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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Gaza: Blame it all on the Zionist sons of dogs and apes

The comic part of the Arab press review, Lessons from Palestine, is the way in which each side in the Hamas-Fateh conflict blames the other side for being creatures of the Zionist ogres. In certain countries in the Middle East, "Jewish son of a dog" is a standard epithet for an enemy. However, the serious portion addresses frustration and disgust with the Palestinians and fear of the Hamas.
Ami Isseroff
By Zvi Bar'el
The aching heart of the Palestinian national poet, Mahmoud Darwish, could be heard this week throughout the Middle East as his feelings on the situation were published on the front page of the Al Hayat newspaper, published in London. "Did we have to fall from such lofty heights and did we have to see our blood dripping from our own hands so that we could know we are not the angels we thought we were?" he asked. "Did we have to expose our nudity in public so that our reality would not remain virginal? Oh, how we lied to ourselves when we said: We are something special. It is worse to believe yourself than to lie to your fellow man..."
"The month of June has inflamed us with the memory of 40 years of defeat. For if we did not find someone to defeat us a second time, we have managed to defeat ourselves by our own hands, let us not forget. It is not the religious zealots who anger me, because after all, they believe in their own special way. It is their secular supporters who anger me and the infidels among their supporters who do not believe in anything else but one religion - their pictures on television."
This deep soul-searching on the part of Darwish is the refined essence of the Palestinian national wailing that found expression in dozens of articles, forums, talkbacks and sermons in the mosques. It was reminiscent of some kind of tremendous Shi'ite self-flagellation - in memory of the Day of Ashura, the day of mourning that has its roots in the martyrdom of the Prophet's grandson in the seventh century. "Arab society has in the past been faced with difficult days," the eminent columnist Abdel Rahman Al-Rashed wrote in the popular newspaper Asharq Alawsat, "but this is the most difficult time it has faced."
The most difficult time? In the talkbacks, Al-Rashed got a dressing down from a reader who identified himself as Muhammad Abda and reminded him that Hamas was not an agent of Iran, as Al-Rashed had accused it of being, any more than Iraq is. The reader asked him: "Why do you merely see the hair that is in the eye of Hamas and not the beam that is in Iraq's eye? Beyond that, who said that Hamas and [deposed Palestinian] prime minister Ismail Haniyeh are the reason for the civil war? No way. The international siege and the Arab conspiracy were the sole reason for the failure of the unity government. After all, this is what the Palestinian minister of information, Mustafa Barghouti [an independent], said."
Well-mannered Hamas
That talkback is typical of the discourse about treason and treachery that started immediately after it became known that Gaza had been fallen into the hands of Hamas, but it serves mainly to spark a debate on the significance of the analogy: Is what is happening in Palestine similar to what is happening in Iraq? Is Hamas like the Iraqi government? And perhaps it is Lebanon in particular that should learn from the lesson of the Hamas and ask itself, "What would have happened if Beirut woke up to find itself like Gaza," as the headline of an article in the Lebanese paper Al-Nahar asked.
But perhaps the Arabs should make the comparison between Hamas and Hezbollah, as suggested by Abd al-Bari Atwan, the editor of Al Quds Al Arabi, in an editorial he wrote this week: "We would like to hope that Hamas would wrap itself in the cloak of culture of Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah. Following the most difficult campaign that it waged against Israel last summer, this organization did not kill even one of its opponents, nor did it loot a single house or break into any government office, and it did not remove the Lebanese flag or trample with its boots on the picture of an adversary. The source of such behavior lies in education toward lofty religious principles, something we had hoped to be able to see in Gaza."
Is Hezbollah well-mannered? And free of sin? Abd al-Bari Atwan could have read what was written by his colleague Zuheir Kseibati in a column in Al-Hayat, if he wanted to get a sense of just how fearful the Lebanese are about the Hamas phenomenon trickling into Lebanon and particularly via Hezbollah. "Lebanon is threatened by a second Gaza", Kseibati wrote. "People in Gaza are asking who blew up the Mecca agreement, and in Lebanon the question is whether the time has come for the disintegration of the Taif agreement [of 1989, which ended the civil war in Lebanon - Z.B.] ... Just as in Gaza, so in Lebanon the citizens are threatened by a struggle between two governments [that of Siniora and that which Hezbollah would like to see - Z.B.] and by the threat of the disintegration of national unity."
This is not concern for the fate of the Palestinians, as Al-Rashed would have it, but rather local Lebanese fear, from the shadow of Gaza, and the same pleasant and easygoing Hezbollah of Atwan. The question of what happened to the Palestinians is of interest to the writers only when it remains theoretical. What will happen to the Arabs, or more exactly to the "private" country of every one of the writers, and what lesson can Palestine teach every other country, are much more interesting questions.
Backwardness and primitiveness
Palestine may have turned into the producer of insights for the Arab world, but the Palestinian problem can go to hell. "We have had enough of cheating ourselves by marketing the Palestinian as if he is someone more learned and someone who knows more. After all, the Palestinian whom we see on the TV screens when he is attacking the flesh of one of his brethren, is a symbol of backwardness and primitiveness," wrote Egyptain intellectual Mamoun Fendi in Asharq Alawsat. In the article, he warns the Arabs in general, and not the Palestinians, about the implications of the developments in Gaza. The Palestinians themselves, so it seems according to Fendi, have been afflicted by leprosy. And if in Lebanon they're afraid of what will happen, how much more so in Egypt? Hamas, from the point of view of Abdullah Kamal, editor of the pro-government Egyptian newspaper Rose el-Youssef, is a Palestinian issue that affects Egypt only insofar as it insulted the Egyptian efforts to reach a Palestinian understanding. But the greatest importance of the Hamas movement is to serve as a tool that allows for an attack on the "real" Egyptain problem - the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent of Hamas. If Kamal can succeed in proving that Hamas is treacherous and untrustworthy, dangerous and evil, then it must follow that the Egyptian mother of the organization shares those qualities.
And how does one prove the treachery of Hamas? The rhetoric is somewhat new but the basics are the same: Tie Hamas to Israel and to Zionism in general.
"I wish to devote some space to the matter of Hamas' accusations against Fatah that it is part of the Zionist camp, considering that Hamas itself, as the historical facts have proven, is an Israeli creation," Kamal states. And the "facts" are well known: Israel attacked Yasser Arafat's regime, his status and his influence, and in the end put him under siege in the Muqata in Ramallah; Israel nurtured Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) at Arafat's expense and in this way created a double leadership. Israeli and American pressure on Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to push forward the date of the Palestinian elections last year assisted Hamas in securing its victory.
Rabin as benefactor
There are quite a few stories extant about the financial assistance Hamas received from Israel, but the greatest support for that movement came from Yitzhak Rabin, when he expelled some 400 Hamas activists from Israel to Lebanon in 1992. In this way, he bestowed on it the status of a national movement. But Kamal's proof is even more detailed. The unofficial tahadiya, a period of temporary calm, between Israel and Hamas was born out of Israel's desire to make it possible for the Islamist organization to gain control of Gaza. Later, the publication of information according to which Fatah had received American or Israeli arms, was intended to cause the revilement of Fatah and to improve the status once again of Hamas.
In short, Hamas serves the Zionist interests very well and it is therefore not surprising that the Israeli government has helped it to such an extent over the years, Kamal says, while making sure to add the title of the "brotherly stream" to Hamas - terminology meant to allude to its intimate linkage to the Muslim Brotherhood. Kamal is less interested in proving that Hamas was an Israeli creation than he is in establishing the link between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. He lets the cat out of the bag when he suggests, in his article, that the Taliban are located not only on the border of Egypt but right inside the country, where they act as the emissaries of the Zionists.

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Gaza: Christian appreciation of Jewish Charity

Israel, the "Occupying Oppressor"

June 20, 2007 - News reports today confirm that Ehud Barak, the newly-appointed, Israeli Defense Minister has ordered the IDF to begin evacuating any of the "Palestinians" attempting to flee Gaza who require urgent medical attention into Israel through the Erez crossing. These are the same Arabs who, just over a year ago, democratically-elected a terrorist regime, whose charter openly advances an ideology committed to the eradication and annihilation of Israel, into public office shortly after Israel evacuated the region. Mind you, I realize, as Christians, we are to love our enemies, but I must say: Mr. Barak, you, sir, are a better man than I.

More at  Israel, the "Occupying Oppressor"

Cross posted at Israel News  and Middle East Analysis 

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Iraq and Gaza A History Lesson Unleashed

Mikael Knighton reports on his visit to Israel, Lawlessness in Gaza and parallels to Iraq.

Iraq and Gaza A History Lesson Unleashed
by Mikael Knighton
Christians Standing with Israel

Lawlessness in Gaza

My apologies for the extended hiatus since my last entry. I have recently returned from Israel and jet-lag isn't exactly a writer's best friend. In walking the present-day streets of Jerusalem, one is hardly able to discern that just over the Judean Hills to the South, on the coastal sand dunes of the Gaza Strip, the essence of pure evil has manifested itself in the form of an isolated, radical Islamist state. Generally speaking, a visitor in Israel needs only to look at the faces of its everyday citizens in order to accurately discern the levels of safety and stability in the Holy Land. Quite literally, if they look worried, so should you.

Surprisingly, Israelis--or at least the ones I've encountered--have remained quite calm and collected despite Israel bearing witness to full-blown, Arab civil war within her borders. Israel has been here before. However, let us in no way be unclear: all hell has broken loose in the Gaza Strip, and the "flood waters" of chaos and anarchy have spilled over into the territories. Such is the case when the essence of pure evil is disengaged, allowed to multiply in numbers, and left to its own devices.

The manifestation of pure evil in the form of radical Islam in Gaza was left unchecked when Ariel Sharon ordered the complete, Israeli evacuation of the Gaza Strip in August of 2005.

Ever-willing to play the role of "control freak" in all things concerning Arab-Israeli relations, the foreign policy of the United States--specifically, the Bush administration's "vision" of a "two-state solution", ultimately cornered Sharon, applied the "chokehold" of international pressure on Israel to concede more land for nothing but death in return, and coercedthe Jewish state into taking yet another step toward demographic suicide.

Playing with Fire

Nearly five years ago to the day, President Bush, in an address outlining his "vision" for a new Middle East, stated, "I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders". Well documented, in the days leading up to the Gaza evacuation, was the Bush administration's staunch opposition to Israel's further expansion of settlements in Judea and Samaria. Of no secret are several meetings between Bush and Sharon in which Bush advised the Israeli Prime Minister not to expand settlements in Judea and Samaria, while praising him for his "courage" in dismantling and evacuating all 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip. Such "courage" gave birth to democratic elections in Gaza in January of 2006 through which Hamas--a lawless band of Islamic, terrorist, Iranian-backed thugs sworn to Israel's destruction--emerged the more popular. While indescriminately capping off AK-47 rounds into the skies over southern Israel, the Arabs of Gaza rejoiced in the streets--certain the "new sheriff in town" would bring with them the economic and social reform they promised. They brought only death and destructon.

Continued here

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IDF arrests founder of Hamas Izzedin al-Qassam armed wing

Last update - 15:04 23/06/2007
By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies

Israel Defense Forces troops on Saturday arrested senior Hamas militant Saleh Aruri, who is considered the founder of Hamas' military wing in the West Bank, in a village near Ramallah.
The detainee, Saleh Aruri, was taken from his home before dawn, his wife said.
Aruri was described on a Hamas Web site as the founder of Iz a Din al-Kassam, its West Bank military wing.
Aruri had served 15 years in an Israeli prison and was released in March, the Web site said.
Hamas alleged in a statement that its political rival, the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is coordinating with Israel in an attempt to crush Hamas in the West Bank.
IDF officials said Aruri resumed involvement in violent Hamas activity in recent months.
Earlier on Friday IDF soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man at a West Bank roadblock near the city of Hebron.
The man was later identified as Shadi Matoor, 25.
The IDF said Matoor had tried to enter a military outpost north of Kiryat Arba. When he did not respond to soldiers' calls to stop, the troops shot at him, the army said.
According to a preliminary investigation, Matoor was unarmed.
The man was seriously wounded and taken to a hospital in Hebron, where he later died of his wounds.
Sources in the IDF maintain that Matoor was wearing IDF army pants and high boots, and soldiers suspected he was attempting to infiltrate to the outpost.
Security forces nab 'Hezbollah-trained' suspect in W. Bank raid
IDF and Border Police troops early Friday morning arrested three suspected militants in an overnight raid in the West Bank city of Nablus.
Security forces said one of the suspects, Yusuf Abu Layla, is a senior member of the Fatah-affiliated Tanzim who had received training and instructions from Hezbollah to carry out terror attacks in Israel.
The two other suspects are Moeib Hoteri, also of Tanzim, and Yusuf Mabruk, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
During the operation, soldiers opened fire on a car with five suspects that fled the scene, wounding one of the passengers. The wounded man and another suspect escaped, while the three others barricaded themselves in a building.
Troops surrounded the structure and called on them to surrender. They were caught while trying to escape. No IDF soldiers were hurt in the firefight.
Abu layla is an explosives device expert who planned bombings in Israel, the army said. In addition, it claimed he was involved in manufacturing suicide belts for Tanzim in Nablus, as well as training others how to make bombs.

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UN hears of Iranian Human Rights Abuses

The UN heard. Will they listen? Floggings, hangings, amputation, "extra-judicial" courts and arrest, rape and murder of desirable females are par for the course in Iran, as is torture of suspected homosexuals.
Last update - 05:43 23/06/2007   
By The Associated Press

Israel said Friday it sent letters to the United Nations secretary-general and the president of the General Assembly urging the international community to speak out against human rights abuses in Iran.
"The international community cannot be silent in situations where the violation of human rights is systemic, grave, and widespread, and where states dismiss issues of human rights and refuse to engage in meaningful dialogue," Israel's deputy UN ambassador Daniel Carmon said Friday.
Israel's UN Mission released excerpts from the letters to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa.
It cited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and his calls for Israel's destruction while developing an ominous military nuclear weapons program.
The Israeli mission said Ahamdinejad's rhetoric constitutes incitement to genocide and public incitement, in violation of international law.
Mohammad Mir Ali Mohammadi, spokesman for Iran's UN Mission, dismissed the letters, saying "it is bordering absurdity that Israel as the most egregious violator of human rights is complaining about human rights in Iran."
Iran insists its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes to produce nuclear energy.
The Israeli mission said the letter accuses Iran of violating major human rights treaties and operating extra-constitutional courts.
"In light of the aforementioned policies and practices," Carmon said, "it is patently obvious that Iran cannot honestly support open dialogue between civilizations and among member states."
In 2005, a U.N. committee passed a resolution expressing concern about human rights violations in Iran, deploring its use of amputation, torture and flogging.

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Palestine: Two failed states?

It seems to me that it is a bit early to mourn the demise of Palestinian statehood, as Emanuele Ottolenghi does below. There may be two failed states now, but there doesn't seem to be any practical political alternative to Palestinian statehood.

Ami Isseroff

Two failed states

Emanuele Ottolenghi

June 18, 2007 11:30 AM


Already in its death throes after seven years of futile struggle against Israel, the Palestinian national movement suffered a fatal blow last week, when Gaza fell in the hands of Hamas. Now, instead of a state-in-the waiting, Palestine is two failed states, under two governments at war with one another.

Hamas in Gaza might still pursue its fight against Israel; and Fatah in the West Bank might still voice the rhetoric of grievance against Israel as the occupier. But the two are now locked in a deadly struggle. Anti-Zionist rhetoric has been waving the ghost of a one-state solution - implying that Israel might disappear, replaced by a united binational state comprising the West Bank and Gaza as well as present Israel. It now looks as though there will be a one-state solution after all - Israel, alongside two failed states, both Palestinian, and fighting each other.

It has not been easy for Palestinian nationalists. Ever since their late leader and national symbol, Yasser Arafat, chose to exploit the Intifadah, in September 2000, to extract more concessions from Israel, everything that could possibly go wrong, did. First, violence turned Israeli public opinion against the now moribund Oslo process: Ariel Sharon quickly replaced the left-wing peace coalition against which Arafat had unleashed his Intifadah. Systematic resort by Palestinian factions to terrorism against Israeli civilian targets only created the momentum for Israel's military offensive in late March 2002. West Bank towns were reoccupied and the backbone of the terror network that seemed so close to breaking Israel's will was crushed.

Arafat's flirting with gun-toting militias and a myriad offshoot of armed groups only earned him confinement by Israel and isolation from America. Sharon easily won the next electoral round and set the stage for unilateralism - Israel would withdraw to borders of its choosing and the Palestinians would be left behind, once more. The spectre of this move did nothing to propel Palestinian leaders into action to bring an end to the mounting anarchy within their ranks and sue for peace. Instead, Arafat allowed anarchy to grow, as if it would only harm the enemies of Palestine, and not Palestine itself. Eventually, the persistent refusal of the Palestinian Authority, first under Arafat, then under Abu Mazen, to disarm all militias and dismantle all terror networks yielded the outcome all but fools would predict. In January 2005, I wrote that:

"Terror groups have grown stronger since the intifada began. Abbas' predecessor... used terrorism to pressure Israel into more concessions. Convinced as he was that outsourcing violence to a network of terror groups would promote his goals, he willingly let them run amok, thus renouncing the monopoly over the use of force. Four years later, terrorists pose a formidable challenge not only to peace, but even more crucially to Palestinian statehood. Today, terrorists mainly attack Israeli targets. But tomorrow, unless disarmed and forced to recognize that only the Palestinian Authority has the monopoly over the use of violence, they could use their weapons and their militancy to dictate conditions or carve out areas of influence through threats, blackmail and intimidation. They have to be disarmed - not for Israel's sake, but for Palestine's sake."

Alas, it is too late now. Brother will fight brother, while the West Bank and Gaza go their separate ways. At last, Abu Mazen seems to have understood the need to establish the monopoly over the use of force. Hamas has clearly understood it too, as it moved to disarm everyone not loyal to Hamas in Gaza. But this is too little too late. Two governments are now in place, and with them, two separate entities are slowly coming into being. They'll play this war out to the bitter end. The west has already chosen its horse, not realizing that this is a cockfight, where the audience can do little else but watch.

There is little rejoicing in this turn of events, but it must be understood for what it is: the end of Palestinian national aspirations.

Hamas' takeover in Gaza has created a small Islamic state on the shores of the Mediterranean, next door to Israel and to Egypt. Helped by Iran and Syria, Hamas has now opened a southern front in their war against Israel but in the process, it has made Palestine as a state even less viable than before.

Now, Hamastan needs to conquer the West Bank to make itself the credible and legitimate champion of the Palestinian struggle. Meanwhile, Fatahland will try to regain its lost territory of Gaza before it can even begin to negotiate credibly with Israel. An endless war will further contribute to Palestine's demise. For ordinary Palestinians, seven years of the Intifadah yielded nothing but grief, death, and poverty. The passage of time did nothing to strengthen Palestinian territorial claims: if anything it gave time to Israeli settlements to expand and Israeli control over Jerusalem to tighten.

As Hamas assumes control over Gaza, Gazans are longing for the return of the despised Israelis. Palestinian intellectuals have conceded that Palestinians might need to be "re-occupied" by an international force led by the Arab league - a return to the pre-1967 occupation by Jordan and Egypt, no less. Now, not even this option seems available - unless, that is, foreign forces are sent to fight Hamas and re-conquer Gaza.

With the Gaza takeover by Hamas, history has finally drawn its curtain on the two-state solution. Before Palestinian nationalism can reclaim one Palestine, complete, before it can even settle for the meager leftovers Israel held for 40 years, Palestinians have to face their own, wearing each other out, Hamastan against Fatahland, while the Israelis look on.

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Islamism: The Real Danger

The Real Danger

by Carlos

June 22, 2007 - Earlier this week a coalition airstrike against al-Qaeda terrorists taking sanctuary in a religious compound in Afghanistan killed seven children.

Understandably, the people responded with outrage. Khalid Farouqi, a member of Parliament from Paktika province where the incident occurred, blasted the coalition. "Nobody can accept the killing of women and children" he said. "It is not acceptable in either Islam or international law." (Oddly, Islam is rarely invoked in this manner when the victims are Israeli or American.)

The outrage of the people was part of the plan.

Eyewitnesses said that the terrorists prevented the children from leaving the compound. When the children tried to escape, the terrorists pushed them away from the door and beat them.

The use of children as human shields seems to have become a trend. Three months ago, in Baghdad, American soldiers allowed a car to pass through a checkpoint after seeing two children in the back seat. Once on the other side, the adults ran out of the car and detonated a bomb hidden inside it, killing the two children and three other civilians.

Referring to the incident in Afghanistan, the American ambassador, William B. Wood, said the coalition does as much as it possibly can to avoid harming civilians. "Unfortunately," he said, "when the Taliban are using civilians in this tactical way, instances of civilian casualties, just like instances of casualties from friendly fire, cannot be completely avoided."

Sound familiar? Israel has repeatedly come up against the effective use of this barbarous tactic. Hezbollah used it in Lebanon, even shooting civilians attempting to flee areas of danger.

This is the real "asymmetric warfare." Israel, like America, fights with a sense of morality, trying to do what is necessary but exercising restraint to minimize civilian casualties. The other side - be it al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hamas, or Hezbollah - has no such restraint. These groups all go after civilians as prime targets, and even use their own civilians as decoys and shields. They are united by a demented distortion of religious values that inspires them to a frenzy and justifies the murder of innocents.

Hamas gunmen take control of Gaza (AFP).  
Hamas gunmen take control of Gaza (AFP).

In their war with Fatah, members of Hamas kidnapped people, threw them off rooftops with their hands and legs tied, or shot them dead in the street in front of their wives and children. With cries of "Allahu akhbar" they proclaimed it "a victory of Islam over heresy." Why such scant protest from the international community?

Well, some people are displeased. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called this "the worst thing I've seen since 1967." Worse even than all of Israel's misdeeds? Perhaps so. Many Palestinians voiced comments like this one: "We've had enough, we should be so lucky as to see the return of the Israeli occupation." In fact, according to an opinion poll just released by Khalil Shikaki's Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 56% of the Palestinians surveyed said the greatest threat to them was infighting and the lack of law and order. Only 12% said it was the Israeli occupation.

Make no mistake: the occupation has to end. But it cannot end when the other side is dominated by terrorists and anarchists. One can only hope that increasing numbers of Palestinians are beginning to realize that. The occupation is an albatross that most Israelis would love to get off their necks. It is not the primary threat to world peace.

The most potent threat to peace today is not Israelis. It is not Palestinians. It is a set of ideas spreading throughout the world, whose basis is an amoral God who would justify even the murder of children for the sake of spreading his rule. It is nihilism disguised as spirituality. It has no compassion. It knows no international boundaries. And it is on the threshold of acquiring nuclear weapons.

Incredibly, too many people seem not to know or not to care. Even in Britain, presumably an enlightened democracy, a number of academics, journalists, and now trade unionists have resolved to boycott Israel. Jews are no longer allowed to mention anti-Semitism, so I can't accuse them of that. I do wonder, however, what other conceivable explanation there could be for this consistent, repeated singling out of the Jewish state for punishment while completely ignoring not only the terrorism practiced against it but the real danger, which is an aggressive, expansionist terrorist movement global in scope and unlimited in ambition.

This is the real danger: a global movement that is fueled by religious fervor, yet essentially nihilistic. A movement that would rather destroy its own societes, whether in Iraq, Lebanon, or the Palestinian territories, than allow its rivals to build them up and live in peace and prosperity. A movement that has a devastating advantage over its enemies because it has no moral constraints, while those whom it attacks are shackled by world opinion and by their own consciences.  Islamism: The real danger - continued

Cross posted: Middle East Analysis; Israel News

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THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN: Behind the Masks

Friedman wrote:

Think of how relieved you'd be to be captured in war by someone in a uniform and how frightened you'd be to be captured by someone in a mask.

Actually, I would be more relieved not to be captured. Israeli POWs in Syria were routinely tortued and even in the best case, they were generally neglected and maltreated. (see Pilots' Ward ).  Some died in captivity.

But yes, there are going to be a lot more wars of guys in jeans versus guys in uniform, at least until the rules of war penalize the guys in jeans and masks for war crimes in the same way as they penalize the guys in uniform. The barbaric Hamas actions in Gaza are, in a way, history's revenge on the Fateh and PLO, movements who did more than anyone else to legitimize such "resistance" (terrorism) as an instrument of policy. They have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind.

Ami Isseroff

Behind the Masks


New York Times
 June 20, 2007

Every war has THE picture that captures its essence, and the Palestinian civil war in Gaza is no exception. My nominee would be the photograph of a Hamas fighter in Gaza, lounging in a senior Fatah official's office over which he has just taken control. The masked Hamas fighter in jeans is relaxing in an ornate chair, holding a rifle in one hand and speaking — through the opening in his mask — on a telephone in the other. It has the weird feel of a Gap ad for Halloween.

 In his essay on this page yesterday, Fouad Ajami described the two sides of the Palestinian civil war as "the masked men of Fatah" and "masked men of Hamas." Indeed, the fact that masks were worn by the fighters on both sides is one of the unique things about this civil war — and it raises, for me, two questions. First, why were both the Hamas and Fatah fighters wearing ski masks? And two, where do you buy a ski mask in Gaza?

Oscar Wilde said: "Give a man a mask and he'll tell you the truth." So what truth does it tell us when fighters on both sides in this civil war (and in Iraq's) are wearing masks?

