Editor's note: In one outrageous week, two prominent Labor leaders demonstrated beyond doubt that Labor is not morally qualified to govern Israel. Ehud Barak, head of the Labor Party proclaimed that he would have joined a terrorist organization had he been born an Arab. And Major-General Shlomo Gazit, of the Jaffe Center For Strategic Studies, told a Tel Aviv University audience that when he sees religious soldiers wearing kipot it reminds him of Nazis and their swastikas. SHAME ON THEM!
May the Israeli people prevent both of them from ever attaining public office again.
Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of March 12, 1998
JERUSALEM (March 12) - The comment on television over the weekend by Labor Party leader Ehud Barak - that had he been born a Palestinian he would have probably joined a terror organization - continued to provoke heated discussion in the Knesset yesterday. At the end of acrimonious debate on several urgent motions, MKs from all parties decided there was no need for further discussion.
Early on, the potentially explosive topic forced Speaker Dan Tichon to call for a break to allow MKs to cool down, after MK Michael Kleiner (Gesher) caused an uproar with his statement: "According to Barak's twisted logic, it's interesting what Barak would have told the interviewer had he been asked what he would have done had he been born to German parents during World War II."
Tichon said Kleiner's words would be struck from the minutes. Kleiner also said he "would not be surprised if Barak, as a potential heir to the [premiership] and as a former chief of general staff, finds himself as the chief marketing factor in the recruitment commercials of Hamas, and the terrorist murder of innocents."
The storm broke out again when MK Haggai Merom (Labor) called out to the Likud: "You have the culture of terrorists within a democracy." During the mutual heckling, MK Avi Yehezkel was expelled from the plenum.
Barak sat stony-faced for most of the discussion before taking to the podium with a speech stressing his military career and contribution to fighting terror, "in a white overall on the wing of the Sabena plane, when it could have exploded any minute; after midnight on the streets of Beirut dressed as a woman; in the planning team of the Entebbe Operation."
He repeatedly stated that the war on terror is by actions, not words. "For 35 years I risked my life in scores of actions: deeds not words," he said.
Barak placed the blame for encouraging terror on the government, for releasing Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin without a guarantee he would not return to terror and allowing Musa Abu Marzook to be sent to Jordan. "A person who does not recognize the factors which motivate his enemies cannot effectively fight terror," Barak said.
Answering on behalf of the government, Deputy Defense Minister Silvan Shalom said Labor had created the Likud's next election campaign slogan: "With Barak we'll win!" Shalom said he had been waiting for three days for Barak to apologize and admit he had made a mistake and put an end to the episode. "Instead Barak hides behind his words and adds to them an attack on the Likud and its leader. Was it they who said these words?" Shalom asked.
He quoted a poll that 90 percent of the public is convinced Barak had made a mistake and said Barak's words had shown a serious defect in someone who is a candidate for prime minister. Shalom said Barak had legitimized terror by his statement at a time when Israel is stressing the need for a change in the attitude of the Palestinian leadership against violence and praise for terrorists.
Throughout the discussion MKs traded insults, with Naomi Blumenthal (Likud) telling Barak: "You are the copywriter of the terror organizations." Micha Goldman (Labor) responded: "You are the duty idiot for the Likud." When MK Ori Orr (Labor), a former major-general, told Blumenthal she knew nothing about fighting terror, she replied by calling him a chauvinist.
It was Shas leader Aryeh Deri who put an end to the episode by telling his colleagues that: "Anyone who tries to make out that Barak is a recruitment officer for Hamas is either playing a Purim prank or out of their mind. He is being wronged. Enough of this."
A few minutes later, the Knesset began another debate on the comments by former chief of IDF Intelligence Chief Shlomo Gazit, who last week compared the kippot of religious soldiers to the swastikas worn by Nazi soldiers. But the Knesset had apparently had enough of talk of Germans and social and political divides. The debate was brought to an abrupt halt to allow the second and third readings of a bill to pass before the House adjourned for Purim.
THE MID-EAST DISPATCH DAILY NEWS FROM ISRAEL - ISSUE 2/069 - 10th March 1998
The political system was in turmoil this afternoon, following the statement by a member of the Tzurif cell of the Hamas organization, who claimed that he and his comrades based their case on MK Ehud Barak's remark - "If I were a Palestinian, I'd join a terrorist organization."
The terrorists astonishing statement came during the trial of the cell members, who, among other incidents, were behind the attack on the Apropos cafe in Tel Aviv, and the murder of soldier Sharon Edri. The Tzurif cell members said they should be treated as fighters for Palestinian independence, and, they cited Ehud Barak's remark in support of their claim.
