Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Getting Ready to Take on Iran? Jerusalem Bombing Linked to Iran?

The Israelis are very worried about Iran. And the Israelis are the major force in the U.S. pushing Washington to confront Iran. As was the case with Iraq just a few years ago, partly it is a matter of what “excuse” to use and how to mold public opinion to support military action.

Yesterday, an Israeli-connected news agency reported on a Jordanian newspaper story that for the first time linked the recent Jerusalem market bombing to Iran. That report follows below. One important caveat: as for “disinformation” mentioned in the story, the greatest likelihood is that the Israelis are the ones involved in disinformation as they continue to contemplate attacking Iran themselves while attempting to push Washington into a confrontation with Tehran.

The Israeli goal, shared by many in the U.S., is very simple: to destroy Iran’s military power and set back its nuclear and missile programs by a decade — as was the case with Israel’s attack against the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

So just what are the Israelis so worried about?

They are worried that so far the Iranians have not been infiltrated and co-opted — as has been successfully done with most of the Arab “client-regimes”, most especially the Jordanians, the Saudis, and the Egyptians.

They are worried that the Iranians remain a source of inspiration, as well as funds and arms, for other nationalist and Islamic oriented forces in the region.

They are worried that the Iranians continue to supply weapons to the Hizballah and others to counter the U.S. and Israeli military dominance in the region.

They are worried about the talk of, and small steps toward, a joint Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi alliance against Israel; especially troubling should there be revolution in any of the major countries Israel now relies on — Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, as well as Jordan.

And at the top of the list they are worried that within the next few years Iran will develop nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them.

It should be remembered that last year the well-respected Janes Military Review outlined that among the four most likely scenarios for a new Middle East war is a surprise Israeli strike (coordinated with the U.S. of course) against the Iran.

It should be noted, in closing, that there are some analysts who suggest neither the Israelis nor the Americans are really ready for a major confrontation with Iran; and in fact that there is hope to avoid it fearing its possible repercussions throughout the Muslim world. Even so, these analysts suggest, Washington and Tel Aviv hold open the possibility of such a confrontation as a way of “deterring” the Iranians from helping those in the region who are attaching the American presence in the Gulf and the on-going Israeli occupation of the Palestinians.

MID-EAST REALITIES is published a number of times weekly on the Internet. Email to infomer@middleeast.org for details how to receive MER regularly. For detailed information about the weekly MER-TV program email to infomertv@middleeast.org.

e-mail: MER@MiddleEast.Org
Fax: 202 362-6965
Phone: 202 362-5266, Ext 638
Internet: www.MiddleEast.Org.

Can the Orient House be Closed Down?

Last week it was reported that the Netanyahu government believes it cannot legally close down Orient House because it is a “private home”. A review of the applicable law indicates that the ownership of Orient House is not relevant.

The closing the offices of the PLO in Jerusalem was made possible by the Law Implementing the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area (Restriction on Activity) 1994 which was passed by the Knesset on December 26, 1994. The Law is popularly known as “The Orient House Law”.

During the course of debate of the Law, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin asserted that without such legislation he did not have the legal authority to close offices of the PLO in Jerusalem.

The law prohibits activity by the Palestinian Authority and gives the government the ability to ban PLO activity as well.

The following is a translation of selected portions of the Law:

“4. (a) The Government may, by means of an order, prohibit the opening or the operation of a representative mission of the PLO, order its closure, or prevent the holding of a meeting on behalf of the PLO or under its auspices within the area of the State of Israel.

“6. For the purpose of executing orders pursuant to paragraphs 3 or 4, the Israel Police shall have all the authorities given to it by any law, including the authority to enter into any place, to remove from there any person, to close the place, to disperse any meeting, and to take any action necessary to ensure the execution of the order and to use reasonable force for this purpose.

“7. Where an order has been issued pursuant to paragraph 3 or 4, prohibiting the opening of or operation of a representative mission, the license required for such activity shall not be granted under any law.”

There is absolutely no reference in the law to the ownership of the “place” being closed down.

Dr. Aaron Lerner,
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645
imra@netvision.net.il

Arafat, the Palestine Authority and the Hamas: A Surprising Cooperative Relationship

Almost four years ago, when Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with Yassir Arafat, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, on the White House lawn most people in Israel and abroad expected that Arafat would form a new Arab entity that could restrain violent Moslem movements known as the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

That was the rationale behind what later became known as the Oslo peace process, where Israel was expected to cede land, while Arafat’s PLO was expected to form a new Palestine Authority that would fight Hamas/Islamic Jihad and other Arab terror groups that continued to threaten the lives of people in Israel.

Yet from day one, the opposite has occurred. Instead of cracking down on Hamas, Arafat openly woos the Hamas. When I asked Arafat about Hamas at his press conference in Oslo where he was about to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in December, 1994, he answered by saying that “Hamas are my brothers. I will handle them in my own way”.