The first answer is habit. Hamas fighters always wore masks when confronting Israel, so that Israel could not identify them for retribution. On June 16, though, Reuters quoted a Hamas spokesman as saying masks should not be worn in the intra-Palestinian war. "Wearing masks should only be near the borders and in fighting the Zionist enemy, not in the streets and near people's homes," said Khaled Abu Hilal.
But certain habits, especially bad ones, die hard — and they can end up warping your own society as much as your enemy's. You can see what's happened here: If it's O.K. to wear masks when confronting the Jews, it eventually becomes O.K. to wear masks when confronting other Palestinians. If it becomes O.K. to use suicide bombers against the Jews, it eventually becomes O.K. to use suicide bombers against other Muslims. What goes around comes around.

Beyond old habits, though, there is also some new shame. These masks are worn by fighters who not only wish to shield themselves from Israel's gaze, but also from the gaze of their parents, friends and neighbors.

After generations of Arabs highlighting the justice and nobility of the Palestinian struggle for statehood, there was surely an element of shame that Palestinian brothers were killing brothers, throwing each other off rooftops, dragging each other from hospital beds and generally ripping apart Palestinian society in a naked power struggle. There was nothing noble about this fight, which is why, I would guess, many wanted to wear masks. The mask both protects you against shame and liberates you to kill your brothers — and their children.

Putting on a mask is also a way to gain power and enhance masculinity. People in black masks are always more frightening — not only physically, but because their sheer anonymity suggests that they answer to no one and no laws. In our society, it's usually only burglars, rapists or Ku Klux Klansmen who wear masks — either to terrorize others or make it easier to break the law. The mask literally says: "I don't play by the rules. Be afraid, be very afraid."

Think of how relieved you'd be to be captured in war by someone in a uniform and how frightened you'd be to be captured by someone in a mask. But given the breakdown in society we see in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian areas, that may be a luxury. Wars against masked men and gangs — whose true identities, agendas, rules and aspirations are never clear — will be the norm.

"These masks are the uniforms of the new armies of the 21st century and the new kind of violence," which in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza "no longer distinguishes between war against the stranger and war against members of your own society," argued political theorist Yaron Ezrahi. "Just as this new violence doesn't have a front, it doesn't have a face. It doesn't have boundaries."

That is why these masks announce one more thing: These young men do not report to anyone above them. They have no ranks. No leader can ever be sure of their allegiance. Every masked man is a general, and every militia is a cross between a self-funded criminal gang and a modern army.

Get used to it. In today's environment, where the big divide is between the world of order and the world of disorder, you can expect to see a lot more confrontations between armies in uniforms and helmets and armies in blue jeans and masks.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Yossi Sarid on the UNISON and other UK Israel Boycott initiatives.

Dovish socialist Yossi Sarid discusses the UK Israel boycotts. Isn't it strange that they single out Israel, rather than boycotting themselves??
By Yossi Sarid

UNISON, the trade union that represents 1.3 million workers in the United Kingdom, decided yesterday to impose an economic and cultural boycott on Israel. Britain's National Union of Journalists made a similar decision in April, and the University and College Union decided to recommend that its 120,000 members boycott our institutions of higher education.
One can understand the boycotters: Israel, through 40 years of occupation, has inspired loathing not only in its detractors, but also in its well-wishers; it has disgusted not only its friends abroad, but also many of its citizens.
And yet, despite all the explanations, I cannot quite figure out why the do-gooders insist on assailing only the bastards who fall under the rubric of the Torah, and not those whose banner is the Koran or the New Testament. Sometimes I just have to view the selective assault on Israel as nothing but a lousy joke, even if the English are known for a more refined sense of humor. You make me laugh.
And they are not the only ones arousing laughter and scorn: The Anti-Defamation League was also quite pathetic this week, with the huge ads it published in newspapers around the world. Like me, the ADL honchos are complaining bitterly about the boycott. Unlike me, they choose to cite examples such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran and Venezuela - pariah states that, unlike Israel, were not repudiated. The brief list that appears in the ads is odd on one hand and even odder on the other. Was the newspaper space too short for the list to go on?
The ADL, which sought to help Israel, actually hurt it by tying its name to those of the worst countries of all. If Israel is to be exonerated only in comparison to Iran and Sudan, then woe is us. Where have countries like China, which executes people for the purpose of trafficking in their organs, still maintains labor camps that resemble concentration camps and abducts children for forced labor, suddenly gone?
And what of Russia, which suppresses any display of opposition, and where Vladimir Putin appears to envy the Romanov dynasty and its Bolshevik successors? And where has Pakistan gone - a country where a general rules with an iron fist, gives orders to shoot demonstrators, tosses hundreds of opponents of his regime into prison and deposes a Supreme Court president who refuses to bow to his authority?
Could it be that this blacklist was shortened out of self-censorship? Is it more comfortable to stock the showcase of despicability with leaders whom the Western world - rightly - loves to hate than with despicable leaders with whom the West wants to curry favor for reasons having to do with oil and profits and other such necessities? And whatever happened to darling Saudi Arabia?
The ADL and the British academics have also forgotten two other countries, which over the past four years have harmed human rights and been involved in war crimes more than any others. Ladies and gentlemen, you have totally forgotten about the United States and the United Kingdom.
These upstanding nations have felled hundreds of thousands of victims in Iraq and Afghanistan; they have turned four million people into refugees who are now knocking on their locked gates; they have made suspects vanish, of whom some were dispatched to shadowy countries to be interrogated and tortured while others were sent to Guantanamo, and this week, American judges - even military judges - ruled that these were offenses that the American constitution cannot tolerate.
Granted, the Bush-Cheney administration is the one leading this black flag brigade, but the poodle follows after the bulldog. And up to now, there have been no initiatives to boycott American products or American universities. The distinguished British professors would have done well to have first disavowed any contact with their colleagues across the Atlantic; after all, America and not Israel is the leader of the Free World. It sets the example. Others watch it and follow its lead.
But why even cross the ocean, if the learned academics already live and work in a country that is a partner in crime to its bigger ally? Those who are busying themselves with boycotts and ostracism would have acted more rationally and fairly if they had first boycotted the products of their own country. If they had boycotted the institutions of higher education that employ them. If they had boycotted themselves.

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Palestinians rescued by Israe describe Hamas brutality, blame Israel

The persistence with which Palestinians continue to blame the Jews for all their problems, even after they have been rescued from certain death by Israel, is fascinating:
"I wanted to shoot myself for voting Hamas," another patient said. He came with his brother, who had been shot in the head while evacuating wounded people in his taxi. "We really believed Hamas would change things," he said...
"Hamas is no different from Bush. Israel is also to blame. Israel starved us, wouldn't let Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] display any achievements or force, while Hamas kept getting stronger."

Israel could have stopped Hamas' attacks on Fatah's offices, but it didn't, he added.
Of course, if Israel had intervened, everyone would have shot at the Israelis.
Ami Isseroff
By Fadi Eyadat and Mijal Grinberg

Fatan al-Hinawi, 9, was hospitalized in the children's ward of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv after being wounded in Gaza. A bullet punctured her side, hit her spine, bowels, a kidney and came out the other side, hitting her arm.

Al-Hinawi is one of five Palestinians, three of them children, who were caught in Hamas-Fatah cross fire and taken to Ichilov. Some are in serious condition.

Shadi, a 23-year-old policemen, is one of them. He was attacked by Hamas gunmen a week ago. "There were five of them. They stood over me and shot my legs from the knee down. One of them put his Kalashnikov to my head. Instinctively I moved the barrel aside and the bullet hit my hand," Shadi told Haaretz yesterday. He arrived at Ichilov with one leg amputated and the other leg crushed.

"I wanted to shoot myself for voting Hamas," another patient said. He came with his brother, who had been shot in the head while evacuating wounded people in his taxi. "We really believed Hamas would change things," he said.

"Hamas has money and weapons for the next 20 years. All the youngsters want to join it, it offers good wages, not what we get from the Palestinian Authority," he said.

"Hamas is no different from Bush. Israel is also to blame. Israel starved us, wouldn't let Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] display any achievements or force, while Hamas kept getting stronger."

Israel could have stopped Hamas' attacks on Fatah's offices, but it didn't, he added.

Later yesterday, Zecharia Alrai, 39, an officer in Fatah's elite Force 17 commando unit, arrived. He had been abducted by four Hamas gunmen a week ago. They loaded him into a jeep and drove him to an isolated spot, where they shot three bullets into his leg and dumped him.

"That's not Islam. That's evil and hypocrisy. How ironic that Israel is rescuing us from our Muslim 'brothers,'" he said.

Meanwhile, Russian citizen Elvira Mahana crossed the border from Gaza to Israel with her three children. Her husband, a Palestinian she met in Russia, was not with them. Russian and Ukrainian families were being evacuated from Gaza by their embassies and sent home via Jordan. Mahana said she hoped her husband would escape via Rafah to Russia.

"This is no time for love," a Russian embassy official at the Erez crossing said yesterday. Several families had to separate, either because the husband did not have Russian citizenship, as in Mahana's case, or because Israel would not let all the men cross the border, citing security reasons, the Russian officials said.

Meanwhile, medical rescue teams were preparing to evacuate more wounded. At the Erez vehicle crossing, a Palestinian worker took a stretcher from the Israelis and brought it to a patient, who underwent a security check before being taken across the border.

"Many are trying to flee Gaza," a Gaza policeman who had been hospitalized in Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital told Haaretz yesterday. "I reached Erez, but they weren't letting anyone cross, even those who had permits. The soldiers told us to move back, firing at the ground," he said.

Then Hamas gunmen started firing into the crowd. Israeli soldiers fired back, with hundreds of Palestinians caught in the middle.

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Russia, South Africa, Qatar and Indonesia block Abbas, back Hamas in UN

Russia, South Africa, Qatar and Indonesia back Hamas in UN
[New York, Israel News, June 22] Russia, South Africa, Qatar and Indonesia have blocked support for the Palestinian government  of Mahmud Abbas, prefering instead to support the Islamist coup in Gaza. The opposition came in the face of open backing by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's office for the new Palestinian emergency government and its call for recognized the authority of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
The countries blocked a U.S. initiative for a Security Council declaration of confidence in the Palestinian emergency government on Wednesday, June 20.  
Michael Williams, the secretary general's Middle East envoy, supported the the Palestinian emergency government of PM Salam Fayad at a briefing on the Middle East for Security Council members Wednesday.   Williams asserted that despite events, Gaza and the West Bank was still a single Palestinian territory, legally ruled by the PA under Abbas's leadership. As Abbas has set up the emergency government headed by Fayad, he insisted, Israel and the international community must provide immediate political and financial aid to Abbas and the new government, including transfer of the Palestinian tax money that Israel has been withholding.
The United States, Britain and France, want to garner Security Council support for an international front supporting Abbas, which also includes the European Union and major Arab states. The American proposed  resolution also included a denunciation of the violence in the Gaza Strip.
However, the U.S. was forced to withdraw its proposal even before it reached the draft stage, due to strong objections from Russia, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar.
According to UN sources in New York, these countries  object to the anti-Hamas policy and to American and European efforts to isolate the group as a terror organization. Russia and South Africa have questioned the legitimacy of the Palestinian emergency government arguing that a Palestinian unity government is possible and preferable to the emergency government headed by Fayad, which has authority in the West Bank only.
The South African ambassador claimed that the international community, especially the U.S., Israel and the Quartet, are to blame for the situation in the Gaza Strip. This is the same accusation as was made in the leaked end of mission statement of former U.N. diplomat Alavaro De Soto. The Indonesian ambassador complained that the Security Council was devoting time and energy to discussions of Lebanon but ignoring the Palestinian problem.
The Palestinian observer to the UN likewise objected to a declaration of support for the emergency government. He argued that such a declaration would constitute intervention in the PA's internal affairs.

Continued (Permanent Link)

US House of representatives gesture tries to penalize Egypt for smuggling, rights abuses

US House of representatives penalizes Egypt for smuggling and rights abuses

[Washington DC Israel News] The Untied States House of Representatives voted Friday, June 22,  to withhold $200 million in military funding for Egypt until the Egyptian government demonstrates serious efforts to end weapons-smuggling from Egypt to the Gaza Strip and ends human rights abuses.
The $34.2 billion foreign aid bill, for tfiscal year 2008, was passed by a vote of 241-178. The Senate has not yet taken up the bill.
Egypt gets some $2 billion in annual military aid, though it faces no immediate military threat, and is desperate need of investment in infrastructure, education and health projects for its population of nearly 80 million. Massive U.S. aid to Egypt began following the peace accord concluded between Israel and Egypt in 1981. The Mubarak regime, like other Arab regimes, does not allow meaningful elections, denies rights to the large Coptic Christian minority, persecutes homosexuals and jails opponents for political offences. Use of torture is routine, and deaths in custody are not infrequent. Criticism of the regime can result in jail sentences. Despite the massive aid, Egyptian media regularly disseminate scathing critiques of U.S. imperialism. Violating the peace agreement with Israel, Egyptian media also popularize classical anti-Semitic myths including the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which were presented as fact in the Egyptian documentary Knight Without a Horse and the blood libel. On the other hand, the alternative to the relatively enlightened regime of Hosni Mubarak would likely be the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, of which the Hamas is an off shoot. Independents allied with the Muslim Brotherhood won a majority of the seat allocated to opposition parties in the last elections, and secular opposition to Mubarak's ruling party has virtually disintegrated.
The House gesture may have little practical effect, since US foreign policy is generally controlled by the executive. Unless the White House supports the police of sanctioning Egypt, the cuts will be restored in the final version of the bill.
The House bill also stipulates again that no U.S. funds can be channeled to Hamas.
On Monday, the United States ended an aid embargo on the Palestinian government. This was aimed at  bolstering Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, while isolating Hamas Islamists, who have taken over Gaza.
The bill also bars U.S. diplomatic operations in Libya until Tripoli pays off families of those killed in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. While it denies Bush's request for more economic aid to Iraq, the bill allocates $1 million to finance a second Iraq Study Group evaluation of the country, where U.S. forces have been fighting since 2003. The first ISG evaluation produced almost no concrete data whatever, and echoed various shibolleths of the U.S. foreign policy establishment.
Earlier this week, U.S. President George W. Bush announced after meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the United States would increase its military assistance to Israel to ensure its "qualitative military edge" and sign a new agreement securing American aid to the country for the next decade. The aid package will be negotiated next month. Presumably, actual implementation of the promises will depend on Israeli compliance with U.S. policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians.
Olmert told the president that an announcement on the increase in aid would be an expression of American support for Israel against the growing threats to its existence in the region.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel pride parade

The gay pride parade in Jerusalem turned into an Israeli pride parade. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where this parade could be held. Queers for Palestine should consider what would happen if they held such a parade in Gaza City.
Ami Isseroff
By Bradley Burston

JERUSALEM - I'm proud of the State of Israel. It may have more faults per capita than any nation in the world, faults which are duly broadcast, rerun, critiqued, and condemned as nowhere else. It may have more critics per capita than anywhere else in the world, in particular among its majority population of restive, instinctively kvetching, eternally disappointed Jews.
I know every criticism by heart. I'll see your every damning denunciation, and raise you 10. But I am proud of this country, and the gay pride parade in Jerusalem goes a long way toward explaining why.
I am proud of a country which - under the burden of a 24/7 threat of Islamic Jihad terrorism, under a daily Hamas barrage of Qassam missiles on a small town in the Negev, under an explicit Iranian threat of erasure in the future and client militia brushfire wars in the near present - deploys 8,000 police, nearly half of its entire active-duty force, to protect a parade in Jerusalem by a minority group that is routinely denigrated by many members of two of the holy city's largest and most vocal communities: the ultra-Orthodox and the Palestinians.
I am proud of the gay community, which made strenuous efforts to assure that the parade would be held in areas far from the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and other areas where the march would serve to offend residents.
I am proud of the police for standing up to yeshiva students who, screaming "Nazis! Nazis! Nazis!" at the officers, pelted them with rocks, bottles, angle iron and Molotov cocktails, all the while breaking windows, smashing streetlights, and setting fire to tires and garbage dumpsters.
I am proud of ultra-Orthodox rabbis and yeshiva masters, who, though appalled by the parade and what they see as the abomination of homosexuality, publicly and unequivocally forbade their students from taking part in violent demonstrations.
I am proud of a country that scorns the slimy Meir Kahane disciple Itamar Ben-Gvir when he screams at gay celebrants in a Tel Aviv parade "the Nazis should have finished you off."
I am proud of the policeman on King David Street who, when asked by a passing pre-schooler about the flag with the rainbow colors, replied, "There are boys who love boys, and girls who love girls."
I am proud of a country in which the army's influential radio station airs the views of the daughter of the prime minister when she states that the right of gays and lesbians to march in their capital city is as inherent as their right to vote.
Just as I am proud of Israel's last Eurovision song contest winner, an acclaimed diva who began life as a man, who told a television interviewer why she believed that in the interest of respect for the holy city, the parade should not be held there.
And I am proud, as well, of the fact that Israel Television gave air time to a rabbi to explain his strong opposition to the march, and to the woman anchor who, asked by the rabbi what she would do if her son told her she was gay, said that she would hold him and be grateful for his openness.
There are many who argue that a Jewish country cannot countenance a public celebration of homosexuality. It is time for them to take the advice of leading rabbis, who placed this announcement in the Lithuanian Haredi newspaper, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post:
"Demonstrating should be done by each person in his place [by feeling outrage in the soul, by praying and beseeching (God) against the loathsome blasphemy]."
All of us who live here have our personal list of obscenities, perversions and abominations, as committed by our fellow Jewish residents of Israel. We may find their actions politically abhorrent, culturally unbearable, spiritually bankrupt, personally offensive.
They are a big part of the price of living in this country, riven along fault lines dividing and enraging left and right, secular and religious, Mizrachi and Ashkenazi, sabra and immigrant.
It may be the built-in flaw of a Jewish homeland, this infighting among the Jews it has brought home.
But as the gay pride parade proves, the most profound strength of a Jewish country are those Jews who strive to learn to live with the Jews with whom they so profoundly differ.
We're here. By definition, we are all of us, each in our own ways, queer. We should, all of us for our own reasons, be proud.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

High hopes for Cairo Summit of Palestinians and Israelis

We certainly hope for the best, but are these hopes realistic?
PM: Egypt summit could pave way for new beginning between Israel, PA
By Aluf Benn, Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents Last
update - 23:29 21/06/2007

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday a planned summit in Egypt involving Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian leaders could lead to a new beginning in bilateral relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Speaking at a United Israel Appeal fundraising event in Haifa late Thursday, Olmert said the purpose of the summit was to "jointly work to create a platform that may lead into a new beginning between us and the Palestinians."

He said U.S. President George W. Bush hopes to fulfill his goal of creating a Palestinian state before he leaves office in early 2009.

Egypt said Thursday the summit would aim to boost Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as the U.S. ally moved to isolate the Hamas militant group after its takeover of Gaza.

A day after Monday's summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is to hold talks with Saudi King Abdullah, aiming to unify a bloc of Arab nations in support of Abbas and against Hamas.

Beyond looking to keep the peace process going after the stunning events in Gaza, Egypt and other Arab countries fear the impact of radicals' control, which could give a boost to Islamic opposition groups on their own soil.

Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have already announced that the West Bank-based cabinet set up by Abbas is the sole legitimate Palestinian government. After Hamas' Gaza takeover, Egypt withdrew its mediators from Gaza, provided refuge to fleeing Fatah security personnel and moved its embassy from Gaza to the West Bank.

Meanwhile Thursday, a top official from Egypt's ruling National Democratic party said Egypt will do its best to curb attempts to establish an Islamic state in Gaza.

"Its not in Egypt's interests [to permit] the presence of a religious state on its borders, and it will do its best to end such a presence," Ali Eldin Helal, head of the media secretariat in the NDP said Thursday.

Mubarak has invited Olmert, Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah II to attend a summit in Egypt early next week.

The regional summit is scheduled to take place at the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, and aims to give a push to the Palestinians' relations with Israel, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Thursday.

David Baker, a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office, confirmed Thursday that there will be a summit in Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday, saying the purpose of the summit will be to strengthen moderates and to further the Israeli-Palestinian agenda.

The summit follows a violent Hamas takeover in the Gaza Strip last week and the establishment of an emergency government in Ramallah over the weekend.

Senior Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo said Thursday that the Palestinians would demand concrete results from the gathering, and warned that if it ended without results, it would do more harm than good.

Saeb Erekat, another senior Abbas adviser, said Thursday that the PA chairman would call for a resumption of peace talks with Israel at the summit, arguing that only progress toward Palestinian statehood can serve as a true buffer against Hamas.

"The most important thing to realize is that time is of the essence," Erekat said. "We need to deliver the end of occupation, a Palestinian state. If we don't have hope, Hamas will export despair to the people."

As immediate steps, Erekat said, Abbas will ask Israel to remove West Bank checkpoints that disrupt daily life and trade, and to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian tax funds Israel froze after Hamas came to power last year.

Olmert reached an understanding with United States President George W. Bush during his visit to Washington on Tuesday that it is necessary to support Abbas, a senior political source in Jerusalem said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, for the first time since the new Palestinian government was established, senior level contacts between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were initiated on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni spoke Wednesday on the telephone with Salam Fayyad, the PA prime minister, and discussed the implications of the Hamas takeover in the Gaza Strip.

In his first address to the Palestinian people since the Hamas takeover of Gaza, Abbas went on the offensive Wednesday and angrily lashed out at the Islamic militants, accusing them of trying to build an empire of darkness in the Strip and pledging he would not talk to murderous terrorists.

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IAF, USAF dramatically upgrade cooperation status

This agreement is significant in showing that that there was no such information sharing until now. It will be important only to the extent that U.S. strategic needs really match those of Israel.
The article states:
The IAF is also considering sending its younger Hercules planes to Boeing Co. for an upgrade under the company's C-130 Avionics Modernization Program. In September, Boeing announced the first flight of a C-130 aircraft that had had its cockpit gutted and revamped to improve navigation and communication.
At one time, Israel was doing this work for itself in Beit Shemesh and bidding for such work abroad as well.
The article states:
The newest version of the Hercules, the J model is externally similar to the classic Hercules, but inside it is a different aircraft and includes new Rolls-Royce Allison AE21000 turboprops with six-bladed composite propellers and digital avionics, including heads-up displays for the pilots.
Israel pioneered advanced heads up displays in the 1980s. These were developed by El-Op, and were superior to anything the Americans had. However, there was no funding to productize them, and the Americans were interested in selling their own displays. So Israel became dependent on the Americans. In the same period, Israel cancelled the Lavie program, which was giving Israel know-how in building airframes and advanced fly-by-wire avionics, which were the heart of the Lavie and would have put Israel in the forefront of aviation technology. The Lavie program would have cost about $300 million a year. Far more is spent on supporting Yeshiva students each year.
Ami Isseroff
IAF, USAF dramatically upgrade cooperation status
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Jun. 21, 2007
The Israel Air Force has significantly upgraded the level of its cooperation with the United States Air Force and now receives regular updates on American procurement decisions, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

An agreement on the cooperation was reached at meetings last month between head of IAF Procurement and Equipment Brig.-Gen. Dr. Kobi Bortman and senior USAF officers in Washington and Dayton, Ohio.

Bortman, an expert on aircraft structural engineering with a doctorate from George Washington University in St. Louis, gave the Americans a demonstration of the IAF's Enterprise Resources Planning system. The system serves as a single database for both manpower and inventory lists and enables cost-effective maintenance of supplies and other resources.

The USAF, which briefed Bortman on its own new cost-saving system for keeping track of inventory, decided following the meeting to establish its own Enterprise Resources Planning database.

"We are interested in many of the same platforms and systems, and the Americans look at us as a small-scale laboratory of themselves," a high-ranking IAF officer told the Post. "Now every time the USAF signs a contract and purchases something new, they will update us."

The updates will only be given to Israel, the officer said, when America purchases a system or platform related to the IAF. An American delegation will come to Israel to meet with Bortman again toward the end of the year.

One issue of common interest for the IAF and USAF is the "J" model of Lockheed Martin's C-130 Hercules transport plane. Israel is considering purchasing the new model for its 40-year-old fleet of transport aircraft and in March submitted a Request for Information to Lockheed Martin to receive details on the J model's cost and performance.

India, Norway and Canada recently signed contracts to purchase the new aircraft.

The newest version of the Hercules, the J model is externally similar to the classic Hercules, but inside it is a different aircraft and includes new Rolls-Royce Allison AE21000 turboprops with six-bladed composite propellers and digital avionics, including heads-up displays for the pilots.

According to a top IAF officer, Israel would like to buy the new aircraft but is waiting to receive a price offer from Lockheed before it begins negotiations. The decision to buy the aircraft is also pending a decision in the General Staff.

The IAF is also considering sending its younger Hercules planes to Boeing Co. for an upgrade under the company's C-130 Avionics Modernization Program. In September, Boeing announced the first flight of a C-130 aircraft that had had its cockpit gutted and revamped to improve navigation and communication.

