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3 Christian groups urge Bush to let Israel defeat terror

JERUSALEM (BP)–Three Christian groups friendly to Israel joined in an open letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell upon his arrival in Israel urging that the United States exert “clear moral leadership” by supporting Israel’s military thrust against Palestinian suicide bombers.

A call for new Palestinian leadership to replace Yasser Arafat also was voiced in the letter by the Jerusalem-based International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Bridges For Peace and Christian Friends of Israel, which was published in The Jerusalem Post April 12.

“Defend Israel’s right and duty to combat and crush terrorism — to not only save the lives of its own citizens, but also as part of a broader effort to deliver the Palestinian people from the clutches of an irredeemable ruler,” the open letter stated in an appeal to the Bush administration. “The Arabs will benefit, America will benefit, the whole world will benefit.”

Powell’s peace mission continued into the week of April 15 with a trip to Lebanon and Syria after meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israeli leaders April 12 and with Arafat and his aides April 14.

On April 11, Jerry Falwell and five other pro-Israeli evangelicals also issued an open letter urging President Bush “to end the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon so that he has the time necessary to complete the mission he has undertaken — the elimination of [Palestinian] terrorist cells and infrastructure from the West Bank territories.”

At Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity April 14, a third Palestinian was killed in the Manger Square standoff between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops. The Israeli military said the Palestinian was shot as he was about to open fire from a Franciscan hostel that is part of the ancient church complex, the Associated Press reported.

The Bethlehem crisis began April 3 when an estimated 250 Palestinian gunmen took cover in the Church of the Nativity as Israeli troops and tanks entered Bethlehem in their region-wide sweep against Palestinian suicide bombers. In addition to the gunmen, an estimated 40 or more clerics remain inside the church and are regarded at least by the Israelis as hostages. The church site is regarded as the birthplace of Christ in various Christian traditions.

A large loudspeaker on a crane playing screeching noises at high volume was added to the Israeli strategy outside the church April 14, the AP reported.

The Palestinians in the church rejected an Israeli offer April 14 to resolve the situation by leaving the country or being tried in Israel for terrorism.

The open letter by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Bridges For Peace and Christian Friends of Israel commended “the manner in which America has opened up its storehouse of goodness and military might to help the world stand against the menace of global terrorism. President Bush has done well in making this battle the number one priority of his Administration and in declaring, ‘either you are with us or you are against us.'”

The three organizations lamented, however, that “in a land battered by this very same scourge of terror” the United States has “ordered the closest of allies, Israel, to stand down and retreat from the battle.”

“The tentacles of Palestinian terrorism run from Teheran [in Iran] to Ramallah [where Arafat’s headquarters are located] to Islamic charities on American soil,” the open letter continued. “Its depravity knows no bounds, invading the sanctity of Christian and Jewish holy places and observances, and demanding even the sacrifice of innocent children.

“And as has been exposed for all to see, it thrives under the rule of PLO leader Yasser Arafat — the dean of all international terrorists.” The open letter appeared the same day as news stories in the international press reported on documents seized by Israeli troops from Arafat’s beleaguered headquarters allegedly giving evidence of personal and financial links between the 72-year-old Palestinian leader and the wave of suicide bombers across Israel.

The three organizations’ open letter noted, “Many leaders in Europe and elsewhere sadly appear to have lost their way, unable to discern the true evil nature of Palestinian terrorism and to respond appropriately.

“The Arab world is too blinded by hatred to concede that Arafat is the one responsible for deliberately enflaming the region and bringing it to the precipice of disaster.

“Ordinary Palestinians have never been offered a real chance to rid themselves of the greatest source of their suffering — Arafat’s corrupt and callous regime.

“And Israelis have been unjustly forced to show restraint in the face of a brutal terror campaign and to act according to a standard required of no other nation on earth.”

The letter appealed to the Bush administration “to provide the moral leadership which is so badly needed in this world today, lest the march of suicide bombers spread outward and the anti-Semitic rage now loosed in streets far and wide sweep us toward another tragedy for the Jewish people.”