And when the PLO celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in January 1995, Arafat delivered a series of lectures in Gaza and in Jericho to his own people, praising suicide bombers and refusing to condemn the Hamas attacks which took place at the time. Arafat’s speeches of praise for the Hamas were televised by the new Palestinian TV network that was controlled and operated by Arafat himself. Video cassettes of Arafat’s harangues became popular in the Palestinian Arab open market

Arafat’s strategy was best summed up by US ambassador to Israel and presidential confidante Martin Indyk, who told the Los Angeles Times in March 1996 that Arafat had decided to coopt rather than to fight the Hamas.

Arafat’s co optation of the Hamas was not only in words, but in deed.

On May 9, 1995, I covered a Gaza press conference held by Arafat’s local Palestine Liberation Army police chief Ghazzi Jabali, in which the representatives of Arafat’s Palestine Authority officially announced that they would license weapons for the Hamas. only one month after the Hamas carried out an attack on an Israeli civilian bus near Gaza, killing six young Israelis and one American student, Aliza Flatow.

At Jabali’s packed press conference, carried live on PBC radio, Jabali announced that Hamas leaders such as Mohammed Zahar would be allowed and even “encouraged” to own weapons under the protection of the Palestine Authority. On the same day, our Palestinian TV crew filmed an armed Zahar, standing in front of a skull and cross bones imposed on a map of Israel, as he addressed an angry mob in Gaza and called for bloody overthrow of the state of Israel. Jabali would later assure the Associated Press on May 14, 1995 that he was expecting the Hamas and Islamic to keep their licensed weapons “at home”.

Yet for the last two years both the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have openly operated with weapons licensed by the PA. Meanwhile, all levels of Arafat’s military forces acknowledge that they have recruited radical Islamics to join forces with them.

And on each occasion when Arafat was asked to “crack down” on these Islamic groups that took credit for fatal terror bombs against Israel, Arafat ordered the mass roundups that resulted in confessions, and then the mass release of prisoners.

And in thirty seven documented instances since 1994, the Palestine Authority has offered asylum to Hamas and Islamic Jihad members who murdered Israelis and took refuge in the new safe havens of Palestinian Arab cities that were protected by Arafat’s armed forces.

A case in point: Muhammad Deif, the admitted Hamas mastermind of the October 1994 kidnapping and killing of the nineteen year-old American-Israeli, Nachshon Wachsman, wanders Gaza freely, armed and untouched. When I asked Arafat’s commander of the Palestine Liberation Army about Deif, he told me that he was under direct orders from Yassir Arafat not to touch Deif. This, despite the fact that U.S. President Bill Clinton declared at Naphthous’s grave in March 1996 that Israel should not continue any negotiating process with Arafat and the Palestine Authority until and unless Arafat hands over Deif to stand trial.

Each Friday, over the past three years, Arafat-appointed Hamas Muftis in Nablus and in Jerusalem deliver weekly sermons in their respective mosques that call for JIHAD, holy war, against the state and people of Israel.

Not to be outdone, Arafat consistently addresses Palestinian crowds as if he were trying to emulate the Hamas, and not as if he was interested in restraining them.

Arafat’s own Jihad harangues have continued when the Oslo peace process was going well with Israel, and when it was not.

Arafat’s arming, encouragement and emulation of the Hamas occur in the open, and in public domain, at a time when more than two hundred foreign and Israeli news bureaus cover Arafat and his new Palestine Authority.

Yet an unwritten rule exists in the media, even among the Israeli press, that downplays the significance of the PA-Hamas cooperation, and Arafat’s calls for armed struggle with Israel.

Many close followers of the Middle East situation wrongly assume that there are two entities – the PLO and the Hamas, and that they somehow remain in conflict.

Analysis: Reconsideration of Our Passion for PLO Statehood After Tisha B’av

The time has come to ask all those of us who had supported the concept of a Palestinian Arab state to recognize the error in our ways.

The concept of ceding a sliver of the land to another people may have been a good one. After all, why should neighbors not find a way to make peace with one another.

However, the Arabs reject the idea, and continue to demand that three million of their refugees return to where they came from in 1948 and that the return of the Jews to our land cease and desist.

Those of our fellow Jews who have advocated sovereignty for Palestinian Arabs do not do so out of malice or hatred of the Jewish people.

They advocate such an idea out a theoretical concept of justice and self-determination.

My own personal involvement of twelve years on the Israeli Left led me to meet with and dialogue with many sympathizers to the PLO on the other side.

PLO activists asked what they thought to be reasonable: We will give you peace if you ive up your obsession for Zion.

From Day One of the Oslo process, Arafat has been taking Truth Serum every day and proclaiming to his people that the purpose of the process is the conquest of the entire land.

Three million residents of the UNRWA Arab refugee camps believe him and they ready themselves to join forces with his trained and welll motivated Palestine Liberation Army of 50,000 to liberate the land of Israel.

