Jewish World Review March 6, 2002 / 22 Adar, 5762

There can be no peace when Arabs
are willing to kill even anti-Zionist Jews

By Binyamin L. Jolkovsky | WHEN word of the latest round of terror arrived at my Borough Park, Brooklyn, synagogue, just as the Sabbath was ending this weekend, all of us were in shock. Not because of the innocent spilling of blood, with 21 dead in the latest phase. That, sadly, we have become used to.

It was the location.

The target of a suicide bombing that killed 10 Jews, including two infants and a 10-year-old was in the Meah Shearim Quarter, a picturesque, Old World Jerusalem district. It is the last place one would expect carnage--and for a simple reason: Most of its inhabitants are anti-Zionist.

Comprised primarily of Hasidim--the most fervent of the fervently Orthodox Jews who can be identified on the Sabbath and holy days by their golden kaftans and furry hats--they believe that it was sinful to form a Jewish state in the Holy Land before the Messiah's arrival.

Residents, many of them members of the Toldos Aron sect, do not vote in Israeli elections, nor do they serve in the military. They speak Yiddish as their native tongue. Their educational facilities--from nursery to postgraduate level--are self-supporting. They do not take one shekel from the Israeli government and are proud of it.

"They are by definition unarmed," Tzipi Livni, a minister in Ariel Sharon's government, told the New York Times.

In fact, Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, who lives minutes from where the bomb went off, was a close confidant of Yasser Arafat long before the head of the Palestinian Authority swore off terrorism. He remains one to this day. Rabbi Hirsch was the original advocate of Israeli "land for peace" approach--trading all of Israel for the "peace" of Jews there becoming "Palestinians."

Rabbi Hirsch actually holds a Palestinian passport, which he proudly showed me during an interview when I was a reporter in Israel.


Like most American Jews--and an even higher percentage of Israelis--I initially, with reluctance, favored Israel making a peace pact with Arafat. After all, as holy as the Holy Land is, human life is holier still.

A rabbinical student in Jerusalem in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I encountered firsthand the psychological terror of living in a country under siege. Though of limited means, students in my yeshiva were advised against visiting the shuk, or bazaar, on days when items were the cheapest, fearing terrorists might strike large crowds. Regularly, I would ride the bus along the city's busiest streets and have to be evacuated because of what is euphemistically known as a "chefetz chashud," or, "suspicious object." The routine was always the same. The avenues were closed and traffic backed up, as a robot scooted toward the item, examined it and, often, blew up what ultimately turned out to be a child's lunch.

Feelings of relief almost always morphed into frustration and then anger.

But now, as the situation deteriorates to the point of no return, and especially following the seizing of the Palestinian Authority's arms boat Karine A, trying to sneak its tons of missiles, explosives, mines, grenades, mortars and sniper rifles into Palestinian territory in the midst of "peace negotiations," it is obvious that what Arafat really wants is war.

Even if he were to die today, Mr. Arafat will have his legacy secured: A terrorist who made a mockery of statesmanship and won a Nobel Peace Prize in doing so. Few would be able to top that accomplishment.

With everything to gain and nothing to lose, Holy Land or not, it doesn't take a prophet to predict that 18 months into Intafada II, very little will change unless drastic actions are taken --- and the sooner the better.

The Palestinian Authority must be disbanded. Free elections -- under the U.N.'s watch if need be -- must be held in order to allow the Palestinian people for the first time to freely elect their representatives. In the interim, the Israelis will disarm to guarantee this.

War is indeed hell, but at least it is not random. War can, to a certain degree, be controlled and confined--but what Israel faces now cannot be. What Israel faces now is a stirring toward genocide in all but name.


Until now, most political analysts have framed the Arab-Israeli conflict as one involving politics and nationalism. Two peoples, conventional wisdom has it, are vying for control of the same land. Murder and mayhem are to be expected. Those who disagreed with this notion, who dared wonder if there might be more nefarious actions at play, were always marginalized. They were "bigots," "racists," and "Muslim-phobes." Worse, they were "anti-peace."

But if anti-Zionist Jews can be targeted for simply existing, isn't it obvious that the war raging in the Holy Land is, in actuality, a militaristic campaign to vanquish from the region any inhabitants who are not Islamic? How much longer will it take until bombs will start going off at Christian historical sites? After all, the logic may well go, the founder of Christianity was a Jew, was he not?

The dirty little secret is that most commentators, academics and analysts too often approach issues with preconceived notions. We have our standard thoughts on stances and merely "update" and "apply" them to the current newscycle. It is how reporters seeking quotes and cable TV shows in search of pundits and op-ed page editors seeking wonks operate. It makes the job of being heard easy --- not only for the "voices," but those who are in the business of providing the megaphone.

The events of this weekend should make it abundantly clear that the old Middle East rhetoric is no longer acceptable.

Binyamin L. Jolkovsky is editor in chief of and a former correspondent for Yated Ne'eman, an Israeli daily. This piece was adapted from a column that ran on Comment by clicking here.

© 2002, JWR