Silence settles on the clocks;
Nursing mothers point a sly
Index finger at the sky,
Crimson in the setting sun;
In the valley of the fox
Gleams the barrel of a gun.
—W.H. Auden, “Domesday Song”
Years ago, talking with Palestinians about their demonstrable grievances against Israel, I was told mordantly, “You know, we used to be called ‘the Jews of the Middle East.’ ”
Crisply intelligent, deeply concerned with educating their children, these Palestinians, furious as they were at Israelis, cited that description of themselves as a kind of compliment.
But the bitterness of the occupation has turned many Palestinians—those in the streets as well as leaders in Arafat’s Fatah, not to mention Islamic Jihad and Hamas—into equivalents of Haredim, ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel. Some of them do not even recognize the Jewish state because the messiah has not yet come. They even have their own Web site: Jewsnotzionists.org.
These ultra-Orthodox Jews believe in Greater Israel; they say that all of these lands were given to Jews by God: Judea, Samaria, Gaza. Therefore there can be no Palestinian state. The Web site says that Hitler was “a messenger of divine wrath,” punishing Jews “because of the bitter apostasy of Zionism.”
The hatred of Israel has also turned some Palestinians into unyielding irredentists who want their land and their ancestral homes back by any means necessary—including the sacrifice of their very sons.
Hassan Hotari, father of the 22-year-old suicide bomber who killed 21 people, including himself, in Tel Aviv, told Reuters:
“I was extremely happy when I heard that my son is the one who did this operation, and I hope I [have] many sons to carry out the same act, and I wish myself I had done it.”
On June 4, three days after the bloodbath in Tel Aviv—for which Hamas claimed credit—National Public Radio reported, “A Palestinian poll released today found 76 percent of the public support suicide bombings.” And Palestinian radio continued to broadcast songs that celebrated and glorified martyrdom.
Meanwhile, many Israelis, not all of them ultra-Orthodox by any means, were demanding that Ariel Sharon launch massive retaliation for the murders in Tel Aviv. Alex Kapilushnik, a 20-year-old Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv on leave, said, “This was the end—the only thing on our mind now is to kill Arabs.”
In Gaza, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, president of a private emergency medical service, told The New York Times: “People [here] have this terror of an Israeli attack. How can the Palestinian Authority possibly control a cease-fire? How can it control every single group, every single person?”
But the suicide bombers are not “every single person.” They are a select group who, however bent on martyrdom, do not act alone, spontaneously. As George Melloan noted in The Wall Street Journal: “They are trained in the arming of the bombs strapped to their bodies or rigged to a vehicle. And they are instructed to trigger the explosion in a crowded place to take as many Israelis as they can with them.” The Tel Aviv bomb was held at head height to cause maximum death and injury.
Israeli intelligence is convinced that Arafat and his Palestinian Authority know, or can track, the names of the recruiters and organizers of the suicide bombers. Will Arafat control—that is, imprison—them?
Svetlana Bloom, an Israeli high school student, said: “We are all targets.” She had Israelis in mind, but everyone in this conflict is a target.
Zev Chafets, a Daily News columnist I have been attentively reading since the days when he wrote from Israel in The Jerusalem Report, quotes a joint declaration from Hamas and Fatah, the latter supposedly under the control of Arafat:
“If the insane old man Ariel Sharon and his bloodthirsty government do not halt their threats of murder and conquest, not a single Zionist will be safe.”
Theodor Herzl, who founded the Zionist World Congress in 1897 as a solution to pervasive anti-Semitism, said he would never convert to Christianity. But he did not want his son Hans to have a “life as sour and blackened” as his had been as a Jew. So, said Herzl bitterly, “One must baptize Jewish boys. . . .They must disappear into the crowd as Christians.”
Neither Israelis nor Palestinians can disappear into the crowd, but each one is eligible to be a statistic in the casualty lists.
On June 6, Uri Dan, who writes from Israel for the New York Post and is not notably sympathetic to Palestinians, wrote a front-page story about an operation in Jerusalem that transplanted the heart of a Palestinian, Mazen Julani (a father and pharmacist), into the body of Yigal Cohen, a Jew (who, in critical condition, had been waiting four months for an organ transplant).
Mazen Julani was shot and killed from a passing car, and—Uri Dan reports—his family suspects the murder was by Israelis in retaliation for the Tel Aviv suicide bombing.
His father, Lutfi Julani, was asked if he would permit the donation of his son’s organs, and he consulted a Muslim clergyman, who said, “Any act to save lives, whether of Muslims, Christians, Jews, or others, is permissible.” After the operation, Lutfi Julani met Yigal Cohen’s father at the hospital, and they embraced. Said the surgeon, Dr. Jacob Lavee:
“When I held in one hand the heart of an Arab Muslim and in the other, the heart of a Jew, I was moved.”
In the Voice (Letters, June 5), 19-year-old Hanna Mourad-Agha, a Muslim writing that she’d never met any Jews until she came to England, said, “I realized that the ostensible ‘enemy’ is just people, like anybody else, trying to live their lives decently.”
I still believe Arafat, who spurned Ehud Barak’s extensive plan for peace, holds these lives in his hands.
If I’m wrong and he cannot control the martyrs, the abyss beckons.