An Open Rebuttal and Response to USA Today Article

To:
Mr. Tom Curley, President and Publisher, USA Today
Karen Jurgensen, Editor
Bob Dubill, Executive Editor
Jeff Webber, Senior Vice President and Publisher
Kinsey Wilson, Vice President and Editor in Chief
Chet Czarniak, Managing Editor

Sept. 5, 2001

An Open Rebuttal and Response to USA Today Article
“Israeli extremists take revenge on Palestinians”
By Jack Kelley, USA TODAY
Published Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2001.

Dear Sirs,
Jack Kelley’s article is an example of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic propaganda. The article
is so full of lies, and is so inaccurate, that it is almost not worth relating to. However,
due to the wide circulation of USA Today, I have no choice but to refute the charges,
and correct the inaccuracies.

1. Kelley begins, “After a quick prayer, Avi Shapiro and 12 other Jewish settlers put
on their religious skullcaps,”

This is ridiculous. A religious Jew wears his skullcap all hours of the day, and most
especially during prayer. We do not “put on our skullcaps” before going out.

2. “.…and headed toward Highway 60. There, they pushed boulders, stretched
barbed wire and set tires afire to form a barricade that, they said, would stop even
the biggest of Palestinian taxis. Then they waited for a vehicle to arrive. As they
crouched in a ditch beside the road, Shapiro, the leader of the group, gave the settlers
orders: Surround any taxi, “open fire” and kill as many of the “blood-sucking Arab”
passengers as possible. “We are doing what (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon
promised but has failed to do: drive these sons of Arab whores from the land of
Israel,” said Shapiro, 42, who moved here with his wife and four children three years
ago from Brooklyn. “If he won’t get rid of the Muslim filth, then we will.”

There is no one with the name Avi Shapiro who lives in Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Gush
Etzion or Efrat. I spent much of the day searching for this person, who, to the best of
my knowledge, does not really exist. Avi Shapiro seems to be a figment of Kelley’s
imagination. Or perhaps he does exist, but does not live anywhere in this area.

3. There were periods of time, particularly during the winter, when people from
Hebron, Kiryat Arba and other communities, participated in road blocks, especially in
the early morning and late evening. It must be remembered that scores of Jews were
being murdered by Arab terrorists in ‘drive-by shootings,’ whereby terrorists opened
fire on moving vehicles on the road. There was an attempt made to hinder Arab
traffic, so as to save Jewish lives. However, at no time were any ‘order’ every given
to “open fire and kill…” Were this to be true, many many Arabs would have been

killed by civilians. (This point will be discussed more specifically below). The goal of
roadblocks was solely to hinder Arab traffic, and not to come into any violent contact
with Arab drivers.

4. “…vigilante Jewish settlers are shooting…Palestinians”

There have been several attacks on Palestinian civilians. As of yet, Israeli authorities
have not arrested any Jews for have perpetrated the attacks. The Yesha council has
condemned the attacks and called on the Israeli security forces to apprehend the
culprits.

In one particular case, a group of Arabs were shot at, and some killed, near Idna,
in the Southern Hebron hills. It was widely assumed that the attackers were
Jews. However, it has since been learned that the family had strong ties to Israeli
intelligence, and that one the family’s brothers was murdered by Arabs in Hebron
because of his connections to Israeli intelligence forces.

It was also learned that following the attack, no bullet casings were discovered at the
scene of the crime. However, several hours later Arabs came forth with ‘evidence’
in the form of bullet casings they claimed were from the shooting attack. In other
words, a large question mark looms over this entire episode. No one has yet been
apprehended or charged with the crime.

5. “…Baruch Goldstein, gunned down 29 Arabs in a nearby mosque…”

It is interesting to note that Kelley mentions Baruch Goldstein 3 times in his article,
but neglects to mention such terrorist murderers as Yechi Iash, who was responsible
for the deaths of over 50 Jews, and trained his successors to carry on in his footsteps.

