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Jaffe Center Poll: Jewish Majority Backs Gaza Pullback
A majority of Israeli Jews support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plans for unilateral
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, according to an annual poll conducted by the Jaffe Center
for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. According to the poll, the disengagement
plan is viewed as a means to improve security and ensure the Jewish nature of the state of
Israel. However, the public harshly opposes concessions bound to a peace agreement with
Syria. The poll results also find that a majority of the public rejects the Geneva Accord
as a basis for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Twin Terror Bombings Kill 10 in Israeli Port
By VOA News, IsraelNationalNews.com & Ha'aretz
Explosions in the Israeli port city of Ashdod have killed at least 10 people and
wounded 20 others. Police initially said the twin blasts appeared to be the result of a
worker accident at the port. However, authorities later linked the blast to terrorism and
said two of the dead appear to be teenage suicide bombers.
The attack marks the first time suicide bombers have penetrated a strategic Israeli facility since the start of the Palestinian uprising more than three years ago. (Editor's Note: Read the latest commentaries and OP-Eds at www.israelfaxx.com. Then send your reaction to firstname.lastname@example.org)
The terrorists, residents of Gaza, killed themselves in an attempt to carry out a
'mega-attack' that would have released deadly chemicals into the port city. One of the
terrorists made his way into the port's inner workshop and blew himself up at 4:30 p.m.
Soon after the first explosion; the second terrorist detonated his explosive vest outside
the fence of the port compound. A port official told Israel Radio that it was a miracle
the blasts did not rupture a bromide tank and cause an even greater catastrophe.
Proponents of the partition wall have always pointed to a security border dividing Gaza
from the rest of Israel as a model for the positive role that fences could play in
preventing suicide bombings within Israel's pre-1967 borders. Shin Bet and IDF officials
are looking into the possibility that the suicide bomber infiltrated into Israel through
the fence surrounding the Gaza Strip. They are also considering the possibility that they
arrived at Sinai through the Rafah underground tunnels, and from there traveled to an area
in the Negev that is not separated by a fence.
Southern Region Police Chief Moshe Karadi said that the bombers were using a different
type of explosives from the kind usual used in such attacks and may have been trying to
detonate the tanks of bromide and other dangerous chemicals stored in the port, in order
to cause a far greater number of casualties. "It may be that they accidentally detonated
themselves prematurely, before they reached the intended target," Karadi said.
Port worker Sami Pinto told Army Radio that when he entered the port area he saw smoke
rising from the site of both explosions. One explosion took place near the perimeter fence
of the facility while the second was from a workshop inside the port. "Five bodies of our
workers were on the ground and two more were outside the fence, "said Pinto in an
interview shortly after the attack. "One of our workers who was lightly injured told me
that the terrorist came in and asked for water. The second he showed him where the tap was
he blew himself up. One of our workers who was lightly wounded told me that the terrorist
came in and asked for water and the moment he showed him where there was a tap he blew
"I didn't understand what was going on. Never in my life did I think that such a thing
could happen here, with all of the security, but apparently that's the situation in our
country at present," Eli Sa'adon, a 32-year-old Ashdod port worker said Sunday
Knesset member Danny Ben-Loulou (Likud), who lives in Ashdod, said, "The attack proves
the disengagement plan is a prize for terrorists. Even the sea cannot stop the waves of
terror that are now washing up on our shores." Tourism Minister Benny Elon (National
Union) warned that a withdrawal from Gaza would result in such attacks becoming
commonplace. "He who retreats from Gaza, Gaza will follow him."
The Prime Minister's Office announced that Monday's meeting between Israeli and PA
officials, as well as the meeting scheduled for Tuesday between Ariel Sharon and PA Prime
Minister Ahmed Qureia, has been cancelled in light of the attacks.
Israel Television Channel Two Arab Affairs Correspondent Ehud Yaari emphasized in his
report that the announcement from Fatah that was released after the attack termed Ashdod
as 'occupied territory'. This marks a change in the terminology typically used by Arafat's
Fatah organization when referring to targets within Israel's pre-1967 borders. The
announcement noted that while the suicide bombers were from the Jabalya slums in the Gaza
Strip, this was just a 'refugee camp' as their true home was the, "Palestinian town that
is now Israeli-occupied Ashdod."
According to Al-Manar Hizbullah TV, Hamas as well as Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigade dispatched
the bombers. Al-Manar identified the two terrorists as Nabil Saoud and Mohammed Salem,
both 17, and in the 11th grade in the Jabalya slums in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority
condemned the attack and urged Palestinians to stop such attacks immediately.
Physicians Say Mideast Violence Takes Toll on Civilian Populations
By Meredith Buel (VOA-Washington)
Two doctors from the Middle East, one an Israeli, the other a Palestinian, are touring
cities in the United States in an effort to raise public awareness about the severe impact
3.5 years of violence has had on the health of both populations.