A guerilla army against a nation with a strong army? Ask the FLN in Algeria and the NLF in Vietnam. These are the models for the PLO

The leaders of Israel, anxious in their passion for peace after one hundred years of war, moved quickly to cede territory and to provide training, arms and cooperation with Arafat’s military forces, while Arafat was arming and training the Hamas.

Yet the tragic mistake was in the speed of the Oslo process.

The late General Aharon Yariv, who conceptualized the very concept of “territory for peace”, put it best: “The Oslo process misinterprets our concept. We never said territory BEFORE peace. We said territory FOR peace”.

The ideal peace deal was with Jordan. Israel made a deal with the Hashemite kingdom in 1970 and signed the deal with King Hussein in 1994. The Jewish state first wanted to see how Hussein would behave. And Israel tested him, during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 Lebanon invasion, the 1987-93 Intifada and the 1991 Gulf war. Only then did Israel sign a formal peace treaty with King Hussein.

That is not what happened with Arafat, the PLO and the new Palestine Authority. They see the Oslo process as a stage of war with the state of Israel, and they view the ceding of territory as a stage of surrender. Those who support this Olso process should take “Tisha B’av” and its message to take stock of reality.

When Arafat says JIHAD, he means it.

The Bridge : An ecological and bio-ethics disaster

When a group of Australian athletes attempted to cross the hastily constructed bridge erected over the Yarkon river, tragedy struck. The bridge collapsed, sending tens of young people plunging into the contaminated waters of the Yarkon River. Instead of competing at what many have called the Jewish Olympics (the international athletic competition called the HaMaccabiah Games) some of these Australians found themselves fighting for their lives in Israeli hospital intensive care centres. Apart from the expected trauma of a bridge collapse many were suffering complications suffered from inadvertently swallowing the poisonous waters of the Yarkon. Police rescue workers who waded into the sewage filled waters to rescue the athletes also were hospitalised, suffering from exposure to the high levels of poisonous substances used to coat the waters against the mosquitoes.

Dr. Eli Richter, Head of Environmental Medicine for Hebrew University, told Hebcom, “The medical problems of the victims were seriously complicated by the toxic substances in the waters of the Yarkon. Swallowing the waters and absorbtion through the skin negatively effected the victoms’ vital organs and pulmonary system.” Dr. Richter went on to say that toxic waste substances in the Yarkon seems to be a “never ending story.”

Israeli authorities suspect that faulty bridge construction caused the collapse. The chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Israel Lau, stated that this tragedy is an indictment of Israeli indifference to human life in general. “We don’t pay enough respect to the value of human life, if we can do something as idiotic as this, which cost human lives.” He went on to connect what happened to the high level of traffic and industrial fatalities that occur in Israel yearly. He also implied that this disregard for the rights and safety of our fellow citizens is the real cause of the problem, ” It must shock us out of our apathy in the face of growing numbers of victims of work accidents and road accidents. What they have in common is a lack of proper respect for the value of the sanctity of life.”

Whatever the findings of the Israeli court of enquiry which has been appointed to determine if the bridge was safe, they will probably address themselves to the issue itself and not the cause. It is likely that the pollution levels of the Yarkon River will hardly be discussed at all. In this atmosphere of negligence in the building industry, in transportation, and in factory safety it comes as no surprise to find that the waters of the Yarkon are as deadly as the poorly constructed bridge which spaned it.

Rabbi Lau placed saw beyond the event and addressed the real cause; a lack of a basic bio-ethic awareness which could provide a safe human environment for the regions citizens as the century ends. Dr. Frank (Yeruham) Leavitt, of the Ben Gurion University Medical Ethics Center stated, “The Jewish people have lived so long in Exile, in lands not our own, that we never leared to love and respect the land. It will take years to build a culture with a bio-ethic oriented love for the environment.”

The problems of pollution started long before the emergence of the state of Israel. Josephus, the ancient historian, writes about the pollution of lake Kennerit during the Jewish Wars when the waters were tainted red by Jewish blood and that floating Jewish bodies made it difficult to manoeuvre a boat. Josephus gave us what was perhaps one of the first chronicles of a major man-made ecological disaster.

Today’s pollution is sewage, industrial waste, and insecticides; but, like the wages of war, the results of indifference to a safe human environment can be equally catastrophic for the area’s residents. The almost total disregard shown by the Israelis for their environment is now being mirrored by the newly emerging Palestinian Authority who do not see human and environmental issues as being their number 1 priority. One of the major architects of the Oslo peace accords, M.K. Jossi Sarrid, who served under Rabin and Peres as the Minister of the Environment, apparently didn’t place the Yarkon Pollution problem very high on his list of priorities. His pre-occupation with the endless Oslo peace process obviously cut drastically into his environmental work load.

The by-pass roads, which were hastily cut through vineyards and natural drainage areas, were built in great haste by the labour government. They were built without the proper commissioning of an environmental impact study which would address the issues pertaining to agronomic needs in the arid Judea and Samaria semi-desert region. The price of these roads may ultimately be higher than M.K. Sarid, the former Minister of the Environment, could have possibly envisioned.

