Commentary Magazine


The Gulf War and...

The Gulf War and . . .

1. The Vietnam Paradigm

To the Editor:

. . . I beg to differ with Joshua Muravchik [“The End of the Vietnam Paradigm?,” May]. The Gulf War was not a war to end the Vietnam syndrome and obviously not a war to make the Middle East safe for democracy. And it certainly was not a war to punish the aggressor who, as of this writing, is still very much in power. Rather, the Gulf War was simply the finest demonstration to date of Arabist control over Middle East policy since American flags were placed on Kuwaiti vessels in the tilt toward Saddam Hussein against Iran. And in getting us to support Desert Storm, the Arabist camp outdid itself. . . .

It was not until after the Gulf War ended that we heard Secretary of State Baker talk about “windows of opportunity,” but the opportunity he had in mind was the one offered by an Israel reduced to protectorate status by the execution of Arabist policy in the White House. When the Arabists saw that they could succeed in stripping Israel of its capacity for self-defense, they indeed saw a “window of opportunity”—an opportunity to ram a settlement down Israeli throats.

The outcry against abandoning the Kurds and Shiites in Iraq to a resurgent Saddam Hussein has demonstrated that the American people are rather kinder and gentler than their President. The President, let us recall, at first turned his back on the Kurds and Shiites who had rebelled at his urging. But American public opinion forced Bush to step in and protect these people from the man he had once called a brutal dictator.

David R. Zukerman
Bronx, New York

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To the Editor:

. . . Joshua Muravchik makes the case for a more realistic appraisal of the value of expert opinion and expert advice in political affairs. It seems that one can apply to policy experts the same thing Harry Truman once said about economics experts: if you laid them end to end, they would all point in different directions.

Most Democrats were wrong on the Gulf War. But can one really say that the Republicans were right? Successful as Desert Storm was, as far as it went, one cannot just look at the war itself, for all wars occur within a specific context. The totality of American Persian Gulf policy can best be described as inept—if not downright idiotic—based on what might be called delusions of adequacy. Senator Alan Simpson’s groveling at his meeting with Saddam Hussein was exceptional only in degree and style, not in substance. It is inaccurate, not to mention unfair, to look solely at the conduct of the war itself, for the war should not have happened.

The same bungling disguised as realism seems to be repeating itself now. I was recently astonished to hear the same arguments offered for not intervening in the Iraqi civil war . . . and for maintaining Iraqi stability, that were once offered for “tilting” toward Iraq over Iran. Aside from the basic crassness of allowing Saddam Hussein to return to his murderous old policies, it seems that every time this country chooses seeming practicality over morality we get into deep trouble. Batista, Duvalier, Marcos, Somoza, the Shah of Iran—the list of American policy mistakes, of dumbpolitik masquerading as realpolitik, is long and dismal.

Mr. Muravchik’s implied theme—that the Democrats have still not demonstrated that they have earned the right to implement foreign-policy alternatives, and hence the right to the White House—is correct. However, the overall record of Republican foreign policy in the past ten years—with, to be honest, some notable exceptions—shows that alternatives are most definitely needed.

Bruce Brager
Arlington, Virginia

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Joshua Muravchik writes:

I share David R. Zukerman’s indignation over the Bush administration’s abandonment of the Iraqis who rose against Saddam Hussein, but not his jaundiced construction of its motives in the Gulf War, which was fought, I believe, to prevent an ambitious aggressor from gaining dominance over a strategically sensitive region and to uphold a basic principle of international law. I share, too, his worry about the influence of Arabists over American policy, but not his apparent belief that they are all-powerful or able to engineer Machiavellian schemes of vast complexity.

I agree entirely with Bruce Brager’s denunciation of realpolitik and amoralism in foreign policy of which, as he says, Republicans tend to be at least as guilty as Democrats. In my new book, Exporting Democracy, I endeavor to set forth in some detail the case against such so-called “realism.”