6. “Nearly 450 right-wing Jews, all of whom are armed and claim a biblical right
to the land, live here among 120,000 Palestinians. Many, like Shapiro and his
colleagues, are ready to strike at any time.”

Today there are 700 Jews living in Hebron. Hebron’s Jewish community has been
under fire for the past year. Day after day, night after night, we have been shot at in
the street, in our homes and in our cars, at all hours of the day and night. Civilians
have been wounded, and a 10 month old baby shot and killed by terrorists from the
nearby hills which surround the community. Our security is in the hands of the Israeli
army. True, many of us are armed for reasons of self-defense. We have not, during
the past year, used our weapons for offensive, or rarely ever for defensive purposes.

7. “…says Yossi Sarid, a left-wing Israeli opposition leader. “This is a city that is
cursed.”

Yossi Sarid has no appreciation for Jewish heritage or tradition. He is virulently left-
wing, and has always been anti-Hebron. Hebron, the first capital of Israel, home of
our Patriarchs, home of King David, represents the roots of the Jewish people. Why
doesn’t Kelley quote Israeli leaders, such as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who
in a letter to the community dated 9.8.00 said, “The Jewish community in Hebron will
continue to exist for another 2,000 years.” Or the President of Israel, Moshe Katzav,

who on 9.8.00 said on Israeli radio, “Can you imagine that Jews would not be living
in the city of Hebron?”

8. “Since the start of the latest surge of violence in Israel a year ago this month, at
least 119 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli civilians in the West Bank and Gaza,
according to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group …”

According to the B’Tselem website “Eleven Palestinian civilians were killed by
Israeli civilians, including One Two month- old baby girl.” (http://www.btselem.org/
Files/site/english/data/Violent_Events_Fatalities.asp)

9. “During the same time, at least 30 settlers have been killed by Palestinian gunmen.”

According to the B’Tselem web site: “In the territories” 60 Israeli civilians were
killed by Palestinians, Five of them were minors under the age of 17: One boy age 16,
two boys age 14, a 10 month-old baby girl and a 5 month-old baby boy. One was a
minor aged 17. At least Six of them were allegedly killed by persons affiliated with
the pna.
”Within Israel” “residents of the Occupied Territories. 21 of them were minors under
the age of 17. Of them: Six were age 16, Five were age 15, Four were age 14, One
was age 13, One was age 10, One was age 8, One was age 4 and One was age 2. One
was age 17.
According to the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman , in the past year, 120 civilians
have been killed , and 1,153 have been wounded. (http://www.idf.il/english/news/
nifg.stm)

10. “In July, Jewish vigilantes killed three Palestinians, including a 3-month-old boy,
in Nablus.

This is a lie.

11.”Yet, the attacks are expected to increase, Israeli officials say. A group of Jewish
vigilantes who possess bomb-making materials has formed in Hebron, they say.”

Who is the “they” quoted. Why are all the sources quoted anonymous?

12. “Last week, 85 European Community monitors who had patrolled Hebron since
1994 withdrew after complaining of weeks of verbal and physical abuse by the
settlers.”

Israel security forces, as reported on Israeli radio, have proof that the TIPH forces in
Hebron have been spying on civilian and military positions in the city, and passing
this information on to Arafat’s armed forces. For more about TIPH see: http://
http://www.hebron.org.il/tiph.htm

13. “On a recent Sunday, Shapiro and the 12 other extremists spotted their first target:
a white Palestinian taxi that had turned the corner and begun to rumble toward them.
From a hill 50 yards away, the men could be seen removing the safety locks from the
weapons. Their wives were grabbing extra ammunition clips. Their children, all of
them under age 12, were picking up rocks.”

As stated above, Avi Shapira does not exist. Nor did this event ever occur. Where
is Kelley’s proof? Where are the pictures? Why wasn’t anyone arrested? A report
of “wives grabbing extra ammunition clips” is total nonsense, a total fabrication.

14. “People here are extremely upset,” says David Wilder, a spokesman for Jewish
settlers here. “We’re upset by the daily shooting, killings and harassment by
Palestinians. People feel abandoned (by Israel’s government) and so some people are
going to take up guns.”

