Jewish World Review Oct. 10, 2000/ 11 Tishrei, 5761
We weep for Rami for he is dead
The real hero of the Isaac story was the ram/
who didn't know about the conspiracy between the others/
As if he had volunteered to die instead of Isaac.
I want to sing a song in his memory/
about his curly wool and his human eyes...
These lines were written by the Israeli poet Yedhud Amichai, who died last month, but his words
could describe the world's grief at the death of Rami al-Dirreh, the 12-year old Palestinian boy
killed in the crossfire between Palestinian rioters and Jewish soldiers.
Rami was too young to fully appreciate the danger he faced, too young to fully understand why
bullets were flying overhead, or why, indeed, his father had chosen to take him to the riot. Not the
sort of occasion most fathers would take their children. But we all -- Jew, Muslim, Christian and
unbeliever -- weep for Rami, for he is dead, an innocent with human eyes who will never grow up to
understand how men can kill each other in the name of peace.
Such pity for the pitiless death of a small boy, however, shouldn't blind us to the facts of what is
going on in the West Bank, and why. Many blame Ariel Sharon, a fierce and handy villain for both
demonstrators and doves, for his visit to Jerusalem's Temple Mount, a holy site to both Arab and
Jew, during the Jewish New Year. Whatever his critics think of Sharon, he did not start this
violence. Palestinians were killing Israelis for two days before the leader of the Likud Party climbed
the Temple Mount.
Ehud Barak, Israeli prime minister, would have been irresponsible if he had not armed his soldiers
with real bullets after Yasser Arafat ignored pleas to rein in his lethal rioters. Barak believed what
the rest of us suspected, that the swift escalation of violence by the Palestinians could not have
erupted spontaneously, but had to be carefully planned and coordinated. These are not simply
children throwing rocks, but Palestinian police armed with rifles with lots of bullets. Surely Arafat
could have used his influence, even if his influence is not what it once was, to stop them.
Zalman Shoval, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States who now lives in Tel Aviv, tells
how quickly the stones and Molotov cocktails morphed into machine guns aimed at Israelis, and
asks: Where did the Palestinians get their illegal automatic weapons?
It's not difficult to imagine that Arafat planned the violence to strengthen his own hand and to extract
more concessions from Israel. A day before the rioting began, a bomb exploded on a bus in the
Gaza strip, killing an Israeli citizen. Palestinian security forces are suspected of planting it.
Enemies of Israel have taken advantage of the high holy days in the past, knowing this is a time
when Jews will be at prayer and reflection. The Yom Kippur War, after all, was not started by the
Nor should the rest of the world forget that the Temple Mount, sacred to all, was opened to all only
when Jerusalem was united in 1967. When it was under Arab control, Jews were denied access to
Foreign policy issues are easily reduced to soundbites in presidential debates, but both Al Gore and
George Bush should be put on the spot to clarify their intentions about what to do about Yasser
Arafat's double-dealing. George W. has no history on this, but Al Gore does.
In 1986, when he was a U.S. senator from Tennessee, Gore signed a letter urging that the United
States seek the indictment of Arafat for the 1973 murders of a U.S. ambassador and his charge
d'affairs in Khartoum. Intelligence tapes, obtained at that time, reflected the Arafat voice
congratulating the killers.
Three years later Gore along with 67 other senators wrote letters asking that George W.'s father's
administration deny a visa to Arafat when he was invited to address the United Nations. He firmly
refused then to accept moral equivalence between Israel and the PLO led by Arafat, though he
suggested he might change his mind if the PLO renounced violence against Israel. The violence, as
we have seen these past few days, has been escalated.
The Clinton-Gore administration has given Arafat new diplomatic legitimacy, a man deemed worthy
to negotiate an agreement for peace. The violence on Temple Mount reminds us all, Gore included,
that Arafat remains a wolf, his appetite unsated, posing in very tattered sheep's clothing. Rami
al-Dirre's human eyes were closed in death because others stood by, blinded by the real
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©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate