Israel Resource Review 26th October, 2001


Btselem: Issues Report: 42 Arabs Dead in Riots:
B'tselem spokesman admits that the report in "incomplete"
David Bedein

On October 25, 2001, the 5:00 p.m. Voice of Israel Radio Newsreel announced that the Israel research group Btzelem, financed by the New Israel Fund and European governments through the European Union, has issued a special report with the newsworthy finding that 42 Arabs had been killed since the October 17th assassination of Israel Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze'evi.

The report does not mention how many of the 42 Arab fatalities were armed - only that 21 of the Arabs killed were civilians, including five minors and four women, and that ten of the dead were Arab security personnel.

The report does not mention the proximity of any of the fatalities to the gun positions of the PLO.

When our agency asked the Btselem spokesman why they have not provided the number of civilians who were armed, or whether the fatalities were near gun positions, the answer was that the report was not yet complete.

The report does not mention the proximity of the 42 Arab fatalities to Arab gunners who were firing machine guns and mortars against Israeli communities.

The report mentions that one Israeli civilian was killed during this time period, without mentioning that he was ambushed and murdered while on a hike on the Judean Desert, and that he was not caught in any kind of cross-fire during a riot.

The report ascribes the only reason for Israel's action in the context of Ze'evi's killing, without mentioning that Bethlehem, Beit Jalla, the UNRWA Aida refugee camp and Beit Sahour have been used as staging grounds for mortar attacks on Jerusalem's southern neighborhoods.

The report describes the hermetic closure as "unprecedented in its severity", without mentioning that the "unprecedented severity" of mortar attacks from these Arab villages on Southern Jerusalem.

The report describes the IDF attack on Hamas military officers as "four civilians extrajudically executed by Israel, without mentioning that they had taken credit for the recent murder of two Jewish women along with other Arab military attacks against civilian targets.

When we mentioned to the Btzelem spokesman that during a time of war you do not provide trials for the enemy - you kill the combatants, he remarked that Israel is not now in a time of war. When we asked about the Hamas military commanders that Israel had killed, the Btzelem spokesman remarked that the dead Hamas commanders were civilians and not combatants.

The report mentions that "hospitals have been hit" and "that their operations have been disrupted". The report fails to report that the hospital that was hit in Beit Jalla is next to where the PLO has placed the gun positions to fire from on Jerusalem.

The report rejects the notion that it is a procedure for gunmen to "hide behind civilians and shoot". Has Btzelem not witnessed the fact that the PLA has made it a policy to commandeer homes in Beit Jalla and to fire from those homes and to draw fire back at those homes?

The report calls on the IDF to "avoid fighting in population centers" without recognizing that that is where the PLO is attacking from.

The report condemns Israel for interfering with the "free movement of . . . medical crews" without mentioning that the IDF have intercepted Red Crescent ambulances that have been transporting arms. Btzelem neglects to mention that the head of the Red Crescent is Arafat's brother.

The report rejects the IDF decision to "undertake a wide scale military operation within population centers", without mentioning that the PLO has indeed decided to conduct a war from the haven of those very population centers.

The report continues the Btzelem policy of describing rock throwing rioters as "unarmed demonstrators", so long as they are not armed with automatic weapons.

Yet Btselem calls the IDF troops "trigger happy".

Perhaps the timing of the weekend press deadlines in Israel and around the world was the priority of the report.

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Rabbis for Human Rights Make New Allegations
Steve Weitzman

The AP news wire of October 24th, 2001 ran thie following ews item in which the Rabbis for Human Rights allege that Jewish communities in the Shomron have uprooted 2,000 Olive Trees. The Rabbis bring no evidence to support their claim. AP did not seek out any verification of these allegations from either Jewish community spokespeople, the police, Israeli intelligence, the IDF or the Israel Government Coordination Office for Judea and Samaria.

HARIS, West Bank (AP) - Kneeling side-by-side in the West Bank soil, a Rabbi helps a Palestinian farmer harvest olives. It is a sign of solidarity during times that are tough, especially for those trying to eke out a living from unforgiving land.

The West Bank village of Haris lies next to the Jewish settlement of Revava. The settlers, citing army security regulations, say the farmers of Haris may not tend trees growing less than 300 yards from the settlement walls.

The Palestinian farmers say they do not challenge this edict for fear the settlers, or the soldiers who guard them, may open fire.

So Rabbi Arik Ascherman and eight other Israeli human rights activists traveled to Haris to give the villagers a Jewish human shield and help them harvest their olive crop.

"Recently farmers at another village who went out to tend their fields were beaten by settlers with iron bars," Ascherman said. "We are here today to support the Palestinians and give them a sense of security without in any way provoking a confrontation with the settlers of Revava."

