When Britons blow up other Britons in the Underground, Prime Minister Tony Blair blames "critical issues in the Middle East" that need to be "taken care of and sorted out" - and everyone understands to whom he is referring. When scores of people are killed in Sharm el-Sheikh, an Egyptian commentator blames the Mossad. Could this be the same commentator who accused Israeli intelligence of blowing up the twin towers?
Israel is the immediate suspect in any mass terror attack in the world. Either it initiated the attack itself, as is commonly claimed in the Arab media, or it knew in advance but did not prevent it, as in the conspiracy theories that abounded after September 11, or its bad behavior in the territories fed the suicidal urges of Arabs and Muslims, as suggested by Blair and his fellow-Europeans.
So what if the perpetrators of the terror attacks in London grew up in the British welfare state and never knew what a roadblock, an occupation or a Jewish settlement is? The important thing is that it is possible to export the blame to the Jewish state.
These reactions are bothersome. It is not pleasant to hear that your country bears such responsibility for the spread of international evil, and the knowledge that these assertions are utter lies is no consolation. Nevertheless, it is sometimes difficult to take the defamers to task when Israel itself insists on butting in. Israel's longing to be a part of the West and the enlightened world, and to link Palestinian terror to some "international conspiracy" instead of seeing it as a local problem oversteps the bounds of common sense and reason. Sometimes it is best to remain silent and let others take care of their own problems.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom went to pay a condolence visit in London this week. Before he departed for Britain he announced that he would discuss "the terror attacks in London, Sharm and Israel" with Blair, as if there was a connection between the explosions in the Underground and the murder of the Kols near Kissufim or the firing of Qassams. True, all of them were committed by Muslims, but so far no deeper connection has been discovered.
After every terror attack abroad, reports are published to the effect that the Mossad intelligence service had known something, had tracked the perpetrators and had issued a warning that was ignored. Presumably the public relations people at the Mossad encourage such reports, in the belief that the image of its "long arm" and omniscience will encourage foreign services to cooperate and exchange information with their colleagues in Israel. The problem is that one who insists on appearing like the supreme fighter of international terror is liable to create unnecessary enemies for himself.
The height of absurdity was reached by the front-page headline in the mass circulation daily Maariv last Friday. The head of Military Intelligence, Major General Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, told the newspaper about a plan he had submitted to the government wherein, in return for suitable funding, within three years he would cause 70 percent of international terror activity to be thwarted, assisting many countries, "mainly in Europe." In that same "closed discussion," Farkash also said that Israel was not an Al Qaida target.
These remarks give rise to a number of questions: If Israel is not an Al Qaida target, why should it make itself one? How does Farkash know how to thwart "70 percent" of terror attacks, and not 69 percent or 82 percent? What does Military Intelligence know about Bin Laden and his colleagues that is being kept from the CIA? And perhaps there is something to accusations that Israel does not reveal everything to its friends abroad?
Here is a possible explanation: the Farkash plan was published on the eve of the discussion of the security budget. The Israel Defense Forces are required to make cuts and the army has run out of threats: Iraq is occupied, Syria has been abandoned, Iran is under international care and the Palestinians are worn out by the intifada. When the local market is at a low, it's time to turn to the international market for Israeli abilities to identify and thwart terror. If Israeli help isn't effective, at least there will be fat budgets, trips abroad and a strengthened image. What is a tiny and superfluous taunting of Bin Laden compared to all this?
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