. They have even started holding political rallies at their homes.

"Muslims are really becoming very active now," said Ahmad.

"There is a growing realization amongst Muslims that they cannot live in isolation, and they must participate in all the local civic activities, and local charitable activities as Muslims."

Another first, according to Ahmad, is that Muslim Americans are working with other minorities, including African-Americans, Latinos, and other Asian communities.

Khaled Mahmoud, a resident of Rockville, Maryland, for 27 years, said this year Muslim Americans have made a concerted effort to get involved in local and national politics, because "basically, since 9/11, things are getting hotter for us.

When asked which party would win the majority today, Mahmoud was uncertain.

"I don't think Muslim Americans have a clear choice. Last time they voted for Republicans, and they were disappointed."

 

“MOFAZ IS NOT A ‘PREDATORY HAWK’”

Yediot Ahronot editorial (November 5, 2002): "Shaul Mofaz is not nearly as rightwing as most people seem to think... In contrast to the image he has outside Israel, and sometimes in Israel proper, Mofaz is not a 'predatory hawk'. He is more of a centrist, with moderate political views, and by no means an ally of the settler extremists. On the contrary, he has deep reservations about them, and in just a slightly different political constellation, he could have been defense minister in a Labor government... It is reasonable to assume that in a narrow Sharon government, he will be the level-headed, dovish marker. And in that way, Lieutenant General (Reserves) Mofaz's appointment as defense minister will strengthen Israel's security."

 

EARLY EVENING TRIP TO THE LOCAL MALL TURNS INTO A NIGHTMARE

A nightmare trip to the mall
By Daniel Ben-Tal
The Jerusalem Post
November 5, 2002

An early evening trip to the local mall turned into a nightmare for hundreds of shoppers in Kfar Saba on Monday.

"There was a huge blast and my mother and I were thrown to the ground," Dana Siton, 10, told reporters from her bed in the city's Meir Hospital.

"All sorts of things flew at us. I was covered in glass and horrible bits of dirt. My mother and I managed to get into a nearby shop, where people helped us until the ambulances arrived and brought us here. I'm OK I've lots of scratches but I'll get over it."

Casualties began arriving at the hospital within minutes of the explosion. The emergency room became a hive of activity, as rapidly-mobilized teams of doctors, nurses, and social workers huddled in consultation around patients' beds.

"Most were injured by flying glass and other shrapnel," hospital director Dr. Ehud Davidson told reporters. "We saw no indications of nails or similar objects in the bomb, as with previous ones."

The hospital's staff quickly set up a trauma department manned by doctors, psychiatrists, and social workers to deal with the expected influx of patients. Throughout the evening, dozens of eyewitnesses arrived complaining of shock symptoms. Most arrived by car, shaking with fear as they were helped into the trauma room.

"On the advice of our head psychiatrist, Dr. Ilan Kutz, no patient from such an incident is released before being seen by a psychiatrist," explained hospital spokeswoman Hagit Sharon. "To our sorrow, we have accumulated experience of such events and have learned that immediate treatment of trauma symptoms significantly reduces the lasting effects."

By 10 p.m., the hospital registered 75 patients from the attack, of which about two-thirds were trauma patients, according to Sharon. One is in moderate-to-serious condition in the hospital's intensive care unit, three have moderate wounds, and the others are lightly wound.

Hila Formosa, 17, sat with her mother in the trauma room.

"I was watching television in my friend's third-floor apartment across the street from the mall when there was this tremendous explosion and all the windows blew in," she said. "At first, I thought it was an earthquake and hid under a bed, but then I saw smoke rising and began to panic.

The smoke was everywhere it was like a movie.

"I can't tell you it was terrible. For some reason, we thought there was a terrorist in the building. We didn't know where was safe. We all ran down to the building's underground air raid shelter, but it was flooded.

"My friend's 11-year-old brother, who was sitting at his computer by the window, was showered in glass. He's now in Beilinson Hospital with shock. I have pain and ringing in my right ear, and I'm feeling shaky.

"I'm scared. A year ago, a friend of mine almost died in a terrorist attack. She was shot twice, and her friend was killed. She didn't leave the house at all for six months from fear. She was on anti-depressants. I keep thinking of her."

