May 17 2002: News from Palestine
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Photos from Jenin

Alert! IDF Again Enter Jenin!!!!

News and Analysis:

1) Israeli Forces Enter Jenin (Reuters)
3) Israel/Occupied Territories: Soldiers imprisoned for refusing to take part in human rights violations (Amnesty International)
4) ISM Embassy Update (e-mail)
5) University of Maryland Poll Points Toward Peace (AlterNet)
6) State Dept Says No Arafat Evidence on Terror Links (Assoicated Press)

1) Israeli Forces Enter Jenin
By Wael al-Ahmad

JENIN, West Bank (May 17) - Israeli forces pushed back into the Jenin refugee camp in a sweep for suspected Palestinian militants early on Friday, returning to the scene of the fiercest fighting in Israel's recent West Bank offensive.

There were no reports of casualties in the assault, which Palestinian witnesses said ended several hours after it began under the cover of darkness.

"It is a pinpoint operation in the refugee camp. Arrests have been made," an army spokeswoman said. Witnesses reported sporadic gunfire and explosions during the incursion into the camp and parts of Jenin city.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers shot dead an armed Palestinian who approached the perimeter fence of the Jewish settlement of Dugit and threw hand grenades at the troops, the Israeli army said in a statement.

The violence coincided with appeals by Palestinian legislators to Yasser Arafat to launch reforms with elections and accountable government to counter Israel's refusal to talk peace with what it calls a "corrupt terror regime."

U.S. and other Western leaders, as well as some major Arab patrons of the Palestinians, believe the Middle East peace process cannot resume without an overhaul of Arafat's Palestinian Authority.

Proposed reforms would seek to consolidate nine Palestinian security services regarded by Israel as instigators of attacks on Israelis.

Legislators would also reduce the size of the Palestinian cabinet, foster an independent judiciary and introduce accountability to decision-making, especially on security and budget matters.

Ordinary Palestinians say the security services now are unable to ensure public order and protect them from the Israeli army.


In the Jenin refugee camp, Israeli forces surrounded the house of a militant of the radical Islamic organization Hamas and ordered him outside.

The militant, Jamal Abu al-Haija, did not appear, but his wife and children left the house. Soldiers then threw hand grenades inside and the house caught fire, the witnesses said.

They said the armored force also entered parts of Jenin city and that soldiers rushed to several buildings and ordered people to get out. The army said the operation was focused on the refugee camp and that troops were "around Jenin" city.

Israeli troops reoccupied Palestinian-ruled towns in the West Bank last month in an offensive the government said was aimed at rooting out militants blamed for a wave of suicide bombings in a Palestinian uprising launched 19 months ago.

The army has pulled out of the towns but continues to encircle them and stage ad hoc raids in what it calls an effort to seize leftover suspects and pre-empt further suicide attacks.

Human rights groups said Israel may have committed "war crimes" in last month's operation in Jenin refugee camp, a militant stronghold where Israeli bulldozers leveled homes and troops and gunmen fought fierce house-to-house battles.


Arafat responded to widespread pressure from ordinary Palestinians, Israel and foreign leaders by calling in a speech to the Palestinian parliament on Wednesday for elections and reforms. But he gave no specifics.

On Thursday, Palestinian legislators seized on Arafat's vague words on reform and called for action.

A committee of Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members urged Arafat to start by authorizing local, general and presidential elections by early 2003 and forming a slimmer government soon to rule until then.

"Between now and the beginning of next year there should be legislative and presidential elections," prominent lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi told Reuters in the West Bank city of Ramallah after the PLC session.

The last election was in 1996.

Ashrawi said the PLC committee had also advocated that the current government remain in place for another 45 days and then yield to a new 19-member cabinet, down from the current 32.

She said the committee had called for an end to "duplication and competition" between Palestinian security services and that they should be subject to the rule of law. It also advocated an independent judiciary.

A consolidation of Palestinian Authority security organs was one of the key steps Israel and Western officials have demanded of Arafat to curb fighters linked to suicide attacks that have killed scores of civilians inside Israel.

Some of the gunmen have come from security circles.

PLC deputies, taking aim at alleged high-level graft said to have bled the Palestinian economy, were also evaluating steps to clarify decision-making in the Palestinian Authority.

