Playing Russian roulette

Can Israel ignore even 'moderate' Fatah's unequivocal signs of aggression?

abbas yo homies 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
abbas yo homies 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Eight years ago my family and I spent this week sitting on low chairs, sobbing, embraced by friends and family. Media reports of the August 9 Jerusalem Sbarro suicide bombing in which our daughter Malki had perished did not reach us then. Reading these reports now has taught us much about the West's attitudes toward terrorism against Israelis. Even in real time, the attacks that ravaged Israel during the second intifada were minimized by foreign correspondents. Protective of the myth of a "cycle" of violence, they downplayed Palestinian aggression and inflated Israel's meek reactions. In August 2001, only the truly delusionary could fail to see that terrorism enjoyed the upper hand; Israel was stumped. Fifteen men, women and children had just been blown up while they ate lunch in downtown Jerusalem, yet then-government spokesman Ra'anan Gissin promised a "measured, proper response." In his initial report on the massacre, New York Times journalist Clyde Haberman did not focus first on details of the terror attack. He was more struck by Israel's reaction, calling it the most sweeping assault to date on the Palestinian Authority. His follow-up report, dated August 11, was entitled "Israelis grieve, and strike back." What was Haberman talking about? Israel had "retaliated" by "occupying over nine buildings in east Jerusalem and its outskirts, most significantly Orient House... [it] also fired missiles that destroyed a police headquarters in Ramallah. No one was injured, though." It would be hard to imagine a more emphatic turning of the other cheek. The moral of the story is one that Israeli leaders still find hard to digest: The West will rebuke Israel even if it behaves suicidally. It will aim the most censorious language at the most restrained behavior. STRIVING FOR a perfect report card is even more Sisyphean in the Obama era. At least the Sbarro attack was referred to unflinchingly as "terrorism." Today the T-word is being eradicated from the White House's lexicon. In his June 2009 Cairo address, President Barack Obama avoided it entirely. He referred to Muslim terrorists with this tongue-twister: "Violent extremists [who] have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims." The deletion of "terrorism" is not simply a question of semantics. It is but one element of a calculated strategy. In February, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano dropped the terms "terror" and "vulnerability" from remarks delivered to the House Homeland Security Committee. An official memo from the US National Counterterrorism Communication Center directs the replacement of "terrorists" with words like "extremists" or "totalitarians." The center has also drafted official guidelines in its publication, "Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims, a Guide for US Government Officials." But the victims of Palestinian terrorism will not allow those events to be forgotten. We know that our survival depends on remembering them. One telling image from those years is of Palestinians in Ramallah, a town 15 minutes from our home, dancing at night in the streets and handing out candies. They were celebrating the Sbarro attack, our child's murder. Any Western leader who solicits Israel's support for a Palestinian state will need to prove that our neighbors have been transformed. Radically. We would be mad if we didn't demand that. BUT THERE is no such evidence. Quite the contrary. Mahmoud Abbas, "moderate" darling of the West, doesn't hide his enduring esteem for terrorism. That is, not from his Muslim audiences. In March 2008, he told the Arabic-language Jordanian newspaper, Al-Dastur: "I was honored to be the one to shoot the first bullet in 1965," when Fatah launched its terror campaign against Israel. To this day, Abbas rules under a huge photograph of his mentor, Yasser Arafat. But that is not the only terrorist whom Abbas emulates. In May, Palestinian Media Watch noted that Abbas's Palestinian Authority named a new US-funded computer center after the "martyr" Dalal Mughrabi, who in 1978 led one of the most deadly terror attacks in Israel's history, murdering 37 Israelis, including 12 children. Last summer the PA sponsored the Dalal Mughrabi football championship for children and a summer camp named for Dalal Mughrabi. In March, PA TV celebrated the 31st anniversary of the Mughrabi massacre as "one of the most important and most prominent special operations" carried out by a team of heroes. In March 2008, Abbas declared to the Jordanian newspaper, Al-Dastur: "Now we are against armed conflict," explaining "because we are unable." He then added, "In the future stages, things may be different." Two top Fatah figures, Rafik Natsheh and Muhammad Dahlan, are more forthcoming. In March, Dahlan called on Hamas not to recognize Israel's right to exist, pointing out that Fatah, the largest PLO faction, had never done so either. Since Operation Cast Lead, Dahlan has served as a special adviser to Abbas, and is certain to play a central role in any post-Abbas government. Last week Natsheh, a member of the Fatah central committee and chairman of the faction's disciplinary "court," confirmed Dahlan's assertions in an interview with Al-Kuds al-Arabi. He added that Fatah has no intention of ever recognizing Israel. CAN THESE unequivocal signs of aggression toward Israel be ignored? We are enjoying a lull in Palestinian attacks. But that is only due to Israel's abandonment of its post-Sbarro "measured" tactics. Today it relies on regular preemptive arrests in the West Bank, checkpoint vigilance, the partially built security barrier and, thanks to several major military operations, the power of deterrence. The current calm is not due to any Palestinian metamorphosis. The US may have deleted terrorism from its politically correct dictionary, but it is alive and well in the hearts and minds of some Palestinians. Proceeding as if it weren't is like playing Russian roulette - with five rounds in the chamber and the gun pointed at Israel's head. The writer and her husband founded the Malki Foundation ( in their daughter's memory. Malki Roth was murdered in the Sbarro restaurant massacre of 2001. The foundation provides concrete support for Israeli families of all faiths who care at home for a special-needs child.