We Remember - but Differently

Ahead of Memorial Day, the Elhanan family, which lost a daughter in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem, received a framed bas-relief picture bearing the inscription, Ein li eretz aheret (I have no other country). The picture came with a letter to the families of victims of terror attacks from Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Avraham Ravitz.

"We will not rest, and we will not capitulate, and we will continue to struggle and work in every way for our right to maintain the State of Israel. The security forces and the government of Israel are doing everything possible to prevent another attack and more casualties," states the letter.

"Is that so?" Dr. Nurit Elhanan-Peled asked the prime minister.

"Of late, I have seen how you are working," she wrote to Olmert. "Two weeks ago, I was present at the inauguration of a new movement called Fighters for Peace, comprised of former fighters, Israelis and Palestinians, who joined together to form a non-violent movement to oppose the occupation and oppression.

"The ceremony was held in a schoolyard in Anata, which is bisected by the fence of oppression and occupation, which does nothing but spur hatred and encourage the desire for revenge. During the construction of the fence, tear gas canisters were thrown inside the building, but the children did not give in and continue to attempt to play in their yard.

"A week earlier, I visited Hebron with other bereaved parents for peace, and I saw Baruch Marzel's well-guarded children throwing stones into Palestinian houses; I saw soldiers use their guns to threaten Palestinian children who brought us water and wanted to play a little outside of their homes-prisons. Marzel advised the soldiers to blow us up because we are leftists, and his wife cursed us, while a bunch of their offspring showered us with rocks. And this was all happening under the watchful guard of Israel Defense Forces soldiers," she wrote.

"On Memorial Day, the Jewish nation bows its head in memory of the murdered," Olmert concluded his letter.

"I also bow my head," Elhanan replies, "in memory of the Palestinian children killed everyday 'in keeping with procedure,' in memory of the Israeli victims whose deaths in suicide bombings carried out by desperate children is caused by the occupation and oppression, in honor of the children who are afraid to go to school for fear of the Marzel children and their ilk, in honor of the Palestinian mothers who continue to support their families without a father and husband, and in honor of the members of Fighters for Peace, who after long years of suffering in jail find the strength and courage to form a peace movement."

Longings for Force 17

It appears that Jacques Chirac has not spoken of late with his colleague, George Bush. Otherwise, it is hard to understand where he came up with the promise he made to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to set up a World Bank fund that would serve as a pipeline for financing that would bypass Hamas. Chirac seems to have forgotten that Jewish liberal James Wolfensohn has vacated the World Bank's presidency and was replaced by Jewish neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz.

Wolfowitz belongs to the camp that considers transferring funds to Hamas worse than eating pork cooked in butter on Yom Kippur.

The U.S. administration has even stopped a $55 million project to treat sewage in Hebron that Congress released from the sanctions against Hamas after being convinced of the serious danger of contamination of water sources that are vital to the residents of the West Bank and the State of Israel.

U.S. officials are not interested in the fact that the closing of government schools due to a failure to pay teachers' salaries will send tens of thousands of children to Hamas' classrooms, or out onto the streets to throw stones at Israeli soldiers. Someone even said that in any case, the summer holidays are about to start. Unlike the Europeans, who believe that with measured use of the carrot and the stick it is possible to reeducate Hamas, the United States is firm in its belief that Hamas is a lost cause, and in the possibility of removing it from power.

Officials in Washington were not moved by remarks by Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, of Hamas, who told the Al Jazeera network over the weekend that he did not oppose negotiations with Israel, "if this will lead to visible results," and would even accept the assistance of mediators in an attempt to reach "peace that is based on justice."

Some officials in Jerusalem made sure that the United States noticed that the senior Palestinian politician had explained that "just peace" means realizing the right of the refugees "to return to the lands from which they were expelled."

When asked to comment on the Arab peace initiative, Zahar replied: "Israel itself does not acknowledge the content of this initiative."

According to the U.S. plan, the economic siege and the political freeze will lead to a "velvet revolution," starting with the resignation or dismissal of the Hamas government, and ending with new elections that will restore Fatah to power. They are again setting their sights on Mohammed Dahlan, and are even encouraging U.S. journalists to meet with Force 17 commanders - despite the fact that less than four years ago, Israel convinced the United States that Force 17 is a terrorist militia, and, in response, the U.S. administration ostracized Yasser Arafat and did so until his last day.