At least 1,354 Palestinians and 474 Israelis have died in the Palestinian uprising that erupted in September 2000 after peace talks stalled.

05/17/02 03:25 ET

Tim Wise, AlterNet, May 8
If what we see in Israel is democracy, then what does fascism look like? In a world such as this, where words have lost all meaning, we might as well just burn all the dictionaries.

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines democracy as, among other things, “the principle of equality of rights, opportunity and treatment, or the practice of this principle.” Keep this in mind, as we’ll be coming back to it shortly.

Now, imagine that the United States abolished our Constitution, or perhaps had never had one to begin with. No Bill of Rights. No guarantees of things like free speech, freedom of assembly and due process of law.

And imagine if Congress passed a law stating that the U.S. was from this point forward to be legally defined as a Christian nation. As such, Christians would be given special privileges for jobs, loans, and land ownership, and Christians from anywhere in the world would be given preference in immigration, extended automatic citizenship upon coming to America.

Furthermore, political candidates espousing certain beliefs -- especially those who might argue that we should be a nation with equal rights for all, and not a “Christian nation” -- were no longer allowed to hold office, or even run for election.

And imagine that next month, laws were passed that had the effect of restricting certain ethnic and religious groups from acquiring land in particular parts of the country, and made it virtually impossible for members of ethnic minorities to live in particular communities.

And imagine that in response to perceived threats to our nation’s internal security, new laws sailed through the House and Senate, providing for torture of those detained for suspected subversion. This, on top of still other laws providing for the detention of such suspects for long periods of time without trial or even a formal charge against them.

In such a scenario, would anyone with an appreciation of the English language, and with the above definition in mind, dare suggest that we would be justified in calling ourselves a democracy?

Of course not: and yet the term is repeatedly used to describe Israel -- as in “the only democracy in the Middle East.” This, despite the fact that Israel has no constitution; despite the fact that Israel is defined as the state of the Jewish people, providing special rights and privileges to anyone in the world who is Jewish and seeks to live there, over and above longtime Arab residents. This, despite the fact that Israel bars any candidate from holding office who thinks the country should be a secular, democratic state with equal rights for all. This, despite the fact that non-Jews are restricted in terms of how much land they can own, and in which places they can own land at all, thanks to laws granting preferential treatment to Jewish residents. This, despite that fact that even the Israeli Supreme Court has acknowledged the use of torture against suspected “terrorists” and other “enemies” of the Jewish state.

For some, it is apparently sufficient that Israel has an electoral system, and that Arabs have the right to vote in those elections (though just how equally this right is protected is of course a different matter). The fact that one can’t vote for a candidate who questions the special Jewish nature of the state, because such candidates can’t run for or hold office, strikes most as irrelevant: hardly enough to call into question their democratic credentials.

The Soviet Union also had elections, of a sort. And in those elections, most people could vote, though candidates who espoused an end to the communist system were barred from participation. Voters got to choose between communists. In Israel, voters get to choose between Zionists. In the former case, we recognize such truncated freedom as authoritarianism. In the latter case, we call it democracy.

If giving names like "Operation Enduring Freedom" or "Operation Just Cause" to deadly military offensives is not sufficient to indicate that the English language is dead, this should pretty well prove the point. If what we see in Israel is indeed democracy, then what does fascism look like?

I’m sorry, but I am over it. As a Jew, I am over it. And if my language seems too harsh here, that’s tough. Because it’s nothing compared to the sickening things said by Israeli leaders throughout the years. Like Menachem Begin, former Prime Minister who told the Knesset in 1982 that the Palestinians were “beasts walking on two legs.” Or former P.M. Ehud Barak, who offered a more precise form of dehumanization when he referred to the Palestinians as “crocodiles.”

Speaking of Barak, for more confirmation on the death of language, one should examine his April 14 op-ed in the New York Times. Therein, Barak insisted that democracy in Israel could be “maintained," so long as the Jewish state was willing to set up security fences to separate itself from the Palestinians, and keep the Palestinians in their place. Calling the process “unilateral disengagement,” Barak opined that limiting access by Arabs to Israel is the key to maintaining a Jewish majority, and thus the Jewish nature of the state. That the Jewish nature of the state is inimical to democracy as defined by every dictionary in the world matters not, one supposes.

