- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

In the wake of September 11, President Bush rightly declared that the United States was at war not only with Osama bin Laden, his followers, and any nations that might harbor them, but with all "terrorist" organizations of similarly worldwide scope. The latter qualification was presumably intended to spare us the necessity of going after such strictly local gangs of terrorists as the Irish Republican Army and the Tamil insurgents in Sri Lanka, while keeping our options open with regard to other Muslim terrorists (for example) who may seek to damage American interests around the globe but are not parts of bin Laden's al Qaeda.

A great many people, notably in the Israeli government, promptly decided that Mr. Bush must, logically speaking, have included the Palestinian terrorists among those against whom he was declaring war.

Whether Yasser Arafat, the elected political leader of the Palestinians, was one of them was perhaps open to debate, but certainly such organizations as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which have explicitly claimed responsibility for many acts of terrorism against innocent Israelis, were candidates for inclusion. It might be argued they are not worldwide in scope and comparable to the IRA, which has political aims focused on one nation only; but this is at best a quibble. Hamas has murdered leading Israelis in half a dozen countries.

In any case, the tide has been running strong against terrorists of any stripe in the past four months, and at first glance the two Palestinian organizations seemed to fit comfortably in the category. Individual suicide bombers, after all, are practically their stock in trade, and if that isn't terrorism, what is?

And yet, when we look around the world, the United States and Israel are almost alone in regarding the Palestinian terrorists as exact moral equivalents of Osama bin Laden and his followers. In vote after vote in the United Nations, and in international conferences like the recent one in Durban (on racism), our two countries are often isolated, with the rest of the world's nations voting the other way, or at best abstaining, on issues involving Israel.

The reason is not hard to find. Even among our closest allies in Europe and Asia, there is an undercurrent of sympathy for the Palestinian cause. It goes back to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, when (according to the Palestinian version of events) Arab residents of what were then large sections of Palestine were driven from their homes to make way for Jewish settlers, many of them refugees from the Holocaust.

Needless to say, the Israeli version of the same events is very different, and I am certainly not going to try to adjudicate between them. But there is no gainsaying the fact that the Palestinian version is dominant outside of the United States and Israel. Nor has it helped our case that, after Israel was attacked in 1967 by a coalition of Arab states, Israel not only defeated them but occupied large areas designated by the United Nations for Palestinian settlement, and Jewish settlers have built many homes and even entire towns in those areas.

Now, I am not one of those who tend to get weak-kneed just because the United States finds itself in sharp disagreement with its Western European allies and Japan let alone with that multilingual squawk box called the United Nations. But many Americans simply don't realize the depth of our isolation on this set of issues, and it is important to do so, even if only to strengthen our resolve. Less than a month ago, no less a personage than the French ambassador to Britain, at a glittering dinner in the home of Lord Conrad Black, felt perfectly comfortable using a vulgar epithet to describe Israel to those at the table and demanded to know why the world should risk World War III to save it. (Undiplomatically, he forgot that his hostess was a journalist in her own right, and an ardent Zionist.)

Wherever one comes down on the subject of Palestine, and whether we add Hamas to our global list or not, the word "terrorism" fits its tactics exactly.

William Rusher is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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