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2. American Blacks

To the Editor:

In “Black Leaders vs. Desert Storm” [May], Arch Puddington refers indirectly to the assertion that blacks contributed disproportionately to the casualty list in Vietnam. Indeed, during the Gulf War, some media pundits and politicians stated that blacks accounted for from “a quarter” to “over half” of our losses in Vietnam. However, according to U.S. Department of Defense statistics, there were 58,135 combat and noncombat deaths in Vietnam, of which blacks made up 7,261 or 12.48 percent. According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States 1990, blacks made up 11.1 percent of the total U.S. population in 1970. The black population tends to be younger than average. Thus blacks made up 11.3 percent of the military-age groups of 19-to-24 in 1970. . . . All other things being equal, blacks should have accounted for 6,571 instead of 7,261 deaths. So by this calculation there were 690 excess black deaths in Vietnam.

The death of one human being is of course a tragedy, especially if it could have been prevented. . . . Nevertheless, the claim that blacks died in Vietnam far out of proportion to their numbers in the population is unfounded.

Mr. Puddington points out that blacks now make up about 15 percent of the military-age population and accounted for 15 percent of the combat deaths in the Gulf. The small disparity of Vietnam has disappeared entirely. African-Americans have made outstanding contributions in all of our wars since the Revolution. Attempts to inflate their contribution to the casualty list are thus unnecessary and almost insulting. If the rest of American society offered minorities as much opportunity to share benefits and burdens as does the military, we would all be better off.

David C. Stolinsky
Los Angeles, California

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To the Editor:

Arch Puddington’s article is informative and powerful. Antiwar sentiment at the outset of the war was cloaked in (of all things) mathematical logic: (a) young adult whites outnumber young adult blacks by a ratio of 5.66-to-1; (b) the ratio among armed-forces personnel is 5-to-1; ergo (c) war is a racist institution. I fail to see the relevance of these numbers to Kuwait. For if we were to examine America on the basis of disease rates, automobile ownership, dance-club affiliation, shoe size, ingestion of Big Macs, support for specific baseball teams, or any other category we could come up with, we would find, I suspect, that the ratio of whites to blacks would never be precisely 5.66-to-1. . . .

Blacks are overrepresented in the Army just as they are overrepresented among basketball players. Both professions are purely voluntary and offer high pay, job advancement, travel, adventure, security, peer support. . . . Was professional basketball invented by white Republicans for the repression of blacks?

I suspect that few of the black soldiers who wound up in Kuwait were dragged kicking and screaming to their Army enlistment stations. Anybody who joins the Army must surely realize one somber fact: armies exist to fight wars. This has been true for 5,000 years, but came to the attention of certain intellectuals only in 1991! . . .

Stephen A. Berger
Tel Aviv, Israel

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Arch Puddington writes:

I appreciate David C. Stolinsky’s precise figures on the racial composition of Vietnam war deaths. There would not, of course, have been a furor over black “overrepresentation” within the military had the United States decided to retain the draft. Even with its inequities, the draft gave the U.S. a military that reasonably reflected the racial and social mix of its people, and was much more in keeping with the country’s democratic traditions than the current all-volunteer institution. That blacks comprise a disproportionate percentage of the Volunteer armed forces is precisely why the volunteer service has enjoyed such high levels of support among black political leaders. My personal view is that the heavy presence within the military of members of a particular minority group, especially one with a high percentage of poverty, is a legitimate issue for public concern and debate. But it is patently illogical, not to say dishonest, for black leaders to defend the volunteer concept tenaciously during times of peace because it offers opportunities to blacks, and then, when war looms, insist that the system is unfair because blacks might suffer heavy casualties.

Stephen A. Berger touches on an important issue when he points to the various motivations for military enlistment. Military service has always held an appeal for young men, particularly those who approach adulthood with an uncertain future. They join for any number of reasons: patriotism, the prospect of adventure, a desire to fly airplanes or pilot ships, a few years of security, and, more recently, expanded access to higher education. Although many might find the fact too galling to acknowledge, some young men seek out military service because fighting the enemies of America seems a thoroughly honorable mission.

