20 Sep 2001 In the War Against Terrorism, Our Old Friends are Our True Friends, by Joe Roche
As President George W. Bush puts together the coalition to fight the war against terrorism, Americans need to bear in mind who in the Middle East really are our friends and allies. Right now, many of our enemies are pretending to be friends simply to protect themselves.
Israel has been in the front line in the fight against terrorism for a long time, yet she has managed to overcome the tragedies and isolation this fight has brought her. Israel is our friend and ally.
Some Americans make the mistake of thinking that the sudden moderation by the Palestinian leadership represents friendship with the U.S. Not so. Just five days after the attacks in New York and elsewhere, Marwan Bargouti, Yasser Arafat’s right-hand man and the head of the Tanzim militia responsible for many terrorist attacks in the past year, did not mince words at a rally in Ramallah: “The U.S. is the world’s terrorism leader.” Three days after that, Hamas spiritual leader Shiek Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City declared that the U.S. is launching “an open battle against Islam.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Why, you may ask, are you not hearing this? The answer is simple and frightening: The press is being intimidated by daily death threats. The Associated Press has film from the night of the attacks in the U.S. of over 2,000 Palestinians, and some leaders, celebrating in Nablus. However, the AP was subjected to numerous death threats and Palestinian Authority officials high-handedly said, “their lives cannot be guaranteed” if this film is shown.
Australian TV 9 has similar video but is withholding it out of fear. A Norwegian news crew was arrested and held for several days because of similar attempts at reporting. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has vigorously protested, but to no effect.
Tanzim militia youth even turned their weapons at other reporters who tried to cover the celebrations.
In Israel there was an extraordinary outpouring of grief and support for America. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared the day after the attacks a “national day of mourning.” Foreign Minister Shimon Peres spoke at a massive rally in Tel Aviv the following Saturday about the greatness of America. The reaction of Israelis was so powerful, it moved me to tears.
Yes, I saw Mr. Arafat give blood for the victims of New York. But I also was in Jerusalem when the Sbarros restaurant was blown up. An American was killed, and I didn’t see Mr. Arafat giving blood. I have seen other terrorist attacks and its victims, and I assure you that the Palestinian Authority leaders are bloodthirsty terrorists themselves. They are talking supportively of the U.S. out of necessity to protect themselves right now.
A good illustration of this is Iran. Imad Mughniyeh was one of the founders of Hezballah in Lebanon, spearheading Iran’s terrorist export effort. Under his guidance, 241 American servicemen and women were killed in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, and scores more in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy. Hezballah then took and held several Americans hostage through most of the 1980s. Since then, Hezballah has carried out numerous terrorist attacks worldwide including the mid-1990s bombings in Argentina. Today, Hezballah is setting up a terrorist training camp in FARC-controlled Colombia, the “backdoor” to attacking American interests directly.
A superficial glance shows Iran today is falling over itself to support the U.S. in the war against terrorism. Of course it is! Iran is only trying to protect Hezballah. Imad Mughniyeh was named by Israeli intelligence to American authorities six weeks before the attacks as one of two who were setting up nearly 200 terrorists inside the U.S. for a major attack.
The lesson: Our enemies from the past continue to be our enemies. Likewise, our friends from the past continue to be our friends. Ronald Reagan described our friendship with Israel as “an ironclad bond.” That remains true in this war.
Joe Roche is an adjunct fellow of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank. An American, he volunteered his service to the Israeli Defense Force in October 2000, following the lynching of Israeli soldiers in Ramallah.