The Jerusalem Post, April 30, 2003

DELUDING OURSELVES ABOUT THE PALESTINIAN 'SECURITY ACE'

By Michael Freund

Passover may be behind us, but there is one plague that continues to haunt much of the region: that of wishful thinking. And, if the past decade is any guide, it is an affliction that can prove just as deadly as those described in the story of the Exodus.

Take, for example, the media's inexplicable romance with Muhammad Dahlan, the new Palestinian minister for state security. The New York Times this week labeled Dahlan the "Palestinian security ace", as though he were a beloved hero from an action film.

The Miami Herald called him a "moderate", while the Associated Press said he is "urbane" and "carefully coifed".

Of course, what the guardians of the public's right to know neglected to mention is that Dahlan has a nasty habit of trying to blow up school buses full of Jewish children. On at least three separate occasions in the past six years, Dahlan has reportedly been linked to such attacks.

His first attempt came on April 1, 1997, when Palestinian suicide bombers blew themselves up outside Netzarim and Kfar Darom in Gaza in an attempt to hit two Israeli schoolbuses packed full of students. In both cases, miraculously, no Israelis were hurt.

The Chief of General Staff at the time, Lt.-Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, said the bombers were wearing Palestinian police uniforms and that at least one, and possibly both, belonged to Dahlan's Palestinian Preventive Security Service (The Jerusalem Post, April 2, 1997).

Undeterred by his first failed attempt to kill Jewish kids, the "moderate" and "urbane" Dahlan tried again. On October 18, 2000, a busload of 40 Israeli women and children was attacked by gunfire and a bomb west of the Gush Katif junction in Gaza as it passed near a Palestinian police station. In this attack, too, no one was injured, but it was certainly not for lack of trying.

Two days later, Israeli intelligence concluded that Dahlan himself was behind the assault (Israel Radio, October 20, 2000).

Less than a month later, though, Dahlan finally got his wish when, at last, an Israeli schoolbus was consumed by flames. On November 20, 2000, a roadside bomb outside Kfar Darom blew up as a schoolbus drove by. Two adults on the bus were killed, and nine other Israelis were injured, including five children.

Among them were Tehilla, Yisrael and Orit Cohen, three beautiful young people who each had to have limbs amputated as a result of the blast.

Within days, Israeli intelligence had cracked the case and the trail once again led straight back to Dahlan. His second-in-command, Rashid Abu Shabak, is said to have personally supervised the preparation of the bomb, and other people under him were also involved in the planning and implementation of the attack (Ha'aretz, November 23, 2000).

Still another of Dahlan's men, Baha Said, was involved in an attack on November 18, 2000 in which two Israeli soldiers were shot to death in Kfar Darom. Rather than denouncing Said's actions, Dahlan reportedly eulogized him at his funeral, praising his actions and posthumously promoting him for killing Jews. (The Jerusalem Post, December 20, 2000).

In retaliation for Dahlan's involvement in the two November attacks, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered the airforce to take out one of Dahlan's command posts in Gaza, which it promptly did. The evidence against Dahlan was so compelling that the families of his victims took the bold step of filing civil suits against him one in the United States District Court in Washington, DC, and a second in the Jerusalem District Court.

In addition to his involvement in terror, Dahlan has also sheltered other terrorists from justice, chief among them Muhammad Dief, the number one terrorist on Israel's most-wanted list. Dief, widely considered to be the mastermind behind Hamas' suicide bombings and other terror attacks in recent years, is a close friend of Dahlan, and Dahlan is said to have helped him hide in Gaza (The Jerusalem Post, September 27, 2002).

Moreover, Dahlan has not hesitated to threaten Israel publicly with violence. Less than two months before the outbreak of the current intifada, Dahlan told a London-based Arabic newspaper that clashes with Israel were possible.

"The Palestinian people... knows how to defend itself", he said rather ominously. "The potential for resistance and steadfastness is now much greater... Now we have the necessary mechanisms and institutions in place... We also have the ability and the will to resist" (Al-Quds Al-Araby, August 4, 2000).

By now, it should be fairly obvious that Dahlan is no "security ace", he is not urbane, and he is most definitely not a "moderate". He is just another thug with plenty of Jewish blood on his hands, and it is simply appalling to watch how the media, and many Israelis, are falling all over each other to convince themselves, and the public, that he will bring us the much-longed for peace and security that we all desire.

Then again, after their recent love affair with the Holocaust-denying, "Zionism is Nazism" advocate Abu Mazen, it is hardly surprising that the media would be taken in by the dapper Dahlan. After all, he dresses smartly, speaks English and Hebrew, and never seems to have a bad hair day. The fact that he has spent much of his career overseeing the Palestinian version of Murder, Inc. apparently does not faze them one whit.

But hoping and longing for someone to be a moderate does not make them so, as all the wishful thinking since 1993 about Yasser Arafat has painfully demonstrated. Deluding ourselves about the true nature of our enemies is not only foolish. It is dangerous, too. Dahlan remains the ruthless terrorist he always was. And all the newspaper ink in the world can never change that.

The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office.

(c) The Jerusalem Post



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