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Israel’s Growing Internal Threat By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Overshadowed by the news of Israel’s trade of live Lebanese terrorists for dead Israeli soldiers was no less important news about Israel’s arrests of six Al Qaeda-linked Israeli Arabs charged with plotting to shoot down President Bush’s helicopter earlier this year.


Two of the suspects were from towns—Nazareth and Taibe—within pre-1967 Israel; the other four were from East Jerusalem. The former two, in other words, were full Israeli citizens with voting rights and so on.


Although full Israeli citizenship has also been available to East Jerusalem Arabs since Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 war, all but a few of them reject it. Instead they have a status as residents that entitles them to various state benefits.


The two citizens among the six were students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and one of them, Muhammad Naghem of Nazareth, lived on a campus that gave him a view of a helicopter landing pad where Bush’s helicopter landed and took off during his visit to Israel in January. 


Naghem is charged with photographing the landing and takeoff on his cellphone and then sending the photos to an Al Qaeda-linked website. The president also visited Israel in April this year.


The six suspects would meet regularly at the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Investigators for Israel’s General Security Service also found bomb-making instructions on some of the suspects’ personal computers.


Far from an isolated incident, it was part of a trend. Earlier this month two other Israeli Arabs—Bedouins living in southern Israel—were indicted for passing information to Al Qaeda on strategic sites such as army bases, skyscrapers, and Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.


And both of the two largest terror attacks in Israel this year were perpetrated by East Jerusalem Arabs—the shooting rampage at a Jerusalem yeshiva on March 6 that killed eight teenage boys and young men and wounded eleven, and the bulldozer attack on a Jerusalem street on July 2 that killed three people and wounded over fifty. In both those cases the terrorist was killed in the course of the attack, but there is suspicion of links to foreign jihadists.


Also on Tuesday this week a copycat bulldozer terrorist—yet another East Jerusalem Arab—wounded twenty-four in Jerusalem before being shot.  




1. In all these cases the terrorists or would-be terrorists took advantage of Israel’s adherence to the highest Western standards of individual freedom. East Jerusalem Arabs, even though they reject citizenship, have Israeli ID cards that allow them free movement in Israel, and both the yeshiva and bulldozer terrorists made full use of this privilege. Israel also grants full religious freedom, and the six Al Qaeda-linked plotters took advantage of this to hold their cell meetings on the Temple Mount, where Israel not only accords Muslims freedom of worship but allows the Muslim Wakf to administer the site and has only a limited security presence.   


As for the two university students, under normal circumstances their ability as members of a religio-ethnic minority to study in their country’s universities would be unremarkable. Students at Hebrew University, though, said they weren’t surprised by the arrests because of the “atmosphere of radicalism” on the campus. A poll last year found that 33% of Israeli Arab high school and college graduates are Holocaust deniers.


Under such circumstances, Israel will have to decide at what point granting rights becomes suicidal. It would be reasonable, at least, to revoke the East Jerusalem Arabs’ identity cards since their free movement in the country spells a clear and present danger; they would then have to apply for permits like West Bank Arabs and could be much better monitored. Israel is not yet likely, though, to take even such minimal measures because of external opinion and internal left-leaning opinion.


2. Israel’s intertwined security challenges include: external state threats mainly from Iran and Syria, external (or semi-external) nonstate threats mainly from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza (but also Al Qaeda and others), semi-internal nonstate threats from various terror groups on the West Bank, and steadily increasing internal threats from the Israeli Arab population. Under such precarious conditions, anyone sincerely and rationally concerned for Israel’s welfare would want to see it retain a maximal security presence in the West Bank, especially since West Bank Arabs and Israeli Arabs have often collaborated in terror attacks and the latter are a natural conduit for the former.


Unsurprisingly, none of this impresses, for example, British prime minister Gordon Brown who, in Israel this week, made a big pitch for Israel to remove West Bank checkpoints while promising additional aid to the terrorism-cultivating Palestinian Authority.


3. Also this week outgoing Israeli UN ambassador Danny Gillerman expressed concern that a nuclear-armed Iran could supply Hamas or Hezbollah with weapons of mass destruction. He’s, of course, right, but the threat goes beyond either nuclear-armed Iran or Hamas and Hezbollah. A situation in which Israeli Arab citizens are already linking up to Al Qaeda portends possible catastrophic attacks up to and including WMDs. In such a reality, talk about “peace with the Palestinians” is not only obsolete but diverts attention from the growing problem of conflict with the Israeli Arabs.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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