Sunday morning Shin Bet Director Avi Dichter made an incredible disclosure at the cabinet meeting. Dichter stated that Israel is the largest contributor to the Palestinian Authority's budget.
Israel gives the PA one billion dollars a year. This comprises 45 percent of the PA's total budget. "There is no oversight [to ensure] that each and every dollar Israel transfers doesn't go to funding terror," Dichter said. He added that Arafat's office receives a budget of roughly nine million dollars and, the director of the Shin Bet noted, "I cannot promise that at the margins the money doesn't go to finance Fatah/Tanzim terrorists."
In saying this, Dichter was making a clear and almost unprecedented indictment of the government. Our government is putting a billion dollars a year into a black hole controlled by one of the most active terror regimes in the world. And this terror regime is actively waging war against our country. And of course, our government knows that the PA uses its budgetary funds to finance terror because in the aftermath of Operation Defensive Shield, it published documents seized in IDF raids of PA offices and Arafat's headquarters proving that the PA directly funded suicide bombings and was paying the salaries of terrorists.
In any even semi-rational country, this disclosure would have been the story of the week – if not the year. After all, can anyone imagine the US media reaction to a disclosure by the head of the FBI that the US was funding the Taliban or the Ba'athist regime in Iraq after September 11? In any marginally sane society, there would be demonstrations launched, lawsuits filed, black headlines, and stuttering government spokesmen sent out to whimper excuses for the government's financing of the murder of its citizens by the sworn enemies of the state.
But, sadly, this story received four lines buried at the end of a story in the inside pages of Yediot Aharonot and barely a mention anywhere else.
Dichter also told the cabinet members that Jerusalem Arabs support the terrorist war against Israel as strongly as Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. This too is a major story. It calls into question the entire rationale of the security fence. Sixty percent of all suicide bombings in the past year occurred in the capital. If the terror masters have a local population sitting in the capital that identifies with their jihad against Israel, how will a fence protect us from them? This story too, received almost no attention.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom met with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington. Their meeting came three days before the ICJ was to announce its opinion on the legality of Israel's construction of the security fence and the day before the International Atomic Energy Agency's director Mohammed ElBaradei arrived in Israel for an unfriendly visit.
According to Shalom, during the meeting the two reached a series of understandings on Israel's requests that the Bush administration shield Israel from being scapegoated and sanctioned if, as anticipated, the anti-Semitic Egyptian and Jordanian justices on the court convince their colleagues to find Israel in breach of international law for trying to defend its citizens from suicide bombers.
Shalom also said that the two had discussed the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear weapons program; the PA's collusion with terrorist organizations; Egypt's refusal to end weapons smuggling operations to Gaza from its territory and Sharon's unilateral withdrawal plan from Gaza.
All of these are weighty issues. All of them are agenda setters. If one of the Israeli journalists at the two men's press appearance had gotten Powell on record saying anything about any of these issues, it would have been a major story. Imagine the headlines: "Powell says Iranian nukes pose existential threat to Israel," the day before ElBaradei's visit, or "Powell says Egypt must stop weapons smuggling to Gaza" ahead of Egyptian Intelligence Director Omar Suleiman's upcoming visit to Washington, or "Powell says PA has failed to reform," as the Quartet members met with Ahmed Qurei in Jerusalem.
But none of those stories held any interest for the Israeli reporters at the scene. Rather, Yaron Dekel from Israel Radio badgered Powell about the mobile homes at the so-called outposts in Judea and Samaria that have gotten Peace Now and Ambassador Dan Kurtzer all bent out of shape.
Isn't the US mad at Israel for not throwing the Jews living in these communities out of their homes fast enough? That's what Dekel desperately wanted to know. And so it was that to the extent that anyone paid attention to the visit, (it received but a picture with a caption in Yediot and Ma'ariv), the headline was: "Powell expresses disappointment on Israeli record with settlements."
This week a freelance writer named Lee Kaplan published an article in the on-line journal Frontpage Magazine about the International Solidarity Movement. ISM sends foreigners to Israel to disrupt IDF operations in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and to act as "human shields" to prevent IDF demolition operations. The British jihadis who carried out the attack at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv in April 2003 came to Israel with the organization.
