Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2001/ 12 Mar-Cheshvan 5762

Wesley Pruden

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When a terrorist is
just another patriot -- IF those pesky Israelis would just go off quietly somewhere and kill themselves, perhaps with an anthrax cocktail, the Palestinian suicide bombers could get a little rest.

And the wonderful folks at our State Department could finally get some sleep.

That's the point of the stuff that some folks in what's left of Foggy Bottom are trying to peddle, only we're supposed to be too polite to say so.

Colin Powell, a distinguished old soldier who surely knows better, spent yesterday discouraging comparisons between the suicide bombers in Israel and the suicide bombers in Manhattan and at the Pentagon. But his double standard doesn't work. Jews who die at the hands of suicide bombers in Israel are just as dead as the 5,000 Americans who died at the hands of Islamist suicide bombers in Manhattan and at the Pentagon. They're likely to remain that way.

The secretary of state insists that the Israeli response to Palestinian suicide bombers, whose methods and goals are identical to those of the Islamist suicide bombers who brought down the World Trade Center and inflicted a hideous wound in the side of the Pentagon, is nevertheless "counterproductive" because it sets back the prospects for peace. Or, more to the point, "peace," with the necessary quotation marks, since there is no peace in the Middle East, and no prospects of peace, short of mass Jewish suicide.

"Ultimately," Mr. Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, "your security has to rest on peace between the two parties in the region. Anything that makes it that much more difficult to get back to the path doesn't serve your interest at the end of the day. In all of these months now of responding that way, using force, justified as it may be in some instances, security has not been restored.

"We can use this coalition to go after the clear cases of terrorism and then to start to explore the gray areas where there have been long-standing differences that have not yet been resolved. It's going to take the kind of patience and diligence that gave us the breakthrough in Northern Ireland, where two groups fighting all these years finally realized that this wasn't going to do it."

When someone terrorizes (and inconveniences) us, it's "a clear case of terrorism." When someone terrorizes an inconvenient friend and ally, it's "a gray area" that can be explored later. Some day, not today. This is similar, though not necessarily an exact analogy, to the reasoning the West used in 1938 when it surrendered Czechoslovakia to Hitler. Mr. Powell and his deputies had hot flashes, or whatever State Department acolytes have when they're too excited to sit still, after Ariel Sharon was bold enough to say so. We're supposed to be too polite to notice that he had a point.

Mr. Powell spent a good part of his day yesterday with a dull knife, trying to split hairs. He said that some groups that are sometimes libeled as "terrorist" could be innocent patriots and freedom fighters, seeking to redress grievances, gain rights or achieve freedom from oppressors. He didn't say who these innocents might be, but some people could imagine them to be members of Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

Al Qaeda, bad. Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad (who once massacred U.S. Marines in Lebanon), not so bad.

Mr. Powell looked around to see if he could find a couple of organizations to lump with al Qaeda, since he was determined to overlook Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. The best he could come up with were the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Real Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland.

"But then you start to run into areas where one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter and that's where you have to apply judgment . These are difficult calls to make . You can be quite challenged in explaining these differences with respect to the Middle East."

It's not clear whether Mr. Powell, who often sings off a different page (and sometimes out of a different songbook) than other members of President Bush's inner circle, was just being himself yesterday or whether the Bush administration is determined to exclude the Israelis and buy the world a Coke.

"We're just going to have to persuade everybody to stick to it and continue to make distinctions between that which is legitimate protest and legitimate movement toward freedom against an oppressor and that which simply doesn't meet that standard. But there are not going to be black and white rules in every instance."

This is considerably different from the heroic black and white standard the president raised on Sept. 20: "Every nation now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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