Barak even went so far as to warn that in the absence of such security fences, Israel might actually become an apartheid state. Imagine that: unless they institute separation they might become an apartheid state. The irony of such a statement is nearly perfect, and once again signals that words no longer have meaning.

Interestingly, amidst the subterfuge, other elements of Barak’s essay struck me as surprisingly honest -- much more honest, in fact, than anything he had said while Prime Minister, during which time he supposedly made that “generous offer” to Arafat about which we keep hearing. You know, the one that would have allowed the maintenance of most Jewish settlements in the territories, and would have restricted the Palestinian state to the worst land, devoid of its own water supply, and cutoff at numerous chokepoints by Israeli security. Yeah that one. The one that has been described variously (without any acknowledgement of the inconsistency) as having offered the Palestinians either 93 percent, or is it 95 percent or maybe 96 percent or perhaps 98 percent of the West Bank and Gaza.

In the Times piece, Barak finally came clean, admitting that Israel would need to erect the fences in such a manner as to incorporate at least one-quarter of the territories into Israel, so as to subsume the settlements. So not 93 percent, or 96 or 98, but at best 75 percent, and still on the worst land. Furthermore, the fences would slice up Jerusalem and restrict Arab access to the Holy Basin and the Old City: a direct swipe at Muslims who seek access on a par with their fellow descendants of Abraham.

That this was Barak’s idea all along should surprise no one. And that such a “solution” would mean the final loss for the Palestinians of all but 17 percent of their pre-Israel territory will likely not strike many in the U.S. media or political elite as being terribly unfair. If anything, we will continue to hear about the intransigence of the Arabs, and their unwillingness to accept these “generous offers,” which can only be seen as generous to a people who have become so inured to human suffering that their very souls are in jeopardy.

Or to those who have never consulted a dictionary -- which defines generous as: “willing to give or share; unselfish; large; ample; rich in yield; fertile.” In a world such as this, where words have lost all meaning, we might as well just burn all the dictionaries.

Sometimes, the linguistic obfuscation goes beyond single words and begins to encompass entire phrases. One such example is the oft-repeated statement to the effect that “Jews should be able to live anywhere in the world, and to say otherwise is to endorse anti-Semitism.” Thus, it is asked, why shouldn’t Jews be able to settle in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem?

Whoever says such a thing must know of its absurdity beforehand. The right to live wherever one chooses has never included the right to live in someone else’s house, after taking it by force or fraud. Nor does it include the right to set up house in territories that are conquered and occupied as the result of military conflict: indeed, international law expressly forbids such a thing. And furthermore, those who insist on the right of Jews to live wherever they choose, by definition deny the same right to Palestinians, who cannot live in the place of their choosing, or even in the homes that were once theirs.

Needless to say, many Palestinians would like to live inside Israel’s pre-1948 borders, and exercise a right of return in order to do so. But don’t expect those who demand the right for Jews to plant stakes anywhere we choose to offer the same right to Arabs. Many of these are among the voices that insist Jordan is “the Palestinian state,” and thus, Palestinians should be perfectly happy living there. Since Palestinians are Semites, one could properly call such an attitude “anti-Semitic” -- seeing as how it limits the rights of Semitic peoples to live wherever they wish -- but given the transmogrification of the term “anti-Semitism” into something that can only apply to Jew-hatred, such a usage would seem bizarre to many.

The rhetorical shenanigans even extend to the world of statistics. Witness the full-page advertisement in the New York Times placed by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which ran the same day as the Barak op-ed. Therein, these supposed spokespersons for American Judaism stated their unyielding support for Israel, and claimed that the 450 Israeli deaths caused by terrorism since the beginning of the second intifada, were equal to 21,000 deaths in the U.S. from terrorism, as a comparable percentage of each nation’s overall population. Playing upon fears and outrage over the attacks of 9/11, the intent was quite transparent: get U.S. readers to envision 9/11 all over again, only with seven times more casualties!

