To win struggle, we need restraint

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Forty-eight years ago, I experienced the bombing of the Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem, in which my wife was very seriously injured. Twelve people were killed and many wounded. It came in the wake of two other major explosions in this city within the same month: One destroyed the building of the Palestine Post, as the Jerusalem Post was called then; the other, on Ben-Yehuda Street, killed over 50 people and left many wounded.

Following the Palestine Post explosion, I helped with rescue operations. And my wife and I survived the Ben-Yehuda explosion miraculously. As it happens, we had passed the truck loaded with dynamite exactly one minute before it blew up.

These tragic events recall many others. At the onset of the War of Independence, as we struggled literally for our very existence, we faced many harrowing trials and tribulations.

We endured a siege in Jerusalem without food or water as 10,000 shells showered the city. But we survived this with determination, and in most cases succeeded in brushing off the sense of danger, both national and personal.

I do not remember witnessing any publicly expressed fear or hopelessness — and we experienced reality firsthand, not through watching the events on television at home.

Today our capabilities are greater and our situation is quite unlike what we experienced then. But much can be done now to lift the nation's spirit and to strengthen its faith in the righteousness of its path.

Of course, facts should not be covered up. But the media must evaluate its part in shaping the national will.

How are the attacks — and their aftermath — presented? What journalistic value do photos of profusely bleeding bodies have, or of mothers sobbing over their children's graves? Do such pictures contribute to anything but demoralization?

The media would do well to use restraint, and to consider the nation's best interests. At the very least the media have a duty to avoid exaggeration and excessive repetition.

We must find new ways to create national unity while preparing ourselves to face new dangers.

Too often journalists ask interviewees whether or not they are frightened. We have endured far more difficult periods in the past, and we will continue to face further struggles so long as the Islamic fundamentalists' bitter hatred continues to dominate our area. This will be true no matter who leads the government.

To date, every government in Israel has had to struggle against Arab terrorism. It is safe to assume that in this respect there will be no major change in the future. The problem facing the nation today is not who will destroy the forces of terror; it is a question of who is capable of best leading the nation.

It is encouraging to note the opposition's reasonable national approach as it supports the prime minister in these difficult days.

For some 50 years, I have observed Shimon Peres in periods of crisis and seeming hopelessness. He always faced the harshest challenges and the most frustrating circumstances calmly, sensibly and bravely.

Of course, we must carefully examine the defense system responsible for our security.

The Israeli Defense Force is not built to handle such situations. It would be preferable to place the main burden on the Border Police, who are more adept at controlling civil unrest, and who remain static in given areas, thus becoming intimately acquainted with the local population and with the area under surveillance.

We are also being overfed with daily doses of public-opinion polls, which only fuel public anxiety and are not necessarily conducted on a scientific basis. We must develop a broader picture, over longer periods of time, in order to evaluate our position.

If we continue on the route we have taken and do not yield to pressures and fears, we will win this struggle as individuals and as a nation.

However, we must not deceive ourselves with simplistic solutions. As long as we are part of the Middle East with its pervasive Islamic fundamentalist presence, we will have to face terrorism — which cannot be curbed as long as it is initiated and financed by Iran.

We have to struggle relentlessly against terrorism, but I do not see any purpose in stopping the peace process. That would mean returning to the intifada, or perhaps something worse.

We must insist, as indeed the government is now doing, that the Palestinian Authority takes an active role against terrorism. We must make clear to the Palestinians that their fate is intertwined with ours in this struggle.

Let us remember that violence and terror against us inevitably end in results exactly the opposite of those their instigators intend.

In 1929 we did not give in when the Jews of Hebron were massacred, nor in 1947 when Arab mobs attacked Jews in Aleppo, Aden, Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa.

We buried our dead, rolled up our sleeves and created the Jewish state. We did not yield in 1948, when Arab forces besieged Jerusalem and prevented the arrival of food, water and equipment to the city. Following every attack we emerged stronger.

I am convinced that this time, too, we shall prevail. We will win this struggle.