Saturday, January 10, 2009
True: IDF has a YouTube "desk" mainpage that you can view here:
It is very useful.
Probably false: A rumor that YouTube will remove this page or site because of lack of interest. Why is it probably false?
1- YouTube doesn't seem to remove anything just because it is not visited. Items are only removed because of objections to content or copyright violations.
2- The IDF page listed above got the most subscriptions of any such page in Youtube in the month of January. Nobody can claim it is not visited.
3- The first video on that page was visited by over 30,000 people in less than 10 days. That's more visitors than most YouTube videos get in two years.
Please tell people about the site. Don't forward the dubious letter claiming YouTube will delete the site for lack of interest unless you know that is true for a fact. Nobody will believe what we say if we don't respect the truth.
According to a very nice article by the Syrian News Agency, SANA:
So it is clear that they rejected UN Security Council resolution 1860.
At the same time they declared:
Therefore, it is clear that Israel is to blame because the Palestinians reject the UN resolution, and Israel must be punished for this. That makes sense. The article continues:
Speaking of flagrant violations of "the human rights" here is the photo that accompanies this article:
The photo shows war criminals about to launch rockets at civilian targets -- a war crime and "flagrant violation of the human rights.".
Mujahedin Qassam soldiers are preparing to finish off the Zionists
The Brigades of the Martyr Izz el-Deen al-Qassam military wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement "Hamas"stated that had on Friday (9-1), it had "finished off" the entire Zionist force holed up in the house in northern Gaza.
The "battalions" military communication today stated that "with God's help and power and helped in the process and the quality of lightning, the Brigades of the Martyr Izz el-Deen al-Qassam, were able at 16:20 to break into a house occupied by the Zionists in the Sultan district in Beit Lahia, north-west of the Gaza Strip, where special forces stormed the building, the Qassam Brigades, in the presence of a number of Zionist soldiers. "
The author said that the mujahideen force attacked together, and at least eight Zionist soldiers were killed, indicating that they will clarify the details at a later date.
The spokesman for the "Qassam" group said the operation took place at 4:20 this afternoon local time when a special unit raided a house in the western district of Beit Lahiya which the Zionist soldiers had captured previously.
Abu Obeida said in a telephone conversation with al Jazeera that the "brigades" fighters had begun firing RPG rocketson the house, stormed it quickly and killed the eight soldiers inside before the pullout, where resistance fighters were wounded.
Hamas Big surprises waiting for the occupation .. The resistance has used only 40% of capacity
Source: alqassam.ps/arabic/news1.php?id=7456 (translated)
Palestinian sources familiar with the capabilities of the Palestinian resistance in Gaza stated: "The land battle has not started yet and the Palestinian resistance has used only 40% of its capacity in the battle on the edge of the Gaza Strip."
The sources said that "the Zionist tanks are still stationed in the open and agricultural areas and did not enter the Palestinian cities in the Gaza Strip", indicating that the tanks were in open areas in Rafah or Khan Younis camps, or central and northern Gaza.
The sources noted that the units of snipers and suicide bombers and booby-trapped houses and cars and thousands of fighters from the field units equipped with improvised explosive devices and rocket-launching persons and teams are not yet participating in the battle on the edge of the sector.
The sources pointed out that the artillery units assigned to the firing of mortar shells and rockets will operate out of thousands of cells of the resistance and deploy in the field and take their places in the streets and alleys, waiting for the battle between the alleys of refugee camps and neighborhoods.
The sources confirmed the fact that the war is expected to peak with the resistance meeting face to face with Israeli soldiers, noting that it was possible to increase the number of martyrs to more than ten thousand dead and thousands injured in the risk of heavy losses on the enemy. "
They revealed the existence of Palestinian resistance cells of about 40 people each, equipped with automatic weapons of various types, each equipped with ammunition and bombs.
The sources expected that all the combatants will join the people of the Gaza Strip in the battle against the Palestinian people, indicating that "a small number of fighters were involved in the battle on the edge of the sector now."
It stressed that "in the battle between the alleys of the camp, a proficient Palestinian fighter knows the streets and alleys of the camp and exits and entrances of homes in the Gaza Strip," they said, adding that the army of occupation in the Gaza Strip did not expect more than nominal resistance, and that Hamas benefited from the experience of battle in the Jenin refugee camp in 2002 and well as the experience of the July War on Lebanon in 2006.
"Hamas:" Land battle with the enemy did not start .. The resistance is fully prepared
According to the Islamic Resistance Movement "Hamas", the majority of the targets that had been shelled by Israel in the last days of the aggression are civilian targets, and did not deprive the resistance of its components. That was however, the easy part, and they were prepared for the ground battle ground that has not yet begun.
The leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement "Hamas", Mushir al-Masri, told reporters that the resistance has only lost a few fightes, and the targeting of civilians by the entity is only evidence of military and political failure. He said: "We stress that the resistance has only lost a few now in its battle with the Zionist occupation, We emphasize that more than 1000 casuality goal of the Zionist enemy is achieved by hitting civilian targets from universities, schools, hospitals, mosques and homes, and targeting of civilians is proof of the failure and bankruptcy by the enemy who did not face resistance on the ground so far. "
Al-Masri pointed out that the land battle "has not yet begun, and that the Zionist forces are still in the frontier areas and in the open", and said: "The land battle has not started yet, the enemy is still on the edge of the regions, and preparations for resistance is great, and the dozens of people killed among the Zionists is evidence of the strength of the resistance; we are at the back of this enemy, we will not enable the invasion of Gaza and the resistance will cause them losses, and launch dozens of rockets on a daily basis towards the Zionist settlements, "as he put it.
At alqassam.ps/arabic/news1.php?id=7453 , the Hamas Izzedine al-Qassam Brigade boast (in Arabic):
"Qassam" bomb the largest air base with "Grad" [missile] for the first time
The "Brigades of the Martyr Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades", the military wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement "Hamas", was able Mjahidiha Friday morning (9-1) of the bombing of the "Tel Nof" Zionist military air missile by a "Grad".
The group said in a statement, posted on Hamas: "With God's help announce the martyr Izz al-Din al-Qassam, claimed responsibility for the bombing, for the first time, the" Tel Nof "Zionist air base, which lies 45 kilometers from the strip, which is the largest central rule occupied Palestine and the north-east city "worthy" of Zionism, and this is the deepest rocket-Qassam Brigades, the north so far. "
The group noted, "Qassam" missiles of the Mujahideen fired a "Grad" missile, at the air base at 8:05 Friday morning. Saying it is "in the framework of the" battle of the Criterion "waged by the Qassam Brigades, in response to the war waged by the Zionist enemy against the Gaza Strip, proud and steadfast, and in response to the ongoing massacres led to the deaths of more than 760 people and injuring thousands of innocent people."
The group added: "We in al-Qassam Brigades announce it on this task to assure that the jihadist enemy doing this folly has resulted in luring soldiers into the trap prepared by the Mujahdona for them, the Zionists who are waiting on pins and needles to teach lessons in martial arts, and time will prove how stupid this Albarak was when he decided to enter Gaza. "
It is not clear how Hamas could know where their rockets hit, but it is not hard to believe. Tel Nof is pretty close to the northern perimeter of their capabilities. A rocket had hit Gedera previously.
Hamas claims it hit IAF base 27km from Tel Aviv
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent
Hamas claims it hit an Israel Air Force base 27km from Tel Aviv
Hamas claimed on Friday that rockets it fired from the Gaza Strip struck the Israel Air Force base in Tel Nof.
Hamas' military wing published comments on its Web site and aired statements on its Al-Aqsa television station saying they succeeded in striking their furthest target yet - the base of Tel Nof.
Tel Nof is located 27 kilometers from Tel Aviv, between Rehovot and Gedera, and serves as a squadron base for fighter jets and helicopters.
The Hamas report did not elaborate on the alleged attack.
The article curiously fails to mention that Hamas rejected the UN resolution as well.
Last update - 06:44 10/01/2009
Rejecting UN truce resolution, Israel hammers Hamas targets
By Barak Ravid, Shlomo Shamir and Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies
Israeli jets and ground troops hammered at Hamas targets early Saturday in the Gaza Strip and Islamic militants fired barrages of rockets at southern Israeli cities, ignoring a UN resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire after two weeks of combat.
In the early hours of Saturday morning Gaza residents said warplanes attacked a disused Hamas security compound in the southern town of Khan Younis, a market in Beit Lahiya, near the strip's northern border with Israel and several buildings in and around Gaza City. Flames and smoke could be seen rising into the sky but none of the sites were in use at the time and there were no reports of casualties.
By dawn, Israel Defense Forces ground troops were reported seen in Gaza City's outlying neighborhoods, a little over a mile (2 kilometers) from the seafront Shati refugee camp, but still not entering built-up areas.
The diplomatic-security cabinet on Friday rejected a United Nations Security Council cease-fire resolution and ordered the Israel Defense Forces to continue its current ground operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
In a communique released immediately after the cabinet session on Friday, the government stated it would not accept the UN resolution, declaring that "the IDF will continue to act in order to attain the objectives of the operation - to bring about a change in the security situation in the south of the country - this in accordance with the plans that have been approved upon embarking on the operation."
"Efforts to prevent the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip will continue," the cabinet statement added.
As such, the cabinet also said Israel would continue to provide humanitarian relief to the local population in Gaza. The army will maintain its policy of declaring a temporary cease-fire so as to allow the supply of food and medicine to reach Gazans in need, the cabinet said.
The cabinet heard reports detailing the military advancement into Gaza as well as the latest on cease-fire talks with Egyptian officials. Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security division, met with his Egyptian counterparts on Thursday.
The government said it would not accept any cease-fire and that the IDF would not withdraw from Gaza until the establishment of a mechanism that would ensure a halt to weapons-smuggling from Egypt into the Hamas-ruled territory.
The cabinet stated that the IDF operation would continue given that Hamas rocket fire has not ceased during the cease-fire deliberations at the Security Council. "Israel has a complete right of self-defense," the communique read.
Earlier Friday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected the resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza as "unworkable" and, noting Palestinians fired rockets at Israel on Friday, said the army would go on defending Israelis.
In Israel's first official response to the resolution, Olmert's office said Israel "has never agreed to let an external body decide its right to protect the security of its citizens."
The military "will continue acting to protect Israeli citizens and will carry out the missions it was given," the statement read.
"The firing of rockets this morning only goes to show that the UN decision is unworkable and will not be adhered to by the murderous Palestinian organizations," he said in a statement.
Hours after the Security Council passed Resolution 1860 calling for an immediate cease-fire in Israel's offensive in Gaza, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Friday that Israel would continue to act only in its interests and according to its own security needs.
"Israel has acted, is acting and will act only according to its considerations, the security needs of its citizens and its right to self-defense," a statement said. It made no direct reference to how Israel would treat the call for a ceasefire.
Livni, along with Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, convened in session on Friday to discusss the Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cessation of violence and their next moves in the conflict.
The UN resolution, drafted by Western powers, "stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza."
It also called for arrangements in Gaza to prevent arms smuggling to Palestinian militants and reopen border crossings, and for "unimpeded provision" and distribution of aid in Gaza, where more than 750 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed.
The resolution was passed by a majority vote of 14-0. The United States abstained, saying it was interested in looking at alternative drafts, but voiced support for the objectives of the resolution.
AIPAC slams UN truce resolution
AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr on Friday denounced the UN resolution, saying that, in passing it "the UN Security Council has, once again, shamelessly proven its genuine inability to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an unbiased manner."
"The Council has refused to acknowledge Israel's right to self-defense against an enemy, Hamas, which openly declares its goal as the complete destruction of the State of Israel - a member state of the world body," Kohr said.
America's pro-Israel lobby also expressed its disappointment with the U.S. administration "for succumbing to pressure exerted by Arab states and agreeing to bring this vote to the UN Security Council - a message contrary to the steadfast and overwhelming support expressed this week by the United States Congress and dozens of elected officials from across the country".
Of course, this plan cannot happen unless either Hamas agrees or Israel first takes over the Rafah crossing.
Last update - 09:41 10/01/2009
Report: EU readies plan to restore Fatah-led PA rule over Gaza crossings
By Haaretz Service and Reuters
In an attempt to break an impasse that has stalled cease-fire talks aimed at ending the fighting in the Gaza Strip, European diplomats are mulling a proposal which would restore control of the Gaza Strip border crossings to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, the British Times newspaper reported in Saturday editions.
According to the proposal, Palestinian security personnel loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas would govern the border crossings with assistance from Turkish and French soldiers who would be stationed as monitors, the Times reported.
Fatah had ruled Gaza until a Hamas-led coup ousted the secular faction, which has long dominated the Palestine Liberation Organization, in June 2007.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Last update - 16:43 09/01/2009
Hamas: UN Gaza truce resolution 'does not meet our demands'
By News Agencies
Hamas on Friday rebuffed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip as Israel's offensive against the Islamist organization enters its third week.
An exiled Hamas leader said on Friday the United States appeared to want to give Israel more time to persist with the Gaza offensive.
On Thursday the UN Security Council voted on a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, but the United States unexpectedly abstained in the vote, saying talks on a truce were still under way through Egyptian mediation.
"By not voting for the resolution and by not vetoing it, the United States is sending a clear signal that it supports the resolution but after a while," deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouk told Hezbollah's Al Manar television from Damascus.
"Therefore they want... to give the enemy more time. But I assure you that they will not achieve any of their goals and they will withdraw in disappointment and they will be defeated."
Israel on Friday rejected the UN resolution calling for a Gaza cease-fire as "unworkable" and, noting fresh Palestinian rocket fire, said the army would go on defending Israelis.
Abu Marzouk echoed other Hamas officials' statements that it was "not concerned with the resolution" and had not been consulted on the draft, which also calls for measures to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza and for its border to be opened.
"This resolution was discussed in the hallways of the United Nations. The movement (Hamas) was not consulted on this resolution, our vision and the interests of our people were not taken into consideration," Abu Marzouk said.
"Therefore this resolution does not concern us unless someone comes to enforce it on the ground. When it is enforced on the ground, whatever party which tries to enforce it will have to deal with...(Hamas)."
Two weeks into the Israeli offensive on Gaza, Hamas says nearly 800 Palestinians have been killed, many of them women and children.
Ten soldiers have been killed in the land, sea and air campaign by Israel to halt the firing of Hamas rockets from Gaza into Israel. The rockets have killed three Israeli civilians since the offensive began.
Osama Hamdan, a Hamas envoy to Lebanon, told the al-Arabiya satellite channel that the group "is not interested in it because it does not meet the demands of the movement."
Resolution 1860 passed with a majority of 14 votes. The United States abstained from voting.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the UN failed to consider the interests of the Palestinian people. "This resolution doesn't mean that the war is over," he told the al-Jazeera satellite television network. "We call on the Palestinian fighters to mobilize and be ready to face the offensive, and we urge the Arab masses to carry on with their angry protests."
Following the resolution, Egypt was expected to take the lead in persuading Israel and Hamas to accept it. Israeli representatives returned home from talks in Cairo Thursday, and Hamas was due to send political leaders to the Egyptian capital on Saturday.
Israel's government says any cease-fire must guarantee an end to rocket fire and arms smuggling into Gaza. During a six-month cease-fire that ended with the current operation, Hamas is thought to have used tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border to smuggle in the medium-range rockets it is now using to hit deeper than ever inside Israel.
Hamas has said it won't accept any agreement that does not include the full opening Gaza's blockaded border crossings. Israel is unlikely to agree to that demand, as it would allow Hamas to strengthen its hold on the territory which it violently seized in June 2007.
DAMASCUS (AP) - Hamas leaders sent conflicting signals over whether the group will still recognise political rival Mahmoud Abbas as president of the Palestinians when his term ends Thursday night.
The mixed messages came as the group was considering a truce deal that is expected to involve Abbas' Palestinian Authority. The group had said it had reservations about the Egyptian peace proposals.
A joint statement issued by Damascus-based Palestinian factions later Thursday said they rejected the Egyptian proposal to end the Gaza fighting, but it wasn't clear whether Hamas was among those who had signed it.
Hamas has previously said that Abbas' term ends at midnight Thursday, after four years in office. That position is disputed by Abbas' aides, who say he could stay till 2010.
Hamas Deputy political bureau head Moussa Abu Marzouk reiterated the previous position on Thursday.
He told the Associated Press that Abbas will be "a member of the Palestinian people" as of Friday. "As of tomorrow, he does not represent the Palestinian people in his negotiations," he said.
Osama Hamdan, Lebanon representative of Hamas who is close to Damascus-based top leader Khaled Mishaal, also said Abbas will be a former president as of Friday.
"We are not bound by any negotiation, agreement or understanding he undertakes," Hamdan told Al Manar TV of Lebanon's Hizbollah group, a Hamas ally. He said Hamas will deal with Abbas as leader of Fateh, the main faction in the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
That contradicted a statement from the Hamas government spokesman in Gaza, who said Hamas won't challenge Abbas for now. Spokesman Taher Nunu told reporters that a top priority is now to deal with Israel's assault on Hamas targets in Gaza and to seek Palestinian unity. He said that "we will not open the file of the end of President Abbas' term at this stage". Abu Marzouk also said Hamas will "soon" decide on the Egyptian plan.
The statement issued by various Palestinian factions in the Syrian capital later Thursday said the plan - proposed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during an Egyptian-French push this week - doesn't provide a good foundation for an acceptable solution to the conflict.
The plan undermines Gazans' resistance and gives Israel "a free hand" to continue its aggression, the statement said. It was issued by a coalition of Damascus-based Palestinian groups that normally include Hamas, but it wasn't immediately clear if Hamas had signed this particular note.
Hamas officials in Syria were not available for comment and Hamdan said he was not aware of the statement.
The Egyptian plan aims at ending the Gaza fighting and stopping both Hamas' rocket fire into Israel and arms-trafficking for the fighters, as well as to have the Israeli troops pull out.
9 January 2009
Make of this what you will. The bottom line:
Last update - 16:33 09/01/2009
EU diplomats: Egypt's refusal to station foreign troops on Gaza border holding up truce
By Assaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondent, and Reuters
Egyptian efforts to broker a Gaza ceasefire appeared on Friday to have to run into trouble because of disagreements with Israel over how to secure the border to prevent Hamas from rearming, diplomats said.
Israeli and European diplomats, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Egypt had objections to proposals for foreign forces deploying on the Egyptian side of its 15-km (9-mile) border with the Gaza Strip.
Instead of foreign troops, Cairo told Israel and the European Union, it was prepared to accept only increased international technical assistance to help its own forces combat arms smuggling through tunnels dug across the border. Israel is demanding the tunnel traffic end as part of a ceasefire deal.
"The truce talks are going nowhere at the moment," said a senior European diplomat involved in the effort. "There is a growing sense that the Egyptian-French plan is not going to work."
Jerusalem has said it will not agree to a ceasefire unless it contains regional and international commitments that will prevent Hamas from smuggling rockets into the Gaza Strip that could strike deeper into Israeli territory.
Hamas has demanded that any truce require Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip and halt cross-border incursions.
That plan, announced by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after talks on Tuesday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, called for an immediate cease-fire and for subsequent talks on securing Gaza's border and reopening its border crossings.
Following talks in Cairo on Thursday with top Defense Ministry official, Amos Gilad, Israeli and European diplomats described the gap with Egypt over securing the border as wide.