The present Minister, Raful (Rafiel Eitan, former IDF Commanding General), evidently is continuing his predecessors’ level of Environmental Activism. Reports indicate that very high levels of pesticides were pumped into the Yarkon only three days before the tragedy. There is no indication that the possibility of children or animals inadvertently drinking these poisoned waters were taken into account by any responsible environmental protection agency or citizens’ group. It is probable that none were even informed that the pesticides were being used in such an un-regulated land obviously irresponsible manner.

The issues of water pollution in general, and of the problems of the Yarkon in particular, were aired many times on Israeli Television and Radio over the past twenty years.

In a country whose pre-occupation has shifted from survival to becoming a “first world” nation, the issues of the environment have had little impact on the average Israeli. It is to be hoped that this tragedy will bring the struggle for environmental and human bio-ethics to the attention of the area’s lawmakers.

Unfortunately, another round of peace talks may push what happened into the limbo of “yesterday’s news”. This warning to both Israeli and Palestinian alike, could go unheeded… and if so, the price of peace will be a peace without joy.

Same Policy Same Results

The Prime Minister today told Arafat – in a media oriented demonstration of supposed strength – after scores of innocents were killed and wounded – that he must bring a connection between what he says and what he does. Look who is talking.

In the past months there were several failed attempted attacks. Some were thwarted, some discovered in time, but the Israeli government was not alarmed by the attacks which almost occurred.

Since Arafat signed the Oslo Agreement in September ’95, he has violated its every section: He incites to terror, helps Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue their attacks (as long as they take place outside the territory of the Palestinian Authority) and at the very same time with unbelievable gall blames the GSS [General Security Service] and IDF [Israel Defense Forces] with carrying out the attacks against Israel.

The Labor leadership did not have the will to admit their historic mistake. Instead of this they covered for the PLO, in the baseless hope that this will cause it to change.

Peres even changed the failure to an ideology: “The trick is not to denigrate the PLO”, he tended to claim (as if insisting on our survival was a denigration of the PLO), “the trick is to make them a partner.”

Peres didn’t change Arafat into a partner, but the government lost as a result of the February-March ’96 attacks.

The Likud promised a total revision of this policy, but followed exactly the same path. Netanyahu covered for the PLO in every possible way. He even forbade his aides from publicizing the violations of the agreement by the PLO for many months. He talked about “reciprocity” and did the opposite. He signed the Hebron Agreement without the Palestinian Charter being amended, without Arafat stopping the incitement to jihad and without the extradition of a single terrorist murderer.

It is not only that the PLO didn’t take measures agaisnt the Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he released 120 of the most dangerous terrorists and didn’t honor Israeli and American requests that he arrest them again. And the Israeli government remained silent.

When PLO soldiers murdered 16 IDF soldiers in September ’96 Netanyahu and Mordechai forgave the blood of their soldiers and the PM called Arafat in Washington his “friend and partner.” The entire security system knows that the Palestinian Authority smuggles automatic weapons, but the government remains silent.

Information about the “laboratory” in Beit Sahour, where armed bombs were discovered, was given to the PLO months ago, but they didn’t do anything. And the government remained silent. And recently, only days ago, it became clear that the commander of the Palestinian Police, an Arafat loyalist, personally prepared a murder squad of Palestinian police, with a stolen car and weapons. They carried out one attack and were caught on the second. But the Israeli government protested with a weak voice and went silent. And while PLO officials deny responsibility and the charges, our Foreign Minister promises that the PLO will “conclude the investigation.”

The Prime Minister, instead of taking actions against the PLO, took pride only yesterday that he, unlike the Labor government, succeeded in stopping the terror. But he who calls Arafat a partner also when he acts as an enemy, has coming to him what happened to the Labor government. The same policy yields the same results.

Yigal Carmon served as the advisor on counterterrorism in the office of the Israel Prime Minister, 1988-1993

This article orginally appeared in the Israeli daily newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, on July 31, 1997 and was translated by Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)

Yasser Arafat and Hamas: the Cooperation Has Deepened

The cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas and Jihad, was not limited to the maintenance of a dialogue between them. The Israeli security establishment knows about dozens of Hamas activists who have been enlisted in Jibril Rajoub’s organization, and dozens of Fatah activists who have begun operating within Hamas and Jihad, while being involved in attacks. Senior Palestinian officials claim that Hamas and Jihad are receiving massive aid from many elements in the Palestinian security establishment. The Israeli government knew about this, but preferred to cover up the information and try to resume the negotiations with Arafat — until the attack.

Less than two weeks ago, the Prime Minister’s Bureau — through the Government Press Office — issued a booklet entitled: “Six Months Since The Signing — Israeli and Palestinian Compliance With The Hebron Accord: A Comprehensive Assessment.”