But the arrival of the Israelis and Palestinians brought a swift response. Settlers peered down from the walls and a security guard, with a pistol slung on his hip, arrived to ask their business.

The Palestinians eyed their settler neighbors warily. "If you weren't here I wouldn't dare be here," farmer Mamoun Daoud told his Israeli escorts.

Soon an army patrol arrived, led by a major who gave a rough shove to a news photographer who did not understand the officer's order in Hebrew not to take pictures of him. A short time later, the same officer was heard trying to calm the agitated settlers, assuring them that the Palestinians were on the scene only to work their fields and meant no harm.

The settlers seemed more infuriated by the presence of Israelis helping Palestinians than by that of the Palestinians themselves.

"Rubbish," they screamed in Hebrew at the activists, adding even harsher curses.

Peace activist Michal Weiner said the abuse exemplified a cultural gap between Israelis which went beyond politics.

"We have different moral standards, we come from different worlds, for me the settlers are like war criminals."

The activists favor an Israeli withdrawal from all or most of the West Bank, while the settlers defend their right to live in communities set up by successive Israeli governments.

Another member of the Daoud clan, Ghanam, said the settlers' encroachment on Palestinian land was pushing its owners toward violence.

"I don't throw stones," he said. "But when they come and mess with my land, what can I do? I'll throw stones, then I'll be a terrorist."

Ascherman, born in Erie, Pa., is a Reform rabbi and director of Rabbis for Human Rights, an organization promoting social justice programs within Israel and trying to bridge the gap between Israelis and Palestinians.

He acknowledges the legitimate security concerns of settlers throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip who come under almost daily attack from Palestinian gunmen. But he feels that the kind of restrictions the villagers of Haris face in working their own land and the wholesale uprooting of olive trees, ostensibly to remove cover for attackers, is excessive.

"There is a red line between legitimate self-defense and collective punishment of innocent people, and it was been crossed," he said.

After two hours of work, the Palestinians and Israelis had managed to pick only a few pounds of olives.

"It's heartbreaking, compared to the harvest last year when we also came," said Ascherman. "The trees are bearing less because the farmers are scared to come down to the fields and tend the trees as they need to."

Before leaving the village, Ascherman and his colleagues visited a Palestinian peace campaigner, Issa Souf, who was shot in the spine by troops in May as he tried to usher his brother's children inside their house and out of the soldiers' way, he said.

Paralyzed from the waist down, he told of the economic hardship caused by Israeli closures of local roads, the uprooting of 2,000 olive trees and the three villagers shot in clashes with the army.

"We live in a dangerous area here," he said.

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The PLO: Aiming to Bring 300,000 Arab Refugees to the Galil
Uzi Benziman
Senior Staff Writer and Columnist, HaAretz

Arafat intends to plant in any agreement with Israel a fuse that will eventually blow it to pieces

Settling the Galilee

The way Arafat envisions it, the right of return will be realized by the approximately 300,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon. The explanation: Unlike refugees who have found their place in Jordan, or even in the West Bank, these people never became integrated in their country of refuge. This demand poses an existential threat to Israel - not just because of the huge number of hostile residents the country would be forced to absorb (about a 25 percent increase to the present number of Israeli Arabs), but because of the object of their yearnings: the Galilee, from which their families fled in 1948.

Cumulative experience with Arafat indicates that he means what he says: To him, limiting the right of return to refugees residing in Lebanon is a major concession. Yossi Beilin's assertion that a formula could be found for resolving the problem of the refugees without Israel having to absorb them in great numbers still awaits convincing proof.

According to military intelligence assessments, Arafat is absolutely serious about his position on this issue. He says the same things in public that he whispers in private. The demand to realize the right of return within the borders of Israel is part of his conception of peace. Unlike the accords with Egypt and Jordan, which were based on the "land for peace" formula, Arafat intends to plant in any agreement with Israel a fuse that will eventually blow it to pieces.

Put another way: The way Arafat sees it, peace will not be secured, even in the event of a total Israeli withdrawal (or a near-total withdrawal combined with a territorial exchange), nor in an accord that gives him sovereignty over the Temple Mount and East Jerusalem - unless his demand for the right of return is completely fulfilled.

Even if he says things here and there in unofficial conversations with Israelis that leave his interlocutors with the impression that he is ready to show some flexibility on the issue, army intelligence believes his public position is what counts: He has made what amounts to a historic commitment to bring the refugees home and does not intend on - or is not capable of - retracting it.

Excerpted from "Corridors of Power" Ha'aretz 26 October 2001, with rhanks to Dr. Aaron Lerner of "imra" for bringing this article to out attention

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