"They (the Egyptians) told us they won't agree to a force on their side" of the border, known by Israel as the Philadelphi corridor, a senior Israeli official said.
"Egypt would accept far more technical assistance," the official said, but added that Israel was deeply sceptical that would be sufficient. Egyptian officials were not available for comment.
Diplomats said an international deployment on the Palestinian side of the border was unlikely because of objections from Hamas, which has yet to take a formal position on Cairo's ceasefire blueprint.
Israeli officials said their Egyptian counterparts were skeptical Hamas would accept it. Hamas, which is seeking an end to Israel's blockade on the territory, had likewise rejected the presence of international forces.
European diplomats said NATO member Turkey was one of the few countries that appeared willing to send contingents to the border if an agreement between Egypt and Israel can be reached.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has played down the need for ground forces, saying technology was the key. The bloc preferred to send "money and technology" to Egypt as part of any border mission, a senior diplomat said.
Relevant equipment may include sonar devices for picking up evidence of tunnelling and other means of geological detection.
Israel's 14-day-old assault on the Gaza Strip has included several air force sorties in which "bunker buster" bombs were dropped along Gaza's border with Egypt. The bombs send out shockwaves designed to collapse the secret passages.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told Haaretz he is not very optimistic about the possibility for an agreement that would bring an end to the fighting.
"First of all, the Egyptians would have to accept this plan," he said.
"We cannot decide about an EU force without the consent of the Egyptians. This is nonsense. President Mubarak was quite clear in his position against such a force. We are trying to find a solution, with a clear view of respecting Egyptian sovereignty," he added.
The longer the military operation goes on, the more Israel loses in terms of European public opinion, Schwarzenberg said in an interview to Haaretz.
The Czech Republic currently holds the rotating European Union Presidency.
"I do think that each hour Israel is continuing its military operation it loses in the public opinion in Europe and this is a process which is going on very fast and endangers the friendly government around Israel and undermines the position of president Abbas. I think we have to achieve a cease fire, to achieve a settlement, today and not tomorrow," said Schwarzenberg.
The Czech minister headed a mission by the Foreign Ministers of the European troika to the region earlier this week.
From the following release by Israeli Prime Minister's office, it appears Israel has recected the UN call for a cease fire in Gaza.
PM Olmert's Reaction to Diplomatic Developments & UNSC Resolution #1860
(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
Friday, January 09, 2009
Following is Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's reaction to diplomatic developments and UN Security Council Resolution #1860: "The State of Israel has never agreed that any outside body would determine its right to defend the security of its citizens. The IDF will continue operations in order to defend Israeli citizens and will carry out the missions with which it has been assigned in the operation. This morning's rocket fire against residents of the south only proves that the UN Security Council Resolution #1860 is not practical and will not be honored in actual fact by the Palestinian murder organizations."
Thursday, January 8, 2009
IDF unveils Hamas map seized in Gaza
Jan. 8, 2009
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST
Soldiers from the Paratrooper's Brigade operating in the northern Gaza Strip uncovered a map prepared by Hamas that shows how the terror group prepared for the IDF's incursion by deploying different types of bombs as well as snipers throughout the town of al-Atatra.
The map is handwritten and is based on a bird's-eye view of the town, likely taken from Google Maps. On the map, Hamas split up the town into three different sectors - red, blue and green. On the map, Hamas highlighted several important sites such as mosques, a gas station and a fuel depot.
"Inside the map, the terrorists also marked sniper positions, as well as the location of roadside bombs, anti-tank bombs and landmines," Chief Intelligence Officer Brig.-Gen. Yuval Halamish said Thursday.
The map was discovered by soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade during operations in al-Atatra and was translated in the field and used by the troops to avoid casualties.
Halamish said that the map showed how Hamas does not hesitate to use civilian infrastructure for its terrorist activity. On the map, a brown dot is marked next to a mosque representing a nearby sniper position.
"This is a civilian area and you can see on the map how Hamas booby-trapped the entrance to homes in order to hit the IDF," Halamish said. In another case, a large explosive device was marked on the map next to a gas station. Had it been detonated it would have likely destroyed the gas station as well, killing and wounding civilians who live in the area.
In another case, Halamish said that soldiers discovered a mannequin dressed like a soldier at the entrance to a home. Had soldiers entered the home, the mannequin would have exploded, collapsing the floor and causing the troops to fall into a tunnel where they would have been abducted by Hamas operatives.
Jan. 8, 2009
Amir Mizroch , THE JERUSALEM POST
Who killed a Palestinian humanitarian aid truck driver and wounded two others as their convoy made its way into the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing during Thursday's 'humanitarian ceasefire'?
According to the foreign media, who based their information on UN sources, IDF tank shells blasted the truck. According to the Magen David Adom medic who said he evacuated the Palestinians to an Israeli hospital, the truck came under Hamas sniper fire. The medic, who asked not to be named, said he got his information from soldiers in the field. The IDF Spokesperson's Office has not been able to provide a response or establish contact with the relevant sources in the field.
Adding to the confusion, the Palestinian Red Crescent said it evacuated the Palestinians, but the MDA medic said soldiers told him they went in, with great risk to themselves, and evacuated the wounded Palestinians. What is certain is that there is one dead Palestinian, and two others being treated at Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital with gunshot wounds to the chest.
The incident occurred Thursday afternoon at the Erez crossing into the northern Gaza Strip, the main entrance used by humanitarian aid agencies to funnel badly needed food and medical supplies into Gaza.
As a result of the incident, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip said it was suspending operations relating to the collection and distribution of humanitarian aid.
But here too there seems to be confusion.
Richard Miron, the chief UN spokesman in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post that UNRWA was not suspending all of its operations, but just those relating to humanitarian aid.
"It's too dangerous and our staff are not safe," Miron said, adding that UNRWA would still be operating its schools and other centers in Gaza.
Miron's comments to the Post came after Adnan Abu Hasna, the agency's Gaza-based spokesman, said that UNRWA decided to suspend all its operations in the Gaza Strip because of the increasing hostile actions against its premises and personnel.
Earlier, Miron was quoted by the Timesonline website as saying that the IDF had been notified in advance about the UNRWA convoy, "which was hit as it approached the Erez crossing with Israel."
He went on to say that the UN was not looking to assign blame on either side, but was rather trying to make sure humanitarian aid got to the people who needed it, and that attacks on humanitarian convoys from any source had to stop.
The incident highlights the dangers involved in sending aid convoys through the crossings into the Gaza Strip. It also shows that the IDF Spokesperson's Office is not always able to respond in good time to incidents of this nature.
For at least seven hours, the international media were quoting a version of events which claimed the Palestinian truck drivers were killed by an Israeli shell.
The IDF Spokesperson's Office began fielding calls regarding the incident from the foreign press at about 12 p.m. Thursday, and by 7 p.m. had still not been able to get a clear answer from IDF Southern Command. Peter Lerner, a defense ministry spokesperson who responds to the international press about humanitarian issues, said, six hours after the event, that he was not aware of the incident at Erez Crossing and referred queries to the IDF.
The driver and two others, Palestinian civilians contracted by the UN, suffered gunshot wounds to the chest and upper body, the MDA said.
According to a MDA medic who evacuated the Palestinians, and who said he spoke to troops at the Erez Crossing, IDF soldiers, at great risk to themselves, evacuated the wounded Palestinians to the Israeli side of the border, where medics pronounced one of the Palestinians dead on the scene.
The two others were evacuated to Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital for treatment.
The soldiers told the medic that the Palestinian civilians were shot by Hamas gunmen, the MDA medic, who asked not to be named, told the Post
On Wednesday, Israel agreed to suspend offensive operations in Gaza for three hours between 1 p.m and 4 p.m. to allow humanitarian aid convoys into Gaza and for Gazans to be able to collect supplies.
Hamas resumed firing rockets promptly at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Apart from the sniper fire, on Thursday, Hamas terrorists fired mortar shells at Israeli communities in the Gaza envelope not long after the day's humanitarian ceasefire had begun.
Defense Ministry spokesman Peter Lerner told The Jerusalem Post that Israel would continue to allow humanitarian aid convoys into the Gaza Strip, despite the threat of shooting and hijacking of those convoys by Hamas. Lerner added that the convoys and humanitarian ceasefires were an integral part of the IDF's operations in Gaza to show that "the Palestinian people are not our enemy, Hamas is."
Lerner said that while a small amount of humanitarian aid was pilfered by Hamas, the majority of it was getting through to Palestinian civilians.
If this resolution is passed, it would be senseless for Israel to commit to a further ground offensive in Gaza, unless Hamas definitively reject the cease fire.
Last update - 21:05 08/01/2009
UN Security Council expected to okay Gaza truce resolution
The United Nations Security Council is expected to approve a newly revised resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza that calls for an international force to prevent arms smuggling.
The resolution also for the first time mentions Hamas by name, which along with the smuggling clause is a key United States demand.
Arab nations pressed for a vote Thursday on the resolution, which they promoted. But the changes in the Arab text didn't meet all the demands of the United States and its key Western allies, Britain and France, all veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council.
They countered by putting aside the weaker presidential statement they had proposed Wednesday and introducing a rival resolution, council diplomats said. Details of the British-drafted text were not released.
The fast-moving events came on the 13th day of an Israeli offensive in Gaza and the third day of a high-level emergency meeting of the council demanded by Arab nations to try to halt the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Foreign ministers from key Arab nations, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, came to UN headquarters along with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to try to agree on council action.
After numerous meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, the council was divided because the Arabs are insisting on a legally binding resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of Israeli troops while the U.S., Britain and France wanted a weaker statement emphasizing that a durable cease-fire requires guarantees on reopening border crossings and preventing arms smuggling to Hamas.
When the Arab and Western ministers met again Thursday morning - supposedly to discuss the revised Libyan draft and the presidential statement - Miliband presented the British-drafted text, the diplomats said.
The Arab ministers then discussed the Western draft among themselves, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the consultations were private.
Before the talks began, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the Arab Group would be pressing for a vote on Thursday, and he urged the Security Council to assume its responsibilities.
Libya's UN Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi, the only Arab member of the council, said the revised Arab text should be more acceptable to many members of the Security Council because the amendments reflected their proposals.
Earlier Thursday, Israeli envoys traveled to Cairo for Egyptian-brokered talks on an initiative by the presidents of Egypt and France that calls for a temporary truce that would hopefully lead to a permanent cease-fire.
Negotiations would then take place with the European Union and the Palestinian Authority on how to open the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian-Gaza border, followed by reconciliation talks among Palestinian groups, Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Wednesday.
Egypt's UN ambassador has said representatives of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have agreed to meet separately with Egyptian officials in Cairo.
But Egypt's Gheit said there would be no meeting between Israel and Hamas, and the militant group has not confirmed it would be coming to Egypt.
Hamas, which wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority in June 2007 and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel, has said it has major reservations about the Egyptian proposal and would give a clear position later.
In a possible sign Hamas was unwilling to compromise yet, a senior Hamas
official in Syria, Mohammed Nazzal, told Syrian TV Thursday that the militant Islamic group would never surrender and vowed to fight house to house against the Israeli military in Gaza.
Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, and Shalom Turjeman, a top aide to Israel's prime minister, arrived in Cairo Thursday morning. The official Egyptian news agency MENA said the delegates will discuss the basic details on how to implement the initiative - but not other details were immediately available.
Israel's government has said it viewed the proposal positively but stopped short of acceptance.
International efforts to broker a cease-fire have gained steam with
Palestinian casualties rising in Gaza. The death toll reached 699 Palestinians on Thursday, according to Palestinian medical officials. Eleven Israelis have died since the offensive began Dec. 27.
Speaking in Madrid, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the Egyptian-French initiative is a positive element in the peace process stressing we support it and hope that it succeeds in achieving its goals.
Abbas' faction, which controls the West Bank, has little sway in the coastal strip.
Abbas' Palestinian Authority representative in Cairo, Nabil Amr, said Abbas will meet with Egypt's intelligence chief in Cairo on Friday and then with President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday.
The Egyptian-French proposal aims to achieve a lasting halt to both rocket fire into Israel and to arms-trafficking for Hamas and a pullout of Israeli troops, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said Thursday.
The vote is meaningless, since the Senate has little direct say in foreign policy, and this is a non-binding symbolic resolution. It is a chance for legislators to do a bit of political campaigning and "go on record." Still, it is better for Israel than a resolution in support of the Palestinians.
Last update - 20:35 08/01/2009
WATCH: U.S. Senate voices strong support for Israel's Gaza battle against Hamas By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent, and Reuters
The U.S. Senate voiced strong support on Thursday for Israel's battle against Hamas militants in Gaza, while urging a cease-fire that would prevent the Islmast militant group from launching any more rockets into Israel.
The chamber agreed on a voice vote to the non-binding resolution co-sponsored by Democratic and Republican party leaders in the chamber.
"When we pass this resolution, the United States Senate will strengthen our historic bond with the state of Israel, by reaffirming Israel's inalienable right to defend against attacks from Gaza, as well as our support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said before the vote.
Noting that Israel was bent on halting Hamas rocket fire into its southern towns, Reid said: "I ask any of my colleagues to imagine that happening here in the United States. Rockets and mortars coming from Toronto in Canada, into Buffalo New York. How would we as a country react?"
Co-sponsor and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican said before the vote: "The Israelis ... are responding exactly the same way we would."
The House was expected to pass a similar resolution.
The Senate resolution encourages President George W. Bush "to work actively to support a durable, enforceable and sustainable ceasefire in Gaza as soon as possible that prevents Hamas from retaining or rebuilding the capability to launch rockets or mortars against Israel," Reid said.
It also expresses an "unwavering" commitment to Israel's welfare and recognizes its right to act in self defense to protect citizens against acts of terrorism, he said. "It allows for the long-term improvement of daily living conditions of the ordinary people of Gaza," he said.
"I spoke with Prime Minister Olmert last week and again expressed my understanding of and appreciation for the terrible situation that Israel has faced. Hamas has been firing rockets and mortars into Israel, killing and maiming innocent Israeli civilians, for more than eight years," added Reid.
Palestinians faced even grimmer conditions in Gaza on Thursday after a UN aid agency halted work, saying its staff was at risk from Israeli forces after two drivers were killed.
The reported Palestinian death toll in the 13-day-old conflict topped 700. At least 11 Israelis have been killed, eight of them soldiers, including four who were hit by "friendly fire."
Actually, it seems Hamas had pretty much decided to reject the plan yesterday. Gaza Hamas sources seemed optimistic about a cease-fire, but it is Damascus that calls the shots, literally. Presumably, this will lead to an escalation of Israeli operation in Gaza as soon as preparations are complete and weather permits.
DAMASCUS, Syria, Jan. 8, 2009 (CBS) This story was written by CBS News' George Baghdadi, reporting from Damascus
The Hamas leadership rejected on Thursday an Egyptian truce plan for the Gaza Strip saying it lacked the "valid basis" that would secure Israel's pull out of the Gaza, reopening all border crossings and lifting the blockade against the Palestinians.
A statement by the Damascus-based ten Palestinian factions, including Hamas, said they "didn't see in the Egyptian initiative any valid basis for any acceptable solution as it includes articles deemed risky for the Palestinian resistance and its future."
It added that the aim of the Egyptian move was "to impose restrict on the resistance movement, blockading it while giving the enemy the free hand. The initiative could only help the enemy achieve the results they are unable to attain so far."
The Palestinian factions said it questioned the participation of Arab parties in the plan, but didn't name these countries.
A two-man delegation of Emad al-Alami and Mohammed Nasr flew back to Damascus on Wednesday night after having lengthy talks in Cairo with Egyptian officials, including intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, to discuss the initiative with Hamas's Syrian-based leadership.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak put forward a truce plan for the ravaged territory late Tuesday aimed at ending Israel's assault which has killed more than 700 Palestinians and ending militant rocket fire.
The plan hopes to install a temporary cease-fire followed by an official truce, the securing of Gaza's border and the opening of crossing points to and from the isolated territory.
The factions reiterated in the statement their demands of "stopping the aggression, immediate withdrawal, lifting the siege and opening the crossing points, particularly Rafah." They also rejected the idea of deploying international observers in Gaza.
Israel, responding to a worldwide outcry over the punishing toll on Gaza's 1.5 million people, suspended its offensive Wednesday to allow humanitarian agencies to distribute relief supplies. Israeli officials said such brief lulls would be declared daily.
It was the first letup in an Israeli assault that has killed more than 700 Palestinians, of whom the United Nations says more than 400 are civilians. Ten Israelis have been killed since the fighting began, three of them civilians struck by continuing Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.
By David Breakstone
'Not by might and not by power, but by My spirit, says the Lord of Hosts." Ironically, it was this verse from Zechariah, read on the Shabbat of Hanukka, that was being chanted in synagogues throughout the world several days ago, precisely as Israel's air force was embarking on a display of might and power that it rarely demonstrates. So, do we believe in the message of our prophets or not?
With our reservists being called up by the thousands and our troops having gone into Gaza, I recall as well another chant, an echo of the first, and one that was no less sacred to me in my formative years: "Fighting for peace is like f--king for virginity." Both phrases continue to resonate within me, together giving expression to the cherished commandment of the Jewish tradition that we are to seek peace.
How, then, do I reconcile my unabashed support for the current military operation in Gaza with the values that I hold so dear? The answer is a complex one, but in its simplest form I would offer that we really are not fighting for peace; we are fighting to protect ourselves and for our right to some normalcy in our lives. Few, if any, are under the illusion that this military campaign is going to result in peace. Hamas has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to the destruction of the State of Israel and no amount of bombs is going to alter that. The problem is, neither is any amount of diplomacy. The Hamas covenant explicitly rejects negotiations as a legitimate form of struggle against the Zionist entity.
Being the stubborn people that we are, however, we have repeatedly refused to accept this reality. Just over six months ago, we and Hamas agreed to an Egyptian-brokered "lull" in the use of violence against one another. Our hope was that our avowed enemy would use this period of calm to invest its resources and energies in promoting the social agenda on which it rose to power, and in the meantime reconcile itself - without ever having to say so out loud - to living alongside its hated adversary. Our fear was that Hamas would instead take advantage of the opportunity to act with impunity that it had bargained for to enhance its firepower. Unfortunately, it was our fears that were realized and not our hopes.
During the past half year of relative quiet, a full 538 mortar shells and rockets were launched against Israel, and on December 21, Hamas unilaterally declared an end to the tenuous respite in its holy war against the Jewish state. Until the very last minute, our leaders were scurrying around the region, and calling around the globe, in an anxious effort to grasp at any diplomatic straw that might have prevented the renewal of all-out violence.
Leaders of Arab states were actively supportive of these efforts. So were leaders of the free world, particularly in Europe and the United States.
Nevertheless, Hamas chose to intensify its barrage of missiles rather than talk, its commitment to our destruction apparently even stronger than its will to survive. As the number of rockets exploding in southern towns and settlements surpassed 80 per day last week, and with the wounds inflicted by more than 5,000 such explosions over the past eight years still raw, our military and political leaders, having exhausted all diplomatic options, determined that enough was enough.
Clearly they were giving expression to the public mood as well. Some 90 percent of the country's citizenry supported the initial strikes against Gaza. But only a few days later, the question has already arisen as to whether or not our response has been disproportionate to the threat we are trying to fend off. A perfectly proportionate response, of course, would have been to fire one missile into Gaza for every missile fired from it. Or, perhaps, proportionality requires calculating the number of missiles per capita raining in on the population of Sderot and its environs, and sending an equivalent number back to terrorize the civilian population of Gaza City. That would give them a taste of their own medicine, wouldn't it?
