West Bank Atrocities

THE trip to Israel and the West Bank by Secretary of State Colin Powell should not be only for peace. It must also hold both sides to account for atrocities.

Yasser Arafat should admit he's failed to jail or hand over bomb plotters to Israel, and failed to tell Palestinians – in Arabic – that violence against Israeli civilians must stop.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, too, must face a reckoning by the US and others for the Israeli Army's two-week assault on West Bank cities.

While many would-be bombers were killed or captured, the utter destruction of civilian homes and urban infrastructure, especially in Jenin, was an atrocity on the order of the 1982 killing of Palestinian civilians by Israel-controlled forces in Lebanon. (See story, page 1.)

The devastation of major Palestinian cities went way beyond the army's goal of simply uprooting "the infrastructure of terror." An Israeli group called Rabbis for Human Rights yesterday stated that it is aware of many human rights violations and forms of collective punishment inflicted by the army. These include disruption of water and food supplies for civilians, demolition of homes, torture of detainees, killing of innocent civilians, and denial of care for the injured and for women in labor.

By their actions, Sharon and Arafat have set back their mutual goal of a Palestinian state. And they undermine the US goal of reducing Arab support for the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

Failing to see these wrongs will only hinder their ability to create the right peace.

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