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Remember the bombing of an Israeli school bus filled with children in November 2000?
Well, if a report on the front page of today’s Yediot Ahronot is accurate, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is about to let one of the main perpetrators off the hook.
Rashid Abu Shabak, the deputy head of the Preventive Security Services in Gaza, is one of two senior Palestinians wanted for their involvement in terror that Sharon has agreed to remove from Israel’s list of wanted suspects as a “gesture” to the Palestinians.
Media reports at the time indicated that Abu Shabak was caught on tape discussing the bus bombing with his boss, Mohammad Dahlan – before it had actually happened. Abu Shabak is also said to have personally supervised the preparation of the bomb used in the attack, while people under him were involved in the planning and implementation of the assault (Ha'aretz, November 23, 2000).
Two Israeli school teachers were killed in the bus bombing, which took place near Kfar Darom, and three young children from the same family all lost limbs as a result of the blast. One of the other 6 victims injured in the attack was an American citizen.
Abu Shabak is also said to have been involved in the past in handing out mortar shells to terrorists in Gaza to fire at Israeli communities (Israel Radio, April 21, 2001), and was accused by Sharon’s own spokesman, Raanan Gissin, as being behind an effort to build a factory in Gaza that would produce nitric acid, a key ingredient used in making heavy-duty explosives (Associated Press, November 25, 2002).
Say what you will about the peace process, or making concessions to the Palestinians – but when it comes to basic issues of morality and justice, there can not possibly be any compromises.
To let a vile thug like Rashid Abu Shabak go unpunished is simply unthinkable. His entire career has been devoted to violence, murder and mayhem. That Ariel Sharon would choose to give Abu Shabak a “free pass”, rather than a small cell with bars on the windows, is an outrage, pure and simple.
Sadly, this is probably just a taste of things to come. Nonetheless, we can not let our leadership deceive us into thinking that such “gestures” are necessary or even desirable – for as it should be clear by now, any process built on a foundation of immorality can not, and will not, endure.
Throughout Europe and elsewhere, a series of commemorations are being held this week to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Among the most impressive ceremonies held so far was the one convened by the United Nations General Assembly, which called a special session in New York. It was the first time the UN had ever paid tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.
It would be easy, of course, to dismiss this, particularly in light of the UN’s long history of anti-Israel posturing and anti-Zionist pomposity. Easy - but mistaken.
The ceremony held at UN headquarters is in fact of great significance. As the number of Holocaust survivors continues to dwindle with the passage of time, it becomes ever more important to remind the world of what was done to our people. There are so many wackos out there insisting the Holocaust never happened, or accusing Israel of inflating the number of victims for political gain, that it is imperative to garner as many voices as possible on behalf of the truth.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, gave a particularly good speech at the event, the last two paragraphs of which read as follows:
As the number of survivors shrinks all the time, we are on the brink of that moment, when this terrible event will change - from memory, to history. Let all of us gathered here pledge, never to forget the victims, never to abandon the survivors, and never to allow such an event ever to be repeated.
As the Foreign Minister of Israel, the sovereign state of the Jewish people, I stand before you, to swear, in the name of the victims, the survivors, and all the Jewish people: Never again.
Those are powerful words.
Ironically enough, they were said on the very same day that the chief of the Mossad was testifying before a committee in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, about Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear weapons.
The Iranians, of course, have made clear that their objective is to eliminate the State of Israel and wipe it off the map, G-d forbid.
And so, six decades after Auschwitz, the Jewish people still find themselves confronted by an implacable foe bent on their destruction.
If the Foreign Minister’s pledge is to have any true and lasting meaning, then Israel may have no choice but to use its military to put an end to the frightening possibility of atomic Ayatollahs wreaking havoc on the region.
As alarming as such a scenario might sound, we can at least take comfort in knowing that this time around, we have the tools and the ability to confront such threats and deal with them.
Whether our leaders have the wisdom and foresight to use those tools – well, that is something only time will tell. Let’s hope and pray that they do.
The sharp drop in Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza over the past few days since the deployment of Palestinian policemen in the northern part of the strip proves three key points:
1) Palestinian responsibility for terror - If the Palestinian Authority (PA) wants to prevent attacks against Israel, it can do so. In just a matter of a few days, the PA was able to clamp down – which once again underlines the Palestinian leadership’s direct responsibility for all the violence that has occurred until now. Had they wished to, they could have stopped it at any time.