We are, however, long past the point where dispensing medicine can do any good. Instead, we are interested in radical surgery, in eliminating as much of the cancer of radical Islamic terrorism as possible before it metastasizes throughout the region, and eventually the entire world. If someone, somehow can offer us a non-invasive procedure that will allow us to do that, I am confident with every fiber of my being that we will opt for it, even if the method is considered chancy and unproven.
We have taken risks numerous times in the past and, despite repeated disappointments, we will be prepared to do so again. We really are a peace-loving nation; it is all of our children who have been asked to cross the border, and on the other side of it are real human beings, good people among them who are no less deserving than we of the tranquility Hamas has denied us all. Our tradition, however, demands not only that we seek peace, but also that we choose life. I am deeply sorry about the terrible suffering of the innocent that we are perpetrating within Gaza, but under the circumstances, I offer no apologies.
Mihal Eliav, of Beer Sheva, is a teacher who made aliyah from the United States 30 years ago. She posted these thoughts on the Shomernet (Hashomer Hatzair alumni) listserv. Mihal previously wrote about her visits to Sderot and her plans to live there, including an account of a Qassam attack.
Tonight, about half an hour ago, the sirens wailed for the first time in Be'er Sheva. About 40 seconds later, right on schedule, fell 2 bombs. So, we now know that the system works. I knew from the sound of the booms that these falls weren't very close, having had something to compare them to in Sderot.
When the sirens started, I was on my way to the phone to call a friend. I altered course and stood against the east-facing wall of my flat until a minute or two after the blasts. (Supposed to lie down but the floor is awful cold.) Then I went and made my phone call.
All this is not so scary as distressing and depressing….The radio is blathering about "how hard it is to digest the new status" but that is just crap - this is not new in the least, it was all too expected. and what, is Be'er Sheva in a different country from Nahal Oz and Sderot???
Last night, a katyusha fell near a kindergarten here… During the 'calmness/rgiya' there were some days with no missiles came and some days when 5 or 6 landed. Now we're back to 40 or so a day. Some 200 kids in Netivot have been in shelters during the past 4 days. Those missiles don't have much aiming but we are taking shelter anyway…
In a few hours I need to go to the shuk (market) for fruit. Such a simple act.
The gala opening of the theater in its new performing arts center was interrupted. Later we heard that the public, who were asked to leave mid-play, argued and wanted to continue. Management wouldn't go against the rules and closed the stage. The audience stopped for a bite at the catered buffet on their way out. (Why waste good food just because bombs are falling?)
Earlier today, there was a hit near Rahat (a Bedouin city) - Hamas claimed they were aiming at Be'er Sheva--not likely in my opinion.
Schools in most of the bombed places are closed today. Obviously, the powers-that-be think it's safer for the kids to be at home. I wonder how two-worker families deal with this.
In the morning, there was another boom, but without sirens. It's better when there is warning. Or no, maybe it's better when it's over before you even know it was.
A few minutes after finishing the above-- UPDATE. More sirens and more falls here in Be'er Sheva. I counted at least three bangs, one of them quite close.
This time I put a blanket on the floor and sat down. Everyone here is nervous. It isn't 9:00 AM yet. What kind of day is this? Shall I go to the shuk or not?
Yesterday, I went to the shuk and got a healthy dose of ignorant, inarticulate and even shameful behavior… rocks on metal doors (sounds just like a small bomb) and certain car-alarms (sound like the sirens, if you're jumpy anyway). Not funny…
As I walked to the shuk, I noticed how much safer I'd have been in Sderot. Be'er Sheva is so spread-out: how did I never really notice this before? Sderot is full of little shelterettes. Not here... Be'er Sheva suddenly looks naked and low. The shuk must have a shelter, but lord only knows where it is.. Mostly, I could make it to some form to east-facing semi-shelter in the 60-second warning (from the moment the sirens go off). but I can see people around me who wouldn't have a chance to, the older in particular.
(Another participant's) comments reminding us to keep the other side in mind are seriously and beautifully put…When the missiles are coming down, one does tend to get awfully self-centered. A friend was at Soroka Hospital for surgery last month--I feel all of us here are post-surgery: we talk about ourselves and our pains quite a lot.
The media have slowed it down a tad, a week into this now and we are starting to hear a bit of music in between the yakkity and the booms. But the call-ins are still mostly either the traumatized or the religious….
Every 15 minutes, the announcer reads off the instructions given by the Homefront Command: Stay close to shelter, etc. I asked around and found that just about everyone is following orders, if with a certain wry disbelief. Two friends described going into public shelters, orderly in both cases.
I sit here, my better nature too tired for considering the plight of anyone I've never met. Minutes later, your wise letter forces me to stop and balance for a while, as long as I can before the next rough interruption...Between a reality of personal fear and the ideal of personal empathy, it is no wonder self-absorption usually takes over but, please continue to remind me that better states can be achieved, at least potentially.
Today…the media chose to give us a detailed look at the casualties on the other side of the border. Not '500 dead till now' but 'mother, father and their 5 children dead' and 'a grandfather' and 'two young girls in a donkey cart'. This (report is heard) in a country under fire. On one hand, I am proud that we can look directly at what is happening. On the other, I wonder what point is served by adding this psychological torture to our current burdens. The news is Hebrew, listened to by Hebrew speakers only.
I'm ready to bet that most Israelis do give a certain amount of thought to the innocents who suffer in Gaza; because I ask everyone I can, but while I write this there is 'red alert' in Ashkelon (two bombs fall). My handyman says we need all these details, that reality should never be swept away. I don't want to sweep reality away either, but just now, when my broom closet is also a bomb shelter, I'm not sure why the news editors are giving me such a close look at what is already all too close.
London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi reports that American Engineering Corps' officers have been stationed at Egypt's border with Strip in order to unearth smugglers' tunnels in area
US Engineering Corps officers have arrived in southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah to monitor the Egypt-Gaza border and unearth underground tunnels in the area, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi reported Wednesday.
According to the report, the US Military deployed troops to the area several weeks ago, at Israel's request, in light of its statements that Egypt is doing nothing to curb weapons smuggling into Gaza through the Rafah border.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, added al-Quds al-Arabi, has protested the breached border in conversations with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and has also presented him with images taken at the border, showing Egyptian officers assisting smugglers.
Operation Cast Lead has seen IAF forces pummel dozens of tunnels along the Philadelphi Route.
According to Amira Hass of Haaretz:
Other sources confirm that Fatah members who left their homes were shot in the legs.
This is one of many conflicting reports about the diplomatic battle fog. A different report claimed that Hamas said that a truce was possible within 48 hours under the following condition, 'Either we win, or we die.' That doesn't sound like much of a truce. This report claims Hamas sees a truce possible within a week. Though this report says Israel has approved continuation of the Gaza operation, a different report notes that the cabinet postponed a decision about the next phase of the operation.
Last update - 02:44 08/01/2009
Israel, Egypt to begin intensive talks on Gaza truce
By Barak Ravid, Avi Issacharoff and Assaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondents
Israel and Egypt are expected to enter intensive negotiations in the coming days in an attempt to agree on a mechanism that will bring the fighting in the Gaza Strip to an end.
As a preamble to these talks, Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-military bureau, will travel to Cairo Thursday for talks with Egyptian officials on an arrangement for managing the Philadelphi corridor and the degree of Egyptian involvement in curtailing arms smuggling into the Strip.
Meanwhile, the cabinet approved Wednesday a continuation of Operation Cast Lead.
The United States is also involved in the discussions between Israel and Egypt on an agreement that would seek to end smuggling into the Strip. Arab sources have said that Israel and the U.S. are discussing possible security arrangements that could be used on the Philadelphi corridor, and in parallel Washington is discussing with Cairo how such arrangements may be implemented.
Meanwhile, Egyptian officials are holding talks with Hamas on a new cease-fire agreement with Israel.
All parties, according to the Arab sources, are trying to reach an agreement before Arab states raise proposals at the United Nations Security Council that will call on Israel to cease fire immediately.
Notwithstanding a series of statements suggesting that there is agreement for a cease-fire, it appears that there are still significant differences between Israel and Egypt regarding the nature of the settlement. The main problem is the fact that Israel is preconditioning a cease-fire to a solution to the smuggling, while Egypt is asking for a cease-fire and the opening of the border crossings, before a resolution of the Hamas tunnels issue.
Talks on a diplomatic agreement began at the very early stages of the operation in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. was first in holding talks with the Arab League, in order to produce a solution that Arab states would impose on Hamas. However, intense infighting in the League, primarily between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on one side and Syria on the other, foiled any progress.
Following the initial American effort, the French launched an initiative for a 48-hour cease-fire. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner presented the proposal on humanitarian grounds, and talked with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the matter. Israel rejected the proposal, fearing that it would undermine its offensive in the Strip if it acknowledged that a humanitarian crisis existed in Gaza.
At this point Israel proposed to the U.S. and the European Union that a settlement be constructed from a series of accords "against Hamas" that would be imposed on the group by the international community. The U.S. began talks with Egypt on the matter, and a few days ago French President Nicolas Sarkozy also became involved. At this point Israel opted to avoid direct talks with Egypt, leaving the coordination to Washington and Paris.
After a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak on Monday, Sarkozy traveled to Israel where he met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "I understand the concern about the smuggling and agree that this is central to a solution," Sarkozy told Olmert. The French president said that in parallel to the military operation in the Strip, Israel should begin direct talks with Egypt on the smuggling issue.
Sarkozy also promised that "if there is a need for Europe to establish an international ground force as well as a naval force in order to assist Egypt, everyone will be willing to assist."
The French president added that the handling of the smuggling operations would be done on Egypt's side of the border. "If you [Israel] decide that the mechanism [against the smuggling] is a good one, declare a cease-fire unilaterally," Sarkozy told Olmert. "If Hamas responds, excellent. If not, keep on shooting."
Sarkozy explained that at a later stage, when a cease-fire is in place, a solution would be found to the crossings - particularly the one in Rafah - and the incorporation of the Palestinian Authority in any solution. "If this is the framework and this is the order of things to come, I agree," Olmert replied.
However, after Sarkozy visited Damascus and then Egypt once more for a meeting with Mubarak, it emerged that Cairo had a different view on the French proposal.
At a press conference, Sarkozy and Mubarak presented things differently:
* First, an immediate cease-fire, an opening of the crossings and a start to negotiations for a long term cease-fire.
* Second, regional and international guarantees for the cease-fire, and "improvement of the security situation on the border" - i.e. curtailing the smuggling.
* Third, talks for internal Palestinian reconciliation.
Israel's response focused on Egypt's willingness to discuss the question of the smuggling and an end to the terrorism originating in the Strip, but rejected any proposal for opening the crossings or resuming the internal Palestinian political dialogue. However, Israeli political sources say that they are dissatisfied by the difference in the Sarkozy version to Olmert and the one presented by Mubarak. It is also still unclear to Israel whether Cairo is interested in mediating between Israel and Hamas.
Meanwhile, Razi Hamad, a spokesman for Hamas, said Wednesday that "there is a positive atmosphere for a cease-fire."
In an interview to the Palestinian News Agency Ma'an, Hamad indicated that it would be possible to reach a cease-fire within a week. "The diplomatic efforts should be allowed to succeed," he said.
Deputy chief of the Hamas politburo Musa Abu Marzouk said Wednesday that the organization is examining the cease-fire proposal being proposed by Egypt, France, Syria and Turkey. He rejected the possibility that Hamas would negotiate a permanent cease-fire with Israel so long as the occupation persisted.
Another Hamas spokesman, Osama Hamdan, said that the group opposes the proposal of deploying an international force along the border between Gaza and Egypt.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands and Denmark are officially offering to deploy troops to a European observer force that would potentially be sent to the Gaza-Sinai border. In a letter to the Czech presidency of the European Union Wednesday, the foreign ministers of the two countries stressed the importance of building Israel's confidence that Hamas will not acquire missiles, and called on the E.U. to offer supervision and control over the border with Sinai.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday evening during a meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana that "[Israel] is working to ensure that [Operation Cast Lead] creates a safer reality for the southern communities. We will not abandon this objective."
Referring to the possibility of a cease-fire agreement with Hamas, Barak said that Israel "will examine it to make sure it leads to the creation of the desired reality. If it does not, the Israel Defense Forces will continue its operation in Gaza and possibly intensify it."
Solana said Wednesday that the Union is ready to assist Egypt in preventing smuggling, but in an interview to Reuters he qualified that the assistance "will be mostly technological and not by the deployment of forces."
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
PROUD OF TRINIDAD & TOBAGO AND HER SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL
Trinidad & Tobago is one of the most cosmopolitan countries in the world. Our population of 1.5 million is comprised of people of African, East Indian, Chinese, European, Mediterranean, Arab and Native American descent. We boast of the many churches, mosques and Hindu temples which dot the landscape of our tiny island. Racism, though ever so slightly present in politics, is not a true problem which plagues our society. Trinidad & Tobago a veritable paradise – a land of oil and money, Carnival and calypso, rum and calypso, beautiful beaches and sweeping skyscrapers, if only for one thing: Trinidad & Tobago seems to be under the "curious spell of anti-Semitism without Jews." For while our people adhere to the faiths of almost every major world religion, Jews and Judaism is largely unrepresented here. In total, the entire Trinidadian Jewish population accounts for only about 100 persons. Many of them are well-known figures, but their Jewishness is not something which they broadcast – and for good reason. Anti-Semitism is growing in Trinidad, in no small part thanks to the efforts of the approximately seventy thousand Muslims who call Trinidad & Tobago home.
Once there was a flourishing Jewish community in Trinidad – with over 5,000 Jews calling Trinidad home and terming themselves part of the "Calypso Shtetl". Unfortunately, the Black Power uprisings of the 1970's forced many of these Trinidadian Jews to migrate to Canada, Barbados and the United States. I was privileged to meet one of these Trinidadian Jews, a wonderful lady who, because of diplomatic reasons, returned to Trinidad to live for a few years. A true Trinidadian, born and bred on these very shores, this lady was the first to put into words the disturbing increase in anti-Semitism. She said in an e-mail to me: "In Trinidad, it is easily explained by 3 reasons: the Syrian population, the American black Nation of Islam influence, and the Muslim followers of Arabs. All of these groups are, by tradition, anti-Semitic." Truer words were never spoken, and it dismayed me to learn that anti-Semitism was rising in Trinidad.
On Sunday January 4th, 2009, the IBN (Islamic Broadcasting Network) Channel 8 in Trinidad & Tobago hosted a show discussing the current events unfolding between Israel and the terrorist group, Hamas, and it was here that I first learned of the anti-Semitism which exists in my country. Naturally, as was to be expected, many callers-in spouted venomous, hateful, anti-Israel sentiments - among which they called Israel "an aggressor", "prideful", "evil", and called for the boycott of Israeli products. Of course, since we live in a democratic state, they were most entitled to their opinion, but likewise, since it is a democratic state, I felt compelled to call in and offer my dissenting view.
While the other callers greeted the show hosts and the Trinidad & Tobago public with the proper Islamic greeting, I chose not to do so since I am not Muslim, and I simply said "Good night", before starting to say what I had to say. Perhaps that was my first mistake, for IBN is not known for being particularly open-minded with people whose views clash with their own. While they are greatly sympathetic to non-Muslims who call in to agree with their views, they aren't likely to be that understanding with non-Muslims who don't agree with them.
So I called in and said the following: "Good night, I'm calling in response to the last caller. Now we have to put things into perspective here: Israel has it's borders with the West Bank relatively open, because the West Bank isn't under the control of a terrorist group, and Hamas is a terrorist group in control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas quotes the hadith which speaks of Jews hiding behind trees and stones and those trees and stones calling for Muslims to kill the Jews. It's in their very charter which I've read, and -" at that point, my call was immediately disconnected and the show hosts went on a tirade to explain that the hadith I quoted didn't exist, and that Hamas was not a terrorist group, by any stretch of the imagination. I had obviously dreamed it up in my head that Hamas was a terrorist organization, because obviously I was deranged. Why would I think that? Hamas never called for an end to the state of Israel; Hamas' charter doesn't proclaim that all of "Palestine" is Islamic Waqf - land conquered exclusively for Muslim use, to be governed by Muslims; Hamas was not termed a terrorist organization by the EU, by the US, by Israel and many other countries; Hamas didn't say it would never negotiate with and/or recognize the Jewish state's right to exist, nor did Hamas ever say that it would rescind on all past agreements the PLO/PA made with Israel!
I was completely wrong on all these points!
What Hamas actually was, you see, was a peace-loving organization which was being treated unfairly by Western media and that aggressor country - ugh, Israel.
Doh! Get your facts straight, Mr. Jagdeo!
But just in case - in the mere chance that those presenters were wrong and I was right - I'd like them to know this: you can argue from now til thy kingdom come and you get your 72 virgins about why the sky is not blue - but that doesn't change the facts: the sky is blue, Hamas is a terrorist organization and the hadith does exist and it does say clearly that Muslims will get help from trees and stones in locating and killing those terrible, evil Jews. But if I'm wrong and Mr. Inshan Ishmael (the show's main presenter) is right - then slap me silly and call me Wakim, because I will head straight for the nearest mosque (I won't even bother to stop at "Go!" and collect my $200) and become a Muslim.
(Before we continue, may I stop here just to quote the hadith, which I was told did not exist. The hadith is as follows: "HADITH Sahih Bukhari [4:52:176] Narrated by Abdullah bin Umar: Allah's Apostle said, "You will indeed fight against the Jews and you will kill them to the point where the rock and the tree will say: 'O Muslim! O Abdullaah (slave of Allaah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him.' Except for al-Gharqad for it is from the trees of the Jews.' " So there ya go. Either I am crazy, or Abdullah bin Umar was crazy, or maybe – just maybe – the shows presenters were the crazy ones. I'll leave it up to you to decide).
The point of my rambling here is not against IBN or against Islam. While I was very discomfited by the way I was treated that night, I didn't expect any better from that particular television station. After all, whenever they have a chance, they are ever-ready to make subtle anti-Israel and somewhat anti-Semitic remarks in their shows, and regularly broadcast subtle propaganda aimed against Jews and Israel. Subtle, because they are well-aware of the dangers of inciting people, and God knows they are somewhat wary of losing their broadcasting license in Trinidad & Tobago, so they resort to finding subtle means to dig at Israel, to dig at Jews and to further validate themselves (cause God forbid, Islam tries to exist without invalidating everyone else around it, especially Am Yisrael). For instance, they regularly broadcast a particular cartoon featuring a group of young Muslim-American scout-like boys who travel to Turkey and are caught up in the intrigue of fighting against "the Evil Star Organization" - a most devious, treacherous club, whose leader is pictured by a very pale, stooped-over gentleman, with a huge nose and the greediest, most money-grubbing personality you can imagine. You need not be any sort of Einstein to figure out what the Evil Star Organization represents and who the leader is a caricature of. And also, a couple weeks ago, on the weekly IBN show "Let the Quran Speak", the esteemed Islamic scholar Mr. Chote, was very clear in saying that the problems in the Middle East stem from not an Arab/Israeli conflict, but rather, a Muslim/Jewish one. Mr. Chote quoted the aforementioned hadith (which I was told, did not exist) to back up his argument and argue for a united Muslim front against Jews (though it must be said, Mr. Chote was very careful in choosing his words and did not exactly call for physical violence to be perpetrated against Jews or Jewish interests). Mr. Chote continued on to say that "Palestine" was a land belonging to all Muslims and not just Palestinians. Of course, I was mightily surprised by that statement. Apparently Mr. Chote seemed to think he had some sort of claim to the land of Israel as well, and only by the collective effort of the 1 billion Muslims in the world could the Jewish problem be solved. Oh well, just when I thought the only claimants to the land were the Jews and Palestinians, up comes Mr. Chote throwing his 2 cents in and staking his claim as well. Well, well - all I have to say is this: though the Moshiach may tarry - I believe in his coming. You just wait, Mr. Chote.