Kaplan related how he went undercover as an ISM volunteer and underwent training sessions by the group ahead of a trip to Israel. The inside look that he provides on this organization is an unnerving expose of the inner workings of the radical Left's active collusion with terrorists. Kaplan noted that the ISM trainers touted their collaboration with Israeli leftists working for the B'tselem human rights organization, who provide alibis for ISM volunteers at the border to allow them to lie their way into the country, and provide them with legal assistance in the event they are arrested.
The article ought to provoke an immediate outcry about Israeli organizations that, according to Kaplan, systematically obstruct IDF anti-terror operations, hamper police investigations, and lie to border inspectors. It would certainly be of great interest to the Israeli public.
But no matter, no mention of the article was made in the Israeli press. Indeed, on Thursday, Haaretz ran a sympathetic story about one ISM volunteer who has been under arrest at Ben-Gurion Airport for the past two weeks refusing the Ministry of the Interior's deportation order. According to Kaplan, the woman's refusal to leave Israel, like her rapid acquisition of the legal services of two Israeli lawyers, one of whom, Shamai Leibowitz, also defended Marwan Barghouti, are all taken directly from the ISM playbook.
Wednesday CNN and several major newspapers in the US and The Jerusalem Post carried the story of an $875 million lawsuit filed in New York Federal Court by Israeli and American victims of Palestinian terrorism against the Jordan-based Arab Bank. The suit arose from documents that the IDF seized in its raid of the Arab Bank branch in Ramallah at the end of February which showed direct collusion by the Arab Bank in transferring funds from the US to Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
The Arab Bank's role is so blatant, that on the Islamic Jihad's Web site (palestineway.com) the terror group gives account numbers of charitable organizations linked to the group at Arab Bank branches in Bethlehem, Jenin and Gaza to which donors can make contributions to the jihad.
The Arab Bank is one of the largest banks in the Arab world. It has branches worldwide and is closely linked to the Hashemites. According to the lawsuit, "the Jordanian-based banking institution with a branch in New York is knowingly administering the distribution of financial benefits to terrorists, t
he families of terrorists and foreign terrorist organizations as part of a scheme to encourage and facilitate acts of international terrorism."
This is a huge story. Its political and financial repercussions will be felt throughout the region and will no doubt have a significant impact on the Jordanian monarchy. But it received no attention from the Israeli media. It went unreported. No mention was made in the Wednesday papers, radio broadcasts or television newscasts.
This week of course, our media has been very busy. Since Dichter Sunday made an unsubstantiated comment, which he more or less retracted on Wednesday, about an increase in violence among the extreme right, the press has been busy demonizing the settlers. Our media cannot be bothered with real news when it is manufacturing conspiracy theories about unidentified assassins who are just waiting to kill the prime minister.
Last week, the Jewish Agency's Institute for Jewish People Policy Planning submitted a report to the prime minister on the state of the Jewish people worldwide. The institute is chaired by Dennis Ross, the former chief US peace processor.
Ross and his colleagues at the institute alleged that the Israeli government's policies have a negative effect on world Jewry. They argued that the government doesn't understand how its policies harm world Jewry and suggested that the solution is for Israel to confer official status on a consulting body of Diaspora Jews that would be involved in the decision making processes of the government. Ross also argued that Israel should do everything it can to reach out to the Arab world and make at least a partial agreement with the PA.
Ross's bald attempt to insert himself into Israeli policymaking evinced little note and certainly no shock from the Israeli media or the public. This should be strange since Ross's aggressive intervention into Israeli policymaking for close to a decade led to the most colossal policy failure in Israel's history and to one of the lowest points in US-Israel relations. The notion that anyone would listen to anything that he has to say, let alone give him a seat at the table, is patently absurd.
Yet, given the pathetic, mind numbing level of journalism in this country, it makes sense that no one noticed.
It is a sad and terrible thing that our media gives little real news to our understandably news addicted country. It is a sad and terrible thing that the People of the Book are served a diet of daily drivel from our print and broadcast media.
Rational people make their decisions on the basis of the best information they have on hand. Next time we wonder why Israel behaves in a seemingly irrational fashion, the first place to look for explanations is our media.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.