8 burials for Jerusalem seminary’s dead

It was unclear what group, if any, was responsible for the massacre. The radical Islamic Hamas movement, which praised the deed on Thursday but did not claim it, on Friday took responsibility in an anonymous phone call to the Reuters news agency and said that details would come later. But Fawzi Barhoum, a senior Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said that no claim was official unless made in a written statement signed by the military wing of Hamas. The gunman’s family said he was intensely religious but did not belong to any militant group.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that the government would act after proper investigation and deliberation, and he condemned those, like Hamas, who celebrated the killings with parades in Gaza. “That Hamas calls this a heroic act, and praises it, this exposes them for what they are,” he said.

The young men died as they were studying in the library of the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, a major center for the national-religious movement that provides the backbone of Israeli settlement in the West Bank — settlements like this one, which Israel intends to keep in any future peace treaty.

Gazans see attack on yeshiva as unusual achievement

The celebratory shooting in the air in Gaza that followed the terrorist attack in Jerusalem last night showed that the penetration of Merkaz Harav was viewed as an unusual political and military achievement for the group responsible.

The attack brought something to a wide public in the Gaza Strip that it had been waiting for all week – revenge.

The horror scenes from Gaza at the beginning of the week sent Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups racing for a terror attack, knowing that whoever managed to pull one off first would score major points in the Arab and Palestinian street.

Talk to Hamas

In these days “all of Gaza has become Hamas,” a former Fatah security officer who is far from being a Hamas supporter, told Haaretz. Al Jazeera is broadcasting to every home the horror pictures of the deaths of dozens of children and women.

In this situation, hatred triumphs and the only hope is the desire to take revenge. The rocket launchers are thus the heroes who gain the people’s sympathy, and support for Hamas is not getting any smaller – it’s growing.

So there is no escape but to talk to Hamas. We cannot choose our enemies. We embraced Yasser Arafat after saying for dozens of years (in the words of Yitzhak Rabin) that “we’ll meet the PLO only on the battlefield.”

U.S. policy is gasoline on the Gaza fires

Once upon a time, Israelis and Palestinians looked to the U.S. to intervene at moments of heightened confrontation to mediate between the two sides and contain the damage. The Bush Administration, however, has proved entirely incapable of playing this role, because its own diplomatic efforts are hidebound by the requirements of its own war on Hamas.

Condi Rice is sticking doggedly to that script, even though all the other players are making clear that the game is up. The New York Times tells us, for example, that U.S. officials are worried that efforts to broker a cease-fire to end the carnage in Gaza might undermine Washington’s priority, which is not to restore peace, but to isolate and eliminate Hamas: “Ms. Rice wants to avoid the word ‘cease-fire’ because administration officials believe that a negotiated cease-fire between Israel and Hamas — which the United States and Israel view as a terrorist organization — would legitimize Hamas in the eyes of the Palestinian people,” the Times reports. “The fear, administration officials said, is that a negotiated cease-fire would likely undermine Mr. Abbas and make it look like Hamas is the entity with which Israel and the West should be negotiating, and not Mr. Abbas.”

Israeli journalism

A year ago I applied for the job of Occupied Territories correspondent at Ma’ariv, an Israeli newspaper. I speak Arabic and have taught in Palestinian schools and taken part in many joint Jewish-Palestinian projects. At my interview the boss asked how I could possibly be objective. I had spent too much time with Palestinians; I was bound to be biased in their favour. I didn’t get the job. My next interview was with Walla, Israel’s most popular website. This time I did get the job and I became Walla’s Middle East correspondent. I soon understood what Tamar Liebes, the director of the Smart Institute of Communication at the Hebrew University, meant when she said: ‘Journalists and publishers see themselves as actors within the Zionist movement, not as critical outsiders.’

This is not to say that Israeli journalism is not professional. Corruption, social decay and dishonesty are pursued with commendable determination by newspapers, TV and radio. That Israelis heard exactly what former President Katsav did or didn’t do with his secretaries proves that the media are performing their watchdog role, even at the risk of causing national and international embarrassment. Ehud Olmert’s shady apartment deal, the business of Ariel Sharon’s mysterious Greek island, Binyamin Netanyahu’s secret love affair, Yitzhak Rabin’s secret American bank account: all of these are freely discussed by the Israeli media.

When it comes to ‘security’ there is no such freedom. It’s ‘us’ and ‘them’, the IDF and the ‘enemy’; military discourse, which is the only discourse allowed, trumps any other possible narrative. It’s not that Israeli journalists are following orders, or a written code: just that they’d rather think well of their security forces.

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