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The Present Tragedy
Last uploaded : Tuesday 9th Apr 2002 at 23:47
Contributed by : The Editor


JewishComment will shortly be publishing editorials on the tragedy that has unfolded since Pesach. The situation has deteriorated with such momentum -- juxtaposed with the appalling attacks on Jewish targets in France, Belgium and Canada --that every time we start writing a fresh editorial it is obsolete before we have finished the last paragraph.

One element, however, stands out: the disproportionate attention given by the world's media to the IDF's miltary operations at the expense of coverage inside Israel of the aftermath of obscene terror attacks is a scandal. We are happy to run Sam Bahour's reports from El Bireh, but we also disseminate the Israeli view. World media at the moment seem to feel they must be a collective al-Jazeera. It is as if no Israelis have died in the present crisis.

Non-Jews simply do not grasp that Passover is a symbolic season of pogroms. I am old enough to remember stories told by my Aunt Rose about the pogroms in the 'old country.' What Jewish child does not know that their European grandparents dreaded the arrival of Easter because of the blood-curdling attacks on thousands of defenceless Jews trapped inside ghettoes in the Pale of Settlement?

The significance of the Passover Massacre in Netanya was dismissed by the world's media as yet another 'act of desperation' by a 'freedom fighter.' The Sharon-masterminded bloodshed that has followed -- the conduct of which we at Jewish Comment do not entirely agree -- has been covered by the world's media as if it is a gigantic pogrom by Jews against Christians and Muslims. We see it as a disproportionate 'eye for an eye' that disturbs our sense of Jewish ethics, but we totally reject the hysterical world media's equating Jewish revenge with Nazi genocide. Meanwhile, Yasser Arafat has become a living legend holed up in his compound.

We will be commenting at greater length later this week, but we do feel that the bloodshed must stop. We are beginning to understand the view of many British commentators that every time a cruel IRA bomb exploded amongst crowds of civilians, Britain did not initiate massacres ten times worse, or bulldoze the homes of Irish people in Kilburn or Birmingham or Liverpool.

Enough said. My friends in Israel are in great pain and rightfully resent us in the West sitting in our comfortable armchairs pontificating about what they should be doing. But we want Israel to go back to being a First World country and stop its slippery slide to Third World, Rwanda-style collective punishment that bears no resemblance to the 'Light to the Nations' vision that the State's Founding Fathers envisaged. We beg Ariel Sharon to step back so that no more soldiers die.

We also demand that non-Jews rein in their shameful wave of anti-Semitism in Europe: are crowds fire-bombing black churches in Philadelphia or London because of disapproval of Robert Mugabe's actions in Zimbabwe?

I think not. Using the present tragedy in Israel as an excuse to burn down synagogues is pure, vile neo-Naziism. That's all.

President Moshe Katsav today (Tuesday), 9.4.2002, sent the following
message to Pope John Paul II:

“I am aware of your personal concern regarding recent events in the
Holy Land.

It was our fervent hope that the Palestinians would fulfill their
signed commitments to prevent terrorism against our country and
people. However, the Government of Israel has, regrettably, been left
with no alternative but to defend itself against a massive wave of
violent terror, culminating with a bloody attack on Passover Eve,
directed by the highest levels of the Palestinian Authority and
designed to destroy the State of Israel.

In this campaign our forces are taking every reasonable precaution to
prevent any harm to civilians and institutions. On the other hand,
Palestinian terrorists regularly and reprehensively exploit innocent
civilians as cover for their activities. The unacceptable breaking in
of some 200 Palestinian armed terrorists into the Church of the
Nativity is of common concern to you and to us.

The State of Israel has the highest esteem for all religious
communities within its borders. Therefore, in the current context,
all members of the Israel Defense Forces have been ordered not to fire
upon or violate the sanctity of church property. For their part, the
Palestinians have repeatedly desecrated the holiness of churches
within their jurisdiction, abusing Holy Places as a base of

In the particular instance of the Church of the Nativity, the
Government of Israel scrupulously ensures that the Church does not
become a focus of hostilities. While operations are being conducted
in its vicinity, the Church has remained unaffected by the IDF,
despite the confirmed presence of armed Hamas, Islamic Jihad and
Tanzim terrorists inside the sanctuary.

Our objective remains to extricate these armed terrorists, unharmed,
from the Church and to this end, our forces continue to refrain from
taking actions that may harm the Church or its clergy. Since giving
safe conduct to the extremely dangerous terrorists presently in the
Church would constitute a grave danger to public safety, we have no
choice but to maintain our presence in the immediate area. We
anticipate our redeployment once the terrorists hand themselves over.

However, under the circumstances, I regret that with all the respect
and consideration we have for the Christian Holy Places, we have no
alternative but to prevent armed Palestinian terrorists, who have
murdered innocent Jews and have taken refuge in a holy Christian
sanctuary, from escaping and continuing their acts of bloodshed.

You have my assurance that the Government of Israel will continue to
safeguard the rights and privileges of the Christian churches in
Israel, as it has just recently been demonstrated in Nazareth. At the
same time, since the Palestinians have shown little respect for the
safety and integrity of religious institutions in their midst, it is
the duty of the international community to insist that this practice
of desecrating “terra sancta” will not be tolerated. Terror in the
name of God cannot be contemplated.”

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