October 5, 2003 - Windows shattered, chairs and tables flew, and the floor was covered with blood after the young Arab woman from the town of Jenin set off the explosives that killed herself and members of Arab and Jewish families who had come to Haifa's Maxim Restaurant to enjoy a meal on the Jewish sabbath. Besides the bomber, at least 19 died and over 50 were wounded.
One eyewitness, a 63-year-old accountant from Haifa, had been eating lunch with his family when the bomber struck. "Suddenly we heard a huge boom all around us," he said. "People were dead or dying next to our table." Another reported that "everything flew, inside was a catastrophe, bodies, pieces of bodies... there were dead children and babies." The dead included at least four children, including a one-week-old baby girl. Frantic relatives struggled with police to get inside the restaurant.
Distressed family members and friends, both Arabs and Jews, rushed to the Rambam Medical Center to get any information they could about the condition of the wounded. Odet Najar, a 28-year-old Arab woman, came searching for her cousin Sharbe Matar, 23, a waiter at Maxim. "Everybody was together there," she said in fluent Hebrew, "Jews and Arabs; we went to the restaurant a lot."
Jews and Arabs. The Maxim Restaurant does seem a strange choice for a terrorist target. It has been owned and operated by two families, one Jewish and one Arab, and has had many Arab customers. Nir Muli, the Jewish owner's grandson, said his family and an Arab family founded the business together 40 years ago. "This restaurant was a symbol of coexistence," he said. "We never thought that this would happen to us."
The restaurant itself was a symbol of peaceful coexistence and hope. Perhaps that is exactly why it was chosen.
Haifa is one of Israel's few mixed Arab and Jewish cities. Yet it has been the target of six suicide bombers in the past three years of war, and 74 people have died. This is hardly coincidental.
When Yona Yahav, the Mayor of Haifa, came to see the destruction he said, "The view you see here is very horrifying. This restaurant was a microcosm of Haifa society - Jews, Christians, and Arabs worked together in this restaurant for many years. The suicide bomber tried to jeopardize the co-existence we've worked so hard to build up."
The restaurant's Arab owners are also Christians, and the restaurant's chimney had a white cross painted on it. Jews, Christians, and Arabs living and working together. This is what inspires such hatred for Haifa in the Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the attack.
You might not know the real reason from the justifications that the terrorists offer - as if such deliberate mutilation of noncombatants can ever be justified. A leader of Islamic Jihad stated that the attack was "a natural Palestinian response to the daily crimes carried out by the Israeli occupation against the Palestinians." This is supposed to make it right. But it is a brilliantly Orwellian use of language deliberately intended to deceive.
The greatest success of the Palestinian deception campaign has been to spin the war as a struggle against "occupation." This phrase incessantly repeated has won the Palestinians sympathy and support for terrorist violence. There are also many who, while not actively supporting Palestinian terrorism, look the other way and support the Palestinians uncritically as if all this violence were really Israel's fault.
To untangle the deception we first need to understand just what the Palestinians mean when they talk about "occupation." Very often one hears the phrase "50 years of occupation," while Israel's presence in the disputed territories only began in 1967, 36 years ago. The "50 years" phrase, which has been current for years (actually since 1998, 50 years after Israel's founding), refers not to Israel's presence in the West Bank and Gaza but to the existence of Israel itself. That is the real "occupation" as far as the terrorists are concerned, and that is what they are fighting to eliminate.
Let us look at the language that Islamic Jihad itself uses. In his book Islam and Salvation in Palestine: The Islamic Jihad Movement Meir Hatina includes an appendix containing sections of Islamic Jihad's "internal charter." Here are a few excerpts:
Ideological guidelines include "cleaving to jihad and eschewing the path of gradual reform" and "Palestine is part of the faith. To relinquish any part of it is to abandon Islam."