South African-born Diana Katz and her mother Anne Reiff, both of Ra'anana, were walking toward their car within 20 meters of the explosion. Both escaped with light wounds.

"I rushed to the hospital on instinct, and found them here," said Diana's husband, Alan. "It was very worrying. I'm just happy that they're both well. My wife's glasses were shattered and she has problems with her eye, while her mother has only external injuries."

 

“ONCE THE CRAZIES TAKE OVER, WE WILL ALL FEEL THE CONSEQUENCES”

Israeli liberalism may not be dead. But it needs a lot of help
By Ian Buruma
The Guardian
November 5, 2002

Aqraba is an Arab village on the west bank of the Jordan River. These stony hills formed the heartland of the Jewish tribes in biblical times. Here they picked their olives, just as the Palestinians would today, if they could. But they cannot, because modern Jews, settled in the hills around them, won't let them. These Jews, from the US, Russia, or Israel, won't let them because they claim the Old Testament as their deed of ownership to the land. They are followers of the fanatical rabbi from Brooklyn, Meir Kahane, who advocated the expulsion ("transfer") of Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank.

The Kahanite settlers are armed, 15-year-old thugs from Brooklyn or Odessa who run riot in these parts. The Kahanites are so wild that even the other settlers regard them with disgust. When a Jewish academic came to Aqraba not long ago to offer help to the Arabs, he was shot.

I was there last week with a group of Israelis who wished to express their solidarity with the Arabs by helping them to pick olives. It was a gesture, a photo opportunity, if you like, aimed at the evening news, to show that some Israelis still cared. The event had been financed by a businessman and organized by Peace Now. Many of the participants were regulars on such occasions. Among them were the writers Amos Oz and David Grossman. But there were others too, less to be expected, such as Shlomo Gazit, former head of army intelligence. And there was Rabbi Foreman, himself a settler, who read passages from the Talmud to demonstrate that stealing from the goyim was not permissible. Foreman with his long white hair, looked vaguely biblical, and at the same time strangely out of place: more at home perhaps in a yeshiva in Cracow 100 years ago.

But then, in a way, all of us, except the Arabs, looked dislocated; a group of European academics, businessmen, writers and journalists, in trainers, trespassing on tribal lands. The gulf separating the Palestinians and their Israeli visitors looked huge. Hardly a word passed between them. The Kahanist gunslingers kept out of sight of the TV cameras, but the gulf between us and them would have been just as great.

The way the Palestinians are treated is indefensible, but there was something sad, even tragic about their well-meaning sympathisers too. For they are the remnants of the old liberal-left elite, the Labour-voting Ashkenazi intellectuals who had hoped to build a decent, democratic, secular society in the Middle East. Some were born in Israel, others came later. But all had fought for the survival of their country and lost friends in several wars. And now, stuck between the fanatical settlers, Palestinian suicide bombers, and a rightwing government supported by poor Oriental Jews and hard-nosed Russians, it was as if they lived in a strange country.

The harshness of Israel's confrontation with the Palestianians has coarsened Israel itself. Old liberals feel isolated and abandoned in an increasingly brutal society. Several people in Jerusalem voiced surprise that I still dared to come under the present circumstances. Others told me how painful it was to be citizens of the world's most hated nation. They said they lived in fear of what their government might do in the case of further conflict in the Middle East. Grossman spoke about the betrayal of Jewish idealism; the ideals that brought generations of Jews to Israel. And yet he could not see himself living anywhere else. This was, after all, his country too.

To declare that liberalism in Israel is dead would be foolish. Despite the loose talk of some swaggering politicians (and their supporters abroad), most Israelis are not ready to embrace fascism or ethnic cleansing. They just want to feel safe. Right now, Sharon's hard line makes them feel safer than more moderate alternatives.

This could still change. But the liberals in Israel do need our support. The hard right gets plenty of help from Jewish chauvinists, neo-conservative dreamers of pax Americana, and religious fanatics, both Jewish and Christian.

The left gets almost none, because liberals in the worldwide diaspora regard the Zionist enterprise as an embarrassment, a nightmare that gives Jews a bad name. To wash one's hands of Israel might seem like the enlightened thing to do, but once the crazies take over, we will all feel the consequences.

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