Vol. 9, Issue No. 27/2002
To understand bin Laden, begin with Israel's Likud
by James R. Thompson
My, how times have changed. I recall during the Vietnam War how a significant minority of the faculties of American universities was in ardent opposition to America's attempt to save South Vietnam from the communist government of Giap and Ho Chi Minh. Many of those faculty now have become the presidents, deans and provosts of many of today's leading universities. Yet one hears little opposition to the Bush campaign in Afghanistan from these graying activists.
Similarly, such newspapers as The New York Times and The Washington Post are solidly in support of US military actions against al-Qaida. Then there are the leaders of the US television and film industries. No Hanoi Janes anymore. Suddenly, Hollywood is peopled solely with patriots.
It would be pleasant to hope that some sort of intellectual conversion, one which extends even to the universities and the media, had taken place.
Still, one has to wonder. ABC News President David Westin disdained to deny that the Pentagon had been a legitimate target on 9-11. What might have been the response of our opinion-makers if the attack had been on "only" the Pentagon. Would the "objectivity" of the media have moderated the patriotic zeal which they have recently exhibited in full measure? Would peace rallies have dotted the campuses? Would the Rev. Jesse Jackson have been on an airplane to seek accommodation with Osama bin Laden? I hope not and propose not to look too carefully for contrary evidence.
And yet it is the business not only of academics but of all Americans to try and see what we can do to eliminate future 9-11 tragedies. In my opinion, the doctrinaire and predictable "blame America" remarks of professor Robert Jensen of the University of Texas at Austin are well off the mark. As much as Jensen might like to believe otherwise, his views are shared by precious few in academia, including those on the far left.
In his Sept. 20 speech to a joint session of Congress, President Bush said about the terrorists:
"They hate us for what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."
All perfectly true, no doubt, but the backgound for an environment in parts of the Muslim world that tolerates monsters like bin Laden is worth examination. To understand that mind-set it is necessary to begin with the importance of Israel's far-right party, the Likud.
Former Israeli Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has argued that the long-standing military and financial support of America for Israel had had nothing to do with the terrorist attack on America. Moreover, he argued that the terrorist attacks on Israel were not due to anything Israel had done but rather were caused by Israel's long-standing friendship with the United States. Nice try, Mr. Netanyahu, but no cigar.
In Israel, within a short walk of the Yad Vashem memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, is the site of Deir Yassin, where the Stern Gang/Irgun activists of Yitzak Shamir and Menachem Begin (later Likudist prime ministers of Israel) slaughtered all the men, women and children in that unfortunate Arab village on April 9, 1948. This was the beginning of a consistent policy of the extreme right-wing Israeli parties, which ultimately became the Likud, to see to it that the Palestinians would be terrorized into leaving the land of their forefathers or suffer the fate of the Canaanites of 3,500 years previous.
The United Nations peace envoy of that time, Count Bernadotte, was assassinated by Sternists who feared that he might actually achieve a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Jews. The majority party during most of modern Israel's history, the Mapai, seriously advocated and continues to advocate peaceful coexistence among the inhabitants of the Holy Land. One of their leaders, Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, hero of the Six-Day War of 1967 and a major advocate of peace, was assassinated in 1995 by an extreme right-wing.
Israeli youth, for much the same reasons that Bernadotte was killed. Rabin's widow, Leah, never absolved the Likud leaders of their responsibility in creating the situation which led to her husband's murder. Israel has had four chiefs of state: Begin, Shamir, Netanyahu and Sharon who are members of Likud. Their implicit "final solution to the Palestinian problem" is not something of which most Americans would approve.
According to Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist Seymour Hersch in The Samson Option, under a Likud government in the early 1980s, [the Israeli intelligence agency] Mossad recruited Jonathan Pollard to spy on the United States. Ultimately, the equivalent of 500,000 pages of high-security U.S. documents was transferred by Pollard to Israeli intelligence. Hersh writes, "In fact some of the most important Pollard documents were retyped and then made available to the Soviet Union as a gesture of Israeli good will, at the specific instructions of Yitzhak Shamir, a longtime advocate of closer Israeli-Soviet ties." Then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger described the strategic intelligence losses to America from the Pollard spying as the greatest in American history.