The key is still inside

Attorney Benjamin Rubin wants to stress first of all that there is no connection between his job at the Justice Ministry's legislation and consulting department in Jerusalem and a new research paper he wrote at the Max Planck Institute of International Justice in Heidelberg, Germany, about the occupations in Gaza and Iraq and their results.

This does not detract from the importance of the analysis of the Israeli government's responsibility for the fate of the residents of the Gaza Strip, which was totally cut off from Israel physically, and - no less so - its responsibility for the residents of the West Bank, if the new government decides to disengage from selected parts of it.

In principal, Rubin states that the withdrawal of all Israeli military and civilian forces absolves Israel of the responsibility that stems from the military occupation of the Gaza Strip. (He notes with unconcealed sarcasm that the authorities, including the Supreme Court, created a cleaner definition - "belligerent occupation" - and adds that if the occupation of the West Bank does not end soon, there will be no escaping finding an alternative term for this reviled institution). And yet the withdrawal from occupied territory, especially when it is done unilaterally and suddenly, does not free the occupier overnight from total responsibility for several areas.

Rubin believes that Israel is obliged to continue the regular supply of vital services, such as electrical energy, as the Gaza Strip's dependence on its supply by Israel stems exclusively from the occupation. Rubin writes that Israel's role is to supply electricity to the region until the authorities there obtain alternative sources of electricity. He notes that Israel threatened to cut off the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip in response to the firing of Qassam rockets, and stressed that this is a gesture that is well beyond Israel's right to use as it sees fit.

According to Rubin, the disengagement from Gaza also does not free Israel of responsibility for health issues there. He explains that Israel chose during the years of the occupation to deal with the inferior nature of health services in Gaza by opening its medical services to Gaza residents and that this gap, between the ability and the needs, remained in place on the day after the evacuation as well.

Rubin notes that even though it is acceptable to attribute the Palestinian Authority's weaknesses to the widespread corruption there, the PA's collapse is partly a result of the steps taken by Israel in the territories during the intifada - "legitimate as they may or may not have been."

In contrast to his decisive view regarding vital services, Rubin notes that the laws of the occupation do not oblige Israel to take part in rebuilding the Palestinian economy. He leaves that to "common sense and sound political judgment."

Et tu, Sharansky?

Now there really is no doubt that President Bush is in trouble. Even MK Natan Sharansky, an honored guest at the White House, is publicly criticizing him. The man whose book, "The Case for Democracy," Bush transformed into required reading in the U.S. administration, cites the president's misguided policy as one of the reasons for the rise to power in the territories of the terrorist organization, Hamas.

Sharansky chose to publish his comments specifically in the home turf of the neo-conservatives, the respected Wall Street Journal. After he lauds Bush for his devotion to democratization and its importance to world security, Sharansky argues that Bush erred when he focused too much on holding quick elections and attributed too little importance to vital steps needed to build free societies, including protecting freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and other issues that are at the heart of democracy.

Sharansky also argues that the president did not make enough of an effort to transform promoting democracy in the world into an issue that crosses party and ideological lines - a process unmatched in its importance for the success of the fight against terrorism.

Sharansky compensates Bush for the criticism by referring to him as a "dissident." This, he writes, is because Bush championed freedom with dogged determination, before and after elections, "both when he was riding high in the polls and now that his popularity has plummeted, when criticism has come from longstanding opponents and from erstwhile supporters."

The influential and widely read Washington blog, The Washington Note, quotes selected passages from the article. Its editor, Steve Clemons, could not resist the opportunity for a jibe. It seems "Natan Sharansky must be sad that April has rolled along and Dubya has not invited him over to the Oval Office for lunch and a chat."

Indeed, he continues, "Yes, the president is such a dissident that he is, on the basis of principle, seemingly willing to try to permanently change the system of checks and balances that has helped make this nation a great democracy."

Clemons advises Sharansky to "please note that a dissident president as you have described is not a president but presumes to be a monarch.

"You are not celebrating democracy in your article," he concludes. "You are calling for the type of zealotry that breeds chaos and which, if Bush were to succeed in the kind of plan you call for, would cause this nation's collapse."