Israel’s Rebel Fliers Grounded before Takeoff

Far from being a spontaneous, knee jerk action by a genuine anti-war pacifist group, the letter signed by 27 Israeli air force pilots announcing their refusal to fly missions over Palestinian territory was meticulously planned under political guidance. It was timed to explode at the most effective moment – amid a period of relative calm in the long ordeal of Palestinian terror, as Israelis prepared to celebrate the Jewish New Year festival. The signatories said they would refuse to fly missions over Palestinian territory, including targeted killings of terrorist leaders and ferrying ground troops over for counter-terrorist action, because they were “immoral and illegal.”
For several weeks, signatures were painstakingly gathered one by one – not in a huddle of like-minded combat pilots, but over open Internet forums. There, the campaign took shape under the direction of an Israeli journalist known for her extreme pro-Palestinian leanings and her burning ambition to resuscitate the (old) New Left and its accompanying spirit of anti-establishment protest. Ultimately, the group hoped to gather in fellow reservists who have refused to serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and create a national dissident front of conscientious objectors. However, the message they are hawking has the ring of an old newsreel. From the 1960s up to the early 1980s at the latest, it might have found an answering chord outside the political fringes. Today, the old gospel finds no resonance in a country and among a uniformed generation with a very different makeup and focus, namely, the struggle for a normal existence against very different odds. The campaigners were therefore unable to recruit more than nine serving combat pilots to join the petition, all of whom were predictably suspended the day after the petition was published. The would-be protest movement was thus grounded before it took off.
What was less predictable was the bombastic exposure granted the petition over Israeli TV Channel 2 Wednesday night in a carefully stage-managed segment. Interviewees in flying gear against patches of white-painted plywood partitions and sheds were filmed to convey the impression of an air base. The protesting pilots spoke with the upper half of their faces concealed as though they risked their lives by speaking out. This effect was clearly bogus in a country as garrulous as Israel and marred by the fact that each interviewee had put down his name and rank when he signed the petition.
In stark contrast to Israel’s phony protest movement, debkafile‘s Palestinian sources disclose the publication of an underground pamphlet printed in only 300 copies from the pen of Mahmoud Abbas aka Abu Mazen, who was forced to quit as prime minister by the machinations of Yasser Arafat. Muzzled by his foes, he has resorted to this method of exposing some of the hidden afflictions he could not fight.
Copies of the pamphlet are circulating under their own steam by fax and copying machine.
debkafile finds three passages pertinent and worthy of general disclosure:
One: “The concept of retirement has never caught on with us (the Palestinians). But how long must we endure the employment of the grandfather, his son, grandson and great-grandson all together in the same ministry, when our universities turn out 18,000 fresh graduates every year and they are condemned to ending up on the street for lack of jobs? Every time I spoke of this, I was called a traitor. “
Two: “We have a forum called the United Palestinian Command Leadership which is headed by Yasser Arafat. Never mind who sits on this forum and who does not, but one day they decided to appropriate 15 percent of every Palestinian salary. With about 150,000 wage-earners in various jobs, the people sitting round that particular table are helping themselves every year to $72 m dollars. The same leadership group also set up monopolies for the import of fuel, cement, cigarettes, paper and flour. One can only wonder about the destinations of the $72 million.”
Three: “You call me a collaborator, a spy, a traitor? I can live with that even if it is not true. But tell me, why is the Palestinian people’s only airport not the property of the Palestinian Authority but of the Palestinian Liberation Organization – PLO? And why does the port of Gaza not belong to the Palestinian people but again to the PLO? Why is it Yasser Arafat’s wish to deprive the ministers serving the Palestinian Authority of control over their staffs? Show me one place in the world where things are run that way.”
These passages, as penned by the first Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, are offered here for the consideration of the 27 Israeli pilots who have decided that flying missions over Palestinian territory is immoral. Why shouldn’t they make a truly moral, fine and brave stand by liberating the Palestinian air and sea ports from Arafat’s PLO and handing them over to their rightful owners, the Palestinian people?
Unfortunately, the defiant fliers are constrained from such action by their refusal to fly over the Gaza Strip.

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