In September 1982, armed men passed freely through the Israeli lines surrounding the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon. Around 1,000 people were slaughtered. Such was the outrage of the Israeli people that the Likud defense minister of the time, Ariel Sharon, was forced to resign his post. On Oct. 23, 1983, suicide bombers in Beirut killed 241 U.S. Marines in the largest loss of American military personnel in a single day between the first day of the Tet offensive and the attack of 9-11. There is evidence that the Likud government knew in advance an attack was in the works but declined to inform Israel's American friends.
The point I am trying to make is that the Likud Party in Israel includes some leaders outside the boundaries of what most Americans would deem to be "friendly."
On Sept. 28, 2000, accompanied by hundreds of shock troops, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "visited" the Dome of the Rock. This was a provocation pure and simple. Sharon has followed with the bulldozing of Palestinian villages, the blockading of others and the use of American helicopters to fire upon crowds. A desperate and militarily impotent subset of the Palestinian population has sent forth its young men in evil and counterproductive acts of terrorism against Israelis, providing Likud's Prime Minister Sharon with an excuse to drop the peace process altogether.
Sharon's hope has been to bring us into his conflict with the Arabs. At first blush, it would appear that this has happened. The 9-11 attack on America is something Americans will never forgive or forget. But both President Bush and his secretary of state, Colin Powell, seem disinclined to let Sharon have his way and drive America into a conflict with the Islamic world. Our quarrel is with terrorism, not with the Muslims. For the first time, an American administration is talking seriously about setting up a secure nation-state for the Palestinians. Bush is doing everything possible to assure Muslims worldwide that America is not their enemy. America seeks justice in the Middle East.
We Americans are not, as professor Jensen would have it, bloody minded imperialists. We are most happy when we are left alone to get on with our lives in the only land on Earth we want, the United States of America. But sometimes we make mistakes. Our long-term policy in the Middle East has been flawed. Six billion dollars in foreign aid annually to Israel (including $2 billion to Egypt to keep Israel's southwestern border pacific), with no strings attached, do not a wise foreign policy make. It is in the nature of Americans that we learn from our experiences. We mourn our dead, thrash our enemies and try to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future. That appears to be what the Bush administration is doing and doing well. We should all wish it Godspeed.
James R. Thompson, Noah Harding Professor of Statistics
Thompson is Noah Harding Professor of Statistics at Rice University and a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and the International Statistical Institute. His latest book, Statistical Process Control: the Deming Paradigm and Beyond, has recently been published by Chapman & Hall.
Section: Viewpoints, Outlook
Jan. 18, 2002
Feb 2, 2002
Israel consul disputes Thompson's Likud, bin Laden article:
I was appalled by the Jan. 18 Outlook article by James Thompson, "To understand [terrorist leader Osama] bin Laden, begin with Israel's Likud." It was disturbing that the Chronicle choose a headline that demonized Israel's political leaders and drew a false comparison between the atrocities of the Sept. 11 attacks and Israel.
Likud is an important and legitimate party in Israel's democratically elected Parliament and has on its platform the desire for peace and security. Al-Qaida seeks the destruction of America and the killing of innocents. This comparison -- like most of Thompson's other arguments -- was false and ridiculous.
Here are some corrections to some of his falsehoods:
-- Claim: "On Oct. 23, 1983, suicide bombers in Beirut killed 241 U.S. Marines. There is evidence that the Likud government knew in advance of an attack."
Fact: Thompson doesn't even bother to describe the so-called "evidence," as there is none.
-- Claim: "In September, 1982, armed men passed freely through the Israeli lines surrounding the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in Lebanon."
Fact: Thompson intentionally omitted the most relevant fact concerning Sabra and Shatilla, which was that those who attacked the Palestinians were Lebanese Christian Phalangists -- not Israelis.