Of course, if one were at all concerned with honesty, one might point out that the numbers of Palestinian non-combatant (that is to say civilian) deaths, at the hands of Israel in that same time period, is much higher, and indeed would be “equal to” far more than 21,000 in the U.S., as a comparable share of respective populations. To be honest to a fault would be to note that the 900 or so Palestinians slaughtered with Israeli support in the Sabra and Shatilla camps during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, would be equal to over 40,000 Americans. Even more, the 17,500 Arabs killed overall by Israel during that invasion would be roughly equivalent to over 800,000 Americans today: the size of many large cities.

In a world where words still had meaning, such things might even be considered "terrorism."

Ariel Sharon once said, “A lie should be tried in a place where it will attract the attention of the world.” And so it has been: throughout the media and the U.S. political scene, on CNN in the personage of Benjamin Netanyahu, and in the pages of the New York Times.

And in my Hebrew School, where we were taught that Jews were to be “a light unto the nations,” instead of this dim bulb, this flickering nightlight, this barely visible spark whose radiance is only sufficient to make visible the death-rattle of the more noble aspects of the Jewish tradition. Unless we who are Jews insist on a return to honest language, and an end to the hijacking of our culture and faith by madmen, racists and liars, I fear that the light may be extinguished forever.

Tim Wise is an antiracist activist, educator and writer. He can be reached at

3) Israel/Occupied Territories: Soldiers imprisoned for refusing to take part in human rights violations
Date: 5/14/02 3:04:27 PM Pacific Daylight Time
* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *

14 May 2002
MDE 15/081/2002

On the International day of the Conscientious Objector on 15 May
Amnesty International draws attention to the rising number of
Israeli soldiers and reservists imprisoned for refusing to
perform their military service in the Occupied Territories. This
rise is the result of a growing concern of conscripts, soldiers
and reservists about some of the actions taken by the Israeli
Defense Forces (IDF) in the Occupied Territories.

"Israel must recognise the right to refuse military
service on grounds of conscience as recognised under the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which it
is a party," Amnesty International said. "We call on the IDF to
take the concern of its own reservists, soldiers and conscripts
seriously. It is a message to halt actions which breach human
rights standards and international humanitarian law."

A total of 460 reservists have so far signed a letter
issued in January 2002 stating: "We shall not fight beyond the
1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an
entire people."

An earlier open letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in
September 2001 was signed by 62 school students approaching the
age of conscription. In explanation of their refusal to perform
military service the letter said: "We strongly resist Israel's
pounding of human rights. Land expropriation, arrests, executions
without a trial, house demolition, closure, torture, and the
prevention of health care are only some of the crimes the state
of Israel carries out, in blunt violation of international
conventions it has ratified."

One of the signatories, Igal Rosenberg (18), has just
started a fifth prison sentence for refusing military service. He
served a first 21-day prison sentence from 3 to 21 February; then
a 28-day sentence from 26 February to 22 March; then a 14-day
prison term from 10 to 22 April 2002; on 29 April he was
sentenced to another 14 days. On 13 May 2002 he received a fifth
prison sentence of 14 days.

Conscientious objectors in Israel are imprisoned for
weeks and sometimes months, normally after unfair trials. In many
cases they serve multiple prison sentences. Since the beginning
of the intifada at least 114 conscientious objectors have been
imprisoned with about 20 of them serving prison sentences at

First Sergeant Rafram Haddad (26), a reservist with the military
police, was sentenced on 29 April 2002 to 28 days imprisonment
for refusing to serve as a guard at Megiddo Military Prison,
where Palestinians are held for long periods of time without
trial. Rafram Haddad is an active member of the Jerusalem peace

On 25 April 2002, Shay Biran, Yiftah Admoni, Alon Dror and Tomer
Friedman received prison sentences of 28 days after refusing to
serve as guards at the Ketziot Prison (also known as Ansar III)
in the Negev desert, recently reopened to hold hundreds of
Palestinians detained during the recent IDF operations in the
Occupied Territories. All four serve in the Nahal Brigade, which
consists mainly of youth movement graduates. Shay Biran and Tomer
Friedman had previously seen active combat duty in the Occupied
Territories. Each of the soldiers defended his decision in

Amnesty International calls on the Israeli government
to release immediately and unconditionally all those who have
been imprisoned because they refused to serve in the Israeli army
for reasons of conscience or profound conviction.

