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Jewish World Review March 8, 2002 /24 Adar, 5762

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
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No sanctuary for terror -- AMERICANs learned this past week that the fight against terrorism can be high. The ongoing U.S. military operations against Al Qaeda terrorists in eastern Afghanistan resulted in eight deaths of American servicemen.

While the prayers of all Americans are with the families of those who died in the fierce fighting, the nation seems united behind the efforts of our forces to finish the job there.

Nor is much credence being given to rumblings on the left or from Europe that question the justice of America's campaign. The idea of Al Qaeda being able to continue its career from the remote mountains of Afghanistan or anywhere else is simply unacceptable. The memories of Sept. 11 are still too fresh to allow us to to let these killers off the hook.

Yet that same understanding of the dynamic of terrorism and the need to strike down its perpetrators wherever they may be is not always present in some accounts of recent events in Israel.

The last week has brought Israel no relief from Palestinian terrorism. Arab suicide bombers and gunmen - associated both with Islamic groups and those linked to Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat - have murdered dozens of Jews in recent days, including innocent children.

In response, Israel has launched raids on terrorist hideouts - not on the other side of the world as the United States has done - but on Palestinian towns and refugee camps just miles from Israeli population centers that the Fatah Party's Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade have employed as safe havens. Israel has also attacked facilities of Arafat's "police," who, when not actually participating in anti-Israel terror themselves, are actively aiding other terrorists.

Israel's actions are routinely portrayed as a part of a "cycle of violence." In news accounts, Israel's efforts to root out terrorists are put down as part of a tit-for-tat retaliation for Arab atrocities that are reported as themselves "retaliation" for acts of Israeli self-defense.

Indeed, even the government of the United States and, particular, Secretary of State Colin Powell, have criticized Israel for pursuing policies that he claims have failed.

The result is that many in this country, including many Jews, are unable to distinguish between Arabs who deliberately incinerate Jewish babies in their strollers on a Saturday night in Jerusalem and Israeli soldiers who are fighting their way into a terrorist stronghold.

In our revulsion against the horrifying losses of the last weeks and months, many of us mindlessly strike out at Israel and blame it. While Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's administration is just as imperfect as every other democratic regime in the world - including our own - this is unfair.

The principle underlying Israel's military policy is no different from that of the United States in Afghanistan. There must be no sanctuary for terror in the Middle East or anywhere else.

Israel's foes, namely the Palestinian Authority and PA leader Yasser Arafat's own Fatah movement, are now openly fighting a war of attrition against Israel. Their methods are suicide bombers, snipers, missiles and mortars. In the face of these attacks, does Secretary Powell, or the editorial writers at The New York Times really think Israel's only answer is to give up and initiate negotiations while the Palestinians are still killing? In fact, that is what Arafat aide Marwan Barghouti told The New York Times on March 7. The only point of such negotiations will be to facilitate Israel's surrender of strategic lands from which Arafat and Barghouti can launch further raids against Israel.

The same would be true of the so-called "peace plan" attributed to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. In that case, too, peace means only Israeli territorial surrender which would set the stage for further violence against Israel.

Sharon is taking a beating in the media for not offering a political solution to the current mess. But the point is, there is no political answer or solution currently available because Israel has been forced into a war by Arafat against its will.

For Arafat this is a war of choice, not necessity and Israel's only option is to pursue a military conclusion to the conflict. Further appeasement along the lines of the failed Oslo peace accords will lead to more bloodshed not photo opportunities on the White House Lawn.

Asking Sharon to hold back from stern measures or to forebear from beating down Arafat's terrorist army is unreasonable and will not hasten peace. All Sharon can do is exactly what Bush and Powell have done in Afghanistan and are planning to do elsewhere: fight to win. Anything less would have been unacceptable to Americans. The same should be true of Israel.

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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