-- Claim: "Deir Yassin, where the Stern/Irgun activists of Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin slaughtered all the men, women and children ... ."
Fact: This attack occurred during Israel's War of Independence, while Israel was fighting for its existence and Jerusalem was under siege. Before the attack, a loudspeaker was used to warn the Arab civilians to evacuate the area and 200 of them did. Regrettably, there were 107 Arabs who died during the attack on the village, including civilians. The Irgun suffered 41 casualties. These civilian deaths were tragic, but were in no way typical of the conduct of Israeli forces.
Furthermore, throughout the war, many Israeli civilians were killed by Arab forces. Just a few days after the battle in Deir Yassin, an Arab force ambushed a Jewish convoy on the way to the Hadassah Hospital and killed 77 people -- mostly doctors and nurses.
-- Claim: "Accompanied by hundreds of shock troops, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon `visited' the Dome of the Rock, which was a provocation pure and simple."
Fact: Imad Faluji, the Palestinian Authority's communications minister, admitted months after Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount (Judaism's holiest site) that the violence had been planned in July, far in advance of Sharon's visit.
-- Claim: "Six billion dollars in foreign aid annually to Israel ... with no strings attached ... "
Fact: Israel receives approximately $2.8 billion in foreign aid annually, a bi-partisan effort to support a besieged democracy and ally in the Middle East. In 1998, Israel offered to voluntarily reduce its dependence on U.S. economic aid. The aid package is reduced by $120 million each year. This basic fact is easily documented on various Internet websites.
(=) Zion Evrony, consul general
Dear Iwo: This is the full text of my response as submitted to the Chronicle. It was considerably shortened when printed. I give you here the full text in case you want to read the sources in extenso
Feb 6, 2002
Mr. Evrony questions five claims made in my article on the Likud. I will document them in the order he presents in his letter.
1. Claim "On Oct. 23, 1983, suicide bombers in Beirut killed 241 U.S. Marines. There is evidence that the Likud government knew in advance an attack was in the works but declined to inform Israel's American friends."
Supporting Documentation: Victor Ostrovsky and Claire Hoy, By Way of Deception: The Making and Unmaking of a Mossad Officer (NY: St. Martin's Press, 1990), pp. 321-322.
"In the summer of 1983, this same informant told the Mossad about a large Mercedes truck that was being fitted by the Shi'ite Muslims with spaces that could hold bombs. He said it had even larger than usual spaces for this, so that whatever it was destined for was going to be a major target. Now, the Mossad knew that, for size, there were only a few logical targets, one of which must be the U.S. compound. The question then was whether or not to warn the Americans to be on particular alert for a truck matching the description.
"The decision was too important to be taken in the Beirut station, so it was passed along to Tel Aviv, where Admony, then head of Mossad, decided they would simply give the Americans the usual general warning, a vague notice that they had reason to believe someone might be planning an operation against them. But this was so general, and so commonplace, it was like sending a weather report; unlikely to raise any particular alarm or prompt increased security precautions.
"At the same time, however, all Israeli installations were given the specific details and warned to watch for a truck matching the description of the Mercedes.
"At 6:20 a.m. on October 23, 1983, a large Mercedes truck approached the Beirut airport, passing well within sight of Israeli sentries in their nearby base, going through a Lebanese army checkpoint, and turning left into the parking lot. A US Marine guard reported with alarm that the truck was gathering speed, but before he could do anything, the truck roared toward the entrance of the four-story reinforced concrete Aviation Safety Building, used as headquarters for the Eighth Marine Battalion, crashing through a wrought-iron gate, hitting the sand-bagged guard post, smashing through another barrier, and ramming over a wall of sandbags into the lobby, exploding with such a terrific force that the building was instantly reduced to rubble.
"The loss of 241 U.S. Marines, most of them still sleeping in their cots at the time of the suicide mission, was the highest single-day death toll for the Americans since 246 died throughout Vietnam at the start of the Tet offensive on January 13, 1968.
