“Slaughter of innocents,” notices The Guardian and The Independent

November 21, 2002


1. At last, reporting that children are the targets
2. American media still lacking
3. Perhaps it is the The Guardian editorial writers who are stupid
4. "Children killed in Israel suicide bomb" (Independent, Nov. 22, 2002)
5. "Children killed in suicide attack on bus" (Guardian, Nov. 22, 2002)
6. "Slaughter of innocents" (Leader, Guardian, Nov. 22, 2002)
7. "15,000 and counting" (By Michael Freund, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 21, 2002)


[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach two pieces from today's editions of the liberal British dailies, The Guardian and The Independent, highlighting the fact that children are prominent among the victims of Palestinian terror.

These headlines mark a first for these papers who suddenly seem to have noticed that Palestinian terrorists target Jewish children for death.

(1) "Children killed in Israel suicide bomb" (The Independent, November 22, 2002)
(2) "Children killed in suicide attack on bus" (The Guardian, November 22, 2002)

It is not new that Israeli children are one of the prime targets of Palestinian terror groups. This has been the case throughout the so-called Intifada, and before that. What is new is that the left-liberal European media is finally beginning to recognize this. (In The Independent's and The Guardian's case, this is partly because the pathologically anti-Israel correspondents of these newspapers Phil Reeves of The Independent and Suzanne Goldenberg of The Guardian have recently been replaced by their respective papers.)


I am also sending these pieces because unfortunately many American media continue to refuse to highlight the civilian nature of Israeli deaths, let alone the fact they are children. CNN America's "Headline News" channel in the U.S., for example, yesterday evening carried a much longer and more sympathetic piece about a Palestinian-American schoolgirl in New York whose school principal has asked her not to bring PLO flags and T-shirts to class, and only some minutes later did CNN briefly mention that there had been a bomb in Israel, without mentioning that many victims were children, even though this had been established 10 hours earlier.

Please note that even in the context of this more sympathetic reporting The Guardian sub-headline wrongly says eight, rather than 11 Israelis died. Also, The Guardian news report states that the Palestinian Authority condemned the bombing. In fact Voice of Palestine radio news called the Kiryat Menachem neighborhood of west Jerusalem where the attack occurred "the colony" ("musta mara") and referred to the attack as "an explosives operation" ("amaliyya tafjiriyya") without any word of condemnation.


I also attach:

(3) "Slaughter of innocents: Israeli bus bombing is criminal stupidity" (Lead editorial, The Guardian , November 22, 2002). The Guardian calls this "an act of execrable cruelty" and points out "This was not an attack on a military target... Its victims were not 'oppressors'; they were ordinary people." All this might be news to Guardian editorial writers and readers who have been consistently misled by their own correspondents and British television news reports about the nature of Palestinian terrorism over the last two years. Even when criticizing the bombing, The Guardian cannot resist giving Yasser Arafat the benefit of the doubt and calling Ariel Sharon "stupid" in its editorial. It forgets to mention that it was only last week that Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction murdered five Israelis, including two young children and their mother in a kibbutz. Perhaps it is The Guardian editorial writers who are stupid.

(4) "15,000 and counting" (By Michael Freund, The Jerusalem Post, November 21, 2002). In this piece (written before yesterday's attack), the writer states that Israel recently set a new world record for enduring terrorist attacks. He calls on the Israeli government to stop taking "purely reactive" and "half-hearted measures". Freund says: "Yasser Arafat should be led away in handcuffs and put on trial, along with the rest of the Palestinian leadership. We must stop being afraid of what the world might say, and start being more concerned about what the terrorists are doing to us, day in and day out."

-- Tom Gross



Children killed in Israel suicide bomb
By Justin Huggler and Eric Silver
The Independent
November 22, 2002

There were children's voices coming from the wreckage of the bus yesterday. As witnesses to the latest suicide bombing in Israel, in which 11 people died, rushed to the charred remains on Mexico Street, they heard the young crying for their mothers.