But as I was saying, I truly did not expect IBN to be open-minded, especially given its history of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish rhetoric. What really disturbed me was the level of hate of the callers. It wasn't simply a "we don't agree with Israel" - it was a constant, never-ending supply of "Assalam u alaykum", followed by "we hate Israel etc., etc., etc." I've a somewhat morbid sense of humor, so I could not help but find the irony that callers would greet the show hosts in the most syrupy-sweet voices wishing them "Peace unto you" (which is what "assalam u alaykum" literally means), and then go on to proclaim their hate for Israel, the funniest thing in the world. But that's beside the point - after all, everyone is entitled to their opinion. What really got to me was the unfairness of the situation. It upset me to my core. I was frustrated that I had not been given the time to talk about Hamas' constant barrage of Qassam and Katuysha rockets (one of the show presenters called it "Falusha" rockets, "or something like that". No my friend, Falashas are a derogatory term for Ethiopian Jews. Like I said, they know what they're talking about. I don't - so Falusha rockets it is) into southern Israel - over 10,600 rockets, to be exact. I wanted to yell out that Israel didn't have to do a ground invasion - Israel could've just attacked from the air, bombing their targets from the safety of their planes, and not risk the lives of their soldiers, but they chose to go in, putting the lives of their soldiers in jeopardy, in order to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties.
I wanted to yell out many things, but I didn't... because I'd been disconnected, most unceremoniously, from the show. After all, I didn't know anything: Hamas is not a terrorist organization; there is no hadith which says trees and stones will help Muslims locate and kill Jews; and Falusha rockets were what the Hamas was hitting Israel with.
Ah - you learn something new everyday.
The many callers - all of whom who declared their united hate for Israel and her aggression on those innocent, peace-loving Hamas members - sickened me. The abundance of ignorance on the issue among the Trinidadian public sickened me to my core. And it wasn't just the callers-in to the IBN show who sickened me. My growing sense of nausea had begun to grow earlier that very day. On that particular Sunday, before I tuned in to IBN, I'd read some articles in the newspapers by local columnists who were only too quick in their leftist views to denounce Israel as the poster country for all things evil. You know how it goes – Israel drops a bomb and the entire left begins their tirade against Israel and Zionism. Blah blah blah. It's the same story every time and everywhere. It's no different here in Trinidad.
So I felt sick - down to my very core. The leftists, the extremist Muslims, the uninformed – just too many haters… all springing from my country. I was ashamed – it was not what I expected, especially from a people who are famous for not being racist…
Now I'm the biggest Zionist ever - and perhaps, a little right-wing in my views: yeah, I'm a Jerusalem-should-not-be-divided, Bibi-loving, don't-give-land-unless-you're-getting-a-sustainable-durable-permanent-peace, don't-negotiate-with-terrorists kind of guy (oops, Hamas aren't terrorists! Didn't they teach me that on Sunday? Silly Nick!), but I am willing to listen to other points of view - if you would let me voice mine as well. But right then, it seemed that no one wanted to listen. At that point, it seemed to me that everyone in Trinidad & Tobago was as stubborn as the most hardened donkey out there, unwilling to look beyond the scope of the present and superficial, unwilling to dig down into the history and the deeper, ideological problems that simmer below the surface.
The whole thing hurt me awfully - because the truth is, I take things personally - and everyone dissing Israel and not giving me any space to stand up for her frustrated me, hurt me and really made me ashamed of Trinidad. I hadn't expected Trinidad to be so full of leftists, so full of anti-Israel sentiment, so full of hate and ignorance and a refusal to learn the history of the situation before they jump the bandwagon and start calling for death to Israel. It just seemed to me that everyone was too quick to just look at the here and now, presented to them by CNN and the ever-anti-Semitic BBC and judge Israel unfairly.
But two things happened which changed my dissatisfaction with my country; two things which made me proud of my people, and reassured me that they aren't all leftists, or extreme Muslims. Those loud voices are drowned out by the majority – and the majority came out and spoke and reassured me that my Trinidadian people are a most intelligent people who aren't all anti-Israel and aren't all unaware of the truth of the situation.
On Monday January 5th 2009, a friend of mine in Jerusalem sent me a link to a site where one can contribute to assist IDF soldiers in the war against Hamas. The site (http://www.stogether.org/gaza) asked for a simple contribution of US$18 to equip individual soldiers with little necessities which the army couldn't afford to give to them. Knowing my Zionist ideologies, my friend sent me this link cause she knew that I would want to help in any way I could, since I am currently so far away from Israel. Naturally, I immediately went onto the site and did what I had to do there, but I wondered, "Hmm? I wonder if there's anyone in Trinidad who'd want to help out as well?", so I clicked the forward button, and with the Zionist fervor bubbling in me, I forwarded that son-of-a-bitch e-mail to every Tom, Dick and Harry I could think of.
And boy was I surprised by what happened.
I'm no official representative of Israel, but people wrote back to me saying how they wanted to help, but didn't know how to - and this was a good idea of mine to send this to them. They SUPPORTED Israel! My e-mail, which had been forwarded to people I don't even know, made a bit of a ripple, and my humble GMail inbox was somewhat inundated with e-mails from a wide variety of folks: Christian evangelicals, everyday citizens who were well-educated about what's going on and in full support of Israel, and even an lady who "couldn't bear the thought of those poor soldiers not having any comforts, even though I don't know head or tail about the situation over there."
It warmed my heart - honestly it did.
And then, to further compound this warming in my previously hurt little heart, I clicked on the Facebook group I'd joined, "I support the Israel Defense Force in preventing terror attacks from Gaza", and checked the list of friends I had in it who I'd invited to join - and to my pleasant, most heart-warming surprise realized that from only 3 friends yesterday, this number had grown to 25 - including a hijab-wearing acquaintance! It was the the best feeling ever. And that's the point of this note - I know it's been long, I know I've rambled alot, but here's the long-awaited point: I forgot that while there is opposition to Israel – opposition to Israel's current war against terror, and possibly, opposition to Israel's very right to exist, there is also support for Israel, from varied, surprising and not-so-surprising sources in my country. There are Muslims who are fair and rational in my country, there is a huge evangelical Christian population in Trinidad (approximately two hundred and fifty thousand by some sources) who support Israel almost to the point of absurdity, and there are members of the intelligentsia who aren't leftist and biased against Israel. My very own Prime Minister, the Honorable Patrick Manning, while I don't always agree with him, was courageous and bold enough to say to hell with Caribbean's silly neutrality on the Israel/Palestinian conflict, and he established official ties with Israel and broke ground by being the first head of government of a Caribbean country to visit Israel in an official capacity in November of 2005.
So thank you, my wonderful country of Trinidad & Tobago.
Thank you for being open enough and intelligent enough and educated enough and caring enough to give your support to a country which is only trying to do the right thing, but whose name is being dragged through the mud because the world is a harsh, unfair place. Thank you for not feeding in to extremist Muslim and Arab propaganda; thank you for throwing yourselves behind Israel so firmly, so faithfully and so steadfastly.
Thank you, Trinidad & Tobago for making me proud of you and reinstating in me a pride in my country... you've thrown your support behind my other country, Israel, and I'm proud to be a part of you both.
The fact is, that the Gaza offensive has not really reduced the number of rockets into Israeli communities, but nobody claimed that it would do so.
Last update - 23:37 07/01/2009
25 Gaza rockets strike Negev over course of Wednesday
By Haaretz Service
Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday fired 25 rockets into Israel's southern communities, including Be'er Sheva and Ashkelon. The number was significantly lower than the average absorbed by these communities in recent weeks.
Two rockets exploded in Be'er Sheva just after 4 P.M., minutes following the expiration of a 3-hour truce between Israel and Hamas which was meant to ensure a temporary free flow of aid to Gaza residents.
Some structures in the city were lightly damaged, but there were no casualties. Following that attack, more rockets were reported exploding in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, close to the Gaza Strip.
Earlier in the afternoon, two rockets hit Ashkelon, one exploding in the backyard of a three-story building. Nine people were treated for shock, but no other casualties were reported.
Four rockets struck Sderot earlier Wednesday, Ofakim and Netivot were each hit by two rockets and one landed in Kiryat Malachi.
Palestinian militants this week have continued the daily barrage of rockets that Israel has sought to halt in its 12-day air and ground campaign against Hamas in Gaza.
On Tuesday, a Grad rocket fired by militants struck Gedera, located 30 kilometers from Tel Aviv, and lightly injured a 3-month-old baby.
The rocket struck a road in the southern section of Gedera, close to residential housing, in the first such attack on the central Israel city.
The baby sustained wounds from shards of glass that hit her face, and was subsequently taken to a hospital for treatment. Four people were also treated for shock, including the baby's mother.
Gaza militants fired almost 30 other rockets into Israel on Tuesday, causing neither casualties nor property damage. Most of the rockets hit the western Negev, and the southern towns of Netivot and Ofakim.
The unmaking of history. Here is some more about the "massacre" of "40" (or "42") people in the UNRWA school in Jebalya (see Gaza: History in the remaking). IDF fired on the school because it was a source of fire, where two named terrorists had gathered human shields around themselves. The UN insists that nobody fired from the school, but Palestinian witnesses verfy Hamas fired from school:
Report: Islamist site compiling list of U.K. Jews to target over Gaza op
By Haaretz Service
An Islamic extremist Web site is believed to be drawing up a list of prominent British Jews to target over Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza, The Sun reported on Wednesday.
According to the British newspaper, Amy Winehouse record producer Mark Ronson and Foreign Secretary David Miliband were among names discussed on the online forum Ummah.
The report came as a British Jewish watchdog group, the Community Security Trust, said there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Britain since the upsurge of hostilities in Gaza.
The British daily quoted the Ummah site as saying, "Saladin1970" asks for help compiling "a list of those who support Israel."
"Abuislam" asks: "Have we got a list of top Jews we can target? Can someone post names and addresses?"
Tony Blair's Middle East envoy and tennis partner Lord Levy, TV's The Apprentice boss Sir Alan Sugar and Princess Diana's divorce lawyer Anthony Julius were also reportedly among those mentioned on the site.
Gaza residents flocked to distribution points to stock up on food supplied from Israel. Hamas had warned Gazans not to approach the distribution points as they are a Zionist trick, but the warning does not seem to have had much effect. Following the truce, fighting resumed, and there was a red alert in Israel a few minustes after 4 PM.
Last update - 16:37 07/01/2009
Clashes resume in Gaza City after 3-hour humanitarian truce
Clashes between Israel Defense Forces troops and Palestinian gunmen resumed in Gaza City on Wednesday afternoon, after the expiration of a three-hour truce to allow in humanitarian aid, residents said.
Residents of the northern Gaza Strip had reported exchanges of fire between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants during the 1 P.M. -4 P.M. temporary truce period.
In Gaza City, hundreds had taken to the streets during the hiatus, shopping and visiting relatives.
Israel plans to halt military operations for three hours a day near Gaza City to enable aid to flow through a humanitarian corridor it is setting up in the Hamas-ruled territory, a military source said on Wednesday.
"The idea is for the Israeli military to lay down its weapons every day from 1 P.M. to 4 P.M., starting today, in the area of the city of Gaza," the source said earlier in the day.
Palestinian officials said they had been informed of the plan.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said on Wednesday that Israel would set up the corridor
to counter a crisis caused by its offensive against Hamas.
The PM's office said the measure was proposed by Israel Defense Forces leaders and would entail granting periodic access to various areas of the strips to allow Palestinians to stock up on vital goods.
Israeli ground forces battled with Palestinian gunmen throughout Gaza early Wednesday, as the army pressed on with its offensive against the coastal strip's Hamas rulers.
The Israel Defense Forces used infantry, tanks, combat engineers, artillery, and intelligence units against the Palestinian militant group, on the twelfth day of Operation Cast Lead.
Israeli forces battle militants across territory
Sounds of heavy gunfire and thick plumes of smoke engulfed the Zeitoun neighborhood east of Gaza City early Wednesday.
The Israel Air Force and Israel Navy assisted in the operation, with the IAF attacking about 40 targets in Gaza overnight, including 15 arms smuggling tunnels and Hamas weapons caches, the army said.
One morning air-strike killed four people, Gaza officials said. Their identity was unclear.
On the ground, five brigade-level contingents of Israeli forces searched for rocket launching sites and bunkers used by Gaza militants. Two IDF soldiers were lightly wounded during the operation.
Meanwhile, Israel's political leadership met in Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning to discuss expanding the ground offensive in Gaza at a time when most of the aims of the operation have been met.
On Tuesday, an Israeli soldier was killed and four were lightly wounded on Tuesday in clashes with Hamas in northern Gaza City. The soldiers reported casualties among the Hamas gunmen as well.
Staff Sgt. Alexander Mashvitski, 21 from Be'er Sheva, was part of a combat Engineering Corps unit that was removing explosives placed by Hamas. He was killed by Hamas gunmen during an operation with the Golani infantry brigade.
The IDF has strengthened its control over positions around Gaza City. The fiercest battles are currently in eastern Gaza City, on the outskirts of Sajaiyeh and the Jabalya refugee camps, and in the northern part of the Strip.
As long as there is "occupation" there will be resistance. But Gaza was not occupied, so where is the Israeli occupation?
Everywhere in Israel. All of Israel is a holy waqf given by Allah to the Muslims according to the Hamas charter. That's clear enough.
Hamas leader: We reject a permanent truce with Israel By The Associated Press
The deputy head of Hamas's political bureau on Wednesday said his group is studying peace initiatives to end the violence in Gaza Strip but rejects permanent truce with Israel.
Exiled Hamas leader Moussa Abou Marzouk said there will be no talks about a permanent cease-fire and that as long as there is an Israeli occupation, there will be resistance.
Marzouk spoke to The Associated Press Wednesday - one day after Egypt and France proposed a plan for ending the fighting in Gaza.
Abu Marzouk said Hamas received proposals from France, Turkey, Syria and Egypt to bring about a cease-fire.
He said Hamas stands by its demands for an immediate end to Israel's offensive, Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and opening of the border with the strip.
[The following was submitted as a letter to the Guardian in response to this article:guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/07/nick-clegg-israel-gaza-war.]
The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, writing in the Guardian today ("We must stop arming Israel"), tosses a sop to Israel with the following sentences:
"Of course, Israel has every right to defend itself. It is difficult to imagine what it must be like to live with the constant threat of rocket attacks from a movement which espouses terrorist violence ..."
He then goes on to call for Britain and the rest of the EU to crack down hard on Israel, to cut off arms supplies and much more. But as I re-read the lines above, I couldn't help but think of the historical amnesia Clegg and those like him are suffering from.
He is in effect saying that we in Britain cannot understand what Israelis are feeling. Never having been under rocket attack ourselves as a nation.
Aren't we forgetting something here, Mr. Clegg? It was called the Second World War. You might wish to ask some older people about it.
Not only did Britain suffer the full wrath of a terrorist regime under the Blitz, but even as the war was ending and that regime ceased to be an existential threat to this country, the Nazis fired V1 and V2 rockets indiscriminately, killing innocent civilians.
And even though there was no real danger at this point of the Nazis winning the war, that generation of British leaders took the view that the best way to put an end to rocket attacks against London and other British cities was through the strategic bomber offensive against Germany.
German cities were flattened. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians were killed. Goebbels and his propaganda machine howled about "war crimes". And then the war ended.
Ironically, Clegg's forerunner as Liberal leader, Archie Sinclair, served as Secretary of State for Air in Churchill's government. In that role, he helped plan the fire-bombing of Dresden.
Imagine if back in 1945 there was a political leader somewhere in the world, in a neutral country, who called for Britain to stop bombing Germany. Such a person might well have pointed out that bombing Germany would only anger Germans, and unite them behind the most extreme Nazi elements. There would be no chance of a negotiated peace with the Third Reich so long as the bombing went on. Such a politician might even have called for an arms embargo against Britain to prevent it from waging war against the Nazi regime.
History would not look kindly upon such views today. They would seem to be, at the very least, naïve in the extreme.
Britons do not have to imagine what it would be like to live under rocket attack. They've had the experience already and back in 1945, they knew how to respond.
The following seems to speak for itself.
Amen - and protect our children too. Both the little ones in Beersheba and Sderot, and the bigger ones who are inside Gaza defending us - Jews, Druze, Muslim and Christian citizens of Israel.
2. A Muslim Sermon for Gaza
Here is a sermon by the Imam Safwat Higazi, presented on Al-Aqsa TV on December 31, 2008. It expresses the refined humanitarian sentiments of the Muslim Ouma, as represented by the Islamists. It is clear that every peace loving, decent and progressive person must side with these lofty sentiments, right? (Translation: MEMRI ).
All in favor of the Caliphate vote "Aye."
From the Beirut Daily Stair:
Hamas must step down as Gaza's keeper
By Sultan Al-Qassemi
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Regardless of the outcome of Israel's barbaric "Operation Cast Lead," one thing is certain: It is high time for Hamas to step down as keeper of Gaza. People will object and remind me that the movement was democratically elected. My answer to that is yes, but Hamas also happens to be incompetent. Most of us in the Middle East still believe that incompetence is a trait that is exclusive to Arab dictators. However modern history has proven that democracy and incompetent governance aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, George W. Bush and Mikheil Saakashvili were both democratically elected and yet they are responsible for disastrous wars.
Hamas has not mastered the art of politics. As the veteran British journalist Robert Fisk recently noted in The Independent, nor does the movement have the military discipline of Lebanon's Hizbullah. Hamas also missed the opportunity of a reconciliation with Fatah brokered by the Saudi King Abdullah last year, and it didn't mend that relationship when this might have allowed it to take partial control of the vital Rafah crossing with Egypt.
Then there is the audacity of Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, who currently resides in Syria. Soon after the Gaza attack began, he called for the launch of a third intifada, even as his own personal security was being increased by the Syrian regime. Does Meshaal believe that his life is more important than that of the scores of dying, innocent Palestinians in Gaza who he is responsible for as the representative of a supposedly democratically elected party? Meshaal can wake up in tranquil Damascus, turn on the television set, read the newspaper and have breakfast with his wife and seven children, then he can say live on Al-Jazeera - where else? - that "we want armed resistance, a military uprising to face the enemy." Couldn't he smuggle himself into Gaza to be with his resistance fighters?
This resistance has for many years been funded by donations from wealthy Arabs in the Gulf, among others, to cover an annual budget that the Council on Foreign Relations has estimated at $70 million. Yet Hamas has hardly managed to amass a significant arsenal or military capabilities thanks to this money. All the movement really has to show for its income, and after all this time, is an arsenal basically of long-range firecrackers whose launch against neighboring towns in Israel has done more damage to Hamas' own image than to Israeli infrastructure. Meshaal, who declared that the resistance "has lost very few people" as the body count approached 434, displayed the same disdain for human life as Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who said in Paris last week that there was "no humanitarian crisis in Gaza."