Over 31 pages, the prime minister’s Information Dept., headed by David Bar-Illan, detailed a litany of the most severe actions which the Palestinian Authority — in its words — has undertaken. “The PA has violated most of the fundamental security provisions of the agreement,” the Prime Minister’s Bureau determined, oganizing riots in Hebron, enlisting four times as many police officers than is allowed by the Agreement, paying those who attack Israeli soldiers, etc.

The report specially stressed the Palestinian Authority’s, “avoidance of a war on terrorism:” by active incitement, avoiing struggling against the terrorist organizations, and cooperating with senior Hams and Jihad officials. To lend credence to these claims, the report pointed to the failur to try terrorists and the release from prison of senor Islamic Jihad officials — such as Muhammad Hawaja and Nabil Sharihi, who took pat in the Beit Lid (January 1995) and Kfar Darom ( April 1995) attacks. It also pointed to the fact that today, more than 150 Hamas and Islamic Jihad members are serving in the ranks of the Palestinian security services. Several days before the Israeli report was issued, senior officials in Jibril Rajoub’s organization distributed a pamphlet in Jerusalem. The pamphlet was from Fatah, Arafat’s organization, and it called for, “the revival of the intifada in Jerusalem,” attacks on mobile Israeli targets, and for, “a fire to be lit under the feet of the Zionist occupiers.” This pamphlet was not mentioned at all in the list of severe violations published by Israel.

The contacts and the secret agreements between the top Hamas leadership, Jihad and the Palestinian Authority, are not a new phenomenon. They were formulated during Mr. Peres’ and the late Mr. Rabin’s tenures as prime minister. However, this cooperation became especially close in the past year. Channels of dialogue and cooperation were opened between the Authority and these organizations. Thus, for example, an important channel was created between Abdallah Abu Samhadaneh, the governor of Khan Younis, and Hamas’ Sheikh Bahker, through the direct involvement of Yasser Arafat. Through this channel and others, it as promised to Hamas and Jihad personnel that their people would be released, and it was made clear to them what had also been emphasized before the attacks in February and March of last year: you can operate against Israel — but not from Palestinian Authority territory, and not in a way which leads directly to it.

The cooperation was not exhausted thereby. The security establishment knows about dozens of Hamas activists who have been enlisted in Jibril Rajoub’s organization in the first half of the year. It is also known that at least dozens of Fatah activists have begun to act inside Hamas and Islamic Jihad, while being deeply involved in attacks. Senior Palestinian officials claim that Hamas and Jihad are receiving massive aid from many elements from within the Palestinian administration and security services, including giving material and logistical support.

And there is, of course, the case of the gang of police officers and the involvement of senior Authority officials in it. The security establishment — and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — know very well that Palestinian police commander Razi Jebali did not operate the gang on his own accord, but received an order from Arafat. Various security officials passed such an assessment on to Netanyahu — but the Prime Minister preferred to cover up this information and try to resume the negotiations with Arafat.

And thus, despite the fact that the government claimed that General Razi Jebali’s VIP card had been cancelled, no order was give to the IDF to do this. At the same time, Netanyahu foiled several attempts by people in Washington, such as terrorism Yigal Carmon, to bring about the cessation of American aid to the Palestinian Authority.

In the last half year, Hamas and Jihad personnel have become the darlings of the Palestinian regime. Every deceased member of theirs receives a state funeral, accompanied by an honor guard, and is declared a martyr. The Palestinian leadership has begun to participate more and more in Hamas and Jihad events, and to legitimize the messages expressed at them.

Such was the case three weeks ago at the main square in Nablus, when 20,000 people attended the weddings of 15 couples, sponsored by Hamas. The initiator of the event, and the main speaker, was Sheikh Hamed Bitawi, a member of the top Hamas leadership and, “Chairman of Palestine Council of Sages,” an appointment he received from Arafat. Sitting on the stage were Nablus Governor Mahmoud Al-Alloul and Mayor Rassan A-Shak’a. Opposite them, the crowd shouted, “Iz E-Din Al-Kassam,” and Bitawi declared: “As the Israeli flag was burned, so Israel shall burn.”

Many uniformed Palestinian policemen were seen in the crowd, who shouted anti-Israeli slogans along with everyone. The couples received financing from the Palestinian welfare Ministry, headed by Umm Jihad.

The cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the extremist Islamic organizations exists in an intentional anti-Israeli atmosphere, crystallized over the last six months by the PA. Only one month ago, the daily incitement being broadcast by the PA’s “Voice of Palestine” was revealed. The campaign of anti-Israel libels in the official Palestinian press — the libido gum, prostitutes with AIDS and the distribution of spoiled food by the GSS — was mentioned here.

