By Diana West, April 12, 2002
A visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by Ariel Sharon was enough to kick
off this second Palestinian war of terror on Israel known as the Intifada. Or so
the legend goes.
In fact, as even Palestinian Authority spokesman Imad Al-Faluji has stated on
more than one occasion, Palestinian military action against the Jewish state
was planned long before Mr. Sharon’s “provocative visit” to Judaism’s most
holy site, which adjoins a site revered by Muslims as Haram-as-Sharif.
But imagine: If a mere day trip by Mr. Sharon into the vicinity of an Islamic holy
site – which, frankly, as Islamic sites go, ranks way below your Meccas and
your Medinas – could be considered reason enough to go to war, what about
the armed Palestinian occupation, now into its second week, of one of
Christianity’s most sacred sites, the Church of the Nativity?
Needless to say, the seizure of the 1,677-year-old church by 250
guerrillas affiliated with Islamist terror factions has hardly roused the armies of
Christendom. Crusades, Christian-soldiering and all that went out in the last
Still, it’s a shock to realize that this desecration of the ancient church
built over what’s believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ has brought
down neither Christian wrath nor international pressure on the desecrators to
lay down their arms and leave. The closest thing to a meaningful call for action
out of Rome, for instance, comes from Father David Jaeger, a Catholic
spokesman, who said this week, “We appeal to the world to condemn this act
and stop this behavior from continuing.”
Father Jaeger’s statement would be a good start – only he was referring to the
Israeli troops who have encircled the church, not the terrorists who have
occupied it. Church officials, meanwhile, insist on styling the latter “refuge”
seekers, but you could say only heaven knows why. They also insist that the
Franciscan friars and nuns inside the church are not, emphatically not (perhaps
too emphatically not), hostages.
This line is starting to wear thin as contradictory stories leak out of
Bethlehem, including a Thursday report by UPI of a cell phone call made to
German journalists from “a German” inside the church who said, “The
Palestinians use us like human shields.”
Occupier or guest, this band of sanctuary-seekers doesn’t exactly call to mind a
hunted herd of panting Bambis.
According to the Israeli government, among those inside the church are
notorious killers from Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, Tanzim and Hamas rosters.
They include Ibrahim Musa Salem Abayat and Ismail Musa Muhammad
Hamdan, two leading Tanzim operatives responsible for – among multiple
terrorist attacks – the kidnapping and murder on Jan. 15 of Avi Boaz, a
72-year-old American citizen. Also inside are Nidal Ahmad Isa Abu Gali’if and
Muhammad Sa’id Attallah Salem, a pair of henchmen thought to be in on the
March 29 suicide bombing at an Israeli supermarket that killed, among others, a
17-year-old girl out shopping for a Passover meal.
There’s a Fatah general-secretary named Kamel Hassan Hamid, who
reports to the Palestinian Authority’s Marwan Barghouti, and is said to be
responsible for distributing funds to terrorist agents. Hamas is also represented
by such operatives as Ibrahim Muhammad Salem Abyat, a chief organizer of the
faction’s terror operations.
In other words, Sunday school it ain’t. No wonder Mr. Sharon told the Israeli
Parliament he would “expect the international community to demand that they
the terrorists lay down their arms and leave the holy place.”
But no. A strange hush hangs over the world, including the still-mainly
From the European Union to the Holy See, from the resolution- happy
United Nations to the newly “involved” United States, no official of church or
state has demanded that Mr. Arafat order the Palestinians holed up over
Christ’s birthplace to drop their arms and leave the church ASAP.
Very politely, Israel this week rejected the Vatican’s idea of a solution, one that
would have guaranteed all 250 terrorists safe passage to the Gaza Strip, where
they would only re-arm and regroup – and reattack.
As Israeli President Moshe Katsav wrote the pope, “Under the
circumstances, I regret with all respect and consideration we have for Christian
Holy Places, we have no alternative but to prevent armed Palestinian terrorists,
who have murdered innocent Jews, from escaping and continuing their acts of
Mr. Katsav might have also mentioned that the Vatican’s solution would have
turned sacred religious sites into sure-fire escape hatches, all but guaranteeing
And so the stand-off continues, with surrender being the only solution to avoid
a pitched battle. Whose surrender will it be – terrorism’s or civilization’s? You
would think – you would hope – that the world wouldn’t want to stay quiet on