"The general attitude [of the Mossad] about the Americans was: 'Hey, they wanted to stick their nose into this Lebanon thing, let them pay the price.'"
2. Claim "In September 1982, armed men passed freely through the Israeli lines surrounding the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in Lebanon."
Supporting Documentation: Summary of the [Israeli] Kahan Commission Report, full text available at <http://www.caabu.org/press/documents/kahan-commission-intro.html>.
Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the events at the refugee camps in Beirut, 8 February 1983. The Commission determined that the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla was carried out by a Phalangist unit, acting on its own but its entry was known to Israel. No Israeli was directly responsible for the events which occurred in the camps. But the Commission asserted that Israel had indirect responsibility for the massacre since the I.D.F. held the area, Mr. Begin was found responsible for not exercising greater involvement and awareness in the matter of introducing the Phalangists into the camps. Mr. Sharon was found responsible for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge when he approved the entry of the Phalangists into the camps as well as not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed. Mr. Shamir erred by not taking action after being alerted by communications Minister Zippori. Chief of Staff Eitan did not give the appropriate orders to prevent the massacre. The Commission recommended that the Defense Minister resign, that the Director of Military Intelligence not continue in his post and other senior officers be removed.
3. Claim " Deir Yassin, where the Stern Gang/Irgun activists of Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin slaughtered all the men, women and children."
Supporting Documentation: Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, O Jerusalem! (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1972), pp. 310- 314. "(Jacques de Reynier, Head of the Red Cross Mission in Palestine, who entered Deir Yassin toward the end of the massacre, speaks of the Irgun/Stern Gang troops:) `They seemed half mad. I saw a beautiful girl carrying a dagger still covered with blood. I heard screams. ... All I could think of was the [Nazi] SS troops I'd seen in Athens.' "
"Yeshurn Schiff, [of the Haganah], . the terrorists [Irgun and Stern Gang] had preferred, he noted `to kill anybody they found alive as though every living thing in the village was the enemy and they could only think Kill them all.'"
"The overwhelming majority of the Jews of Palestine reacted to Deir Yassin with shock and abhorrence. The Jewish Agency immediately disassociated itself from the terrorists' act and roundly condemned it. David Ben-Gurion personally cabled his shock at the incident .
"The Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem took the extraordinary step of excommunicating the participants."
Further documentation: Menachem Begin, The Revolt (NY: Dutton, 1977). Of the Deir Yassin incident, the first Likudist Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, wrote the following in his autobiography The Revolt: "Out of evil, however, good came. The legend was worth half a dozen battalions to the forces of Israel. Panic overwhelmed the Arabs of Eretz-Israel."
4. Claim "Accompanied by hundreds of shock troops, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon 'visited' the Dome of the Rock. This was a provocation pure and simple."
Supporting Documentation: Amos Elon, The New York Review of Books, October 18, 2001 (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/14624).
"Ariel Sharon knew what he was doing on September 28, 2000. In hot pursuit of the Israeli premiership, he marched onto Jerusalem's most contentious piece of real estate, the magnificent plateau, paved with pink and gray polished stone, which Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). Other than during the Friday prayers, the site often seems nearly empty. On this particular day, Sharon arrived guarded by almost a thousand armed policemen and soldiers. "
5. Claim "Six billion dollars in foreign aid anually to Israel (including $2 billion to Egypt to keep Israel's southwestern border pacific), with no strings attached, do not a wise foreign policy make."
Supporting Documentation (concerning amounts): Jewish Virtual Library, <http://www.jsource.org/jsource/US-Israel/U.S._Assistance_to_Israel1.html>, gives a figure of 4.1291 billion dollars for direct US aid to Israel in 2000. Jewish Virtual Library, <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsourc/US-Israel/egyptaid.html>,gives a figure of 2.0283 billion for US aid to Egypt in 2000. Total: 6.1574 billion dollars.
James R. Thompson
Noah Harding Professor of Statistics
Vol. 9, Issue No. 27/2002
© Copyright 2002 by Andrzej M. Salski