Take a Closer Look at Events in Israel


On Jan. 6, The Crimson printed a pair of letters to the editor regarding the recent incident in which a former Israeli military police officer, Noam Friedman, opened fire on Arab shoppers in the marketplace of Hebron. Fortunately, Friedman did not succeed in taking any innocent lives; he was promptly arrested by Israeli military authorities and will likely be charged with assault and attempted murder.

The letter submitted by the leaders of Hillel rightly expressed outrage at this isolated incident and made it clear that acts like Friedman's would not be tolerated by the vast majority of Jews in Israel and abroad. Despite similar statements issued by the Israeli government and by Jewish organizations around the world, the author of another letter published the same day, presumably representing the Arab point of view, found it necessary to express his dismay at the entire situation, especially as it reflected on the Israeli side.

Unfortunately, some developments in the Middle East peace process are less publicized than others, which inevitably leads to bias and misapprehensions. Thus, while most of us know enough to react with indignation to the mention of Noam Friedman, I would wager that very few of us know what to make of the name of Etta Tzur.

What is perhaps most distressing is that Tzur was the victim of a type of violent attack that is, tragically, far more common in Israel than incidents like those perpetrated by Friedman--and also sadly far less notable to the world at large. She and her 12-year-old son Ephraim died almost a month ago, after having been gunned down in a drive-by shooting by Palestinian terrorists outside the Jewish settlement of Beit El. The two killers, Abdel Nasser Qaysi and Ibrahim Kam, were sentenced to life imprisonment by a secret Palestinian court a week later, convicted not of murder but of "betraying the security of the Palestinian people." Palestinian Authority Preventive Security Chief Jibril Rajoub, defending the convictions before indignant leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine--who demanded the release of Qaysi and Kam and called for Palestinians to "drop the olive branch and pick up the rifle"--said the sentences were justified because the attack was a "big strategic mistake."

Ignoring for the moment (as the rest of the world has) the belligerent attitude of the PFLP, the reasoning of Rajoub and the Palestinian Authority seems bizarre to anyone concerned with true justice and the peaceful coexistence of Arabs and Jews. It becomes less opaque, however, when one considers a statement made by the same Jibril Rajoub to the Israeli Ministry of Justice--namely, that extradition of the two killers to Israel, as required by the Oslo Accords, was "a dream."


Clearly, the Palestinian Authority is not interested in honoring the Oslo agreements or in pursuing justice; its chief objective is political expediency. It ignored 15 of 17 requests for extradition made by the previous government and rejected the two others. It conducted "lightning trials" similar to the one in the case of the Tzurs' murderers for the suspects in the murders of Uri Shahor and Ohad Bachrach last year, chiefly in order to furnish excuses to impede extradition.

What would have been the international response if the Israeli Justice Ministry had acted similarly in response to the crimes committed by Noam Friedman or Baruch Goldstein? No doubt there would have been censures from every side, Security Council resolutions condemning the Jewish state, vitriolic editorials in the Western press and a deafening outcry from all Arab quarters accusing Israel of killing the peace process and trampling on the civil rights of Palestinians. But when the Palestinian Authority decides openly to ignore the Oslo Accords, nary a whisper is heard from anyone outside the Israeli government.

And, worse, Etta and Ephraim Tzur, and scores of others like them, are overlooked and forgotten by a world that should be outraged.

The coverage accorded to the Tzur murders in the Western media rarely amounted to more than the brief mention of "a drive-by shooting of two Israeli settlers," usually unnamed and never shown, subsequently blamed for the imposition of a closure on the West Bank town of Ramallah. Occasionally reference was made to the "hard-line" Israeli government: The BBC suspected it "would seize on the incident to slow down the peace process even further." Meanwhile, Etta's husband Yoel and their four other children, aged four to 17--all also wounded in the attack--were left by the press to mourn in ignominious solitude, save a personal visit by the prime minister.

Just this May, outside the same settlement, 17-year-old yeshiva student David Boim was gunned down while waiting for a bus to return home from school. A few foreign news agencies mentioned him in passing as "a settler." The suspected killer, Amjad Hannoi, was picked up by the Palestinian Authority shortly after the attack; so far he has not been extradited, though an official request was filed by the Israeli government.

David's mother, Joyce, noted that the killing of Etta and Ephraim Tzur "was carried out in the same way as the one which killed [her] son"; apparently, it has received roughly the same amount of attention -- that is, none. It hardly seems to bother even the most sanctimonious of our journalists and human-rights watchers, and concerned Jews will not raise the issue for fear of being condemned as opponents of peace. Arabs simply pretend as if nothing had happened--always quick, however, to raise a furor against real or imagined Israeli transgressions.

It's time for us, for all of us, to take a closer look at what's really happening in Israel. To look past the biases and deficits in reportage, to put aside the propaganda, to re-assess and attempt to understand. And, most importantly, to remember. --Kevin Shapiro '00

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