Many thought that Gaza and the West Bank were inseparable entities until Hamas' bloody takeover of Gaza in summer 2007 undermined that promise. The movement's 18-month rule has been marred by lawlessness, extrajudicial public killings, and gang warfare reminiscent of Somalia.
Time magazine reported on the violence that followed the takeover, observing that "[g]angs have tossed enemies alive off 15-story buildings, shot one another's children and burst into hospitals to finish off wounded foes lying helplessly in bed." Recently, Taghreed El-Khodary of The New York Times reported that militants in civilian clothing had again resorted to killing wounded former inmates of Gaza's central jail who were accused of collaboration with Israel. These alleged collaborators were executed in public even though Palestinian human rights groups repeatedly claimed that "most of these people are completely innocent." Hamas seemed to be either unable or unwilling to stop these extrajudicial executions.
On the first anniversary of Hamas' takeover of Gaza, reporters from The Christian Science Monitor found a lack of medicines in hospitals, as well as a lack of clean drinking water in the territory and raw sewage streaming into the sea. And this wasn't because Hamas' dignity prevented it from meeting with the enemy. Hamas' propaganda machine around the Arab world mysteriously failed to report on meetings between some of its members and Israeli representatives. For example, according to the BBC, in early 2006 the Hamas-affiliated acting mayor of the West Bank town of Qalqilya met for 90 minutes with an official from the Israeli state electricity company in order to sort out the town's electricity needs. The Palestinian official, Hashem Masri, told the station: "It was civil, without any problem between him and I."
By any standards Hamas has failed. It has failed in peace, it has failed in governance, and it is failing in war. In addition to Hamas' ambiguous political agenda, the movement's goal seems to be resistance for the sake of resistance, where it is the journey that ends up being the destination. It is time for Khaled Meshaal to step down before he causes even more damage to the Palestinian cause. He must allow more competent leaders to emerge.
Strategic Reading in the Gaza Conflict (Part 2): An Eight Points Assessment
By Walid Phares
After having advanced ten questions about the ongoing conflict in Gaza, at the onset of the Israeli military operations against Hamas (December 28, 2008 on CTB) and as Israel chose to commit ground forces inside the enclave, here is a working reading of the main strategic developments and indicators at this time:
1. Israel's land thrust in Gaza indicates that the long range goal of the campaign is to create changes on the ground, which are supposed to stop Hamas' future rocket launches inside Israel. Many critics of Israel's action, particularly the Jihadi propaganda machine, claim the ground operation didn't silence the shooting. But the counter arguments here are that a) the operation didn't end yet and b) Hamas' ability to launch is linked to its ability to resupply its batteries or to build new missiles. Hence, the final military outcome of the operation, if indeed this is a silence-the-rockets campaign, will only show its success or failure at the end of the operation, or even after the supplies of Hamas are depleted.
2) On the propaganda level, it is clear that the "Jihadi bloc" in the largest (and most mainstream) sense is dominating the airwaves. The combined effects of a number of Arab and Iranian media outlets (including the Qatari-funded al Jazeera, al Manar, al Aalam, etc) on the region's audiences, as well as the international media treatment of the conflict, all that, has tilted the balance against Israel, so far. But one has to note that the blogosphere is witnessing a different battle. On a variety of web sites and even in some newspapers many dissident voices and pens in the Arab and Muslim world are voicing their opposition to the Iranian-led "strategy" of shelling Israel. The anti-Hamas wave is not necessarily a pro-Israel mood, but an anti-Iranian attitude.
3) On the diplomatic level, one can see two messages. A surface narrative adopted by both the "Iranian led bloc" and their opponents in Egypt, Riyadh and the West Bank, that is a criticism of Israel's action in Gaza. And a deeper game underneath: The Tehran "axis" is inciting political escalation but would accept a cease fire based on the initial status quo. The anti-Iranian bloc (Egypt, PA, Saudi, Jordan, etc) does not wish a victory for Iran's allies in Gaza but a come back to Abbas' Authority to the area. Interestingly, two governments who were neutral on the conflict in general decided to shatter this "official" neutrality: Qatar's Emir has sided with Hamas and Turkey's AKP Government has blasted Israel openly. Hamas' new equation is now showing clearly who's who in the region.
4) Many in the analyst community have been speculating on Hezbollah's next moves. Some predict that Hezbollah has to strike in order to fulfill its "alliance duties" while other commentators go as far as asserting that the Iranian backed organization in Lebanon will sell out Hamas. I believe the two assessments are extreme. Hezbollah, as much as Syria and Iran are solidly behind Hamas, is part of the "axis." But the timing and weapons of intervention against Israel is a matter of regional consultation with Tehran. Hezbollah is awaiting Iran's decision as to where and how to strike, and more importantly, when. Analysts need to better understand the geopolitics of the region and its players.
5) Hamas will continue to fight inside Gaza and launch rockets onto Israel until it loses (or about to lose) its command and control systems inside the enclave. It is only then that it may strike beyond the scope of its tactics: meaning deeper inside Israel with suicide bombs and possibly overseas. One has to understand the escalation parameter that Hamas and its backer, the Iranian regime, have adopted. Also keep in mind, that Hamas' and the "axis'" immediate goal is to reach a cease fire, thus not using the last-choice-weapons is a rational choice, for now.
6) From the statements made by Mahmoud Abbas' cabinet and spokespersons over the past days, one can conclude that the PA is very nervous about a Hamas victory, because it will mean the final demise of the Fatah legacy and influence. But Abbas is also nervous about a full "regime change" in Gaza because it would frame his government as a "collaborator" with Israel. Hence the most pragmatic position Abbas can adopt at this stage is to condemn "Israeli" actions but wait for final results on the military level.
7) President Bush will continue his support to Israel (with concerns over the humanitarian situation) and his criticism of Hamas till January 20th. At first, President elect Obama will continue a US policy of backing its ally and supporting a two-state solution. But the forthcoming administration may try a different route, possibly identical to French President Sarkozy's shuttle diplomacy in the region. However, as I believe, the Iranian confrontation with Israel (via Hamas) is much deeper and wider than any moderation can reduce, at this stage.
8) The United Nations' institutions will eventually become the last resort to resolve the crisis but only after a new strategic landscape would have emerged in Gaza. The US is vetoing any Security Council resolution which will bring back the status quo ante. A resolution in the UN General Assembly can be easily voted by the OIC members, but won't have effects on the military situation. The Secretary General has already called for a cease fire but would need a chapter 7 resolution from the Security Council to seriously end this round of violence.
More assessment is to come.
Dr Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy. He is the author of The Confrontation.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Officer leading soldiers into Gaza describes difficult groundwork involved in military operation, says force has so far discovered tunnels intended for abducting troops, weapons, anti-aircraft missiles, and booby-trapped buildings in civilian centers
Published: 01.06.09, 19:09 / Israel News
A paratrooper force operating near the northern Gaza Strip neighborhood of al-Atatra identified a tunnel intended for the kidnapping of soldiers Tuesday. The tunnel's opening was hidden by a doll. The force also uncovered a number of weapons caches.
A senior IDF officer spoke to Ynet from the depth of the Strip, through an encoded phone. "We are finding a lot of tunnels, weapons, anti-aircraft missiles, grenades, explosive devices, and weapons prepared for future attacks, such as motorbikes intended for kidnapping," he said.
The officer, who has been leading his soldiers into Gaza since the beginning of the operation, described a complicated reality in which weapons and foundations of a terror industry are being found in populated city centers.
"We may not be fighting against an army, but there are a lot of incidents of battle here, from short range as well, and we are working in a slow and thorough manner," the officer added.
"Many civilians fled when the battles erupted; some of them left their homes quickly just the way they were – sometimes in the middle of a meal," he said.
"But sometimes groups of civilians walk by. For example, women and children walk by with a white flag. We don't harm them of course, but almost every hour we receive information about (female) suicide bombers that want to explode near soldiers. That's why – aside from the emotional and humanitarian aspect – we are careful to preserve the health of our soldiers," the officer added.
Booby-trapped homes, mosques
The officer said there have been many cases in which Hamas gunmen have advanced on soldiers. On Monday a terrorist made his way towards an area in which soldiers were patrolling and opened fire. The patrol returned fire and the terrorist was killed.
He added that Hamas was wary of engaging in "normal" exchanges of fire with IDF soldiers. He said they prefer to employ the element of surprise and to come as close as possible to the forces. In other instances mortar shells or sharpshooters are used.
The officer said many homes throughout the Strip were booby-trapped. "We are attempting to proceed slowly and to use the Engineer Corps, dogs, and any other means we have at our disposal in order to refrain from falling into their traps. We also discovered a booby-trapped mosque, and blew it up," he said.
He said Hamas tends to booby-trap houses in such a way that the first step would set off an explosion, after which gunmen would attempt to kidnap the soldiers or their bodies through underground tunnels.
"This forces us to act aggressively towards the structures and buildings," the officer said. "The damage being done here is great in order to uncover all of Hamas' traps. We don't act gently, and leave scars on the ground and the buildings in order to protect our soldiers."
Israeli TV showed photos of Hamas taking humanitarian aid by force. This is not just a "report."
Grim picture of Gazans' lives painted by reports emerging from Strip, claiming gunmen hiding in civilian homes, using residents as human shields, and hijacking trucks of humanitarian aid
Published: 01.06.09, 22:32 / Israel News
A government or a gang? As the Israeli operation in Gaza wears on it appears Hamas has relinquished any visage of a socio-political party, abandoning its claim to govern the residents of Gaza in favor of engaging in open war at their expense.
A number of reports from the Strip paint a picture of very difficult humanitarian conditions, not least because of Hamas itself. The suspicion is that the group's operatives have seized control of any supplies passing through the crossings – including those sent by Israel and international organizations.
Reports say Hamas takes a cut out of all aid that arrives, including flour and medicine. Supplies intended to be distributed without gain among the population is seized by the group and sold to the residents, at a profit to the Hamas government.
One such incident was recorded Monday, when a convoy of trucks carrying supplies through the Kerem Shalom crossing was opened fire upon and seized by Hamas gunmen. Similar incidents occurred with trucks carrying fuel.
In other cases, civilians are simply used as cannon fodder or human shields. Reports out of Gaza say residents who attempted to flee their homes in the northern area of the Strip were forced to go back at gunpoint, by Hamas men.
The organization is presumably interested in increasing civilian casualties in order to give rise to international pressure against Israel. Arab media reported that in an IDF strike on a UN school 30 civilians were killed, but there is no legitimate way to prove gunmen were among those killed as Hamas tends to bury these bodies quickly, thus eliminating evidence in Israel's favor.
Other civilian complaints state that Hamas gunmen pull children along with them "by the ears" from place to place, fearing that if they don't have a child with them they will be fair game to the IDF. Others hide in civilian homes and stairwells, UNRWA ambulances, and mosques.
In other reported cases Hamas gunmen hold civilians hostage in alleyways in order to provide themselves with a living barricade to ward off IDF forces. Reports somewhat more difficult to verify say the group's men shot Fatah operatives in the feet to make sure the latter would not attempt a coup.
No one to turn to
These reports lead to the assumption that Hamas is attempting to exacerbate the atmosphere of a humanitarian crisis in the Strip, as this may promote an international ceasefire initiative. In any case the reports clearly show that the residents of Gaza have fallen prey to Hamas as well as the IDF.
Reports of alarming shortages are also forthcoming, as residents appear to lack water, flour, electricity, and any sign of a capable government. Chaos reigns as no one appears to know when electricity will be available, how to obtain water or food, or whom to address in order to evacuate the injured.
The "emergency numbers" given to residents have ceased to function, and citizens in need of assistance have only international organizations, the Red Crescent, and the hospitals themselves to turn to.
The Hamas leaders, aside from two addresses, have not been heard from. Their speeches were broadcast a number of times, but in any case many in the Strip can no longer access televisions, radios, or internet without electricity.
Despite this, no authoritative anti-Hamas sentiments have been heard from the Gazans. However Palestinian sources claim that grievances against the group are voiced in secret. The animosity towards Israel has not disappeared, say the sources, but it is now accompanied by bitterness towards the organization many are dubbing Iranian in its extremism.
I've just finished reading your article "It breaks my heart to see Israel's stupidity" and felt I had to reply.
I don't think we've ever talked, but I remember well your appearance some years ago before the central committee of the United Workers Party (Mapam) in Israel. You were asked to say a few words, and, to be honest, your Hebrew just wasn't up to it, and the audience quickly lost interest. As an American immigrant to Israel, I felt empathy for you. You were clearly a fish out of water. To that audience, you were not a guru whose every word was full of meaning. You were just one more tourist, stumbling into a situation you didn't seem to understand.
I felt the same thing today reading your article.
Let's start with your opening. You talk about "Israel's attempt to wipe out Hamas" in your very first sentence. Maybe you are privy to some information that I haven't heard. Maybe the Israel Defense Forces have let you in on the top-secret next stage of the plan. Or maybe you just haven't been paying attention.
Israel is not trying to "wipe out Hamas". They are trying to compel Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel. There is a difference and I realize it may be subtle, but please pay attention. Most informed people – including practically all Israelis – would have stopped reading your article right there. You'd have seemed to be an ignorant tourist.
Then you go on to casually refer to Israel's "crime against humanity." I'm not sure if you realize this, but the notion of "crimes against humanity" is not a literary phrase you just made up. It actually means something.
If you genuinely believe that Israel is pretty much behaving like, say, the Nazis, you really are living in a bubble. Maybe what you meant to say was that the killing of civilians – which happens in every war – is a terrible thing and should be avoided. Unless of course you believe that no war is morally defensible, and everyone who fights is necessarily commiting crimes against humanity.
You then go on to repeat the official Hamas line about the cease-fire – how the Islamist terrorists actually respected it, and wanted to keep the peace, but those damn Zionists kept making it hard for them.
You actually went beyond the Hamas line a little bit there, Michael, when you said that the organization had accepted the Saudi peace plan and really was happy to live in peace, side by side with the Jewish state. You actually wrote that Hamas "would live peacefully in a two-state arrangement."
So you mean that all this talk in their charter about "obliterating Israel" is just so much clap-trap? Really, they are reasonable men and Israel is blind not to see this.
You say they're offering to trade kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,000 prisoners. As Israel holds more than ten times that number, that sounds positively cheap. Incredible that Israel didn't jump at the chance to make a deal. But you know those Jewish businessman, always trying to get a better price.
The Hamas you describe sounds practically loveable. And eminently reasonable. What could have possessed those horrible Israelis to reject such an appealing offer of peaceful coexistence, with Gilad Shalit thrown in at a bargain-basement price? Instead they decided to "wipe out Hamas" and commit "crimes against humanity" in the process.
You have some really helpful and original suggestions to make for the future as well. Israel should accept 30,000 Palestinian refugees every year for the next 30 years, you say. And apologize for its role in the 1948 "expulsions". (Odd – you didn't seem to ask Hamas to apologize for anything.)
I read in your online biography that you have something of a background in psychology. That certainly explains one passage in your article which stands out like a sore thumb.
I'm referring to the bit about a "basic condition for creating peace is to help each side feel 'safe'." The use of quotation marks around "safe" and even the verb – to feel safe, not to be safe – indicates to me that you don't really believe that Israelis (or Palestinians) have genuine reasons to feel for their safety.
So what is the problem? Are the Israelis simply paranoid? Are the 6,000 rockets Hamas fired into Israel (this is all before Operation Cast Lead) – are those figments of the twisted imagination of an entire nation suffering from a mental disorder? Is the problem really about "feelings" -- or about actually being safe? Safe from rocket and mortar attacks, safe from suicide bombers, safe from the Iranian nuclear bomb.
The more I read your article, the more I felt that in the years since I saw your embarrassing performance in broken Hebrew – and the arrogance in thinking that you had something to teach – you had learned nothing.
I don't know if you or your editor came up with the headline, with its arrogant use of the word "stupidity" to describe those with whom you do not agree.
I would never describe you as "stupid". You are what you were when I last heard you speak – ignorant and arrogant. It's really the worst combination.
Israeli TV showed Hamas operatives hijacking and diverting humanitarian aid for their own use.
"A convoy of 80 trucks transporting humanitarian aid has started to pass through the Kerem Shalom crossing" in the south, a military spokesman said.
The aid included medicine and food which was sent from Egypt, Jordan, Greece and UN aid agencies, he said.
The Nahal Oz terminal in the north was also opened on Monday to allow the transfer of 200,000 litres of fuel for Gaza's electricity station as well as 120 tonnes of cooking gas, he said.
The Erez crossing in the north meantime was opened to allow some 200 Palestinian holders of foreign passports to leave the territory.
Israel unleashed a massive bombing campaign of Hamas targets in Gaza on December 27 in response to consistent rocket fire from the territory and poured in ground troops to back up the bombardments a week later.
Aid groups have repeatedly warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis in the densely-populated territory, where most of the 1.5 million residents depend on foreign aid.
IDF Spokesperson January 6th, 2009
Hamas Operatives Killed in UNRWA School
After an investigation that took place over the past hour it has been found that amongst the dead at the Jabalya school were Hamas terror operatives and a mortar battery cell who were firing on IDF forces in the area. Hamas operatives Imad Abu Askhar and Hassan Abu Askhar were amongst terrorists that were identified to be killed.
"We face a very delicate situation where the Hamas is using the citizens of Gaza as a protective vest," IDF Spokesperson Brig. General Avi Benayahu said following the incident.
Mortars Fired from Gaza UN School in 2007
In this October 2007 footage from an unmanned plane, terrorists are seen firing mortars from the yard of an UNRWA school.
No. 86, January 6, 2009
As Operation Cast Lead unfolded during its second week, demonstrations of outrage and protest against the campaign and the attack on the Palestinians marked the Arab and Muslim worlds. Large street demonstrations, media broadcasts and publications, and government spokespeople and public figures called repeatedly for an immediate end both to the operation and the siege of the Gaza Strip.
Demonstrations in support of Hamas were encouraged particularly by Iran and Syria as well as by the Hizbollah in Lebanon. However, they were prominent also in Egypt, where they were organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, and in Jordan, apparently organized by Islamic and Palestinian elements. The demonstrations aim to pressure the regimes to harden their stance towards Israel (and in both countries there are calls for abrogating the peace treaties with Israel). Thus far the demonstrations have not gotten out of control, yet out of concern that the internal situation might deteriorate, both regimes have seen fit to criticize the Israeli operation publicly and allow the masses to express their anger.
Particularly noteworthy among the Arab governments is the Egyptian regime. Egypt has condemned the Israeli action, demanded that the operation cease immediately and without preconditions, and made it clear that its goal is to exert international pressure on Israel to stop the operation and open the border crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel. However, Egypt has also explicitly placed responsibility for the deterioration of the situation on Hamas, and has rejected Hamas' demand to open the Rafiah crossing unless it is controlled by the PA and European observers, in the spirit of the 2005 crossings agreement. Mubarak maintains that aid must not enter Gaza without Israeli supervision. The pro-government media in Egypt also blamed Hamas that as an Iranian satellite caused the deterioration, and PA president Abu Mazen, who visited Cairo last week, echoed the condemnation of Hamas.
So far, the governments of Jordan and Saudi Arabia have refrained – seemingly because of internal sensitivities – from following in Egypt's footsteps and publicly castigating Hamas, although presumably they too are critical of its conduct. Indeed, remarks by Saudi Arabia's foreign minister at an Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo carried an undertone critical of Hamas.
