Jewish World Review Nov. 14, 2002 / 9 Kislev, 5763

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
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MURDER AT A KIBBUTZ | His name, it turns out, is Sirhan Sirhan. Unlike his more famous namesake, who is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison in California, this Sirhan Sirhan is reportedly a member of the Tanzim, the armed wing of al-Fatah, Yasser Arafat's faction of the PLO. On Sunday, he entered Kibbutz Metzer in northern Israel and murdered five people.

He began by shooting Tirtza Damari, 42, who was out for a walk with her boyfriend. Then he killed Yitzhak Drori, the head of the kibbutz secretariat, who had heard the gunshots and rushed over to help. Next he kicked in the door of the Ohayon home, where 34-year-old Revital Ohayon had been reading a bedtime story to her sons Noam, 4, and Matan, 5. He killed her first, riddling her body with bullets as she tried desperately to block the doorway to the children's bedroom. Then he fired at Noam and Matan, shooting them dead as they cowered in their beds. Matan died with the two pacifiers he liked to take to bed, one to suck on, one to hold. Sirhan escaped into the night.

Before security officials identified Sirhan and the Tanzim as the killers, another terror group took credit for the slaughter. "In response to the continued Zionist aggression against our people," the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade -- another al-Fatah subgroup -- said in a statement, "one of our martyrs raided the settlement of Metzer. Five Zionists were killed and several wounded by the bullets of the Brigades. We pledge that there will be more martyrdom attacks until the defeat of the occupation forces."

It was the usual Palestinian boilerplate, routinely trotted out by those who see heroism in the murder of children. Meanwhile, the official Voice of Palestine Radio aired a report hailing the "operation" in Kibbutz Metzer, which it described as "a colony north of Tulkarm," an Arab city on the West Bank.

But Metzer isn't a "colony" or a "settlement," and it isn't in the West Bank. Nor is it populated by hawkish Israeli hardliners. Founded nearly 50 years ago by left-wing immigrants from Argentina, Metzer is located inside Israel proper. It is as well known for its dovish politics as for its friendly ties with neighboring Arabs, many of whom streamed into the kibbutz on Monday to offer condolences. In recent months, Metzer residents had even lobbied against a proposed government security fence out of concern that it would cut through olive groves owned by the nearby Arab village of Qafin.

Some of Metzer's doves are trying to convince themselves that their kibbutz was targeted because of its politics. "It was a planned and deliberate attack on the idea of peace," said Dov Avital, a longtime resident, "because that is what Metzer stands for."

It might be comforting to think so. But the raw truth is that the massacre in Metzer was an attack not on the idea of peace, but on the idea of Israel.

It was no accident that the terrorists' statement identified Metzer as a "settlement." To Fatah and the Tanzim, to Arafat and Hamas, every Jewish community in Israel is a "settlement," not just those located in the territories Israel seized in self-defense during the 1967 Six Day War. When the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, it was not in order to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, which were then occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively. The PLO's mission, then as now, was to "liberate" all of Israel, expel the Jews, and replace it with a new Arab state called Palestine.

It is one of the abiding myths of the Arab-Israel conflict that a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza is the key to peace. But if that were true, peace would have broken out in 2000, when former Prime Minster Ehud Barak proposed a sovereign Palestinian state comprising all of Gaza, virtually all of the West Bank, and half of Jerusalem. Arafat responded to Barak's offer by launching a new war of terrorism and bloodshed.

The only surprise is that anyone continues to be surprised. The al-Fatah constitution has long declared that "this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated." The Arabs have never made a secret of their aspiration.

A poll on one of the al-Fatah web sites, asks visitors whether they favor "martyrdom attacks" -- that is, terror attacks -- (a) within Israel proper, (b) within the 1967 territories only, (c) within both, or (d) not at all. As of midday Wednesday, 6.9 percent of respondents had chosen (a), 12.5 percent (b), and 69.1 percent (c). Only 11.6 percent favored an end to anti-Israel terrorism altogether. (Translation courtesy of the Israel Resource News Agency.)

It has never been about the 1967 territories. From the maps on its walls to the textbooks in its schools to the broadcasts on its airwaves, the Palestinian Authority, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, has always made clear that it craves much more. Arafat's war is not for a state in which Arabs can live beside their Jewish neighbors. It is for their Jewish neighbors' state. For all of it -- including Kibbutz Metzer.

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Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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