Falwell, former presidential candidate Gary Bauer and four other pro-Israel evangelicals, in their open letter to Bush, voiced support for “the Bush Doctrine — your moral conviction that terrorism can never be justified no matter the cause or grievance. As you have repeatedly made clear, those who intentionally slaughter non-combatants for political purposes are at war with the United States and with the entire civilized world.”

The group lamented, however, that they have “heavy hearts,” fearing that “the Bush Doctrine is in great jeopardy and the war on terrorism with it. We believe it is imperative for the United States to stand with our friend and ally Israel as they attempt to defeat the same forces of terrorism that we have been battling since Sept. 11, 2001. …

“Prime Minister Sharon has made clear that he intends to keep troops in the West Bank no longer than absolutely necessary,” the group noted. “But, as he has also made clear, to leave armed and dangerous terrorists at large among the general Palestinian population would not facilitate the cause of peace. Indeed, such terrorists pose an unacceptable threat not only to innocent Israeli civilians, but also to those Palestinians who sincerely seek a way out of the current conflict.

“If suicide bombings prevail in the Middle East, surely America will see such attacks on our own families and communities,” the group wrote.

“No one knows what tomorrow will bring in the Middle East, but we can determine what Israel’s brief offensive has accomplished so far: Five bomb-making facilities have been discovered and destroyed, including 17 bombs that were ready to be used. In addition, documentary evidence was discovered in the offices of Yassir Arafat, evidence showing that he personally approves and finances bombings and other terrorist activities.”

The group warned that Powell’s trip to Israel “is sending a dangerous message. The focus of the trip appears to be more pressure on Israel to withdraw without any commitment by Arab nations to control the terrorists dedicated to Israel’s destruction. And we are pressuring Israel to negotiate with Arafat in spite of his complicity in promoting terror.”

Such stances, the group contended to Bush, “violate your well-articulated anti-terror doctrine” at a time when “under your leadership the civilized world is making great progress in the global war against terrorism.”

Joining Falwell and Bauer in the letter were John Hagee, a TV preacher and pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas; Dallas-based radio talk show host Marlin Maddoux; Ed McAteer, president of the National Religious Round Table; and Tim Timmons of Frontlines Network of America. Falwell signed the letter as chancellor of Liberty University, while Bauer signed as chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.

Arab support for Arafat, meanwhile, remains at high levels. The Associated Press, for example, reported that a poem by Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Britain, Ghazi Algosaibi, a renowned poet, voiced praise for Palestinian suicide bombers on the front page of an Arab daily newspaper in London April 13.

“May God be the witness that you are martyrs … You died to honor God’s word. [You] committed suicide? We committed suicide by living like the dead,” Algosaibi wrote in the short poem, “The Martyrs,” the AP reported.

Algosaibi’s poem also made reference to an 18-year-old female, Ayat Akhras, who killed two Israelis and wounded 25 when she detonated herself at a Jerusalem supermarket March 29. “Tell Ayat, the bride of loftiness … She embraced death with a smile while the leaders are running away from death. Doors of heaven are opened for her,” wrote Algosaibi, who has been Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to England for more than a decade.

The AP also reported that a telethon in Saudi Arabia for Palestinians “victimized by Israeli terror and violence,” as described by the Saudi embassy in Washington, had raised $92 million April 12 and was to continue April 13. The telethon was initiated by King Fahd, the AP reported. Its purpose, as described by the AP: “to help channel Saudi public anger against Israel away from street protests and toward practical means to help the Palestinians.”

CNSNews.com reported April 15 that Arafat’s wife, Suha, said in an April 12 interview that if she had a son she would want him to be a suicide bomber. She made the comment one day before Arafat himself denounced attacks against Israeli and Palestinian civilians. According to a New York Times report, Suha endorsed suicide attacks as legitimate resistance against what the Palestinians consider to be Israeli occupation.

Suha said in an interview in London’s Arabic-language Al Majalla there would be “no greater honor” than to sacrifice a son for the cause of the Palestinians. “Would you expect me and my children to be less patriotic and more eager to live than my countrymen and their father and leader who is seeking martyrdom?” she was quoted as saying. Suha, who has a daughter and not a son, has been living in Paris for some time, Israeli and Palestinian officials have said.

More than 1,270 Palestinians and 450 Israelis have been killed since a Palestinian revolt began in September 2000 after peace talks stalled.