2) Watch out for Abu Mazen - Newly-elected Palestinian chairman Abu Mazen is much smarter (and therefore much more dangerous) than his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. Whereas Arafat would typically have taken only a few limited measures before making utterly ridiculous demands of Israel, Abu Mazen has gone one step further. He has created a terrific Palestinian photo-op – that of armed Palestinian policemen on patrol, ostensibly to prevent mortar attacks on Israel. He’ll give Israel a couple of days of quiet – and then will undoubtedly ask for some “gestures” or “concessions” to bring back to “his people”. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, of course, will be hard-pressed not to give in.
3) All this is beside the point – The fact is that even if Abu Mazen does succeed in bringing about a week or two of quiet on the Gaza front, this is beside the point. The main issue remains that the terrorist groups such as Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad, all have the manpower and infrastructure in place to resume anti-Israel attacks at any time. Their agreement to a temporary cease-fire is tactical, not strategic – as far as they are concerned, this is little more than a chance to take a few days off and recoup before going back out to wage war on the Jewish state. The only way for Israel to ensure that the threat of rocket attacks from Gaza is eliminated once and for all is to eliminate the terrorists who pose the threat. Anything less is just biding for time, and nothing more.
Last week, after a Palestinian suicide bombing attack on January 13, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to “freeze” all contact with the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Yesterday, after a wave of Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli towns and cities, Sharon decided to… resume contact with the leadership of the PA.
Is this making sense to anyone?
Let’s leave aside, for the moment, whatever you might think about the PA itself, and focus instead on the tactics being adopted by Israel.
Presumably, the “freeze” imposed on ties with the Palestinians was intended to send a message to newly-elected Palestinian chairman Abu Mazen that Israel’s patience was wearing thin with intensifying terror attacks against the Jewish state.
The Palestinians responded to Sharon’s “freeze” with more “heat”, launching still more attacks against Israel. To react to this upsurge in violence by resuming contact, rather than fighting back, is nothing short of astonishing.
Essentially, Sharon has zig-zagged from tough talk to tender chatter, in the process making Israel look flippant and even foolish in the eyes of the Palestinians.
Why should the PA leadership ever again take Sharon’s threats seriously if he so quickly retreats from them within a matter of mere days?
Whatever the coming days will bring, as the PA deploys its security forces throughout northern Gaza, one thing is for sure: Israel’s defensive posture has once again taken a painful, and completely self-inflicted, blow, courtesy of Ariel Sharon.
Hundreds of residents of Sderot, the Israeli town in the Negev that has been the target of repeated Palestinian rocket attacks, are today conducting a protest march that will take them to the Gaza village of Beit Hanun, from where the bulk of the rockets have been launched.
The people of Sderot are angry, and justifiably so – their lives have been disrupted by the near-daily assault on their city, and they are fed up with the government’s thus far empty promises to bring about an end to the rocket attacks against them.
The campaign launched by Sderot’s residents has been the subject of intense coverage in the Israeli media in recent days. It has dominated the airwaves and the print media, and has led off the evening news. In-depth reports have looked at the psychological toll of the rocket attacks on Sderot, in addition to the physical and economic damage that have been caused.
And this is how it should be – after all, it is the media’s job to be telling us this story, and drawing the public’s attention to what the residents of Sderot are being forced to endure.
The responsible manner in which the media has been covering Sderot, however, stands in sharp contrast with the irresponsible way in which they have failed to adequately report on similar attacks against Jewish communities in Gaza.
It is hard to escape the feeling that the assaults on Gush Katif and its residents just don’t seem to matter as much to the pundits and anchormen because the victims are “settlers” rather than “Israelis”.
I sincerely hope this is not the case, but the very absence of balanced reporting on what the Jews of Gaza are going through does raise more than a few question marks.
Regardless of what one’s position might be on the presence of Jews in Gaza, the fact is that they are Israeli citizens no less than their neighbors in Sderot, Tel Aviv or anywhere else. As such, they deserve the same amount of compassion, sympathy and – yes – coverage, as do other Israelis coming under attack.
I am glad that the Israeli media has decided to hear the cry of Sderot and give its inhabitants a platform to reach out to the public. But it’s time for them to stop with their selective hearing (and selective reporting, as well) and to give the Jews of Gush Katif their fair share of exposure, too.