Israel Resource Review 14th October, 2000


Palestinian Security Forces:
So Far So Bad
Gal Luft
Senior Research Associate
Washington Institute of Near Eastern Studies

Four years ago, following the September 1996 opening of the Hasmonean Tunnel in Jerusalem, Palestinians policemen and Israeli soldiers exchanged heavy fire throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip leaving 69 Palestinians and 14 Israelis dead, and more than 1,200 people wounded. The "September riots," as they were called, invited a reality check by the Palestinian security services (PSS). While pursuing peace, the Palestinians have been planning and preparing for possibility of a next round of violence. Their security forces have improved their tactical sophistication, introduced new training methods and obtained new weapons and equipment. But after two weeks in October this year of intensive fighting against the Israel Defense Force (IDF) one may be puzzled by how poorly Palestinian policemen, so far, fared in combat.

Progress since September 1996

Being more than a regular police force and short of being an army, the twelve branches of the 40,000-strong PSS have been investing great efforts in order to learn the lessons from the previous major clash with the IDF. New weapons and tactics have been introduced, and training has improved considerably with Palestinian company and battalion commanders receiving professional training in Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, and Pakistan as commanders of combat units. Since 1999, the PSS have been training larger and larger formations, up to a battalion, in different combat scenarios including mock attacks on IDF posts and Jewish settlements. In the first half of 2000 alone, no fewer than six battalions held full-scale exercises in the Gaza Strip. In the attempt to increase the number of Israeli casualties in case of a war, the Palestinians recruited a large number of snipers equipped with telescopic sights for their M-16 and AK-47 rifles. In addition, it has been reported that some of the Palestinian security apparatuses obtained weapons prohibited by the Oslo agreements such as anti-tank missiles, shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles, light mortars, and hand grenades.

Assessment of current PSS performance

Despite claims that the violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was pre-planned and tightly orchestrated by Yasser Arafat and his generals, the response and performance of the PSS show otherwise. Due to either lack of will or incompetence, Palestinian policemen failed to control the Palestinian masses that demonstrated against Israel in the friction points such as Nezarim Junction, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron. Two incidents from the past two weeks--the first being the destruction of the Jewish holy site Joseph Tomb in Nablus and the attack on the Palestinian police station in Ramallah where two Israeli soldiers were held by the police--showed lack of resolve of the Palestinian police in dealing with a rioting mob. In some other incidents Palestinian policemen took off their uniforms, joined the demonstrates and opened fire at IDF troops. This conduct is not only a result of lack of discipline and a fierce nationalism on the part of the policemen. The PSS lacks necessary equipment such as, shields, helmets, clubs, armored vehicles, tear gas and other non-lethal weapons to contain massive demonstrations.

Despite the heavy volume of fire exchanged between Palestinian policemen and the IDF and despite the long training they have undergone, Palestinian policemen failed to reach high level of marksmanship and proficiency with their weapons. Unlike the September riots in which PSS officers succeeded in killing 14 Israeli soldiers including some senior officers, in October 2000 not one Israeli soldier has been killed in combat with Palestinian police officers. By and large, Palestinian fire was sporadic and inaccurate. The sniper units which concerned the IDF have, so far, been proven to lack the necessary readiness.

Inherent Problems

The main problem in the operations of the PSS is lack of coordination. Since the establishment of the PSS in 1994, Arafat has built his security forces in such a way that only he can arbitrate among the different forces. This system of command ensured in time of peace that none of the security forces becomes powerful enough to pose a threat to his leadership. The competition and tense relations that have developed between the security chiefs are hardly conducive for the creation of general-staff-like body to oversee and coordinate the operations of the security apparatuses. As a result, coordination between the forces is poor, security chiefs do not feel accountable to agreements made with their colleagues, and at times even use the existing chaos to undermine each other. For example, prior to Ariel Sharon's visit in Temple Mount the head of the Palestinian Preventive Security in the West Bank Jibril Rajoub assured Israel that the visit would not cause unrest. This guarantee was not upheld by the West Bank's head of General intelligence Tawfic Tirawi who reportedly orchestrated the anti-Israeli demonstrations which took place after the visit.

Further, as violence broke out, Arafat, the commander-in-chief of all Palestinian forces, chose to travel abroad rather than manage the crisis from his command post in Gaza. The system of command and control that is so characterized by Arafat's centralist style of command was doomed to collapse in his absence.

The Palestinians' weak command and control system may undermine their capability to engage in a long, protracted war against Israel. the disunity between the services and the absence of general-staff-like body prevents effective control over the levels of supplies, manpower and ammunition, all essential for the war effort.