On Wednesday, after the attack, security establishment spokesmen began to reveal the severe letters which they had sent to the top PA leadership in the wake of this campaign of incitement. Only on Wednesday, was it decided — for the first time — to jam Radio Palestine’s broadcasts. It was then decided to issue an arrest warrant against Razi Jebali and work to halt the American assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

The Bombing at Mahane Yehudah and the Aftermath

My friend David, an American Jew in his mid-twenties, was shopping for fruit at the Mahane Yehuda marketplace in Jerusalem at approximately 1 p.m., July 30. Standing next to a watermelon stand, he realized he forgot his wallet. As he turned to go home, the first bomb exploded, sending watermelon pieces and body parts flying over his head.

Two Arab suicide bombers, each carrying a briefcase containing 10 kilograms of explosives and standing at opposite ends of a crowded alley, killed 15 people and injured 170 in the terrorist bombings.

Thrown to the ground, David immediately jumped up and began hauling the injured from the bloody scene. An hour later, at about the time I showed up at Mahane Yehuda, David returned to his home in virtual shock. He still refuses to discuss the matter. It is just too painful.

Standing on a rooftop overlooking the bloody mess, I took photographs of an ambulance crew removing a body from underneath a vegetable stand. By now, hundreds were assisting the rescue effort, placing the wounded on stretchers and heading for the fleet of ambulances. Fist fights were breaking out everywhere as tense crowds pressed police lines to catch a gory glimpse.

I suddenly got bumped from behind by an Orthodox rabbi. Wearing fluorescent vests, a whole team of rabbis appeared and began filling a clear plastic bag with body parts that had been launched from the street below, collecting them for burial.

Immediately after the bombing, the Middle East News Service contacted Palestinian media sources in Gaza and Jericho. The agency’s request was simple: What is Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat saying to his own people about the bombing?

During its 2 p.m. report, the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation, the official PLO radio station, reported an “operation” in Jerusalem. The station continued to report it as such throughout the day. Arafat phoned the Israeli Prime Minister with condolences, regrets and condemnation. In Jericho two hours after the attack, the Arab media asked Arafat for a direct comment in Arabic. The PBC waited for his response. Not a word.

“He said nothing,” Prime Minister Netanyahu’s director of communications, David Bar Illan told the Middle East News Service on Aug. 3. “Arafat still has not condemned the bombings in Arabic. He hasn’t even spoken out against these terrorists. He condones it only in English, only to foreign correspondents and in condolence calls.”

Said Bar Illan: “Arafat has yet to do what (Israeli) President Ezer Weisman asked of him – to say to his own people that `the armed struggle is over. We have chosen the path of peace’.”

Despite the appeal of Israel Chief Rabbi Meir Lau to the Moslem world to repudiate the violence, no Middle East based Moslem authority has condemned the attack.

In covering the bombings, the Palestinian Arab papers headlined Arafat’s condemnation of the Israeli government for declaring “war against the Palestinian people” by sealing the borders and continuing settlement building.

The PA Minister of Information’s statement, placing the onus for the attack on Israel, was circulated on Capitol Hill the day after the bombing by Rep. James Saxton (R-N.J.).

“Arafat is not saying much, which is not normal,” said Ghassan Khatib, director of the Jerusalem Media Communications Center and a liaison to the PA from Jerusalem. “He is very cautious in speaking, perhaps fearing that he’s under attack.”

Last week, Arafat went to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Hussein to enlist their stinging condemnations of Israel for the closure.

According to Ghassan, this closure is the strictest ever. Besides blocking the border with Israel proper, Netanyahu has sealed off Palestinian cities and, for the first time, closed the bridges between Jordan and the West Bank. Israel also has denied movement to most Palestinian VIP passport holders and attempted to jam the PBC for alleged incitement to violence. The Knesset, including the left wing Labor and Meretz parties, are not objecting to Netanyahu’s response. Labor Party leader Ehud Barak directed a moratorium on his party’s criticism of Netanyahu’s security actions. Former Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat, head of the pro-Oslo Council of Peace and Security, has sent an ultimatum to Arafat linking the renewal of talks with Arafat’s stepped up fight against terrorism.

Gauging the Palestinian official reaction to the attack, the Middle East News Service visited Orient House, the PLO’s headquarters in East Jerusalem. Officials there denounced the violence. However, they issued no memo, statement or press release to the Palestinian public. On the contrary, Orient House officials blamed the attack on Israel.

“This is the result of people’s frustrations with Israeli government policies,” said Adnan Jalani, foreign press coordinator at Orient House.

While Netanyahu has called on Arafat to destroy the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, Jalani claimed that Arafat has done enough to combat terrorism.

“If Arafat recognizes Israel’s right to build settlements in the West Bank and also cracks down on whoever opposes these settlements, then Arafat is just becoming another Israeli policemen.” Jalani said. “Arafat is not an Israeli policemen.”

Although the PA has arrested scores of terrorist suspects, Bar Illan declared that Arafat must move to destroy the terrorist infrastructure. “Nothing has changed. If anything, it’s gotten worse,” said Bar Illan. After the March 1996 suicide bombings, Bar Illan said, the PA arrested hundreds of suspects, some of whom admitted involvement in terrorist attacks. The PA has released the vast majority, he noted.