I might add that while we might disagree with the black critics of Desert Storm, we cannot ignore the racial divisions exposed during the debate over the war’s justifications. True, black popular support for the war stood at relatively high levels at Desert Storm’s victorious conclusion. But during the debate which preceded hostilities, and in the war’s early weeks, polls showed a consistently high differential—at times reaching 40 percent—between white and black attitudes toward President Bush’s policies. These are disturbing figures, the more so given the enthusiasm with which some black leaders promoted the idea of open resistance to the war.

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3. The Press

To the Editor:

Thank you for John Corry’s “TV News & the Neutrality Principle” [May]. I would like to add the observation that, in spite of their own intentions, the media helped promote support for America’s efforts. According to those who provide statistics on these matters, more Americans read about, listened to, or watched reports on the Gulf crisis than on any other national event in recent history. What the media hoped to present were images of a distraught nation virtually at war with itself, generally opposed to military intervention, governed by self-serving dopes, and poorly defended by an army that attracted only dropouts and losers. Instead, ironically enough, what we saw bolstered our patriotism and self-esteem as a nation.

To begin with, as soon as our all-volunteer army began to ship out, there were daily images of articulate, proud, disciplined soldiers who understood their mission and were ready and anxious to do the job. Furthermore, the loved ones left behind were resolute rather than resentful, much to the disappointment of reporters who continued to ask leading questions about dying for oil, etc.

Second, the congressional debate was a graphic example of democracy in action. Although many speeches were egregious examples of hand-wringing and preening, most legislators were sober and articulate, and some were brilliant and eloquent. Most important was the affirmation that our democracy is worth defending and even dying for.

Third, and perhaps best, during the press briefings at the Pentagon and in Saudi Arabia, Americans were able to see first-hand how downright stupid most of the questions were. The live briefings were, in fact, much funnier than subsequent satires, and reporters generally came off as inane.

Thus, in spite of their intentions, the media presented unforgettable vignettes of what is best in America, and for that they merit some recognition.

Ruth S. King
New York City

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To the Editor:

John Corry’s article was admirable, but he left out one salient point.

During the Gulf War there were a lot of ambitious journalists who felt they had to get away from their military minders and go out after some “story” or other. One of these, Robert Fisk of the London Independent, made it his business to scrape every barrel in sight for any item, however trivial, that would make allied, and especially American, troops look bad. The ordeal of the captured CBS crew was a direct result of such careerist stupidity.

I never felt sorry for those CBS people, for this reason: such journalists may well be in possession of information which can be tactically damaging to the side they come from. If they reveal that information to the other side, it can get our people killed. A favorite refrain of “neutral” journalists like Fisk was that such a thing would not happen. But what if journalists are captured, like the CBS crew, and then tortured for what they know? Could, or can, they guarantee to reveal nothing, given the psychological conditioning of their “neutrality”? . . .

Herb Greer
Manchester, England

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To the Editor:

John Corry’s unwillingness to allow nonsense to pass unremarked has been badly missed since he left the New York Times. . . . He is the most consistently interesting and refreshingly unpredictable person writing on TV “journalism” today.

Stanley E. Honig
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

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4. Israel

To the Editor:

Reading David Bar-Illan’s “Israel After the Gulf War” [May], I thought back to a daytime talk show I watched during the war whose guests were opposed to military action against Iraq.

One of the guests . . . described herself as Jewish and a journalist. At the beginning she professed great distress at the Scud attacks on Israel, but her concern could not have been more than skin deep, for throughout the rest of the program, whenever she mentioned Israel, her tongue dripped poison. She sounded like a member of the PLO.

For years now most reporters have taken a pro-Arab and anti-Israel line. This ensures that they have entrée to Arab states and can interview the likes of Yasir Arafat, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi, etc.