General goals include "imbuing the Palestinian character with a binding Islamic imprint," "advancing popular revolution," "realizing Islamic unity through jihad," "liberating the sacred land from the Zionist occupation," and "establishing Islamic rule over the land from which the Prophet ascended to heaven."
Specific goals include "sapping the enemy forces and eroding its material and economic resources," "spreading fear and anxiety among the Zionists," "creating an emotional barrier between the Jews and the Muslim Palestinian people and combating advocates of Arab-Israeli coexistence," and "obstructing the peace agreements between the treacherous Arab regimes and the Zionist entity."
These statements could hardly be clearer. To relinquish any part of Palestine means all of Palestine, from the River to the Sea. The "Zionist occupation" is a euphemism for Israel itself. Jihad - holy war - and not gradual reform, is the way. Specific goals explicitly include "fighting Arab-Israeli coexistence" and "obstructing peace agreements." There can be no compromise with the ultimate goal of Israel's total destruction.
And so they picked Haifa, a symbol of Arab-Israeli coexistence. Haifa was their natural choice.
There are some who speak of "genocide" going on in the Middle East today. There is indeed a genocide now being carried out - against the population of Israel. Every civilian, from the youngest to the oldest, is a target for liquidation. And if a few Arabs who wish to live peacefully with their Jewish neighbors get caught in the conflagration, that is only necessary for "realizing Islamic unity through jihad." Attacking Haifa sends a strong message to any Arab who would violate "Islamic unity" by associating with Jews.
This war needs to be put into perspective. Both sides have committed offenses and made mistakes. But the Israeli offenses consist mostly of territorial ambition, while Palestinian offenses involve an intentional, genocidal slaughter of Jewish civilians - and of Arabs who get in the way of this attempt at ethnic cleansing disguised as revolution. The past three years of war are only a continuation of the Arab war against a Jewish presence in the Middle East, a war now spearheaded by the Palestinians, which began with the inception of the Jewish state. It is not simply a war against "occupation," unless that word is decoded to reveal its true meaning, the existence of Israel itself.
Palestinian attacks against civilians have become an accepted way of life. The Palestinian authorities do virtually nothing to restrain or apprehend any of the thousands among them who commit terrorist acts, while the Israeli government vigorously prosecutes the very rare Israeli who might plan to respond in kind. In Palestinian society terrorists are even admired, praised, and almost worshiped as martyrs for the cause, while Palestinians celebrate Israeli deaths with song and dancing.
In a Jerusalem Post column Evelyn Gordon puts it this way: "Despite three years of deadly terrorism from a society that openly applauds the random murder of women and children, Israeli society has retained its fundamental decency, refusing to condone, even tacitly, the deliberate killing of Palestinian civilians in response." Israel does not deliberately target Palestinian civilians, nor do Israelis stage mass celebrations when innocent Palestinians are hurt.
The Palestinian war against "occupation" is a war against Israel's existence. Only one side is trying to wipe the other off the map. This is the critical asymmetry. There will be no peace until the Palestinian deception campaign is exposed.
Anderson, John Ward and Molly Moore. "Suicide Bomber Kills 19 in Israel." Washington Post, October 4, 2003.
Associated Press. "Maxim Restaurant Was Symbol of Jewish-Arab Cooperation." Jerusalem Post, October 4, 2003.
Bergerfreund, Doron. "This Restaurant Was a Symbol of Coexistence." Haaretz, October 4, 2003.
Burns, John F. and Greg Myre. "Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 19 in North of Israel." New York Times, October 5, 2003.
Gordon, Evelyn. "To a Beleaguered Society's Credit." Jerusalem Post, September 29, 2003.
Hatina, Meir. Islam and Salvation in Palestine: The Islamic Jihad Movement. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2001.
Ratner, David, Yuval Dror, and Amos Harel. "Three Children, Baby Girl, Four Israeli Arabs Among Dead in Attack." Haaretz, October 4, 2003.
"The Roots of Muslim Terrorism." Jewish Post, February 2002.
Peace with Realism