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Monday, February 23, 2004

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David Wilder: ISRAEL ON TRIAL AT THE HAGUE

Is Israel a legitimate, autonomous state with the right to protect its citizens and ensure its survival?
Yesterday was a normal Sunday – the beginning of the week. In Israel we live a five and a half to six day work week which begins on Sunday and ends Friday afternoon. We have a one-day weekend.

Sunday morning – the kids go to school, the parents to work. Nothing out of the ordinary. Sitting at the computer, drinking coffee, running a tour, the same old stuff. Listening to the radio, half-watching the beeper, everyday events. Sirens screeching, ambulance-lights flashing, news bulletins, blood on the street, twisted metal, crushed cars, a bus exploded. Nu, so what’s new? Identifying murdered family members at Abu Kabir, bodies wrapped in a tallis, funerals, cemeteries, weeping and wailing, mourning. Nothing out of the ordinary. Soft, quiet music broadcast on Kol Yisrael radio, a blood-stained text book -“How to be an Israeli citizen,” strewn on the ground amongst body parts. The fate of every good school book, right?

Gruesome? Nauseating? No, no!! This is the mundane existence of every Israeli, the way it’s been now for years. Within two hours after the 14A bus exploded near the Inbal Hotel, across the street from Liberty Bell Park, life had returned to normal. The bus had been towed away and the street cleaned of the wretched remains of a bus-bombing. Israel radio announcers dutifully broadcast the chronology of the day. Reports from the hospitals, how many injured, their condition, identification of the dead, their names, time of the funerals, which cemetery. Pictures in the newspapers, stories of their lives – and a new, added attraction: others from the same family wounded or killed in previous terror attacks. For example, among yesterday’s victi! ms was Lior Azulai, an 18 year-old 12th grader, whose aunt Iris Azulai was killed in a terror attack in Jerusalem 12 years ago. Thirty one year old Yuval Ozana’s uncle was killed four years ago during a Yesha terror attack. Two of his nephews were seriously wounded in the Ben Yehuda bombing two years ago.

Hours later, news headlines: no major reaction expected to morning terror attack; Parts of security fence dismantled. This morning: Sharon in the Knesset: ‘I will take my ‘disengagement plan’ to Washington and present it to President Bush in March.’ And only days ago, “the "Disengagement Plan" is a security measure and not a political one.” “We must be realistic, and prepare for the option that the current situation, in which the Palestinians do not implement their part of the President's vision, will continue. This will create a security and political vacuum. In that case, Israel will take the unilateral security step of disengagement from the Palestinians...This will include the redeployment of IDF forces along new security lines and a relocation of some settlements. Security will be provided by IDF deployment, the security fence and other physical obstacles. These steps will increase the security of the citizens of Israel and make it easier for the IDF and security forces to do their difficult work…Obviously, the "Disengagement Plan" will leave the Palestinians with much less than they would have if they had followed the requirements of the Roadmap.”

In other words, Israel’s present surrender to Arab-Arafat terror is being forced on us. If only the terrorists would cooperate, Israel is prepared to give them more!

This is one side of the coin: Israel vs. Israel. Our own stupid blunders. At the same time there is the other side: Israel vs. the world.

A few days a foreign journalist, interviewing me, scoffed when I remarked that Arabs desiring to leave Israel (including Yesha) have somewhere to go – there are 22 Arab states surrounding us. Yet there is only one Jewish state – we have no where else to go. This is it. She claimed that we all have somewhere to go. “After all,” she said, “you came from New Jersey.” I asked her about my wife, who was born here, or my children and she shrugged it off, saying, “you all came from somewhere.” My response: “you know, sixty years ago, when six million Jews were slaughtered during the holocaust, the world sat and watched. The Europeans and the Americans knew exactly what was happening, yet they did nothing to stop it. They could have bombed the railways or the crematoriums, but preferred not to. As far as I’m concerned, that says only one thing. Jews were being told, “We, the rest of the world, don’t want you living with us. Leave.” So we tried to leave, to come back to Israel. Yet we were told then, and still today, “Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel really doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to someone else, the Arabs, the ‘palestinians.’” So I ask: the world tells us not to assimilate into their cultures, but we have no right to live in our own land. So where would the world like us to go? To disappear into the sea?

Months ago (in truth, years ago) the Israeli government has decided that the best offense is a good defense. This is, of course, an illogical philosophy, in direct contradiction to rational strategic policy which says that the best defense is a good offence. So much for Ariel Sharon’s legendary military genius.

One of the results of this policy was the decision to build a ‘fence,’ ‘separating’ us from the ‘palestinians.’ The Arabs, fearing that the fence will be the border of a ‘palestinian state’ are fighting its construction and have taken their cause to the nations of the world.

The present ‘Hague Hearings’ are allegedly ‘the case against the fence.’ In reality, the fence question is a smokescreen for a much broader topic: is Israel a legitimate, autonomous state with the right to protect its citizens and ensure its survival, or not? This is the real issue.

Israel decided, rightfully so, not to officially participate in the Hague hearings, claiming that the international court has no jurisdiction over internal security measures implemented by a sovereign state. However, the number 19 Egged bus, bombed a month ago in the heart of Jerusalem, is adorning the street adjacent to the court proceedings. This, a living (or better termed, dead) example of the terrorist war declared against Israel by Arafat three and a half years ago. The terrorist representing Arafat, Nasser al-Kidwa, said this morning that he hoped a decision by the court would result in international sanctions against Israel.

Let there be no mistake – in my opinion the fence is a dreadful mistake. It is not the way to stop terrorism and will be an appalling failure. However, that is a mistake we should be free to make on our own, without international intervention. Our security must be in our hands, not controlled by others. An Arab victory in the Hague is only the first step towards establishment of an ‘international observer force’ stationed in Yesha, resulting in a serious abridgement of Israel’s ability to defend itself against continuing terror. And of course, this is only the beginning.

The Hague Hearings are not about the fence, rather, the State of Israel is on trial.

With blessings from Hebron.
David Wilder
The Jewish Community of Hebron