Michael Freund: Deluding Ourselves About the Palestinian 'Security Ace'
- Deluding Ourselves About the Palestinian 'Security Ace'
By Michael Freund The Jerusalem Post, April 30, 2003
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 schoolbuses
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
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
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
"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
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.
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis