Israel Resource Review 17th December, 2004


IDF Suspicious About Egypt's Intentions
Amos Harel, Military Correspondent, HaAretz

The major element that is supposed to change in connection with the struggle against the tunnels has to do with Egypt's behavior. That is being influenced not only by the warming of relations with Israel (which reached a peak in the release from prison of Israeli citizen Azzam Azzam and the signing of a trade agreement this week), but also by what was revealed by the terrorist attacks in Sinai last September. The investigation of the attacks showed Egypt what it should have already known - that their intelligence deployment in Sinai is very poor and is incapable of providing even basic information about events. Under its nose, different networks of extremist Egyptian Muslim groups, most of them offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood, operated freely. These organizations, which have been closely watched by the intelligence services in Egypt proper, were able to set up rear support systems in Sinai. What began as small learning groups established by sheikhs in El Arish and in Bedouin concentrations south of Taba, grew into a ramified da'awa (Islamic civil infrastructure), which was utilized by the perpetrators of the attacks.

However, the Egyptians are proceeding at a snail's pace. This week Cairo announced that it will deploy 750 policemen along the border (in order to combat arms smuggling) only next April - and Egypt does not intend to take responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian side of the Philadelphi route.

In the meantime, Hamas activists continue to move about unhampered in Sinai. The smuggling takes place via two main routes: a northern route, from Lebanon to the shores of Turkey or Greece and then by sea to El Arish; and a southern route, from Sudan to southern Sinai and then via the border with Israel in the western Negev or via Philadelphi.

So far, though, hardly any weapons that the IDF terms "tie breakers" have been smuggled through the tunnels - antitank missiles or long-range Katyusha rockets, which could increase the Palestinian threat to Israel. According to the defense establishment, this shows that Egypt has a certain level of control over the smuggling: it has no objections to Israeli blood being shed in the Gaza Strip, as long as the equilibrium is maintained. This is why the IDF is far more suspicious about Egypt's good intentions than Sharon's bureau is . . . .

This article appeared in Haaretz, 17 December 2004

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What We Can Learn From the Libel of the Jenin Massacre
Dr. Joel Fishman

On Monday night, December 6th, Israel Broadcasting Corporation Channel One screened Martin Himmel's documentary "Jenin: Massacring the Truth" describing how the international media defamed the State of Israel by transmitting the accusation that the Israel Defense Forces murdered at least 500 Palestinian civilians during Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002

. The point of Himmel's film was the great injury which Israel suffered as a result of this mendacious accusation. Among the people interviewed by Himmel were Ra'anan Gissen, Spokesman of the Prime Minister, and Gideon Meir in charge of Public Relations at the Foreign Ministry, both official Israelis of considerable experience and stature. In addition, Himmel interviewed Saeb Arekat of the P.A. Arekat gave us one of the great statements of the evening when he conceded that the figure of 500 victims was exaggerated and then added, "Martin you have known me for twenty-five years and you know that I have always told you the truth."

This brings us to the fact that the accusation of massacre is really not new, because the very same thing happened nearly twenty-three years ago during the Lebanon war. On June 10, 1982, Dr. Fatchi Arafat, director of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, issued a statement declaring that "10,000 Palestinians have died and 600,000 have become homeless in the first few days of the war." Subsequently, the International Red Cross and Middle East Action Committee of the American Friends Service spread the 10,000/600,000 figure to every media outlet in the world, and the major American networks picked up the story. No mention will be made here of the fact that the Palestinians distributed a doctored photograph of a Palestinian girl who supposedly lost an arm during the bombing in Lebanon, and President Reagan's incensed phone call to Menachem Begin that followed. These precedents are of critical importance because they show that the libel of Jenin was not a unique event but part of a series. It is a tactic of political warfare. This becomes clear when we consider some other accusations: an affair that began in March 1983 with the accusation that Israel caused Palestinian girls in the disputed territories to become infertile. (Professor Raphael Israeli reported that Palestinian radio accused Jews of wanting to bring about genocide and called on the world's conscience.) The Palestinians also have accused us of boring a tunnel under the Temple Mount in 1996, of murdering Muhammad a-Dura in 2000, and using exhausted Plutonium in artillery shells.

