No group has claimed responsibility for a rocket that was fired into the southern Israeli city of Sderot.
The move proves that 'state agencies can, when they want to, treat all citizens equitably,' Nadwa Jabar's lawyer says.
The property tax authorities have declared Nadwa Jabar, a teacher who was assaulted by right-wing soccer fans in Jerusalem, a victim of a terror attack who will be compensated.
The attack occurred on May 1 when Beitar Jerusalem fans left the city’s Teddy Stadium, where their team had just lost to Bnei Sakhnin, a rival from a largely Arab area up north.
“Despite the difficulties posed by the police, the property tax officials quickly recognized Nadwa Jabar as a victim of a hostile act, proving that state agencies can, when they want to, treat all citizens equitably,” said a lawyer representing Jabar, Eitay Mack.
Mack belongs to Tag Meir, a group that fights racism in Israel. Its head, Gadi Gvaryahu, said he hoped all such attacks would be “addressed equitably by state agencies, as has been the case with Nadwa Jabar. We expect the suspects in this assault to be brought to justice soon.”
On May 1, Jabar was in her car with her two daughters, ages 3 and 6, and an 8-year-old friend. They had stopped at a red light when fans from the Beitar fan group La Familia identified her as an Arab by her head covering.
Jabar says they screamed and cursed at her; some jumped on the car, spat at it and tried to open the doors. They struck the car and broke the headlights.
Jerusalem police opened an investigation and questioned suspects. Jabar, from the largely Arab town of Abu Ghosh near the capital, was also called in for questioning after causing an accident as she tried to flee the assailants.
Her summons was canceled after Mack’s intervention.
Beitar Jerusalem is a symbol of rightwing Israel. But in 2012-2013 the club signed two Chechen Muslim players, enraging Beitar’s hardcore fans, La Familia, some of whom sing of being racist.
Levy Kampos remembers clearly what happened when the deadly blast went off on that fateful July morning in 1946 - so does Sarah Agassi, who called the hotel to inform them of the bomb her group left there.
Monday, July 22, 1946 began as an ordinary work day for Shoshana Levy Kampos. Early in the morning the 21-year-old Jerusalemite reported to the city’s King David Hotel, the headquarters of the British Mandate government.
Levy Kampos who came to Palestine from Germany in the late ‘30s, graduated from the prestigious Evelina de Rothschild school in Jeruslem in 1944 and landed a coveted, well paid job as a typist and shorthand typist in the British administration.
That day she was supposed to deal with documents about equipment and food supplies for the British army in Palestine. But a phone call in the late morning cut short her routine. “We got a message that there was ‘going to be an explosion,’” she recalled this week in an interview in her Jerusalem home. “But the man in charge, Shaw [Chief Secretary for the Government of Palestine, Sir John Shaw], said we weren’t to leave work under any circumstances,” she says.
For 21-year-old Sarah Agassi it also started out as another day in the office. In the morning she came to the Amamit health maintenance organization in Jerusalem, where she worked as a secretary. A few hours later Yitzhak Avinoam, the Jerusalem commander of the pre-state underground militia Etzel, “came and told me to get out of my office,” she said this week at a Ramat Efal retirement home, where she lives. He gave Agassi, who was an Etzel operative, a secret mission together with another operative.
“We were told to stand opposite the King David Hotel, watch our guys going in, wait for instructions and telephone the hotel, the nearby French consulate and the Palestine Post offices and warn them that bombs had been placed,” she says.
Agassi waited near the YMCA building, opposite the hotel, while seven Etzel operatives entered it. One of them was her brother, Yehoshua Gal. They were disguised as Arab waiters, carrying six large milk pitchers loaded with 350 kilograms of explosives and a self-detonating device. They put the pitchers in the hotel café’s kitchen and fled.
When she saw her brother running out of the hotel, Agassi called the hotel. “This is Etzel. We put bombs in there. Clear the people’ we told them,” she says.
The response was disparaging. “They laughed and said, ‘those bloody Jews won’t tell us what to do,” she recalls.
Levy Kampos, who will be 91 in two days, remembers clearly what happened at 12.37 P.M. that day. “It was pitch dark and there was a terrible explosion. I couldn’t see a thing. I thought everyone was killed, until I heard someone clear his throat. Everything was full of smoke and soot,” she says.
When she started seeing the extent of the disaster she ran from the place crying. Agassi was in a safe place by then. “I saw a huge mushroom rising and said to myself, ‘I did it,’” she says.
Not for nothing was the grand King David Hotel chosen to be the target of the attack. It was a symbol of the British government. The attack was in revenge for Operation Agatha, (or Black Sabbath, as it was called by the Jews), in which the British carried out raids, arms searches and mass arrests in Jewish cities and kibbutzim a month earlier.
The explosion demolished all seven floors of the hotel’s southern wing and 90 people – British, Arabs and Jews – were murdered. “Dozens of people were killed for nothing. But some still see it as a ‘success,’” says historian Ruth Lamdan, of Ramat Hasharon. Her father, Zvi Shimshi, a clerk for the British Mandate, was murdered in the attack. He was 35-years-old; she, a child of three.
Every year Lamdan publishes a mourning ad in memory of the bombing’s fatalities in Haaretz, the newspaper that slammed the perpetrators and their commanders at the time. “A horrific crime” and “atrocious attack” the paper called the operation.
