Small World

Jewish World ReviewOct. 13 , 2000 / 14 Tishrei 5761

Advice from rock victim: KNOCK IT OFF, YASSER!

By Richard Z. Chesnoff -- I DON'T KNOW about you. But I'm growing weary of Palestinian whining. Yasser Arafat's government already controls the day to day lives of more than 90 per cent of the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza. With the US urging them on, Israeli Prime Miniister Ehud Barak and his peace team recently offered Arafat and his people a full fledged Palestinian sovereignty deal that's far more reaching than anything proposed by any of Barak's predecessors -- including Yitzhak Rabin. To top it off, the Israelis even broke their longstanding taboo on sharing rule in Jerusalem with the Palestinian..

So what does Arafat do? After refusing to sign off on the peace deal, he uses the ill-timed visit to a holy shrine by an Israeli opposition politician as the excuse to renew the intifada -- and then cries "foul" when Israeli troops try to defend themselves against a torrent of molotov cocktails and flying stones.

As one who once got hit by a Palestinian thrown stone, I can tell you they are hard, dangerous and can be deadly.

Pushing children and teenagers into the front ranks of violent demonstrations is hardly a new Palestinian tactic. During the height of the intifada in the late 1980s, I witnessed the following: an Israeli detachment was standing guard along the road to Bethleham. Suddenly a group of school-aged Palestinian kids, some as young as 10 or 11, emerged from a nearby school and began pelting the soldiers with stones. They were warned by Israeli bullhorn to back off, but continued - eventually adding gasoline filled molotov cocktails to their barrage. Finally, the Israelis fired teargas at the kids -- and when that failed to stop them, the Israelis fired several rounds into the air. Within a few moments all hell had broken loose and the rubber bullets were flying.

Most of the demonstraters fled in terror and then and only then, their teachers suddenly appeared and began yelling in English, "Journalists - you see how the Israeli aggressors are killing our Palestinian children!"

My immediate reaction was well, why don't you tell the kids to stop throwing stones? But, hey, what better way to garner international sympathy then to send kids out to battle soldiers?

The deaths of the past ten days - especially the horrid TV filmed shooting of that 12 year old boy in Gaza - have been horrendous. But now, everyone from the US Secretary of State to the Russian Foreign Minister to the UN Secretary General are trying to herd the two sides back to the peace table.

The problem is that while Arafat thinks he has garnered new sympathy around the world for his cause, he has done nothing but create harm and havoc among those non-Palestinians who are the most important to that cause: his Israeli interlocuters. Even the most dovish of Israelis were shocked by the unneccessary ferocity of Arafat's reponse to Arik Sharon's Temple Mount visit. Even the most dovish of Israelis were alarmed by the sight of masked contingents of heavily armed Palestinians parading through the streets of Gaza and Nablus and shooting their guns in the air -- and then at Israeli settlers and soldiers. And who wasn't outraged in Israel when Arafat refused to call on his people to refrain from violence. Are these Israel's partners for peace? Are these the people with whom Israel is supposed to share the sacred city of Jerusalem? Are these the people whom Israel is to trust?

Arafat & Co have confirmed some of Israel's worst fears: that they can't be trusted and/or are not in full control. Instead of calling for an international investigation into who started the recent spate of violence, Arafat's people should be considering what they can do to restore their severely damaged credibility.

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News. His latest book is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History.


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