The fact that Israel's enemies spread lies is not new. It is to be expected. The real question is how is it possible for these experienced media experts and civil servants not to grasp the issue in historical perspective and that they failed to point out the obvious precedent of Lebanon? Dr. Gissin worked with the media in Lebanon, Himmel was a war reporter in the region for at least twenty-five years. These professionals, however, do not seem to be the type of visionaries who believe that because we live the New Middle East the lessons of the past have become irrelevant. The most likely answer is that our society discourages people from seeking parallels and relationships. The time frame of the media has been reduced to the story of the hour. If people think in instants rather than years, it is not possible to develop a valid perspective.

What does this type of thinking which is trapped in the present tell about our society, our educational institutions, and the era in which we live? There is a failure to integrate information in order to expand our knowledge. Finding the parallels and organizing them rationally is basic to the process of building knowledge and an awareness of our surroundings. In his book, The Historian's Craft, the great French scholar Marc Bloch told us of the need "to organize rationally what comes to us as raw material." Very simply, we must learn to look for ways to understand the whole of a subject by rationally organizing the fragments of knowledge we have, identifying them, placing them in categories, and naming them.

If Mr. Himmel had looked for precedents, he might have been able to ask Saeb Arekat, "We know what you did in Lebanon. Mr Arekat, Why did you lie to us again?" If in 2002 Israeli civil servants had done the same, they could have placed the burden of proof on the other party, or at least been able to defend Israel against this libel. If, for example, Israel's public relations experts had been mindful of what Dr. Fatchi Arafat did in 1982, they might have taken a different approach instead of apologizing for the death of Muhammad a-Dura before the facts became known. Such an awareness would also be of help in dealing with the Mary Robinson's of the world. One of the important lessons of the Jenin libel is, that if we hope to relate effectively to our surroundings, we must regain our capacity to think and reason in historical terms.

Dr. Joel Fishman is a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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Will the Real Abu-Mazen Please Stand Up?
Dr. Michael Widlanski

Does the Palestinian Arab press know something that the Israeli press does not know?

Even as the Hebrew press headlined the remarks of Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu-Mazen) calling for an end to the "Intifada," the Arab press - especially the Palestinian press - ignored the "news" item.

When "Haaretz" wrote in its lead headline (December 15, 2004) "Abu Mazen: The Use of Weapons in the Current Intifada has hurt us and has to stop," Radio "Sawt Filasteen"- "Voice of Palestine"-- the official mouthpiece of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), kept completely quiet. When "Yediot" and "Maariv" extensively covered and featured the remarks of Abu-Mazen (which were made to "Al-Sharq al-Awsat," an Arab newspaper published in London), official Palestinian television and the daily newspapers ignored the event.

So what does this mean?

Who got it right - the Israeli Hebrew press or the Palestinian Arab press?

It seems that the Arab press was right, if only for professional journalistic reasons.

After all, PLO Chairman Abu Mazen has said exactly the same thing or almost exactly the same thing several times before. In March 2003, he said the same thing to the same Arab newspaper in London when he was Prime Minister-presumptive of the PNA. He said almost identical things to the Jordanian newspaper "Al-Ra'i" in September 2003, and I have personally heard him say similar things on several Arab television stations in Lebanon and the Gulf. Indeed, Dr. Abbas made very similar remarks at the Aqaba Summit on June 4, 2003, and then he quickly "explained" his remarks in a susbsequent "special press conference" held for the Arab press.

One therefore has to ask what is the real importance of the remarks of Dr. Abbas (Abu-Mazen).

First, we must stress that the Arab press's disregard of the "moderate" remarks of the current PLO Chairman concerning the "current Intifada" are not part of a desire to ignore Abu-Mazen, the successor to Yasser Arafat. Quite the contrary! On the same morning (December 15, 2004), Radio Voice of Palestine opened its broadcasts with extensive quotations from the new PLO Chairman who was touring Gulf countries. In fact, the radio -as well as official PA television - quoted Abu-Mazen's strong opposition to any kind of limitations of the Palestinian "right of return." The Palestinian media asserted that Abu-Mazen said - and with him the entire PLO/PA leadership - that they would not tolerate leaving any Palestinian refugees inside Arab countries.

It appears, then, that a careful examination of Abu-Mazen's remarks to the Arab newspaper in London - as well as other recent remarks - shows that Abu-Mazen does not oppose violence against Israelis from a moral or ideological perspective. Rather, he opposes some violence only from a "pragmatic" or "utilitarian" perspective. And then only for a short time.

