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Jewish World Review May 21, 2002 / 10 Sivan, 5762

Diana West

Diana West
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From terrorists to tourists | The standoff between the European Union and 13 Palestinian militants holed up at the Flamingo Hotel on Cyprus has lasted over a week.

Under the agreement that ended the last standoff at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, these "senior terrorists," as Israel calls them, are headed for "temporary" exile in the countries of Europe. But which countries, for how long, and under what conditions are just a few of the sticky questions that have turned some mighty slick diplomacy into one cheap package deal: eight days and seven nights (and counting), all expenses paid, on a sunny Larnaca beachfront. Terror-tourism has arrived.

Certainly, the terrorists have arrived. With the Middle East behind them, however, along with any imminent obligation to stand trial in Israel for attacks that include the January murder of Avi Boaz, a 71-year-old American citizen, and the March suicide bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket, these Palestinian desperadoes have been transformed - presto -- into international refugees. At least, they'll have "refugee status" once enough countries offer them refuge and what likely goes with it: a monthly stipend, shelter, clothing, even possible family reunions. Meanwhile, they are hotel "guests," "living it up," according to an article from Reuters, "on stuffed vine leaves, shrimps and moussaka and room service deliveries of ice cream and coffee." Who says terrorism doesn't pay?

"They are not going to be arrested or detained," declared Josep Pique of Spain, who currently holds the rotating E.U. presidency. "These people are classified as terrorists by Israel, but there are no outstanding cases against them in Europe." Not yet, anyway. So why the delay? One weensy problem is that some E.U. countries have laws that would seem to bar them from taking in "refugees" accused of planning suicide bombings and carrying out shootings in Israel.

Sounds like a lot of red tape to me. No doubt British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had it exactly right when he said the E.U. is "very happy" to be hosting the militants -- but not Britain, mind you. Having provided air travel to Cyprus for the Nativity 13, as well as having sent British prison "wardens" to Jericho to oversee apparently "junior" terrorists whose crimes don't rate a Grand Tour, Britain believes it has done its share. "The important thing is that the E.U. brokered a resolution of the Bethlehem standoff," Straw said this week. "This is hugely important in getting the Middle East peace process moving."

Anyway, it got these particular terrorists moving -- which suits some residents of Bethlehem just fine. It seems that to know this gang was to be terrorized by it, even if you were a Palestinian, and particularly if you were a Palestinian Christian. "Finally the Christians can breathe freely," a Christian mother of four told the Washington Times in an eye-popping account of a two-year reign of terror by Palestinian militants said to have included rape, extortion and murder. "We are so delighted that these criminals who have intimidated us for such a long time are now going away."

Criminals? My, my. And the European Union probably thought their new charges just made war on Israeli non-combatants. But there's more. Residents also told the newspaper that two of the 13, Jihad Jaara and Ibrahim Abayat, "took nine Muslims whom they suspected of collaborating with Israel into an apartment near Manger Square and fatally shot them" shortly before the battle that sent the gunmen fleeing to the Church of the Nativity. Israel, not so incidentally, blames Abayat for the death of Avi Boaz, an American killed earlier this year. (This fact, and U.S. government interest in determining what role, if any, Abayat played in the slaying, somehow escapes a lengthy cover-story in Newsweek that focuses on Abayat as one of "four tales" of the Nativity siege.)

Meanwhile, back at the church, stories are coming out with the dirty wash. Angry Greek Orthodox priests showed the Washington Times empty bottles of whiskey, vodka, cognac, wine -- even champagne -- they said had been guzzled by Palestinian gunmen, who, in two weeks, "ate like greedy monsters" through church food stores one attendant said should have lasted six months. No wonder everybody was so hungry.

A priest also showed reporters computers and a television set "dismantled for use as a hiding place for weapons." Indeed, a hugely underplayed story of the siege is an Israeli government assertion that army forces, on being asked by priests to search the church, found no less than 40 "explosive charges" hidden within walls, in corners of rooms and behind closets.

Not that the Europeans, of course, should have to worry about any of this. What's a few explosives among refugees? Besides, Yasser Arafat himself has personally guaranteed that his prize packages will be on their best behavior from now on.

JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


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04/29/02: It's the misconduct, stupid
04/24/02: Medal of diss-honor
04/17/02: Holy sanctuary or terrorist shield?
04/12/02: Egyptian clerics solicit martyrs for murder
04/09/02: Defining terrorism down
04/05/02: The Wilder life
04/02/02: Acting, equality and the Academy
03/31/02: Speeding to conclusions
03/25/02: Hard to remove blood (libel) stains
03/21/02: The tale of Nixon's tapes --- again
03/19/02: The Big Lie lives on
03/15/02: The tunnel vision of '9/11'
03/13/02: The American Auschwitz?
03/08/02: Hating the indoctrination of hate
03/05/02: Clinton and Enron: Old friends
03/01/02: Pickering doesn't polarize, the process does
02/26/02: Destiny's prefabricated child
02/22/02: The White House heist
02/20/02: Making the grade
02/11/02: Studying student visas
02/06/02: Understanding arrogance
02/04/02: The professor's war
01/29/02: Disconnected dialogue
01/23/02: Anti-Indiscrimination
01/18/02: How much is enough?
01/15/02: Oh brothers, where art thou?
01/10/02: Air on the side of caution
01/04/02: Blacks seeing red at Harvard
01/02/02: Clinton's campaign continues
12/26/01: A tale of two exhibitions
12/24/01: Taliban Idyll
12/19/01: Right is right
12/17/01: Hillary strikes out
12/13/01: Lost files, lost presidency
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12/05/01: Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore
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11/30/01: Beyond morality
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11/20/01: Tough talk at the United Nations
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11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
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10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
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09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
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07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
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06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
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04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West