Continued (Permanent Link)

A real progressive view of the UNISON boycott of Israel

The UNISON trade union confederation has voted to boycott Israel until Israel withdraws from occupied territory and allows return of Palestinian refugees. Of course, this would result in destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.
The boycott motion is apparently a sham, however, as we learn from this article:
...Helen Jenner, speaking for the union Executive recommendation, stated that she did not interpret the motion as mandating Unison itself to operate a boycott (and so it committed the union to nothing practical at all).
The article goes on to note:
... Unison and other unions should be mobilising members on demonstrations, pickets, solidarity contingents, and speaking tours, on the clear basis of the union's own declared policy of "two states".
Not wishy-washy even-handedness, but not backhanded support for Hamas or denial of the Israeli Jews' right to a state, either.
It is becoming obvious even to progressives, that the boycotters are anti-peace, pro-Hamas folks who are interesting in making propaganda for destroying Israel, not in helping Palestinians and not in a two state solution. This is not a Zionist or pro-Israel view of the boycotts. Workers Liberty, which published this article, is a progressive union group.
Ami Isseroff
On Wednesday 20 June, the conference of the public services union Unison voted about three to one to endorse an "economic, cultural, academic, and sporting boycott of Israel".
That we won a quarter of the conference against the boycott, from a standing start - the union's Executive unanimously endorsed the boycott motion, and the Unison United Left backed it too - was an achievement.
Still, the boycotters got away with presenting themselves as the people proposing something practical to help the Palestinians - though Helen Jenner, speaking for the union Executive recommendation, stated that she did not interpret the motion as mandating Unison itself to operate a boycott (and so it committed the union to nothing practical at all).
They got away with presenting themselves as the people calling for effective pressure to win the Palestinians the right to a state of their own - though one of the speakers for the motion, from Birmingham Unison, explicitly endorsed Hamas. (Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas ex-prime-minister, told the Guardian on 18 June that "we want the creation of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, that is Gaza and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital" - but there is really no reason to suppose that this is other than a negotiating stance on the way to the declared aim of Hamas, "to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine").
With just a few short speeches on each side, I'm not sure how clearly the fact came across to the majority of delegates that the gist of the motion was not to commit Unison to anything, but to give licence and encouragement to the ardent boycotters, the sort of "smash Israel" enthusiasts who picket Marks and Spencers and who in the 1980s banned student Jewish societies that would not formally condemn "Zionism".
None of the five anti-boycott speakers - Anita Downs (AWL) from Guy's and St Thomas's; Dave Bennett from Bristol Unison (ex-SWP, and now associated with Engage; Stephen Lintott from Peterborough; Garry Freeman (SP) from Nottingham; and a Devon delegate of Israeli origin - endorsed Israeli government policy in any way; all of them explicitly supported the Palestinians' right to a state of their own; some, like Anita, explicitly declared their condemnation of Israeli government policies. They said that the boycott would cut against all hopes of Jewish-Arab working-class unity and chime in with the tradition of previous anti-Jewish boycotts.
Nevertheless, and despite their own contradictions, the boycotters evidently got away with depicting the anti-boycotters as wishy-washy, artificially even-handed, or people who valued abstractions of working-class unity, or such ineffectual things as Unison's official links with the Israeli trade unions, above practical action to help the Palestinians.
One of the pro-boycott speakers, Caroline Bedale from Manchester, is a well-known (non-SWP) leftist in Unison. She declared that her interpretation of the boycott would allow continued links with "progressives" in Israel, without saying who would decide, and how, which Israeli Jews are "progressive" and thus win exemption from the general rule that Israelis are to be shunned.
Generally the active pro-boycott left in Unison, the SWP/ Respect, kept a low profile on this issue, letting others speak, some of whom could say sincerely that they support "two states".
I would guess that the pro-boycott speakers, other than Helen Jenner, were broadly speaking leftists, but only because of their style and manner, not because they said anything about socialism, the working class, democracy, or even imperialism. This was the soft-sell, not the "Zionism-is-imperialism" hard-sell (though it is the latter that will inform the active boycotters).
Stalinoid influence in Unison would have had something to do with it, too. The debate immediately before the boycott one saw a motion on Cuba, uncritically supporting the Cuban government, passed with only a handful of votes against. The CPB (Morning Star) put out a leaflet supporting the boycott and specifically advocating it include a boycott of the Israeli trade unions.
Unison nominally endorsed the "Enough"/ Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstration on 9 June. It mobilised hardly any members for it. Unsurprising: it is - and rightly so - impossible to recruit any number of democratic-minded working-class people to the slippery slogans and pro-Hamas tone of that demonstration (its high point was a video-cast of Ismail Haniyeh, in which he declared "two states" was not a possibility).
And, of course, if the Israeli Right can "show" Israelis that all the active critics of Israeli government policy are supporters of Hamas, then the Right will prevail in Israel.
The motion does nothing to break that vicious circle. On the contrary, it makes it worse. It signifies Unison doing "solidarity with the Palestinians" without committing itself to any action. Instead, it has licensed, and "contracted out" solidarity to, the ardent "smash Israel" boycotters - while preserving "deniability" for itself.
Solidarity should be brought back "in house"! Unison and other unions should be mobilising members on demonstrations, pickets, solidarity contingents, and speaking tours, on the clear basis of the union's own declared policy of "two states".
Not wishy-washy even-handedness, but not backhanded support for Hamas or denial of the Israeli Jews' right to a state, either.
The job now is to put this clear solidarity message on the agenda in Unison and other unions, and stop the boycotters setting the terms of debate.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF SPOX: A summary of IDF humanitarian activity in the Gaza Strip throughout the day

Remember this when you read that Israel is "choking" Gaza. The reason that Gaza port is closed and that more terminals are not open, is that Palestinians refuse to allow Israeli inspections of cargos entering Gaza.
Ami Isseroff

June 21st, 2007

A summary of IDF humanitarian activity in the Gaza Strip throughout the day

Despite the volatile security situation in the Gaza Strip, the IDF is continuing its efforts to provide a response to humanitarian needs in the Gaza Strip. Throughout the day the following humanitarian aid was transferred from Israel into Gaza with the coordination of the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison Office:

Over 400 tons of food products were transferred via the Kerem Shalom crossing: 130 tons flour, 49 tons rice, 49 tons sugar, 5 tons tea, 8 tons milk powder, 33 tons crushed lentils, 19.7 tons lentils, 30 tons margarine, 18.5 tons barley, 34 tons macaroni, 20 tons beans, 15 tons humus and 2 tons soup.

7 tons of disinfectants were also transferred through the crossing.

160,000 liters of diesel fuel, 40,000 liters of gasoline and 40 tons of gas were transferred via the Nahal Oz fuel terminal.

8 injured Palestinians were transferred from Gaza hospitals to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment.

Overnight, Palestinians at the Erez crossing interested in crossing over to Egypt were assisted to do so.

Approximately 100 Palestinians with dual citizenships crossed into Israel through the Erez crossing.

2 Red Cross surgeons passed into the Gaza Strip through Erez in order to assist hospitals in the region.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

What is in a poll? Will Barak lose his shine?

Poll: Likud will win next elections  reads the headline. But the same polls predicted that Ami Ayalon would head the Labor party. A lot depends on what happens in the next few months. If Barak proves himself as defense minister, it will be quite different then if Israel suffers another setback as it did last summer.
If Israel suffers a military setback, Barak will lose his shine (="Barak" in Hebrew) as "Israel's most decorated soldier." If Barak manages to demonstrate competence, he will beat Benjamin Netanyahu, who is not trusted, and who will annoy the American government.
Ami Isseroff
Poll: Likud will win next elections

New opinion poll predicts Likud will win if elections held today with a
majority of 29 seats, followed by Labor with 18
YNET Published: 06.21.07, 10:01 / Israel News

Should Israel hold general elections today the Likud Party would emerge as the winner with 29 seats in parliament, followed by Labor with 18, a new poll has showed.

An opinion poll held before Ehud Barak's election as Labor leader predicted the left-leaning party would win 16 seats under the former prime minister's leadership.

The new poll also suggested that support for the Likud Party shrank from 30-34 to 29 seats after Barak's election as Labor head on June 12.

The ruling Kadima party is set to be the biggest loser if elections were held today as the poll predicts Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's party to win eight seats, a sharp drop from the 21 seats it currently holds.

Some 20 percent of respondents who voted for Kadima in last year's elections said they would shift allegiance to Likud and 10 percent to Labor, while a third said they remain undecided.

The dovish Meretz Party would drop from five to four seats, the poll found.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syria wants to "renew" negotiations

According to the report :
Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Moallem reiterated his country's interest in renewing peace talks with Israel without preconditions, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper reported Wednesday.
The only problem is that there were never any direct peace talks with Israel at all. There were only talks mediated through the United States. The Syrian agenda is to extort US cooperation with their regime with a gimmick of peace talks.
Ami Isseroff

Syrian foreign minister says Damascus is ready to renew peace talks with Israel without preconditions, al-Hayat newspaper reports
Roee Nahmias Published:  06.21.07, 10:36 / Israel News

Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Moallem reiterated his country's interest in renewing peace talks with Israel without preconditions, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper reported Wednesday.

"Syria is more than ready to renew peace talks with Israel, without preconditions by either side," Moallem was quoted as telling a senior European diplomat.Changed Atmosphere
Moallem also said that Israel would find in Syria a serious "peace partner" should it chose to revive peace talks with Damascus.
Israel shunned repeated peace overtures by Syria in recent years, calling on Damascus to stop supporting Hizbullah and Hamas and to sever its ties with Iran to prove it is serious about peace.
The paper quoted Moallem as saying the his country expects the newly appointed Defense Minister Ehud Barak to press Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to renew peace talks with Syria.

"With Barak we will not start from zero because he is familiar with the details of draft agreements," said an Israeli expert, referring to the failed peace negotiations between Syria and Israel in 2000.
US President George W. Bush said Tuesday during a press conference with Olmert at the White House that Israel did not need Washington's approval to talk peace with Syria.
Olmert dismissed the allegations that the US was holding Israel back from negotiations with Syria: ''The United States never came to us with a demand not to have negotiations with the Syrians, and we never thought to ask permission,'' he said, adding that if the situation develops and allows for negotiations – negotiations will be held.
Olmert said he doubted the lack of negotiations would lead to immediate conflict with Syria. ''I believe that a war will not break out. We are not interested in it and I believe the Syrians are not interested in it. Certain statements can sometimes lead to miscalculations and we need to be wary of that," he said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians support Abbas and Fateh

NEC's monthly bulletin on Palestinian perceptions towards politics and economics
Special Focus: Palestinian Internal Crisis
June 2007
Please contact:
Jamil Rabah
Near East Consulting
HSBC Building, 3rd floor
Tel: 02-2961436
Fax: 02-2963114

This latest survey was conducted by telephone between the 15th and 17th of
June, 2007, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.4%, with a 95% confidence
level. The results of this survey and the other earlier surveys, along with
accompanying bulletins, are available online from the NEC's web site. Visit
us at

[excerpts edited by IMRA]

Figure 3: Main reasons of concern
7% The economic hardship of my household
24% The absence of security for me and my family
55% The internal power struggle
4% Hamas in power
1% Fateh in opposition
1% The Israeli occupation in general
1% Family problems
1% I have no concern

Figure 4: Will the crisis spread to reach the West bank
Yes 55% No 45%

Figure 5: Will the crisis lead to separation between the West Bank and Gaza
Yes 60% No 40%

Figure 6: The likelihood of a civil war
very likely 32% likely 32%
unlikely 30% very unlikely 5%

Figure 7: Factions blamed for the recent clashes in the Gaza Strip
Mainly Hamas 28%  Mainly Fateh 22% I blame both equally 50%

Figure 8: Leader Palestinians trust most
West Bank Abu Mazen 73% Ismael Hanieh 27%
Gaza Strip Abu Mazen 50% Ismael Hanieh 50%
Poverty line Below poverty 61% 39%

Figure 9: Has the time come for Abu Mazen to resign?
Yes 36% No 64%

Table 10: Level of support for the peace process region of residence
I support/oppose  a peace settlement with Israel.
West Bank  support 61% oppose 39%
Gaza Strip support 66% oppose  34%

Table 11: Attitude towards Hamas's position on the existence of Israel by
Should Hamas maintain its position on the elimination of Israel?
West Bank Yes 29% No 71%
Gaza Strip Yes 43% No 57%

Figure 12: Are external powers involved in the internal conflict?
Yes 82% No 18%

Figure 13: Country believed to have a role in agitating the crisis
22% Iran
9% Syria
5% Egypt
7% Egypt
2% Gulf States
9% The US/Western Countries
46% Mainly Israel

Table 13: Attitude towards Abu Mazen's call for an emergency government
Do you support the decision of president Abbas to declare a state of
emergency and to dissolve the government?
West Bank support 59% oppose 41%
Gaza Strip support 49% oppose 51%

Table 14: If you oppose the decision, what should Abu Mazen have done to
solve the crisis, by factional trust and region of residence?

West Bank:
31% Dissolve the PA
42% Call for early elections
12% Remove the heads of the security agencies
10% Resign
  5% Leave the situation as is

Gaza Strip
25% Dissolve the PA
24% Call for early elections
18% Remove the heads of the security agencies
 21% Resign
13% Leave the situation as is

Figure 15: Feeling about Abu Mazen's decision
Hasty decision 34%  late decision 48% at the time 19%

Figure 17: Support for an international presence in Gaza to stop the
violence from spreading
Yes, I support 34%
No, I oppose 66%

Table 15: Support for an international presence in Gaza to stop the violence
from spreading, by region of residence
West Bank support 36%  oppose  64%
Gaza Strip support 30%  oppose  70%

Figure 18: What party benefits from the internal conflict in the Gaza Strip?
Fateh 3% Hamas 11% Israel 76% Others 10%

Figure 19: Do you support Hamas taking full control of the Gaza Strip
Yes 25% No 75%

Table 17: Level of support for the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip
according to region of residence
West Bank Yes 16% No 84%
Gaza Strip Yes 38%  No 62%

Figure 20: Level of support for early presidential and PLC elections
Yes, I support 69% No, I oppose 31%

Table 19: Factional trust by region
West Bank Hamas 10% Fateh 33% PFLP 3%  Jihad  2% Others 4% None 48%
Gaza Strip Hamas  26% Fateh 32% PFLP 1%  Jihad  3% Others 2%  None 36%

Figure 22: Intention to immigrate
Yes 22% No 78%

Table 20: Intention to immigrate by region
Region West Bank  Yes 15% No 85%
Gaza Strip Yes  32% No 68%

Figure 23: Poverty level
Hardship cases 35% Below poverty level 32%
Above poverty level 34%

Figure 24: Attitude about the strategy that best serves the Palestinian
national interest
Fateh strategy 70% Hamas strategy 30%
West Bank Fateh strategy  78% Hamas strategy 22%
Gaza Strip Fateh strategy 61% Hamas strategy 39%

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

U.S. and UN Secretary General pay lip service to fairness at the UN

Another year has brought a fresh round of anti-Israel U.N. "decrees," which fall upon us like the ukases of the Tsar.
But in fact he didn't really do that, and he doesn't seem to be inclined to actuall do something about the Council, rather than just whining. He is in charge after the all. He might be thought to have some influence on the UN. Ban Ki-moon is like the man who beats his wife and says "Bad hand, Bad hand, why did you do that?"
U.N. condemnations of Israel are like the weather. Everyone complains about them, but nobody does anything about it. If the US was really concerned, the Secretary of State or the US ambassador to the UN would issue a statement, rather than leaving it to a deputy, and they would back up their sentiments by withholding money from the UN and boycotting institutions like the HRC.
If the Secretary General was really concerned, he would do something about the abominable record of the Human Rights Council, rather than mouthing verbiage.
The issue is NOT new. Please sign our petition for Fair Play for Israel at the UN.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 09:22 21/06/2007   
By Reuters

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined Western nations on Wednesday in criticizing the world body's own Human Rights Council for "picking on Israel" as part of an agreement on its working rules.
The European Union, Canada and the United States have already attacked the deal reached in Geneva on Monday under which Israel's actions would become a permanent item on the Human Rights Council's agenda.
A UN statement said: "The Secretary-General is disappointed at the council's decision to single out only one specific regional item given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world."

The statement did not mention Israel or the Palestinian Authority by name.
The 47-nation council was set up by the General Assembly last year to try to improve the UN's image on human rights. It replaced a commission that had been widely criticized for ignoring rights violations in some developing countries.
Alejandro Wolff, deputy U.S. permanent representative at the United Nations, accused the council of "a pathological obsession with Israel" and also denounced its action on Cuba and Belarus. "I think the record is starting to speak for itself," he told journalists.
The Geneva meeting aroused further controversy after Cuba and Belarus, both accused of abuses, were removed from a list of nine special mandates, which included North Korea, Cambodia and Sudan, carried forward from the defunct commission.
The council's charter preserves the watchdog's right to appoint special
investigators for countries whose human rights records are of particular concern, something many developing states have long opposed.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Saudi cleric: Islam reveals the truth about women - they are twisted

"It [Islam] has shown that the twisted nature of women stems from their very creation." Not a quote from Steve Emerson or Pat Robertson, but from a Saudi cleric.

A great tradition, worthy of liberal support - and beloved by all men, surely. Alhamdillah - where do we sign up?

Solomonia gives us this:

Saudi Cleric: Wimins is Shtoopid, and Dats Why We Loves 'Em

MEMRI TV:Saudi Cleric Abd Al-Aziz Al-Fawzan: Husbands Should Put Up with Their Wives' Slips and Errors, Because the Twisted Nature of Women Stems from Their Very Creation

The following are excerpts from a lecture delivered by Saudi cleric Abd Al-Aziz Al-Fawzan, which aired on Al-Majd TV on June 11, 2007. It is followed by links to other MEMRI TV clips of Saudi cleric Abd Al-Aziz Al-Fawzan.

Abd Al-Aziz Al-Fawzan: The Prophet Muhammad said about women: "I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you," and so on. This hadith and others like it were misunderstood by the ignorant. Corrupt people interpreted it in a way that differs from its original intent. Because of their ignorance, their insolence, their stupidity, and because of their enmity towards Islam and Muslims, they turned this hadith into evidence that Islam disgraces women, diminishing her value, and describes her in inadequate terms...

...These hadiths provide some of the most decisive evidence that Islam protects women and guarantees their rights. Islam has surrounded the woman with a fence of compassion and mercy. It has shown that the twisted nature of women stems from their very creation. This is how Allah wanted woman to be. Therefore, the husband must adapt himself to her and be patient with her. He should not give her too many things to do, or things that she is incapable of doing. He should not make her do anything that is contrary to her nature, and to the way she was created by Allah. In addition, he should turn a blind eye to her mistakes, he should tolerate her slips and errors, and [he should] put up with all the silly ignorant things she might say, because this constitutes part of the nature of her creation. In addition, women have surging emotions, which in some cases, might overpower their minds. The weakness with which women were created is the secret behind their attractiveness and appeal to their husbands. It is the source of women's seduction of men, and one of the elements strengthening the bond between husband and wife. This is one of the wondrous miracles of Allah: The strength of a woman lies in her weakness. Her power of seduction and appeal lie in her emotions, which might overpower her mind at times.

Posted by Solomon at June 20, 2007 2:44 PM EDT

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Arab journalist: Don't Rush to support Abbas, he is not in control

Conference Call with Journalist Khaled Abu Toameh

Ellen Schor sent us this account of a conference call with journalist Abu Toameh a few days ago.


Regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Abu Toameh has not heard about anyone starving in the Gaza strip and there is no shortage of water and fuel, Drinking water is supplied by Israel, which is continuing to send water.

"Abu Toameh warns the United States and Israel not to rush to support Abbas, since it is not sure that Abbas will be able to control the West Bank. He said Abbas has failed to take action and failed to reform his party. Money given to Abbas didn't go into the right hands. The conflict in the Gaza strip was over money and power. There were bad guys fighting bad guys."


His concern is that Abu Mazen will continue to fail as a leader, as he has not learned from the election nor from the military action in Gaza. He has to convince Palestinians that he can reform the party and get rid of corrupt leaders. He does not see this trend occurring.

He feels Abbas' position is that of "Give me more money or you will get Hamas".

In the future, the West Bank may accept Hamas, as they have enforced law and order. Fatah is not united now. It is still in turmoil and is still weak.

Ami Isseroff


This morning I participated in a conference call with Khaled Abu Toameh in Jerusalem. I would like to share the words of this veteran outstanding journalist, who specializes in Palestinian Affairs.

He said the security level now is calm. There has been no fighting on the ground since Friday.

As we have heard, the United States and Israel will release the financial restrictions on the Fatah government in the West Bank. Currently, there is hope and optimism in the West Bank, The question is what will happen to the 1.4 million Palestinians living in Gaza. Will Abu Mazen, the head of Fatah succeed in controlling the West Bank? We do not know what will happen to Gaza. Will there be extreme isolation of Hamas resulting in shortages in food, medicine, fuel, etc.?

Regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Abu Toameh has not heard about anyone starving in the Gaza strip and there is no shortage of water and fuel, Drinking water is supplied by Israel, which is continuing to send water.

He feels that the West Bank will give aid to the Palestinians living in Gaza.

Regarding Gaza's financial situation, Hamas has been smuggling millions of dollars into Gaza for the last 1 1/2 years. This money comes from donations, the last donation is from Yemen. 50 million dollars has been raised for the Gaza strip.

Some questions that arise: Sharia law is one of the main points included in the constitution. Will Hamas impose a Taliban style in the Gaza Strip? The Palestinians there are very religious and conservative. If public beheadings are staged in public squares and hands are chopped off for thievery, Abu Toameh predicts they will lose the support of the people.

He does not believe that the emergence of an Islamic Republic between Egypt and Israel will become a military threat, so there shouldn't be a security problem for Israel. Hamas will want to show the world that they are capable of governing and establishing law and order.

Olmert is presently in the United State to consult with Bush. He said they will have to determine what can be done to contain Gaza and if they want to boost Abu Mazen in the West Bank. He thinks Israel might be safer now. The number of rockets aimed at Israel from Gaza has dramatically stopped. He says that Hamas wants to be in full control and they do not want to drag Israel into the conflict.

He tells us that Hamas has been confiscating arms from huge clans. Jordan is sending food and medicine that come through Egypt.

He reports that the Palestinians have mixed reactions to Hamas being in control. He hasn't seen any Palestinians shedding tears over Fatah's loss. Perhaps they don't really miss the Palestinian Authority or perhaps, they are afraid to talk. Abu Toameh states that they believe that United States' and Israel's backing of Mahmoud Abbas is really a conspiracy to pull down their democratically voted government.

A reporter from the Daily News asked whether the West Bank will join with Jordan. Abu Toameh responded that Jordan has 80% Palestinians in their Hashemite Kingdom and they don't feel they need any more.

Abu Toameh warns the United States and Israel not to rush to support Abbas, since it is not sure that Abbas will be able to control the West Bank. He said Abbas has failed to take action and failed to reform his party. Money given to Abbas didn't go into the right hands. The conflict in the Gaza strip was over money and power. There were bad guys fighting bad guys.

Now is the time to extract promises from Abbas, if he is given money. Abu Toameh says that he must get rid of Fatah's gangsters and reform his party. He needs a new list of people in the government and he must offer Palestinians a better authority.

Answering a questions about the fate of Christians in the Gaza strip, he said it was not clear if Hamas was behind the attack on a Latin church. Masked gunman were involved. He said there are less than 3000 Christians in the Gaza Strip. In April, a Christian Book Store was attacked. The Christians are not only being pressured to leave the Gaza Strip, but also the Christians in Bethlehem, Ramallah and other areas.

Answering a question about Hamas building up an army and attacking the West Bank, Abu Toameh said Hamas has many supports in that area. Instead of an army attacking, he thinks sleeping cells of Hamas will wake up in the West Bank.

His concern is that Abu Mazen will continue to fail as a leader, as he has not learned from the election nor from the military action in Gaza. He has to convince Palestinians that he can reform the party and get rid of corrupt leaders. He does not see this trend occurring.

He feels Abbas' position is that of "Give me more money or you will get Hamas".

In the future, the West Bank may accept Hamas, as they have enforced law and order. Fatah is not united now. It is still in turmoil and is still weak.

He said that in the Middle East, you go to sleep with one reality and wake up with a different reality.

Palestinians have never been so divided, Toameh noted. The dream of a Palestinian state is as remote as ever. He wonders how America and Israel will deal with the new reality. He asks can you really ignore Hamas now that it is in power? What to do about the 1.4 million people who live there?

Abu Toameh said the emerging government is composed of good guys, most of whom are technocrats who can run the affairs of their ministries.

He concluded by saying the firing that came from Lebanon is an attempt by certain Palestinians to provoke Israelis to return to Lebanon, so the attention will move away from the Gaza Strip.

Jennifer Lazlo Mizrahi of the Israel Project, which sponsored this conference call, concluded the conversation by bringing up the fortieth anniversary of the Six Day War, the consequences of which are still being faced. She said it is very hard to assess what this new "Six Day War" in Gaza will bring.

Ellen Schor

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Arab world fears Islamization after Hamas coup

This report seems to bear out many echos I am hearing. On the other hand, the Arab world has been solidly supporting Hamas. It is hard to understand what they expected would happen, after providing financing for Hamas over many years, forcing Fatah into the unity government agreement, looking the other way as arms were smuggled into Gaza, and constantly pressuring the United States and Israel to legitimize the Hamas government in Gaza.
What were they thinking?
Special Dispatch June 21, 2007 No. 1629

Fears in Arab World Following Gaza Coup: Hamas Is Threatening Entire Arab World

The Arab world as a whole has not yet formulated a clear position on the events in Gaza. While the Arab countries fully backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his struggle against Hamas, spokesmen and senior officials have refrained from burning bridges with Hamas.