And there were children among the dead, four of them. An eight-year-old boy, Ilan Friedman, was on the bus with his grandmother, 67. Both were killed. Two children aged 13 died. So did Michael Sharansky, 16, and his mother. Half of the 49 people wounded were younger than 18, hospital officials said.

There were schoolbooks lying in the road beside the remains of the bus, as well as sandwiches the children were taking to school. This was the bus you would target if you wanted to kill children. Bus number 20 calls at four schools on its route.

And the time the suicide bomber struck was the time you would choose if you wanted to kill children: 7.15am local time, when they were on their way to school.

One of the young passengers was Maor Kimche, 15. "I was sitting at the back of the bus," he said from a hospital bed yesterday. "We were picking people up for about 10 minutes in the neighbourhood. Suddenly there was a very powerful explosion. Everything went black, lots of smoke." And then he said it what he saw inside that bus full of children on their way to school. "People were burning," he said. "Their faces were red, yellow, white. I don't know how to explain it."

Another of the children on the bus was Hodaya Asaraf, 13. They buried her yesterday. They put a velvet cloth decorated with the Star of David over her at the funeral, but you could still see how terribly small she was.

The Israeli police said they believed the suicide bomber got on to bus number 20 a stop or two before he detonated an explosive belt strapped around him. They said they believed he may have waited for passengers to get on at a few more stops, until the bus was full.

Two militant Palestinian Islamist groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for the bombing. The atrocity was a message, a clear attack on any hope for a peace process.

Two weeks ago, Yasser Arafat's Fatah organisation sent delegates to try to persuade Hamas to call off attacks on civilians inside Israel at least until after January's Israeli elections, so that violence would not help the election campaigns of hardliners such as the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. Hamas gave its answer yesterday.

Last night, the Palestinians of Bethlehem were nervously expecting to bear the brunt of Israel's response after Mr Sharon ordered a "wide and extensive" military operation. The suicide bomber was identified as a 23-year-old from Bethlehem, Nael Abu Hilail.

Bethlehem is the only West Bank city the Israeli army had withdrawn from for any length of time since it re-occupied the area in June. Last night, its residents were expecting the soldiers back.



Children killed in suicide attack on bus: Hamas claims responsibility for Jerusalem blast that leaves eight dead while dealing stunning blow to peace camp
By Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
The Guardian
November 22, 2002

Nael Azmi Abu Hilail had more than enough time to see those he was about to kill after he boarded the number 20 bus at the bottom of Mexico Street.

The young Palestinian man cannot have failed to notice the two dozen or more children clutching their school books as he squeezed his way to the centre of the packed bus winding through the rush-hour traffic to the centre of Jerusalem yesterday morning.

But that did not discourage him.

Two stops later he detonated the explosive packed around his body, the first suicide bombing in Jerusalem in more than three months and a stunning blow to the peace camp in Israel's general election campaign.

Eight passengers were killed instantly. By the end of the day the death toll had risen to 11. About half were children.

The Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, ordered the army to launch a "wide and extensive operation" in response to the bombing. He was not specific but, given that the bomber was from a village on the outskirts of Bethlehem, it seemed likely that the army would be ordered back into the city three months after it pulled out as a first step towards restoring Palestinian authority over West Bank towns. Within hours of the attack, the military had arrested the bomber's father and brother.

Among those who escaped with wounds was Tamar Ravivo, who was sitting at the back of the bus. "I never believed that this would happen in my neighbourhood," she said. "So I wasn't looking and just read my book of Psalms. Suddenly there was such an explosion ... and people flew in the air, on fire."

The victims included 13-year-old Hodaya Asraf, who had followed her killer on to the bus. Hodaya was buried eight hours later. Others who died included a mother and her 16-year-old son and an elderly woman and her eight-year-old grandson. A large proportion of the 50 or more wounded were also children.

The explosion tossed schoolbags and textbooks on to the road, and scattered shards of glass for hundreds of metres. Frantic mothers ran to the scene desperate to know if their children were all right. The police were not letting the distraught women near the bodies, so they started phoning hospitals in search of answers. But in the chaos of the moment there were none.