A person who for reasons of conscience or profound conviction
arising from religious, ethical, moral, humanitarian,
philosophical, political or similar motive refuses to perform
armed service or any other direct or indirect participation in
wars or armed conflicts and is imprisoned as a result of his/her
refusal to serve is considered by Amnesty International to be a
prisoner of conscience unless such a person has also refused to
perform alternative civilian service of comparable length. There
is no such alternative civilian service in Israel.

4) ISM Embassy Updates

> Hey, everyone, sorry this is such a long and
> possibly incomprehensible e-mail thread, but the
> issue is simple: The ISM activists who were
> arrested in and outside of the Nativity Church are
> still being held in Israel. We keep being told that
> they are being sent home, but that keeps turning out
> not to be true. The U.S. citizens in particular are
> being treated very badly, at least one of them is
> very weak from a long and intense (and probably
> ill-advised, but we won't get into that) hunger
> strike, and the U.S. government is doing virtually
> nothing except lying to everyone, which is
> presumably why the U.S. people are still in while
> everyone else is on their way home. So people need
> to take a few minutes to act now.
> If you can call, it's:
> Ed McKean - US Embassy - 011 972 3519 7551
> Nica Cleaverly US Embassy - American Citizens
> Services 011 972 3519 7479
> E-mail is
> Thanks,
> Kate
> If you're calling about the men, will you please
> call about Kristen Schurr
> as well? She's from Seattle. The other two women
> have been deported, so
> she's all alone now. She was also treated very
> roughly during the arrest.
> They wont tell her when she'll be deported. She's
> been "poked, proded,
> screamed at, and strip searched several times" (her
> words). For five days
> (since they grabbed her) shes been willing to leave,
> but they refuse to let
> her.
> -jordan
> From: "gabriel sayegh" <>
> Reply-To:
> Subject: [nativity-support] Embassy update
> Date: Tue, 14 May 2002 11:05:03 -0700
> Hey all,
> Just a quick follow up. I just spoke with Ed McKean
> at the U.S. embassy in
> Israel. Trevor has invoked his privacy rights, and
> so McKean insists that
> he couldn't tell me any new information. But i
> pressed him as to what the
> embassy is doing to get those men home-- and he said
> they were 'doing all we
> can,' which means little. He did suggest that i
> could 'email ideas to them
> on how to get Trevor home.' (their email:
> i suggested
> this: 'well, getting him out of prison and putting
> him on a plane sounds
> like a surefire way to me.'
> i suggest that we continue to make calls to the
> embassy, and also to the
> representative offices. Ask them why the men are
> still there-- all four of
> them have now loudly vocalized their desire to leave
> the country
> immediately. If they're free to go, why are they
> still in prison? Ask the
> embassy and the rep. offices what they are doing to
> help expediate this
> situation. Ask them why the embassy is insisting
> that Trevor (or his family)
> buy a new plane ticket, when Trevor already *has* a
> return ticket for this
> friday, 17 may?
> Here are the numbers, once again:
> Ed McKean - US Embassy - 011 972 3519 7551
> Nica Cleaverly US Embassy - American Citizens
> Services
> 011 972 3519 7479
> These are the direct lines that we have been
> flooding. Please continue to
> call until we see Trevor in the US
> Congressman Jim McDermott 206-553-7170
> Senator Patty Murray 206-553-5545
> Senator Maria Cantwell 202-224-3441
> also:
> 1.) i've also included here a report from Eli, who
> also called the embassy.
> It might be helpful if you read this *before*
> calling the embassy or any
> representatives; it'll give you a clue of what to
> expect.
> 2.) below Eli's message is a message from Georgina
> Reeves, who is a
> International Solidarity Movement spokesperson and
> also works at the
> Palestinian Independent Media center
> ( Her report
> is about both the four men and the other ISM folks
> who were captured when
> the Israeli military went into the Church of the
> Nativity.
> 3.) please check out a website that's been set about
> Trevor's case; it
> includes his excellent dispatches from Palestine and
> Israel, and is
> continually updated with fresh information about
> the current situation.
> in strength,
> gabriel.

