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Jewish World Review April 17, 2002 / 6 Iyar, 5762

Barbara Amiel

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Truth about Israeli casualties is being ignored in this war -- LONDON | READING the British press last week, watching the BBC and listening to European politicians reminded one of those lines by TS Eliot: "The rats are underneath the piles / The jew is underneath the lot." What other explanation for the malevolent reporting of Israel's attempt to root out terrorists on the West Bank?

Ariel Sharon's initiative is not a pleasant task and it causes great suffering among non-combatants. If you are as callous and bloody-minded as the Palestinian Authority and various Arab factions which encourage women and children to kill themselves and which place their bomb factories in the middle of crowded refugee camps, there will be grandmothers and children dead.

British journalists largely ignore such unhappy facts. If you want to read about what is going on in the fighting, log on to the Israeli Defence Force's website. It is a government source, of course, but journalists relied on the American military for information in Afghanistan.

The IDF site, unlike the BBC reporter Orla Guerin in the Daily Mail, will tell you more than anecdotes about how frightening it was to be stopped by Israeli soldiers in Manger Square. The IDF site lists the terrorists inside the Church of the Nativity and what they are wanted for, as well as giving details of all fighting on the West Bank.

It also has put online evidence linking Yasser Arafat to funding of the suicide bombers: given this, if Arafat does not show himself willing to co-operate with Colin Powell's demands, it is hard to see how the United States can hold off declaring him a wanted terrorist.

British reporting seems to ignore the relatively heavy Israeli casualties, indicating that this is more than unarmed grandmas fighting back. The Evening Standard's Sam Kiley long ago abandoned balanced reporting in favour of stories documenting what his preferred informants call Israel's "staggering brutality and callous murder".

Janine di Giovanni, writing in The Times, seems to see Sharon's efforts to clean out the murderous thugs in the Jenin camp as Israel's excuse to attack children with chickenpox. The scabrous camp conditions she reports on were not linked by her to cold-blooded terrorists or to the 50-year refusal of the Arab world to assimilate the refugees.

Historical context is in short supply. The terrorist attacks on Israel did not start under Sharon. They took place under every leader of Israel, including Eshkol, Meir, Rabin and Barak. They took place throughout the Oslo process. They began one hour after the State of Israel was declared in 1948.

When that war ended, Israel dreamt of making the desert green for itself, as well as for its grateful Arab neighbours. This was Israel's great wet dream - the irrigation dream.

The Israelis report that about 100 terrorists have been killed in the Jenin action, as well as large numbers of civilians caught in crossfire. More than 4,000 Palestinians have been detained to date and there are another 144 terrorists on the wanted list.

It is possible that there may have been isolated acts of Israeli soldiers running amok; the Israeli Supreme Court is investigating. But it is clear that Israel's purpose was not to kill as many Palestinians as possible, which could be accomplished far quicker than this interminable action.

The steam on windows in the photos from Jenin suggest that the Israelis have been using targeted bombs intended to minimise civilian casualties. Contrast this with the terrorist bombs in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, aimed at civilians alone - the more grandmothers and children the merrier.

Our journalists seem to have a bad case of spoilt kids' syndrome. Miss di Giovanni reports the travails of her profession: "Some journalists were detained. One had his press card ripped up. Footage was confiscated." The response of these brave journalists is to publish every last Palestinian rumour about Israeli "massacres".

Frankly, were I the Israelis, I wouldn't bother with a semi-effective job of keeping the press out of the war zone. I'd offer directions -- the war is down that street, ma'am -- and see how the press likes finding itself in crossfire or booby-trapped buildings.

The media seem to have taken the vocabulary of a "theatre" of war literally, as George Jonas points out in his Ottawa Citizen column, and believe this is a production in which they should have a lead role. Never mind that many of them have been doing the work of Goebbels without bothering to wear the brown uniform identifying their agenda.

In that vein, the prize of the week is split between the former Foreign Office adviser David Clark writing in the Guardian about the Camp David deal offered to Arafat, and the poet and Oxford professor Tom Paulin, interviewed in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. Paulin is quoted describing Israeli settlers as "Nazis" and calling for them to be "shot dead".

Ehud Barak's deal, refused by Arafat, is a problem for the anti-Israeli cause. The Palestinians have refused many deals leading to statehood, starting with the UN offer in 1947, but the Camp David deal is difficult because it was by any measure "generous" - to quote both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Clark tries to get around this by asserting that the deal was "a myth", and so bad anyway that it "merely added insult to injury".