Last but not least, they feel safe. They know that no matter how biased and unfair, and often vicious, what they say or print about Israel, the Israelis will not murder them or kidnap them and hold them hostage. But Western hostages have been held for years by Arabs in conditions worse than animals in a zoo; people have been murdered merely for saying things the extremist Arabs did not like.

The woman I referred to above was not satisfied that for years the UN has been a virtual lynch mob where Israel is concerned, but demanded that it take the same action against Israel that it had taken against Iraq. I believe that the UN had never said one word of criticism of any Arab atrocity until Iraq invaded and conquered Kuwait. . . .

With the exception of child molesters, I don’t think there is anything more despicable than people who seek to curry favor with anti-Semites by attacking and defaming Israel.

The fact that there are also Jews, even in Israel, who do this is far more serious than when such things are uttered by the KKK or others. The “blame-America-first crowd” is more an annoyance than a danger to a country as large and powerful as the U.S. However, for a country as small and vulnerable as Israel, surrounded by states dedicated to its destruction, such behavior is extremely dangerous. The statements such people make against Israel are then used by people who would like to see Israel cease to exist. . . .

I am not Jewish, but like many other non-Jewish Americans, I am a firm supporter of Israel. My grandparents were born in Czechoslovakia, and I have watched with dismay and anger as Israel is constantly being pressured to submit to a Middle Eastern Munich.

Helen L. Blaha
Sacramento, California

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To the Editor:

David Bar-Illan is to be commended for his penetrating analysis of the new realpolitik in the Middle East in the May issue as well as for his vigorous advocacy of truthful reporting on Israel [“60 Minutes & the Temple Mount,” February]. Israel sorely needs persuasive and committed spokesmen such as Mr. Bar-Illan to counter the constant barrage of unfavorable and often misinformed reporting and analysis the public is being exposed to.

As an Israeli I strongly believe, however, that many Israeli spokesmen, and even on occasion Mr. Bar-Illan himself, are making a regrettable mistake when they defend Israel’s remaining in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza exclusively on security grounds while neglecting to stress what is increasingly being recognized as the central issue in the Middle East: the inherent and inalienable right of the Jewish people to its ancestral homeland.

In his article, for example, Mr. Bar-Illan states that Israel cannot consider territorial concessions because this “. . . might compromise its strategic position,” or because of its “. . . fear of unpredictable Arab violence and aggression. . . .” These points are, of course, true and they have to be stated again and again. The need for security, however, does not create legitimacy, and the struggle of Israel against its neighbors and against the Palestinian movement is in essence about legitimacy.

The Palestinians know this. They never miss an opportunity to portray themselves as natives, the indigenous population, while the Jews are depicted as illegitimate outsiders: settlers, interlopers, foreigners, occupiers, colonialists, Europeans. This tactic has seriously damaged Israel’s political position, since Israel’s security needs . . . could be realized in many ways, while a homeland, in this case a Palestinian homeland, must remain inviolate. Why, then, shouldn’t Israel be expected to compromise?

Now is the time to put before the world Israel’s only absolute and irreducible justification: this land must remain in Israeli hands because it is our home, our land. It has been so for thousands of years, and saying so should be a source of pride rather than embarrassment. The Arabs have been getting away with the “big lie” that Palestine is their land for too long, and the result has been that even Israel’s friends around the world, including the United States, and even many Zionist Jews, refuse to accept the legitimacy of its presence in parts of its land, and assume that only Palestinian claims to a homeland are legitimate. And yet Israeli officials remain silent on this issue. Would any other country refrain from arguing its natural and inherent right to hold on to those lands that had always belonged to it, even if history had denied it the opportunity to enjoy that right for centuries? Of course not. . . .