5) Poll Points Toward Peace
Jim Lobe, AlterNet
May 13, 2002
Viewed on May 15, 2002

An in-depth poll conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on
International Policy Initiatives (PIPA) found that a majority of Americans do
not agree with the views advocated by pro-Israeli hawks in the White House
and Congress.

They do not favor supporting Israel in its war against Palestinians; nor do
they view Israel's recent invasion of Palestinian territories as part of the
broader war on terrorism. The public instead wants the United States to work
in conjunction with the United Nations and other countries to broker or even
impose a final settlement to the Israeli/Palestinian war.

According to the poll -- which posed more than 50 detailed questions to 801
respondents -- two-thirds of Americans want Washington to be strictly
even-handed in its approach to the conflict. But 58 percent say President
Bush has taken Israel's side in the ongoing conflict.

But the poll also shows that Americans strongly condemn Palestinian suicide
bombings and feel greater sympathy for Israel than before 9/11. A strong
majority, however, objects to Sharon's military actions last month and his
refusal to accede to Bush's appeals to withdraw from reoccupied towns. An
overwhelming 76 percent say Israel should allow the United Nations to
investigate its military operation in Jenin. Moreover, almost two-thirds of
the respondents see Israel's recent military attacks on towns on the West
Bank as counter-productive. Sixty-two percent say the likelihood of future
bombings has been increased by the attacks; while only 15 percent say the
likelihood of such attacks has diminished.

Most Americans also do not perceive the Israeli invasion as a struggle
against terrorism. In contrast to a CBS poll taken in mid-April -- cited in
Monday's New York Times -- the PIPA survey conducted during the first week of
May found that an overwhelming majority of Americans disagree with Congress's
view of the conflict.

This month both houses passed resolutions -- which might as well have been
written by the right-wing lobbying group American-Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC) -- expressing strong support for the Israeli offensive,
linking it to the broader war on terrorism. When respondents were asked to
describe the war, 46 percent agreed with the statement that the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict was one "between two national groups fighting
over the same piece of land." Only a small minority of Americans (17 percent)
described it as a part of the war on terrorism, "similar to the U.S. struggle
with al-Qaeda."

The PIPA survey's detailed findings suggest that official Washington's strong
support for Sharon is not shared by the general public.

"What this poll makes clear is that recent actions by Congress are out of
step with the American public and their views on the crisis in the Middle
East," says Steven Kull, PIPA's director. "Americans clearly hold both sides
equally responsible for the current situation and are willing to increase
pressure on both sides to achieve a peace deal."

The Bush measures that enjoy strong popular support include taking on an
active role in the Middle East conflict and asking Israeli forces to withdraw
from Palestinian territories. The poll also showed that the public sides
strongly with Secretary of State Colin Powell in the battle within the
administration for control over Mideast policy. Powell's efforts to rein in
Sharon have often been foiled by pro-Likud members within the administration,
including sometimes the President himself. Four out of five respondents said
they approved of Powell's meeting with Arafat last month, while 82 percent
said they favored his initiative to convene a major international conference
with the European Union (EU), Russia and the United Nations, to deal with the

"It's quite pro-Colin Powell," says Jerome Segal, a leading expert on
Israeli-Palestinian relations.

But other members of the Bush administration have already begun "downplaying"
the significance of the conference that is supposed to take place as early as
next month. The fact that such a large majority of Americans support the
idea, however, suggests that it should not be "a window-dressing kind of
conference," said Segal. "The president has to get serious about this."

Unlike the "lone cowboy" approach favored by the Right, most Americans favor
a more multilateral approach to the Middle East crisis. More than two-thirds
of the respondents agreed with the notion that the United Nations or a group
of leading nations, including the U.S., should take the lead in resolving the
conflict. The same percentage favored allowing the UN Security Council to
decide the territorial boundaries of the two sides. And an overwhelming 77
percent said Washington should participate in an UN-sponsored multinational
peacekeeping force to enforce any final peace accord achieved between Israel
and the Palestinian Authority.

The disconnect between official Washington and public opinion -- aside from
the fabled strength of the pro-Israel lobby - may have something to do with
just how much these views will count come election time. For most people,
U.S. policy in the Middle East will not affect their votes, or even spur them
to contact their elected representative or senator.