Another problem the PSS face is the growing power of the Tanzim, the armed wing of Fatah, headed by Marwan Barghouti (see Peace Watch # 284).

Armed Tanzim activists tend to brush off the uniformed policemen and disobey their instructions. Palestinian policemen are reluctant to confront the militia which has grown to become the most visible and active armed body of the PA. Arafat, on his side, prefers to yield leading role of his armed intifada to the popular, plain clothed Tanzim activists. This enables him to present the Palestinian struggle as an authentic popular uprising. As a result, the units of the Palestinian police are prevented from exercising the power and authority granted to them by the Oslo agreement and the PA.


As the crisis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip seems to be escalating and more means of violence are gradually introduced, it is still unclear whether the weakness of the Palestinian police is due to low military effectiveness or a result of a calculated decision by Arafat to spare, at least for the moment, his uniformed armed forces from the fray. If the answer is the former, Arafat has surely noticed the weakness of his security services and is likely to continue to rely heavily on the loyalty and enthusiasm of the Tanzim as his main tool of war. Alternatively, Arafat could have chosen to keep the lion share of his security forces disengaged from the fighting and put them into action if and when an all-out-war with Israel is declared. This could explain why the PA has not used so far any of the anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons it is reported to have despite the fact that Israel has employed similar kinds of weapons against Palestinian targets. It could also explain why the Palestinian police has not launched organized attacks against Israeli targets despite their proven capability to do so.

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What Really Happened When Muchmud Al-dirah, the 12 Year-old Was Shot Dead

The Jerusalem weekly, Kol Ha'zman, published in its Oct. 6 issue an interview with Talal Abu Rachmah, the TV photographer who filmed the death of Muchmud Al-dirah, the 12 year-old child shot dead at Netzarim Junction on the third day of Arab rioting.

This is what he said:-

"I was in my Gaza City office when we received notice that there was shooting at Netzarim Junction...when I arrived there was already heavy shooting...the shots came from all over, heavy shooting from every direction, many shots from automatic weapons. It was terrible and I was forced to take cover inside the van...the shooting intensified and then, for the first time, some 15 meters in front of me, I saw the Reuters photojournalist hiding there and next to him, a man and a child...after a few minutes, the photojournalist managed to get out and the father and son crouched and compressed themselves between the low block wall and a large metal barrel. I heard him shouting and waving his hands in the direction of the shots...he continued shouting but wans't heard. Maybe he was trying to attract attention that they would know that he was there with the child...I thought that if I would move [in the direction of Al-dirah & son] then I would endanger the lives of the four other people with me.

Until that moment, it was clear to me that the [Israeli] soldiers did not notice that someone was hiding there...afterwards, I saw that he took out a mobile phone and spoke to someone, but he wasn't successful in conversing and then he took a bullet in the ambulance pulled up...and the soldiers continued shooting. The driver was hit and was killed. This lasted for a long time and then there was quiet for a few seconds and then, 'boom', I heard another sound, different, louder than what I heard previously. The area where they were taking cover filled with debris dust, we didn't see a thing and when it disspated, I saw that the child who was all the time close to his father, was lying on the ground, his face in the earth".

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White House Lobbied For Clinton Nobel Peace Prize
Rita Cosby
Fox TV News

WASHINGTON Two Norwegian public-relations executives and one member of the Norwegian Parliament say they were contacted by the White House to help campaign for President Clinton to receive this year's Nobel Peace Prize for his work in trying to negotiate peace in the Middle East. Norwegian officials confirmed that President Clinton is one of the finalists among the 150 people who were nominated this year. The Nobel Peace Prize winner will be announced Friday morning.

Members of Norwegian Parliament, along with other leaders around the world, can officially nominate candidates, but it is considered highly unethical in Norway to actively campaign for a peace-prize candidate, and especially so to contact the five members of the peace-prize committee, four of whom are former members of the Norwegian Parliament.

One current member of Parliament, who did not want his name disclosed, told Fox News that he was contacted in May of this year by a White House official asking for his help to get President Clinton this year's prize. The member said he told the White House official he was not able to do that, but he said he is certain another member took on the task.

Executives at two Norwegian public-relations firms, who admitted they have privately assisted peace-prize candidates with research and garnering support in the past, said they were contacted by a member of Parliament at the end of May asking whether their firm was interested in conducting a discreet campaign on President Clinton's behalf.

One of the executives said he received a second call about two weeks later in which he was told that another firm would be handling the job for a six-figure sum. The other executive would not say whether his company handled the work, but only that he had received the initial call.

Officials in Norway say if it became public that a public-relations executive was actively soliciting for a peace-prize candidate, it would ruin the firm's reputation and that any extensive involvement by a member of Parliament would cause that official to lose his job.

