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May 18, 2002
Column #1081


     When I think of Israel, I think of the Hebrew law, ''an eye for an eye.''

     Exodus 21:23-25 reads, ''If there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.'' 

     This so-called ''law of retaliation'' was meant to limit the punishment to fit the crime. Sadly, that is not what Israel has practiced in its response to the terror of suicide bombers. 

     The Passover massacre was not a single incident. There had been seven bombings on the seven days of Passover, and 40 over recent months, killing 300 civilians and more than 100 soldiers. Those suicide bombers were not copycat crimes. 

     Rather, Arab leaders deliberately cultivated an atmosphere which glorified suicide bombers as ''martyrs.'' Saddam Hussein gave $10,000 to each family of a martyr, a vast sum in a society where the unemployment is 50 percent. He later raised it to $25,000. 

     Teenage boys and girls were recruited and given belts of explosives necessary for the act of terrorism. That took planning by terrorist leaders with military training - an infrastructure of terrorism that was run by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and, the evidence suggests, by Arafat himself. 

     Israelis were terrified. They feared going into public areas and no longer sat at outdoor cafes. The world's tourists stayed away. Thousands of jobs were lost.

     Certainly, a response by Israel was justified. But was it an eye for an eye?

     The most justifiable part of Israel's response was to destroy the bomb factories and go after the terrorists who ran them. 

     However, there have been 1,400 Palestinian deaths more than triple the number of Jews who were killed. A shot from a sniper's rifle sparked a fusillade from a tank's cannon or helicopter gunships made in the United States. Armored bulldozers and tanks destroyed huge swaths of Palestinian homes and stores in Jenin, and downtown Ramalla, Hebron, Nablus.

     ''This government of Israel was elected to end the peace process and to end the Palestinian Authority,'' charges Jim Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute. 

     ''Its attitude was there `should be no compromise with evil.'. The Sharon strategy involved placing conditions that he knew could not be met, such as seven days of absolute calm. He knew the Mitchell Plan would never get implemented. If there was calm for several days, he would assassinate two Palestinians, which he knew would strike a response,'' says Zogby. 

     ''This was accompanied by a continued propaganda to incite Palestinians, such as creating an identity between Arafat and evil or corruption. He was blamed for everything, even for things out of his control. The government would bomb police barracks and prisons which radicalized the police.'' 

     In fact, the entire Palestinian Authority was decimated. If governmental buildings were not destroyed, they were ransacked. Birth certificates, school records and medical records were destroyed. Water and sewage facilities and electric power generators were demolished.

     Further, there's been massive looting. This week's Newsweek reports, ''Reservists vandalized dozens of cars belonging to PA officials...puncturing tires, smashing windows, scratching the bodywork with rifle butts and barrels. Others ransacked the upstairs office of Arafat's police and carted away thousands of toys intended for Palestinian children.'' Stores were looted by an out-of-control Israeli Army.

     A group of international aid donors estimated that the Israeli attacks caused $361 million in physical damage, not counting loss of income. ''This is not an eye for an eye, but a whole community, a whole village for an eye,'' asserts Zogby. 

     What was Sharon's aim? To annex as much as half of the land on the West Bank, reports the London Sunday Telegraph, with quotes from the Israeli Cabinet. No, the goal is bigger.

     On Sunday the Likud Party of Sharon voted to reaffirm its opposition to creating a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza. Sharon has long said Judea and Samaria are part of Israel. And he's built Jewish settlements across the entire area where 200,000 Jews now live,  staking a claim to the land.

     To his credit, President Bush still says he wants to create a separate Palestinian State. 

     I suggest he divert some of the $3 billion aid we give Israel annually and rebuild what Israel destroyed. That would earn respect and appreciation by Palestinians, who now view America as the enemy. 

     It would also reassure the Muslim world that the U.S. is committed to both sides. 

     Reconstruction would make peace possible. 

     That is better than "an eye for an eye."

Copyright 2002 Michael J. McManus.

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