The same trend is evident in the Arab media. Most articles avoided siding clearly with either Fatah or Hamas, calling on both sides to reach an understanding through negotiations. However, some op-eds in the press have harshly condemned Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, saying that it has dealt a death blow to the Palestinian cause and has destroyed any hope of resolving the Palestinian problem. In them, the writers accuse Iran and Syria of direct involvement in the Gaza coup, which they say serves these countries' interests. They also expressed concern that the emergence of what they termed the "Hamas Islamic Emirate" would threaten the entire Arab world.

The following are excerpts from op-eds critical of Hamas in the Arab press:

Hamas Has Buried the Palestinian Cause and Has Become Its Enemy

In the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, columnist Makram Muhammad Ahmad wrote: "Hamas has seized power in Gaza for a while, but it has dealt a death blow to the Palestinian cause, and buried it - God only knows for how long. [By taking over Gaza, it has] isolated the Strip from the West Bank - something Israel has wanted to do for a long time, and now Hamas has handed it [this achievement] on a silver platter.

"[The Gaza coup] has also dashed any hopes of reaching a peace agreement in the foreseeable future, because Hamas has supplied Israel with evidence to back up its claim that there is no Palestinian partner [for negotiations], since Fatah and Hamas are busy with their civil war and have no time for this issue."(1)

Talal Salman, owner of the Lebanese daily Al-Safir, wrote: "Palestine has collapsed in a pool of its own blood, and the only ones to blame are those who promised to liberate it. [The Palestinians] have nearly lost their homeland, and the only ones to blame are those who wielded weapons in order to wrench it from the enemy, but have lost their way. The fedayeen have become the murderers of their own comrades-in-arms...

"The Palestinians have become an example of [a nation] in ruins that has lost its [national] rights. Some of them have taken to characterizing others as criminals and as being outside [the boundaries of] law and legitimacy. The Palestinians have become the enemies of Palestine, and have granted a victory to their [real] enemy - the enemy of the Arabs, of the Muslims, and of the Christians - namely, Israel. There is close competition between the Palestinians and the Iraqis over which will be the first to bring his country back to the era prior to the [emergence] of the [modern] state, and perhaps to the era prior to [the emergence of] tribes, clans, and families - or even to the era before [the advent of] Islam and the other religions."(2)

Iran and Syria Are Behind the Gaza Coup

In an op-ed titled "The Gaza Earthquake," Al-Sharq Al-Awsat editor Tariq Al-Humayd wrote: "The preparedness of the Hamas fighters... proves that while Hamas and its leaders were crying out about lack of funds, Hamas was [actually] amassing arms and ammunition. Someone is providing it with regular funding, and as a result it appeared to be better prepared [for fighting] than the legitimate authorities.

"The source of the funds is obviously Iran. Today, no one has control over Hamas... except Iran, its economic patron, and Syria, where Khaled Mash'al resides. The tangled threads [that pass through] the entire Arab region lead to two countries only - Syria and Iran..."(3)

Ahmad Al-Jarallah, editor of the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, wrote: "By means of Hamas's takeover in Gaza, the Iran-Syria axis has managed to destroy the Mecca agreement, to sabotage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and to block the role of Saudi Arabia, which had become the regional authority [handling] the hotspots in the [Middle East], namely Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine...

"In giving up its national Palestinian aspirations and succumbing to the policies of the Iranian-Syrian axis, Hamas has become like those gangs of spies who habitually serve foreign interests. Hamas is booby-trapping Palestinian society with destructive ideas, such as the Iranian [principle of] "the rule of the jurisprudent" and [other Iranian] ideological concepts...

"In this case, Hamas has become like Hizbullah in Lebanon. Both [movements] have no national will [of their own], but only blind commitment to the agendas of Iran and Syria - even if it brings down the Palestinian home on the heads of [its people]..."(4)

Jordanian journalist Raja Talib wrote in the Jordanian government daily Al-Rai: "Reality has shown that even if Hamas was originally a Palestinian [movement], it is now completely [committed] to the ideological agenda of Tehran - in terms of its perception of the enemy and of the struggle against the enemy; in terms of its political priorities; and in terms of its financial and material backing. Thus, Hamas is setting back - by decades - the Palestinian cause, the development of the military and political struggle [for Palestine], and the PLO plan [for liberating Palestine], so that they will [all] serve Iran's needs."(5)

In Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, former Kuwaiti education minister Ahmad Al-Ruba'i criticized Iran's and Syria's support of Hamas, and said that the current horrors in Gaza reminded him of scenes from the 1948 war:

"We should not be surprised if Khaled Mash'al soon holds a press conference in Damascus or Tehran to announce the liberation of the West Bank. [After all,] the man has extensive connections in the region, and the Hamas movement enjoys economic and logistic concessions in the region.

"Don't be surprised if he declares a 'divine victory' in all the [occupied] territories, unites the two Palestinian states, and is elected as the new Palestinian president. [Then], he will perhaps transfer some of the Iranian nuclear facilities to Ramallah and emulate the Biblical Samson, [who said] 'Let me die with the Philistines.'

"The sight of Palestinian mothers leaving [the Gaza Strip] with their children [via] the Erez crossing... is the same sight as that of Palestinian mothers and their children leaving the Nahr Al-Bared camp [in northern Lebanon], and is the same sight as that of the Palestinian mothers and their children who were obliged to leave their villages and homes after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948."(6)

The Islamic Emirate of Gaza Threatens the Entire Arab World

In his op-ed "The Gaza Earthquake," Tariq Al-Humayd wrote: "What is happening in Gaza, and the emergence of the Hamas's Islamic emirate there, can only be described as an earthquake, and not only for the Palestinians... The impact of this Islamic emirate on our Arab world will not be like that [caused by] the emergence of the Taliban Emirate, [for] it is more dangerous, to the point where it will [threaten] Arab security.

"It is well known that the Islamist streams do not believe in the concept of a state, and that their battle against the Arab regimes is a long-term battle... The Hamas emirate will be a source of spiritual inspiration for Islamist groups [in the region], and a meeting point for everyone interested in armed activities..."(7)

Egyptian intellectual Ma'moun Fandy likened Hamas to a computer virus that threatens to destroy the Arab world. He wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "The Muslims must understand that the Hamas emirate is a model that the Islamists aim to implant in all their countries. [They want] all our countries to become two-headed entities, with Islamist rule [alongside] the rule of the state. All the Arab countries that are riding two horses at once - the national one and the Islamist one - will inevitably reach a crossroads at which each horse will go in a different direction. The two legs [on which the country stands] will split, and the country will split in two, [as is now happening with the Palestinians:] one leg in Gaza, and the other in the West Bank.

"To use a metaphor from the programming world, the Arab region is like a computer with 22 directories, symbolizing the 22 [Arab] countries. If a virus attacks one of the directories, the programmer must delete that directory [along with] the virus, lest the virus infect the other directories and destroy the entire computer.

"We are now faced with a dangerous virus, in the form of the Hamas Emirate. A [previous] symptom of this infection was Hizbullah in Lebanon, and we see some signs of it in Egypt and Algeria as well - especially since the mother virus, the Muslim Brotherhood, has existed in Egypt for ages, in all its potency..."(8)

Endnotes: (1) Al-Ahram (Egypt), June 17, 2007.

(2) Al-Safir (Lebanon), June 15, 2007.

(3) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 16, 2007.

(4) Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), June 18, 2007.

(5) Al-Rai (Jordan), June 18, 2007.

(6) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 18, 2007.

(7) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 16, 2007.

(8) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 18, 2007.


The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837 Phone: (202) 955-9070 Fax: (202) 955-9077 E-Mail: Search previous MEMRI publications at

Continued (Permanent Link)

More about Gaza's Christians fear for their lives

Gaza's Christians fear for their lives

      Khaled Abu Toameh, THE JERUSALEM POST  Jun. 18, 2007


Christians living in Gaza City on Monday appealed to the international community to protect them against increased attacks by Muslim extremists. Many Christians said they were prepared to leave the Gaza Strip as soon as the border crossings are reopened.

The appeal came following a series of attacks on a Christian school and church in Gaza City over the past few days.

Father Manuel Musalam, leader of the small Latin community in the Gaza Strip, said masked gunmen torched and looted the Rosary Sisters School and the Latin Church.

"The masked gunmen used rocket-propelled grenades to storm the main entrances of the school and church," he said. "Then they destroyed almost everything inside, including the Cross, the Holy Book, computers and other equipment."

Musalam expressed outrage over the burning of copies of the Bible, noting that the gunmen destroyed all the Crosses inside the church and school. "Those who did these awful things have no respect for Christian-Muslim relations," he said.

He estimated damages at more than $500,000. "Those who see the destruction will realize how bad this attack was," he said. "Christians have been living in peace and security with Muslims for many years, but those who attacked us are trying to sabotage this relationship."

He said Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas phoned him on Sunday night to express his strong condemnation for the attack. "President Abbas promised that he would do his utmost to prevent such attacks on Christians here," he said.

Fatah officials blamed Hamas militiamen for the attack on the church and school. However, Islam Shahwan, spokesman for Hamas's Executive Force in the Gaza Strip, denied responsibility.

He nevertheless admitted that a large group of Hamas militiamen had been near the area during the attack. "We have instructed all our men to withdraw from the area," he said. "We will punish anyone who targets churches and public institutions." 

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ze'ev Schiff, Dean of Israeli security commentators, dead at 74

The amazing thing is, that everything in this obituary is true...
Last update - 01:27 20/06/2007   
By Amir Oren and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents

Ze'ev Schiff, the veteran military commentator and Haaretz defense editor, died Saturday night in Tel Aviv. He was 74 years old.
To his many friends, Schiff was known as Wolfy. To his readers in Israel and the world, he was a brand name, a guarantee for reliable information and authoritative analysis. More than anything else, Schiff was the quintessential Israeli military correspondent.
Remembering him Saturday night, former defense minister Moshe Arens said: "Not on the right or the left, because he was above political disputes, objective as only he knew how to be. Nor among the many writers and analysts and the Israeli press. As professional and sharp-eyed as they come, he was superior to them all. His articles were read by statesmen and politicians, generals and reservists, and they knew that he wrote the stark truth and how to listen to his views."
Described by BBC World Affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds as "the most respected military analyst in Israel," Schiff wrote numerous books on Israeli defense issues including "A History of the Israeli Army," "Fedayeen," "Entebbe Rescue," "A Lexicon of the Israeli Army and Defense," "The Year of the Dove," and "La Guerre Israelo-Arabe."
His books have been published in Israel, the United States, and France, and have been translated into several languages, including Arabic and Russian.
Schiff also contributed articles to Foreign Policy, National Interest, Middle East Journal, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post.
Schiff served as a military correspondent in Vietnam, the former Soviet Union, Cyprus and Ethiopia. He won a number of journalism prizes, including the Sokolov Journalism Prize in 1975 for his book "October Earthquake and the Yom Kippur War." "Intifada," which he co-authored with Ehud Ya'ari, became an international bestseller after being published in 1990.
Born in France in 1933, Schiff immigrated to Israel with his family in 1935. He served as an intelligence officer in the IDF, studied Middle East affairs and military history at Tel Aviv University, and joined the Haaretz staff in 1955.
He became a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1984. For many years, he was chairman of the Military Writers Association in Israel. He was also a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Schiff is survived by his wife and two children.

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This is how Israel is "choking" Gaza

June 19th, 2007


IDF humanitarian activity in the Gaza Strip throughout the day

Despite the volatile security situation in the Gaza Strip and in spite of the constant threat of attacks on the crossings (an example of which was seen yesterday), the IDF has made special efforts to provide a response to humanitarian needs in the Gaza Strip. On June 19th:

22 containers carrying 200 tons of basic food products and 30 tons of medical supplies passed through the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip.

Five Palestinians seriously injured in infighting in the Gaza Strip in recent days (2 of which were injured in yesterday's terror attack on the crossing) were evacuated through the Erez crossing for medical treatment in Israel, in cooperation with the Red Crescent.

The IDF will continue to assist the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip to the best of its ability, while taking into consideration the security constraints.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Carnage in Gaza - not Israel's fault

An apt commentary on some of the reactions to events in Gaza. Apparently, pro-Palestinian groups have not absorbed the full significance of events there as yet. Actually, it is inaccurate. Over 400 people were killed according to Palestinian sources, and the number is probably greater.

A Press Release Distribution Service from Religion News Service
Tuesday, June 19, 2007

June 19, 2007

Contact: Sr. Ruth Lautt, National Director 
(212) 870-2320
New York, New York

Fair Witness Questions CMEP'S Response To Carnage In Gaza

Christians For Fair Witness on the Middle East questions the response from Churches for Middle East Peace to last week's bloody siege in Gaza.  As the world witnessed shocking levels of Palestinian on Palestinian violence and an atmosphere of terror spread over the Gaza Strip, CMEP posted a brief statement from the "heads of churches in Jerusalem" referring to the "40th Anniversary of the Occupation" and calling for an end to "domestic fighting" and "an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its Capital."

"Over one hundred Palestinians were killed and hundreds maimed in virulent confrontations between Hamas and Fatah," said Sr. Ruth Lautt.  "People were thrown off rooftops.  Children witnessed the slaughter of their parents. Corpses were dragged triumphantly through refugee camps.  Although Fatah and Hamas leaders and members of the security forces were the primary targets, many civilians were caught in the crossfire and relatives of Fatah and Hamas operatives were deliberately killed in mutual assassination attempts. One would reasonably expect those who routinely complain about Israeli military actions to condemn Hamas with equal fervor."

"The statement posted by CMEP seemed designed to convey a belief that the siege in Gaza was a mere diversion from fighting the 'occupation,'" says Fair Witness Executive Committee member Dexter Van Zile.  "There was a civil war.   Hamas and Fatah militants were being more violent than ever. Mutual kidnappings and field executions were reported.  Gunmen stormed hospitals and forced medical crews out, shooting at doctors in operating rooms and patient wards."

"The ordinary Palestinian watches his dream of statehood go up in smoke as their leaders execute each other." continued Van Zile.  "We believe it is irresponsible for Christian voices in the U.S. to be silent on the extent of this brutality while seeming to attempt to focus attention on Israel."

"Also troubling was CMEP's renewed call for "Jerusalem as  . . . [a]  Palestinian . . . Capital," as though this is germane, adds Rev. Dr. Archer Summers, Senior Minister in the First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto, California. "The Palestinians must have their own state and determine their own future.  But until their leadership shows both the ability to govern and the will to live in peace even amongst themselves, our churches must refrain from unbalanced, oversimplification of this issue."

Sr. Ruth Lautt, OP, Esq.
National Director
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East
475 Riverside Drive, Ste 1960
New York, NY 10115
(212) 870-2320

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel: A gem of prognostication from Stratfor

From Stratfor's George Friendman, we have this gem of geo-strategic prognostication:
Let's consider the strategic position of the Palestinians. Their primary weapon against Israel remains what it always has been: random attacks against civilian targets designed to destabilize Israel. The problem with this strategy is obvious. Using terrorism against Americans in Iraq is potentially effective as a strategy. If the Americans cannot stand the level of casualties being imposed, they have the option of leaving Iraq. Although leaving might pose serious problems to U.S. regional and global interests, it would not affect the continued existence of the United States. Therefore, the insurgents potentially could find a threshold that would force the United States to fold.

The Israelis cannot leave Israel. Assume for the moment that the Palestinians could impose 1,000 civilian casualties a year. There are about 5 million Jews in Israel. That would be about 0.02 percent casualties. The Israelis are not going to leave Israel at that casualty rate, or at a rate a thousand times greater. Unlike the Americans, for whom Iraq is a subsidiary interest, Israel is Israel's central interest. Israel is not going to capitulate to the Palestinians over terrorism attacks.
A rate 1000 times greater than 1000 casualties a year, is a million casualties a year. That would wipe out the entire population of Israel, Jewish and Arab, in seven years. Long before that time, Israelis would assuredly start leaving, if we could not do something about the terror.
Ami Isseroff
Cross posted: Israel News Middle East Analysis   

Continued (Permanent Link)

Naked women - not a good way to sell Israel?

Selling Israel with naked women? To each his own..., but puritanical legislators are not amused. Quoth one:
"It's unfortunate that the Israeli consulate chose to emphasize Israel's relevance with a portrait of a half-naked woman, instead of with one of women of substance and accomplishments," she told Yediot Achronoth.
But it is unlikely that posters of Golda Meir in a bikini would attract many tourists...
Ami Isseroff



HOT STUFF: A sexy invite from the Israeli Consulate (above) promotes an event celebrating the July Maxim's Israeli women photo spread.<bR>(Click to enlarge)
HOT STUFF: A sexy invite from the Israeli Consulate (above) promotes an event celebrating the July Maxim's Israeli women photo spread.

June 19, 2007 -- Israeli female legislators are baring their anger over what they call a "pornographic" tourism campaign - featuring a bikini-clad Israeli beauty queen.

The racy photo of 2004 Miss Israel winner Gal Gadot appears on formal invitations to an event hosted in New York tonight by the Israeli Consulate in conjunction with Maxim magazine.

The affair is to "celebrate" the magazine's "Women of the Israeli Defense Forces" article in the July issue.

But prominent Israeli women say using sex to market the Land of Milk and Honey is "an outrage."

Former Consul-General Colette Avital, a member of the Israeli parliament, yesterday demanded an urgent meeting with the Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik to get an explanation of what she called the "pornographic campaign," the newspaper Yediot Achronoth reported.

The consulate in New York says the campaign is just seeking good demographics.

"We found that Israel's image among men 18-38 is lacking," David Saranga, consul for media and public affairs said.

"So we thought we'd approach them with an image they'd find appealing."

That's the wrong image, said Zahava Gal-On, a Knesset member and chairwoman of the Meretz Party.

"It's unfortunate that the Israeli consulate chose to emphasize Israel's relevance with a portrait of a half-naked woman, instead of with one of women of substance and accomplishments," she told Yediot Achronoth.

Critics said the promotion is particularly inappropriate because it follows the resignation of senior government officers, including the Israeli president, after they were charged with sexual impropriety.

"Israel's image has been tainted by sex scandals involving high-ranking officials as it is," Avital said. "I wonder if the best way to encourage tourism is by advertising sex."

In March the Israeli foreign ministry encouraged Maxim to send a nine-member team of photographers, hair-stylists and makeup people for a five-day picture shoot in the Tel Aviv area.

Officials said then they wanted to show the diversity of Israel and change the perception that it was a land of conflict.

"Israel is viewed as a very macho society. We want to show that we are a normal society like others," Saranga said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Kommersant: Russia delivering MiG-31advanced fighter jets to Syria

Familiar sounding headlines - from about 40 years ago.
Is Syria preparing for war?
Newspaper: Russia starts delivery of advanced fighter jets to Syria
The Associated Press Published: June 19, 2007

MOSCOW: Russia has started delivery of top-of-the-line fighter jets to Syria under a new deal estimated to be worth US$1 billion, a newspaper said Tuesday - but the report was quickly denied by the state arms trader.

The business daily Kommersant said that Russia had begun delivering five MiG-31E jets under a deal apparently negotiated during Syrian President Bashar Assad's trip to Moscow last autumn.

Commenting on the report, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement that "all of Russia's deals in the sphere of military-technical cooperation comply with international law and Russia's obligations under various treaties and United Nations resolutions." He would not elaborate.

But Sergei Chemezov, head of state arms-trading monopoly Rosoboronexport, flatly denied the Kommersant report. "Russia has no plans to deliver fighter jets to Syria and Iran," Chemezov said at a Paris air show, according to the Interfax news agency.

Russia has shrugged off U.S. and Israeli criticism of its previous weapons deals with Syria and Iran, saying the deals complied with international law.

The contract with Syria will be the first export deal for the MiG-31E, a heavy twin-engined interceptor fighter capable of flying at nearly three times the speed of sound and simultaneously shooting several targets at ranges of up to 180 kilometers (over 110 miles) away.

The aircraft was designed in the 1980s for tackling low-flying cruise missiles and other difficult targets and remains the mainstay of Russia's air defenses. "In the Soviet Union, the MiG-31 was considered a key component of defenses against a possible U.S. attack," Kommersant said.

The newspaper said that Russia had also agreed to provide Syria with an unspecified number of MiG-29M fighters - a version that features a significantly improved range, has an improved radar and carries a broader array of weapons compared to basic MiG-29 model.

The delivery of new fighters to Syria which has a fleet of older MiG jets will dramatically improve its air force capability.

Moscow was the main weapons supplier to Syria during the Soviet era, and the two nations have moved recently to reinvigorate their economic, military and political ties. In 2005, Moscow agreed to write off nearly three-quarters of Syria's US$13.4 billion debt in a bid to boost ties and win broader clout in the region.

Iran could finance the new fighter jets deal under a defense cooperation treaty with Syria, Kommersant said.

Israel claimed that Hezbollah fighters used Russian missiles during a 34-day war in Lebanon last year. It said that Russian arms were sold to Syria and Iran, which sent them on to their Hezbollah proxies. Russian officials dismissed the accusations.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syria getting new MiG-31 from Russia


MOSCOW [MENL] -- Syria has ordered the advanced MiG-31E fighter-jet from

Industry sources said the Syrian contract was signed in early 2007 and the first aircraft delivery was expected over the next few months. The sources said the MiG-31E, with a configuration similar to that ordered by India, would provide Syria with a huge leap in air combat capability.

"The Syrians will be getting the top line of Russian aircraft through financing by Iran and share some or most of the platforms with the Iranian Air Force," a Russian industry source said. "This is the start of a new

The deal marked the first Syrian combat aircraft procurement since Damascus ordered the Su-24 Fencer in 1988. In December 2006, Syrian President Bashar Assad met Russian leaders in Moscow in an effort to replace Syria's aging combat fleet.
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Continued (Permanent Link)

Freedom of the Press in Gaza: Threats and fear

Palestinian democracy according to Maanews:
One leader threatened to wring a correspondent's neck and another threatened to spread damning reports about Ma'an and so on.
...the press situation in the Palestinian territories is very dangerous; reporters are unable to report the truth as they see it because there are parties which try to determine what main story to choose and what photo to attach to the news story. A leading militia personality threatened a female journalist that if a story is not sent as news, in the form of a short message sent to Palestinian mobile phones, she would suffer terrible repercussions.
Democracy in action!
Ami Isseroff
Editor in Chief: Ma'an receives threats from rival factions
Date: 19 / 06 / 2007  Time:  14:28

Ma'an - Editorial by Nasser Lahham - Ma'an News Agency on Tuesday morning considered closing its Gaza-based office and ceasing activity in the strip and Nablus, following a series of threats which Ma'an received from angry rival factions.

The rivals either wanted Ma'an to publish their defamation of the other party on its main page, or they did not like its editorial policy. Ma'an received threats from both rivals, not only one. Several Palestinian media outlets were closed as a result of similar threats.

After consultations with the Hamas and Fatah leadership, we received lukewarm assurances and decided to continue operation with caution, whilst remaining concerned for our offices and correspondents.

Meanwhile, we call on Hamas to allow foreign journalists to resume coverage of the Gaza Strip events in order to preserve the freedom of journalism and act as a civilized nation.

One leader threatened to wring a correspondent's neck and another threatened to spread damning reports about Ma'an and so on.

To avoid talking about Ma'an only, let us remember that the press situation in the Palestinian territories is very dangerous; reporters are unable to report the truth as they see it because there are parties which try to determine what main story to choose and what photo to attach to the news story. A leading militia personality threatened a female journalist that if a story is not sent as news, in the form of a short message sent to Palestinian mobile phones, she would suffer terrible repercussions.

At any rate, our families and children, Arabs and foreigners, watch everyday open transmissions on satellite TV stations and radios. From a professional point of view, as long as there are open transmissions on air for every angry rival to say whatever he likes, the situation will remain tense and the wound will remain open. We will watch as children lose their appetite for food and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip remain hostages to what is being heard on the open TV stations, rather than what is in the public interest.

Also professionally speaking, the Palestinian minister of information must intervene and demand live transmissions are halted immediately, because they can only escalate the situation since they are conducted spontaneously and without experience.

We could faint hearing about the 'treacherous trend' on Al-Aqsa TV station (the Hamas-affiliated TV station) and the description of unverified news from the Gaza Strip described by unanonymous callers to Palestine TV (state-run Fatah-affiliated TV station).

If the Palestinian minister of information in the new government, Dr Riyad Al Maliki, cannot stop the open transmissions, I appeal to the director of Palestine TV, Basim Abu Sumayya, and to Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, to stop the live transmissions, which have occupied the main part of Israeli TV every evening.

Continued (Permanent Link)


It's a rumor. Doesn't sound convincing to me.

LONDON [MENL] -- Egypt has quietly supported the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip.

Western intelligence sources said Egypt cooperated with Hamas in allowing shipments of weapons, munitions and explosives that facilitated the Islamic takeover of the Gaza Strip last week. The sources said Egypt concluded that a Hamas takeover would halt or reduce insurgency infiltration in the Sinai Peninsula.

"The Egyptians were in the picture as early as several weeks ago," an intelligence source said. "[Hamas leader Khaled] Masha'al discussed the Fatah strategic threat and said Hamas would stop [Fatah security chief Mohammed] Dahlan at any cost."