Dr. Abbas believes that the Palestinian-Israeli War of Attrition has done more harm than good to the Palestinians. In other words, Abu-Mazen opposes using bullets and bombs against Israeli civilians inside "The Green Line." And he opposes this use of ammunition for reasons of "profit and loss."

In the current interview in "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" as in earlier interviews Abu-Mazen has been very consistent on several points.

  1. The "Intifada" is a legitimate form of "resistance to occupation," and it should continue, but without bombs and bullets;
  2. Abu Mazen supports attacking soldiers and settlers everywhere;
  3. Dr. Abbas opposes for the time being attacks on Israeli civilians inside Israel because it such attacks are "counterproductive to Palestinian interests."

On the same morning that the Israeli press praised Abu-Mazen for his "moderation," the senior anchorman of Voice of Palestine, Nizar al-Ghul called the attack on the Israeli border checkpoint in Gaza a "resistance operation." The radio anchorman also proudly claimed that the "resistance operation" was carried out by the FATAH (headed by Arafat and Abbas) and the HAMAS (the Islamic Resistance Movement) with whom Abbas has been negotiating.

Is this the real meaning of "Palestinian unity" so sought by Abu-Mazen?

The Voice of Palestine radio anchorman's remarks on the "resistance operation" were the lead-in to the morning headlines. The day earlier, Voice of Palestine and PA Television called the tunnel bombers "mustash-hedeen"- "heroic martyrs" in Arabic.

It appears possible that Dr. Abbas (who got his Ph.d from the Soviet "Patrice Lumumba University" on the subject of "Relations between Zionism and Nazism") is not only the formal successor to Yasser Arafat but a willing and eager student anxious to apply Arafat's methods of sending multiple messages to multiple (and sometimes gullible) audiences in different locations and in different languages.

Dr. Abbas, who wears a suit rather than the military uniform of Arafat, has a more refined and subtle style than his mentor, but it seems likely that their ideological content is similar, if not identical.

We will surprise ourselves a lot less if we study the words and methods of the new Palestinian leadership. Perhaps, we might even discover that when it comes to the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees living in Arab countries for 50 years that Abu-Mazen and Abu 'Ala (Ahmad Qreia) may actually have a tougher line than the Egyptian-born Arafat.

Dr. Michael Widlanski, who teaches Political Communication at the Hebrew University, has researched the Palestinian media for nearly a decade and earned his PhD on the subject of the Palestinian Authority media.

This article appeared in Haaretz, 19th December 2004

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David Bedein Conducts a Smear Campaign
The Jewish Advocate Editorial (Boston - December 17, 2004)

Last week, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston helped lead a community coalition to a great victory for the Boston Jewish community - and for Israel, when Somerville aldermen rejected efforts to divest in Israel.

Ironically, at the same time that the JCRC was busy trying to mobilize citizens to attend the Somerville meeting, its' offices were flooded with hundreds of angry e-mails, questioning why the organization was "honoring" a Palestinian terrorist?

What sparked this vitriolic outburst? A letter from Israeli parents whose son had been killed in a suicide bombing was sent out to a number of listservs.

The letter had been solicited from journalist David Bedein - he called the parents, asked them to write it and provided them with information - to support his op-ed in last weeks Advocate. It was initially sent to The Advocate as a letter-to-the-editor; because it arrived after deadline it was not published.

How the letter then ended up on numerous listservs is not known.

Here are the facts: Three leading organizations in Boston - the New England chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, the regional office of the American Jewish Committee, and the JCRC - organized a brown-bag lunch with Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian who is a visiting scholar at Harvard University.

Nusseibeh is viewed by many Israelis as a "moderate"; he has publicly denounced suicide bombings. Nusseibeh has also worked with former Shin Bet chief, Ami Ayalon, attempting to build grassroots support for reconciliation with Israel.

Bedein offered The Jewish Advocate a story promising to detail the fact that Nusseibeh was no moderate. We asked for - and received - an op-ed detailing Bedeins assertions.

In his op-ed, Bedein claimed that Nusseibeh appeared together with the mother of a suicide bomber on Al Jazeera TV. Nusseibeh is then quoted by Bedein as making a statement that appears to be in support of suicide bombing.