“The so-called cause for which such deeds as yesterday’s are done is the Jewish state. But even if this cause is achieved, will it be a Jewish state?” Haaretz’s editorial asked the following day. “What value would this state have, if we must turn our backs on all our traditional values and violate all the commandments concerning the relations between people, to win it? What point would there be to this state if its citizens lose their Jewishness and human qualities?”
Levy Kampos, Agassi and Lamdan will take part Firday in an event marking the attack’s 70th anniversary, at the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv. The event will be broadcast live on the center’s Facebook page. Asked after all these years if she has any regrets about her part in the act that took the lives of dozens of innocent people, Agassi doesn’t hesitate.
“I was a soldier, I have no regrets. I did my duty. The British helped the Arabs a lot; for us they made laws. They hurt the Jews, so we tried to overcome.
“It totally undermined them. After that they were afraid to walk around in Jerusalem, and walked only in twos and threes,” she says.
Avinoam died last year at the age of 94. In an interview with the documentation project Toldot Yisrael he said, “after that action the countdown for the British’ leaving the country began. After that the British government and its central nervous system was undermined.”
Lamdan disagrees. “It was the most awful, pointless terror attack that ever took place here,” she says. “It changed nothing and did no good at all. It’s all nonsense.”
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The compromise reached by Netanyahu and Bennett will save the coalition and strengthen the security cabinet, but the risk of war – which has to do more with top officials' judgement – still remains.
The somewhat forced compromise between Habayit Hayehudi and the Likud party, reached Sunday night in the last minute, should not void the weight of demands made by Minister Naftali Bennett to strengthen the security cabinet.
The events of the past week, up until Sunday night's agreement allowing the confirmation of Avigdor Lieberman's appointment as defense minister, may also give an indication of what's coming – the difficulties expected in the work of the new right-wing coalition.
The basis for Naftali Bennett’s demand to increase the security cabinet’s profile is his deep distrust for the way security decisions are made. This lack of trust is aimed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and even more at the incoming defense minister, Lieberman.
But it’s also aimed at the long-standing tradition of prime ministers and defense ministers in cahoots with the heads of the security agencies, who often seek to limit the information the security cabinet receives. Bennett is also disappointed with the performance of the National Security Council.
One of Bennett’s arguments is that there is no military secretary advising the security cabinet. Overall, his criticism of the security cabinet’s weakness, its lack of information and its inability to digest the information it does receive are supported, even if off the record, by other members of the panel.
At the end of last week, a forum of former ministers, comprised of politicians from various political camps who convene periodically at the Israel Democracy Institute, issued a letter of support for Bennett’s demands. And the reports by investigative committees and the state comptroller over the past decade bolster Bennett’s arguments about the decision-making process and the security cabinet’s weakness.
The Winograd Report on the 2006 Second Lebanon War was scathingly critical of how the decision was made to launch that conflict. That report stressed the NSC’s inefficacy but noted that the security cabinet was also emasculated because decisions were made by small, unofficial forums that met in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office.
Then there was the state comptroller’s report on the seizing of the Gaza-bound aid ship the Mavi Marmara in 2010. It stated that the decision-making process under Netanyahu took place “with no orderly staff work that was summarized, documented and coordinated.” It said Netanyahu only convened a debate among his confidants “on the spot” with no preparation and without involving the agencies girding for the flotilla’s arrival.
In the case of the 2014 Gaza war, as was reported in Haaretz, the state comptroller’s draft report states that the security cabinet was denied crucial information before the conflict erupted and was given only a partial picture throughout the fighting.
The most blatant information gap related to the attack tunnels dug by Hamas under the Gaza border into Israel. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon were aware of the gravity of the threat, and of Israel’s limited intelligence on Hamas’ plans. They knew that the military only had sketchy plans for dealing with the danger. But most of the security cabinet knew nothing.
Only during the week of the escalation in early July 2014 did the security cabinet begin addressing the tunnels seriously. On Sunday Army Radio has reported that during internal military discussions after the war there was serious criticism of the army’s preparedness to deal with the tunnels. Officers also mentioned the gap between progress in destroying the tunnels and what was told to the public. Once again, members of the security cabinet have only learned of this debate now.
It is doubtful that the compromise reached overnight will actually strengthen the work of the security cabinet, as Bennett suggests. The bolstering of the security cabinet could only bring some balance to decisions taken mainly by the prime minister, defense minister and the IDF chief of staff. And in any case, it's the replacement of Ya’alon with Lieberman, not the weakness of the security cabinet, that is most worrisome.
The risk of war, which could break out without any planned Israeli initiative as has happened a few times in the past 10 years, is linked more to the quality of top officials’ judgment than to the decision-making structure. Even though the Winograd Report seems to state otherwise, the main problem with the Olmert government’s running of the 2006 war wasn’t procedural. It was leaders who turned out to be inexperienced, careless and didn’t think things through.
Despite Bennett’s principled demands, we can’t ignore the political context. The considerable support he’s getting from those who agree with his requests, as well as from those who want to bring down the government, is strengthening his position as a potential defense minister in the next round. Together with his vow to defend the lives of the soldiers and his declaration that he seeks nothing for himself or his party, Bennett tried to score points by choosing to confront Netanyahu on a fundamental security question.
When he first ran at the head of Habayit Hayehudi in 2012-13, his military background played a central role in the campaign. His message to young secular voters was, if you rely on us kippa-wearing officers in battle, there’s no reason not to rely on us in the Knesset. It was a strategy that served him well, and now it took him further – presenting him as a future defense minister candidate – at least until he folded under the risk of being accused of bringing about the collapse of the right-wing coalition.
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