In addition, Israel’s representatives continue to damage its position even when they are not directly addressing this issue, by misuses of language that imply, even if unintentionally, a certain illegitimacy to our nation-building activities. I am referring specifically to the following:

  1. Israel’s spokesmen should bring to a total halt the use of the term “settlement” when referring to the Jewish communities of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and they should protest its use whenever they hear it. This word has acquired a totally negative overtone of illegitimacy and even of criminality, and there is no reason that we should in any way perpetuate this impression. These Jewish communities are simply following in the footsteps of Israel’s founders, who saw the liberation of the land as the primary vehicle for building our national home. The people who built these communities and the people who live in them deserve praise and admiration.
  2. Russian olim—indeed, all olim—should not be referred to as “immigrants”; this only reinforces their image as outsiders. They should be called what they really are: refugees, who are being repatriated to the home of their ancestors. It is, after all, the Law of Return that grants them the right of entry and of citizenship. Do the Palestinians ever hesitate to refer to Arabs born outside of “Palestine” as Palestinian “refugees” just because they were born elsewhere? Why should we not make the same argument just as vigorously?

I cannot, of course, ignore the problem of the Palestinian Arabs and of our passionate desire not to be the rulers of another people. This is a real problem and cannot be brushed aside. Its solution will require creative diplomacy and much good will, which I sincerely believe Israel’s government has displayed ever since the Camp David peace process. But this problem does not justify, and can never justify, the relinquishing of Jewish land. As Mr. Bar-Illan correctly states—“relinquishing land is permanent. . . .” No self-respecting country anywhere would willingly agree to such an irrevocable step, no matter how lofty the purpose; Israel should not be expected to do so, either, and it should say so, loudly and clearly.

Ben Tzion Greenberger
Deputy Mayor, Maaleh Adumim
Israel

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To the Editor:

David Bar-Illan’s recent articles, “Israel After the Gulf War” and “60 Minutes & the Temple Mount,” make for incisive reading. But I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering what Mr. Bar-Illan’s reaction has been to the startling verdict on the Temple Mount riot that was given by Judge Ezra Kama in Israel on July 18. According to reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post, Judge Kama’s findings directly contradict those of the government-appointed Zamir commission—and thus, by inference, the conclusions of Mr. Bar-Illan as well. Most important, it now appears the Jerusalem police actually provoked the violence at the al-Aksa mosque which resulted in the deaths of 17 Arabs. Where does this leave Mr. Bar-Illan’s analysis?

Milt Kolodny
Tulsa, Oklahoma

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David Bar-Illan writes:

Let me first thank Helen L. Blaha for her eloquent letter.

I take “the inherent and inalienable right of the Jewish people to its ancestral homeland,” as Ben Tzion Greenberger aptly puts it, quite for granted. It is the reason a Jewish state in the land of Israel is a historic imperative and a grand success, while the attempt to establish one in Soviet Birobidzhan in the 1920′s was a ludicrous exercise, doomed to failure. I believe that the millennia-long Jewish ties to the Judea and Samaria areas, the cradle of Jewish history, are at least as compelling as Jewish bonds with Tel Aviv and Haifa. But even most of the “peace-camp” followers do not dispute this. What they say is that in the past the people of Israel lived in this country as a sovereign nation within borders of varying sizes, and that modern Israel can decide today to live in a smaller home if it means peace and a smaller Arab minority. After all, Solomon’s kingdom extended well into today’s Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. But only a fringe minority believes that Israel’s “inherent right to hold on to those lands that had always belonged to it” extends to all of Solomon’s kingdom, even if in the course of a war the Israel Defense Force occupies these lands.

The Israeli consensus is that today’s land of Israel is defined by the borders of the British Mandate, plus the Golan Heights and minus Trans-Jordan. But many Israelis find it difficult to feel the same undying devotion and fierce loyalty for Jericho or Gaza that they feel for Jerusalem. That is why a majority will answer positively to the question, “Will you trade any land for true, lasting peace?,” and with an emphatic “no” to “Will you be willing to return to the 1967 lines for a true, lasting peace?” To show that the first question is a hoax and the second an oxymoron was one of the purposes of my article, “Israel After the Gulf War.” The option of relinquishing anything less than all of Judea, Samaria, Gaza, and East Jerusalem for any kind of treaty does not exist so far, while a withdrawal to the 1967 lines and the achievement of peace are a contradiction in terms.