Two young girls stood weeping, hand in hand, on a grass slope overlooking the bus.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack and promised worse to come.

"We confirm the path of jihad and martyrdom is continuing in every part of our occupied land as long as there is occupation and there are crimes. What is coming is bigger and, God willing, greater," said Hamas's armed wing in a statement.

The bombing is the first during the campaign for Israel's general election in January and its political significance was quickly made clear. Security is the only issue that matters to most voters, and Mr Sharon is campaigning on the back of his crackdown in the Palestinian territories and his refusal to deal with Yasser Arafat.

Despite Hamas's admission of responsibility, the Israeli government directed its fire at Mr Arafat. "Undoubtedly [Mr Arafat] is the one who is responsible," said Uzi Landau, one of Mr Sharon's cabinet. "We see the Europeans are now pressing for the swift establishment of a Palestinian state. How can we allow that? That would simply be used as a base for more attacks.

"This is a world war. It's no different from what happened in Bali and at the theatre in Moscow. It all has its roots in radical Islam."

The company that owned the bus reinforced the point by filing a lawsuit against Mr Arafat and the Palestinian Authority a few hours after yesterday's bombing, claiming 6.7m in damages for the attacks on its vehicles over the past two years of the intifada.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the bombing as "terrorism" and said it had nothing to do with "resistance to occupation". But it did say that Israel's continued occupation of Palestinian territories and its brutal military crackdown in the West Bank and Gaza, which has left several Palestinian children dead over the past week, kept the suicide bombers coming.

Mr Arafat's Fatah movement spent last week in Cairo trying to persuade militant Hamas leaders that suicide bombings united Israelis behind Mr Sharon's militarist tactics.

But independent Palestinian leaders, such as Mustafa Barghouti, argue that neither Hamas nor the Israeli right are interested in peace. "Hamas has the same interest as Sharon they don't want an agreement, they don't want to see progress, they feed off each other," he said.



Slaughter of innocents
Israeli bus bombing is criminal stupidity
The Guardian
November 22, 2002

The latest Palestinian suicide bombing is an act of execrable cruelty matched only by its unutterable stupidity. This was not an attack on a military target. It did not take place inside Israeli army-occupied territories or even against illegal settlements, which might have been understandable, although not excusable.

It came in a Jerusalem suburb during the morning rush-hour. Its victims were not "oppressors"; they were ordinary people on their way to work, children going to school. Lunch-boxes and textbooks were left scattered near the devastated bus. Is it possible that Hamas's al-Qassam brigade views this pitiless barbarity as some kind of success? They say it was in revenge for Israel's July assassination in Gaza of their leader, Salah Shehada, in which several children also died. That attack was reckless butchery, too. Thus are the vicious and idiotic acts of both sides weighed with the corpses of innocents.

To commit such an atrocity in the very week when Israelis have at last been given a real electoral choice is sheerest folly. Or do Palestine's men of violence calculate, against all reason and experience, that they have a better chance of getting what they want if Ariel Sharon or Binyamin Netanyahu rather than Labour's new leader is in power? Amram Mitzna has offered unconditional talks and unilateral withdrawals if he wins in January. Likud offers Palestinians and Israelis alike nothing but pain, division and more pain yet such bombings, by intensifying fear, will only aid its cause.

Yasser Arafat, his orders flouted and his poll ratings falling, is again left looking foolish. Perhaps this, too, is a cynical Hamas calculation. But any discussion of all-round stupidity cannot fairly exclude Mr Sharon and his blinkered patron, George Bush. Their ill-will and incompetence has combined to bring what was left of the peace process to a grinding halt. Do not prate on about two or three-year-long "roadmaps"! Talk about dead children now.



15,000 and counting
By Michael Freund
The Jerusalem Post
November 21, 2002

Though hardly anyone seems to have noticed, Israel recently set a new world's record.

It is unclear when precisely it occurred, or what the exact circumstances were. But at some point earlier this month, Israel became the first country to endure its 15,000th terrorist attack in just over a two-year period.

