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Jewish World Review April 15, 2002 /4 Iyar, 5762

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
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Bush isn't the only one who doesn't quite comprehend what is at stake in the Middle East | If President George Bush has sounded befuddled trying to explain the twists and turns of his Middle East policy, there's a very good reason: His decisions and statements are both confused and contradictory.

On the one hand, after Sept. 11, and again in his January 2002 State of the Union address, Bush sounded a clarion call to the world to join his fight against terrorism. It was a statement worthy of his most illustrious predecessors in the White House, and reasserted America's tradition of morality and coherence in our foreign policy. Terrorism was evil, he told us. And our war was against all terrorists, as well as those who harbor or support them.

Left out of these great speeches was the asterisk next to the word terrorists, which would have told us of the exceptions to this fine rule. Exception No. 1: All terrorists are evil and must be treated as criminals - except for Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority and its leader, Yasser Arafat, practices terrorism via their Fatah faction and its Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade; imports arms from other terrorist regimes (Iran); foments terrorism in their government-run schools and mosques; and protects terrorists from

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whose killers are lauded by Arafat as "martyrs." Exception No. 2: All countries that support terrorism will be treated no differently from the terrorists themselves - except if they are an oil-producing monarchy that is supposedly friendly with the United States. The fact that Saudi Arabia supports religious fanatics around the world who preach hate against Jews and the United States, and - like America's favorite villain, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein - sends cash bonuses to the families of suicide bombers who target Israelis, is apparently to be ignored.

Bush is muddled because his good instincts about fighting terror have collided with the advice of the State Department, and America's Arab and European "friends," who would like to solve the Middle East problem by sacrificing Israel. He seems to want to do the right thing and support Israel's justified counteroffensive against terror, but can't because he's told moderate Arabs will be overthrown by radical Arabs if he doesn't rein in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Bush has been misled into thinking that appeasing Arab dictators on Israel will cause them to support American plans to overthrow Saddam Hussein. But that is sheer fantasy. More realistically, he also fears that instability in the oil sheikdoms will harm the American economy and hurt his chances for re-election.

So in order to keep in place friendly Arab tyrants, Bush has agreed to rescue a Palestinian terrorist - Arafat - from the consequences of his crimes. And if by some miracle Arafat agreed to the peace terms that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell would propose, the net result for the United States would be the weakening of its sole democratic ally in the region, and the creation of an unstable terrorist regime that would ally itself with Iraq.

Some term this tangle of contradictions to be in the interest of the United States. But exactly how is American security or principles advanced by rewarding Palestinian terrorists for their crimes, and appeasing Arab dictators who oppress their own people and divert them by fomenting hatred of Jews and Israel?

Confused? So is Bush.

But he's not the only one.


Few are more befuddled than the so-called human-rights community, which has been beside itself with anguish about the plight of the Palestinians in areas where Israel is searching for terrorists.

The barrage of abuse directed at Israel along these lines is virtually nonstop. Most of it centers on accusations of Israel preventing ambulances from reaching Arab casualties. They prefer to ignore the fact that the Palestinian terror gangs have used ambulances to transport arms and even suicide bombers.

Others are deeply worried about the privations being suffered by Arafat as he huddles in his Ramallah bunker surrounded by Israelis who have been ordered not to harm the man with more Jewish blood on his hands than anyone since Adolf Hitler.

Despite the fact that the Palestinian terror organizations have inflicted proportionately more casualties on Israel than Al Qaeda did on the United States on Sept. 11, Israel has proceeded against them with far more restraint than America showed in Afghanistan, where innocent civilians also suffered casualties and privations.

Nonetheless, a horde of so-called human-rights activists have attempted to act as "human shields" to protect Palestinians from the Jews.

But they are a bit confused. It is actually the Jews who deserve some shields against those who have turned suicide bombing into the Palestinian national sport. Indeed, if they were really interested in doing good, the delegation of European sympathizers with the Palestinians might have saved their airfare and stayed home to act as human shields for the Jews in France and Belgium, wh o have suffered from an upswing in anti-Semitism.


Another victim of confusion is the Catholic Church.

As Israeli forces went into Palestinian Arab towns this past month to root out Arafat's infrastructure of terror, some 200 Palestinian gunmen broke into or were let into the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Once there, these armed terrorists dared the Israelis to come and get them, hoping that the desecration of the site would be blamed on the Jews. It should be noted, at least in passing, that among those hiding out in this historic place, where the Palestinians believed to be responsible for the murder of Avi Boaz, an American citizen.

Of course, the Israelis, being sensitive to world opinion, refused to attack the shrine and the gunmen, relying on this sensitivity, have refused to surrender.

Has the Vatican or anyone other than Israel condemned the use of this church as a criminal hideout or called on the Palestinians to get out? Nope. They all condemned Israel.

They, too, are confused, if they think supporting the empowerment of Arafat and his criminal band will make the lot of Christians in the Arab world easier. As the recent history of Bethlehem under P.A. rule has shown, Christianity in those territories is doomed. But they would prefer to see their congregants driven out of their homes and their holy places desecrated rather than support Israel.


But I will conclude with a group whom I think are the most confused of all: the vast numbers of American Jews who think the upsurge of anti-Semitism in Europe and the intensification of terrorism and hostility against Israel is unrelated to their free and prosperous lives in this blessed republic.

In the not-so-distant past - such as May 1967, when the Arab world was preparing for another attempt to annihilate Israel and initiate another Holocaust, or in October 1973, when Arab armies sought to use Judaism's holy day as a cover for a sneak attack on the Jewish state - most American Jews understood the seriousness of the moment.

Not so today. American Jewish groups and institutions have been conspicuous by their haphazard and uncoordinated response to the attacks on Israel and Jews worldwide.

Many of us seem to think the war on Israel is just another television program that can be switched off when it becomes too upsetting. Even worse, some of us actually think that a diplomatic and military victory for groups that target Bar Mitzvah parties, Passover seders and French synagogues will have no consequences for them.

Some have been beguiled by Palestinian propaganda into thinking the conflict is a sterile feud between two bitter old men - Arafat and Sharon - when Israel is fighting for nothing less than its life against religious and political forces that wish to extinguish Zionism. Sharon's unpopularity here has become the excuse for some to opt of the fight for Israel.

Others even think that misguided sympathy for Israel's enemies and vicious attacks on its democratically elected government is a "Jewish value."

American Jews need to wake up and start speaking out. The United States and the Vatican are powerful enough to sustain a certain degree of confusion without too much harm. But the Jews cannot.

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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