In a recent telephone conversation with Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman, Masha'al said Dahlan and his allies were working with Al Qaida-aligned groups to undermine Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The sources quoted Masha'al as saying that Fatah was allowing Al Qaida to infiltrate the Sinai Peninsula to facilitate attacks on the regime of President Hosni
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Continued (Permanent Link)

Blind giant in Iraq: US incompetence in Middle East diplomacy and Intelligence

An article in the Washington Post discusses the complaints of the new US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, who complains that the Baghdad embassy staff is inadequate.

Ryan C. Crocker, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, bluntly told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a cable dated May 31 that the embassy in Baghdad -- the largest and most expensive U.S. embassy -- lacks enough well-qualified staff members and that its security rules are too restrictive for Foreign Service officers to do their jobs.

"Simply put, we cannot do the nation's most important work if we do not have the Department's best people," Crocker said in the memo.

The fact is, the US has suffered from lack of competent Middle East personnel in diplomacy and intelligence for a very long time. Without intelligence personnel and diplomatic staff who speak the language, the US in Iraq is like a blind giant. It is not surprising that the US has suffered unpleasant surprise after unpleasant surprise in this part of the world: The Six Day War was a surprise. Iran 1979 was a surprise. Nobody knew the Shah was going to fall, and when he did fall, nobody did anything about it. Afghanistan was a surprise, Saddam's invasion of Kuwait was a surprise. The problems in Iraq were a surprise. Every terror attack in Iraq is a surprise. Hamas's election win was a surprise, and the implosion of the Palestinian Authority was another surprise.  At least, the fall of Lebanon to the Hezbollah, will hardly be a surprise.
Should these folks be giving "advice" to Israel?
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Anti-Zionists lead gay bashing

An article in Haaretz reveals that tiny groups of radical anti-Zionist Jews are the ringleaders of gay bashing riots aimed at preventing a gay pride parade:
In reality, the demonstrations are being staged by a fundamentalist sect within the ultra-Orthodox community, the Edah Haredit, whose name accounts for much of the confusion.
The Edah Haredit is responsible for nightly demonstrations in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, including the mass rally at Bar-Ilan Street. The organization consists of several ultra-Orthodox and anti-Zionist groups including Satmar, Toldos Aharon and Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok hasidim and Perushim.
For those who do not understand Hebrew. "Edah Haredit" means simply "ultraorthodox congregation." Because they have adopted this name, outsiders assume they represent all ultraorthodox Jews.
The report continues:
Unlike the majority of the ultra-Orthodox community, the followers of the Edah Haredit boycotted the general elections for the Knesset, and are opposed to any sign of modernity. In less than 12 months, the group has rallied its supporters twice to protest against gay and lesbian events.
The last demonstrations against a gay pride observance were in the fall, protesting plans by the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance to hold a parade in the capital at the beginning of November. After weeks of violent protests, the Open House decided to hold a limited event that was confined to a venue in the western part of the capital.
The Edah is currently fighting against the gay community's intentions to hold the 2007 pride parade, which takes place Thursday. As in 2006, the struggle laid bare the internal paradox within the Edah Haredit's ranks.
On the one hand, the Edah is continuing to demonstrate its anti-Zionist line and advocate a separatist approach toward the state. At the same time, however, it is displaying increasing involvement in the public life of the country, which it does not recognize.
In the case of the gay parade, the Edah Haredit is attempting to "uphold the sanctity" in parts of Jerusalem that are beyond its neighborhood. The question arises: Why does the Edah care about seculars, who are leading a life of sin and abomination?
The answer could not be found in the speeches by the Edah's rabbis Sunday, but it seems to be bugging its leader, Rabbi Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss, who is trying to postpone the protests for as long as possible.
They do not recognize the state, but they want to change the non-existent state of Israel. These are the allies of the "liberal" anti-Zionists. Their allies are Islamist extremists.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Good news for the Israeli economy - but what is the reason?

Israel's economy is booming, as the Jerusalem Issue Brief by Professor Eckstein tells us (see below).  Exports exceed imports, trade balances are favorable. We have reached another stage of "take off."
We should be cautious in attributing these results to a particular economic policy, as Professor Eckstein does. He is rather insistent on the need to cut government spending, according to the religion of the WMF.
In the 1990s, Israel absorbed a million immigrants. The Russian immigration was a great gift - it brought us a very industrious, dedicated, educated and intelligent population. It took time to absorb that gift, to teach them Hebrew, to retrain hydro-electric engineers in a country where there are no dams, to settle people in new jobs. And of course,  there were the usual gripes of the old immigrants vs the new immigrants.
Now it is more or less done, and the investment in Aliya is paying huge dividends, which it would pay regardless of economic policies. In the same way, large waves of immigration have always brought prosperity to Israel, during the years of socialist economy and Labor government as well as during the privatization years. Large waves of immigration almost always bring prosperity to any country.
Nothing succeeds like success. The truth is that nobody knows what makes an economy "work" right. If there is a recession, it is blamed on poor policy, whatever the policy might be. If there is a boom, it is ascribed to wise economic policies.
Sweden is a lot richer than Israel, and spends more on the public sector, but Prof. Eckstein doesn't recommend the Swedish model.
Israel needs more investment in infrastructure and education for example, and that can't be done without public sector investment. We are gradually slipping back in the field of higher education, because not enough money is spent on universities and on public sector R&D.
Israel cannot compare its defense needs with those of European countries, and therefore the comparisons to Europe or the United States are off base. The Lebanon war demonstrated the reckless folly of cutting the defense budget to suit economic dictates.
Israel needs to integrate its Arab population into the economy, and Israel must regularize the situation of the ultraorthodox population. It is economic suicide to subsidize a large and growing sector of the population that gets a free education which enables them to produce nothing. At the same time, tuition for engineers, chemists and biologists is about $10,000 for four years of education. Every capable person should be able to get a university education. Today, every capable Israeli can only get a free education in Talmudic studies.
Ami Isseroff
Jerusalem Issue Brief
Institute for Contemporary Affairs
founded jointly at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Vol. 7, No. 4   18 June 2007
Maintaining a Thriving Economy in the Shadow of Terror
Professor Zvi Eckstein
Deputy Governor of the Bank of Israel
Despite terror and war, the Israeli economy has one of the highest per capita growth rates in the Western world among all the states established between 1948 and 1974. If there had been no terror in 2000-2005, the economy would have continued to grow and would have almost reached where it is today as early as 2003.
Public expenditure has declined from 65-70 percent of the GDP after the 1973 war to 47 percent - below the EU average and similar to the level in the Netherlands and the UK, but higher than the United States.
Before the Second Lebanon War, the economy was producing a budget surplus and growing at a level of 6 percent in annual terms. During the 3rd quarter of 2006 there was a decrease in the rate of GDP growth, but after the war, in the 4th quarter, GDP growth was higher than 7 percent in annual terms. Industrial managers and other employers in the north of Israel understood the importance of exports and of the continuance of economic activity, and worked day and night, during and after the war, to fill orders from abroad.
Inflation in Israel in the last twelve months has been almost minus 1 percent. The strengthening of the Israeli shekel against the dollar was the major factor affecting inflationary developments, and was a result of both local and global factors. Since 2000, total exports have equaled imports. In 2006 the current account surplus totaled $6.8 billion, an exceptionally high level both from the historical and international perspectives. The current account surplus is expected to be even higher in 2007.
There was substantial direct foreign investment in Israel during 2006. This trend, which began in 2002, is a manifestation of Israel's integration within the global economy and is a result of both global and domestic factors. The Israeli economy is open and diversified. Nevertheless, Israel should open up even more by improving and regulating the financial sectors and by adopting international standards.
An Economic Perspective on Zionist History
Data on the Israeli economy is available since 1922. Per capita GDP has grown from NIS 3,000 in 1922 to just below NIS 80,000 in 2006 (in constant 2000 prices). Thus, despite terror and war, the Israeli economy has prospered and has one of the highest per capita growth rates in the Western world, together with Japan, among all the states established between 1948 and 1974.
The 1973 war caused a major change in Israel's macroeconomic picture, with the defense budget growing to about 25 percent of GDP, and total government expenditure rising to 65-70 percent of GDP. The Israeli economy has struggled with this burden for a long time.
The Cost of Terror
Almost every decline in the Israeli economy has correlated with defense problems. This can be seen in the effects that the terror-ridden years of 2000-2005 had on the economy. Running an economy with the threat of terror is part of life in Israel. When fear was substantial, it affected local as well as foreign investment decisions. GDP declined, and defense expenditure, including the cost of building the security fence to deal with the new threats, rose substantially.
The 1990s was a decade of sustained growth. The first half of the decade saw the beginning of the peace process and the collapse of the first intifada, and was a period with a large influx of immigrants. With a high rate of terror in 2003, private consumption declined significantly. In times of terror and fear, there was a major decrease in GDP and in private consumption activity. It is estimated that without the terror in 2000-2003, Israeli per capita GDP and private consumption would have been much higher than they were in the first half of 2003.
In 2003, the government took several actions to stabilize the macroeconomy which, together with monetary stability, enabled the economy to reach a growth rate of 5 percent and achieve a stable budgetary framework. Public expenditure declined from 65-70 percent of the GDP to 47 percent ­- below the EU average and similar to the level in the Netherlands and the UK, but higher than the United States.
Before the Second Lebanon War, the economy was producing a budget surplus and growing at a level of 6 percent in annual terms. During the 3rd quarter of 2006, there was a decrease in the GDP growth rate, but after the war, in the 4th quarter, it was higher than 7 percent. Industrial managers and other employers in the north of Israel understood the importance of exports and of the continuance of economic activity, and worked day and night, during and after the war, to fill orders from abroad.
The success of the Israeli army and political activities in reducing terror in Israel's urban centers ­- together with changes in policies to stabilize the macroeconomy - were essential factors in moving the economy onto a new path.
Economic Indicators
Israel's total government expenditure is getting closer to international standards. It is very important this year to keep expenditure low in order to reduce the public sector debt. The public sector debt in the early and mid-1980s was around 160 percent of the GDP. Decreasing this ratio to around 60 percent is a key goal for sustained growth. If the forecast 5 percent growth rate for 2007 is realized, this debt is expected to be around 85 percent of the GDP.
Most studies show that if there is more stability and sustained peace in the area, such that defense expenditure can go down even more and people see the economy as stable, the Israeli economy could maintain a higher growth rate.
The short-term interest rate is the main monetary tool to reach the annual inflation rate target of 1-3 percent. Inflation targets exist in most of the countries which are Israel's key trading partners. Inflation in the last twelve months was below the target - almost at minus 1 percent. The exchange rate had the largest impact on the development of the Consumer Price Index during 2006. Prices in the Israeli economy are highly sensitive to changes in the dollar exchange rate because prices of services and non-tradable goods such as housing, and lawyers' and accountants' fees, are still indexed to the U.S. dollar, even though the U.S. dollar is dropping relative to the shekel and the euro.
One key pillar for the stability of the economy is the huge change in the nature of exports and imports. Since 2000, total exports have equaled imports. 2006 was the third consecutive year in which the goods and services account was in surplus, and in 2007 it is also expected to be in surplus. In addition, Israel's current account surplus has risen steeply, with more foreign currency coming in and more foreigners seeing the country as attractive for investment.
Israel has an income tax rate close to the EU average at high income levels. It is lower than Sweden and Norway, but higher than the U.S. Income tax has been reduced substantially since 2003. By international comparison, the income tax rate is relatively low for the average income level of most workers, and close to the European level in the upper income levels. Total tax revenues have increased substantially in recent years.
Reforms Still Needed
The economy looks good, but even without the desired peace it could be excellent. To be excellent, some reforms need to be implemented.
Israel's biggest weakness, compared to other countries, is in the labor market, and especially in the participation rate of men. In most countries, about 92 percent of men aged 25-55 are working or looking for work. In Israel it is about 83 percent. Israel should maintain policies that encourage people to go to work.
One of the causes for the low participation is the entrance of low-skilled foreign workers from the poorest areas of the world such as Thailand, the Philippines, and China. No other industrial country has Chinese construction workers who pay thousands of dollars to get work. That pushes the wages of low-skilled individuals in Israel down, such as in construction. Many countries bring in seasonal workers for the agricultural sector, but no other developed country has a high rate of legal low-skilled foreign workers in agriculture, as in Israel. There are nearly 200,000 legal and illegal foreign workers in Israel (most of them work in construction and agriculture or as personal long-term care-givers).
High-tech in Israel is among the most developed sectors, which attracts people from all over the world. Many Israeli high-tech companies were extremely successful and this helps the economy to grow, but it affects only a segment of the population. In fact, the traditional sectors - construction, agriculture, food production, and others - have much lower productivity per worker than in other developed countries. The implementation of new technologies has been neglected in those sectors.
Development in the peripheral areas has been neglected, particularly in the Arab sector, which needs to move from a village environment to an urban one with urban occupations and urban standards of living. The traditional family structure in these villages, which has to a great extent been ignored by the Israeli political system, has resulted in a real problem and created a bottleneck for the development of the economy.
In 1983, most economic activity was in the hands of the government. Nowadays, the capital market is larger and more competitive, more companies are involved in it, and the economy is more open. The amount of direct foreign investment in Israel has been substantial. The Israeli economy is open and diversified, and direct government involvement in financial activity has been substantially reduced, which is a positive trend. Israel should open up even more by improving and regulating the financial sectors and by adopting international standards.
*   *   *
Prof. Zvi Eckstein is the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Israel.  This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based on Prof. Eckstein's presentation at the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem on March 26, 2007.

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Brothers to the Bitter End [Fouad Ajami on the Palestinians

From the United States, Fouad Ajami is saying what more and more Arabs are thinking and many dare not say:
The Palestinian ruin was a long time in coming. No other national movement has had the indulgence granted the Palestinians over the last half-century, and the results can be seen in the bravado and the senseless violence, in the inability of a people to come to terms with their condition and their needs.
The life of a Palestinian is one of squalor and misery, yet his leaders play the international game as though they were powers. An accommodation with Israel is imperative — if only out of economic self-interest and political necessity — but the Palestinians, in a democratic experiment some 18 months ago, tipped power to a Hamas movement whose very charter is pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state and the imposition of Islamist rule.
The political maxim that people get the leaders they deserve must be reckoned too cruel to apply to the Palestinians. Before Hamas, for four decades, the vainglorious Yasir Arafat refused to tell his people the basic truths of their political life. Amid the debacles, he remained eerily joyous; he circled the globe, offering his people the false sense that they could be spared the consequences of terrible decisions.
In a rare alignment of the universe, there came Mr. Arafat's way in the late 1990s an American president, Bill Clinton, eager to redeem Palestinian claims and an Israeli soldier-statesman, Ehud Barak, who would offer the Palestinians all that Israeli political traffic could bear and then some.
But it was too much to ask of Mr. Arafat to return to his people with a decent and generous compromise, to bid farewell to the legend that the Palestinians could have it all "from the river to the sea." It was safer for him to stay with the political myths of his people than to settle down for the more difficult work of statehood and political rescue.
The current situation, writes Ajami, is not a wonderful breakthrough:
SO the masked men of Fatah have the run of the West Bank while the masked men of Hamas have their dominion in Gaza. Some see this as a tolerable situation, maybe even an improvement, envisioning a secularist Fatah-run state living peacefully alongside Israel and a small, radical Gaza hemmed in by Israeli troops. It's always tempting to look for salvation in disaster, but in this case it's sheer fantasy.
And the reason for this shift in the Arab point of view:
For decades, Arab society granted the Palestinians everything and nothing at the same time. The Arab states built worlds of their own, had their own priorities, dreaded and loathed the Palestinians as outsiders and agitators, but left them to the illusion that Palestine was an all-consuming Arab concern.
Now the Palestinians should know better. The center of Arab politics has shifted from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, a great political windfall has come to the lands of the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, vast new wealth due to the recent rises in oil prices, while misery overwhelms the Palestinians. No Arabs wait for Palestine anymore; they have left the Palestinians to the ruin of their own history.
The rise of Hamas in Gaza should concentrate the minds of the custodians of power in the Arab world. Palestine, their old alibi, the cause with which they diverted the attention of their populations from troubles at home, has become a nightmare in its own right. An Arab debt is owed the Palestinians — the gift of truth and candor as well as material help.
But if Ajami is right, the evidence for the shift is still somewhat lacking in the utterances and actions of the Arab states. It seems as though there are two groups - the rulers and the rich, who are interested in cultivating their petrofortunes, and the poor of the Arab world, whose needs and demands are still deflected into the "battle" against the "Zionist Enemy."
Ami Isseroff
June 19, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
Brothers to the Bitter End
SO the masked men of Fatah have the run of the West Bank while the masked men of Hamas have their dominion in Gaza. Some see this as a tolerable situation, maybe even an improvement, envisioning a secularist Fatah-run state living peacefully alongside Israel and a small, radical Gaza hemmed in by Israeli troops. It's always tempting to look for salvation in disaster, but in this case it's sheer fantasy.
The Palestinian ruin was a long time in coming. No other national movement has had the indulgence granted the Palestinians over the last half-century, and the results can be seen in the bravado and the senseless violence, in the inability of a people to come to terms with their condition and their needs.
The life of a Palestinian is one of squalor and misery, yet his leaders play the international game as though they were powers. An accommodation with Israel is imperative — if only out of economic self-interest and political necessity — but the Palestinians, in a democratic experiment some 18 months ago, tipped power to a Hamas movement whose very charter is pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state and the imposition of Islamist rule.
The political maxim that people get the leaders they deserve must be reckoned too cruel to apply to the Palestinians. Before Hamas, for four decades, the vainglorious Yasir Arafat refused to tell his people the basic truths of their political life. Amid the debacles, he remained eerily joyous; he circled the globe, offering his people the false sense that they could be spared the consequences of terrible decisions.
In a rare alignment of the universe, there came Mr. Arafat's way in the late 1990s an American president, Bill Clinton, eager to redeem Palestinian claims and an Israeli soldier-statesman, Ehud Barak, who would offer the Palestinians all that Israeli political traffic could bear and then some.
But it was too much to ask of Mr. Arafat to return to his people with a decent and generous compromise, to bid farewell to the legend that the Palestinians could have it all "from the river to the sea." It was safer for him to stay with the political myths of his people than to settle down for the more difficult work of statehood and political rescue.
For their part, the Arab states have only compounded the Palestinian misery. The Arab cavalry was always on the way, the Arab treasure was always a day away, and there was thus no need for the Palestinians to pay tribute to necessity. In recent years, the choice was starkly posed: it was either statehood or a starring role on Al Jazeera, and the young "boys of the stones" and their leaders opted for the latter.
After Mr. Arafat's death, the mantle passed to a fairly decent man, Mahmoud Abbas, a leader for a post-heroic era. He is free of Mr. Arafat's megalomania, and he seemed keen to cap the volcano; he promised, as he put it, "one law, one authority, one gun" in the Palestinian street. But he has never been a master of his world; by the time he had been given his political stewardship the culture of the Palestinian world had succumbed to a terrifying cult of violence.
It has long been a cherished legend of the Palestinians, and a proud claim, that they would not kill their own, that there would be no fratricide in their world. The cruelty we now see — in both Gaza and the West Bank — bears witness that the Palestinians have run through the consolations that had been there for them in a history of adversity.
It isn't a pretty choice, that between Hamas and Fatah. Indeed, it was the reign of plunder and arrogance that Fatah imposed during its years of primacy that gave Hamas its power and room for maneuver. We must not overdo the distinction between the "secularism" of Fatah and the Islamism of Hamas. In the cruel streets and refugee camps of the Palestinians, this is really a distinction without a difference.
It is idle to think that Gaza could be written off as a Hamas dominion while Fatah held its own in the towns of the West Bank. The abdication and the anarchy have damaged both Palestinian realms. Nablus in the West Bank is no more amenable to reason than is Gaza; the writ of the pitiless preachers and gunmen is the norm in both places.
There is no way that a normal world could be had in the West Bank while Gaza goes under. There is no magic wand with which this Palestinian world could be healed and taught the virtues of realism and sobriety. No international peacekeeping force can bring order to the deadly streets and alleyways of Gaza. A population armed to the teeth and long in the throes of disorder can't be pacified by outsiders.
For decades, Arab society granted the Palestinians everything and nothing at the same time. The Arab states built worlds of their own, had their own priorities, dreaded and loathed the Palestinians as outsiders and agitators, but left them to the illusion that Palestine was an all-consuming Arab concern.
Now the Palestinians should know better. The center of Arab politics has shifted from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, a great political windfall has come to the lands of the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, vast new wealth due to the recent rises in oil prices, while misery overwhelms the Palestinians. No Arabs wait for Palestine anymore; they have left the Palestinians to the ruin of their own history.
The rise of Hamas in Gaza should concentrate the minds of the custodians of power in the Arab world. Palestine, their old alibi, the cause with which they diverted the attention of their populations from troubles at home, has become a nightmare in its own right. An Arab debt is owed the Palestinians — the gift of truth and candor as well as material help.
Arab poets used to write reverential verse in praise of the boys of the stones and the suicide bombers. Now the poetry has subsided, replaced by a silent recognition of the malady that afflicts the Palestinians. Except among the most bigoted and willful of Arabs, there is growing acknowledgment of the depth of the Palestinian crisis. And aside from a handful of the most romantic of Israelis, there is a recognition in that society, as well, of the malignancy of the national movement a stone's throw away.
The mainstream in Israel had made its way to a broad acceptance of Palestinian statehood. In the 1990s, Yitzhak Rabin, the soldier who had led its army into acquisition of the West Bank and Gaza in the Six-Day War of 1967, told his people that it was time to partition the land and to accept Palestinian sovereignty. It was an unsentimental peace, to "get Gaza out of Tel Aviv," as Mr. Rabin put it, but it was peace nonetheless.
In varying degrees, all of Mr. Rabin's successors accepted this legacy. There was even a current in Israel possessed of a deep curiosity about the Palestinians, a romance of sorts about their ways and folk culture and their connection to the sacred land. All this is stilled. Palestinian society has now gone where no "peace processors" or romantic poets dare tread.
Fouad Ajami, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is the author of "The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs and the Iraqis in Iraq."

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Looting and Booty in Gaza: Arafat's Nobel Prize, Suha's gowns looted

Those who thought Arafat's Nobel prize should be taken away may have gotten their wish...
Gaza is quite a place!
Arafat's Nobel Prize, Suha's gowns looted
Hamas gunmen who destroyed late PA chairman's Gaza house did not spare prestigious award he won, as well as garments left behind by his widow
By Roee Nahmias
Yediot Ahronot
June 17, 2007
The Hamas gunmen who broke into the Gaza house of late Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat on Saturday, also stole his Nobel Peace Prize and his widow's evening gowns, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
"This morning the Hamas gangs and militia broke into the home of the leader and symbol, Yasser Arafat, broke the door and entered his house under gunpoint. They stole and looted its content, stepped on his picture and military uniform and stole his personal documents," the report said, using harsh words against Hamas.
According to the report, "(The gunmen) smashed the badges and gifts he received from world leaders, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize medal."
It appears that the gunmen also visited the private room of the late leaders' widow, Suha Arafat.
"The militiamen broke into his wife and daughter's rooms on the second floor of the house and stole the women's clothes. They also stepped on the picture of the 'shahid rais' (martyr chairman) with his daughter Zahwa and his wife, Suha Arafat."
Fatah spokesman Ahmed Abdel Rahman was enraged by the incident, saying that "this crime took place after Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal promised that Arafat's house would not be touched.
"This is a real crime which was preceded by crimes of killing, slaughter and theft by the gangs of the Hamas militia and its executing force in the presidential headquarters in Gaza, as well as the execution of Fatah officers.
"These crimes will reveal to the entire world the face of the Hamas leadership and the political leadership which rose to power. The Palestinian people will not forgive these criminal gangs which broke into the home of the great Palestinian shahid, Yasser Arafat. This crime will remain a mark of disgrace on the forehead of the Hamas leadership and its criminal gangs," he added.


Witnesses say crowd took furniture, wall tiles and personal belongings from villa of deceased Palestinian leader; Fatah gunmen attempt to kidnap Hamas-affiliated official in Ramallah. Palestinian official says American envoy told Abbas US would lift ban on aid to emergency government
Ali Waked and Reuters Latest Update:  06.16.07, 14:32 / Israel News

A crowd on Saturday looted the home of longtime Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, destroying one of the strongest symbols of the Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip, witnesses and Fatah officials said.
Fatah officials said the crowd took furniture, wall tiles and Arafat's personal belongings.
Hamas Leader

The villa had been empty since Arafat left for the West Bank in 2001 shortly after the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising. Israel confined Arafat to the West Bank until permitting him to fly to France for medical care in late 2004. Arafat died in France several weeks later.

Arafat, Fatah's founder, led the Palestinians for four decades before his death.

