Dangerous Duo: Combatants for Peace & Brit T’zedek v Shalom
by Jerry Gordon
44 year old Suleiman Al Hamri, a former jailed Palestinian fighter and now Fatah NGO representative and 29 year Elik Elhanan, former Israeli paratrooper and ‘reservist refusenik’, brother of a late younger sister Smadar killed at age 14 by a suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem in 1997 shared a forum Wednesday night on behalf of a group calling itself Combatants for Peace at the Bridgeport, Connecticut JCC. They were there allegedly to talk about a two state solution and peace. Their appearance in Bridgeport is part of a 22 city ‘road show’ orchestrated by Brit T’zedek v’ Shalom – calling itself a ‘grass roots’ organization with 35,000 members and 39 chapters nationally according to Aaron Goode, Connecticut co-coordinator for the ‘peace camp group.’
The reality was as one shaken attendee at the Bridgeport forum; Debbie Levison told the audience of nearly 50 persons was that they had painted Israel as the evil doer in the decades long ‘struggle.‘There was nothing in their presentation about Arab Muslim objectives and actions since the founding of Israel in 1948 to destroy the Jewish state and its inhabitants including Elhanan’s unfortunate younger sister.
Prior to this Bridgeport program I had received information from David Bedein of Israel News Research Agency via email that Al Hamri was Fatah.
When I informed the Eastern Fairfield County Jewish Federation Council for Community Relations (CRC) coordinator, Ms. Laurie Gross about the Fatah terrorist listing by the U.S. prior to the event, she shot back an email saying “c’mon guys, Walid Shoebat whom we had was an ex-terrorist.”
They had come to the U.S. to convince American Jews and the new Democratic Congress that only a two state solution with a Palestinian state controlled by corrupt Fatah is ‘the solution.”
This is frankly lame in view of the current Hamas Islamist government that seeks to cleanse the ‘space between the river and the sea” and make it ‘judenrein.’ Further as I told Al Hamri and Elhanan and the audience during the program Q+A, why should we believe them in view of Mahmoud Abbas’s speech last week prior to the arrival of Secretary of State Condi Rice in the region when he espouses joining warring parties – Fatah and Hamas in an ‘armed struggle against Israel the occupier.’
Palestinian President Abbas was quoted as saying at a January 11th rally:
“Let a thousand flowers bloom and let our rifles, all our rifles, all our rifles, be aimed at the occupation.”
This so alarmed Ameican Jewish leaders that a conference call was convened to discuss possible actons by the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
In the COPMAJO statement issued Wednesday they said;
“This call for terror against Israelis casts doubt on the sincerity of” earlier statements committing Abbas to an end to violence.
“His extreme rhetoric also undermines the diplomatic efforts the U.S. administration are undertaking to try to make progress in the
Elhanan’s answer was ‘look we have heard nothing about this, after all we have been in the country for the past 10 to 11 days.” Apparently they don’t check in with Al Hamri’s Fatah communications director and look at the press reports.
Note this comment of Elhanan reported by Phil Helsel in an article entitled “Old enemies tream up with message” in the New Haven Register given at a presentation on Tuesday evening at Temple Emmanuel in Orange, Connecticut.
‘I don’t believe that my sister was killed because of a clash of civilizations or because Arabs are a murderous breed,’ said Elhanan. ‘She was killed, very simply, because there is an occupation.’
Elhanan comes about this view naturally given his family’s ‘famous leftist’ forbearers. His grandfather was the late controversial Israeli Aluf and 1967 Six Days War hero, Major General Matti Peled who met with Arafat ,according to young Elhanan ,after the 1972 Munich Massacre. Peled was a founder of the peace camp in Israel. Peled is still an icon on virtually all Palestinian websites, proposed his own peace deal. Some observers have accused the late Peled of being a ‘self hating Israeli Jew.’ Aluf Peled had founded something called a ‘Canaanite society’ in Israel.
Elhanan’s mother, Nurit Peled-Elhanan denounced former PM Bibi Netanyahu at her daughter Smadar’s funeral a decade ago with this comment:
“They (meaning Netanyahu’s government) sacrifice our children for their megalomania – for their need to control, oppress, and dominate.”
She was reported on a radio interview at the time as saying:”I hold the government of Israel responsible for the death of my daughter.”
According to Elhanan, his mother Nurit Peled Elhanan grew up in the privileged Ahavia district in Jerusalem with Bibi. Elhanan himself said he attended the ‘most liberal and outspoken school’ in Jerusalem as a child.