According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, nominees for the awards are supposed to be kept secret so that candidates do not know they are in contention. When asked about this information, White House spokesman Jake Siewert said there is no truth to the rumor that the president or anyone else at the White House has contacted any member of the Norwegian Parliament, anyone on the actual peace prize committee or any public-relations firm to campaign for the president for the coveted prize.

Siewert further said that individuals may perhaps be pretending to act on the president's behalf, but that if so, the White House and the president aren't involved. Alfred Nobel, a scientist who >died in 1896, held more than 350 patents developed in laboratories he founded in more than 20 countries around the world. He was best known in his lifetime for having invented dynamite, which he considered a tool misused for destruction. Supposedly motivated by guilt over his explosive invention, Nobel stipulated in his will that the Norwegian Parliament appoint a five-person independent committee to award five prizes each year to people who in the preceding year "shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind." The first prizes were awarded in 1901. Nobel deemed one part of the prize money, which originated with his dynamite fortune, be given to the person who "shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The Nobel committee invites thousands of scientists, academics and university professors in numerous countries to nominate candidates to receive prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. In 1968, the Bank of Sweden established an additional prize for economics in honor of Nobel and to celebrate its 300th anniversary.

The winners of this year's six Nobel awards will share $9 million in award money, up from $7.9 million shared by six individuals and one organization last year. Past Nobel peace prize recipients include Mother Teresa, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Holocaust researcher Elie Wiesel, the Dalai Lama, former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger, South African peace activist the Rev. Desmond Tutu, Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, former U.N. secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold, medical researcher Albert Schweitzer, and U.S. presidents Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt.

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A Journalist's Perspective:
One Sided Reporting From Israel: Why?
Steven Rosenberg

As a newspaper editor, I am loathe to criticize other media outlets. While we strive for objective reporting, I understand there is no such thing as objectivity in journalism. When it comes to editorial policy, however, it’s important to discern between news and opinion. News belongs in one part of the paper or TV or radio program; editorials and opinions belong on the editorial pages, or editorial section of the broadcast. In a fair-minded operation, editorial policy should not interfere with getting the facts straight.

Unfortunately, the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East has brought out the worst in the American media. Overall, the reporting has been shallow, lending no real insight into the reasons behind the conflict. This has led to mistakes, bad reporting and a blurring of editorial policy that has portrayed Israel as the Goliath in this current mess.

The worst case so far of blatant anti-Israel sentiment was recorded in the Los Angeles Times. It printed a viciously anti-Semitic cartoon portraying a couple of religious Jews bowing before the Wailing Wall. The cartoonist had rearranged the stones of the wall to create the word “HATE.” The caption underneath reads: “Worshiping Their God ...”

Another serious case occurred in the Boston Globe on Rosh Hashanah. The Globe ran a large Associated Press color photo at the top of their front page, showing a menacing Israeli soldier wielding a club over a bleeding “Palestinian.” The Globe knew that using such a powerful photo would elicit strong emotions from its readers, and would shape public opinion.

But the Associated Press passed along the wrong caption to the Globe (along with the New York Times). The wounded “Palestinian” was an American Jewish student, Tuvia Grossman, who had been pulled from his car and stabbed by Palestinians and left to die. The Israeli soldier had intervened to protect Grossman.

The Globe ran a “make up” story by the AP on Grossman, and later did a small story on the error itself. The Globe and Times also printed corrections. But the damage was done.

On Tuesday night’s “Nightline,” Ted Koppel spent the first 15 minutes of his program explaining why his “Jerusalem Town Meeting” almost didn’t occur. He blamed it on Israeli government security which insisted on protecting Israel’s deputy foreign minister and Jerusalem’s mayor with arms. Again, “Nightline” was out of line in its request. Instead of reporting news, its editorial policy became bigger than the story. Which begs the question: When was the last time a foreign TV network walked into Washington and started dictating the terms of security? How would the U.S. Secret Service tolerate taking orders?

Print and broadcast news reporters have fallen into a general type of “pack” reporting. No reporter has broken any real news, but many important stories have fallen through their hands. Yes, they covered obvious stories, like the death of the 12-year-old boy in Gaza. But one of the major stories, the destruction of one of Judaism’s holiest sites, Joseph’s Tomb, was written off as just Palestinian exuberance. Would it have been the same if Israel had destroyed one of Islam’s holiest mosques?

Other barely reported stories: PA Police Chief Rayoub Jabril giving Ariel Sharon the green light to visit the Temple Mount; Arafat’s threat to declare war on Israel in a Saudi interview; the PA offering $2,000 to families whose children become martyrs; the Palestinians reconstructing Joseph’s Tomb as a mosque.