Israeli physician Zeev Wiener and Palestinian doctor Jumana Odeh say the continuing
conflict in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza is having a severe impact on the health of the
During a tour sponsored by the group Physicians for Human Rights, the two doctors said
the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation is taking an increasing toll on both
sides. They said the closures, restrictions and incursions by the Israeli Army have
severely hurt health services to the Palestinians. They pointed out Israelis killed or
injured by suicide bombers are not the only victims of those attacks, because many people
are experiencing high anxiety and other forms of emotional trauma when they see and hear
news reports about the blasts.
In fact, Wiener, a psychiatrist practicing in Tel Aviv, said many Israelis are
suffering from what he calls "chronic traumatization" and are so overwhelmed they are
disassociating themselves from the conflict. "There is good news about the media and that
is the media is broadcasting less and less terrifying pictures. But the bad news is they
are doing that for the wrong reasons. Not because they realized it is bad for our health,
but people are not interested anymore. People vote not to look at those pictures anymore
because they are tired, they are sick of those pictures."
Odeh is a Palestinian pediatrician based in Jerusalem who is on the faculty of the
Medical School and School of Public Health at Al-Quds University. She also produces a
local television show about children's health. Odeh said virtually all young Palestinians
have been affected by the violence, noting that in the Gaza Strip alone 83 percent of the
children have personally witnessed shootings or explosions. Odeh said most families simply
want to live normal lives.
"I would dream of a day when Israeli kids would be able to go to their schools, safe,
not being afraid of any bombing or any attacks against them," said Odeh. "At the same time
I would dream of a day when Palestinian kids would be able to go to their schools with no
checkpoints, no Israeli soldiers, nobody bothering them and go safely and live a normal
life as all kids all over the world."
An Academy Award for Bigotry
By Mike Davis (Commentary)
The most evil film ever made was probably Jud Suess, commissioned by Nazi propaganda
minister Joseph Goebbels in 1940 to fan hatred of the Jews on the eve of the Final
Solution. A thousand years of European anti-Semitism were condensed in the image of the
cowering rapist Suess, with his dirty beard, hook nose, and whining voice. The audience
was instigated to rejoice in the lynching of this subhuman monster at the film's end.
To anyone who has ever seen Jud Suess (as I did in college), the most startling thing
about Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ - even more than its relentless, shockingly
eroticized cruelty - is its fidelity to the anti-Semitic conventions of Hitlerian
Indeed, the high priest Caiaphas and his colleagues are such exact, blatant replicas of
Suess that I suspect they must be direct borrowings. Moreover, Passion is one of the most
manipulative films ever made and, after two hours watching mobs howling in delight at
Christ's suffering, it is no wonder that many devout American viewers, like their German
predecessors, have left theaters muttering, "I hate the Jews."
The Romans, on the other hand, are shown as noble imperialists. In contrast to the vile
Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate is depicted by Gibson as a sympathetic, even saintly figure,
tragically trapped between orders from Rome (no more uprisings) and the implacable
machinations of the high priests.
As in Suess, moreover, there is a constant contrasting of somatic stereotypes.
Mediterranean types - the two Marys, Pilate and his wife, and so on - are rendered with
softened features and sensitive spirits, while the Semites - Caiaphas, sybaritic King
Herod, and so on - are depicted as coarse and repulsively sensual. (In a contemporary
American context, such heavy-handed visual anti-Semitism, of course, instantly summons up
anti-Arab connotations as well.)
Gibson's insistence on using original languages - Aramaic and Latin - has impressed
naive viewers that The Passion represents some new benchmark in historical accuracy. In
fact, history (the little actually recorded of these events, apart from the posthumous
theology of the gospels) is bizarrely inverted.
Jesus, of course, is an utterly enigmatic figure. The only 'facts' in his life - as
attested by both Roman and Jewish historians - is that he existed and was executed by the
Romans. Pilate, on the other hand, has left a slightly larger record.
Unlike Gibson's kindly fiction, the historical Pilate was an ordinary imperial
procurator in a third-class province that kept his legions busy with brutal executions of
Jewish and Samaritan rebels. Palestine, then as today, lived under an iron heel, and the
Passion's confusion of oppressor and oppressed is morally obnoxious.
Some American critics, however, have tried to defend The Passion by pointing out that
Gibson's real bête noire is the Vatican, not the Jews. Indeed Gibson explicitly made
the film to promote the religious vision of the rabid Catholic traditionalist splinter
group in which he grew up. (Passion's tormented Jesus, Seattle actor James Caviezel, is
also a fundamentalist Catholic, claiming personal visitations from the Virgin.)