Elhanan served in Gaza, the West Bank and most prominently in Lebanon during his tour of duty with the IDF. He told the Bridgeport audience that following his sister’s funeral he was to return to his unit in Lebanon for what was to be a ‘big operation’ that according to him resulted in simply ‘killing children and old men.’ He had endeavored to protest the Israel government policy towards the Palestinian territories. His minor epiphany occurred in February 2002 when 52 IDF reservists sent a letter to the Chief of Staff indicating their refusal to serve in the ‘occupied territories.” He joined Combatants for Peace-that included many prominent “reservist refuseniks” at the founding of the group in mid 2005 and met Palestinians like Al Hamri.
Al Hamri a resident of Beit Jalal in the Bethlehem District explained that he comes about his resistance fighter, manqué because of a long family heritage. His grandfather fought against the British mandatory authorities in the 1920’s and 1930’s and was wounded by them. Al Hamri was jailed twice for a total of 4.5 years by the Israeli, military government. During the first intifada as a teenager he engaged in rock and Molotov throwing actions against patrols and other actions. He alleged he was jailed again in the 1990’s when he attempted to gain entry to Jordan for education in his professed field of social work on the grounds that he was recruiting for Fatah.
According to the New Haven Register article on the Combatants for peace program, Al Hamri became disgusted in the 1990’s “with the way extremists organized suicide bombings and managed to push each other side away from each other and towards violence.”
During the Q+A period I asked Al Hamri if he had been a member of the Fatah Al Aksa Brigade, he accused me of interrogating him.
Al Hamri and Elhanan were challenged during the Q+A that followed their presentation.
While admiring their courage in making their presentation and trip to the U.S. Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz of the Christian Jewish Undrestanding Institute at Sacred Heart University in neighboring Fairfield, pointed out the Palestinian reaction following the disasterous Gaza unilateral disengagement: the rain of Qassem rockets and the likelihood that should further withdrawals from the West Bank there could be a deluge of more rockets falling on Israel proper. Dr. Eric Garver a member of the CRC and Mark Fishman of Connecticut Middle East media watchdog group Primer questioned the utility of such forums as they appear blatantly one sided and are virtually the same as programs by Palestinian advocacy groups in colleges and universities. Dr. Garver had an intense conversation in my presence with Elhanan after the program.
An elderly Russian Jew who sat in front of me took them to task during the Q+A for suggesting that a two state solutions was possible with a fundamentalist PA Hamas government in power that wanted to destroy Israel and cleanse the area of Jews. Elhanan answered mockingly that ‘there wasn’t enough facts known’ about the Hamas government election and that in reality only a minority of Palestinians voted for it. Apparently he didn’t read the January 2006 election results.
Charles Chotkowski, a local Polish American community leader and ‘friend of Israel’ asked the panelists about whether Israel’s settlement policy was a problem. Elhanan replied that settlements were ‘illegal’ under international law. He cited the Third Geneva Convention that according to him precluded a military occupier-an obvious send up to Nazi settlement of Germans in Poland and other conquered areas during WWII.
A woman who sat behind me at the Bridgeport presentation asked Al Hamri and Elhanan whether any leaders on both sides-Palestinian and Israeli-supported their views. Al Hamri said that Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah leadership support the efforts of Combatants for Truth.
Elhanan said that “No Israeli leader accepts” this group meaning Combatants for Peace because “conscientious objectors’ are ‘anathema to Israeli society.’ He noted that Amir Peretz, the embattled Israeli Defense Minister in the Olmert government avoided contact with Elhanan when in the same room. He went further to talk about the antipathy to his organization from several leftists “icons” in Israel: Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman-the latter who lost a son in the botched mini-war in Lebanon this summer. Amos Oz, Elhanan said, doesn’t support Combatants for Truth because of the ‘conscientious objectors’ label. Controversial Yehoshua has gone ‘reactionary” according to Elhanan. David Grossman, purportedly agrees in private, but won’t say so publicly. The only public figure of note that does is the Israeli singer David Broza.
So there you have it. A Jewish community provides a forum for Fatah and Israeli radical leftists who claim to be in favor of a two state solution while holding Israel solely responsible for the conflict –another ‘blame the victim’ gambit.
So, yes, the Combatants for Peace and Brit T’zedek are a dangerous duo perpetrating a hoax on feckless American Jews. The hoax is that the ‘peace at any price’ crowd in the new Democratic Congress and a Bush State Department under Condi Rice are trying to shove a deal down Israel’s throat assuring its destruction. Messrs. Al Hamri and Elhanan are simply agitprop ‘stick puppets’ in this dangerous ploy. Brit T’zedek and Combatants for Peace must be stopped as they mislead and suborn American Jews into thinking they are the ‘peace camp’s best hope.’ The shame of it all is American Jewish leaders are giving them venues to spread this nefarious propaganda, while denying ‘equal time for rebuttal.’ An outrage.