What follows is a lightly edited version of the column submitted by our khaver, J. Zel Lurie, for publication in the Jewish Journal of South Florida, 9/23/07. You can also check out a JTA piece of a few days ago — plus this just published in the NY Times — on this subject. G’mar Khatima Tova! [May you finish with a good decree!]
“Israel bombs Syria, but please don’t mention it” By J. Zel Lurie
On September 3, a small North Korean 1700-ton cargo ship docked at the Syrian port of Tartus. It unloaded its cargo into waiting trucks. The cargo was listed as cement.
Syria has never purchased cement from North Korea, nor was this cargo added to Syria’s inventory of cement. The trucks went across Syria, northeast, to storage bunkers near the Euphrates River, at the Iraqi border.
The Mossad had been tracking this ship and its cargo for some time. They believed the cargo was nuclear material including warheads. Israel did not wait long to strike: In the pre-dawn light of September 6, the bunkers were obliterated by Israeli precision bombs.
Syria complained to the UN about the invasion of its air space. They said nothing about the bombing. Why not?
Turkey was also involved. A Turkish minister complained that empty Israeli fuel tanks were dropped in Turkey. The Turkish Army, which cooperates closely with Israel despite being a Moslem country, did not interfere with the Israeli F-15s.
Not a single country, with one exception, commented on the invasion of Syria’s air space. The exception was North Korea, which slammed Israel for its action without mentioning the bombing.
North Korea had agreed, in exchange for ample payment, to dismantle its nuclear bomb facilities. Dismantle means dismantle. It does not mean exporting its nuclear capabilities to the Middle East.
The diplomats knew what was going on. Despite its preoccupation with the 2008 Olympics, China decided to act. China abruptly cancelled a scheduled meeting of diplomats in Beijing.
Christopher R. Hill, the top American negotiator with North Korea, had his bag packed to leave for Beijing when he was informed of the cancellation. Reporters for the Washington Post put two and two together. On September 15 the Post broke the story of the bombing in Syria nine days earlier that nobody has admitted ever happened. I believe this is the first time in world history that a country was bombed by its neighbor and neither the bomber nor the bombed admitted it.
The Israel press has been muzzled by the Army censor. They are not allowed to discuss what happened in the skies over Syria, but many commentators seem to think that Bashir Assad would like to forget it and talk about peace with Israel and getting the Golan back.
Bashir has hinted about peace often in the recent past and has sent unofficial emissaries to Jerusalem. Many in Israel believe that Ehud Olmert has been prevented from responding to the Syrian initiative by Washington. Which prompted Ma’ariv columnist Jacky Hugy to write in an open letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates:
The level of trust between Israel and Syria is just about level with the ground. Each country believes that the other is plotting war against it.. But despite everything Bashir is till on Olmert’s side, He is also interested in turning down the flame, calming down the region and getting back to business as usual. But your people are not letting him. They are eager to embarrass him in front of the whole world. And over here, we are afraid that if Assad is embarrassed too much he will be forced to respond, That is our problem. Mr. Gates.
And the Americans for Peace Now’s report for September 17 points out that despite the Israeli strike in Syria on September 6th, Israel’s top military leaders are calling for a return to Israeli-Syrian peace talks.
So there we have it. Syria tries to import nuclear material from North Korea. Within three days of its arrival, Israel bombs it to smithereens. But forget it. Don’t mention it. Bashir Assad still wants peace.
In the ever-changing [and bizarre] Middle East, this could be right.