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October 2001

Conditions Worsening In Israel; Sharon Doesn't Stop

By Karen Nakamura

Gee let's hope Ariel Sharon and Israel feel a lot more secure.

While the rest of the world stood transfixed during the initial hours of the World Trade Center-Pentagon bombings, Israel, like a thief in the night, crept under the cover of tragedy to surround and invade three Palestinian towns. These included the holy city of Jerecho, sacred to Christians, Jews and Arabs alike. Missiles and tanks shelled crumbling buildings that have stood thousands of years and through countless invasions.

There were also a lot of terrified and crying kids. On TV, a Jewish woman stated honestly that she feared being bombed whenever she goes out. What she failed to observe was Palestinians are afraid of being bombed in their homes. However, what was Israel's deepest incursion into Palestine yet, solved very little.

This article is being written during the holy week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holiest days of Judaism. It is a time when Jews the world-over reflect on their actions in the previous year and seek atonement for their sins. Is the Jewish community seeking atonement for the suffering they have inflicted upon their brothers, the Palestinians?

This year also marks the one-year anniversary of Ariel Sharon's storming of the Temple Mount with 1,000 armed troops, an invasion he still insists was a simple visit but which signaled the beginning of the year long al-Aksa intafata. Are Jews beginning to understand violence begets only defiance? Are Americans, for that matter?

The good news is that, while Sharon is making Israel secure by slow and methodical extermination of the Palestinian people, more and more Jews of good heart are following the example of Rabbi Michael Lerner, Dennis Bernstein and Barbara Lubin and letting their heartfelt voices of peace be heard.

Even if American Jews aren't completely convinced a good neighbor policy equates to the best security; they're, at least, questioning the assumption that brutal occupation and suppression of Palestine is the not the answer. As a young Jewish man at Kinko's astutely explained, "Sharon is our Barry Goldwater." The necessary awakening is happening. Whether it's too late and too little will be decided in the next few months.

Things are different in Israel, however. An unofficial poll taken by the Jerusalem Post (www.jpost.com) out of Israel found 79% of Israelis, (7,146 votes cast) think Israel will face a backlash if the United States attacks Muslim targets. Eighty-one per cent think the US will use ground troops and 69% think Israel will be left out of the international coalition against terrorism. Even so, 78% are against Israel officials meeting with Arafat and other Palestinian officials. After initially defying President Bush's request for meetings with the Palestinians and incurring the wraith of Washington, Sharon is still putting up roadblocks at every turn of the road to peace but the voice of reason is being heard again.

Synagogues the nation over were more crowded than usual for Rosh Hashanah, a sign of reflection within the community. Many rabbis called for unity with Israel despite its flaws, a sure sign of American disappointment with Sharon's policies and despite Sharon's high poll numbers in Israel. Others are saying the answer is with spirituality rather than violence. Rabbi Stacy Friedman of the Reform Congregation Radef Shalom in San Rafael echoed a common theme in the Jewish Bulletin's, (www.jewishsf.com), September 14 issue. "My heart is breaking over what's happening in Israel, on both sides."

One of the most welcome voices was an article by Gideon Samet on the op-ed page of the September 17, Ha’aretz Daily (www.haaretzdaily.com) the liberal Israeli newspaper. His words define the situation with perfect clarity. Although the complete text isn't included due to length, it is recommended reading.

Talking about the terrorist bombings, Samet states, "The right continues to behave as if nothing has changed. Sharon, who didn't stop at any red lights during his war back then, hasn't yet been stopped by signs of world war. The most important revelation this week, therefore, was that he is digging in, so as to avoid any path that might lead to a deal with the Palestinians. Now, when despite their troubles, the Americans are calling on him to talk with the Palestinians, he's trying to bury Arafat along with bin Laden and with them, the chance for any negotiations. Yet, it is very likely that at the start of the Jewish New Year, Sharon's old tricks will stop working. Sticking to the condition of an absolute cease-fire gives any local murderer a veto over a return to the political dialogue... Sharon and his supporters may be in for a surprise too: their continuing rejectionism will put them on the side of those obstructing the American effort to create a new, global, anti-terrorism order. Not only Arafat, but Sharon too will have to understand quickly by harsh means, if softer ones don't suffice-that the jig is up."

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