In an interview with Ha'aretz published last Tuesday, new Palestinian Authority Interior Minister Dr. Hani al-Hassan explained that as far as he is concerned, murdering Israeli civilians who live in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip is a legitimate operation of "resistance" against "occupation."
Tuesday night, a terrorist from the Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades infiltrated the community of Hermesh in Samaria and went on a shooting rampage. Before IDF forces managed to kill him, he resisted the occupation by murdering two 14-year-old girlfriends Linoy Saroussi and Hadas Turgeman and 53-year-old Orna Eshel.
It is difficult for us not to see the direct connection between the new commander of the PA security forces' statement and the murder of Saroussi, Turgeman, and Eshel hours later by a Fatah-affiliated gunman.
The authors of Human Rights Watch's recent report on Palestinian suicide bombers seem to have more trouble seeing PA culpability. In the 170-page report, released on Friday and entitled "Erased in a Moment: Suicide Bombing Attacks against Israeli Civilians," Human Rights Watch claimed it could not find "evidence that Arafat or the PA planned, ordered, or carried out suicide bombings or other attacks on Israeli civilians."
We do not wish to come down too hard on Human Rights Watch. After all, it only took the well-known human rights group eight years to come out with a full-blown report that deals comprehensively with Palestinian attacks upon Israelis, but we cannot help but be discouraged by the result. Although the report devotes great detail to the terror organizations that claim responsibility for acts of mass murder of Israeli civilians, it refuses to draw the conclusion that the Palestinian Authority created and sustained the milieu in which these attacks continue to take place.
The report states that there may be a link between Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's decision to release all of the terror suspects held in PA jails in October 2000 and the rash of suicide bombings that began some months later. We appreciate that admission, but the report makes no mention of the documented actions taken and statements made by Arafat between his return from the failed Camp David summit in July 2000 and the beginning of the Palestinian offensive in September of that year. In those two months, Arafat ordered his security chiefs to prepare for war and, as Arafat directed, the PA television and radio ratcheted up their anti-Israel incitement several decibels.
For all its thoroughness, the report mysteriously makes absolutely no mention of the Karine-A weapons ship intercepted en route to Gaza by IDF commandos this past January. That ship was skippered by the deputy commander of the PA naval police and contained 50 tons of weapons that Arafat purchased from Iran. Among the weapons seized were large quantities of C-4 explosives, widely considered the terrorist bomb-maker's explosive of choice.
The report also makes no mention of the fact that Arafat harbors known and wanted terrorists in his Ramallah compound. To our mind, this makes Arafat an accessory to their crimes. Israeli criminal law, like that in most Western democracies, defines harboring murderers as aiding and abetting murder.
Then too, the report says that Israel should allow for the proper functioning of the PA's judicial branch to enable the PA to take concerted action against terrorists. Yet the report makes no mention of the fact that the primary function today of the PA's judiciary is to sentence to death Palestinians found guilty of the crime of "collaborating" with Israel against terrorists.
Again, we don't wish to come down too hard on Human Rights Watch. After all, the report, such as it is, marks a departure from Human Rights Watch's actions just a little over a year ago. Back in September 2001, the organization supported the resolution at the UN's conference on racism in Durban, South Africa where Israel was defined as "a racist apartheid state," guilty of the "systematic perpetration of racist crimes including war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing and state terror against the Palestinian people."
Apparently old habits are hard to break. After years of vilifying Israel, it cannot be easy for Human Rights Watch to admit that one of their favorite victims – the Palestinians – is systematically victimizing Israelis. But by refusing to contend with the overwhelming evidence of PA support and sponsorship of the terror war against Israel, we believe that Human Rights Watch failed in its primary function. That is, it failed to take the kind of action that could eventually lead to the end of these attacks by placing the blame on the group ultimately responsible for them – the Palestinian Authority.
Originally published as an unsigned editorial in The Jerusalem Post