I cannot quarrel with Mr. Green-berger’s cavil about the misuse of language. But he attacks relatively minor targets. He allows that the term “settlement” has acquired a totally negative overtone of illegitimacy. In itself the term is innocent enough. And while I prefer the rather clumsy “Jewish towns and villages,” I am certain that if such usage became common, the media would find a way to make “Jewish villages” sound like colonialist outposts of fanatic fundamentalists, which is what they have succeeded in doing with “settlements.”

I wish there were an English equivalent for “olim,” but there is none. Calling them refugees is simply inaccurate. There are, after all, olim from the U.S. and other Western countries, and even immigrants from the Soviet Union carrying Soviet passports do not qualify as refugees.

I am much more concerned with the far more dangerous abuse of the word “Palestinian,” which Mr. Greenberger does not mention. Few now realize that the Arab inhabitants of Palestine during the British Mandate resented the appellation Palestinian. They called themselves Arab, and named all their institutions—from the Arab Higher Committee on down—“Arab,” not Palestinian. Only the Jews, when referring to themselves and their institutions in English, used “Palestine”: the Palestine Post, the Palestine Symphony, the United Palestine Appeal are typical examples. Jewish artists from this country were billed as “the Palestinian pianist, painter, writer,” etc. And the tens of thousands of “Palestinian soldiers” who served in the British army in World War II were virtually all Jewish. (Nor was the name synonymous with Jews only in the Middle East. Immanuel Kant referred to Jews as Palestinians in a celebrated anti-Jewish essay.)

The leading Arab historian Philip Hitti, testifying before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946, decried the use of “Palestine” even in maps, because it was associated “in the mind of the average American—and perhaps the Englishman, too—with the Jews.” Applying the term to the Arabs of Palestine probably began in the early 1960′s, but neither Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 nor 338 of 1973 mentions Palestinians at all. It was only in the mid-70′s that the term became popular.

Even today, the nationalism of the Palestinian Arabs is an Arab—not Palestinian—nationalism. Their slogan is “Palestine is Arab,” not “Palestine is Palestinian.” As the leading historian of Arab nationalism, Yehoshua Porath of the Hebrew University, points out, “The concept of Palestinian nationalism (Koomya Falestiniya) is a figment of Israeli and Western authors’ imagination. To date not a single, solitary Arab writer has used it when writing in Arabic.”

When the state of Israel was founded, journalist Sidney Zion suggested that it be called Palestine. Jews would not, of course, entertain the notion of calling the country by the name their Roman enemies gave it in order to humiliate them. But it might have helped in the propaganda war. For it is difficult today to blame those who are ignorant of the country’s history—which includes the vast majority of journalists—for assuming that the people who call themselves Palestinian are the legitimate owners of a country which used to be called Palestine for almost 2,000 years. Unfortunately, the semantic problem is far too complicated to be combated with “refugees” instead of “immigrants” and “communities” instead of “settlements.”

I am glad to have the opportunity to clarify the issue Milt Kolodny brings up, even though it means trying the patience of readers with an adapted version of a Jerusalem Post editorial which I wrote immediately following the release of the Kama report.

In fact, the discrepancies between the Kama report and the report of the Zamir commission are minor, as the Israeli press to its credit was quick to acknowledge. Kama confirms all the Zamir findings on the basic facts of the riot: that the mob onslaught forced the police to withdraw from the Temple Mount; that rocks were hurled at the Western Wall worshippers, who had mostly dispersed due to quick police warnings; that the police post on the Mount was torched; that 20 injured policemen needed hospital care; that 15 Jewish worshippers were injured, of whom seven required hospital treatment; and that the return of the police to the Mount was eminently justified by concern for two policemen with whom contact had been lost, by fear that the mob would loot the arms at the Temple Mount police post, and by the continued stoning of the Western Wall plaza and tourist buses.

