By Ed Koch, December 7, 2001
LAST WEEKEND, 25 Israelis were murdered and hundreds injured in terrorist
suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa. The immediate families of those
Israelis, like those of the Americans murdered in the World Trade Center
attack, will never again lead normal lives.
Two weekends ago, I watched ‘Capital Gang’ on CNN, featuring Robert Novak.
I’ve known Novak for many years. He interviewed me when I was mayor and a
congressman. Novak has always been a very conservative commentator and
always hostile to the State of Israel.
On his Nov. 24 show, Novak went ballistic in his ill will toward Israel.
While discussing the Israeli assassination of Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, a senior
military leader of Hamas on the West Bank directly responsible for dozens
of Israeli civilian deaths, Novak denounced Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
for ordering Hanoud’s assassination.
Novak’s colleague, Margaret Carlson, rightly called Hanoud a terrorist, and
Novak defended him as a freedom fighter. Carlson responded, “Bob, you’re the
only person who would call Hamas freedom fighters.”
“Oh, no,” Novak rejoined. “People all over the world do.”
Horrified by this remark, I wrote to Novak and offered the following
definitions for terrorists and freedom fighters: “I believe the near
unanimously accepted definition applies the word [terrorist] to someone
who targets innocent civilians for injury or death in order to achieve
victory for his ultimate goal… A freedom fighter, I believe, would be
defined as someone who targets the military forces opposing that goal for
injury or death.”
Hamas has been designated by both the president and the State Department
as a terrorist organization. It has taken responsibility for the latest
suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa. In June in Tel-Aviv, a Hamas
suicide bomber killed 21 people at a disco; on Aug. 9 in Jerusalem,
another suicide bomber killed 15 people at a restaurant.
Given the relative sizes of the American and Israeli populations, 280
million and 6 million respectively, the most recent 25 Israeli deaths and
more than 200 injured would be as if 1,150 Americans had been murdered and
9,200 injured. According to news reports, Hanoud was “the senior military
leader of Hamas in the West Bank.”
I wrote to Novak, “Chairman Arafat had him arrested and incarcerated for
terrorism, but he escaped as a result of an attack by Israeli military
upon the prison…. He was convicted [by the Palestinian Authority] of
forming illegal military cells and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The
Palestinians kept him in jail even after releasing other Hamas prisoners.”
Even Arafat saw him as a terrorist. Apparently, Novak’s hatred of Israel
has blurred his vision and his conscience.
I still have not heard from Novak. It is not unreasonable to conclude that
he believes all these killings directed by Hanoud on behalf of Hamas using
suicide bombers were acceptable acts of freedom fighters. Does Novak
believe the 19 Arabs who participated in the acts of terror on Sept. 11 to
be freedom fighters? Isn’t it fair to ask Novak if Osama bin Laden fits
his description of a freedom fighter, having planned the terrorist attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed more than 3,500
innocent Americans? Bin Laden’s major defense of the terrorism against
Americans at the World Trade Center has been our maintenance of American
military personnel in Saudi Arabia.
Novak should admit that he made a dreadful mistake in his definition of
freedom fighters. If he doesn’t, would it be mean-spirited or would it be
accurate to conclude that Novak gave his blessing and encouragement to the
Hamas murderers when he called them freedom fighters?
Novak has an obligation to read the Hamas manifesto, parts of which read
“Hamas is a jihad…which will lead to the liberation of Palestine from
the river to the sea.
“Hamas … declare[d] an all-out war against the Zionist occupation … to
include every Israeli settler on the Arab land of Palestine.
“Hamas believes that no part of Palestine should be compromised…All
Arabs and Muslims [must] prepare themselves to fight the Zionists until
they leave Palestine.”
No one took “Mein Kampf” seriously until it was too late. Israel will not
make the same mistake.