Terror stalks Israel from within

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Terror stalks Israel from within

An Israeli police handout of the suicide bomber, Arab Israeli Mohammed Salah. Photo: AFP

By Ross Dunn, Herald Correspondent in Jerusalem

New doubts about Israel's ability to defend itself from terrorist attacks have emerged after it became known that for the first time an Arab Israeli had carried out a suicide-bombing.

That revelation came as the Prime Minister, Mr Ariel Sharon, jettisoned a plan by generals to set up permanent buffer zones in the West Bank to keep Palestinian terrorists out of Israel.

Such barriers may have little impact if militant Islamic groups such as Hamas are also able to continue recruiting bombers and activists from the million or so Arab Israelis, and from the Palestinian community in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas's first success in that direction came on Sunday, when the suicide bomber, Muhammad Saker Habashi, 48, killed himself and three others at Nahariya railway station in northern Israel.

The news that Habashi's Israeli identity card was found next to his remains is a chilling image for Israelis, who have long harboured the fear that they might be faced with attacks from their Arab counterparts.

"Terrorists from within," said the headline on the front page of the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

The writer of the article, Alex Fishman, blamed the country's Islamic movement for sowing seeds of incitement that had produced the first Israeli Arab suicide bomber.

"They [Israeli Arabs] are not all terror activists. Only a few among them are connected, in practice, to the terror attacks," Fishman said.

"But in the [Palestinian] territories, too, it is only the minority that takes part in the fighting. The others provide the envelope of hatred, the feeding ground that gave life to the suicide bomber."

Habashi was a member of the Islamic movement and once stood as a candidate for the local council under the organisation's banner.

His home village of Abu Snan lies in the foothills of Israel's Galilee region, just 13 kilometres west of Nahariya.

"We never thought any sane person could do a thing like that," said Mr Rafik Nasrah, a neighbour. However, there were earlier signs that some members of the village were becoming more militant.

It was here, nearly a year ago, that Israel arrested seven Arab residents and charged them with spying for the militant Lebanese Islamic guerilla group Hezbollah.

But an Arab Israeli newspaper editor, Mr Lufti Masour, warned against a witch-hunt against his community.

"Humane people everywhere cannot tolerate an act of this sort," he said.

"The second adamant response is that it is inconceivable that a demand be made to punish the entire Arab public for the crime of the suicide bomber Habashi."

Officials in Mr Sharon's office said that for similar reasons the Cabinet had rejected a plan to establish military buffer zones along the Green Line that separates Israel and the West Bank.

Mr Sharon has clashed with the army chief-of-staff, Lieutenant-General Shaul Mofaz, over the issue by cancelling a move to announce the plan last week without Cabinet approval.

Mr Sharon has pointedly made a decision that signals he wants to keep the army in check.

He has passed on his private telephone number to military commanders with the instructions for them to call "next time you want to tell me something".


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), September 10, 2001


hyperlink: http://www.menewsline.com/stories/2001/september/09_11_6.html


LONDON [MENL] -- Saudi Arabia has cancelled a meeting of its military chiefs with their counterparts from the United States in protest of Bush administration policy toward the Middle East.

Arab diplomatic sources said Riyad cancelled a visit by Saudi Chief of Staff Saleh Ali Al Muhaya to Washington. The chief of staff was to have led a large military delegation for talks with the Pentagon on Aug. 29. The meeting was to have lasted for two days.

The sources said Riyad apologized and said Al Muhaya's schedule would not allow for such a visit. But the Saudi-owned A-Sharq Al Awsat daily reported on Monday that the kingdom was expressing its dismay over U.S. support for Israel amid the war with the Palestinian Authority.

The newspaper, quoting Saudi officials, said Riyad did not want to convene a high-level military meeting with the United States amid Israeli attacks on the Palestinians. The London-based daily said a new date is now being discussed.

U.S. officials were awaiting the Saudi military delegation. The two countries were to have discussed defense and military cooperation, including training, exercises and arms sales.

