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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

November 30, 2002

Terrorism might boost Israeli cause

Palestinians would like to distance themselves from world-wide Islamist terrorists! Gosh: our killing and maiming are different! Advice: all terrorism is both murder and political, and your terror groups are united by the same "religious beliefs, " including expectations of many many virgins in Paradise
JERUSALEM - Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Israel has been trying to link its battles against Palestinians to the Bush administration's global war against terrorism. But despite enduring attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives, including nine Thursday in Kenya and at home, Israel has been unable to convince the world that it is fighting the same war as the United States.

Making that link could enable Israel's military to take harsher action against Palestinian militant groups and the Palestinian Authority, which Israel accuses of being complicit in the guerrilla war now in its third year.

On Thursday, Israeli citizens came under attack three times on two continents, and Israel's leaders again pressed for public support.

A car bomb at a seaside resort in Kenya claimed three Israelis. Also in Kenya, two shoulder-launched missiles barely missed an Israeli passenger jet. At home, Palestinian gunmen shot to death six people at a polling booth in northern Israel.

The groups that carried out the attacks in Kenya and Israel were different. But Israelis detect few differences in the motives of militant groups.

"They all have the same objective, to target Israelis for just being Israelis," said Jonathan Peled, deputy spokesman for Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The terrorists, whether they be Palestinians or others, are not willing to accept our existence."

A previously unknown group calling itself the Army of Palestine claimed responsibility for the Kenya bombing. Kenyan and Israeli authorities blamed Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida group, which is targeting Western, particularly U.S., institutions worldwide.

While the differences might be lost on Israelis, who say they are being targeted regardless of who is behind the attacks, the distinctions are crucial to Palestinians. They believe their fight for a state is legitimate and to some extent justifies the use of violence.

"The war here is to end the occupation," Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian pollster, said in Ramallah. "The war conducted by al-Qaida is not a war that the Palestinians can identify with. The Palestinians are not waging a religious war. The Palestinians have no conflict with the West."

Shikaki said that the attack in Kenya "plays into Israel's hands. There is no doubt that this will make it easier for Israel to consolidate its occupation rather then end it. They can do it now with international acquiescence."