"Even though you have a balanced public, if you're asking the question who
will pound [a politician] more on this issue, there's an imbalance" between
supporters of Israel and the Palestinians, says I.M. "Mac" Destler, an public
opinion expert at the University of Maryland.

But Kull says the public has shown more interest in the conflict recently.

Three-quarters of respondents said they were following Mideast events either
very closely or fairly closely -- an unusually high percentage for a conflict
that does not involve the deployment of U.S. troops.

"What has happened in the last few months is that a larger portion of the
population are looking at this as a priority issue," said Shibley Telhami, a
Mideast specialist at the Brooking Institution. "If so, it becomes more
difficult [for the administration] to ignore."

And the prospects for peace may be just a little brighter this week. American
support for a negotiated peaceful settlement is echoed in the most recent
Israeli polls. A new survey conducted by the Dahaf Institute last Friday
found that 59 percent of Israelis believe that a withdrawal from the occupied
territories -- which includes the evacuation of most of the settlements there
-- will rekindle the peace process. The same percentage said they would
support a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians under U.S.
sponsorship that includes a withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a compromise
on Jerusalem.

The poll results are reinforced by the revival of the Israeli peace movement,
which held a massive rally -- with anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000
protestors -- to demonstrate in support of the Saudi peace plan in Tel Aviv
(which includes dismantling the settlements) over the weekend.

Jim Lobe writes on foreign policy issues for AlterNet, Inter-Press Services
and Foreig

6) State Dept Says No Arafat Evidence
.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - A State Department report found ``no clear evidence'' that Yasser Arafat or other senior officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization planned or approved of terror attacks on Israel between mid-June and mid-December of last year.

``The weight of evidence,'' however, indicates that senior leaders of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority knew that elements of Arafat's organization, including his bodyguards, were involved in violence against Israel and ``did little to rein them in,'' the department said in a report to Congress.

The report said it was clear that those in the PLO who committed acts of terror were going unpunished, and that there is no system to bring terrorists to justice within the Palestinian organization.

``The Palestinian Authority has in some important respects at least tolerated an atmosphere that promoted or supported the use of violence,'' the report said.

The Palestinian Authority occasionally cooperated in arresting suspected Palestinian militants from lists provided by the United States and Israel, the report said. ``However, often those arrested were quickly released or were kept under questionable conditions of arrest,'' such as in comfortable surroundings.

The report dealt with PLO compliance with the 1993 Oslo accords and their requirements that Arafat's organization counter terror.

There were several suicide bombings, including an attack on a pizzeria in Jerusalem that killed 15 Israelis, in the six-month period.

An attempt to smuggle 50 tons of Iranian weapons and ammunition to the Palestinians was aborted by Israeli commandos weeks after the period covered by the report. Also, there was a rash of suicide bombings that occurred outside the time period reviewed.

The Israeli government has charged Arafat knew of the smuggling, which violated the Oslo accords, and was aware of terror attacks.

Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, called the report ``a disgrace and misleading'' and ``a crude and transparent attempt to exonerate Arafat rather than reveal the truth.''

Lantos said he would ask Secretary of State Colin Powell to file a supplement to the report, particularly on what Lantos called Arafat's involvement in the smuggling episode. Arafat ``obviously is involved in terrorist activity,'' Lantos said.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the report submitted to Congress on Tuesday was consistent with past assessments of the PLO's performance on terrorism.

Elements of the PLO are engaged in attacks on Israel, the report said. But it is unclear whether they were acting at the direction of or with the foreknowledge of the senior leadership of Fatah, the main faction controlled by Arafat, or of the PLO, the official said Congress was told.

Meanwhile, CIA Director George Tenet may bring Israeli and Palestinian security experts to Washington for talks on curbing terror, two other U.S. officials said.

Tenet has been expected to go to the Middle East to try to revamp the Palestinian security operation. As of Thursday, he had not decided.

Switching security talks to Washington could make it easier for the Bush administration to apply pressure for a radical overhaul in the security situation.

The administration is demanding that the Palestinians establish a unified security system. Strengthening security is an Israeli condition for submitting to U.S. pressure to resume negotiations that President Bush and Powell hope will lead to a Palestinian state on land now controlled by Israel.

05/16/02 19:47 EDT


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