Stay on offense

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Monday The New York Times ran an op-ed by the PLO's lawyer, Michael Tarazi, under the headline "Two Peoples, One State." In the essay, Tarazi argued that the world must move beyond the "two-state" solution to the Palestinian conflict with Israel to a "one-state" solution that would end Israel's existence as a Jewish state.

Since the destruction of Israel has been the aim of the PLO since its founding in 1964, it is not clear why the Times felt the fact that the PLO remains committed to its 40-year-old official policy is noteworthy.

Indeed, the Times's decision to run Tarazi's op-ed tells us more about America's paper of record than it tells us about the PLO. In his article, Tarazi libelously attacks Israel, referring to it as an apartheid state and arguing mendaciously that the Jewish state allocates rights on the basis of ethnicity. In Tarazi's words, "Palestinian Christians and Muslims are denied the same political and civil rights as Jews."

 

 

This of course, is a complete lie. Israel does not provide or deny rights on the basis of religion or ethnicity, but on the basis of citizenship. Palestinian Christians and Muslims comprise 20 percent of Israel's citizenry and have the same political and civil rights as Israel's Jewish citizens. And The New York Times knows this.

In enabling these lies to be printed, the Times is not simply advancing the cause of the destruction of the Jewish state. It is also serving as a forum in which the cause of Palestinian racial absolutism is championed, given the PLO's demand that all land that will form the basis of the State of Palestine must be completely free of Jews.

The fact that the Times would provide a stage for an author who seeks to baselessly criminalize the Jewish state, while ignoring the racist agenda of the writer himself, is not really news. The Times's record in covering the Middle East in general and Israel in particular for the past several decades has made clear that from the Gray Lady's perspective, Israel is not to receive fair coverage. Just this week, the paper did not devote a specific, full article to two major stories – either on its news or editorial pages – that would provide its readers with important information about what Israel is up against.

The first of these was that, in a major interview, former PA prime minister Mahmoud Abbas – who is consistently championed by the Times as a "reformer" – said that, at the Camp David talks in 2000, he had protested Israel's decision to cancel the Absentee Property Fund for reparations to Palestinian "refugees" with a retort to the effect that the Holocaust was justified. In his words, he told Elyakim Rubinstein: "If that's the case, then Hitler's decisions were right." 

The second is the IDF's controversial allegations that UNRWA personnel are involved in Palestinian terror operations against Israel and that UNRWA chief Peter Hansen gave an interview to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in which he admitted that UNRWA workers are members of Hamas.

 

On the positive side, this week's events seem to indicate that for its part, Israel has finally stopped caring what The New York Times does or does not do. This in itself is a major development. Understanding that the Times's focus often dictates the network news coverage and therefore determines to a large extent the substance of the US news cycle, the IDF and the Foreign Ministry have for years assiduously yet fruitlessly attempted to influence the Times's coverage of Israel.

 

 

So it was that when, during Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, the IDF uncovered a treasure trove of documents in PA headquarters in Judea and Samaria unequivocally linking PLO chairman Yasser Arafat to terrorist attacks, the army decided that the best way to get the story out was by giving the Times exclusive use of the documents.

 

The Times, with its exclusive rights to this paradigm-shattering scoop, proceeded to downplay the story. This decision made sense from the paper's perspective. Why would the Times, which for years has been arguing that the PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians, give appropriate coverage to documents that proved unequivocally that the PLO, from Arafat on down, was directly involved in the terror war against Israeli civilians? This week, when the IDF again had a major story, it did not wait for the Times, but ran with it itself and, in so doing, scored a major victory in the information war; a victory which may well have positive policy implications for Israel in the long term.

Despite the subsequent doubts over the IDF's allegation that UNRWA employees had been caught red-handed on videotape transporting what appeared to be a Kassam rocket in a UN ambulance, the IDF's decision to release the footage and the story was an immensely important undertaking. This is the case because UNRWA is not simply yet another Palestinian organization linked to terrorism. UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for eternalizing the plight of Palestinians who left Israel in 1948 and their foreign-born descendants by ensuring that they will never be naturalized in the countries where they have lived for the past three generations, is funded mainly by the US, Canada and the EU – all of which profess to be working to curb terrorist funding.

 

The US annually hands UNRWA a check for $100 million. EU member states donate even more and Canada gives UNRWA $10 million each year. This financing has continued unabated year after year, in spite of the fact that UNRWA has played a role in the Palestinian terror war against Israel for the last four years.

 

According to a document drawn up by the Israeli defense establishment last year, UNRWA employees like Nahed Attalah and Nidal Nazzal have admitted that they have used their UN vehicles to ferry weapons, explosives and terrorists, while Alaa Muhammad Ali Hassan, a PLO terrorist, has admitted that he carried out sniper attacks against Israelis from an UNRWA school in an UNRWA camp in Nablus.

 

UNRWA schools have been used as indoctrination centers for Palestinian children. UNRWA camps, from Jenin to Jabalya to Ein Hilweh in Lebanon, have been used as operational bases, mobilization and training centers and weapons storage facilities for terrorists. All of this has been documented. And yet, to date neither UNRWA nor the UN has been forced to account for the actions.

 

So the footage of the UNRWA employees at the scene of an operation where terrorists were laying a large explosive mine along what they hoped would be the route of an IDF armored vehicle, followed by UNRWA personnel placing what appeared to be a Kassam rocket in their UN ambulance, was an important story because it put an indefensible UN agency on the defensive.

 

Serendipitously, the IDF's aggressive information offensive against UNRWA came just as UNRWA's director Peter Hansen told CBC, "I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll."

 

Hansen denied the IDF's charges, claiming that the UN personnel photographed by the IDF's drone were simply carrying a stretcher. This may or may not be the case. Given the context of the video – a terrorist mine-laying operation, as well as the rich history of UNRWA involvement in terror – the IDF charge remains more credible than Hansen's denial.

 

Allowing for the chance that Hansen may be correct, the IDF removed the incriminating video from its Web site. But it remained on the offensive, with OC Operations Maj.-Gen. Yisrael Ziv announcing that the army has arrested and will soon indict 13 UNRWA employees in Gaza for their involvement in terror activities.

 

The local press has been quick
to harshly judge the IDF for aggressively pursuing the story. Haaretz's editorialist alleged Wednesday that "Israel behaved with reckless haste and injured its pretensions to superiority over the Palestinians with regard to credibility." But this is not the case.

The IDF does not run stories that have no circumstantial, contextual and factual grounding, the way the Palestinians do. And because of this, neither the IDF nor the Foreign Ministry should be swayed by such recriminations. The IDF may have phrased its statements against UNRWA too coarsely, but the essence of the allegations remains unassailable: UNRWA employees are today, and have for years been, directly involved in terror operations against Israel, and for this the agency must be called to account.

 

Given the convergence of the IDF footage and Hansen's impervious admission to CBC that his group employs people associated with a genocidal terrorist organization, Canada's government has already announced that it is reviewing its support of UNRWA. US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who was personally briefed on the issue this week, has demanded an accounting by the UN for the actions of its employees.

 

For too long, the IDF has surrendered the information offensive to Palestinian flacks proffering lies like Tarazi and Saeb Erekat and their media allies at places like The New York Times, with devastating results for Israel's international reputation. The international consequences of the IDF's self-marketed scoop have proven the army's ability to move important stories without winning over biased news organizations. And just as importantly, the impact of the footage has shown that it is far better to err slightly on the side of overzealousness, when backed up by fact, context and circumstance, than to surrender the stage to lies for fear of being only 95 percent right.

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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