Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Believe it or not|
|09/04/01 at 13:38:40|
|Believe it or not|
By Akiva Eldar
Source: Tuesday, September 04, 2001 - Ha'aretz
"You know what our biggest problem is?" asked the minister from the inner
security cabinet after hearing a radio report in which Israel denied any
connection to the assassination of Thaiser Hatab, bureau chief for Amin
el-Hindi, head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service. "Our
is that even I don't believe this government."
When ministers in the government express skepticism about government
statements, it's no wonder foreign governments, including sworn friends,
have begun to regard such statements as pigs in a poke. The Americans, for
example, are having a hard time understanding how the story about Abu Ali
Mustafa personally planning terrorist attacks on school opening day
showed up in the press here.
The day after the assassination of the secretary general of the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the American Embassy received a
of the dead man's curriculum vitae. They don't understand why such an
important detail, like plans to murder children, which could justify the
murder of a saint, didn't appear in the original resume.
The story of the incursion into Beit Jala also didn't contribute to
reputation for integrity in the eyes of foreign diplomats and foreign
correspondents. The IDF spokesman repeatedly denied that troops entered
Lutheran Church in the township. The foreign embassies were supposed to
decide whom to believe - the Israeli spokesmen or the churchman and
international media, who insisted that with their own eyes, they saw armed
soldiers shooting from the church roof.
Western diplomats say they are finding it increasingly difficult to
The Lutheran Church's membership in the U.S. had no doubts. They preferred
the version proposed by the Lutheran bishop in Jerusalem, whose voice was
heard, coast to coast, on the other side of the ocean. The echoing fury of
the influential Lutheran community in America may have helped Ariel Sharon
withdraw the forces from Beit Jala. Support from America's believers - Jew
and non-Jew, alike - is one of the most important assets he has nowadays.
The last thing Sharon needs is for American Christians to stop believing
that Sharon is really so good for the Christians. The Christian Coalition
the U.S., which supports President Bush both politically and financially,
no less important to Sharon nowadays than the Jewish coalition in Israel.
As for the explosion in Hatab's car - in this case the Americans actually
believe the Israeli denial that was sent over to Daniel Kurtzer's office.
You have to be a conspirator or super-Machiavellian to adopt the
version that Sharon wanted to harm one of the last of the Palestinian
security services that still keeps channels of communication open with
Israeli colleagues. But this time, the problem is that Arafat also
the Israeli denial.
Arafat knows that Hatab's murder is a good example of what's waiting for
if he tells Peres or promises Bush that he has decided to stop the tiger
whose back he was tempted to ride.
The lobby attacks
The meeting the prime minister is interested in is not the one that will
apparently take place this week between Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat.
Sharon doesn't expect that meeting will bring him closer to a settlement
freeze or the third redeployment.
Sharon is more worried by the meeting between Bush and Arafat in the third
week of September. In Washington they say that it's not easy to make the
White House off-limits to the Palestinian leader after the Israeli foreign
minister and the prime minister's son meet with him. To ignore Arafat in
York when Bush will be there for the opening of the UN General Assembly
session would be considered a slap in the face to the Arabs. Boycotting
Palestinian while Bush meets with Sharon, who will also be in New York,
would be snookering America's Saudi friends.
On the other hand, members of Congress and Bush's Jewish donors aren't
showing any signs of anxiety about the inflation in assassinations or
desecration of the church in Beit Jala. Jewish Congresswoman Shelley
Berkley, here last week with 15 Democratic congressmen on a junket
by AIPAC, is an example - albeit extreme - of the winds blowing on Capital
Berkley reprimanded Dr. Saeb Erekat for daring to use the term
reminding him that "this is our country" and "we" won the war.
"So what am I, if I am not a person living under occupation?" Erekat
"War booty," answered the congresswoman from Las Vegas.
"What are you suggesting I tell my daughter, who participated in the Seeds
of Peace program?" Erekat asked. "That she is war booty?"
Berkley also rejected Erekat's "suggestion" that Israel annex him and give
him full civil rights. Berkley told him that if the Palestinians don't
the present situation, she is not going to prevent them from leaving.
Erekat put an end to a similar exchange with Jewish congressman Anthony
Weiner, saying "there are 120 members of Knesset - and you're worse than
The prime minister probably laughed when he heard Benjamin Netanyahu
complain on both Israeli TV channels that Israel abandoned the front in
Durban to the Arabs, and that he would be happy to offer his talents to
state. Sharon didn't want Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior
near Durban, let alone a heavy gun like the once and maybe future prime
Sharon's decision to ground Melchior was not only - and certainly not
especially - a gesture of solidarity with President Bush, who lowered the
level of the U.S. delegation. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell made it
clear that the administration had no problem with Israel sending Melchior
the head of the Israeli delegation.
According to a senior official in the Foreign Ministry deeply involved in
the Durban affair, the decision to lower the level of the Israeli
to a deputy director-general, Mordechai Yedid, is an indication of
indifference to another "conference-shmonference."
Indeed, the real reason, says the source, for the minuscule effort the
minister made to mitigate the damage is much more interesting. "What would
Sharon prefer?" asked the source, "that the conference approve a wacky
anti-Semitic resolution that once again turns us into the underdog of the
world and makes the resolution irrelevant, or a balanced condemnation that
focuses on the settlements, the Mitchell Report and the suffering of the
Palestinian people under occupation?"
According to the ministry source, with a little more effort the second
have been possible but Sharon didn't encourage the Foreign Ministry to
try. And Shimon Peres also didn't care. He was too busy preparing for his
meeting with Arafat.
A hint of this could be found in something Deputy Minister Melchior said
recently: "If we have to play the part of the devil, it's better to be a
devil than a small one."
The Durban story and how it was hijacked by the Arabs under the nose of
Robinson, can even make Melchior laugh. He remembers that at one of the
preparatory sessions there was opposition to a blanket worldwide
condemnation of anti-Semitism. The representative of one of the larger
countries suggested a condemnation of European anti-Semitism. The
representative protested: "Why are you discriminating against us? We have
The lessons from Durban run deeper than this or that formulation of
condemnation, and even deeper than the public relations damage done to
Israel by the street demonstrations by the large Muslim community in the
South African city. "We have a problem of lack of awareness of the subject
of human rights and the growing influence of non-government organizations
the world agenda. It's no accident there's still no proper Hebrew term for
NGO," says Melchior. He says the Arabs figured out how to fill the vacuum
Israel left in the arena. "A well-oiled campaign by Arab states, who know
nothing about human rights, managed to turn us into the anti-Christ."
Melchior says that after Durban, 60 states are going to sign the
international treaty for the prosecution of war crimes, "turning them all
into Belgium." Then comes a conference of all states signed to the Geneva
conventions, which will put the convention's violations in the territories
on the international agenda. Luckily, he says, the Arabs got drunk on
power in Durban. Instead of being satisfied with criticizing the
they delegitimized our past, the Holocaust and the existence of the state
Israel. We're not always going to be so lucky.
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