Meanwhile, clashes continued in the West Bank, where hundreds of Fatah gunmen stormed the Hamas-controlled parliament building in Ramallah. The gunmen attempted to kidnap the deputy chairman of the Palestinian parliament, Hassan Khreisheh, who is affiliated with Hamas, but were stopped by Fatah MPs.
Earlier in Nablus Fatah gunmen seized control of a number of Hamas-affiliated institutions, including the city council building.
 Bush, Olmert to discuss gestures
A senior Palestinian official said an American envoy told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting on Saturday that the United States will lift a ban on aid to the emergency government he is forming.
Abbas ordered the Hamas-led government disbanded on Thursday after the Islamist group's bloody takeover of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas said Abbas' order amounted to a coup and that Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, remained in power.
"Abbas was informed the American administration will immediately lift the sanctions once the emergency government is announced," the senior Palestinian official said as Abbas met in Ramallah with US Consul-General Jacob Walles.
Senior Israeli and Western officials said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US President George W. Bush would discuss at a meeting next week a series of "gestures" they planned to take, including the release to Abbas of a portion of the Palestinian Authority's tax revenues being withheld by Israel

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Christians in danger in Gaza: Palestinians attack church, monastery

According to Maanews, Palestinians torched and looted a church and monastery in Gaza, as well as attacking a nun's school, an act condemnded by former education Minister Barghouthi:
Barghouthi also condemned the attack on the Latin Church and monastery in Gaza City. The church and the monastery were torched and looted, and a nun's school was also attacked. Barghouthi said the attacks were "sinful".
When a demented Israeli set a small fire in a church, it made headlines around the world for many days, and Israel was roundly condemned in Arab media. This incident of Islamist brutality will probably merit no more than a few lines in a Palestinian news service.
Ami Isseroff

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The truth is, disengagement was coordinated with the Palestinians

Those who insist that current chaos in Gaza was due to lack of Israeli coordination with the Palestinian Authority in the disengagement, should consider what the Palestinian Authority had to say on the matter at the time of the disengagement, as reported in the Jerusalem Times of July 28, 2005:
The PNA has finished all administrative arrangements ahead of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, said the Palestinian PM Ahmad Qurei on Wednesday 7/28/2005
The Palestinian Authority therefore had every opportunity to assert its sovereignty over Gaza and to implement all measures required to maintain order and support public welfare and ensure domestic tranquility. They did none of those things.
Ami Isseroff

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Israel, Zionism, Peace and Americans

According to a recent poll, U.S. 'elites' support Israel, but aren't sure it wants peace:

70 percent cited the need to be "a leader in working for peace" as heading the list of 13 qualities required of an American "ally." But only 16 percent saw this among Israel's traits.
That is something to think about when doing "Israel advocacy" - isn't it? My dear fellow Zionists, it sure is great to blow off steam at the Hamas and their allies, but you really aren't going to nuke Mecca or Tehran, and you don't even really want to do it, so why write such things under the rubric of "Zionism?" Portraying Israel, Zionism and Zionists as being against peace is a falsification of reality. It is "auto-demonification" of "self-hating Jews," isn't it? If you write that "there is no diplomatic solution," you can hardly blame anti-'Zionists' for drawing cartoons of baby-eating Ariel Sharon, and you can't blame Radio Islam and Electronic Intifadah for their rants against Zionist warmongers either.
Of course, it is a vicious and cynical libel to say that Zionists do not want peace, because tiny Israel cannot survive in the Middle East without peace. A Jewish state that will not be able to live in peace with its neighbors, whose right to exist is not recognized, has no future. The work of Zionism is certainly not done until we achieve peace. Then we might talk about a "post-Zionist" period, provided we can bring the majority of Jews here. Until then, peace must remain the cardinal goal of Zionism. Peace is a Zionist plot. Just ask any Hamas representative and he (not 'she,' for certain) will tell you that. So it is ironic and unfortunate that Americans think Israel doesn't want peace, and it is even more ironic when would-be "Zionist" advocates try to project a ferocious and uncompromising image of Israel, to fulfill the propaganda fantasies of our enemies.
In all of the horrific landscape of Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab relations, there are a few tiny rays of hope, however imperfect, however quixotic. The Ayalon-Nusseibeh plan offers a reasonable compromise that will allow self determination and a bright future for the Jews and for Palestinian Arabs in two independent states. It is unfortunate that Palestinian Arab advocacy groups like BADIL insist that Sari Nusseibeh is a traitor for giving up the "Right of Return" of Palestinian Arab refugees and the struggle against the "Zionist enemy." It is also indicative of what stand supports of peace and supporters of Israel should be taking with regard to Ayalon-Nusseibeh.
The Onevoice initiative for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict tries to unite Palestinians and Israelis around an agreed two state peace solution, that is refined in a series of e-referenda. They are educating youth for peace, and creating a constituency that will lobby leaders for peace. It would seem that any decent person would get solidly behind these projects and initiatives, which offer rallying points for those who support peace. We do not need to agree with every word. We all want two independent states for two peoples, living side by side. However, I am embarrassed to say that it is not so: these projects are attaced not only by Islamists and hardline Palestinian 'drive em into the sea' folks, but by "Zionists" as well. Both these projects, and many like them, have been attacked for various reasons by squadrons of "Zionist" publicists and bloggers who live in Chicago or California and other "Zionist" places. One of them decided, on flimsy evidence, that Onevoice supports terrorism, and this bit of rubbish was repeated in a popular "Zionist" publication that appears in the United States.
Others misunderstood or deliberately distorted both the Ayalon Nusseibeh document and the Onevoice initiative, so that they would appear to be "unfair" or threats to Israel. Of course, any peace solution is going to be a compromise, so it is easy for extremists to point out what their side is risking, and what their side is losing in any proposed agreement or peace initiative. The people who lead the anti-peace-group campaigns are often well-meaning. Bitter experience with the peace process of the past thirteen years has illustrated the dangers of misconceived peace agreements. But the peace process foundered because there was no support for peace among the Palestinian people, who elected the genocidal Hamas to lead them. The enemy is not Onevoice or Ayalon-Nusseibeh, which are both, essentially, educational initiatives for peace rather than political statements. The enemy is opposition to the existence of Israel, which these initiatives are trying to overcome.
Those supporters of Israel who want to carry on a political war for or against the occupation or for or against election of a particular Israeli leader, have a right to do so. But they should not confuse their political opinions with "Zionism" and they should not speak in the name of Zionism or of Israel when they insist on opposing peace.
On the other hand, Americans need to do some thinking too:
57 percent "strongly agree" that "the Arab countries around Israel are hostile to its existence," and 85 percent overall said they "agree" with that statement. Some 75 percent said they agreed that "the Arabs don't really accept Israel's right to exist."
That being the case, with whom is Israel to make peace? Those who say there is no partner just now seem to right, and the horrific events in Gaza bear them out.
Ami Isseroff

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B'tselem - Perpetrators of Gaza War crimes must be tried

B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories


Press Release

B'Tselem demands that perpetrators of war crimes in Gaza be tried warns against revenge attacks in the West Bank

The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem today calls on the Palestinian leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip to investigate all war crimes that may have been committed during the clashes in the Gaza Strip, and to bring all suspects to criminal trial.

In addition, B'Tselem warns against illegal attacks on people or institutions affiliated with Hamas in the West Bank, whether through acts of revenge by individuals or groups identified with Fatah, or in the course of arbitrary arrests by the Palestinian Authority. We are already seeing worrying signs of such attacks in the last few days, and the security forces of the Palestinian Authority bear the responsibility to prevent them.

B'Tselem's call follows last week's events in the Gaza Strip, during which individuals affiliated with both Fatah and Hamas were documented as having committed flagrant violations of customary international humanitarian law. These included summary executions, in some cases of civilians who did not take part in the hostilities, severe abuse, and launching deliberate attacks on hospitals. These acts constitute war crimes under international law and impose personal criminal responsibility on those involved in their commission.

B'Tselem also reminds the Israeli government, which has effective control in the West Bank, that it bears overarching responsibility for the human rights of all people in the West Bank, including for acts committed by agencies operating with Israel's agreement, including the Palestinian Authority.

Sarit Michaeli
Communications Director

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For the first time - Israel will chair a UN committee

For the first time – Israel will chair a UN committee

For the first time, an Israeli diplomat has been chosen to chair a UN committee. The 33-member Committee on Program and Coordination examines and approves the work plan for all UN agencies and bodies.

(Communicated by the Foreign Minister's Bureau)

For the first time since Israel became a member of the United Nations, an Israeli has been appointed to chair a UN committee. The committee - Committee on Program and Coordination (CPC) – examines and approves the work plan for all UN bodies and agencies for the next two years.

Since 1960, the committee has been meeting once a year, for a month-long session, submitting a report to the General Assembly and to the Economic and Social Council about UN activities, adjusted for the UN budget.

The committee is comprised of 33 member states, including some that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, such as Indonesia, Iran and Cuba.

The director of the Israel Foreign Ministry's UN Political Affairs Department, Mr. Ron Adam, was chosen to fill the position. Adam has been at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1990. He was a Counsellor at the Israeli delegation to the UN from 1998 to 2002. Since 2004 he has served as the director of the UN Political Affairs Department, in the Division for the United Nations and International Organizations, responsible for coordinating the work of the Israeli delegation to the UN. Last year, Adam served as the deputy chair of the CPC, representing the European Group.

Since Israel joined the Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG) in 2000, it has had the right to apply for positions on UN committees. Israel has also submitted its candidacy for membership on the Security Council for 2019, and it already sits on several important committees, among them the Committee for Sustainable Development and the Committee on Drugs and Crime. In addition to the 1952 General Assembly session in which Israeli statesman Abba Eban served as vice-president, Israelis have been deputy chairs a number of times:

- Tal Baker, deputy chair of the Sixth Committee (59th GA) in 2004
- Alon Bar, deputy chair of the First Committee (60th GA) in 2005
- Meir Yitzhaki, deputy chair of the Disarmament Committee at Geneva CD in 2004
- Ambassador Dan Gillerman, vice-president of the General Assembly (60th GA) in 2005

However, this is the first time that an Israeli has been chosen to chair a committee.

The 47th session of the Committee on Program and Coordination convened on 11 June and will adjourn on 7 July. During this month, the members will discuss the UN work plan for 2008-2009. After assuming the chair on 11 June, Adam thanked the outgoing chairperson, the ambassador of Jamaica to the UN, for the fine work that she accomplished during her term. The committee has three deputy chairs, from Belarus, Venezuela and Benin.

Current member states of the CPC include: Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, the Republic of Central Africa, China, Comoros, Cuba, France, Ghana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Pakistan, Portugal, Korea, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Switzerland, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, United States, and Israel.

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Palestinian chaos: Porno pix of Mahmoud Dahlan's Wife and threatening press releases

The editors of the Palestinian news service, Maanews, comment on the chaos and disintegration in Palestinian media:
Bethlehem – Editorial – Following the military termination in the Gaza Strip, rivals shifted to a media termination, which both sides know will be much more difficult than the military termination.
The past hours witnessed a media battle between the spokespersons of Hamas and Fatah, which reached its climax when some electronic websites published lurid pictures of Muhammad Dahlan's wife and other indecent embodiments of the conflict, which have appeared for the first time in Palestine.
While Hamas continues to dub its rivals a "treasonable trend", Fatah responds by depicting Hamas activists as a "mutiny trend".
Al-Aqsa TV channel, Palestine TV and other partial media outlets are exerting all their efforts to attach the worst descriptions and accusations to their rivals describing them unhesitatingly as "treasonous" or "collaborators".
The highest echelons are relatively silent, yet the third and fourth class leaders are launching accusations and declarations in all directions. Utter confusion prevailed and no one hesitates to say whatever they want.
Hamas-affiliated Qassam Brigades' spokesperson launched accusations at president Abbas, Fatah-affiliated Al Aqsa Brigades leader, Abu 'Uday, levelled allegations at Hamas politburo chief Khalid Mash'al. Amidst this cycle of treason, accusations and incrimination, the Palestinian people have lost their direction.
Each accusation has a counter-accusation and each senior official has his accusation ready to be launched. Amidst this confusion, journalists found themselves under the pressure of telephone calls with each party accusing them and the other party and trying to prove by force that a certain standpoint is right.
Al-Arabiyya Sattelite TV channel hosted Fatah strongman, Muhammad Dahlan, while Al-Jazeera transmitted Khalid Mash'al's press conference live. Each channel has its own guest and each guest has his own media sword which he extends to others.
No sooner have the rivals done their jobs on the ground than they shifted to satellite transmission; Abu Zuhri from Hamas threw accusations at Fatah operatives in the West Bank and threatened to retaliate. Immediately afterwards, Fatah's, Zakariyya Zubaydi, told Al-Jazeera that Hamas has polluted the hands of the Palestinian revolution. He said, "If Abu Zuhri wants to bombard us with missiles, let him do it." Then Al-Jazeera newsreader interrupted him and said that Hamas issued a general amnesty in the Gaza Strip.
An irritated leader called Ma'an and asked it to publish that "he will kill a hundred men from the other party, if they will not respond to his demands."
In return, another leader threatened Ma'an "if Ma'an once again publishes the pictures of the execution of [Fatah leader] Samih Al-Madhoun." He neglected to note that his own media outlets published the pictures first.
A leader of a Palestinian faction, whose inappropriate declarations Ma'an refused to publish, told the press, "Ma'an is supported by the C.I.A." They laughed at him, because they knew that had Ma'an published his news, and picture, he would have praised them as giants.

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An Arab view: Congratulations Hamas

Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed

It was the biggest insult to the Palestinian nation that looked on with embarrassment and disappointment at what had happened in front of their eyes. The scene was terrible. It was one of the biggest massacres in Gaza's history as the soldiers of Hamas killed tens of Fatah members, dragging those who were alive to their deaths even though they held their arms up in submission in front of the soldiers of Hamas who flashed the victory sign, declaring that they have liberated Gaza without shame.
What is happening? Does it make sense that Hamas chooses to fight Fatah when the Israelis are a stone's throw away? Could Hamas settle for being a mere tool for the Iranians to sabotage the situation and destabilize the region just as it did this time last year? Last summer, Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier and in response, Israel damaged it. This time, Hamas chose to attack the headquarters of Fatah and the President's office as well as to pursue its employees; therefore, it won the battle on the ground. However, which victory exactly is Hamas celebrating?
Hamas has buried the Palestinian cause and thrown the world's respect for the rights of Palestinians down the drain. Furthermore, it has polished Israel's image and thwarted any hopes for an independent Palestinian state. What Hamas has done is just the beginning of dissent that bids farewell to the cause and welcomes a war between brothers.
Arab societies have endured difficult times on a number of occasions but the modern day is worse than ever before in Arab history. For this, the Arab world must take a decisive stand as it should not accept the partition of Palestine even at the hands of its own people. The Arab world does not accept silence whilst one Palestinian party slaughters another. The Arab world will not accept the deposed prime minister [a reference to Ismail Haniyeh] announcing his support of the killing, lawlessness, looting, burning and pursuing of fellow Palestinians from Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the seizing of the headquarters and offices that Haniyeh's men carried out. The Arab world should clearly and decisively declare its stance and announce that it supports the legitimacy that is represented through the PA, not Hamas nor Fatah. Such legitimacy is primarily represented through the president, who brought about elections and admitted Hamas to the political competition, respected the results of the elections and accordingly assigned Hamas' leader, Ismail Haniyeh, as prime minister, granting him all the necessary support.
Today, President Mahmoud Abbas was forced to dismiss Haniyeh due to the latter's knowledge of and perhaps support for the crimes that were committed. He was dismissed because he was the one to announce the abolition of Palestinian authority, allowing his men to occupy every post that symbolized such authority. Haniyeh's official spokesman announced that the Gaza Strip was liberated from herds of traitors by which he meant the PA itself.
Everybody knows that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] was very patient with Haniyeh, Hamas and its practices, Hamas' disregard of signed agreements, the fact that it carried arms against the PA, in addition to its dealings with Iran and allowing Khaled Meshaal to run Hamas from Syria.
For several months, Abu Mazen refused Fatah's demands that called for seeking a decision from the Palestinian people via early elections through which they could express their viewpoints with regards to who should run Palestine. Hamas does not want to seek the decision of Palestinian people as it knows that Palestinians are extremely disappointed with how Hamas had led government. Hamas had neither fought Israel nor had it respected conventions or eased the suffering of the people who have survived the worst stage witnessed by the Palestinian occupied territories since the beginning of the Israeli occupation.
Thus, the League of Arab States should recognize the president as a valid president and leave the Palestinians to select their prime minister through elections. If the Palestinians were to elect Haniyeh then he should stay, and if they do not accept him then they should put forward another candidate whom they would accept.

Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. Mr. Al Rashed is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

Continued (Permanent Link)

UNRWA and Palestinian policies bred Gaza problems

Amazingly, some commentators are blaming Gaza violence on... Israel!
Actually, my sons and I sneak in there at night in our ninja suits with the masks and throw people off buildings. We invade hospitals and murder people. We collect the blood the make matzot (you wait and see - RadioIslam and Stormfront will feature this article as a "confession" by an Zionist devil).
Seriously, Gaza is fertile ground for angry young men  because of UN policies, the demographics they inspire, Palestinian culture and the total failure of the Fatah when it was in power. Add to that the EU and Egyptian supervised arms smuggling and you get what you see today. Gunnar Heinsohn wrote:
As a result of UNRWA's policies and programmes, a Jewish majority in Israel and the territories has been turned into a minority. In the over-60 age bracket, Jews enjoy a three to one lead in population. But they lose ground in the younger generations that will wage the wars of the coming decades. In 2005 there were 640,000 Jewish boys under 15, against 1.1m in the Arab sector. Many young Jews are their families' only sons, who concentrate on future vocations. However, more than two-thirds of the Arab boys are second, third and even fourth brothers. Neither their fathers nor UNRWA will leave them any property or prepare them for a decent place in life.
Mr Haniya, for example, was born in 1962 and brought up by western aid money. He is the father of 13 children. In Mr Haniya's age bracket of 45 to 59 years, Gaza, in 2007, has 46,000 men. In the age bracket 0 to 14 years, there are 343,000 boys. In the US, every 1,000 men in the age bracket 45 to 49 are followed by only 945 boys in the age bracket 0 to 4. For Israeli Jews, the ratio is about 1,000 to 1,500. In Gaza, however, every 1,000 men from 45 to 49 are followed by nearly 6,200 boys from 0 to 4.
Had the people of the US multiplied at the same rate as the people of Gaza, the US would have gone from a population of 152m in 1950 to 945m in 2007, more than triple the size of its current population of 301m. It would be home not to 31m males between the traditional fighting age of 15 and 29, but to 120m. Faced with such a population explosion, would America's politicians and cultural organisations be able "to control their men in the streets"?
Ami Isseroff 
By Gunnar Heinsohn
Published: June 14 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 14 2007 03:00
On September 11 2005, Israel left the Gaza Strip. The next day, four synagogues went up in flames. A cheering alliance of young men from Hamas and Fatah hailed these desecrations as bonfires celebrating the future of an independent Palestine.
Eighteen months later, fighters from the two organisations were still co-operating in attacks on their hated neighbour. By June 2007 their Kassam missiles had killed 11 Israelis. In that same period, some 600 Palestinians became victims of internecine warfare. Thousands more were wounded and half the population traumatised by a relentless chain of revenge slayings. Hidden behind masks, even brothers were at each other's throats.
Who is to blame for all this violence and conflict? There are many answers to that, but it is interesting to note that Ahmed Youssef, a top Hamas man and political adviser to Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister, does not blame Gaza's troubles on either "the Jews" or the lack of religious faith among his secular opponents in Fatah. In May 2007 he told Cairo's Al Ahram newspaper that the main problem was the inability of both Fatah and Hamas "to control their men in the streets".
But why has violence exploded out of control in a culture where obedience is an uncontested virtue? The answer lies in a different kind of explosion.
Gaza has been overwhelmed by a demographic boom that shows no sign of abating. Between 1950 and 2007, its population has jumped from 240,000 to nearly 1.5m. How was such rapid growth possible in a small territory that has no economy to speak of?
This extraordinary achievement was accomplished by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. UNRWA - in accordance with international law - treats every resident of Gaza as a refugee. It provides housing, schooling and medication for every newborn - whether a first child or a 10th sibling.
As a result of UNRWA's policies and programmes, a Jewish majority in Israel and the territories has been turned into a minority. In the over-60 age bracket, Jews enjoy a three to one lead in population. But they lose ground in the younger generations that will wage the wars of the coming decades. In 2005 there were 640,000 Jewish boys under 15, against 1.1m in the Arab sector. Many young Jews are their families' only sons, who concentrate on future vocations. However, more than two-thirds of the Arab boys are second, third and even fourth brothers. Neither their fathers nor UNRWA will leave them any property or prepare them for a decent place in life.
Mr Haniya, for example, was born in 1962 and brought up by western aid money. He is the father of 13 children. In Mr Haniya's age bracket of 45 to 59 years, Gaza, in 2007, has 46,000 men. In the age bracket 0 to 14 years, there are 343,000 boys. In the US, every 1,000 men in the age bracket 45 to 49 are followed by only 945 boys in the age bracket 0 to 4. For Israeli Jews, the ratio is about 1,000 to 1,500. In Gaza, however, every 1,000 men from 45 to 49 are followed by nearly 6,200 boys from 0 to 4.
Had the people of the US multiplied at the same rate as the people of Gaza, the US would have gone from a population of 152m in 1950 to 945m in 2007, more than triple the size of its current population of 301m. It would be home not to 31m males between the traditional fighting age of 15 and 29, but to 120m. Faced with such a population explosion, would America's politicians and cultural organisations be able "to control their men in the streets"?
Over the next 15 years many more angry young males will roam the streets of Palestine, because of a birth defect of the Arafat-Rabin peace process. A western promise to support all children already born but to cut from international welfare Palestinian children born after 1992, and, simultaneously, to stop new Israeli settlements, should have been the first step of the Oslo process. As in Algeria or Tunisia, where total fertility fell from 7 to below 2 and where terror has ceased, Gaza, in 2007, would have seen nearly all of its boys turning 15 as only sons. They would have had little incentive to kill their own people or Israelis. Yet today Gaza's total fertility is still close to 6. This demographic armament will continue to provide large numbers of young men who have no prospects for employment and no place in society, and whose only hope is to fight for one.
The writer is the director of Raphael-Lemkin-Institut at the University of Bremen, Europe's first institute devoted to comparative genocide research. He is the author of Sons and World Power: Terror in the Rise and Fall of Nations (Söhne und Weltmacht)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"Our 'Friend' Fatah"

"Our 'Friend' Fatah"
By Barry Rubin 17 June 2007

During World War One, Germany concluded that its chief ally,
Austria-Hungary, was more of a burden than an asset. As one German official
put it, that alliance was like being "shackled to a corpse."

And more than a century earlier, it was said of the doomed French dynasty,
the Bourbons, that they learned nothing and forgot nothing.

Welcome to the alliance with Fatah, sort of Austria-Hungary and the Bourbons
rolled up into one. It is now ruler of a West Bank-only semi-state after
Hamas captured the Gaza Strip from it. The United States is now backing
Palestinian Authority leader Marwan Abbas with aid and probably military
assistance. Israel's government will do everything possible to preserve that
regime, too.

This is a completely logical policy decision. It makes perfect sense given
the balance of forces and the overall situation. I understand why it is
being done. The problem is that it isn't going to work. And if we know that
now, perhaps this fact should shape policy just a bit?

But first, let's sweep the floor of all the debris that belongs in the
garbage can. There are now those who argue for backing, or at least
parlaying with, Hamas. Reportedly, the European Union is going to keep
giving aid to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

As I recall, in wartime one does not send aid to enemy-ruled states, even to
help the civilians there.  Putting on such pressure is a way to defeat the
enemy. Of course, the United States and Europe are not at war with Hamas, or
Hizballah, Syria, or Iran for that matter. The problem is that these
countries generally don't understand that these forces are at war with them.

If you send aid to the Gaza Strip, it will strengthen Hamas's rule. Aid will
be diverted to pay terrorists and buy arms. The schoolteachers whose salary
you pay will teach the children that their highest duty is to become a
suicide bomber and that Christians and Jews are sub-human. The salaries paid
are used to buy support for Hamas. Those loyal get money; those who oppose
Hamas don't. Is all this so hard to understand?

And if one wants to do something humanitarian, take the money that would
have gone to the Gaza Strip and give it to poor people in Africa, Asia,
South America, Iraq, even the West Bank. Don't finance terrorism,
antisemitism, and radical Islamism for goodness sake. Is that so hard to

The second piece of nonsense is that this is some great opportunity for
advancing the peace process. Have no doubt. The United States and Israel may
give Fatah money, trade some intelligence, and try to get them to stop
cross-border terror attacks. But serious negotiations? Forget it.

In understanding the Fatah world view let's try a simple test. You are a
Fatah official. You receive money. What do you do with it? Answer: put it
into your foreign bank account. Why? Because aside from pure greed and a
mentality of corruption, you are afraid that Hamas will take over the West
Bank, too. You will need a bankroll so that you and your family can flee
abroad and live comfortably, very comfortably.

As for Abbas, he is a loser and only if he is replaced can one even begin to
believe in Fatah's survival. He is the closest thing in the Palestinian
movement to a French intellectual, not the kind of person you would like to
have by your side in a knife fight.

Consider his first two decisions. Who did Abbas make prime minister?
Muhammad Dahlan, who has been warning about the Hamas threat for more than
five years, or some other warrior? No, Salam Fayyad, a professional
economist. Why, does Abbas intend to launch a major development and
anti-poverty campaign?  No, it's because Fayyad, an honest and experience
guy it is true, but certainly no wartime consigliore.

In addition, he has refused to outlaw Hamas on the West Bank. Perhaps he
hopes for reconciliation? Or wants to avoid a confrontation on his remaining
turf? If Abbas is thinking like a European Union bureaucrat he is really

There is something deeper in the desire to believe in an alliance with
Fatah, an organization which still carries on terrorist attacks and doesn't
believe in Israel's right to exist. This is the obsession with the peace
process idea.

Now peace is a very good thing. It is certainly preferable to war. Such a
condition far better serves the interests of average people. But,
unfortunately, a comprehensive, formal peace is not going to happen. Get
over it. Smell the coffee. Deal with unpleasant reality.