But the "tradition" he so zealously defends is precisely the anti-Semitic Catholic
fascism of former Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco and Pope Pius XII. And, like
Franco ideologues and their Croatian fascist counterparts of that era, Gibson has the same
morbid, vengeful obsession with pain, mutilation, bodily corruption, and the ever-present
temptation of Satan (who constantly prowls the perimeter of his film).
In short, Passion is the medieval vision of a pogromist, amplified by Hollywood special
effects and the cachet of celebrity. It is protected by a formidable wall of enthusiastic
endorsements from the American religious right as well as by the tolerance of ordinary
Gibson fans that just can't believe that their goofy, handsome hero is really such a
(Mike Davis is author, most recently, of the kids' adventure, Land of the Lost Mammoths
(Perceval Press, 2003) and co-author of Under the Perfect Sun: the San Diego Tourists
Never See (New Press, 2003).
By Robert Jay Lifton (Commentary)
I saw The Passion of the Christ at a theater in Harvard Square, but much of the
audience consisted of organized religious groups from the broader Cambridge community.
Some people were visibly moved by the film and applauded enthusiastically at the end.
Since the film is about Jesus and violence, everybody brings to it powerful personal
preoccupations. The violence some experienced as confirmation of their religious
convictions was to me not just excessive but suffocating and ultimately numbing.
Several reviewers have called the violence "gratuitous," but that does not seem to be
the right word. For the violence is integral to the film; indeed, the violence is the
film. The beatings, the thorns, the nails, the scourging, and the sustained image of Jesus
as a bloody pulp - these represent the film's version of his purifying mission. Moreover,
for Mel Gibson, the filmmaker, violence is a métier, a longstanding means of
intense communication with his audience, of taking that audience, in his own words, "over
the edge." It is violence that cannot be transcended by compassion and love. Rather, the
camera is enthralled by every detail of cruelty, every vicious blow, every bloody wound.
Precisely these brutal images are what the camera loves. The violence itself becomes
transcendent, hyper-real. And this display of sadism is in the service of an ideology of
For the film makes clear in its opening scenes that Jesus must take on the terrible
burden of all human sin. The violence of his ordeal, it is suggested, must be made
commensurate with the extremity of that burden. The sins Jesus has taken on, and therefore
Jesus himself, must be brutally annihilated.
At issue is the purification not just of Jesus or even of the sins he carries for
others, but of the whole world. And that larger world can be purified, the film tells us,
only by sustained cruelty and murderous violence. One must destroy the world, or in this
case Christ, its divine representative, to save it. That kind of vision of
all-encompassing violence as a means of spiritual renewal finds structured expression in
the Old Testament in the Book of Daniel and in the New Testament in the Book of
Only in the 20th century, however, could the apocalyptic mindset take on a more
activist form as human beings acquired the actual means of purifying the world by
destroying it and so could attempt just that, always claiming to be doing so in God's
name. This was the mindset I encountered in the small but ambitious Japanese cult Aum
Shinrikyo, which in 1995 produced and released chemical and biological weapons (having
unsuccessfully attempted to acquire nuclear warheads) meant - at least in the fevered
fantasies of its guru Shoko Asahara - to initiate World War III and thereby bring about a
biblical Armageddon. For his sarin-gassing of the Tokyo subways, only last week he was
sentenced to death by a Japanese court.
Another example of an apocalyptic mindset is that of Osama bin Laden, his organization
al Qaeda, and related fanatical groups who seek to annihilate much of the world in order
to create a purified Islamist utopia. And there are stirrings of a different version of
such a purifying mindset in those contemporary American leaders who combine a Christian
fundamentalist vision of eliminating evil with a militarized projection of American world
The Passion of the Christ, then, says a good deal more about the violence of the
present-day apocalyptic imagination than it does about the experiences of Jesus in the
first century. Hence the crude depiction of a sadistic Jewish rabble demanding
crucifixion. Within a Christian apocalyptic narrative, Jews tend to be featured either as
foils for world redemption who must gather in Israel and convert or be annihilated, or as
the evil perpetrators depicted in the film who, in collusion with the devil, reject and
kill the true messiah.
The problem of The Passion of the Christ goes far beyond the individual psyche of Mel
Gibson, or even questions of biblical interpretation. The crucifixion here becomes a
vehicle for a contemporary mentality that is absolute and polarizing in its starkly
violent vision of world purification - a vision that fits well with an apocalyptic, all or
nothing "war on terrorism." While many will be moved by this vision, there may also be a
backlash of revulsion and a reasoned rejection of the zealotry and love of violence the
(Robert Jay Lifton is visiting professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. His
most recent book is Superpower Syndrome: America's Apocalyptic Confrontation with the
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