I never said that people “are going to take up guns.” I have said that people will
defend themselves if their lives are endangered.

15. “Ahmad Abu Neni, 55, is blind and a Palestinian. His small kiosk of cleaning
supplies has been ransacked three times since last September by settlers, human rights
officials say. He’s also been beaten in the back with a brick and punched repeatedly,
they add. Neni says Israeli soldiers tried to break up one of the attacks by firing a
concussion grenade at the attackers, only to set his clothes on fire. He suffered third-
degree burns.”

In his audio report, Kelley accuses ‘settler teenagers, many of whom are from
Brooklyn” of beating this man and then setting him on fire. In this written report,
Kelley says otherwise. Why does Kelley contradict himself in the two reports? How
does he know that the supposed ‘attackers’ are from Brooklyn?

16. “Nearby, Nafez Bani Jaber, 45, was burying 123 of his sheep. He says they were
poisoned last week after 10 Jewish extremists chased him off his fields. Israeli police
say they have found needles dipped in poison that they believe the settlers used on the
sheep. Police say poison also was dumped down a nearby well used by Palestinians.”

There was a report of sheep poisoned, but not in Hebron, rather in the Shomron, in
northern Israel. It has not been proven that any Jews had responsibility for the act.

17. “…Tivon says his soldiers and police officers often are ambushed by the settlers,
whom he calls “hooligans.” The settlers accuse the police of failing to stop the Arab
violence.”

Former Brigade commander Noam Tivon did not say that his soldiers are ambushed
by settlers. He had words of praise for Hebron’s Jewish Community. He did say that
there are a few “hooligans” here, but that they are the exception to the rule.

18. “I can’t believe we are risking our lives to defend these fanatics,” says Sgt. Avi
Alamm, 28 as he watches a settler boy, dressed as the late Goldstein, walk by with
an Israeli flag. Goldstein, who gunned down the 29 Muslims, is revered among
some settlers as a prophet. They encourage their children to dress like him on
occasion. “The people make me ashamed to be a Jew,” Alamm says.”

Children in Hebron do not walk around dressed up as Baruch Goldstein. Five years
ago a child, not from Hebron, dressed up on the Purim holiday, as a doctor. Hebron
residents requested that he remove the costume, so as not to be mistaken as having

dressed up as Goldstein. The child complied with the request.

As for the purported remarks of the Sgt. Alamm, there are soldiers in Hebron who,
being of a left-wing political persuasion, are willing to defame us to the media.
However, for every soldier who portrays us negatively, there are scores of others who
have only warm words of praise and appreciation for Hebron’s Jewish community and
Hebron’s Jewish residents. However, obviously, these kinds of statements have no
place in Kelley’s article.

19. “Now, many Israelis are calling on the government to dismantle extremist
settlements such as the one here. “The Jewish settlement in Hebron is a major
nuisance, and the lawless behavior by Jews there in recent days leads to one
conclusion,” the Israeli newspaper “Ha’aretz” recently editorialized. “Hebron must be
evacuated.”

Ha’aretz newspaper is the most left-wing newspaper in Israel. Their views are well
known. They are, however, not representative of Israel’s public. “Many Israelis”
are, in truth, a handful of people whose views are not new. They have been calling
for uprooting of communities in Judea, Samaria and Gazza, including Hebron, for
decades. Israeli public opinion is opposed to the dismantling of Yesha, as can be
proven by Ariel Sharon’s overwhelming landslide victory a few months ago.

In conclusion, Jack Kelley’s article is an intentional attempt to besmirch the
good name of the Jewish Community of Hebron, using fabrication, distortion and
inaccuracy. It is unfortunate that a publication such as USA Today should see fit
to publish such trash. We expect that Kelley’s tenure with the newspaper will be
terminated immediately and that USA TODAY will not only publish this rebuttal, but
will also print an apology for slandering our community.

Sincerely,
David Wilder
Spokesman
The Jewish Community of Hebron

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