Jalani maintained that: “Arafat did not put them in jail for a reason. They were put in jail because Israel wanted them to be put in jail. For how long can he keep them in jail without evidence of them being guilty?” With negotiations frozen, Jalani threatened that: “If there is no progress in the peace process, then similar explosions are going to happen in the future.”

At Mahane Yehuda marketplace, the typically robust atmosphere was eerily quiet and introspective the day after the bombings. Tempers flared as merchants cleaned up the debris and makeshift memorials were set up at the murder sights, along with funeral notices.

Israel’s defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai surveyed the bomb scene that afternoon, facing a swarm of journalists and angry merchants. “Kill the murderers, kill them all!” roared an Orthodox butcher, whose poultry stand was riddled by the blasts and whose brother was hospitalized.

Mordechai assured the butcher swift justice, but there was no appeasing this man. Moments earlier, a police officer held the butcher back as he shouted down a teenaged girl. The girl was merely photographing the wreckage of a scooter, used by an elderly bomb victim to carry fruits and vegetables, now covered with memorial candles. She ran away crying.

(David Bedein, senior media research analyst at Beit Agron International Press Center, contributed to this story.)

No Word of Condemnation From Arafat to His Own People in Their Own Language

In the aftermath of the bombs that blew up in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehudah open air market today in Jerusalem, our news agency, which covers the peace process and the fledgling Palestine Authority, listened intently to the official Palestine Authority radio news network in the four hours that followed the blasts. PBC radio news, the official voice of the Palestine Authority, which operates out of Yassir Arafat’s office in Gaza, reported the news of the bombs…as a “military operation”, even though the bombs had killed or wounded one hundred and fifty shoppers and shopkeepers – Jews and Arabs, old and young alike, in the one place that you are bound to find every kind of person in Jerusalem.

On each newscast that followed the attack, PBC radio repeated the theme – an “operation” has been carried out, not a terror attack. And Arafat, who had been quoted widely on the Israeli and foreign newsreels that he had condemned the attack, would not allow himself to be quoted in Arabic as condemning the “operation”. Meeting the Arab media in Jericho, as he descended from his helicopter, Arafat was tightlipped, saying nothing to his people that would discourage anything but praise for the attack. Meanwhile, PBC played victory music, military marches, and joyous music. And then PBC TV came on the air, televising a play which showed Arabs shooting at Israelis. No subliminal message there.

Our agency has monitored the Arabic language PBC radio and TV for since their inception at the genesis of the Oslo peace process four years ago.

The PBC, funded under grants from the US AID foreign assistance program, has conveyed a consistent message: The war with Israel must proceed, and all means to that end remain justified. At one point, in September 1995, I was asked to bring PBC videos of Arafat’s televised speeches for a special showing at the US House International Relations Committee. Congresspeople were surprised to learn that Arafat had yet to make a single statement in Arabic at any time that called for peace with Israel and that clearly condemned terror attacks.

Last November, I had the opportunity to have a personal session with Yassir Arafat in Bethlehem. Arafat was in in a pleasant mood, as he spoke of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Arafat went out of his way during our talk to attack those who would conduct terror activity, calling them enemies of peace. Yet one month before meeting Arafat, our Palestinian TV crew had filmed Arafat at a Bethlehem area Arab refugee camp, when he called for “Jihad” – holy war – and the continuation of the armed struggle against Israel. So I asked Arafat when he would repeat the calls for peace in Arabic to his own people that he so eloquently says in English. Arafat responded by saying that he “always” speaks of peace in Arabic. Many Israelis are waiting for such proclamations of peace in Arabic from the lips of Arafat, let alone condemnation of terror bombs in a crowded marketplace.

Especially today.

Has the PA Failed to Fulfill Its Commitments Under the Hebron Accord?

The Israel Government Press Office released a comprehensive 35-page report assessing Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the Hebron Accord. The report is being issued to mark six months since the signing and implementation of the agreement in January 1997. Copies of the report are available at the Government Press Office, tel: (02) 623-3385, or on the internet site of the Prime Minister’s Office (www.pmo.gov.il) in the policy papers/fact sheet section.

Israeli Compliance: The report notes that since the signing of the Hebron Accord, Israel has fulfilled all of its commitments. Israeli forces redeployed in Hebron. Israel approved the first stage of the further redeployment from the West Bank, released Palestinian women prisoners, resumed negotiations with the PA on outstanding Interim Agreement issues and offered to resume final status talks.

Palestinian Security Violations: According to the report, the PA has violated the fundamental security provisions of the Hebron accord. Rather than contain disturbances, the Palestinian police organized riots in Hebron in March-April 1997 and June-July 1997 and failed to contain Palestinians who surged towards the Jewish Quarter. In many cases, the PA paid youths 30 to 50 shekels per day for taking part in riots and attacking Israeli soldiers. The PA has deployed 1,500 policemen in Hebron, which is nearly four times the 400 allowed, and it has armed them with weapons forbidden by the agreement.

