A Welcome Change
Israel applauds Amnesty International
report on Palestinian attacks.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
The diplomatic "Quartet" on the Middle East peace process — shown is
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, seated left, center, facing U.S. Secretary of
State Colin Powell, seated right center.
ing about whether Israeli or
Palestinian officials will be willing to
accept any proposals emerging from
The New York meetings came three
weeks after President Bush stunned
many by calling for Arafat's ouster and
coming down so strongly on Israel's
side. Since then, many have ques-
tioned how to move forward with the
vision he outlined. In addition to call-
ing for a new Palestinian leadership,
Bush said June 24 that he envisioned
a provisional Palestinian state within
three years, but only after the
Palestinians implement serious eco-
nomic and political reforms.
Now, during the New York meeting,
Arab leaders reportedly presented a
plan calling for international recogni-
tion of a Palestinian state, followed by
a two-year period to work out the
The Arab plan calls for Palestinian
elections for a new leader and parlia-
ment in January, the Associated Press
reported, citing an unnamed diplo-
Shortly after the elections, the
Palestinians would seek U.N. recogni-
tion for a Palestinian state based on
the borders that existed before the
1967 Six-Day War, the source said.
This would be unacceptable to
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
who has ruled out such borders. But
observers believe it could serve as the
basis for further negotiations.
While Israel is not a participant in
the meetings, Israeli officials are
watching closely. "If this is perceived
as being Israeli-led, it's not going to
succeed and we want it to succeed,"
an Israeli official in Washington said. -
In anticipation of the meeting,
Sharon sent a message to U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell outlin-
ing the Israeli position. According to
reports, Sharon stressed that security is
still Israel's utmost priority.
The prime minister also dismissed
Arafat's claims of taking steps to
reform the Palestinian Authority. Such
steps have merely been "cosmetic,"
Sharon reportedly said.
Sharon's message came on the heels
of one sent to Powell by Arafat in
which the Palestinian leader spelled
out his vision for reforms in the
For his part, Sharon has long main-
tained that there would be no negotia-
tions with the Palestinians- as long as
violence continues. Sharon has also
said Arafat must be replaced before
there can be any meaningful negotia-
Discussions have begun, however,
between Israel and Egypt, with Israeli
Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-
Eliezer visiting Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak on Monday. After the
meeting in Alexandria; Ben-Eliezer
said he and Mubarak had disagreed
over whether Arafat should be side-
According to Ben-Eliezer, Mubarak
believed peace efforts could continue
with Arafat remaining as head of the
"According to what we believe,"
Ben-Eliezer told reporters, Arafat "was
and still is the main problem." ❑
— JTA correspondents Matthew E.
Berger in Washington and Naomi Segal
in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
New York City
is an odd sight: Israel welcom-
ing a report from Amnesty
But after Amnesty issued a
report late last week criticizing
Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli
civilians as "crimes against humanity,"
Israeli leaders spoke up for the human
"I'm really happy that Amnesty
officials have seen the light," Israeli
Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit told
the Associated Press. "They finally
understand that we have no interest
in harming Palestinians, but just
protecting our citizens."
Israeli officials and Jewish leaders
have long criticized Amnesty and
other human rights groups as being
one-sided in their reporting on the
Middle East conflict.
Palestinian Authority Cabinet
Secretary Ahmed Abdul Rahman said
that although the Palestinian Authority
condemns the bombings of Israeli civil-
ians, they are "a normal consequence of
their occupation and rejection of
The report, "Without Distinction:
Attacks on Civilians by Palestinian
Armed Groups," addresses what it
identifies as 130 attacks since the out-
break of the intifada (uprising) in
September 2000 that have resulted in
the deaths of 350 Israeli citizens —
including over 60 children.
"The attacks by Palestinian armed
groups are widespread, systematic and
in pursuit of an explicit policy to attack
civilians. They therefore constitute
crimes against humanity under interna-
tional law," Amnesty says in the report.
While the new report notes Israeli vio-
lations of human rights, it sides strongly
with advocates of the Jewish state by
declaring that "no violations by the
Israeli government, no matter their scale
or gravity, justify" the killing of civilians.
The report was delivered in the
Gaza Strip, instead of New York, to
send a clear message to those parties it
was directed at, said Joshua
Rubenstein, northeast regional direc-
tor of Amnesty International U.S.A.
This statement, some Jewish
observers say, is exactly what
Amnesty's policy has lacked.
Dina Siegel Vann, U.N. and Latin
American affairs director for B'nai B'rith
International, called the report "very
welcome" and said Amnesty had been
portraying "moral equivalency" in the
Middle East conflict. She said this policy
was "not taking into consideration the
whole context, the teaching of hatred."
However, Rubenstein said, "We stu-
diously never used the term 'moral equiv-
alency,'"and called the term "a dodge" by
"The attacks by
Palestinians are crimes
against humanity under
— Amnesty International
Jewish leaders to avoid criticism of Israeli
human rights violations. Amnesty's "job
is to report on what one side is doing
and what the other side is doing, not to
compare or elevate," he said.
In the past year, Amnesty has issued
a number of reports criticizing both
Palestinian terrorist actions and Israeli
operations in the West Bank. It also
participated in "International Days of
Mourning" in protest of human rights
violations against both Israelis and
The new report -also criticized some
of the U.N.'s actions during the past
20 months in the Middle East.
"The U.N. General Assembly has rec-
ognized the legitimacy of the struggle of
peoples against foreign occupation in
the exercise of their right to self-deter-
mination and independence," the report
says. "However, international law
requires all parties involved in a conflict
to always distinguish between civilians
and people actively taking part in the
hostilities. They must make every effort
to protect civilians from harm."
Rubenstein said the report was
prompted by the ongoing suicide
attacks. "The time came, with hun-
dreds of casualties, for us to make
clear these are crimes against humani-
ty" instead of just condemning the
attacks one by one, he said.