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First children

First children, now Christians are to be sacrificed in Arafat’s war
Tom Rose

By Tom Rose, Publisher of the Jerusalem Post 18.12.00

Arafat’s war against Israel has shattered nearly as many old certainties
as lives. One of the most seemingly solid of the certainties was that no
one could attack Israel’s capital and live to tell the tale. Yet what ten
weeks ago was both unthinkable and intolerable has now become a matter of
every-day routine.

Just before dusk each night, members of the Tanzim, Yasser Arafat’s
private militia, invade the Christian Arab village of Beit Jalla. These
heavily armed Muslim militiamen enter the once quiet Palestinian
controlled town from the south and quickly make their way to its northern
edge. There, they commandeer their way into homes, almost all of them owned
by Christian families, that offer good lines of sight into the living rooms
and kitchens of the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo, on the southern edge of
Jerusalem, just across a small valley from Beit Jalla.

Once darkness descends, sometimes even before, the shooting starts.
Thousands of rounds of heavy machine-gun fire pour into houses on Gilo’s
picturesque Ha’anafa Street. It takes Israeli army sharpshooters a few
minutes to calibrate their sophisticated tracing equipment to home in on
the exact source of the shooting and fire back to prevent any further
”collateral damage,” as the Israeli army calls it. The battle rages
inconclusively until the militiamen run out of ammunition. Then they pack up
and go home.

To date, prime minister Ehud Barak’s strategy for dealing with Arafat’s
war has prevented the Israel Defense Forces from doing anything more than
respond to specific acts of violence. Heeding White House warnings, Barak
maintains that ”unleashing” the army to defend Israeli civilians could
ignite a regional war. Yet ironically, Barak’s policy of military
”restraint” plays right into Arafat’s hands and actually increases the risk
of igniting the very war Barak wants to prevent. The Palestinians’ choice of
Beit Jalla as the staging ground for attacks on civilians in Jerusalem is
anything but random. It is part of a carefully laid and brilliantly executed
Palestine Liberation Organization strategy to get the international
community, and in particular the United States, to intervene on the side of
the Palestinians and impose the ”solution” Arafat failed to secure at the
negotiating table.

Arafat’s new plan is to get the International community to force Israel to
withdraw to its pre-1967 lines without the Palestinians’ making
concessions of their own or formally ending their war against the Jewish
state. Arafat knows that in order to persuade the international community to
deploy a military force that would impose this solution, he must win
sympathy. To this end, he was first willing to provoke the killing of
hundreds of his own people, the younger the better. The Palestinian
Authority, which Arafat controls and the United States funds, offered up to
$2,000 to families who ”sacrificed” a child in what the Palestinians are
calling the ”Al-Aksa Intifada,” the war for Jerusalem. Palestinian media and
high ranking officials encouraged children to attack Israeli positions far
from Palestinian population centers with rocks, guns, and firebombs.

The purpose of these attacks was never to overrun the Israeli positions,
only to provoke Israeli soldiers to kill Palestinian children for the
benefit of television viewers. By offering up his own people, Arafat was
able to cancel all the good will that Barak’s unprecedented Camp David
concessions had generated for Israel just weeks before and return Israel
to its familiar role of international villain. Throughout the crisis,
Arafat has displayed an uncanny ability to transform Israel’s democratic
institutions into Palestinian assets. In the uprising’s early days, his
scheme of provoking Israeli soldiers to kill Palestinian children proved
spectacularly effective at whipping the Islamic world into a frenzy
against Israel. While it also went a long way toward convincing the West
that Arafat may need international protection, it did not close the deal.

What would?
What if Arafat could market the message that Israel was ”killing
Christians” as effectively as he had sold the world the notion that it was
”killing children”? Surely then Arafat’s international protection force
would be all but assured.

Thus, every night in Beit Jalla, Arafat orchestrates attempts to induce
Israeli soldiers to kill Christians. As obvious as the ploy is to
observers here, the yawning question Israelis are asking is, Why on earth
does Prime Minister Barak allow himself and his country to be so cynically
and dangerously exposed to fulfilling Palestinian objectives?
Almost everyone here agrees that the Israeli army could permanently end
the firing on Gilo and the return fire into Beit Jalla in a matter of
hours, if not minutes, and perhaps without a single casualty, Christian or
Jewish. It could simply close the access roads from the south and deploy
paratroopers to secure the streets used by Palestinian gunmen-in short,
retake the town. This is no more than any nation on earth would long ago
have done to stop a military assault on its capital city. And it would not
only free Israeli citizens from the terror of war; it would also liberate
5,000 Christian Arabs now hostage to Arafat’s machinations.

Rather than precipitating a greater conflict, the retaking of Beit Jalla
might be the single most stabilizing action Israel could take, depriving
Arafat of the means of provoking a massacre of Christians, while at the
same time demonstrating that Israel’s patience has its limits. Barak,
unable to respond either to Arafat’s assault in Israel’s heartland or to
Hezbollah’s provocations on Israel’s northern border, leads a gun-shy,
lame-duck government. Some of its members are saying publicly that the
only way the prime minister could muster the strength to take this step
would be if he were subjected to coordinated political pressure from
concerned Christians around the world, particularly in the United States.

Because Israel’s retaking Beit Jalla would win support from more than 90
percent of Israelis, not to mention the Christians of Beit Jalla, that
step would be not only the right thing to do, but also the political shot in
the arm the beleaguered prime minister so desperately needs. Israel has long
been forced to act under pressure from Islamic radicals. Perhaps it is time
that Christians spoke up for themselves.

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