Doubt and certainty: The Tel Aviv Disco Bombing of June 2001

by Israel Shamir

The Russian discotheque Dolphi, devastated by the Friday night blast, stands on the shore of Manshieh, a destroyed Palestinian neighbourhood of Jaffa, not far from my home. Teenage friends of my sons used to frequent the place. It is an innocent crowd, brought to the shores of Palestine by their parents after disintegration of the Soviet Union. Kids speak Russian, their contacts with Israeli boys and girls of the same age are quite limited, as is their interest in local affairs. Many of them are blond and blue-eyed, some dress in the outmoded punk style, maybe they drink more than it is good for them. A Lost Generation, they call themselves. Few of them are Jews by any reasonable criteria. Some of the victims were refused burial in the hallowed ground of the Jewish cemetery. Their fate is not an easy one in the Jewish state: they are supposed to serve in the army, but the army makes it difficult for them to swear the oath of allegiance on the Gospel. If they perish, they are buried beyond the fence, together with suicides.

As Druse and Circassian minorities, one million strong Russian community is not an obvious partner of the Jewish supremacists. The Russians are subject to discrimination. They have low paid jobs, which provide no security of income. They pay huge interest (three times higher than in the US) on loans they are given as 'a settlement grant' or 'a mortgage help'. Many Russians baptize their children, pretty Russian girls often marry Palestinians. Actually, despite separation rules, Russians marry Palestinians as often as they marry Israelis. The blast is liable to enforce their tentative ties with Israelis. That is why it is important to stress that the circumstances of the explosion are still surrounded by a cloud of mystery.

INFOPAL expressed doubts whether "any Islamic movement is able to carry out such a strong attack, given that most of the recent suicide bombings have failed to cause significant harm or damage". There were some claims who did it, but they remain unsubstantiated. On the other hand, Israeli security services have know-how and facilities needed to cause by one blast the major shift of alliance of the Russian community. They proved their lack of scruples in 1949, when they bombed the Baghdad synagogue and sent the Iraqi Jews running to Israel. In 1990-s they instigated rumours of impending pogroms in Moscow and sent the parents of Dolphi kids on the way to Tel Aviv. Killing of non-Jewish children was already declared a 'justifiable means' by Madeleine Albright. She spoke about Iraqi children, dying because of the US-imposed blockade, but her Tel Aviv friends could make their own conclusions.

Many years from now, Palestinians will unravel the mystery of the botched suicide bomber wave 2001. They will discover who and why targeted the Russian disco, or the poorest Hassidic area of Jerusalem, or other marginal sites, as if trying to enforce the elusive Jewish unity. They will find out why the only 'successful' attacks were made on marginal targets. Until now, there are doubts. Let as move to a certainty.

Last year we witnessed a severe gang warfare for the control of Russian night clubs. The warring parties used to throw hand-grenades into the competing clubs, with some human casualties. Russian discos of Tel Aviv are fighting for the same market. Their methods are not too gentle. It would not be impossible to suggest that the fatal attack at the entrance of the Russian discotheque was caused by the gang war, rather than by a Palestinian bomber. A year ago there was a dreadful explosion in Moscow underground station Pushkinskaya, that was immediately ascribed to Chechen terrorists. Afterwards it became known that the station was bombed by the racketeers, as the vendors did not pay the protection money.

Now, if it will be found out that the explosion was actually caused by a rival gang from, say, a neighbouring Netania, would the IDF planes bomb Netania? Would the army besiege Netania? Would Netania city council be denounced as a terrorist organization? No, this way of collective punishment is meted out only to Palestinians. That is wrong. Gaza should be treated in the same way as Netania, Mahmud and Anton should have the same rights as Doron and Boris. Then, probably, there will be no reason even for suspicions and doubts.

We should object both to the premature presumption of a Palestinian involvement, and to the racist style of collective punishment. Israelis are too fast in this game. When a single Jewish terrorist shot a German diplomat in Paris in 1938, the Nazi government replied with the Kristallhacht, a massive pogrom that carried away one hundred lives. When a single pro-Iraqi terrorist shot an Israeli diplomat in London in 1982, Israeli government unleashed the invasion of Lebanon and killed twenty (some say forty) thousand people. Maybe it was the thing to do in the days of Genghis Khan, but not any more.

