Destruction and death pervade this Palestinian refugee camp. It took three months of intense fighting between army troops and the Fatah Islam terrorists before the group was defeated. Nearly a month after the battle ended, the media finally reported on the toll: 164 soldiers and dozens of militants died, while 47 Palestinian civilians were killed. An additional 310 were injured.
In the aftermath, the United Nations issued a scathing condemnation. The European Union called for restraint in confronting the terrorists. And Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to break off all diplomatic contact.
All of the above is true - except for the last paragraph. In reality, no indignant voices have been raised either in the West or in the Middle East over the civilian lives lost in the fighting.
Surprising? It should not be. Nahr al-Bared, the refugee camp where the terrorists were dug in, happens to be located in Lebanon. The army which, in the words of the New York Times, "ringed the camp (to) pound it with artillery and tank shells in prolonged bombardments" was Lebanese. Israel played no role in the confrontation. And that's why the media coverage is so muted.
The lesson to be learned from this and previous such events is that there is an obvious double standard that applies in the region. Abbas did not utter a peep over the loss of 47 innocent compatriots in Nahr al-Bared. Yet on September 27, he loudly and angrily called on the UN's Security Council and General Assembly to intervene urgently to stop Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip. The cause of his apoplexy was the deaths of 12 confirmed Hamas terrorists eliminated in Gaza by Israeli troops.
Israel’s leaders still don’t get it
The effect of his message is clear. When the victims of terrorism are Jews, then responding to the perpetrators is unjustified. When the victims are Lebanese, as they were in terror attacks carried out by Fatah Islam, then it is no-holds-barred. As Abbas' Fatah envoy Abbas Zaki explained: "Nahr al-Bared camp didn't fall. What fell was terrorism."
But somehow Israel's leaders still don't get it. Prime Minister Olmert's stubborn public insistence that Mahmoud Abbas is a moderate is increasingly intolerable. Just recently, as evidence of his unwavering faith in this myth, Olmert presented yet another gift to the PA: 87 convicted Palestinian terrorists who botched up their previous murder attempts were given a chance to try again, by being released from Israeli prisons.
Soon Olmert will likely meet Abbas once again as they hurtle recklessly towards that much-trumped November international summit and a "final settlement". None of the factors above will be allowed to interfere with the Olmert steamroller.
With such a pliable partner, Abbas has no need for subterfuges. He can brazenly support Hamas and terrorism, as he did in his plea to the United Nations. He can unabashedly apply a double standard to terrorism, as he did during Lebanon's demolition of Fatah Islam. And none of this will faze Olmert.
If only life were as generous to all of us as it is to Abbas.
Frimet Roth is a freelance writer in Jerusalem. She and her husband founded the Malki Foundation (www.kerenmalki.org) in their daughter's memory. Malki Roth was murdered in the Sbarro restaurant massacre in 2001. The foundation in her name provides concrete support for Israeli families of all faiths who care at home for a special-needs child. Frimet Roth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org