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-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), September 10, 2001.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 Elul 23, 5761 Israel Time: 06:30 (GMT+3) Bomber reflects the growing despair among Israeli Arabs By Ori Nir The consensus among experts on the Israeli Arab community is that the suicide bombing in Nahariya on Sunday - the first such incident carried out by an Israeli Arab - signified more than just a warning about the possibility of others following this path. More importantly, they say, the attack by Mohammed Shaker Habeishi from the town of Abu Snan reflected the difficult plight of the Arab community one year into the intifada and the feelings of despair that could lead the entire Arab public into a popular uprising.

"The past year was a miserable one for the the Arabs in Israel, perhaps the most difficult one they've experienced," says Dr. Eli Reches of Tel Aviv University. "It was a wretched year of backtracking in every possible area related to the lives of the Arabs in the state."

According to Reches, the growing despair has produced some expressions of extremism, but these are relatively marginal and are of less concern that the prospect of a general uprising by the Arabs in Israel. "In my view, the question is not "Will this happen?" but rather "When will this happen?"

Dr. Danny Rabinowitz of Hebrew University says he is especially worried by the fact that extremism among the Arabs in Israel is not generated - like among the Palestinians in the territories - by "the despair of people who have nothing to lose." He says that some feel that they gradually have less to lose and are particularly worried about an erosion of their rights as citizens. "The existential threat of expulsion is becoming real in their eyes," he said. "The fact that this is happening presents a clear and very troubling writing on the wall."

The growing frustration among the Arabs of Israel is partly due to a feeling of hopelessness in regard to the escalating Israeli- Palestinian conflict, but also stems from a feeling that the Israeli establishment is indifferent to their special needs. As part of this atmosphere, the feeling of Palestinian national identity is strengthening (especially among the youth) and Israeli Arabs are adopting a more assertive approach to exercising their civil rights in Israel.

"The message of the events of last October, the eyes of the Arabs, is" `If you go out to demonstrate, you're liable to get killed,'" says Dr. Asad Ganam, a co-director of the Sikkuy non-governmental organization and a lecturer at Haifa University. As a result, he says, the leaders of the Arab public have become wary of mass demonstrations and do not dare to initiate such protests.

"This silence causes more rage to boil up, especially among the youth." Seeking an outlet for this rage, some are ready to take violent action against Jews, Ganam explains.

This feeling of frustration among Israeli Arabs is not only due to the security policy of the Sharon government, but also to its domestic policies, Ganam notes. "As the Arabs view things, this coalition of ministers is the worst of the past 20 years. One minister in the government for whom the transfer of the Arabs of Israel is the centerpiece of his ideology; there is a minister who only last week proposed evacuating settlements in return for the evacuation of the Arab citizens of Israel; there is a minister who announced that she would make financial support for Arab education conditional on expressions of loyalty from the Arab schools; and above all, the prime minister enjoys very wide support among the Jewish public."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has failed to follow through on promises made to the Arabs of Israel. A four-year plan for the Arab sector has joined other grandiose plans on the back shelf. The impact of the five-year plan initiated by the former education minister, Yossi Sarid, is barely discernible. Plans to bring Arab academics into government service and on to the boards of government companies have made little headway and the plans for developing the Bedouin sector have not been implemented at all.

In addition, the Arabs of Israel are witness to a hardening of the views of Israeli Jews, including increasing expressions of racism and hatred toward Arabs by both elected leaders and the man in the street.

"The intifada of Palestinians in Israel last October occurred, among other reasons, due to a hard feeling of being pushed to the margins," says journalist Wadia Awada. "Today this feeling has only strengthened and is pushing us to develop a separate identity. The bitterness accumulates and leads to a profound feeling of alienation; this effectively cuts off the Arabs from the state and the Jewish public."

Beyond the political and civic aspects, the intifada has also taken an economic toll on the Arab citizens of Israel. According to a survey conducted by the Arab-Jewish Center for Economic Development earlier this year, the number of Jews visiting Arab communities has dropped by 50 percent since last October. In some place, such as Nazareth, visits by Jews are some 80-90 percent off their pre- intifada level.

http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml? itemNo=73126&contrassID=2&subContrassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), September 10, 2001.

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