March 14, 1998
Yesterday afternoon I witnessed an amazing event during a meeting of Arab and Israeli officers in the middle of a street, covered with rocks and the remnants of firebombs. Rocks had been flying for well over an hour. 'Palestinian police' and Arafat's soldiers did virtually nothing to stop the rioting. The scene looked similar to a game of tag. A rock-thrower would be chased by an uniformed Arab, sometimes caught, and then pushed back into the mob.
Suddenly a group of Arabs, not all in uniform, headed to the middle of the street and motioned to their Israeli counterparts to do the same. (Those not in uniform are usually 'security or intelligence' officers, under the command of Jibril Rajoub.) Shortly a dialogue began, with the Arabs shouting at the Israelis in Arabic. After a few minutes someone translated for the Israelis not understanding. A few more minutes and a deal was struck. The Arabs demanded that no Israeli soldiers be seen on the street opposite the Arafat controlled part of the city, ON THE ISRAELI SIDE. In other words, the Arabs were dictating where Israeli soldiers could be stationed in our section of the city! In return, the Arab officers promised to stop the rioting.
The Israeli officers agreed, and shortly afterwards, implemented the agreement.
It's also interesting to note that while the two sides were meeting in the middle of the street, Arabs continued hurling rocks, even thought their own officers were exposed to the falling shards of stone. One piece of concrete hit me in the chest as I was filming the pow-wow, along with other reporters. Fortunately, I was not badly hurt.
Last Tuesday night a van with blue (Arab) license plates plowed into an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint called Tarkumia, about 15-20 miles outside of Hebron, and about 30 miles from Kiryat Gat, to the west. According to the soldier who was hit, 'I saw him (the driver) look straight at me, turn the steering wheel, and aim for me.'
Other soldiers at the checkpoint had reason to believe that a terrorist attack was in progress and they were next in line to be run down. So they started shooting. Three Arabs in the front seat of the van were killed.
Why would the soldiers think that an Arab might try and kill them by plowing his van into them?
On October 11, 1991 two soldiers killed when a van, driven by an Arab drove into a group of soldiers at the Tel HaShomer Junction in Tel Aviv.
On July 19, 1991 one soldier was killed Nitzanim Junction in Gazza by an Arab, whose vehicle ran him down.
On July 9, 1991 an attempt was made to run over an Israeli soldier near Ramallah.
On March 15, 1993 two men were killed near the Jewish community Eli, in the Shomron, when an Arab vehicle intentionally plunged into them.
Almost immediately following the shooting, before any investigation or conclusions, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu initiated a phone call to Yassir Arafat to 'express his condolences' for the 'palestinian loss of life.' The soldiers involved in the shooting were immediately arrested and held for two days in jail. Since the event, rioting and shooting haven't stopped in Hebron. On Friday morning an explosive device blew up near the Shechem Gate in Jerusalem. Security forces believe that the package was targeted for a terrorist attack in the center of Jerusalem. This afternoon an Israeli was seriously injured when a bomb exploded at the Afula central bus station. Afula is only a few kilometers from Jenin, now under Arafat's control.
Last week opposition Labor leader Ehud Barak stuck his foot in his mouth by stating that if he had been born an Arab, he would have joined a terrorist group. (There was a ruckus in the Knesset when an MK asked Barak which organization he would have joined had he been born to German parents in Nazi Germany.) Barak has been attacked for his statement because it justifies and legitimizes Arab terrorist activities. As a matter of fact, during the trial of terrorists from the Tzurif cell of the Hamas organization, one terrorist claimed that he and his comrades based their case on Barak's remark - "If I were a Palestinian, I'd join a terrorist organization." These terrorists are responsible for, among other incidents, the attack on the Apropos cafe in Tel Aviv, and the murder of soldier Sharon Edri.
However, in my opinion, Netanyahu's condolence call to Arafat is much more harmful than Barak's stupid declaration. It is a perfect example of Jewish apologetics. The soldiers at the checkpoint did exactly what they are taught to do - to protect themselves and other Israelis. How does it look when the Israeli prime minister goes running to the bloodiest terrorist in the twentieth century, second only to Hitler in his determination to exterminate Jews, apologizing for the legitimate actions of his own countrymen, serving in the IDF. It is a green light to Arab terrorists, flashing, "we did something wrong - take advantage of this - it is a good excuse for violence and more attempts to kill Israelis." Why does the Israeli prime minister have to add credence to Arafat's assertions that Israel is against peace and that all violence is a result of Israeli provocation and violations of the 'peace accords?'
Since the Tarkumia incident an investigation have shown that most likely the truck's gas pedal got stuck and that the truck ran out of control, causing it to hit the soldier. While nobody is in favor of killing innocent civilians, under any circumstances, Israel and the Israeli soldiers did nothing wrong. Unfortunately, realities of the Israeli-Arab conflict sometimes conclude in tragedy. But that is no excuse for Israeli groveling.
Since Tuesday night, Israeli Hebron has been held hostage by Arabs surrounding the Jewish neighborhoods. The shooting that we warned of before the implementation of the Oslo Accords is an actuality. On the one hand Israeli media is placing all responsibility for violence in Hebron on the city's Jewish residents. On the other hand, tonight Kol Yisrael news broadcast that the Palestinian Authority announced that Arab disturbances would continue until the soldiers who shot at Tarkumia are put on trial. This means that the rioting will not end for quite some time. Does this mean that Hebron will continue to be 'open territory, without appropriate intervention by the Israeli government and the IDF? Or perhaps they don't really care what happens to the Jews in Hebron?
But not only is Hebron being held hostage. The State of Israel is being held hostage, not by the Arabs, but by ourselves. Until our self-image changes and we realize that Erez Yisrael belongs to us, and that we really do have a legitimate right to be here, we will continue to cower behind apologetics that, sixty years ago, resulted in a holocaust. We must stop regretting our existence and stop flinching every time Arafat, or anyone else, flexes his muscles. After fifty years of statehood, it's time to start growing up.