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What They Are Saying: It's the Same Old Song: Israel Gets Painted the Bad Guy

September 22, 2005
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Fiamma Nirenstein

Israeli journalist Fiamma Nirenstein writes in The New York Sun (www.nysun.com) on Sept. 16 that some Jewish extremists are echoing Israel's enemies when they talk about Ariel Sharon:

"Something weird has happened after the disengagement, and I feel worried. There was, once upon a time, not such a big bunch of people, who shared a common and not so easy struggle: spreading the truth about Israel. All these friends have always been aware that Israel faces a tough fight for survival and that its people have been heroically resisting an ideological and prejudicial hate that has been directed against them since before the Jewish state was born.

"All kind of blood libels and conspiracy theories have been painted about Israel, and many new ones have been invented since the start of the last intifada, in 2000.

"Israel's friends know that there are humorists that have been depicting Sharon as a naked monster eating children, and that the mayor of London thinks that much of the evil of the world comes from the mere existence of Israel. Israel's friends know that the international press imagines (still!) that Muhammed Al Dura was killed on purpose by some evil Israeli soldiers, that Jenin was a massacre perpetrated by the Israeli army, that the real source of global terrorism is the 'Israeli occupation' and that the cruelty of Israeli soldiers and the violation of international law by Israel is endemic and permanently rooted in the nature of the Jews.

"But nowadays, the struggle for truth seems to be less important. Part of the group of good people that had been spending their lives on testifying about the reality of Israel is now spending much of their time and energy in explaining that its prime minister is a criminal, a traitor, an old corrupted guy that put all of his efforts in cheating his own voters to implement the infamous disengagement.

"I think I have some right in expressing my opinion about what's going on here, just because I've spent so many years as a journalist in Israel, and because my opinions, my books, my articles, have caused me some sense of loneliness and something more, too. I will say, about the disengagement, without spending too many words to explain why … that yes, I can stand the idea that what we see is a genuine attempt to achieve something good for Israel.

"I have a deep respect for the settlers, love their courage, and have written a lot about their pain and sense of injustice. I fully understand the incredible personal and political suffering of the Gush Katif, and I fear the extreme bet of giving something good to people that did them and all the Israeli people so wrong.

"But having spent so many years trying to tell the true story of Sharon and before him of Shamir, Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu, now I have to hear again about Sharon - the present prime minister of this country - the same silly (forgive me) accusations that I have heard about him from the left all over the world.

"No, for the settlers Sabra and Shatilla are not so important, but still he is a bulldozer, a hawk against his own people. I have seen graffiti and caricatures that are not less abominable than the monster one; whenever his name arises I feel cornered, the silence falls on the conversation, just as it happens in Europe whenever you raise the subject of the Palestinians.

"Among the Israeli prime ministers, Sharon is certainly the one that has fought terror with the most enduring and tough determination. He has been hated, blamed, cursed by all the international and Israeli leftist community.

"And if I can try to foresee the future, Sharon will be very tough again. And then, again we will be together, I hope, to try to convince the world that terrorism has to be faced and fought with strength and determination, and that Israel is doing its duty also for the sake of the general fight against the awful enemy that the world faces today."

Palestinians Don't Need Enemies; They Have Themselves

Columnist Richard Cohen writes in The Washington Post (washingtonpost.com) on Sept. 13 about the state of Palestinian politics:

"Arafat was murdered. No, not that Arafat (Yasser) but the other Arafat (Moussa). The latter was the cousin of the former, and at one time his head of military intelligence. When Yasser Arafat died, Moussa was demoted by the new Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and named an adviser. Several weeks ago in Gaza, he was dragged out into the street and shot.

"His murder - an execution, actually - followed a 30-minute gun battle between Moussa Arafat's security people, and the 100 or so armed men in 20 vehicles who had come to get him. The killing attracted little international attention, which is pretty remarkable because it says more about the prospects for peace in the region than do the assurances of the Brioni suit set (assembling now for the U.N. session) that everything is going just fine. This would be particularly the case, we are told, if only the Israelis would cooperate by, among other things, limiting themselves to a block or two of Tel Aviv.

"Think about it, though. Doesn't it say something - and something troubling - about a political entity (the Palestinian Authority) that two armed groups could battle for half-an-hour and not one of the P.A.'s security forces could get to the scene and intervene? It is an odd state - if a state is what it is - where brigands can show up at the door and fight it out without anyone's calling 911. This, though, is what passes for Palestine.

"The Palestinians seem intent on making matters worse. As a society, they have exalted suicide bombings, tolerated senseless and atrocious terrorism, and for years supported the kleptomaniacal Yasser Arafat, whose peace plan consisted, basically, of waiting for Israel to evaporate. He died very rich, but presumably very frustrated.

"At the recent Ambrosetti conference of Italian and other notables in Cernobbio, Italy, both Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League, and Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, warned against blunt talk.

"But blunt talk is precisely what's needed. In the case of the Palestinians, they have to be told to shape up. The murder of Moussa Arafat is just the latest self-induced catastrophe.

"Gaza is lawless. Kidnappings are common. Armed gangs roam the streets. Under these conditions, it will be impossible for the Palestinians to secure outside investors.

"Who's going to put money in a business when there's virtually no rule of law? In fact, it took altruistic American Jewish investors to put up the money ($14 million) to buy the machinery - computers and the like - that kept Gaza's greenhouses running. From what one of them told me, the Palestinians themselves were so intent on not accepting any 'tainted' aid that they were reconciled to losing the greenhouses and the jobs that came with them. It was a sorry spectacle.

"Abbas has his work cut out for him. But he would be helped if his fellow Arabs and others in the international community held Palestinians as accountable as they do Israelis. The murder of Moussa Arafat and the ordinary lawlessness of Gaza show that when it comes to enemies, Palestinians don't need Israel. They do fine on their own."

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