Clark's column is a farrago of inaccuracies. Barak would not have been deserted by Israel's religious parties and lost his job by a 25 per cent majority if the deal was as Clark describes. But even if the deal offered was not satisfactory, had Arafat genuinely been a "partner for peace", he would not have responded by restarting the intifada and sending out suicide bombers.

He would have negotiated. Everything in the history of Israel pivots around the Arab leader's rejection of a Jewish state in the Middle East. Clark's piece, which he winningly describes as "constructive revisionism", is an insight into the insane logic, to say nothing of the accuracy, of British Foreign Office information.

As the suicide bombings continued - partially financed and encouraged by the PA - the European Parliament voted non-binding sanctions on Israel. The noxious attitude of the Europeans towards Israel has several sources, some stronger in one nation than another.

They include (1) the sense among European nations that support of Israel is not in their countries' self-interest and is unfair to their own people. The Israelis will not blow up the Eiffel Tower, but the Arabs might. This is akin to the "Why die for Danzig?" syndrome of appeasement in 1939. While I disagree with it, the notion itself is not intrinsically illegitimate.

(2) The multicultural nature of post-war societies has left many European countries with undigested chunks of people from the Middle East and several EU countries fear they have enough suicide bombers in situ.

(3) The EU and most national governments in Europe, academia and the media are heavily Left-of-centre. The Left was pro-Israel until the 1960s, but when the USSR turned against Israel and embraced the Arabs in the Cold War, so did the Left.

In the post-Soviet world, the so-called "progressive" forces still retain the habit of a vocabulary and mindset: they wax lyrical about national liberation, anti-colonialism, support of the indigenous Palestinian peoples, and view Israel as the forward bastion of old Western colonialism.

(4) Unlike America, Europe is heavily dependent on Middle East oil.

(5) For people who know little history and geography, there is a false appearance of David and Goliath in the clash between a well-equipped Israeli army and the guerrilla warfare of children throwing stones. Human instincts naturally support David in the battle against Goliath.

In fact, the nationalities are exactly as they were in Biblical times: namely, David is a Jew and Goliath is a Philistine, but this has been skewed in public perception. A minute's thought would remind one that Arabs outnumber Jews by a huge factor in both population and oil wealth, and if they were not so fixated on destroying the Jews, they could build an infrastructure for the Palestinians and end the misery of the camps.

(6) Anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism.

(7) The pictorial nature and the temporality of today's information sources result in most people getting their information in short, tendentious bursts. Inevitably, these pictorial bursts will be helpless old women and large-eyed children darting behind futuristic tanks.

Our media elites and academia have pronounced Sharon's policy to be "wrong". But pronouncing a policy wrong presupposes that you have a "right" one. What can Israel do? Arafat has never deviated from his refusal to recognise a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Recognition is not merely a question of announcing that the Jewish state has a right to exist. It means a cessation of the endless hate-mongering against Israel in the Arabic media and textbooks. It means an end to the funding and encouragement of suicide murderers.

The Arabs alone can solve this impasse with a genuine acceptance of a Jewish state. Failing this, Sharon or the next Israeli leader might conclude that the dream of an Israeli homeland is finished and the Israelis will not get out alive.

If so, he might further conclude that if we Jews cannot have the sliver of land for which we never wished to hurt anyone, if we must be pushed into the sea either literally or by demographics and attrition, we owe it to the memory of our forefathers to extract the highest price and not to go alone.

After all, some ancient Asian cultures believed that whomever they killed would be their servant in the next world. It is as good an incentive as 72 virgins in Paradise.

JWR contributor Barbara Amiel is a columnist with London's Daily Telegraph, where this column originated. Comment by clicking here.

02/18/02: America's war on terrorism is a fight for all democracies: What the European elite are clueless about
01/29/02: Pity the al-Qa'eda detainees? Why is liberal 'torture' kosher?
12/18/01: What those in the London salons don't -- or won't -- see
12/04/01: We are not risking world war so women can show their ankles
11/20/01:"Anti-terrorism" has become the Western world's equivalent of the Arabian Nights' "open sesame"
11/06/01: We must rediscover a war mentality that persists through vicissitudes
10/31/01: The West is fighting to rescue Islam, not destroy it

© 2001, Barbara Amiel