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Jewish World Review March 21, 2002 /8 Nisan, 5762

Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
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In the face of pure evil | A Palestinian flag flying over a Palestinian country with the Israelis gone. That dream of the Palestinians was within a hand's grasp just over a year ago. An independent Palestinian state occupying 95 percent of all the West Bank and Gaza, the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem as their capital, was the gift of Camp David, and now it lies in ashes and blood. This is but one result of Palestinian rejectionism followed by systematic terrorist attacks against the open democratic state yearning to live in peace but forced to fight for its very survival.

How could such a tragedy have happened? Because Yasser Arafat could say yes only to violence and no to peace. That is why he is a failed leader. That is why he has lost the confidence of so many. Instead of quieting the region, he has inflamed it. His continued support of violence, while he talks peace in English, is symbolized by the revolving door of Palestinian prisoners. He arrested two people for making explosives used in attacks in 1996 but then allowed them to make more explosives in jail-and recently released them so they could make the bombs used in a terrorist attack on a pizzeria that killed 15 innocent civilians.

The cynicism is nauseating. He uses his public pledges against terrorism as a cover to acquire weapons of terror, best illustrated by his lies about the 50 tons of war weapons that was in the shipment on the Karine-A. Roughly half of the terrorist attacks are carried out by his own organization. There have been 8,000 in the past 18 months using the Palestinian Authority's territory as a safe assault base, for the terrorists know that the PA has engaged in virtually no counterterrorism, even when given advance intelligence by the Israelis.

Drastic measures. The biggest terrorist entity in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority is the PA itself. We have just marked with deep sadness the six-month anniversary of the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans. In 18 months, Israelis have suffered, when calculated in proportion to America's population, deaths of more than 16,000-and 150,000 injured. Arafat's murders have succeeded only in convincing the Israeli public that his goal is not a Palestinian state in the West Bank but the destruction of Israel. He has succeeded only in forcing Israel to drastic countermeasures-but not ones deliberately aimed, as Arafat's are, at indiscriminately blowing up innocent men, women, and children.

Israel is faced with an enemy who will only fight. Those who would shake hands are shaken by an enemy who rejects peace, a religion that rejects cohabitation, and a view of statehood less interested in building a state-namely Palestine-and more interested in building terrorist organizations to destroy another state-namely Israel. The perfect symbol is the military uniform that Arafat has never taken off. It is not Israelis who seek a "Greater Israel" we have to worry about. It is Palestinians who have a vision of a "Greater Palestine."

That could be the only interpretation of Arafat's denial of Israel's legitimacy, rejecting the 3,000-year-old connection of the Jews to the land of Israel.

Arafat's hope is that Israel will be worn down by the terror. Instead he has provoked a powerful Israeli resolve to root out the terrorists. President Bush has also responded-by dispatching retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni to try, once again, for a cease-fire. If Arafat again spurns an American peace initiative, the most likely scenario-barring an unlikely outbreak of sanity forced on Arafat by those masters of ambivalence in the Arab League-is a long war of attrition. The Palestinians hope the Israelis will go away. But the Israelis will not leave, given the Jewish connection to Israel, and the Palestinians also will not leave. There may be no choice but to await the moment when compromise will bring about two states in this small spot of ground. But that will never happen if Arafat seeks to provoke a siege in order to command the surrender of security and religious symbols sacred to the Israelis. The Israelis know that yielding to Arafat's blackmail would be an act of suicide, paving the way to a national collapse of will and meaning, and igniting another intifadaon the tinder of perceived weakness, with Israel even more exposed to terrorism than it is now.

The Jews remember Amalek. The leader of a tribe that attacked the Jews when they made their way out of Egypt over 3,000 years ago, he fell on the rear of a column of Israelites, just after the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. Why Amalek did this, in the face of God's preserving hand, is no great mystery. Understanding it requires only the simple acknowledgment that there is, in our world, such a thing as simple evil. The Amalek massacre confounds the notion that everyone is motivated by self-interest. Evil cannot be explained by reason. It can only be confronted.

The Bush administration realized this when it faced up to the terrorists of al Qaeda. Today, Israelis, contemplating the continued horrors wreaked by the bombs and bullets, fear such a confrontation may be their only option.

JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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© 2001, Mortimer Zuckerman