Yes, Nusseibeh did appear on Al Jazeera TV. However, according to Nusseibeh, it was to make a statement opposed to suicide bombing. The network aired the mother of the suicide bomber in front of him - with no advance notice. According to Nusseibeh, he tried to create a transition from the very emotional statement by the mother to his own message against suicide bombing. A translator who viewed the transcripts has reportedly confirmed Nusseibeh's version.

If that is the case, then Bedein took Nusseibeh's Al Jazeera quotes completely out of context - and then presented this misconstrued quote as "fact" to the Israeli parents.

It's easy to understand how someone, without the benefit of facts, would be moved to anger by the letter from the Israeli parents.

It's also a scary testament to the power of the internet and the ability to manipulate public opinion through a campaign of inaccuracies, exploiting the heartfelt pain of terror victims.

The targeting of Jewish Boston organizations amounts to an irresponsible and nasty political smear campaign.

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Refuting the "Smear" Allegation:
There was no Distortion of Sari Nusseibeh by our News Agency

Did the Jewish Advocate Not Consider the Source of our Translation?
David Bedein

The Jewish Advocate of Boston issued an inappropriate editorial on December 17th, 2004, in which it accuses me and our news agency of willfully distorting an interview with Sari Nusseibeh, so as to "manipulate" the emotions of terror victims and to conduct a "smear campaign" against the leading Jewish organizations in Boston who hosted Sari Nusseibeh as their guest of honor on December 10th.

To begin with, the Jewish Advocate asserts that our news agency's revelation in the Jewish Advocate of December 10th, 2004 (See the December 10th issue of Israel Resource Review) which quoted Sari Nusseibeh's praise of the mother of a suicide bomber who murdered five boys at the Atmoneh Yeshiva and which exposed Nusseibeh's praise of suicide bombers on Al Jazeera television , that these words were somehow "taken out of context" .

This is a surprising assertion.

The Jewish Advocate had acknowledged receipt of appropriate documentation that the translation of Nusseibeh's interview emanated from the highest level of Israeli intelligence and that this translation and the original Arabic version of the Nusseibeh interview were indeed posted on the official web site of the Israel Defence Forces.

For some reason, The Jewish Advocate editorial of December 17th places great faith in Nusseibeh that "he tried to create a transition from the very emotional statement by the mother to his own message against suicide bombing"

Yet from the authoritative MEMRI English translation of the Nusseibeh interview*, also available to the Jewish Advocate, the readers of the Jewish Advocate can read for themselves that Nusseibeh issued no hint of any such "message against suicide bombing" .

Quite the opposite message is conveyed. Read for yourselves.

Sadly, the Jewish Advocate claims that our news agency "misconstrued" the Nusseibeh's interview so as to "manipulate" the emotions of the parents of terror victims who did not have the "facts" of the Nusseibeh interview in front of them.

And what does the Jewish Advocate base its "facts" upon?

The Jewish Advocate quotes an unnamed "translator who reviewed the transcript has reportedly confirmed Nusseibeh's version".

Does that "translator" hold a candle to the Arabic speaking officers of Israeli intelligence?

Does that "translator" hold a candle to the unquestioned credibility of Yigal Carmon, the head of MEMRI, who is also fluent in Arabic, who served as the counter terrorism advisor to Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin?

At Nusseibeh's presentation at the JCRC event in Boston on December 10th, the Jewish Advocate did not pose the most fundamental question to Nusseibeh: Since Nusseibeh is a senior official of the PLO and a senior appointees of the Palestinian Authority, why does Nusseibeh not issue any proclamation of peace and reconciliation on the official media outlets of the PLO or the PA?

Less than one week after Nusseibeh's December 10th presentation in Boston, Nusseibeh spoke on December 16th at the annual Herzelia security conference, calling on Palestinian Arabs to forgo their "right of return" and to forgo "the path of violence".

Our reporter who covered Nusseibeh's speech politely approached Nusseibeh after his speech and asked him if he would conevy his message to the entire Palestinian community in Arabic, on the VOICE OF PALESTINE, the official media outlet of the Palestinian Authority .