Next day after the bombing, Jewish mob tried to lynch Palestinians and destroy the mosques in Jaffa. The police blocked their advance. Israeli press made a lot of profit out of this action. But I see no reason to congratulate the police: they knew, as we all know, that the work of the lynching mob will be done by the Israeli army. Surely they will target Palestinians just because they belong to the same ethnic group as the supposed bomber.
Nobody demands 'the Jews' to pay for the dirty dealings of Milken, Rich and Maxwell, or for Sharon massacres. 'The Palestinians' should not pay for excesses of individuals. While there are still reasonable doubts as to the identity of the bombers, one thing is certain: collective ethnic-based punishment is a crime against humanity.

Doubt and certainty - Follow Up

With Sunday Times' disclosure of the Israeli security services' involvement in the slaughter of the Russian kids in Tel Aviv, the clever by half plot began to unravel. From the first moment, there were reasonable doubts that it was an act of Palestinian terror. The crime had many oddities. It was perpetrated on Sabbath eve, when a 'good Jew' is not supposed to hang around a discotheque. It washed the Palestinian blood off Jewish hands with expendable Russian blood. It forced the hand of Arafat to surrender to Israeli conditions of a cease-fire. It created a miraculously 'restrained' General Sharon withholding his justifiable fury and sparing malfeasants. It pushed a hence neutral Russian community into the embrace of Arab-haters.

An American activist voiced the initial suspicions noting that 'the bombing took place the day of Husseini's funeral when the IDF had so "generously" left East Jerusalem and when spirits were so high at the demo. And then there was the convenient timing of this horrendous crime; exactly what Israel needed to win over public opinion'.
The Sunday Times now reports that the impossible feat of delivering the bomber to the deep hinterland of Tel Aviv was done by a Shabak (Israeli Internal Secret Police) agent, al Nadi. Quoting a string of officials, an Israeli journalist Uzi Mahanaimi drew a portrait of a gullible Shabak agent who unwittingly became an accomplice in the murder. He supposedly understood the intentions of the bomber; but far too late. The Israeli Army spokesman also stressed innocence of al Nadi who did not know what he was doing.

This scoop by The Sunday Times reminded me of a plot by the British thriller writer, Le Carre. When endangered by a pending disclosure, secret services usually prefer to leak their own doctored version of events. The damning report of the English paper appears to be an Israeli damage control procedure. Many Israel-based foreign journalists recently received additional detailed information from usually knowledgeable sources. The sources claimed that the suspected bomber Said Hotari worked for a branch of Jordanian security services until his defection to Israel. He apparently collaborated with Shabak, and that is why his Israeli visa was duly extended. This fact of visa extension was reported by Israeli newspapers before the court slapped a full publicity ban on the case. Hotari was probably unaware of his deadly load, as the explosion was caused by remote control.

They also claim that there was an additional reason for the peculiar choice of the site: the nearby David Intercontinental Hotel had an unusual guest, the German Foreign Minister Joshka Fischer. It is not a popular hotel with high-ranking guests. Though it is a five star operation, it is not located in the most fashionable area of Tel Aviv. Purely by 'chance', Herr Fischer became a star witness of the outrage. He was emotionally swept away to the Israeli side and became an important player in the following diplomatic game that resulted in imposing the cease fire on Israeli terms.

Ruthless use of terrorism for political and tactical purposes has always been a traditional tool of Israeli secret service operatives. Provocation is not below their dignity: in 1950s, in the infamous Lavon Affair, some local Jews enlisted by Israel were apprehended in Cairo while placing bombs in the American and British consulates. They tried to present their bombing as 'acts of Islamic terror' and cause hostility between Arabs and Americans. Israeli agents did not hesitate to kill Jews 'for the cause'.

