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February 17, 1989 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-02-17

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16

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 1989

Why Force Can't Solve
Israel's Intifada Crisis

HELEN DAVIS

Foreign Correspondent

Reports of human rights
violations by Israeli security
forces are not new. Amnesty
International, the London-
based monitor of human
rights abuses, is just one of a
host of agencies which
regularly target Israel for its
treatment of the Palestinians.
Such reports are invariably
brushed aside contemptuous-
ly by Israeli spokesmen who
prefer to address the motives
and political partiality of the
authors and the organiza-
tions rather than the issues
themselves.
The State Department's
stinging rebuke of Israel's
human rights record in the
occupied territories, contain-
ed in the „annual report of
Assistant Secretary for
Human Rights Richard
Schifter, can hardly be writ-
ten off as simply another
malevolent, left-wing, anti-
Zionist, anti-Semitic diatribe.
Not only does the report
come from Israel's close friend
and trusted ally but, taken
together with the recent deci-
sion to open a dialogue with
the PLO and the uncertain
future direction of the new ad-
ministration, it contains
potentially serious implica-
tions for relations between
Washington and Jerusalem.
The extreme discomfort in
Jerusalem was evident by the
unprecedented responses
from political leaders, govern-
ment officials and military
sources, who were quick to
weigh in with their reactions,
which ranged from- explana-
tion and justification to
righteous indignation.
But perhaps the most
revealing comments of all
came from President Chaim
Herzog when he addressed a
visiting delegation of women
from the religious-Zionist
Emunah movement.
He conceded that there
were "doubtless aspects of the
case which warrant corrective
treatment and, indeed, over
50 members of our armed
forces have been arraigned or
court-martialed for exceeding
their authority."
Having said that, however,
he launched an attack on the
report for lacking perspective,
ignoring the provocation to
which Israel's security forces
had been subjected and for
failing to recommend how
order could be maintained in
the circumstances.
Yet what concerned the
President more than

anything else - beyond the
context of the continuing
violence, beyond the moral
and political issues, beyond
the rights and wrongs—was
what he described as the
media's "obsessive interest"
in Israel.
Israel, he pronounced, was
"the only democracy in this
area, the only country in
which the international press
is absolutely free to operate,
the only country in the area
in which those who exceed
their authority are brought
publicly to trial."
"Without prejudice to the
importance of a public ex-
amination of the allegations
and a public effort to correct
them if they are found to be
justified, it seems to me that
this is a classic example of the
problem which we, as a
Jewish State, face.
"This obsessive interest
with everything we do, to the
exclusion of any interest in
what is going on in other
countries as far as human
rights are concerned, is most
alarming.
"We have suffered from this
obsessive prejudice as a
Jewish people over the ages
and, apparently, nothing
much has changed in this
selective attitude, even
though we have achieved
statehood:'
The imbalance in reporting,
he added, "is terrifying in its
implication, because it
arouses - for us, the Jewish
people, specters of our past."
This intemperate outburst
is uncharacteristic of the
usually thoughtful, measured
statements of the Israeli
President. Rather than direc-
ting his cool, lawyer's mind to
a careful assessment of the
very serious issues raised by
the report, Herzog chose, to
shoot the messenger.
True, there are more serious
violations of human rights
committed daily in almost
every other country in the
region; true, Israel is singled
out for special mention in the
report; true, too, there is an
imbalance in media attention
between Israel and its
neighbors.
The fact is that Israel- is a
liberal democracy in a sea of
despotism and feudalism. It
acknowledges that it is dif-
ferent, glories in its
difference.
It does not deliver missiles
with chemical payloads on its
opponents, as the Iraqi
regime has done; it does not
wipe out tens of thousands of
opponents as the Syrians
have done; it does not send its

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