Staring nervously as he stared at the reporter's tape recorder, Nusseibeh had this to say: "Yes, I've been speaking . . . It's very well known, my position is very well known . . . Yes, my position among the Palestinians and the Arab world at large is very well known," stuttered Nusseibeh. "It is very clear. I write it. My plan is clear. I say what I say. "

The reporter once again asked Nusseibeh asked if he would make a statement of this kind on the airwaves of the PBC, the official Palestine Broadcasting Corporation of the Palestinian Authority.

Nusseibeh turned his back and disappeared into the crowd of participants leaving the main conference hall, without answering that question.

Nusseibeh conveys a message of peace and reconciliation to western and Israeli audiences, yet will not do so on the airwaves of the PLO, applying the "double speak" model of Nusseibeh's mentor, Yassir Arafat.

Indeed, it was Arafat appointed Nusseibeh to his position as the Dean of El Kuds University and it was Arafat who appointed Sari Nusseibeh to be the PLO and PA representative for Jerusalem affairs.

Nusseibeh lives up to the legacy of his mentor with great devotion.

Here is the "MEMRI" translation of the Nusseibeh interview taken from the MEMRI report of the Al Jazeera interview, as it appeared on the MEMRI web site of July 5th, 2002:

On the Qatari TV channel Al-Jazeera, Professor Nusseibah . . . Appeared on the same panel with head of the Hamas politbureau Khaled Mash'al, and Umm Nidal, the mother of Muhammad Farhat, [who appeared in a video sending her son to commit a martyrdom attack][1]

Professor Nusseibah said that the [signatories'] objections to military operations referred only to operations against civilians within Israel: "There is a general consensus that we naturally support resistance in general and resistance to the occupation in particular. [There is a consensus] that there is no life under occupation, and that most of the Palestinian people is very much prepared to martyr itself to achieve liberty and independence and to restore its honor. I [too] agree to this. There are different kinds of resistance. There is armed resistance and there is unarmed resistance, which is legitimate resistance. Then this resistance can be public and be popular [such as the kind] in which the Palestinian people engaged throughout the many years of occupation. Similarly, within the framework of armed resistance there is resistance for attack and resistance for defense. [Now] martyrdom operations are [another] kind of resistance.

There is on the one hand martyrdom for defense, like the heroes who martyred themselves to defend their land and their homeland in the Jenin camp, or the martyr hero Fares Odeh who fell victim to the soldiers of the occupation, and on the other hand there is martyrdom in an attack.

Even in martyrdom in an attack, a distinction can be made between martyrdom in an attack directed against military targets and one directed against civilian targets." "In our [communique], we referred to this kind of martyrdom the armed operations with explosives [targeting civilians in Israel]." . . . "I wish to emphasize that we did not condemn [the operations] and did not appeal to the emotions. We appealed as brother to brother, to consider this issue, and so there will be a genuine [re-]evaluation of the issue in which every thinker and all those concerned would participate, so as to examine the benefit and the damage of operations against civilians within Israel."

Referring to Umm Nidal's pride in and justification of her son's martyrdom, Professor Nusseibah glorified her, saying: "When I hear the words of Umm Nidal, I recall the [Koranic] verse stating that 'Paradise lies under the feet of mothers.'[2]

All respect is due to this mother, it is due to every Palestinian mother and every female Palestinian who is a Jihad fighter on this land. I do not wish to mix political statements and political commentary with the respect every Palestinian feels for every Jihad fighter and for anyone who truly thinks that there is no life under the occupation, except in freedom and dignity."[3]

A similar statement by Professor Nusseibah appeared on the Arab news site Albawaba: "The communique that I, along with hundreds of others, signed was clear. We did not address our brothers in the various resistance factions to chastise them, or to condemn them, or depict the resistance as terror, or to de-legitimize it. None of these words appeared in the communique . [Our] aim was to convey a message that there is a need to reexamine the benefit of the [martyrdom] operations within Israel in the context of the goals we seek to accomplish."[4]

[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch Special Dispatch 391. In an interview with the London-based Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Umm Nidal stated: "Because I love my son, I encouraged him to die a martyr's death for the sake of Allah . . . After the martyrdom [operation], my heart was peaceful about Muhammad. I encouraged all my sons to die a martyr's death, and I wish this even for myself."
[2] This is not a Koranic verse, but a Hadith (tradition ascribed to Muhammad), about mothers being the that mothers are the highest beings, such that even Paradise is beneath their feet.
[3] Al-Jazeera television (Qatar), June 29, 2002.
[4], June 24, 2002.

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