Palestinian Violations of the Note for Record: The report notes that the PA has failed to fulfill any of its 4 obligations contained in the Note for the Record: amending the Covenant, combating terror, reducing the size of its police force and restricting its governmental activity to areas under its control.

1. Failure to Change the PLO Covenant – The Palestinians have not taken any steps toward completing the amendment process. To date, no new version of the Covenant has yet been submitted to the Palestinian National Council.

2. Failure to Fight Terror and Prevent Violence – One of the PA’s gravest violations of the Note for the Record has been its failure to combat terror, an obligation which the Note breaks down into six specific measures required of the PA:

2a. Strengthening Security Cooperation – The PA broke off security cooperation with Israel earlier this year, despite warnings of impending terrorist activity. Palestinian security officials refused to meet their Israeli counterparts and refrained from exchanging intelligence information. Recently, security cooperation has improved slightly, but the PA has thus far refused to restore the level that existed previously.

2b. Incitement to Violence Against Israel – Senior PA officials have repeatedly engaged in incitement to violence against Israel. They have praised Hamas and the intifada, threatened Israel with war, and accused Israel of injecting Palestinians with the AIDS virus and poisoning Palestinian food products. More than 30 such statements made by senior PA officials are documented in the report.

2c. Combat Systematically and Effectively Terrorist Organizations and Infrastructure – The PA has taken no steps to outlaw terror groups, whose infrastructure remains intact. At a secret meeting held in Gaza on the night of March 9, 1997, Arafat met with the heads of Hamas, the DFLP and the PFLP, who left the meeting with the understanding to renew terror against Israel. Eleven days later, 3 Israelis died in a Hamas bombing in Tel Aviv on March 21, 1997.

In mid-July 1997 it became clear that the Palestinian police have been actively involved in terror. Israeli intelligence has confirmed that Asst.-Cmdr. Jihad Masimi of the PA police in Nablus has ordered attacks, that there are several terror cells in the Palestinian police, and that there are strong indications that Palestinian Police Chief Ghazi Jabali is involved.

2d. Apprehension, Prosecution and Punishment of Terrorists – Terrorists have not been tried by the PA for terror activity against Israel in the past 6 months. The PA has drafted numerous terrorists to serve in the ranks of its security services, including at least 23 wanted for the murder of Israelis. The PA Police Commander has acknowledged that more than 150 members of Hamas and the PFLP are currently working in key positions in the Palestinian police. Since the signing of the Hebron Accord, the PA has released dozens of terrorists from detention, including: Muhammad Khawaja, a senior Islamic Jihad leader who planned the January 1995 Beit Lid bombing; Nabil Sharihi, a member of Islamic Jihad who helped prepare the bomb used in the April 1995 Kfar Darom attack in which 7 Israelis and 1 American were killed; Imjad Hinawi – a Hamas member who took part in the murder of 17-year old David Boim in Beit El in May 1996.

2e. Transfer of Terror Suspects to Israel – On March 31, 1997, Israel submitted 31 requests to the PA for the transfer of terror suspects. Thus far, the PA has failed to hand over any of the suspects to Israel. Of the 31 terror suspects whose transfer is being sought by Israel, 11 are either serving in the Palestinian police or are in the process of joining its ranks. Among those being sought are: Ibrahim Alkam, Abdel Nasser Alkaisi and Ibrahim Hani, wanted for the murder of Etta Tzur and her 12-year old son Ephraim on December 11, 1996; Bassam Issa – behind the terror attack in Jerusalem on October 9, 1994 in which two people were killed; and Hisham Salim Dib, who was behind the March 4, 1996 Dizengoff suicide bombing which killed 13 people.

2f. Confiscation of illegal firearms – No public campaigns or major sweeps have been undertaken by the PA to confiscate illegal weapons. As a result, virtually none of the tens of thousands of weapons circulating in the autonomous areas have been collected by the PA in the past six months. Five illegally armed groups continue to operate in the PA areas:

  1. Hamas;
  2. Islamic Jihad;
  3. Fatah;
  4. PFLP and
  5. DFLP.

    Smuggling, illicit production and lax PA enforcement have led to a rise in the number of illegal weapons in the PA areas.

    3. Size of Palestinian Police – The PA has deployed more than 30,000 policemen in the West Bank and Gaza, exceeding the agreed upon limit by over 6,000, or more than 25%.

    4. Restriction of PA governmental activity to Areas Under its Control – The PA is active in Jerusalem in spheres ranging from education to health to religious affairs. Numerous PA offices such as the Orient House, the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Education Ministry are operating in the city. Plainclothesmen from four Palestinian security forces are currently active in the eastern part of the city, operating on its main thoroughfares and on the Temple Mount. They conduct detentions, intelligence-gathering, criminal investigations and enforce orders issued by PA Chairman Arafat.