OK, so we have to deal with the cards which have been dealt. But this means
a tough policy, showing adversaries that it is costly to be enemies;
pressing supposed allies to deliver the goods.

What lesson does Iran draw from Western weakness in opposing its nuclear
weapons' program? To paraphrase the words of the Union admiral during the
Civil War, "Damn the diplomatic notes! Full speed ahead!"

What lesson does Syria draw from Israel's failure to retaliate against it
last summer and the stream of Western suitors bearing gifts? Escalate the
war against Lebanon!

What lesson does Hizballah draw from Western refusal to get tough on arms
smuggling and Europeans trembling lest it attack the UNIFIL peacekeeping
forces in Lebanon? Rearm, rebuild positions in the south and start firing
rockets against Israel again!

So, all right, work with Fatah but have no illusions or expectations. And
don't give something for nothing.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs
(GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center, and editor of the Middle East
Review of International Affairs. His latest book is The Truth About Syria

Continued (Permanent Link)

UN HRC - Israel to face permanent indictment, Cuba and Belarus exonerated

Castro and Lukashenko to Celebrate Human Rights Council Reform Package
Dictators Fidel Castro of Cuba and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus will be celebrating the UN Human Rights Council's likely adoption tomorrow of a reform package that will see both regimes dropped from a blacklist, while Israel is placed under permanent indictment.
Contrary to all the promises of reform issued last year, the proposal released today by Council President Luis Alfonso de Alba targets Israel for permanent indictment under a special agenda item: "Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories," which includes "Human rights violations and implications of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and other occupied Arab territories"; and "Right to self-determination of the Palestinian people." No other situation in the world is singled out -- not genocide in Sudan, not child slavery in China, nor the persecution of democracy dissidents in Egypt and elsewhere. Moreover, the council will entrench its one-sided investigative mandate of "Israeli violations of international law"—the only one not subject to regular review after a set term—by renewing it "until the end of the occupation."
At the same time, the proposal eliminates the experts charged with reporting on violations by Cuba and Belarus, despite the latest reports of massive violations by both regimes. As for the experts on other countries -- on Burundi, Cambodia, North Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Burma, Somalia and Sudan -- all of these may soon be eliminated, as threatened by the Council majority comprised of dictatorships and other Third World countries, under a gradual "review" process. Pending their fate, all experts will be subjected to a new "Code of Conduct," submitted by Algeria in the name of the African group, designed to intimidate and restrict the independence of the human rights experts.
The one positive innovation on the Council's horizon is the universal periodic review, which requires that all countries subject their human rights records to review.  Except that this was already authorized by the General Assembly resolution that created the Council last year, whereas the package to be adopted tomorrow merely elaborates on the details.  Regrettably, the proposed procedures are hardly encouraging.  First, the review will occur only once every four years.  So if a Tiananmen Square massacre occurs, the victims will need to wait up to four years for redress.  Even then, the duration of the review—for China as for every other country—is limited to a mere 3 hours.  If all of that were not enough, the process itself, the proposal takes pains to emphasize, is a "cooperative mechanism," with the very country reviewed "fully involved in the outcome."  Translation: it's largely toothless.
The complete reform package is expected to be adopted by consensus tomorrow—unless the governments of Canada and other Western democracies uphold principle by opposing the entrenchment of bias as a permanent feature of the new council.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Siniora: We'll spare no effort to find those behind Katyusha fire

Someone fired two or three or four Katyousha rockets at Israel from Lebanon. It is now suspected to the the "work" of Palestinians - perhaps Fatah al Islam.
Last update - 22:08 17/06/2007   
By Eli Ashkenazi, Amos Harel, and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents and Agencies

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Sunday his country would "spare no effort" in finding those responsible for the Katyusha rocket attacks on Kiryat Shmona earlier in the day.
"The state, through all its security services, will spare no effort to find the party behind this act which aims at destabilizing Lebanon," Siniora said in a statement.
Two Katyusha rockets hit the northern town of Kiryat Shmona on Sunday afternoon, in the first rocket strikes on northern Israel since the end of the Second Lebanon War last summer.
"Two Katyusha rockets landed in Kiryat Shmona, and caused damage to a vehicle and roads. There were no injuries," a police spokesman said.
A third rocket struck next to a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) base in the southern Lebanese village of Houla.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the fire, but a Lebanese security source said suspected Palestinian gunmen - not Hezbollah - had carried out the attack.
Hezbollah issued an official denial of responsibility for the rocket fire. "Hezbollah denies being involved in any operation to launch missiles today against occupied Palestine," said a flash script on Hezbollah-run Al-Manar television.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command also denied Sunday any involvement in the rocket attacks.
An Israeli official accompanying Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on a visit to the United States confirmed Palestinians were apparently behind the rocket fire, adding that Israel would not retaliate.
"The prime minister was updated about the Katyusha rockets immediately after the event and has consulted with the defense minister and foreign minister," the official said. "It seems that it was Palestinians, not Hezbollah."
The official said Israel viewed the attack with "deep concern" and believed the Palestinians were trying to trigger an Israeli military response. But, the official added: "Israel will not be drawn in."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Sunday that Israel expects the Lebanese government to take control of its territories, and ensure that neither Hezbollah nor Palestinian groups can attack Israel from within its borders.
She added that Israel expects the UNIFIL to act according to its directive. "We expect UNIFIL troops to exert every effort to prevent the repetition of this kind of attack," she said.
She discussed the incident with her counterparts by telephone.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos contacted her immediately after the event, to assure her that Spanish UNIFIL troops stationed in the area from which the rockets were fired were doing everything in their power to thwart any attack on Israel.
Livni is maintaining close contact with Olmert and has conferred with him about the incident.
She will also raise the issue at a European Union foreign ministers' conference in Brussels this week.
Following the attack, Defense Minister Amir Peretz spoke on the phone with Olmert and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. Peretz also met with senior defense and military officials in Tel Aviv for a previously-scheduled security consultation.
The official Lebanese news agency said Lebanese army troops arrived at the site from which the rockets were launched, near Taibe - which is west of Kiryat Shmona and north of Kibbutz Misgav Am. The troops found four rocket launchers with timing devices, including one that failed to fire and was dismantled by the military.
The Lebanese army also set up roadblocks in an effort to locate a black Honda that was seen fleeing the scene of the rocket fire.
Yasmina Bouziane, a deputy spokeswoman for UNIFIL, said: "Today's rocket attack from south Lebanon is considered a serious violation of Security Council Resolution 1701 and serious breach of cessation of hostilities agreement."
She added that UNIFIL is urging all parties to excercize maximum restraint.
According to police, an initial examination determined that the rockets had a diameter of 107 mm.
Defense officials instructed the Kiryat Shmona municipality to continue with life as usual, and not order residents into bomb shelters. The municipality's emergency hotline, however, will operate around the clock.
Magen David Adom emergency medical services Director-General Eli Bin placed emergency medical teams on high alert throughout northern Israel.
Kiryat Shmona Mayor Haim Barbivai called for a tough response from both Israel and the Lebanese government. "Heaven help us if we have another summer like the last one. That would be a tragedy," he told Channel 2 television.
Kiryat Shmona was hard-hit during the 34-day Second Lebanon War, during which Hezbollah fired some 4,000 Katyusha rockets at towns and cities across northern Israel.

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Gaza atrocities - Hamas shoots, Israel heals

Not much introduction needed here, except to say that this story is being repeated quite a bit, for the few Palestinians who could get out of Gaza. Egypt turned Palestinian refugees back to Gaza.

By Charles Levinson in Ashkelon, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:55am BST 10/06/2007

In the Gaza Strip's Jabaliya refugee camp, Aref Suleiman was raised on Palestinian struggle against the Jewish state. Today he lies in an Israeli hospital bed, his body riddled with Palestinian bullets, his wounds tended daily by Israeli nurses.

For the 22-year-old Mr Suleiman, who was shot five times point blank by Hamas militants last month during a renewed bout of Palestinian infighting, this is not the Arab-Israeli conflict he learnt about as a child growing up in Gaza's desperate, rubbish-strewn alleys.
"Palestinians shoot me and Jews treat me," he laughs bitterly. "It was supposed to be different."
The Barzilai Hospital sits on a sandy hilltop above the Mediterranean Sea in the southern Israeli port city of Ashkelon. In recent months, five Palestinian rockets have landed in the grassy dunes that encircle it, just six miles from the Gaza Strip.
Barzilai, however, has become a rare bastion of civility in an increasingly hate-filled conflict and a unique meeting ground for two peoples who otherwise have little direct contact.
Wounded Palestinians who get permission from the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli army are allowed into Israel to seek medical treatment that is not available at Gaza's rudimentary clinics. Here, Israelis and Palestinians meet their erstwhile foe, in many cases for the first time in their lives.
Mr Suleiman, who was only 15 when the second intifada erupted in 2000, had never been to Israel or met an Israeli. Suleiman, a guard in the Palestinian security services who was a devoted follower of the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
As he flirts with the Israeli nurses who bring him lunch, check his wounds and blood pressure and empty his bed pan, Suleiman seems, at least for the time being, to have forgotten historical grievances.
"The Jews are like honey, like flowers," he says theatrically. "They wash me, clean me, and change my gown every day. Even in my home, my own family wouldn't change me every day."
"Here, everything is beseder," he adds, using the Hebrew word for "okay".
For the young Israeli nurses, most from nearby communities that live in constant fear of the Palestinian rocket fire, the cultural exchange flows both ways. The Palestinian patients they treat put a human face on the conflict. Nurse and patient can even find a shred of common cause now that the Islamist Hamas movement, which has killed dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings, is locked in a deadly power struggle with the more moderate Fatah movement.
Victims on both sides of the war's de facto frontline are treated side by side here. Five doors down from Mr Suleiman, Ludmilla Visiptzky, 60, awaits her third session of surgery to patch up the shrapnel wounds she suffered when a Palestinian Qassam rocket struck her home in mid-May.
Both confined to their hospital beds, the two patients have had little contact, but each knows the other is within shouting distance. Meanwhile Nurse Kokhava Kohi, says gleefully of her patient, Mr Suleiman: "He's going to go home and shoot Hamas in the head," - as if that alone would justify her daily ministrations.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gaza Atrocities

This report of Gaza atrocities  by the Hamas terrorist group is pretty old, as since then there have apparently been no reporters in Gaza. Palestinian sources photographed the remains of a man who was butchered, sliced up and sent to his family.
This is fairly typical of the early days, before the Hamas really got going:
Brutality has grown in recent days, with people shot at close range in street executions. On Sunday, a member of Abbas' presidential guard, Mohammed Sweirki of Fatah, was kidnapped and hurled off a 15-story apartment building, followed a few hours later by the killing of a Hamas fighter, Abu Kainas, thrown from the roof of a 12-story building in apparent retaliation. In all, more than 80 people have been killed since mid-May, most of them militants.
ABC has photos of Gaza atrocities from the same period. Many more than 37 people were killed as reported below, including the poor fellow who insisted "We are not Jews."  And here is an eye-witness account: Gaza eye-witness account
The report is below.
Ami Isseroff
It's Civil War, Palestinian Factions Agree
Hamas Fighters Seize Fatah Security Headquarters in Northern Gaza; 37 Killed in 2 Days
The Associated Press
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip
[An old report - for the record]

Hundreds of Hamas fighters firing rockets and mortar shells captured the headquarters of the Fatah-allied security forces in northern Gaza on Tuesday, scoring a key victory in the bloody battle for control of the seaside strip.
Both sides said Gaza had descended into civil war. Dozens have been killed since Monday and battles over security positions spread to central Gaza early Wednesday. Gunmen fought for control of high-rise buildings in Gaza City, and Hamas said it seized and bulldozed a key Fatah outpost that controls Gaza's main north-south road.
Tuesday's battles marked a turning point, with Hamas moving systematically to seize Fatah positions in what some in the Islamic militant group said would be a decisive phase in the yearlong power struggle. The confrontations became increasingly brutal in recent days, with some killed execution-style in the streets, others in hospital shootouts or thrown off rooftops.
The conflict escalated further when the Fatah central committee decided to suspend the activities of its ministers in the government it shares with Hamas. In an emergency meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Fatah decided on a full withdrawal if the fighting doesn't stop, said government spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh.
President Mahmoud Abbas accused the Islamic militants of Hamas of trying to stage a coup.
A survivor of the Hamas assault on the northern security headquarters said the Fatah forces were outgunned and reinforcements never arrived. "We were pounded with mortar, mortar, mortar," the Fatah fighter, who only gave his first name, Amjad, said, breathing heavily. "They had no mercy. It was boom, boom. They had rockets that could reach almost half of the compound."
Battles raged across the Gaza Strip during the day. The staccato of gunfire echoed across Gaza City, plumes of smoke rose into the air from far-flung neighborhoods and one firefight sent a dozen preschoolers scrambling for cover.
In a sign of the heightened hostilities, both sides threatened to kill each other's leaders. A rocket-propelled grenade damaged the home of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and four mortar shells slammed into Abbas' Gaza City office. Neither attack caused any injuries.
Desperately trying to boost morale, disorganized Fatah forces attacked Hamas' main TV station, but were repelled after a heavy battle. The station later showed a group of captured men it said were among the attackers, blood streaming down their faces.
Many Gazans, pinned down in their homes, were furious with the combatants. "Both Fatah and Hamas are leading us to death and destruction," said Ayya Khalil, 29, whose husband serves as an intelligence officer. "They don't care about us."
There was concern the fighting might spread to the West Bank, where Fatah has the upper hand, as Hamas notched victories in Gaza. Late Tuesday, Fatah gunmen wounded four Hamas activists in the West Bank city of Nablus, Fatah said in a statement.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed stationing international forces along the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt to prevent arms from reaching Palestinian militants, including Hamas. However, he ruled out assistance to Abbas' forces.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate halt to the violence and urged all sides to support Abbas.
The U.N. warned that its efforts to supply refugees with assistance were in jeopardy because of the fighting.
Hamas and Fatah have waged a power struggle in fits and spurts since Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006, and Hamas signaled that the fighting was moving into a decisive phase. It ignored pleas by Abbas and exasperated Egyptian mediators to honor a cease-fire.
"Decisiveness will be in the field," said Islam Shahwan, spokesman for the Hamas military wing.
In contrast, Fatah commanders complained they were not given clear orders by Abbas to fight back and that they had no central command. Fatah's strongman in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, has spent the last few weeks in Cairo because of a knee injury. Other leading Fatah officials left Gaza for the West Bank after previous rounds of bloodshed.
"There's a difference between leading on the ground and leading by mobile phone," police Col. Nasser Khaldi said of Dahlan's absence. "Hamas is just taking over our positions. There are no orders."
Both sides have been arming themselves in recent weeks, smuggling weapons through tunnels from Egypt.
Abbas accused Hamas leaders of trying to seize control of Gaza by force.
The headquarters of the Fatah-allied security forces in northern Gaza, a key prize for Hamas, was taken by the Islamic militants after several hours of battle. Some 200 Hamas fighters had fired mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at the compound, where some 500 Fatah loyalists were holed up and returned fire. Thirty-five jeeploads of Fatah fighters were sent as reinforcements. After nightfall, Hamas seized control, said a Hamas commander, Wael al-Shakra.
A Fatah security official confirmed the building had been lost. At least 12 people were killed and 30 wounded in the fighting.
Earlier, Hamas fighters also overran several smaller Fatah positions in Gaza.
Hamas gunmen also exchanged fire with Fatah forces at the southern security headquarters in the town of Khan Younis, but did not launch a major assault there. The town's streets were empty as people huddled inside. One Hamas man was killed, according to Hamas and medical officials.
In Gaza City, Hamas fired mortars and explosives at the pro-Fatah Preventive Security headquarters, drawing return fire from watchtowers in the compound. Elsewhere, Fatah fighters killed four Hamas gunmen in a battle near the besieged house of a senior Fatah commander.
The State Department and the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, warning of a "very dangerous security situation," advised journalists not to travel to Gaza and urged any there to leave.
Even before the current outbreak of violence, no Western correspondents were based in Gaza. As the violence escalated this week, most journalists were staying off the streets, covering the conflict from the windows of high-rise buildings and keeping in touch with their sources by telephone.
Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since the Hamas election victory ended four decades of Fatah rule.
The sides agreed to share power in an uneasy coalition three months ago, but put off key disputes, including control over the security forces. Most of the forces are dominated by Fatah loyalists, while Hamas has formed its own militia and has thousands of gunmen at its command.
Beverley Milton-Edwards, a Hamas expert at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, said Gaza is heading for a final showdown. "This has become the existential battle for the soul of the Palestinian people," Milton-Edwards said.
Brutality has grown in recent days, with people shot at close range in street executions. On Sunday, a member of Abbas' presidential guard, Mohammed Sweirki of Fatah, was kidnapped and hurled off a 15-story apartment building, followed a few hours later by the killing of a Hamas fighter, Abu Kainas, thrown from the roof of a 12-story building in apparent retaliation. In all, more than 80 people have been killed since mid-May, most of them militants.
Human Rights Watch, blamed both sides. "Fatah and Hamas military forces have summarily executed captives, killed people not involved in hostilities, and engaged in gun battles with one another inside and near Palestinian hospitals," the New York-based group said in a statement.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gaza eye-witness account

This speaks for itself. This is the Palestinian state in action...
Shelly Smith, a 42-year-old teacher from the US living in Gaza, spoke to Al Jazeera about the horrors of the the factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah.
Our neighbour Waseem Arafat had gone to the Shifa hospital in Beit Hanoun to visit someone and when he came out a gunman shot him four times in the head.

I don't know if he was allied to any faction but I don't think he was in Hamas.
Waseem was brought home in a taxi.
He was a young man of about 25 years or less.
His mother cried in my arms and I took her into another room as they started to clean the body of her son.
The young men and relatives that arrived to pay their respects to the family were erupting with anger and some shouted to kill the ones that killed Waseem.
It was the father of Waseem that told them to calm down and use their heads.
It won't do any good for more to get injured or killed. He told them to help him pray for his son and then help bury him today.
Heavy boom
Today has been the worst by far, no-one can go out, a lot of the phones are out.
I have not been able to go to work since Monday.
All the high school kids are going through their exams at the moment and they are having to walk or take taxis to school.
It's very subdued in Zeytoun now and most shops are shut apart from the ones on the side streets.
We hear ambulances go back and forth, the occasional heavy boom but I'm not sure if it's artillery or something else.
As they prepared Waseem for burial his younger cousin came home from taking her high school final exams.
She was full of tears and holding her mouth and nose.
Her face paled and she was visibly weakened as the other women guided her to a chair.
Waseem used to take them to the football pitch and teach them all the cool moves.
He used to offer rides home to me when he saw me waiting for taxis. I can't tell you how heavy my heart is right now.
Desperate situation
We are staying inside, the hospitals have been calling on the radios for blood but I don't see how anyone could get to them and give blood unless they were already inside.
We are near the security headquarters where all the men were paraded outside shirtless, only about a mile, but I am not going anywhere near there, it's too dangerous.
I work for the Palestinian Commission for Refugee Rights Protection. With UNRWA closed we will have many people coming to us for help.
We don't have food supplies like them and if things don't calm down in the next few days I can see the situation getting very desperate for some people.
Things for people living by Gaza beach are also bad; the powerlines were cut or are off and they can no longer fill their water tanks, so I don't know what they are doing without power or adequate sanitation.
When we listen to the radio it just says to stay inside and keep off the streets.
Many people are calling in to the radio stations and they are very, very angry with all political parties over the violence.

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Rumors of Israeli attacks

Uzi Mahnaimi is spreading rumors again. Remember all the Israeli attacks on Iran that never happened? There was one with nuclear cruise missiles too. Fancy. This time the claim is: Israel plans attack on Gaza
Wait and see.
Ami Isseroff
From The Sunday Times
June 17, 2007
Israel plans attack on Gaza
Uzi Mahnaimi
ISRAEL's new defence minister Ehud Barak is planning an attack on Gaza within weeks to crush the Hamas militants who have seized power there.
According to senior Israeli military sources, the plan calls for 20,000 troops to destroy much of Hamas's military capability in days.
The raid would be triggered by Hamas rocket attacks against Israel or a resumption of suicide bombings.
Barak, who is expected to become defence minister tomorrow, has already demanded detailed plans to deploy two armoured divisions and an infantry division, accompanied by assault drones and F-16 jets, against Hamas.
The Israeli forces would expect to be confronted by about 12,000 Hamas fighters with arms confiscated from the Fatah faction that they defeated in last week's three-day civil war in Gaza.
Details of the plan emerged as Fatah forces in the West Bank stormed Hamas-run buildings, including the parliament in Ramallah, where they tried to seize the deputy speaker.
Israeli officials believe their forces would face even tougher resistance in Gaza than they encountered during last summer's war against Hezbollah in south Lebanon.
A source close to Barak said that Israel could not tolerate an aggressive "Hamastan" on its border and an attack seemed unavoidable.
"The question is not if but how and when," he said.

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A Syrian Explains: Why I admire Israel


Why I admire Israel - Part III

Washington DC, June 17, 2007/Reform Syria Blog - Farid Ghadry/ -- By now many who follow the Syrian-Israeli information highway know that we have just visited the Israeli Knesset to address the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee this past June 11, the same Committee that received Assad's envoy on April 12, 2007. This was an extraordinary trip that we have taken advantage of not only to talk about why peace with Assad is not in the best interests of Israel but to also discuss why a free Syria is in the best mutual interests of both countries. The visit was also historic because it comes on the heels of the 40th anniversary of the 6-day war in early June of 1967 when Syria lost the Golan Heights.

As the Syrian opposition, through RPS, pioneered open relationships with the US today, I truly believe that RPS is also pioneering open relationships between the Israeli and the Syrian peoples. Assad can no longer claim, through secret diplomacy, the monopoly on working with and influencing those countries that are most important to gain back our freedom. This is a new era in both of our history as people.

On the way to Israel, I met with Mamoun al-Homsy over in Prague for a conference on Democracy and Security sponsored by the Prague Security Studies Institute with Natan Sharansky, Václav Havel, and José-Maria Aznar (We are told by RPS supporters in Spain that Jose-Marie Aznar's party is making an impressive comeback in local elections). My short delivery concentrated on Syrian human rights. President George Bush addressed the conference and called himself a "dissident President". During President Bush speech (Video - Speech), he spoke about human rights in Syria and the plight of Mamoun who was sitting next to me. I watched how Mamoun was moved by the recognition after 20 years of suffering at the hands of the Assad family. Later, all dissidents had a meeting with the President. Mamoun and I spent about ten minutes with President Bush discussing the issues that are dear to our hearts.

What amazed me about Mamoun, as I met him for the first time, is his total commitment for the cause of human rights and the people of Syria. His absorption and unshakable belief in his mission helps Syrians realize how hard dissidents are working for their future. When Mamoun was sentenced to 5 years in jail by Baschar al-Assad in 2001 while still a member of the Syrian parliament (Against Syrian law), over 5,000 people showed-up for his sentencing at the courthouse. Mamoun al-Homsy, Riad Seif, and Riad Turk are the most popular dissidents in Syria. I am honored and humbled to be standing by their side.

In Israel, I was accompanied by Dr. Hussein Saado, a Kurdish dissident. We both spoke at many events held by the most prominent think tanks. Some of my RPS supporters were concerned about my security, especially in light of the threats by Jihad el-Khazen in his weekly columns in al-Hayat newspaper (I am saddened to see al-Hayat's great impact on Arab journalism come to this. Jamil Mroué must be turning in his grave knowing that his newspaper, which was a symbol of free and untainted press, become a whipping tool to stifle the very freedoms he advocated), but I told them that Israel is one of the safest countries in the world because of their experience with terrorism. In fact, Hussein and I both felt very safe in Israel. Isn't this ironic? Your enemy is your own repressive government in control of your country and not the country you have been educated to hate.

The media in support of Assad has been vicious. As an example, Al-Jazeera published an article in which the title is so far from what I said that one questions the legitimacy the media in Qatar plays. Al-Jazeera is infiltrated with pro-Assad Syrian operatives and intelligence officers so much so that it plays the role of an intelligence center disseminating misinformation rather than the truth it claims to disseminate.

In the past, any of my overtures towards Israel have been met with accusatory finger-pointing by the Assad regime on front pages of its  Ba'ath and Tishrin newspapers. On the day that the Knesset confirmed officially my invitation is the day that two Syrian lawyers suddenly accused of treason Assad's own envoy who visited Israel publicly. On this trip, the Syrian regime used some of its henchmen representing Arabs in the Knesset to attack our visit. What they did not realize is that the attacks raised the profile of the visit and provided for free media galore. For that, we are eternally thankful to Mr. Muhsin Bilal the Syrian Minister of Information. I believe he did it because the Syrian regime cannot afford a deluge of oppositionists lobbying Israel for how peaceful and moderate the Syrian people are.

Prior to our trip, I received this email from a liberal supporter who lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia that I wanted to share with you. The person wrote it in response to the second installment of "Why I Admire Israel". These are the future leaders of Syria we are counting on to support and implement the movement for change.


When he learned about my trip to Israel, he wrote me this:

I truly believe your appearance in the Knesset will be an added-value to our purpose of liberating Syria (wish If I could be there!). Best of Luck.

