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How's That Again?

Last week, Time magazine weighed in on Israel's practice of targeting leaders of the Palestinian wave of suicide bombings. To its credit it ran an article by nationally known columnist Charles Krauthammer who cogently ? and with great logic ? presented the issue in terms of whether it is a reasonable and reasoned response to a significant problem. However, a Time staff writer also focused on the Palestinian Authority's summary treatment of those Palestinians accused of providing Israel with intelligence about the comings and goings of the terrorist leaders. Thus, in “The Enemy Within/ Beset by the Israelis, the Palestinians are seeing collaborators all over,” the writer notes that since the onset of the current intifada, 20 suspected informants have been lynched, two executed of the 14 sentenced to death by Arafat's State Security Court, with 200 remaining under arrest, awaiting trial. The article then observes that “there is no quarter given at the swift trials in State Security Court.”

But then the article takes a strange turn. Instead of addressing the treatment of the suspects, we are told that

It is money that turns Palestinians into informants. It doesn't take very much. Collaborators who have confessed to Arafat's police say they often get as little as $50 for each meeting with a handler. But the desperate economic conditions of the intifada, during which unemployment has risen to more than 60%, favor the Israeli recruits. Despite the sympathy Palestinian court officials feel for the economic straits that push people into collaboration, there is no quarter given at the swift trials in State Security Court.

After sharing this information with us, only then does the Time article tell us,

Human rights activists criticize the trials. A horrified European Union extracted a promise from Arafat in the spring not to execute any more collaborators after two were put to death by police firing squads. But even the critics say there would be no need for the trials or, perhaps, the mass paranoia if Israel would quit using informants (emphasis added). That would allow the Palestinians to rehabilitate the traitors with a public commission, like South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Until then, the collaborators will remain emblematic of a fundamental division in Palestinian society.

Incredibly, Israel's use of collaborators seems to be more integral to a story about Palestinian excesses in punishing informants than those meting out the punishment themselves! Indeed, Israel's employment of the informers is depicted almost as the cause of the excesses. It is as if a mugging victim were to blame for being there for the mugger.

So what else is new?

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