Monday, October 6, 1997

Bungled assassination
attempt backfires

ISRAEL'S clandestine efforts to strike back at Muslim extremists have backfired, causing a rift with Canada and Jordan while failing to bring down their target. The affair seems certain to spark a re-examination of the role of the spy agency Mossad, the apparent instrument in the attack on Khaled Mashaal, the political chief of the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Two men attacked Mashaal as he entered his office in Amman, Jordan, injecting a toxic substance in his ear. But Mashaal was treated with an antidote and survived. The assailants were taken into Jordanian custody.

Canada withdrew its ambassador to protest the use of forged Canadian passports by the alleged Israeli agents. Canadian officials accused Israel of endangering Canadians traveling in the Middle East. Israel expressed regret over the action.

Canadian reports said Israel had promised to bar Mossad agents from using Canadian passports after they were caught doing it in 1981. A former Mossad agent, Victor Ostrovsky, wrote a book describing hundreds of blank Canadian passports stacked at Mossad headquarters in the 1980s.

Reports of Israeli involvement in the attack on Mashaal intensified after Israel released the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, from prison and sent him to Amman. Israel said it freed Yassin because of his poor health. However, Israeli media said Yassin's release apparently was part of a deal under which Jordan would return the two men who tried to kill Mashaal.

Hamas has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist incidents in Israel, and it is hardly surprising that Israel would retaliate. But this bungled attempt will only embolden Hamas while harming Israel's relations with its friends and diverting attention from the outrages it was intended to avenge.

More 'recognition'

FIRST Forbes magazine ran an article on it. Now another national publication has directed the spotlight its way. The turmoil at Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate is the subject of an Oct. 2 story in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the periodical bible of nonprofit organizations.

Did the Chronicle's writer, Stephen G. Greene, understand the complexities of the issue? You be the judge. According to the first three paragraphs of the story:

"Trustees of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate, Hawaii's wealthiest charity, are under investigation by federal and state regulators amid allegations that they have mismanaged the estate and improperly mingled their personal interests with those of the charitable trust they oversee.

"The estate, which runs the Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu and oversees real-estate holdings and far-flung business ventures worth an estimated $5-$10 billion, has for years weathered criticism over the secretive, high-handed way in which its five trustees are said to run their huge empire, the generous fees they award themselves (around $900,000 a year each), and the highly political process by which they are appointed.

"But over the past several months, the public outcry over alleged financial abuses and poor management of the estate's educational programs has reached unprecedented levels. For the first time, the trustees have faced a virtual revolt among the school's students, parents, alumni and faculty members."

By George, he's got it. Congratulations to writer Greene for accurately characterizing the controversy surrounding, as the publication's headline refers to it, a "Misplaced Trust."

More war in Bosnia

DURING the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, the Muslims got the worst of it, losing much of their territory in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now they seem to be preparing to take it back. The Muslim-led government in Sarajevo has a military buildup under way, with the apparent intention of mounting an offensive against the Serbian portion of Bosnia.

Arms are being smuggled to the Muslims by way of Croatia. The New York Times reports that an Egyptian freighter under a Ukrainian flag is sitting under NATO guard in a Croatian port, carrying 10 Soviet-built tanks intended for delivery to the Muslims. There are reports that Bosnian Muslim infantry are being trained in Iran and Malaysia.

All this is going on as the clock winds down to the scheduled departure of NATO peacekeepers next June. If NATO leaves, a renewal of the war is likely, but this time the Muslims may have the upper hand. That's a strong argument for the peacekeepers to stay on. But the United States should retreat to a supporting role. The Europeans should be able to handle this.

School uniforms

STUDENT uniforms used to be the mark of parochial schools, but many public schools are adopting them these days. The 1994 decision of the Long Beach, Calif., schools to require uniforms for all elementary and middle-school students, followed the next year by a report that school crime had declined 36 percent, began a national trend, from small towns to the largest cities. In Chicago, four out of five schools now require uniforms. President Clinton included a pitch for school uniforms in his State of the Union address last year.

Hawaii is participating, too, with uniforms now required at Kailua and Moanalua Intermediate, Waiakea High and Kamalii and Lahaina Elementary. Other schools have tightened their dress codes.

Whether uniforms have a beneficial effect is still uncertain. Some complain of a loss of individuality. Supporters see it as encouraging a focus on learning rather than attracting attention to oneself -- and a way to save money.

It's a tough decision to make, particularly if you are a parent and your child has a contrary opinion. But the encouraging part is that the decision is being made at each school, with the participation of parents, students and teachers, not on a system-wide basis.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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