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Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2001 / 28 Tishrei, 5762

Nat Hentoff

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Ariel Sharon spoke to the facts -- NEW YORK Mayor Rudy Giuliani, addressing the United Nations General Assembly recently, warned: "The era of moral relativism on terrorism must end." That message has yet to reach the White House and the State Department.

In trying to forge a coalition against the widely interconnected scourge of terrorism, the Bush administration is enlisting, or trying to neutralize, some nations that encourage or allow indirect fundraising for this murderous network.

Among the latter, Saudi Arabia comes to mind. And when the United States Security Council lifted sanctions from Sudan -- a sanctuary for Osama bin Laden from 1992 to 1996, and other terrorists since -- we remained silent and complicit.

In order to facilitate the coalition, the administration's most persistent pressure has been on Israel to engage once more in negotiations with Yasser Arafat. I have long been for an independent Palestinian state; but for President Bush to summon this "vision" at this point in the war on terrorism without first notifying Israel, is to reward Yasser Arafat. We have increased pressure on Israel to trust a negotiating partner who has initiated new violence from his side every time there is a cease-fire, or has not effectively punished the terrorists.

The administration is operating under an illusion that a root cause of terrorism is hatred of the United States because it is the ultimate supporter of Israel. Therefore, Israel must not only exercise restraint when it retaliates against the murder of its citizens, but it must do much more to accommodate Arafat's demands.

However, as Fouad Ajami, director of Middle Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University, points out in the Oct. 8 U.S. News & World Report: "The Arabs tell us all would have been well, and our presence in their world would have yielded a sweeter harvest, had we cast Israel adrift ... But nothing could be further from the truth. A deeper anti-Americanism grips Arab and Muslim lands.

"It has been America's fate to be caught in the crossfire of a war over Islam itself, a war between privilege and wrath, between the secular powers in the saddle and a nativist-pious opposition from below."

For a long time, the terrorists' fierce, abiding goal is to hijack the Muslim religion, which does not condone such atrocities as suicide bombing.

In the Oct. 5 New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman, hardly an uncritical analyst of Israeli acts, notes: "We know the Sept. 11 attack was being planned a year ago -- exactly when President Clinton was proposing to Yasser Arafat," the deepest accommodations any Israeli government had ever made.

Yet, Friedman adds, "this terrorism was being planned because America was trying to build Israeli-Palestinian co-existence, not because it wasn't."

And Julie Sirrs, a journalist who in four trips to Afghanistan, has interviewed prisoners of the Northern Alliance who had been fighting with bin Laden -- tells Albert Hunt in the Oct. 4 Wall Street Journal that an actual peace between Palestinians and Israelis would not deflect the terrorists. "They see," she says, "America as a barrier to establishing an Islamic state. Even if the Israeli-Palestinian issue were resolved, that wouldn't change."

Ariel Sharon, under insistent pressure from Colin Powell, permitted Shimon Peres to meet with Arafat; a ceasefire was agreed on; and thereafter, as Sharon says, the attacks on Israeli citizens, launched each time by Palestinians, did not stop "for even one day."

So, Sharon now tells the Bush administration -- which will not even include Hamas, Hezbollah, or Islamic Jihad, in its list of terrorists -- "Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense. From now on, we will count only on ourselves. There is no such thing as good terrorism and bad terrorism. Terrorism blindly kills innocent people, and I instructed my security forces to take all the necessary measures to confront the Palestinian terrorists." He has apologized for a metaphor linking the president to Neville Chamberlain. Now that the war on terrorism has begun, who is our more reliable ally: Sharon or Arafat?

In Elei Sinai, Gaza Strip, during the ceasefire 12-year-old Haniel Gross and friends, rehearsing for a celebration of their settlement's founding, suddenly saw two men in combat fatigues, firing wildly "... at us. They were taking aim. You don't know if you can go to sleep without anything happening to you."

You can be murdered in this jihad while you're awake. Haniel Gross did not attack first. She had nothing with which to attack or defend herself.

JWR contributor Nat Hentoff is a First Amendment authority and author of numerous books. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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