In contrast, support for Hamas is led by Iran, Syria, and Hizbollah. Hizbollah even attacked Egypt for helping Israel, and has called for internal pressure, including from the military, to force the Egyptian regime to support Hamas.
To date, no effective joint Arab action to deal with the crisis has been formulated. The Arab League foreign ministers deemed it sufficient to agree to a joint effort to pass a Security Council resolution calling for an end to the operation, and sent a delegation of eight Arab foreign ministers to New York. It is doubtful whether these efforts will yield any real results, and the Syrian president's call for an Arab summit has so far met with no response.
There is no doubt that most of the Arab governments, certainly the more moderate among them, take exception to Hamas' conduct and are concerned about its control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas is viewed by them as a radical element with ties to Iran that obstructs an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and contributes to regional instability. Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip and the military support it receives from Iran and Hizbollah are seen by the moderate governments as evidence of the strengthening Iran–Shiite Iraq–Syria–Hizbollah axis, and opposed to the moderate Sunni camp. From this perspective, the moderate Arab states find themselves caught between two contradictory considerations: although they cannot admit this publicly, they have an interest in seeing the IDF operation weakening Hamas or perhaps even causing its collapse. However, they see themselves as obligated to extend assistance to the Palestinians in Gaza living under extremely difficult conditions, and this sense of obligation is intensified by the demonstrations in the Arab street.
Above all, Egypt views Hamas as a threat and a rival, particularly because of Hamas' link to the Muslim Brotherhood, which represents the primary threat to the Egyptian regime. The Egyptians are also worried by the possibility of a Hamastan with ties to Iran and Hizbollah on Egypt's border, and identify Iran's fingerprints all over Hamas' conduct. Egypt has no desire for the uncontrolled entry of Hamas activists into its territory, particularly at a time when a worrisome security vacuum has already been created in Sinai, and Hamas creates friction in Egypt-Israel relations. Consequently, Egyptian leaders have made unprecedented blunt statements about Hamas, even as they laid some of the blame on Israel's shoulders. The conditions Mubarak set for Hamas' demand about opening the Rafiah crossing were meant to undermine both Hamas' standing as a legitimate government and the status of the Gaza Strip as an entity separate from the Palestinian Authority.
Meanwhile the Iran-Syria-Hizbollah axis seeks to take advantage of the crisis in order to consolidate its standing as a central influence in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian arena in general, and to persist in fanning the flames of the armed conflict against Israel. This axis also seeks to influence the ceasefire's conditions and to undermine Egypt's standing as the principal Arab element mediating between Hamas and Israel. Because most of the Arab governments oppose Hamas and its activities, the radical axis seeks to influence events by inciting the mobs – sympathetic to the Palestinians and incited by the pictures broadcast from the Gaza Strip – against the moderate governments in order to force them to pressure Israel and come to Hamas' aid.
The inter-Arab differences of opinion again demonstrate the inherent and ongoing weakness of the Arab world, its lack of leadership, and its difficulties in taking joint action. One of the results of this weakness, given also the lack of sympathy for Hamas among most Arab governments, is that Hamas and the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip find themselves under intensive Israeli military pressure without the Arab world able to find a way, at least for now, to help them in any real sense. At the same time, it is possible that the longer the crisis lasts, the more Arab nations will become involved in achieving a ceasefire agreement.
One may also view the weakness of the Arab world in a broader context. In recent years, the radical Arab camp was weakened after Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq was toppled and Qaddafi's regime in Libya changed its approach. On the other hand, the moderate Arab nations view themselves as living under a growing threat of the Iran-led radical–Shiite axis. This threat makes it hard for them to formulate a joint plan of action with regard to other issues, such as a response to the Iranian nuclear threat and an active stance with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian political process.
During the Second Lebanon War, the moderate Arab camp thus harbored the unstated expectation that the IDF would deal Hizbollah a harsh blow. Israel disappointed this expectation. Now, this expectation has resurfaced in context of the military confrontation between the IDF and Hamas, i.e., that Hamas suffer a severe blow that will undermine its status in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian arena. If this occurs and as a result of Israeli military success a political process is formulated that will lead to the PA renewing its standing in the Gaza Strip, this will be interpreted as a severe blow to Hamas. In that case, the moderate Arab camp will have achieved success and will be strengthened in face of the radical Shiite a
Last update - 13:07 06/01/2009
Egypt's Mubarak to EU: Hamas must not be allowed to win in Gaza
By Barak Ravid, Avi Issacharoff and Zvi Bar'el
Hamas must not be allowed to win its conflict with the IDF, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday told a delegation of European foreign ministers in a closed conversation.
The comment occurred even as Hamas, for the first time since the fighting began, sent representatives to Cairo to discuss a cease-fire. Following a meeting with Egyptian intelligence officials, Hamas officials said they had received an Egyptian proposal and would consider it.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday told French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was visiting Jerusalem, that Israel would not honor a cease-fire imposed by the UN Security Council without its consent. Arab states are currently pushing for a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire.
Israel is mainly pinning its hopes on the United States and France to thwart the Arab effort in the Security Council. However, it has sent messages to several Security Council members informing them that Israel will not accept an imposed cease-fire, and especially that it will not accept any resolution that places Israel and Hamas on the same level by calling for both to cease their fire impartially.
The European foreign ministers, headed by Karel Schwarzenberg of the Czech Republic, whose country currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, came to Jerusalem after visiting Cairo, and briefed Livni on their meeting with Mubarak. Inter alia, they reportedly told her that Mubarak had said Hamas "must not be allowed to emerge from the fighting with the upper hand."
Regarding Israel's demand that Egypt halt arms smuggling from its territory into Gaza as part of any cease-fire agreement, the ministers said Mubarak denied that any such smuggling takes place. He insisted that the weapons arrive not via tunnels from Sinai, but in barrels thrown overboard from ships passing near Gaza's coast.
The ministers told Livni it is imperative to achieve a cease-fire as soon as possible, so as to enable peace talks between Israel and the PA to resume. They also asked for Israel's aid in sending humanitarian assistance into Gaza, to which Livni agreed.
On another issue, Israel asked France to press the Red Cross to arrange to visit kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who is held by Hamas in Gaza. Shalit holds dual French-Israeli citizenship. Sarkozy will apparently raise this issue with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has influence with Hamas' Damascus-based political wing, when he meets him today in Damascus.
Livni also told the European foreign ministers that Israel "would not be able to ignore the Shalit issue in the framework of any cease-fire."
The Egyptian cease-fire proposal would require Israel to end its military operation and withdraw from Gaza, while Hamas would have to end rocket fire into Israel. The border crossings into Gaza would reopen, but PA officials would be stationed at the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
In addition, Egypt is demanding that Hamas resume reconciliation talks with Fatah.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas' political wing, told Reuters that Hamas was open to a truce, but said taht any proposal must guarantee an Israeli withdrawal and an end to the blockade of Gaza.
"Any initiative not based on ending the aggression, opening the border crossings and an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip has no chance of succeeding," he said.
Meanwhile, Turkish Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin charged in Antalya on Saturday that "Israel is the world's greatest terrorist provocateur. The war on terror cannot succeed as long as Israel continues its provocations."
He was followed on Sunday by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who, during a visit to Saudi Arabia, blamed Israel for the outbreak of fighting. "Hamas observed the truce for six months, but Israel did not honor the agreement to lift the embargo on Gaza," he said. "People in Gaza live in a sort of prison. Essentially, all of Palestine is a prison."
Also on Sunday, Jordanian Prime Minister Nader Dahabi said Jordan was liable to reconsider its relations with Israel in light of the Gaza operation.
Olmert tells visiting European ministers 'look where Hamas is shooting. They are reaching Gedera. We have had enough of the gestures; we demand action that will bring security to the residents of Israel's south'
Published: 01.06.09, 12:12 / Israel News
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected Tuesday morning the EU request for a 48-hour ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, saying that Israel will uphold its commitment to provide basic foodstuffs and medicines to the residents of the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.
"Look where they are shooting. They are reaching Gedera. Before the lull, they were shooting 20 kilometers (9 miles). After the lull, they are shooting 40 kilometers (18 miles). If there is another lull, they will reach 60 kilometers (25 miles) and more. I respect the UN and its institutions, but right now we must act in accordance with the regional initiative lead by the Americans and to put an 'international blanket' over the fire in Gaza," Olmert told European foreign ministers at his Jerusalem office.
The PM's comments came in response to Hamas' statement according to which it will increase the range of its rocket fire to put a greater number of Israelis in harm's way.
Iran and Syria are continually trying to smuggle improved rockets into the Strip. So far most of the rockets fired at Israel with a range of up to 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) were manufactured by Hamas.
Olmert added that "the most important thing from our standpoint is to stop the smuggling and the strengthening of Hamas. We have had enough of the gestures; we demand action that will bring security to the residents of Israel's south.
The PM called on the European foreign ministers, including the Czech Republic's Karel
No doubt, Guardian UK will run an laudatory obituary for this SOB, as they did for Nizzar Rayyan.
Hamas military wing figure, artillery commander Ayman Siam believed to be killed in IAF strike on building in northern Gaza Strip
Published: 01.06.09, 11:34 / Israel News
The head of Hamas' rocket unit and one of the organization's military wing's senior operatives, Ayman Siam, was hit Tuesday morning in an aerial attack on a building in the Jabaliya neighborhood in the northern Gaza Strip.
Siam also served as commander of Hamas' artillery forces. IDF sources believe Siam was killed in the attack.
Meanwhile, Palestinians reported at least 18 people were killed in IDF attacks early Tuesday morning in the Strip. Three Palestinians were killed in an attack on a building in Jabaliya, and five others were killed in two separate incidents in the Zeitun neighborhood in Gaza City.
Another 10 Palestinians were reportedly killed in the town of Deir al-Balah in the central Strip and in the al-Bureij refugee camp. Among the dead were a father and his three children.
The IDF did not comment on the Palestinians' reports.
On Thursday, Hamas official Nizar Rayyan was killed in an IDF air strike on his house in the northern Strip. The house was destroyed and military officials confirmed that Rayyan was killed.
According to reports, Rayyan's four wives, seven of his children and five other Palestinians were also killed in the strike. Rayyan is considered the highest ranking Hamas official to be assassinated by Israel since Abdel Aziz Rantisi.
Monday, January 5, 2009
At 72 virgins per Shahid, 70,000 suicide bombers will require over 5 million young darkeyed virigins. This will put a serious demand on the virgin production capacities of paradise. Perhaps that is the reason that Iran's government has not yet responded to the call.
Last update - 21:19 05/01/2009
Iran says they have 70,000 suicide bombers ready to strike Israel
By The Associated Press
More than 70,000 Iranian student volunteers have registered to carry out suicide bombings against Israel because of Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip.
According to the official IRNA news agency, hardline student leader Esmaeil Ahmadi says the students want to fight Israel in support of Hamas - Gaza's Islamic militant rulers.
Five hard-line student groups and a conservative clerical group launched a registration drive last week to ask the government to allow them to stage the suicide attacks.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government has not responded to the call yet.
The government never responded to similar requests in the past. This raises the likelihood that the calls are mainly for propaganda purposes
But ordering a cease fire does not necessarily mean the Security Council is an "arbiter." In any case, in about 2 weeks, the "management" will change in the USA.
The article below asks the NIS 64 million question, but it makes no attempt to answer it. The real answer is another question: "What do you mean by operate?" If the situation stabilizes into the post - Operation Defensive Shield situation, then there is no real time limitation except the decision of the IDF - until President Obama is sworn in on January 21 at least. Even then, it is unlikely that the brand new administration would rush in to force a cease fire as the first thing on its agenda. Of course, Israeli elections might be a second red line. We cannot imagine, for example, that the government would want to hold elections with rockets falling on Beersheba.
Last update - 21:02 05/01/2009
ANALYSIS / How much time is left for the IDF to operate in Gaza?
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
The eastern outskirts of Gaza City was where the Israel Defense Forces encountered the most serious resistance yet since the Gaza ground incursion began Saturday. Troops who raided the home of a Hamas man in the area Sunday discovered that the house served as cover for the entrance of no fewer than three underground tunnels, from which Hamas gunmen fled to nearby houses and fired.
In one tunnel, Hamas gunmen got into a close-range battle with a soldier from the Golani Brigade who got separated from the other troops. It appears the Palestinians tried to abduct the soldier by dragging him into the tunnel. He managed to get away and rejoin the other troops. That's the basis of the rumor Hamas spread Sunday, when it claimed to have kidnapped two soldiers.
The rumor, which foreign television stations turned into a report, also leaked to the Israeli press and increased public fears for several hours. The IDF spokesman put off issuing a denial for several hours (during which Hamas spread additional wrong reports), reinforcing the notion that there was no reason to get dragged along by the enemy's media manipulations.
In the same area, a Golani soldier was killed and several others were wounded by mortar fire. For Gaza veterans, the tough battles were no surprise. Ali Muntar, a hilltop on Gaza City's eastern outskirts, has long been considered the gate through which Gaza's conquerors arrive.
In the meantime, it looks like the IDF plan is progressing as expected. The key question is how much time the army has left. Some General Staff members hoped the government would call off the ground incursion if an appropriate exit plan was developed in time. That turned out to be a fruitless expectation. It appears French President Nicolas Sarkozy's arrival will restart diplomacy.
At this point, Egypt is expected to play an important role, despite the tensions between Cairo and Hamas. Egypt wants to see Hamas bleed before it gets fully into the role of mediator. Cairo is now waiting for a formal request by the Arab League before it intervenes. On the other hand, Egypt observes what its population wants, and Egyptians - like people across the Arab world - are rooting for Hamas and holding protests against Israel.
It would be a mistake to see the war in Gaza as a rerun of the Second Lebanon War. The Israeli position looks better now because the IDF is better trained and more prepared, the risk Hamas poses to the home front is lower than that posed by Hezbollah, and perhaps most important, Hamas has something to lose. The most important goal from Hamas' perspective is maintaining its hold on Gaza, and the Israeli operation poses a serious risk to that. All the same, it's not safe to assume that Hamas will collapse under Israeli military pressure. Israel also faces the danger of high casualties or abductions.
And so the reserve call-up portends bad news. Israeli society has not changed its approach to soldiers' deaths after the Lebanon failure. Wars in Israel are sometimes redefined as failures after the death of the first reservist. An extended stay in the Gaza dunes, which are liable to turn into a quagmire, would bring that eventuality closer.
Dear Community Members,
I write this letter to you as a recent graduate, and concerned advocate of the direction of my alma mater. I came to UC Irvine in September 2006, believing I had just entered an institution of higher learning, but I came out understanding that the university faculty has absolutely no interest in fostering and protecting the free exchange of ideas.
I became deeply involved in the documentation of the pervasively intimidating and anti-Semitic environment at the UC Irvine. I reported on speakers and students who called for America and Israel to be wiped off the map, all while making racist depictions of Jews and praising terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.
By effectively standing up for my rights as a student journalist at an anti-Semitic speech sponsored by the Muslim Student Union's Amir Abdel Malik Ali in May 2007, I was able to help reverse the campus's restrictive videotaping policy, and through my continued documentation of these hostile events, I tried my best to make others aware of the problem of academic intimidation and the permissive acceptability of anti-Semitism on college campuses. Though, I have no regrets, these efforts were tedious, arduous, and took much of my time.
That May 2007 event is a prime and unveiled example of the Muslim Student Union's proclivity towards thuggish tactics and the administration's subsequent capitulation on the taxpayer's dime. Along with my brother, I brought a camera into Crystal Cove Auditorium and began videotaping a speech by Amir Abdel Malik Ali where he was explaining that the War on Terrorism is merely a conspiracy perpetrated by Jewish spies who wish to do harm against Muslims worldwide. As I captured footage, one of the MSU's members crept over my shoulder and demanded that I stop recording, or he will be forced to summon the police. Aware of our First Amendment rights, we refused the order. Then the Acting Dean of Judicial Affairs summoned me to the aisle, and along with two police officers we were escorted out of the auditorium and we're told that we could go back in if we stopped recording the event, as student groups were reserved the right to police their own events. The intimidation didn't stop in the lobby of the auditorium. Angry that I didn't empty the footage from my camcorder, I was followed to my next class, where members of the Muslim Student Union spotted my brother and I, and started taking photos of us.
In light of these events, and thanks to Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, this unwritten "courtesy" (as the Dean of Students Services described the policy) has since been overturned, and the campus police have stopped enforcing anti-free speech efforts. This doesn't mean that the police have stepped up and defended free speech and have certainly not stopped the problem of MSU members policing their own events. In May 2008, during the MSU's annual "Israel Apartheid Week," I (along with my brother) was told by the Dean of Student Services during an outdoors speech by Amir Abdel Malik Ali, that when recording the Muslim student activists, I would have to refrain from filming the females or "sisters" as she called them, on behalf of the brothers MSU. Aware that it was impossible for the police to enforce this very unconstitutional order, we kept filming. Ultimately, because of the lack of security on campus, two MSU members (one of which was allegedly involved in throwing a cinderblock at a government vehicle the previous year) decided to enforce their own form of vigilante justice, charging at my brother while using language that suggested that he wanted to cause physical harm ("you want to get jacked up?").
The UCI Campus police response to the incidence was unproffessinonal and appalling. Not only did they stand idle while my brother was attacked, but they refused to take statements from witnesses, instead discontinuing their investigation. Case closed.
That very same day, a black Christian minister, who can often be seen evangelizing a long ring road on the main part of campus, was pushed and shoved by MSU members. But Amir Abdel Malik Ali walked up from the flagpoles after his speech unharmed, and what was an apparent violation of campus code held a rally blocking ring road. He continued to rail against American and Israel, and his adorning crowd of students all screamed the battle cry: "Takbir Allah Akbar!" A victory for free speech?
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,Jonathan Constantine Movroydis
According to Michael Rubin, Gaza violence cannot be quelled by diplomacy. But I bet that it will be stopped by a diplomatic agreement anyhow.
Diplomacy Cannot Quell Gaza Violence
January 05, 2009
By Michael Rubin
As the crisis in Gaza enters its second week, international diplomats are seeking a cease-fire. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called the situation "unacceptable" and demanded that "regional and international partners [do more] to end the violence and encourage a political dialogue." Amnesty International has demanded that the United States pressure Israel to stop its aerial bombardment. European and Arab diplomats hope that other states -- perhaps Syria and Iran -- will pressure Hamas to agree to a cease-fire.
It won't work. Knee-jerk diplomacy -- demanding a truce regardless of the cause of the fighting -- does more to accelerate conflict than to resolve it.
The root of the current crisis lies in Hamas policy. Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip in 2005, giving the Palestinian Authority an unprecedented opportunity to govern. Hamas took 76 of 132 seats in the January 2006 elections, and while the group used the poll to claim democratic legitimacy, it eschewed the responsibility of leadership. It had built popularity on violence, and found opposition easier than governance. It did little to improve Palestinian life. Rather than develop industry, it destroyed the multimillion-dollar greenhouses which Israel left behind to help build the Palestinian economy; rather than eliminate corruption, it diverted millions into Hamas coffers.
Here the United Nations and donor countries have been unintentionally complicit. By subsidizing Palestinian schools, health, and welfare, donors removed the accountability upon which good governance depends. Hamas need not make the improvement of Palestinian life a priority when it knows that donors will bail it out. And, because money is fungible, aid furnishes Hamas with resources to expend on arms.