Thus, on November 25, 1940, the Jewish Agency men sunk SS Patria and killed 250 Jewish immigrants. They did it in order to ensure sympathy to the plight of Jews who were refused entry to British-run Palestine. The perpetrators of the outrage admitted their crime in Israeli media a few years ago. The explosive charge was too powerful, they explained.

Joachim Martillo recently wrote of possible Zionist connection with the bloody anti-Jewish riots in the Polish town of Kielce after the WWII. The riots sent a wave of Jewish immigrants to the shores of Palestine. Israeli bombings of Baghdad synagogues are by now a well known and declassified fact. They caused mass immigration of Iraqi Jews to Israel.

In a more recent development, just over a year ago, Moscow was shaken by dreadful explosions that caused multiple casualties. Unknown terrorists exploded whole residential apartment buildings in the Russian capital. The explosions were blamed on Chechens, and brought about the Second Chechnya war, the destruction of Grozny, thousands of dead and wounded, but more importantly, they served as a turning point in Russia's relations with Israel and the Muslim world. Russia's media enforced the image of Islamic terrorism and of Israel as a guardian and ally of Russia.

'We have a common enemy, Islamic terrorism', was the line reiterated by Israeli politicians visiting Moscow, be it Sharansky, Lieberman or Peres. The comparisons of Chechnya with Palestine became commonplace in the Jewish-owned Russian press. The old Zionist dream of creating confrontation between Russia and Dar al Islam almost became true. Until now, the bombers have not been found. Russia's influential Nezavisimaya Gazeta openly expresses doubts of a Chechen connection to the explosions. Boris Berezovsky, a media magnate and a powerful figure of Russian politics, explicitly placed the blame on the Russian Secret Services. Anatoly Chubais, an Israeli citizen and the man behind President Putin, is widely rumoured by Muscovites as the inspirational force behind the bombings.

Moreover, I am ready to risk anger of my readers and claim that the Palestinians are miscast for the role of terrorists. Surely some of them try to act the part the Jews gave them and dabble in 'terror'. Their 'terror' is so timid, that a careful and objective observer would just pooh-pooh an idea of the 'Palestinian terrorists'. Consider a suicide bomber, for instance, a quiet sophomore at Bir Zeit University, Dia Tawil. He exploded near a bus full of Israelis. He died while only a few Israelis were lightly wounded. Many suicide bombers die without killing a single Israeli, only a few manage to wound and kill.

Even in their most successive and lethal wave of 1996, all of them together could not beat a single Jewish terrorist act, bombing of King David Hotel in 1947 with its 92 victims. When Jews deal in terror, their enemies die in droves. That is how they operated before the state of Israel was established. And that is how the Israeli state operates to this day. It is meaningless to even compare the Palestinian 'terror' with the organized terror of the state of Israel. They are not in the same league. For Israel, the killing of a hundred refugees in Kana, or bombing a school, or blasting a besieged Beirut for two months, or assassinating a leader, or strafing the USS Liberty, or shooting down a passenger airliner is a normal occurrence. Yet the Jewish dominated media machine manages to hang the terrorist label on the Palestinians.

The Palestinians are inefficient killers because they have the peaceful souls of peasants and martyrs. They do not go out to kill, they go to die. They are similar to the kamikaze, the Divine Wind of Japan. The Japanese suicide flyers loaded their tiny planes with explosives, prayed to God, wrote a poem comparing themselves with falling petals of wild cherry, tied a white band over their forehead and took off to ram the American aircraft carriers in the blue waves of Pacific. More often than not they caused no damage, but they scared the hell out of McArthur. He could not understand this willingness to sacrifice one's life for a higher cause. Nor can Israelis.

The unusually 'productive' explosion at Dolphi just did not feel right from the start. We still do not know the answer, but the doubts grow. Some supporters of the Palestinian cause rushed to support the Israeli version and condemned the discotheque explosion. They were rewarded: the usually reluctant Jewish-owned American press published their letters and articles. In my view, in such dubious cases, when no known Palestinian organization claimed the act in real time, it is not wise to dish out blame hastily.