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BBC's 'Question Time' and Sheikh Yassin: Both a Clear and Present Danger
Last uploaded : Friday 15th Mar 2002 at 00:12
Contributed by : The Editor



Those of us who have agonised over Mitchell, Tenet, Camp David and Taba, not to mention Oslo I and Oslo II, are now gripped by despair and grief as a wave of unearthly bloodshed unfolds on the nightly news. Some of us were staunch supporters of the peace movement, a movement that has begun to regain momentum in Israel in the past few months. One of the ironies of last Saturday’s Moments Cafe bombing was the tragic fact that many of the victims had just attended a peace rally that had assembled outside the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, just a few yards from the cafe.

The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 (see our Editorial ‘Six Months After’) was seen by many an interruption to Oslo, but not its death knell. The supporters of the peace initiatives wanted Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin and the other architects of Oslo to press on with the process. A complicated sequence of events occurred in 1995 and 1996 that could now be said were early signals of a collapse of a peace programme. Before the assassination of Rabin, a top Hamas operative was killed. Indeed, it was fear of a reprisal that had made Rabin anxious on the night of the peace rally in Tel Aviv, not fear of a Jewish assassin. After the events of November 4th 1995, it was reported that the head of the Shin Bet, to redeem himself after the catastrophic lapse in security that had resulted in the Prime Minister’s slaying, had organised the killing of ‘The Engineer,’ another Hamas figure.

Very few analysts spent much time in the intervening years evaluating the ‘message’ sent by the killing of Rabin by an educated young Israeli who, though religious, had served in the tough Golani Brigade and who was to many an Israeli patriot, even a ‘nice Jewish boy.’

The message was thoguht by some to be an ominous one: ‘...we, a good portion of the Israeli public, do not trust Yasser Arafat nor do we believe the Oslo process will lead to anything but disaster and strife for the Jews of Israel. This process must be stopped or the Jewish State will be destroyed..’ Worried Jews decided that this message was received by the Arab world and the Palestinians as a rejection of cooperation and co-existence by a sizeable portion of the Israeli public. When one visited Israel just a few weeks after the Rabin assassination, one was astonished to find a substantial electorate jubilant about his demise. A British journalist whose carryall had a’Peace Now’ sticker attached was threatened with a gun by a taxi driver and ordered to leave the cab in the middle of nowhere because the driver was infuriated that his passenger had expressed sorrow over the death of Rabin.

Some wondered with that eternal angst that is so intrinsically Jewish, ‘What are the Palestinians to read from all of this?’ The main architect of the peace process, the grumpy chain-smoking General-turned Nobel Peace prize winner had been eliminated by a Jewish assassin, not by Hamas or Jihad.

In 1996, a string of Hamas suicide bombings inside Israel and attacks by Hezbollah on the North ensued, even though Shimon Peres, Hosni Mubarak and the late King Hussein of Jordan had passionately committed themselves to pursuing Oslo with vigour. Israelis felt betrayed, but the connection was not made in the press of that time with the perception by Hamas that because of Yigal Amir and his followers, Israel did not want peace. Nevertheless, Israel, Jordan and Egypt carried on with the pursuit of an amicable solution for Peres’ ‘New Middle East.’ Many in the peace movement felt that Hamas would melt away when the final status agreements were signed. Prosperity and cooperation would force them to be marginalised, just as the Israeli Right would eventually find themselves in business ventures with the Palestinians and everyone would sleep well at night. The majority of Israelis are family-oriented, hard-working menschen, and they wanted the Palestinians to believe that they yearned for a happy future for both peoples.

This brings us to the news today of the pronouncements of Sheikh Yassin, the spiritual head of Hamas, who was interviewed in Gaza by Reuters this morning, as he celebrated the deaths of three Israeli soldiers in their burning tank. Reading the report, provided on BT Openworld’s Homepage and filed by Nidal al-Mughrabi, this terrifying interview had the effect of a September 11-style wallop.

Any Jewish person who still supports the peace process now has to ‘get real.’

What Sheikh Yassin says puts paid to any observations one might have made about Israeli Right, Left, perceptions by Hamas or anything else. Here is a man who is happy to say that the years of peace campaigning is a nonsense because the Palestinian State will exist in ‘all of Palestine.’ He does not speculate about the motives of Yigal Amir; he celebrates the deaths of Jews and exults in the picture from his window of Israeli soldiers burning alive inside their tank. He was never interested in ‘Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines;’ he wants Judenrein.

‘The enemy will pay a dear price for its crimes,’ he says. ‘Our might and our resistance will regain our rights and will establish our state, not the Security Council or the UN or America..Israel has carpeted the land with blood..’

There it is: Hamas, which is not by any means marginalised, wants all of Palestine. As Keith Graves said on Sky News, the rage goes back to 1948. ‘Palestine’ means ‘Palestine,’ without Israel in the equation at all, whatsoever.

Anyone who still supports Oslo needs to do some hard thinking. Watching BBC TV’s ‘Question Time’ tonight and seeing the abject, and really quite terrifying hatred of Israel being spewed by virtually every member of the panel and by the entire audience in Norwich, England, is a wake-up call to Jews that no matter what Israel does, she is the villain of the piece in the eyes of the world.

The comedian Harry Enfield (a maven, noch, about the Middle East!) proclaimed that as far back as he can remember, Israel ‘commits terror acts every day ‘ and one Elizabeth Filkin, a British politician, said she had visited Israel last year and had had no idea until she got there of the ‘true terror’ of the settlers. The settlers!

We secular Jews may not exactly be bosom buddies with the settlers, but are THEY strapping themselves with explosives? Except for Baruch Goldstein, has any religious Jew perpetrated terror attacks in times of peace or war as did the Hamas, over and over again, even during the height of Oslo? Mrs Filkin told the rapt audience of the ‘sheer terror’ of the ‘fortress’ that is the settlements, portraying them as a huge mass of Jews ‘making Palestinians quake’ in abject fear. The white, middle class audience could barely be controlled as it cheered and stamped its feet every time another condemnation of Israel (and the USA) was uttered by the panellists. The concensus of the panel, who went unchecked by David Dimbleby, was that the USA should be going after Israel and Sharon, and not Iraq and Saddam Hussein, becuase of the Jewish State's arsenal of 'weapons of mass destruction' threatening the entire region.

So, we have Sheikh Yassin, the British people and its public figures wanting Judenrein. Without doubt, the bloodshed in the territories in the past week has caused great pain to Jews who want peace and who have campaigned tirelessly in the decade of Oslo.

My sad conclusion is, however, that no matter what Israel does, it is hated by the non-Jewish world. Jews must be vigilant across the globe. Jews must support our tiny, beleaguered state, because from the deeply disturbing experience of watching BBC ‘Question Time’ tonight, the Durban shouts of ‘Jew! Jew! Jew!’ are not a passing oddity but a clear and present danger.


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