Ehud Barak's staff reacted with dismay and bewilderment. An official Labour Party announcement spoke of "shock and dismay" at the statements. Ehud Barak's spokesperson said that Benyamin Netanyahu, who served under Barak in the IDF, knew his great contribution to the security of the country. Barak's staff claimed that the Likud was making cynical use of words taken out of their context.
The right-wing responded with fierce condemnation of Barak for his remarks. MK Naomi Blumenthal said that Barak's words would become a slogan for people joining the terrorist organizations ranks.MK Ruby Rivlin said Barak's statement had not convinced his party, but he had convinced the terrorist organization members.
MK Nissan Slomiansky of the National Religious Party said that, in the light of what he had said, Barak was unfit to lead the country. Following the harsh reaction, senior Labour party members met for urgent consultations. Labour Party chairman MK Eli Goldschmidt called for a "cease fire" between the major parties over the sensitive issue of the war against terrorism.
Have you heard about Barak's controversial comment - in a TV interview to be aired tonight - that if he were a Palestinian, he would join a terrorist organization?!!!? While he was quick to indicate that the next stage would be political involvement, and that no one should compare Palestinian terror and the pre-1948 Jewish resistance, the DAMAGE has been committed.
A few observations:
1. Two weeks ago Barak undermined US-Israel relations by encouraging President Clinton and M. Albright to increase pressure on Israel as a means to advance the peace process. Barak's call was in contrast to the position upheld by most Americans, most House Members and Senators and most members of the Jewish community!
2. Today, Barak undermines the already shaky relations between Israel and the Palestinians by encouraging Palestinians to join terror organizations as a legitimate means to achieve their goals. Barak's call jeopardizes the personal security of that Palestinian segment which - at a great deal of risk - distances itself from terrorists.
3. Barak is WRONG LOGICALLY and TACTICALLY. If an enlightened person like Barak is right to consider terror as a legitimate option (from the Palestinian point of view, he said), then there may not be a chance for peace. Moreover, if Barak is right, then the whole political venue could be in vain. Interestingly enough, unlike Barak, most hawkish elements in Israel believe that peace is attainable, but by DETERRING, rather than encouraging, TERROR.
4. Interestingly enough, this week portion of the Torah refers to the cardinal role played by our TONGUE. As you know, our sages have suggested that "Life and death are controlled by our tongue."
Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of March 8, 1998
JERUSALEM (March 8) - Coalition and Likud whip Meir Sheetrit is calling for a Knesset debate on statements made at the end of last week by Labor leader Ehud Barak and former head of IDF Intelligence Shlomo Gazit. Barak told cable television interviewer Gideon Levy that, had he been born a Palestinian, he would have probably "at the right age joined a terrorist organization." Barak stressed he is opposed to terror, which he called "despicable" and "inhumane."
Gazit, addressing a conference at Tel Aviv University, compared the kippot worn by some IDF soldiers to the Nazi swastika worn on military uniforms. Gazit later apologized in messages to President Ezer Weizman and Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, himself a Holocaust survivor. Gazit later said what he had meant was that kippot have become associated with a political opinion.
"I apologized and I will apologize again," said Gazit on Channel 2. "[But] the only army I know of that showed solidarity with a political party by displaying an outer symbol as part of their uniform was theswastika worn by some soldiers in the German Army." He suggested issuing a standard IDF kippa in colors matching the berets of the different corps. Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak issued a statement expressing "disgust for the crude statement, which hurts kippa-wearing IDF soldiers." Gazit's statement was also condemned by MKs from parties ranging from the far-left Meretz (Amnon Rubinstein) and far-right Moledet (Rehavam Ze'evi).
Barak's statement on the Palestinians also continued to make waves over the weekend, with coalition MKs saying it could encourage terrorism. Barak rejected the criticism and stood by his words, leaked to the media from within his own staff.
"What else could I say - that if I were a young Palestinian immersed from birth in the Palestinian ethos I'd have become a third-grade teacher?" Barak asked journalists.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who heard of Barak's comment in Europe, called on him to take it back. Netanyahu said Barak should be more careful with his words, since Palestinian youth might understand from them that there are those in Israel who grant their acts legitimacy. Barak responded that Netanyahu was trying to divert attention away from the reasons for the freeze in the peace process and said the prime minister could not preach to him about responsibility or fighting terror.
Sheetrit said the comments by Barak and Gazit had brought the level of political discourse to a new low. Health Minister Yehoshua Matza said Barak is not worthy of standing at the head of a Zionist party and Science Minister Michael Eitan said Barak could not provide the country with an alternative leadership.
(c) 1998 The Jerusalem Post