ISRAEL AND THE
Three Arab land-dealers, Farid Bashiti, Harbi Abu Shara, and Ali Jamhour, were murdered by the PLO in the space of less than four weeks in May and June. What is the Israeli government going to do to stop the PLO's reign of terror?
The struggle over real estate in the Holy Land has been a central flash point in the Arab-Jewish conflict throughout the past century. Jews bought desert and swamp land from Arabs, at grossly inflated prices, and proceeded to build towns, schools, and hospitals.
Palestinian Arab terorrists responded by murdering and maiming the Arab land-sellers. In the 1930s, the killers were agents of Amin el-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. In the 1990s, they are agents of Yasir Arafat. and the PLO.
Israel cannot regard this as merely some intra-Arab quarrel. It has serious implications for the future of the Jewish State. There are numerous areas in and around Jerusalem that were once Jewish neighborhoods --until the local Arabs slaughtered and expelled the Jewish residents during the riots of the 1920s and 1930s, and during the 1948 War of Independence.
To help redeem these areas, private individuals have purchased houses and real estate in some of those former Jewish neighborhoods. But if the PLO's campaign of terror continues, Arab property-owners will be too frightened to sell to Jews. The Arab effort to keep parts of Jerusalem Judenrein will triumph. Zionism will suffer a catastrophic defeat, in its very capital.
There is another important issue at stake. Israel is actually obliged, under international law, to do its utmost to protect the well-being of all residents, Arab as well as Jewish, in the territories that it governs. In a detailed analysis published in the scholarly journal International Law and Politics (Vol.27:76),
Dr. Justus Weiner points out that the Israeli government's official view is that the Palestinian Authority "draws its authority from, and is legally subordinate, to the Israeli military government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. To be consistent, therefore, responsibility for the PA's violations of international law should be attributed to Israel."
Israel, then, bears the moral and legal responsibility for protecting the lives of Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria, Gaza or Jerusalem who choose to sell land to Jews. It is not sufficient for the Israeli Government Press Office to distribute an occasional press release, or for the Prime Minister to make an angry statement or two. The Israeli government must take strong action to prevent future PLO murders.
There can be no doubt that the Israeli police and military have the ability to stop the PLO, if they are given the orders to do so by Israel's political leadership. Numerous Arab land-dealers are presently being interrogated in PLO prisons; Israel should insist on their release, or free them by force if necessary. PLO officials who call for the murder of land-sellers--such as "Justice Minister" Freih Abu Middein--should be arrested for incitement.
A serious human rights issue is at stake. Congress and the American public have made it clear that they expect human rights concerns to play a major role in American foreign policy, and in the policies of America's allies. Israel can expect strong support if and when it takes action to protect the human rights of the residents of the territories it administers.
Herbert Zweibon is chairman of Americans For a Safe Israel.