Hamas rocket attacks on Israel have increased in tandem with European and UN assistance. Rocket fire from Gaza into Israel increased more than 500 percent in the year following Hamas' rise to power, and almost doubled again in 2008, as 1,730 rockets and twice as many mortar rounds struck Israel. Diplomats interceded to promote peace, but during each period of truce, Hamas rearmed with more sophisticated weaponry. In light of the escalating attacks on Israel, the United States is understandably reluctant to demand Israel cease defending itself, especially after urging Israel's initial withdraw from Gaza.
No Help From The Neighbors
To hope for Syrian or Iranian diplomatic intercession is inane. Syria hosts Hamas' most militant wing and provides transit for Hizballah's resupply, and Israel's destruction is at the core of the Islamic Republic's ideology. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel's demise, not by demographic change but by military force, on more than 30 occasions. As Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on January 1 to discuss a cease-fire, Iranian television reported that 20,000 Iranian students had signed up to become suicide bombers in response to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's declaration that "anyone who dies in this holy struggle against World Zionism [is] a martyr."
Nor are Iranian hardliners alone in their call for Israel's destruction. While reformist former President Mohammad Khatami spoke of the dialogue of civilizations to Western diplomats, he told Iranian television, "If we abide by the Koran, all of us should mobilize to kill."
Indeed, the Iranian regime has worked consistently to undermine any Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Seven years ago this week, the Israeli navy intercepted the Karine-A, a Gaza-bound freighter carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms, supplied during a fragile truce. Four-and-a-half years later, war erupted after Hizballah, an Iranian-sponsored group, attacked Israel. The United States then pressured Israel to accede to a ceasefire, and Iran claimed victory. Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei's top foreign policy advisor, declared that the war had shown Israel to be a "paper tiger."
Palestinians undoubtedly suffer under the Israeli assault. Israeli strikes have killed an estimated 500 people, one-fifth to one-quarter of them civilians. While the civilian deaths are tragic, the low proportion of non-combatant casualties in a densely populated area demonstrates Israel's desire to avoid collateral damage. Unlike Hamas rockets, Israeli strikes are neither aimed at civilians nor designed to terrorize.
Hamas launched rockets for demagogic gain. Governments can pursue war, but when they do so, they should recognize that opponents fight back. Those who choose war must understand the likely cost of their decision to the economy and their constituents. To exonerate an elected government from accountability undermines the foundation of democracy.
Diplomats mean well, but to shield protagonists from peril fuels conflict and condemns the Palestinians to misery, given that a sustainable peace requires that both sides recognize the true cost of war. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat won a Nobel Peace prize for his 1977 landmark visit to Israel and the subsequent 1978 Camp David Accords. He may be remembered as a peacemaker today, but he made his pilgrimage to Jerusalem only after realizing in 1973 the futility of seeking war.
Until the Palestinians and their elected government learn Sadat's lesson, diplomacy is doomed. The road to peace lies not in a cease-fire, but jointly in Palestinian recognition of Israel's right to exist and in the international community's understanding that Israel's right to live without terrorism and rocket attacks is no different than that of Germany, Japan, or Canada. If Palestinians chose peace and education over war and hatred, Gaza could become a Singapore, Hong Kong, or Dubai. Moral equivalency and mistimed diplomacy only delay such a reckoning, however, and so do far more harm than good.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL.
Fair Witness Issues Statement on Moral Proportion and the Role of Churches in the Israel-Gaza War
NEW YORK, Jan. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East issues the following statement by Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton, the Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College in Annandale, New York:
Why would the State of Israel attack Gaza by air, and threaten invasion on the ground? After all, the target of operations has been the territory that Israel withdrew its forces from under Ariel Sharon, dismantling and destroying Israeli settlements as it did so.
Even as Prime Minister Sharon pursued his policy of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, his country faced regular missile attacks. Qassam rockets are primitive although highly mobile weapons; they can be fired from portable tripods, but lack guidance systems. Since 2001 civilian centers have been their usual targets, and they have produced casualties and terror without achieving strategic or tactical advantage.
Sharon calculated in 2005 that the crudity of the Qassams, and the promise of Palestinian autonomy in Gaza, would spell the end of the attacks. His calculation proved wrong. The electoral success of Hamas in 2006, followed by its seizure of power in Gaza in 2007, saw an increase in the number of Qassam strikes, as well as in the range of some missiles. For six precious months, Hamas suspended attacks, but announced the end of its truce in December. Qassam assaults have escalated.
In response Israel has targeted Qassam installations, as well as command and control centers and development sites, for sustained bombardment and destruction. International reaction against Israel -- especially from Christians -- has been more negative than the censure of Hamas for its attacks. Israelis have been accused of "disproportionate" military tactics, especially because civilian causalities have been involved. Much public criticism of Israel ignores Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, overlooks the Qassam attacks, and promotes a false moral equation.
How much force is warranted in response to an egregious wrong? Unless a realistic answer to that question can be found, violence spirals through the self-righteous atmosphere of revenge. During their often violent histories, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have demonstrated a tragic capacity to unleash reprisals against one another, using martyrdom as a means to motivate their adherents to persist in war whatever the cost. Nation-states that have inherited the cultures and the languages of the Abrahamic faiths have shown themselves no less addicted than their religiously motivated predecessors to putting their people in harm's way in the alleged national interest.
Proportion in war might seem an oxymoron; warfare represents the failure of proportionate means. But when violence overwhelms the give and take of healthy relations, how can a way back to health be found?
One measure of a policy is its purpose. In the cases of Hamas and the State of Israel, what is the aim of Qassam attacks on the one hand, and of Israel's attacks on Gaza on the other hand?
Qassam rockets are deployed by their namesake, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. Fired over the border between Gaza and Israel at civilian centers, they put into action the stated aim of the Hamas Charter of 1988: "Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors." By intent and impact, Qassam rockets terrorize Israeli civilian populations in an attempt to galvanize action across the Muslim world in order to eliminate the State of Israel.
Israel's attacks in Gaza involve civilian casualties, although that is not their purpose. At every stage -- deployment, preparation, and design -- Qassam are in such proximity to residential populations that even well targeted strikes bring calamitous results. But the aim of Israel is not the elimination of Gaza, but the end of Qassam attacks. The willingness of the Israeli authorities to halt their attacks in the hope that Qassam sites will be dismantled is a positive development.
War is an obvious evil, an unmistakable sign of human sin. Yet even in the case of war, humanity can be served by the aims that are set and the means employed to achieve those aims. As a war aim, the elimination of the State of Israel is morally abhorrent. Likewise, the means of Qassam rockets can hardly be justified; their only virtue is their lack of accuracy. Israel's aim, the cessation of Qassam attacks, has been accompanied by a continuation of humanitarian aid. Moral equations in times of war are parlous, but the best outcome now seems to depend upon the resolve of the State of Israel to maintain a limited war aim, and the willingness of the governing authorities in Gaza and their allies to find a way to affirm Palestinian autonomy without insisting upon the elimination of Israel. That proportion of restraint and flexibility, rather than the disproportionate assignment of blame to the supposedly stronger party, is the last best chance of avoiding an escalation of violence in the Middle East that no nation on earth can afford.
SOURCE Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East, +1-212-870-2320
It is always amazing to see the amazement of westerners when they encounter radical Islamist ideology. "Nah, they couldn't really believe that, could they?" Thus, despite the repeated explanations of the Hamas that they couldn't ever make peace with Israel, well meaning "progressives" insist that it is possible to make peace with Hamas, and the falsehood is repeated that Hamas offered to make peace with Israel in return for withdrawal to the borders of 1949. But it is a fact that Hamas, like all Islamists, hate Jews. Not just Zionists, but Jews. It has nothing to do with Palestine, or the occupation.
This is the real Hamas speaking:
It is the voice Nizar Rayyan, a late Hamas leader who is no doubt enjoying his just reward in the afterlife. Rayyan explained further:
And he described the crimes of the Jews:
In the 1930s, Neville Chamberlain confidently asserted that it was not as if Hitler was going to murder all the Jews after all. The same incredulous attitude is taken today toward Hamas. But the ideology of Jew-hate is founded in Islamism. Sayyed Qutb was more articulate and sophisticated than Rayyan. He wrote:
On Gaza, Sense and Centrism
By Eric Yoffie
Wed. Dec 31, 2008
Wars sicken me, even wars that I support. I support Israel's offensive in Gaza, but watching it on TV — the images of bombed-out buildings, crying women and, inevitably, the bodies of innocent bystanders — is a painful experience.
I suspect that most American Jews feel the same discomfort that I feel. They support the military offensive too, but they are well aware of the risks that it entails, and they expect Israel to be both politically wise and morally sensitive in how it fights. It is especially important to us that Israel do everything humanly possible to avoid the death of innocents and to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. There is much evidence that Israel has worked hard to limit the carnage, and the credibility of Israel's leaders in providing assurances on these points is an important factor in assuring the continued support of American Jews — and, indeed, of all Americans — for the Gaza campaign.
Of course, there are those in the Jewish community who champion the Gaza offensive with slogans of crude triumphalism. Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, wrote on his blog that the message of this operation is "do not f–k with the Jews." It is interesting to compare the somber statements of Israel's leaders, who are fighting to protect their children, with the obscene, cowboy-like delight that Peretz seems to take in the damage Israel's army is able to inflict.
At the same time, if some Jewish hawks are devoid of sympathy for Palestinian suffering, not a few Jewish doves have demonstrated an utter lack of empathy for Israel's predicament. J Street, a new Washington lobbying group and a major voice of the dovish pro-Israel community, has spoken out sharply against Israel's actions in Gaza. While it claims to represent the moderate American Jewish majority, in this case it has misread the issues and misjudged the views of American Jews.
It is not easy for me to write these words. I welcomed the founding of J Street and know many of those involved in its leadership. Furthermore, I am a dove myself. I support a two-state solution, believe that military action by Israel should be a last resort and welcome an active American role in promoting peace between Israel and her neighbors. But I know a mistake when I see one, and this time J Street got it very wrong.
J Street's first statement expressed "understanding" for Israel's motivations, and called — as I do — for a political rather than a military solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Nonetheless, its conclusion was that Israel made a mistake in attacking Hamas and that the United States and others must press for an immediate cease-fire.
A second J Street statement was worse by far. It could find no moral difference between the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militants, who have launched more than 5,000 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli civilians in the past three years, and the long-delayed response of Israel, which finally lost patience and responded to the pleas of its battered citizens in the south. "Neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong," it said, and it suggested that there was no reason and no way to judge between them: "While there is nothing 'right' in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing 'right' in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them."
These words are deeply distressing because they are morally deficient, profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment and also appallingly naïve. A cease-fire instituted by Hamas would be welcome, and Israel would be quick to respond. A cease-fire imposed on Israel would allow Hamas to escape the consequences of its actions yet again and would lead in short order to the renewal of its campaign of terror. Hamas, it should be noted, is not a government; it is a terrorist gang. And as long as the thugs of Hamas can act with impunity, no Israeli government of the right or the left will agree to a two-state solution or any other kind of peace. Doves take note: To be a dove of influence, you must be a realist, firm in your principles but shorn of all illusions.
As a reality check for my views, I did what I normally do in these circumstances: I checked with my closest Israeli friends, who are all left of center, haters of war and ferocious opponents of the West Bank settlement movement. In virtually every case, they saw the action in Gaza as tragic but necessary and were astounded by the opposition of American doves. "What did they think," one of them asked me in bewilderment, "that we would just sit there forever while Hamas fired rockets into our cities?" And they pointed out that most politicians on the left support the offensive, as do more than 80% of all Israelis, according to polling data.
I have not seen any polls on the reactions of American Jews, but my own sense, supported by anecdotal evidence from the Reform movement, is that there is strong backing for Israel's government. American Jews have a commonsense approach to these matters.
We are aware that American forces have gone halfway around the globe to engage in a war in Afghanistan against terrorists who once carried out an attack on American soil. We know that civilians have frequently died in that war because terrorists make a point of operating in civilian areas. We know too that this war has the support of our liberal president-elect.
So why, we ask, should Israel's center-left government, after long periods of restraint and desperate efforts to renew the cease-fire, be expected to refrain from fighting terrorists that are regularly attacking from right across the border? And we are certain that if rockets were being launched from Canada into our own homes in Michigan or Maine, we would demand immediate action, and our government would quickly oblige.
American Jews see Israel's Gaza offensive as a tragic necessity, unwelcome but inevitable, carried out by a reluctant Israeli government doing what it must to end rocket attacks against its citizenry. In short, American Jews are, as usual, sensible and centrist, and supporting Israel in her hour of need.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie is president of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Israeli humanitarian aid to Gazans has not stopped during the war.
A human reflex during a time of war
By Karin Kloosterman
January 05, 2009
While the international press focuses almost exclusively on the bloody images of Israel's operation against Gaza - the rockets, missiles, and gunfire, humanitarian efforts by Israelis are already underway to help Palestinian civilians.
These efforts, which rarely receive a mention in the media, include the regular overseeing and transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza residents - including blood units, medical supplies and food staples - and the treatment of Gazans in Israeli hospitals.
On Sunday, ISRAEL21c spoke with the IDF military spokesman Peter Lerner about what is happening on the ground at the Kerem Shalom Crossing, the largest border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Sirens could be heard wailing in the background.
"Over the last week from Sunday until Friday we operated the Kerem Shalom Crossing - the main crossing to the Gaza Strip from Israel - for commodities, on a daily basis," said Lerner. "We facilitated the movement of humanitarian goods, according to the request of international organizations such as UNRRA [United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation], the World Food Program, the World Health Organization and the European group Doctors Without Borders."
The IDF, he added, also facilitated movements of donations from Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey. No donation was turned away: "We have a humanitarian effort which goes alongside the military effort in order to complement and to facilitate the humanitarian needs," Lerner explained.
Among the supplies were 2,000 blood units from Jordan, medical gases, such as anesthesia for use in Gaza hospitals, and 10 ambulances - five from Turkey and five from the West Bank.
16 Palestinians accepted to Israeli hospitals
"We have heard reports over the last two days that Hamas are hijacking some of the goods, although we have not got any confirmation at this time," Lerner told ISRAEL21c. He also said that the World Food Program informed the IDF to put a hold on shipment of further food supplies until further notice because the organization's warehouses in Gaza are full. Transfer will resume after the Gaza facilities carried out distribution.
Since the Israeli forces retaliated to Hamas rockets by bombing Gaza last week, some 16 Palestinians - mainly those who are chronically ill - have been admitted to and transferred to Israeli hospitals. "Since the operation began last Sunday, we have facilitated the access of 16 Palestinians for treatment in Israeli hospitals," reported Lerner. "Two of these were injured in Israel Air Force attacks," he said.
One patient being treated is a child now at the Schneider Children's Hospital in Petach Tikva; another child from Gaza is being treated at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.
What is the end goal of the Gaza operation? Your guess might be as good as any. Toppling Hamas is not on the menu according to repeated Israeli announcements. It is not even a "nice to have" addition to the requirements list. Some things that are afoot:
And more interestingly, a report that Israel is examining an international treaty that would isolate Hamas:
One suspects that Gilad Shalit may be returned in parts. It is not clear why Hamas would agree to any such conditions, or who would enforce them or how. Does anyone believe any UN "monitors" will risk getting blown up in order to stop Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Popular Resistance Committees from launching rockets at Israel? Hamas, after all, can claim that it is these other organizations that are violating the conditions. It seems that Condoleezza Rice has cooked up another UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and sold it to Zippy Tzipi Livni again.
The independent is Ireland's larget selling newspaper I am told. It should not be necessary to repeat what is obvious, but it is.
By Ian O'Doherty
Monday January 05 2009
So, it's genocide now, is it? Or is it actually another holocaust, something which one typically restrained Palestinian analyst described as "worse than Hitler's war against the Jews"?
Are we watching the ethnic cleansing of an entire people? Are we witnessing the deliberate eradication of a race?
Well, no actually, we're not.
Yet the conventional dinner party wisdom which we've had to put up with in the media, both here in Ireland and generally across Britain, is that somehow Israel is the aggressor in the rapidly worsening situation in Gaza.
Footage of air strikes with the ensuing photogenic explosions and dramatic plumes of smoke, quickly followed by clips of collapsed buildings and enraged mourners, makes far better copy than actually looking at the reasons why Israel has done what it's done.
Anyone who devotes only a cursory glance at the news, both print and television, would be forgiven for thinking that, out of spite, might and malice, Israel has decided to destroy the Palestinian people.
The problem with that conclusion -- and it's not something you're going to learn from the BBC and most other outlets -- is that, contrary to the currently popular belief, Israel is actually acting with a ridiculous degree of restraint.
Over the last couple of years, thousands of rockets have been landing on Israeli soil and, finally, they have had enough.
But behind that statistic there is a human dimension which tends to be rather ignored.
I know many people in the southern Israeli town of Sderot and what is remarkable about their stories is not the number or make of rockets which have fallen on them on a daily basis for years, but the psychological carnage this wreaked upon them.
One woman freely admitted to me that she hasn't had a proper night's sleep in more than two years as she and her family now basically live in their bomb shelter and it's hard to tell who she hates more -- the Muslim terrorists of Hamas or the Israeli government which she thinks has abandoned them.
It's a common feeling amongst residents of southern Israeli towns who have been the silent victims of a long campaign of violence, intimidation and murder carried out by Hamas. And now, finally, that the Israelis have said that enough is enough, they are somehow meant to be the aggressors?
There are people of good conscience on both sides of this argument, but one of the main problems in this debate lies in the cowardly tendency of the Western media to apply equivalence to both sides.
Thus, Hamas is seen to be as legitimate a government as the Israelis, and its rocket attacks across the border from Gaza are seen as being part of a yet another, intractable, interminable Middle Eastern dispute.
There's just one problem with that approach -- it's completely wrong.
Hamas is a fundamentalist Islamic organisation intent on the eradication of the state of Israel and all its citizens; a violent fascist regime that allows honour killings and the execution of homosexuals to continue in its sphere of influence. Bankrolled by Iran, it manages to make even Hezbollah look like a moderate organisation.
But Hamas is clever.
As a friend of mine from Sderot pointed out, one of its favourite tactics is to launch Qassams from Palestinian schoolyards -- while the schools are still in session.
Hamas does this, you see, knowing that the IDF can't immediately strike back (they can vector a rocket launch site within 90 seconds) because the last thing the Israelis need is footage of a devastated Palestinian school with dead kids.
And, over the last week, we have seen carefully manipulated footage of dead civilians, with the fact that they were effectively used as human shields conveniently ignored. When Israel pulled out of Gaza -- ironically, the last battalion of IDF troops to leave Gaza contained some people from Sderot -- they were acceding to international and internal pressure. The doves on the Left said it was to prove to Palestinians that they wanted to give Palestinians independence, the hawks on the Right -- and there are some truly scary right-wingers in Israel, even as ardent a supporter of the country as I am will freely admit that -- prophesied that it would lead to carnage.
And, lo and behold, virtually as soon as the last jeep left Gaza the rockets started. And then the blockade began, and the whole damn mess started all over again.
But there's a bigger picture here, something which Israelis have been trying to broadcast to the world, but which, thanks to their spectacular inability to accurately and sympathetically portray their point of view, has not been properly transmitted. It's this -- Israel is the front line of the war between democracy and Islamic fascism.