That's right, you read that correctly. According to statistics compiled by the IDF, as of November 17, 2002, there had been a total of 15,298 Palestinian terror attacks against Israel since the intifada began in September 2000.

That works out, on average, to nearly 1 terror attack every hour of every day over 25 consecutive months.

But that is not what qualifies Israel for a place in the record books.

After all, many countries have experienced periods of civil unrest, subversive violence and lethal terrorism, albeit not nearly as intense or as prolonged as that which Israel has known of late.

What truly puts the Jewish state in a category all its own, however, is its willingness to tolerate this ongoing terror campaign, which should have been defeated long ago.

Everyone, it seems, knows what the answer is to the current predicament. Everyone, that is, except for the government, which has neither the courage nor the vision to move into Judea, Samaria and Gaza and topple the Palestinian Authority once and for all.

Instead, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon prefers to play ping-pong with the terrorists, sending in the army only to withdraw it a few days later, bouncing back and forth with no long-term plan and certainly no clear-cut strategy.

Indeed, much of the military activity undertaken by the army seems purely reactive in nature, coming only after Jews have been killed, rather than before.

Take, for example, the recent IDF response to the terror attack on Kibbutz Metzer, in which a member of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction murdered five Israelis.

Two hours later, Israeli helicopters fired four rockets into a car-repair shop in Gaza City that was being used as a clandestine weapons factory. Army spokesmen said that terrorists were using it to manufacture explosive devices and mortar shells.

If Israel knew that the place was a death factory, one in which the terrorists were actively producing tools to murder the innocent, then why did we wait until after the Metzer attack to knock it out? The minute the intelligence information regarding the garage's true nature was confirmed, why wasn't it taken out of commission forthwith?

Similarly, after last Friday's massacre in Hebron, when terrorists killed 12 Israelis near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the IDF re-entered Palestinian-controlled portions of the city which it had evacuated just three weeks earlier, on October 25th. According to a statement issued by the IDF Spokesman's Office, the purpose behind retaking the city was "to continue the determined action against the Palestinian terror infrastructure."

That sounds good, except for one nagging question: if Hebron's terrorist infrastructure was still in place, then why did the army withdraw last month? Why did it leave the job only half-finished?

Israel's critics at home and abroad suggest that the government's response to Palestinian terror is immoral because it results in the needless deaths of innocent Arabs. Frankly, I think they have it all wrong. If the government's policy qualifies as immoral, it is because it results in the needless deaths of innocent Jews.

For, by allowing the intifada to continue, and by refraining from taking the necessary steps to dismantle the PA and defeat the terror organizations, the government has undermined Israel's security and that of its citizens, leaving the terrorist threat in place to regroup and fight another day.

But we, the public, must also acknowledge our share of the blame for the current situation. We have been too silent in expressing our outrage over Palestinian terror and the government's feeble response. There have been no demonstrations in the streets, no hunger strikes, no prayer vigils, no mass awakening of indignation or fury.

Histadrut workers went on strike recently over a 2.1% cost of living increase, which amounts to just 70 shekels per month, but many people are unwilling to protest when it comes to the 73 Israelis who have been killed by terrorists over the past three months.

It is incumbent upon us to wake up from this nightmare. With elections approaching, we have an opportunity to use all the democratic and legal tools at our disposal, and to send a clear signal to those running for office. We must let them know that the people of Israel have had enough, and that we will no longer tolerate a continuation of the current policy, which amounts to little more than a series of tired and half-hearted measures.

The time has come for Israel to sweep into the territories, reassert control, and eliminate the terrorist infrastructure and those who sponsor it. Yasser Arafat should be led away in handcuffs and put on trial, along with the rest of the Palestinian leadership. We must stop being afraid of what the world might say, and start being more concerned about what the terrorists are doing to us, day in and day out.

Israel has already passed the 15,000 mark when it comes to Palestinian terror. If the current trend continues, we will hit the "milestone" of 20,000 some time early next summer. That is one record we can not afford to break.

(The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office from 1996 to 1999.)

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