Israelis are not aware of the respect they have in some Arab circles for having built a strong nation with limitless potential. The culture of hate beaming by Assad's media outlets in Syria, or any other Arab dictator for that matter, does not represent the real truth about our admiration for the accomplishments of Israelis. A Syria, free from the tyranny of Assad, will give us a fighting chance to bear the fruits of our own limitless capabilities as Syrians. Only when we are strong and independent can we have real peace with Israel. In Maslow's Pyramid, Syrians are hovering in the Safety Zone. The moment we are free and our economy is developed, we will earn the confidence for openness and co-existence.

One measurement of excellence a country can showcase is its capacity for invention and innovation. As an example, Israel ranked second in the number of patent applications submitted in Europe in 2005 and ranked fourth in the US for 2006. But what is more important is the fact that in Israel only 22% of patent applications are submitted by Israelis and the remainder 78% are submitted by foreign entities. This is a clear indicator that Israel's innovation engine triggers a protectionist policy by many countries who fear that their own inventions may be conceived independently by Israelis. I do not know of any foreign entity that filed a patent in the Syrian Proprietary Protection Department because, thanks to Assad, our Syrian Resistance Protection Department is so much more important. Syria could one day compete with Israel in the "innovation" field rather than continue destroying itself in the "resistance" one but not as long as Assad is in power oppressing the majority of Syrians.

A story appeared in Elaph, the widely read Arabic electronic newspaper, of a study done by a Syrian dissident named Mihi Eldine al-Lathkani of the grotesque corruption of the Assad family. The study's conclusion: The Assads fortune is in the range of $40,000,000,000.00 (FORTY BILLION USD). That is approximately one billion pilfered for each year the Assads ruled Syria. According to Lathkani, the corruption by the Assads and their immediate beneficiaries is unprecedented in scope and damage to Syria. The more money they embezzle, the weaker Syria becomes, the more dangerous Syrian behavior. Al-Lathkani's web site was hacked two days later by unknown assailants.

In this Blog, I expected to write about the Palestinians but given the invitation, I will leave this subject for later. In my next installment, I intend to write about details of our trip to Israel and what experiences we came away with.

Copyrights © 2003-2007 - Reform Party of Syria (RPS) except where otherwise noted - all rights reserved.

Continued (Permanent Link)

A Boycott Built on Bias

We know that this elegant commentary is being dismissed by anti-Zionist airheaded bloggers with comments like "what about the Palestinians?" They didn't read the article, which is about Israeli Arab and Palestinian academics. They would be boycotted too.  
June 17, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist,
A Boycott Built on Bias
Two weeks ago I took part in commencement for this year's doctoral candidates at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The ceremony was held in the amphitheater on Mount Scopus, which faces out onto the Dead Sea and the Mountains of Moab. The setting sun framed the graduate students in a reddish-orange glow against a spectacular biblical backdrop.
Before I describe the ceremony, though, I have to note that it coincided with the news that Britain's University and College Union had called on its members to consider a boycott of Israeli universities, accusing them of being complicit in Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Anyway, as the Hebrew U. doctoral candidates each had their names called out and rose to receive their diplomas from the university's leadership, I followed along in the program. The Israeli names rolled by: "Moshe Nahmany, Irit Nowik, Yuval Ofir. But then every so often I heard an Arab name, like Nuha Hijazi or Rifat Azam or Taleb Mokari.
Since the program listed everyone's degrees and advisers, I looked them up. Rifat got his doctorate in law. His thesis was about "International Taxation of Electronic Commerce." His adviser was "Prof. D. Gliksberg." Nuha got her doctorate in biochemistry. Her adviser was "Prof. R. Gabizon." Taleb had an asterisk by his name. So I looked at the bottom of the page. It said: "Summa Cum Laude." His chemistry thesis was about "Semiconductor-Metal Interfaces," and his adviser was "Prof. U. Banin."
These were Israeli Arab doctoral students — many of them women and one of whom accepted her degree wearing a tight veil over her head. Funny — she could receive her degree wearing a veil from the Hebrew University, but could not do so in France, where the veil is banned in public schools. Arab families cheered unabashedly when their sons and daughters received their Hebrew U. Ph.D. diplomas, just like the Jewish parents.
How crazy is this, I thought. Israel's premier university is giving Ph.D.'s to Arab students, two of whom were from East Jerusalem — i.e. the occupied territories — supervised by Jewish Israeli professors, all while some far-left British academics are calling for a boycott of Israeli universities.
I tell this story to underscore the obvious : that the reality here is so much more morally complex than the outside meddlers present it. Have no doubt, I have long opposed Israel's post-1967 settlements. They have squandered billions and degraded the Israeli Army by making it an army of occupation to protect the settlers and their roads. And that web of settlements and roads has carved up the West Bank in an ugly and brutal manner — much uglier than Israel's friends abroad ever admit. Indeed, their silence, particularly American Jewish leaders, enabled the settlement lunacy.
But you'd have to be a blind, deaf and dumb visitor to Israel today not to see that the vast majority of Israelis recognize this historic mistake, and they not only approved Ariel Sharon's unilateral uprooting of Israeli settlements in Gaza to help remedy it, but elected Ehud Olmert precisely to do the same in the West Bank. The fact that it is not happening now is hardly Israel's fault alone. The Palestinians are in turmoil.
So to single out Israeli universities alone for a punitive boycott is rank anti-Semitism. Let's see, Syria is being investigated by the United Nations for murdering Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Syrian agents are suspected of killing the finest freedom-loving Lebanese journalists, Gibran Tueni and Samir Kassir. But none of that moves the far left to call for a boycott of Syrian universities. Why? Sudan is engaged in genocide in Darfur. Why no boycott of Sudan? Why?
If the far-left academics driving this boycott actually cared about Palestinians they would call on every British university to accept 20 Palestinian students on full scholarships to help them with what they need most — building the skills to run a modern state and economy. And they would call on every British university to dispatch visiting professors to every Palestinian university to help upgrade their academic offerings. And they would challenge every Israeli university that already offers Ph.D.'s to Israeli Arabs to do even more. And they would challenge every Arab university the same way.
That's what people who actually care about Palestinians would do. But just singling out Israeli universities for a boycott, in the face of all the other madness in the Middle East — that's what anti-Semites would do.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Takeover of Gaza by Hamas


The Takeover of Gaza by Hamas

Shlomo Brom

Following the outbreak of the latest round of fighting between Fatah and Hamas, Hamas has taken complete control of Gaza and Fatah's presence as a functioning movement has virtually disappeared. In response, Fatah has launched a wave of arrests of Hamas activists in the West Bank and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has declared a state of emergency, dismantled the National Unity Government and nominated a new government of Fatah-associated technocrats headed by Salam Fayyad.

The main ramifications of these developments are:

  • The separation between Gaza and the West Bank has been entrenched. This separation existed before because Israel prevented free movement between the two regions, but they have now become two distinct political entities controlled by two rival movements. In these circumstances, there is no single Palestinian political address that can presume to represent the Palestinian people vis-א-vis Israel.

  • The Hamas government will now find itself, for the first time, in a situation in which it will have full control of a defined geographical area. Neither the first Hamas government, formed after Hamas' victory in the 2006 elections, nor the national unity government actually exercised effective control because of the ongoing rivalry between the two movements and their refusal to dismantle their armed militias or renounce control of the security agencies under their authority.

  • Although the sanctions imposed by international actors on Hamas may be reinforced, at least initially, those actors will probably continue to send assistance to the Gaza Strip in order to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

  • On the other hand, sanctions will be completely removed from the West Bank under the Fatah government.

  • The takeover of Gaza by Hamas will apparently be a source of great concern to the Egyptian regime because of its possible implications for the domestic situation in Egypt. That concern may well enhance Egypt's motivation to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza and to tighten control over the movement of undesirable elements into and out of Gaza.

At this point, it is difficult to assess the implications for the security situation along the border with the Gaza Strip. On the one hand, the heady sense of success in Hamas' military echelon may increase the desire to demonstrate some military capability against Israel. Some elements in Hamas may also calculate that redirecting the attention of the Palestinian public to the confrontation with Israel could reduce the impact on Palestinian public opinion of the scenes of butchery and horror that accompanied Hamas' takeover of Gaza. On the other hand, Hamas needs some relative quiet to entrench its regime in Gaza and may therefore have no interest in any immediate escalation with Israel.

For the first time in many years, there is now one clear address with undeniable responsibility for what happens in Gaza. True, this is not Israel's preferred address given Hamas' ideology and its refusal to accept the three Quartet conditions – recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Nevertheless, the existence of a single address does provide some advantages, since the Palestinians will find it much harder to rely on the timeworn excuse that since actions launched against Israel are undertaken by forces that the government does not control, it cannot prevent them. Henceforth, there will be a single authority responsible for every operation originating in Gaza.

The transformation of Hamas into the sole ruler of the Gaza Strip also means that Hamas has more assets and therefore has more to lose. That, too, may be more convenient for Israel since it will have more options in deterring or responding to attacks originating from Gaza.

This situation will also become a primary test for Hamas in the eyes of the Palestinian public. Will the government be able to assert control over all the groups and armed factions (such as the Durmush clan) operating private militias there? The split between Gaza and the West Bank may also strengthen Hamas' motivation to meet this test. It will need to prove to the bulk of the Palestinian population in the West Bank that its rule is preferable to that of Fatah and that it can provide a functioning, corruption-free regime that maintains a monopoly on the use of force and provides law and order. Concern about reactions in the West Bank may also lead it to refrain from imposing strict Islamic norms on the population of Gaza in matters such as dress codes and other facets of personal behavior.

Another central question relates to the long-term impact of this development. Is it the beginning of Fatah's demise and the Islamist movement's total takeover of the Palestinian national movement? Conversely, will it actually provide the stimulus that the secular national movement, represented by Fatah, needs in order to carry out the long-overdue reforms leading to its revival? And what will be the impact on the standing of other Islamist movements throughout the Arab world and on the readiness of incumbent regimes to take steps to block the Islamist movements? At this stage, the answers to all these questions remain unclear.

Finally, the chances for an effective political dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians as a whole, which were in any case minimal, have now practically disappeared unless Israel changes its approach to Hamas rule. Hamas' takeover of Gaza does make necessary some low-level communication between Israeli and Hamas-government representatives in order to maintain some semblance of normal life and provide basic services to the population of Gaza, which is almost completely dependent on Israel in matters such as electricity and water supply, imports and exports, etc. However, there appears to be no chance that such communication will deviate from that very limited agenda as long as Israel adheres to its policy of avoiding any political dialogue with Hamas unless the latter first makes fundamental changes in its policy. In any case, it will be necessary to establish some mechanism to transmit messages to Hamas, either to deter it or to clarify the significance of actions it takes and the nature of Israeli responses. The alternative to such a mechanism to restrain Hamas is military escalation. At the same time, the new situation may allow a more meaningful engagement with Abbas and the Fatah government in the West Bank than the futile dialogue in which the two sides were engaged before these recent developments


INSS Insight is published

through the generosity of

Sari and Israel Roizman, Philadelphia



Continued (Permanent Link)

Reckless optimism applied to Gaza

In A 'Two-State Solution,' Palestinian-Style Martin Indyk has written a recklessly opimistic appraisal of the events in Gaza:

The failed state of Gaza that Hamas controls is wedged between Egypt and Israel. Its water, electricity and basic goods are imported from the Jewish state, whose destruction Hamas has declared as its fundamental objective. One more Qassam rocket fired from Gaza into an Israeli village and Israel could threaten to seal the border if Hamas did not stop its attacks. Hamas would then have to reach a meaningful cease-fire with Israel or seek Egypt's help meeting the basic needs of the 1.5 million Gazans. Hosni Mubarak's regime turned a blind eye to the importation of weapons and money that helped ensure Hamas's takeover. But would Egypt allow on its border a failed terrorist state run by an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood with links to Iran and Hezbollah? Or will it insist on the maintenance of certain standards of order in return for its cooperation?
Whatever transpires, Gaza has become Hamas's problem. It's a safe bet that the real attitude of Abbas and Fatah is: Let Hamas try to rule Gaza, and good luck.
This turn of events would free Abbas to focus on the much more manageable West Bank, where he can depend on the Israel Defense Forces to suppress challenges from Hamas, and on Jordan and the United States to help rebuild his security forces. As chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and president of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas is empowered to negotiate with Israel over the disposition of the West Bank. Once he controls the territory, he could make a peace deal with Israel that establishes a Palestinian state with provisional borders in the West Bank and the Arab suburbs of East Jerusalem.

Regarding "But would Egypt allow on its border a failed terrorist state run by an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood with links to Iran and Hezbollah?" Probably. As Indyk noted, Mubarak turned a blind eye to weapons smuggling in the past. He had to know where the weapons were going. The deal was probably freedom to smuggle in return for quiet in Egypt. Since the Hamas, through the Muslim brotherhood and through groups in Gaza and infiltrators can still cause both political trouble and terror in Egypt, Mubarak will continue to turn a blind eye. The excuse being manufactured is that Hamas is opposed to Al-Qaeda. In most of the Middle East, the answer to "it could be worse" is always, "and indeed, it probably will be worse."

Indyk explains to us that Fatah fell apart in Gaza because of the dithering leadership of Mahmoud Abbas. Maybe the behavior of Fatah also had something to do with it? In any case, what is the reason to expect that in the West Bank Abbas will build a model state? Didn't the Palestinian Authority have 12 years to do it in both Gaza and the West Bank? To build hospitals and roads and schools and to provide jobs, to empty the refugee camps? Did they do any of it? Why would Fatah be any more capable now then it was before? And why would the Hamas and Islamic Jihad and their Syrian and Iranian allies oblige Mr. Abbas and Mr. Indyk, and keep their influence out of the West Bank? Can't they travel from Gaza to Egypt, and from Egypt to Jordan and from Jordan to the West Bank? Are there no Islamic Jihad operatives in the West Bank? Surely there are. Are there no Hamas people in Bir Zeit University? It is liking asking if there are no Jews in Tel Aviv. It is a fact, that in the latest opinion survey, Hamas got more support in the West Bank than in Gaza!

Indyk's article is below.

Ami Isseroff

A 'Two-State Solution,' Palestinian-Style
By Martin Indyk
Friday, June 15, 2007; A21

Does Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas know something that we don't? For five days his presidential security forces in Gaza came under organized attack by Hamas gunmen. His compound in Gaza City was under siege. But he responded to these clear challenges to his authority with observations about the madness that had infected Gaza and refused to assign blame.

One might expect that this democratically elected leader would denounce Hamas's coup and call for international intervention to restore his control. But there he sat in Ramallah, prevaricating as the only liberated part of his putative state fell into the hands of his Palestinian archenemies. Finally yesterday, he dismissed the Hamas-led government, but only after its takeover of Gaza was complete.

Critics will say that this is typical of Abbas, a weak leader who would rather appease his challengers than confront them. But perhaps Abbas understands the emerging realities better than they do.

Over the past year when Hamas would stage attacks in Gaza, Fatah forces would retaliate in the West Bank, where they were stronger. When fighting began this time, Fatah did little in the West Bank to counter Hamas's onslaught. Abbas's passivity further confirms that the fix was in. Abbas and Fatah have in effect conceded Gaza to Hamas while they hold on to the West Bank. Hamastan and Fatahstine: a "two-state solution" -- just not the one that George W. Bush had in mind.

Of course, all Palestinian leaders will continue to declare the indivisibility of the Palestinian homeland. But in private, Abbas and other Fatah leaders may take solace from the dilemma Hamas will now have to confront.

The failed state of Gaza that Hamas controls is wedged between Egypt and Israel. Its water, electricity and basic goods are imported from the Jewish state, whose destruction Hamas has declared as its fundamental objective. One more Qassam rocket fired from Gaza into an Israeli village and Israel could threaten to seal the border if Hamas did not stop its attacks. Hamas would then have to reach a meaningful cease-fire with Israel or seek Egypt's help meeting the basic needs of the 1.5 million Gazans. Hosni Mubarak's regime turned a blind eye to the importation of weapons and money that helped ensure Hamas's takeover. But would Egypt allow on its border a failed terrorist state run by an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood with links to Iran and Hezbollah? Or will it insist on the maintenance of certain standards of order in return for its cooperation?

Whatever transpires, Gaza has become Hamas's problem. It's a safe bet that the real attitude of Abbas and Fatah is: Let Hamas try to rule Gaza, and good luck.

This turn of events would free Abbas to focus on the much more manageable West Bank, where he can depend on the Israel Defense Forces to suppress challenges from Hamas, and on Jordan and the United States to help rebuild his security forces. As chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and president of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas is empowered to negotiate with Israel over the disposition of the West Bank. Once he controls the territory, he could make a peace deal with Israel that establishes a Palestinian state with provisional borders in the West Bank and the Arab suburbs of East Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza could compare their fate under Hamas's rule with the fate of their West Bank cousins under Abbas -- which might then force Hamas to come to terms with Israel, making it eventually possible to reunite Gaza and the West Bank as one political entity living in peace with the Jewish state. It's hard to believe that such a benign outcome could emerge from the growing Palestinian civil war. But given current events, this course is likely to become Abbas's best option.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has an interest in this outcome, too. Elected on a mandate to leave the West Bank, Olmert was gravely weakened by the Lebanon war last summer. His best hope for political salvation lies in movement on the peace process. With Ehud Barak's election as Labor Party leader, Olmert now has a partner with security credentials who can lend him credibility and who may also want to prevent the West Bank from going Gaza's way.

For the Bush administration, the outcome in Gaza is an embarrassment. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has committed her last 18 months in office to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A failed terrorist state in Gaza is hardly what she had in mind for a legacy. Some will argue that it's time she talked to Hamas. But its thuggish, extraconstitutional behavior in Gaza and its commitment to the destruction of Israel make it an unlikely partner, at least until governing Gaza forces it to act more responsibly. And that leaves a "West Bank first" policy as Rice's best option, too.

The writer is director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He served as U.S. ambassador to Israel in the Clinton administration.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Opportunities and dangers in Gaza and the West Bank

The barbaric cataclysm of the Gaza Palestinian "government" is the logical culmination of a long culture of legitimation of violent "resistance." It is a tragedy for the Palestinian people and a cause for worry for Israel. Less than fifty miles from my home, people are being thrown off buildings and executed in front of their families. It is certainly not a cause for celebration. We can't let that dark chaos spread, and the world cannot leave Gaza in the hands of the Hamas indefinitely. We can't use the barbarism of Gaza as an excuse to slam the door on prospects of peace forever. On the contrary it may provide an opportunity for peace, if the followers of the Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas are willing to draw the appropriate lessons from the results of legitimation of "resistance" and glorification of hate: evil cannot be focused and directed. It spreads to all of society. In Gaza, a Palestinian about to be dragged to his death by Hamas fanatics protested, "But we are not Jews." Once the genie of terror and genocide is out of the box, it refuses to remain an obedient genie, killing only Jews.
Those who insist on "Justice for Palestine" got a preview of what that "Justice" would look like. A Hamas spokesperson explained that the carnage was "Islamic Justice."
It is time for all the groups of terrorists, militants, resistance fighters or whatever they might be called: Fatah Al Aqsa and the Fatah this and the Fatah that and the Popular Resistance and the National and Islamic front and the Islamic Jihad and the Hamas, to put away their guns, quit their rhetoric about "Zio-Nazis" and their boycott campaigns and their plans to "liberate" Tel Aviv and Haifa and settle Palestinian refugees in Herzliya Pituach, and all the other paraphernalia of "resistance," and make a reasoned plea for a really just peace.
Arafat's Children  from the Wall Street journal warns against negotiating with the Hamas, which seems to be a fairly obvious warning following the events of the past week. The argument that the Hamas was "democratically elected" fails to pass muster. The brutal violence of Gaza could not take place in a democracy. The Hamas coup is a demonstration of what Islamist groups mean when they say they will take power by democratic means. Of course, there cannot be democracy in a society of armed groups, any more than there could be democracy in the Mafia.
However, a more realistic danger is that Israel may be pressured to make unwise concessions in order to support Mahmoud Abbas's government in the West Bank. There is an opportunity for negotiations and understanding, but past experience also shows how easily that opportunity can turn into disaster.
What is a "wise" concession that will bring peace as opposed to an unwise one?
Here is my list of some wise concessions at this point:
Final status negotiations
Release of tax funds held by Israel, provided the new government can demonstrate transparency.
A freeze on settlement expansion
Removing illegal outposts
Release of some prisoners who are old or who have committed minor offences. However, prisoners must still be held against the release of Gilad Shalit in Gaza.
Security roadblocks to be lifted gradually as long as there is no terror and in return for disarming of non-government militia.
An end to IDF incursions in the West Bank, conditioned on surrender of wanted men. They can console themselves that spending time in Israeli jails is better than being thrown off a roof in Gaza.
Here are some not wise concessions in my opinion:
Removing Israeli security checkpoints without Palestinians disarming of armed groups
Evacuating settlements in the absence of security guarantees
Making any concession in principle as long as there are armed groups and the Palestinian authority is not doing anything to disarm and contain them
Ceding any territory or sovereignty to an authority that cannot control its own society

Below is the Wall Street Journal editorial.
Ami Isseroff

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gaza's mayhem is the bitter fruit of terror as statecraft.

Scores of Palestinians were killed this week in Gaza in factional fighting between loyalists of President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and those of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. As if on cue, it took about 24 hours before pundits the world over blamed the violence on Israel and President Bush.
This is the Israel that dismantled its settlements in Gaza in August 2005, a unilateral concession for which it asked, and got, nothing in return. And it is the U.S. President who, in a landmark speech five years ago this month, called on Palestinians to "elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror." Had Palestinians done so, they could be living today in a peaceful, independent state. Instead, in January 2006 they freely handed the reins of government to Hamas in parliamentary elections. What is happening today is the result of that choice--their choice.

That election didn't simply emerge from a vacuum, however. It is a consequence of the cult of violence that has typified the Palestinian movement for much of its history and which has been tolerated and often celebrated by the international community. If Palestinians now think they can advance their domestic interests by violence, nobody should be surprised: The way of the gun has been paying dividends for 40 years.

In 1972 Palestinian terrorists murdered Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Yet only two years later Yasser Arafat addressed the U.N.'s General Assembly--the first non-government official so honored. In 1970 Arafat attempted to overthrow Jordan's King Hussein and tried to do the same a few years later in Lebanon. Yet in 1980, the European Community, in its Venice Declaration, recognized Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization as a legitimate negotiating partner.
In 1973, the National Security Agency recorded Arafat's telephoned instructions to PLO terrorists to murder Cleo Noel, the U.S. ambassador in Sudan, and his deputy George Curtis Moore. Yet in 1993, Arafat was welcomed in the White House for the signing of the Oslo Accords with Israel. That same year, the British National Criminal Intelligence Service reported that the PLO made its money from "extortion, payoffs, illegal arms-dealing, drug trafficking, money laundering and fraud." Yet over the next several years, the Palestinian Authority would become the largest single recipient of foreign aid on a per capita basis.
In 1996, after he had formally renounced terrorism in the Oslo Accords, Arafat told a rally in Gaza that "we are committed to all martyrs who died for the cause of Jerusalem starting with Ahmed Musa until the last martyr Yihye Ayyash"--Musa being the first PLO terrorist to be killed in 1965 and Ayyash being the Hamas mastermind of a series of suicide bombings in which scores of Israeli civilians were killed. Yet the Clinton Administration continued to pretend that Arafat was an ally in the fight against Hamas. In 2000, Arafat rejected an Israeli offer of statehood midwifed by President Clinton and instead initiated the bloody intifada that left 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians dead.
In 2005, only months after Arafat's death, Israel dismantled its settlements and withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have used the opportunity to intensify their rocket fire at civilian targets within Israel. Last month, Israeli security services arrested two Gazan women, one of them pregnant, who were planning to enter Israel on medical pretexts in order to carry out suicide attacks. Yet the same month, the World Bank issued a report faulting Israel for restricting Palestinian freedom of movement.
Now it appears Hamas has taken control of the Gaza Strip's main road and its border with Egypt, as well as the offices of the so-called Preventive Security Services, traditionally a Fatah stronghold. "They are executing them one by one," a witness told the Associated Press of Hamas's reprisals against the Preventive Security personnel.

We do not pretend to know where all this will lead. On Thursday, Mr. Abbas dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency, though he seems powerless to change the course of events in Gaza. Israel could conceivably intervene, as could Egypt, and both states have powerful reasons to prevent the emergence of a Hamastan with close links to Iran hard on their borders. But neither do they wish to become stuck in the Strip's bottomless factionalism and fanaticism.

At the same time, pressure will surely mount on Israel and the U.S. to accept Hamas's ascendancy and begin negotiations with its leaders. According to this reasoning, the Bush Administration cannot demand democracy of the Palestinians and then refuse to recognize the results of a democratic election.

But leave aside the fact that Mr. Bush did not simply call for an election: Is it wise to negotiate with a group that kills its fellow Palestinians almost as freely as it does Israelis? And what would there be to negotiate about? The best-case scenario--a suspension of hostilities in exchange for renewed international funding--would simply give Hamas time and money to consolidate its rule and rebuild an arsenal for future terror assaults. Then, too, the last thing the Palestinians need is yet further validation from the wider world that the violence they now inflict so indiscriminately works.

The deeper lesson here is that a society that has spent the last decade celebrating suicide bombing would inevitably become a victim of its own nihilistic impulses. This is not the result of Mr. Bush's call for democratic responsibility; it is the bitter fruit of the decades of dictatorship and terrorism as statecraft that Yasser Arafat instilled among Palestinians.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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