Friday, May 11, 2012

“Where’s the Outrage?

In 1997, I wrote the following article, “Where’s the Outrage?” for The Wall Street Journal. It deals with the treatment of Arabs under Arafat’s leadership. Conditions have worsened since this article was printed.

On May 31, Ali Jamhour, a resident of a refugee camp east of Jerusalem, was found shot to death after he’d been questioned by Yasser Arafat’s security forces about allegedly brokering land sales to Jewish Israelis. Jamhour was the third Palestinian land dealer killed after a Muslim cleric urged the killing of any Palestinian who’d sold land to Israelis; all were executed gangland-style by a bullet to the head. On June 1, Israeli police foiled the kidnapping of a fourth broker, in the process of uncovering evidence that high-ranking Palestinian officials are behind the murders.

While U.S. officials have deplored the killings, the White House has so far been strangely reticent in condemning the Palestinian Authority. Let Israel open a new exit to an old tunnel, or start construction on a new neighborhood in Jerusalem, and President Clinton immediately summons Prime Minister Netanyahu to Washington for a one-on-one session of diplomatic arm-twisting. So why doesn’t Mr. Clinton yank Yasser Arafat by the lapels of his dictator-style military uniform, and explain to him that you cannot make peace through murder?

The answer is that the U.S. like most of the world, follows a double standard when it comes to Israeli-Arab conflicts. It’s OK to vilify Israel for any act that might appear to be an exercise of sovereignty, yet each Palestinian violation of the peace agreement receives no more than a wink.

It is one thing to forbid the sale of land to foreigners. A number of countries, particularly small countries surrounded by hostile neighbors, do the same; Israel itself has restricted selling land to Arabs. It is another thing, however, to kill those who violate the real estate restrictions. Imagine if Israel has announced it would impose the death penalty on anyone who sold land to Arabs. That would be front-page news around the world, and the U.S. President would issue a strongly-worded statement taking Israel to task for such an outrage. A White House summit would be scheduled, and the U.N. would instantly pass a resolution condemning Israel.

Yet when the Palestinian Authority continually made such a pronouncement and bodies started piling up, it took two weeks for any Clinton administration official to go on the record condemning the policy. It took longer still for the story to appear on the nightly news, and even then reporters passed along, without comment, the Palestinian’s stock attempt to shift the blame. Perhaps the Israelis themselves were responsible, they suggested.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, by contrast, has taken swift action. When Israeli intelligence turned up a Palestinian Authority hit list of 16 land dealers that included the names of the three already killed, Mr. Netanyahu called an emergency security session. The Netanyahu administration authorized the installation of alarm systems in the brokers’ homes and increased police patrols in their neighborhoods.

Mr. Netanyahu also authorized an arrest warrant for a senior Palestinian official implicated in the land dealer executions. Israel security says it’s established that the murders were carried out with the participation, as well as the approval of the Palestinian Authority. When Israel police foiled the June 1 kidnapping attempt, six armed men were arrested as they tried to flee to Ramallah, a Palestinian-controlled town just north of Jerusalem. Four of the would-be kidnappers were members of the Palestinian Authority security services. During the chase, the suspects ditched several weapons, one of which turned out to be the weapon used in two of the recent murders.

Such violence “goes against the grain of everything we expect the Palestinians to do to achieve peace between us,” Mr. Netanyahu told Israeli radio.

Finally, Mr. Arafat responded—by telling a press conference that the Palestinian Authority had not authorized these murders and that he denounces terrorism. Within 24 hours, however, liberal Arutz Sheva radio in Israel reported, “The PA is continuing its efforts against Arabs suspected of selling land to Jews. It has abducted another 12 such persons, including some Israeli citizens.”

Senator Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, have announced they will oppose any further aid to the Palestinians until they revoke their call to kill Arabs who sell land to Jews. It’s time for President Clinton to do the same. Otherwise, Yasser Arafat and his deputized terrorists will be getting away with murder.”

No comments:

Post a Comment