At Large

Training in Zion

We've come full circle since the Oslo Terror War began back in the 1990s.

By 8.31.04

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The Jerusalem Post recently reported that U.S. army units are training in a special antiterror school near the town of Modi'in, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and that "after completing their training, the units will return to Iraq." The article goes on to note:

In November last year, US generals visited Israel to study tactics adopted by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] in its ongoing war against terror.… US army officials later adopted the IDF's policy of demolishing houses belonging to terrorists suspected of attacking US troops in Iraq, set up checkpoints similar to those in the West Bank, deployed sniffer dogs to seek out explosives, and in a number of cases arrested relatives of terror suspects to glean information.

Things have come a long way since the Oslo Terror War began back in the 1990s. Although the war intensified in the fall of 2000 and became, for a while, a media hit, it started back in the fall of 1993 almost as soon as the first Oslo agreement was signed, and the first Oslo-era suicide bombing came on April 6, 1994, when eight people were killed in a car-bomb attack on a bus in the town of Afula. In the next few years there were many more such attacks until the situation cooled, relatively speaking, during the three years (1996-1999) of the conservative Netanyahu government, only to heat up again soon after Labor's Ehud Barak took the helm and failed to convince Yasser Arafat to accept the state alongside Israel that was supposedly the Palestinians' goal.

Back in the '90s, though, you couldn't get Israeli or American heads of state (except -- though some dispute this, too -- Netanyahu) to take seriously the terror that was already raging in Israel's streets. Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin famously referred to the victims of the terror as "sacrifices for peace," and he, Shimon Peres, and Israel's whole Labor and Left establishment kept insisting that the terror was only the work of the Islamic organizations while Arafat somehow had nothing to do with it. As for Bill Clinton, he was so sold on the idea of Arafat as a peacemaker that he invited him to the White House more than any other leader and kept trying to wheedle peace out of him even after the explosion of terror in the fall of 2000.

To be on the Right in Israel in those days was difficult; it meant constantly pointing to facts -- or even, in demonstrations, screaming about them -- that no one else paid attention to: that Arafat had already instituted hate-education in the Palestinian schools, that there was clear evidence of his collusion with the Islamists, that terrorists were walking free in the Authority and were even treated as heroes … it was like arguing in the early '70s that there would be a bloodbath in Southeast Asia if the U.S. withdrew its assistance. Some of us also pointed to a deeper dynamic: whereby, as in the 1930s, catastrophes that later sweep the world have a way of starting with the Jews.

Well, you know the old saying: "M'Tzion tetze Torah" ("out of Zion shall go forth the law," Is. 2:3). Or, as Eric Hoffer put it only a little more prosaically in a famous op-ed he published in 1968: "I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us."

Yes, by 2004 things have come full circle. Israelis have been forced to realize the seriousness of the terror war they're engaged in, and now at last are fighting it persistently and effectively at least on a tactical level. After being ignored, downplayed, and excused in Zion in the 1990s, in the new millennium suicide terror has burst forth in New York, Washington, Bali, Moscow, Madrid, Istanbul, Casablanca, Riyadh, and many other places. The U.S., trying to get an Arab society to act rationally and accept peace and progress, finds itself bogged down in urban warfare in Iraq, facing fanatics who use mosques and Arab civilians as a shield. And now American forces are … in Zion, tapping the weary, acrid wisdom of the Jewish people to help them fight the enemy.

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About the Author

P. David Hornik is a writer and translator in Beersheva, Israel, blogging at PDavidHornik.typepad.com.