A reporter’s job in Israel is a plum assignment, however, many reporters simply don’t do their homework in preparing to cover the region. They arrive in Jerusalem, get their press card at the Israel Government Press Office, and are waved away by the Israelis. Minutes later, they invariably meet a representative of the Jerusalem Media Communications Center. Run by former PLO diplomat Ghassan Khatib, the JMCC is employed by 99 percent of the foreign journalists in Israel. Called “fixers,” they provide background material, briefings, translators, drivers, interviews and will arrange virtually anything for a reporter. Need a photo taken, or a violent scene? They’ll bring a reporter into the heart of the violence, and almost on cue, the rioting will begin.

Israel should have a similar organization to at least make it a level playing field. But, public relations has never been Israel’s strong suit, hence the situation Israel often finds itself in with the press. When background information, photos, interviews and briefings are readily abundant, it makes a reporter’s life much easier. It’s a subjective viewpoint, but unfortunately, that’s what the world receives most of the time from Israel.

Steven Rosenberg is the editor of The Jewish Advocate.

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Current CNN Middle East Coverage:
When Skewed Language Distorts Reporting
Daphne Burdman, M.D.

As a retired Research Associate at the "Harry S Truman, Institute for Research into the Advancement of Peace", of The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, I would like to provide the following short comment on the CNN coverage of the current situation in the Middle East.

The pattern of repeated usage of certain key phrases by your commentators invokes an immediate negative emotional and cognitive response towards Israel and Israeli policy, particularly on international listeners who may have few or no other news sources.

For example "Violence Erupted", or "Hostilities broke out ...when Israeli troops started firing on Palestinians who had been throwing stones. " (as reported by CNN on Oct 6 00). The first impact on the listener is that of "Violence", or "Hostilities" followed a fraction of a second later by the impact of "Israelis" so that the two are immediately linked in the listeners' mind as Israelis shooting at Palestinians. Only after that comes the information that the Palestinians initiated this by stone-throwing. With listeners continuing to follow the commentary, the mental backtracking necessary to place these events in the sequence of their prior occurrence while listening to new material, is likely to be absent or erroneous. Violence of itself does not simply ERUPT. A human action CAUSES it to happen, and this terminology permits the linkage of VIOLENCE/ISRAELIS, even though the initial violence in the given example was of Palestinian stone-throwing, in this case on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall from the Temple Mount.

(This device has been used repeatedly by authors describing the outbreak of those Arab-Israeli wars initiated by Arabs, to de-emphasize the fact of Arab aggression.)

Another devise is the use of the word "Victims". For example, on October 9, 2000, after Mr Barak's demand for an end to violence or the threat of strong measures to contain it if it continued beyond 48 hours, CNN reported an exchange of fire which during this 48 hour lull was supposed according to the conditions imposed on the I.D.F., to not involve the use of live ammunition. CNN stated however that scraps of bullets and shrapnel removed from the Palestinian "victims" appeared to have come from live ammunition. Since this episode occurred in the context of stone-throwing, why were the Palestinians labelled as victims?. Why were they not labelled as INJURED or WOUNDED?. This has been a repeated misuse of the word "victim", which is innately derogatory to the Israeli soldiers. "Injured", or "Wounded", is neutral with no condemnatory significance and no connotation of causality. It is inherently more accurate reporting. Yet "victims" is always used synonymously with the Palestinians. Since on many occasions we have clearly seen numerous Palestinians attacking Israeli posts with numerous simultaneously hurled stones, followed by shooting from the Israeli post, why is CNN not using a neutral terminology?

In the name of not making a future settlement more difficult, there has been on the part of the international bodies a concerted effort not to lay blame, and not to encourage this on the part of the antagonists. In general. This policy has been used, or has resulted in, staying away from clear-cut reporting of events and has been obfuscating matters. This in the long run is not conducive towards the encouragement of any honest peace process.

Over these techniques, CNN clearly has control.

A more dubious situation arises regarding the responsibility of CNN when Palestinians are being interviewed, as on Oct 5 or 6 00. At that time Hannan Ashrawi talked about Israeli soldiers "shooting innocent [Palestinian] civilians". What is she talking about? Repeatedly we have seen rock-hurling mobs, mostly of young Palestinian boys, later followed by Israeli countermeasures. So these are not simply innocent civilians. Such statements should be publicly questioned and refuted; individual events which do indeed fulfill Mrs Ashrawi's description should be specified as to time and place instead of presented as a blanket description of Israeli behavior.

I trust that you will seriously consider these remarks in terms of setting future policy.

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