One small point of difference is that whereas the Zamir commission believed the incitement of the mobs included agitation over the mosque’s loudspeakers, Kama finds no evidence of explicit loudspeaker exhortations to “kill the Jews,” but only calls to “prevent the occupation of Islam’s holy places,” and shouts directed at the neighboring Arab village to “come to the Mount to sacrifice soul and blood to save the land.” But Kama also confirms agitation by preachers who addressed the mobs on the ground. Most important, he confirms that Muslims were urged by mosque preachers on the previous Friday, by leaflets issued by the Hamas fundamentalists, and by word of mouth to come to the Mount to defend it from the “Temple Mount Faithful.” He states that “3,000 Arabs, mostly youths,” heeded the call and that stones were prepared in advance—even though the Muslim leadership knew that none of the “Temple Mount Faithful” would be allowed to come anywhere near the area, and in fact clearly saw them leaving the Western Wall gates almost an hour before the rioting began.

The point the New York Times and Washington Post focused on in reporting Kama’s findings, which afforded a pretext for concluding that the police “provoked” the riot, was Kama’s description of an accident with a tear-gas grenade. Yet these are Kama’s words:

It is possible that, at a certain stage, after some of the Muslim crowds began advancing on the police, with some of them hurling stones at the police, a tear-gas grenade fell. But I have no evidence as to the deliberate tossing of the grenade toward the Muslim women and girls except for the evidence by Sheikh al-Rifai and two men who participated in the disturbance.

In his summation, Kama speculates that the tear-gas grenade might have been kicked by the police in the direction of the menacing youths or toward a nearby crowd of women. But even if the incident happened, to call the relatively harmless trail of tear-gas smoke a “provocation” for a 50-minute riot in which 45 policemen were assaulted by a mob of 3,000, and worshippers were stoned for 20 minutes, requires a special talent for distortion, if not malice.

Nor does Judge Kama doubt the propriety of police conduct at this point. With thousands advancing on them from two sides and coming within five meters, with the police pushed to the wall, many of them hurt by stones and tear-gas grenades thrown back at them, their lives were most definitely in danger. American press stories say only that the judge “found” that in this encounter at least one Arab was killed. This too is a distortion. The report says:

Officer Rizik Anem says he fired rubber bullets from a distance of seven-eight meters and hit a man in his upper torso. The man fell and was dragged away. . . . There is no doubt some people were hurt among those who assaulted the border police. . . . There is no way to know if they were hurt by live ammunition. No evidence was brought regarding the kind of injuries suffered at this stage or whether one of the injured died. Despite all efforts to determine who was injured or killed at this stage, there is no way to reach an unequivocal conclusion that someone was actually killed.

In his summation, Kama says that Arab doctors testified that one of the casualties was severely injured and consequently died or “was dying” in the mosque (though one doctor testified that he found no injuries or blood on the victim). It is, of course, possible for a rubber bullet fired at short range to kill.

Like Zamir, finally, Kama faults the police for being ill-prepared, disorganized, and negligent. He names four men who fired when their lives were no longer in danger, although he asserts there is no way to establish that their actions caused deaths.

In short, the Kama report constitutes a striking example of what Israel expects of itself. The police are blamed for failing to foresee and prevent a tragic event caused by a raging mob, and for not being restrained enough in quelling a riot. For this failure they are made to share the blame with those in the Palestinian leadership who knowingly used a deliberate lie about “a Jewish invasion of the Temple Mount” to incite violence. It would be difficult to name a similar assumption of responsibility by any other judiciary system in the world.

The Israeli press, to repeat, including newspapers whose attitude to the Zamir commission was hostile, described the Kama report accurately as reinforcing the commission’s conclusion. That the plain text of that report should be inverted and used by the New York Times and the Washington Post for another round of Israel-bashing is a sad commentary on their standards.

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