Would you rather live in a society with a free press, equal rights for women -- and anyone who knows an Israeli woman will know that they're not easily suppressed, anyway -- equal rights for gay people and a proud and stubborn belief in the right of the individual to lead their life in the way that they see fit or would you rather exist in a society where women who dare to speak their mind are executed, where gay people are not just shunned but murdered and where having a dissenting thought marks you out for death?
The civilian deaths in Gaza are to be mourned, and anyone who says otherwise is reprehensible. But in a sick and twisted irony, they are mourned more by Israelis than by Hamas, who know that every dead Palestinian kid is worth another piece of propaganda.
Here in the West, where we share the same values as Israel, we need to start standing shoulder with this tiny oasis of democracy in a vast desert of savagery.
To do otherwise is moral cowardice of the most repugnant kind.
Mesa is fully as bad as is portrayed here, and somewhat worse. In more private forums, many MESA members are openly anti-Semitic and for example, praise the Holocaust denying Iranian PressTV Web site.
by Jonathan Schanzer
January 4, 2009
In recent years, Campus Watch (CW) analysts have leveled a barrage of criticism against the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) as a bastion of groupthink for scholar-activists peddling a politicized agenda. CW's current director, Winfield Myers, noted that its "reputation has been shattered by years of politicized scholarship, one-sided teaching, and bullying students." Jonathan Calt Harris, formerly with CW, called the organization a "hive of academic opposition to America, Israel, and, in the larger sense, rationalism itself." After years of responding to such criticism with cries of "McCarthyism," MESA just might be owning up to a few of its failures.
The 2008 MESA conference, held in Washington, DC in November, consisted of 12 sessions over four days with more than 1,500 scholars and professionals in attendance.
In recent years, even after the 9/11 attacks, MESA has failed to offer useful information on the Middle East and Islam and almost completely ignored American national security issues. Not surprisingly, critics charged that MESA was increasingly irrelevant.
This year, MESA actually hosted several panels to correct the problem. Indeed, MESA's 2008 lineup reflected real improvements from 2007. Though few in number, there are positive indications that MESA may grasp, at least in some small way, why critics charge that the field has become a den of corruption and activism posing as scholarship.
One panel, titled "International Relations of the Middle East," featured a number of senior scholars -- including Gilles Kepel of France's Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris and Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland -- who conducted some soul-searching. In MESA's description of the panel, the organization admitted that "academic research has not always prioritized" policy issues. The session was held to assess "the state of the field: what has gone right, what has gone wrong, and the future of the field over the next decade." Former MESA president Lisa Anderson also served on the panel. The willingness of MESA to engage in a bit of self-criticism is a welcome departure from its traditional insistence that all is well in Middle East studies.
While many panels covered arcane subjects (i.e., The Diversity of Yemeni Poetry), as is customary throughout academia, there were a few earnest attempts to put the Middle East academic brain trust to work for the good of society. Ghada Al-Madbouh of the University of Maryland addressed a critical policy topic in "Inquiry into the Struggle between the Palestinian Authority Fatah's and Hamas over Governance." An entire panel was reserved for Iraqi scholars to provide suggestions on the "Role of Academics in Building Civil Society in Iraq."
MESA even included the study of Israel and the participation of Zionist Israelis this year, although it seems that Zionists seldom mixed with Arabists on panels. One homogenous panel, sponsored by the Association of Israel studies, examined "Israeli Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy after the Annapolis Conference." Chaired by veteran Johns Hopkins professor Robert O. Freedman, the panel also included Tel Aviv University's Eyal Zisser, a respected scholar of Syria. The goal appeared to be a serious presentation of scholarship on Israel and its security needs rather than MESA's usual drubbing of the Jewish state.
These and other small improvements suggest that the efforts of off-campus groups that closely monitor and critique Middle East studies have forced MESA to make some much-needed changes.
These changes are small, however. It must be noted that the politicized, anti-Western old guard still holds the reigns at MESA. Extremist professors like Juan Cole and Joel Beinin made a joint appearance to discuss "solutions" to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The late Edward Said's dangerously anti-Western book Orientalism was celebrated, and panelists predictably presented papers that vilified Israel (Ilan Pappé on "The Vicissitudes of Israeli Historiography on 1948"). One University of California, San Diego student was honored (not challenged) for a paper that downplays the spiteful impact of Hamas' al-Aqsa television channel.
A further sign that the old guard remains strong was a panel hosted by the Palestinian American Research Center (PARC), a federally funded (Title VI recipient) organization that boasts some of the most politicized professors of the field. Titled, "New Studies in Palestinian Society and Economy," the panel provided a soap box for Palestinian apologists and Israel detractors to talk about "the Palestinian Economy after 40 Years of Occupation," the "Impact of Israeli Movement Restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," and the "Survival Narratives of Internal Refugees under Military Rule in Nazareth."
That taxpayers continue to fund PARC, via the Departments of State and Education, so that it can peddle propaganda at a scholarly conference is an outrage. Moreover, that MESA would host another PARC panel, as it has done in years past, is a continued black eye for the discipline.
Ideological change within the field of Middle East studies has only just begun. Professors continue to bully their students, apologize for jihadists, and teach fringe ideas in the classroom.
It is therefore too early to know if MESA's small first steps toward long-needed improvement will continue, or whether next year's annual meeting will be a return to the status quo.
MESA's change did not come easily. Six years of critique yielded just small improvements. Only continued external criticism will ensure reform.
Robert Fulforrd argues the case for Israel forcefully and well in this article.
Robert Fulford: Israel vs. Hamas; civilization vs. terror
Posted: January 03, 2009, 7:00 PM by NP Editor
Robert Fulford, Israel
Day after day the advice rains down on Israel: Restrain yourself, pull back, look at the cost in human lives, show respect for global opinion. It comes from all the usual places...
Try to imagine any other state receiving randomly targeted rockets from a sworn enemy and refraining from violent response. Russia's foreign minister has urged Israel to end its Gaza campaign because of "the suffering." Can one imagine how long Russia would keep its bombers on the ground if Georgia fired rockets onto Russian soil? France, as the current head of the EU, deplored "disproportionate use of force." Is France prepared to hold its fire if Belgium starts lobbing explosives across its border? Would Russia or France tolerate 5,500 missiles exploded on its soil? That's Israel's record.
Israel, the world's most endangered democracy, has once again been cast as a cruel aggressor, its tormentors as victims.
The Israelis are fighting an enemy of a kind that few of us can even imagine. Who, for instance, stores missiles in a place of worship? When Israeli aircraft bombed a Gaza City mosque on Wednesday, having learned rockets were stored there, their bomb set off a chain of secondary explosions. Those were the rockets. Sometimes Israel notifies civilians of an impending attack, so Hamas responds by placing civilians on the roofs of targeted buildings. This follows the policy articulated last winter by a Hamas representative in the Palestinian parliament: As human shields, he said, women, the elderly and children excel, "as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: We desire death as you desire life."
In September, 2005, when the Israelis moved out of Gaza, the new regime could conceivably have seized the chance to demonstrate that a peaceful two-state policy will work. It was possible. Palestinians are a talented people, as they demonstrate whenever they migrate to countries offering opportunities rather than victimhood. And it was obvious that Gaza's only hope for prosperity depends on co-operation with Israel in trade.
But a few months later, Hamas defeated Fatah in the Palestinian election. Hamas wasn't even vaguely interested in improving the lives of 1.5 million Gaza residents now under its control. It raised an army of 16,000 and built 50 kilometres of tunnels to Israel and Egypt. It began smuggling in rockets from Iran. In June, 2007, during a violent Palestinian vs. Palestinian struggle, Hamas killed or frightened off Fatah's supporters. Rockets flying toward Israel, targeted at population centres, soon became Gaza's foreign policy.
Until now, Israeli casualties have rarely been heavy, but psychological and economic damage has been severe. People are frequently sent running to bomb shelters, which depresses business, disrupts schools and produces widespread stress. The latest rockets from Gaza have a 40-kilometre range, meaning they can reach 900,000 Israelis.
This week, Israel destroyed many Hamas rocket sites. Even so, a quick cease-fire (if forced on Israel by the West) will allow Hamas to reorganize itself, restock its armoury and begin anew the campaign to destroy Israel. That's what it knows how to do. It has no other significant program.
Israelis have not gone to war just to silence the rockets for a few months. They want (at least their supporters hope they want) an end to Hamas rule and the destruction of all its weapons. That won't resolve the argument between Palestinians and Israelis, but it will demonstrate that Israel's passivity can't be taken for granted. It will open up the possibility of a relatively democratic Gaza. It will severely disappoint Hamas's sponsors, Iran and Syria.
In this war, the Israelis are fighting on civilization's side against a terror state. What can we do? Understand.
Progressive labor activist Eric Lee responds to yet another "Israel is always wrong" article that appeared at Engage....
Eric Lee's response to Jonathan Freedland on Gaza
January 4, 2009
This response by Eric Lee is to this piece by Jonathan Freedland.
The worst thing about Jonathan Freedland's article is not the lyrics but the melody.
The article is song-like in its constant repetition of a refrain of "Palestinians say this" followed by "Israelis says that", paragraph after paragraph, an unending rhythm, beautiful in its simplicity.
But Freedland describes symmetry where there is no symmetry. He equates that which cannot be equated.
Writing from the safety of chilly England, Freedland looks down upon the hot-tempered fools in the Middle East who can't see things as clearly as he does. He can't understand why the residents of Ashkelon, Beersheba and Sderot – and today, all Israelis – are cheering on the IDF. They must all be mad.
It's perfectly obvious to Freedland that both sides are responsible for this mess, that neither side is right, and neither side is wrong.
Despite the attempt at an oh-so-English even-handedness, the article bristles with contempt for Israel – and not for this or that Israeli politician, but for the whole country. Israel, he writes, is "dazzled by its own military might" and believes "that force is almost always the answer".
Freedland believes that in this case, force is not the answer. The answer to the incessant Hamas rocket barrage – which consisted of some 6,000 attacks on Israel – should have been … opening Gaza's borders. Hug your enemies and turn the other cheek. That obviously would have worked. I wonder why Israel didn't try that.
Freedland's carefully-chosen language betrays his own bias. He speaks of "supporters of the Palestinians" — but Israel's "cheerleaders". He asks if what Israel is doing makes any sense – but he doesn't ask the question of Hamas. He is neutral on the issue of who broke the cease-fire, but ignores the broader issue of what Hamas is (a fascist movement with genocidal intentions) and what it has done to Gaza since Israeli unilaterally withdrew its settlements and troops.
Freedland is convinced that if Israel does anything at all to defend itself it will only make things worse. He says that when Israel acts in self-defence, "Gazans blame Israel - and close ranks with Hamas". He quotes approvingly a Palestinian who says "anything which doesn't kill Hamas makes them stronger."
What utter nonsense. Wars end when the losing side becomes convinced that the enemy cannot be beaten, and that the use of force is counter-productive. That lesson was clearly learned by the Germans and Japanese in 1945. Killing lots of Germans may well have enraged them and caused them to "close ranks" and so on. But in the end, that's how wars are won.
Jonathan Freedland is no enemy of Israel and certainly no fool. Yet he buys into the idiotic argument that Israel dare not defend itself for fear of angering its enemies. He's equating the fire-fighters with the arsonists and is doing precisely what he accuses Israel of doing: avoiding the tough questions.
Hamas Is Perpetrating The death of its People
By: Elias Bejjani*
The genuine sympathy and empathy with the civilian massive casualties, disastrous human sufferings and extensive material loses that are sadly taking place in Gaza, should not by any mean derail or blind the actual focus of the free world countries and Human Rights'advocacy organizations away from the prime causes of the actual problem that led to the current Israeli-Palestinian bloody confrontation.
What has been going on in Gaza for the last two weeks is an unfortunate tragedy that has been instigated by the Axis of Evil countries, Syria and Iran through their terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah. Gaza city, the impoverished Palestinian city has been turned into a theatre for a bloody tragedy.
This tragedy is a scheme planned and orchestrated directly by Syria and Iran. The tool in the implementation is fundamentalist Hamas.
A bloody and criminal tragedy holds the Palestinian people in Gaza and its suburbs mere hostages. The Gaza inhabitants are denied any say in this tragedy. The Axis of Evil countries and organizations are disregarding the security, destiny and livelihood for the people of Gaza
The entire world knows that Syria and Iran totally control Hamas leadership, finance it directly and in secret, train its fighters, and supply it with weapons and equipment.
Yes, according to all standards, the people of Gaza today are hostages in Hamas' hands who bargain their blood mercilessly under the false slogans of resistance and liberation. Hamas' conspiracy against its own people has been overt in all its provocative practices.
In reality, Hamas is mimicking Hezbollah, who, back in July 2006, murdered the Lebanese civilians and destroyed their infrastructure when it instigated, perpetrated and started its futile and destructive war with Israel to serve the interests, plans, and conspiracies of Teheran and Damascus, and then claimed the defeat of the Israeli army calling it a divine Victory.
This is precisely what Hamas has been doing and continues to do. It kept on provoking Israel through firing rockets and missiles on Israeli civilians and refused to renew a truce with the Jewish State that had been in effect for six months. It gave Israel all the justifications for waging its destructive and devastating on-going war against Gaza. Hamas has so far caused the death and injury of more than 4000 people and the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian targets in Gaza.
Hamas and Hezbollah's practices and slogans are directly ordered by Teheran and Damascus. They are nothing but military terrorists and bloody instruments in the hands of Iran and Syria in achieving the expansionist goals of these two countries.
It is crystal clear that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and all other moderate Arab countries are at the same main targets of the Axis of Evil countries (Syria & Iran) and their terrorist organizations tools (Hamas and Hezbollah).
Pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian demonstrators in Beirut uncovered this plot when they attempted to sack the Egyptian embassy while throwing shoes at it. At the same time and within the context of the same evil strategy, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's General Secretary openly and boldly called on the Egyptian people to demonstrate by the millions and open the Gaza-Egyptian crossings with their bare chests.
Nasrallah and other Hezbollah leadership also called for the Egyptian army officers and soldiers to pressure the Egyptian government into helping Hamas. They lashed at all Arab states and accused them of conspiracy against the Palestinian people, and to be sleeping in the same bed with the Israelis and the Americans.
The Iranian-Syrian loud anti-Israel rhetoric of theatrical threats and military boasting to destroy the Jewish state and send its people back to their countries of origin, as Iran's president Ahmad Najad keeps on uttering, has proved during the last two weeks to be just mere rhetoric that is void of any seriousness or actual military capabilities that backs the threats.
Therefore, the obvious question is, where are Iran's missiles, navies, and bombs?
Why have Iran and Syria refrained from coming to the rescue of their tool, Hamas?
Where is this Syrian army that has destroyed our Lebanon and massacred our people?
Where is Hezbollah's bravery and threats, and why don't they rush to the aid of Hamas?
The answer remains as it was since the establishment of the state of Israel. Just mere demagogic empty speeches that are motivated with hatred, fundamentalism, lies, and a poisonous rejection of the other. The leaders of Iran and Syrian like many others in the Middle East, have been addicted to insulting the intelligence of their people. They say one thing and do just the opposite. Their verbal and paper claims of illusionary triumphs and divine victories had led their people into disasters, poverty, ignorance and fundamentalism.
We may have believed the sincerity and nationalism of those Lebanese politicians who made speeches, issued statements, and organized demonstrations in Beirut had they refused to be the stooges and propaganda drums of Iran and Syria. They have instead screamed against Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations, burned Israeli and American flags, and attempted to ransack the Egyptian embassy.
It would have been more productive and honorable for them to witness the truth, and demand that Iran and Syria along with their terrorist instruments Hamas and Hezbollah, have mercy on the Lebanese and Palestinian people. To release them from bondage. To stop using them as hostages. To halt the murder of their young. To quit using Lebanon and Gaza as theatre of action for the wars of others.
It is sad and distressing that some political and religious leaders in Lebanon, and other middle East countries delivered speeches contrary to their convictions. For when they cheered Hamas and blessed its actions, they simply practiced Dhimmitude and committed a crime and a sin. For they surely know the destructive, terrorist, and criminal roles of Hamas and Hezbollah since they call for their disarmament and elimination in secret.
These leaders must honestly declare their stances, break out from the web of fear, and clearly state matters as they are. The only long lasting solution for the Lebanese-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli ongoing bloody conflict is a peace treaty through direct negotiations as already did Egypt and Jordan.
It remains, that Lebanon Gaza, and the whole Middle East will not know peace and security until the destructive Iranian-Syrian role is ended and the terrorist organizations of Hamas and Hezbollah are disarmed and their military teeth extracted.
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
Sunday, January 4, 2009
This article, for all its faults, and despite the unfortunate headline, captures the mood of Israel fairly well.
By Yossi Klein Halevi
Sunday, January 4, 2009; B01
"I just heard on the news that Gavriel's base has been shelled," my wife, Sarah, said to me last Tuesday, referring to our 19-year-old son, a member of an Israeli army tank unit waiting on the Gaza border for the order to enter. And, she added in a deliberately calm tone, "A soldier was killed." We texted Gavriel, and within five minutes he called, safe. How, Sarah asked, did families survive war before cellphones?
For days we waited for a cabinet decision: Will there be a land invasion or a new cease-fire? The politicians began to bicker while our soldiers waited on the border, in the rain and the mud. Anything but this, I said to Sarah. Not another Lebanon War, which, like Gaza, began with an impressive show of Israeli air power but ended with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah predicting the imminent end of "the Zionist entity." If we don't win this time -- deliver an unambiguous blow if not topple Hamas entirely -- our deterrence will further erode, inviting more rocket attacks and encouraging the jihadist momentum throughout the Middle East.
And then I caught myself: How can I be hoping for an outcome that will send my son into battle? This is my first experience as the father of a soldier, and now, after 26 years of living in Israel, I finally understand the terrible responsibility of being an Israeli. I had assumed that I'd become initiated into Israeliness when I myself was drafted into the army as a 34-year-old immigrant in 1989. But perhaps only now have I become fully Israeli. Zionism promised to empower the Jews by making them responsible for their fate; the price for that achievement is to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for one's commitments.
I know Gaza from a previous conflict. During the first intifada of the late 1980s, when Palestinians revolted against the occupation, I was part of a reservist unit that patrolled Gaza's refugee camps. There I learned that there is no such thing as a benign occupation, as Israelis had once deceived themselves into believing. Our unit not only arrested terrorist suspects but also dragged people out of their beds in the middle of the night to paint over anti-Israel graffiti and rounded up innocents after a grenade attack just to "make a presence," in army terminology. At night, in our tent, we argued about the wisdom of turning soldiers into policemen of a hostile civilian population that didn't want us there and which we didn't want as part of our society.
A majority of Israelis emerged from the first intifada convinced that we need to do everything possible to end the occupation and ensure that our children don't serve as enforcers of Gaza's despair. That was why I initially supported the 1993 Oslo peace process that took a terrible gamble on Yasser Arafat's supposed transformation from terrorist to peacemaker. And even after it became clear that Arafat and other Palestinian leaders never intended to accept Israel's legitimacy, I supported the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, simply to extricate us from that region, knowing that we would not receive peace in return.
And now my son is fighting in Gaza. The conflict he and his friends confront is far worse than my generation's experience in Gaza. In our time, we were confronted with mere rocks and Molotov cocktails; my son faces Iranian-supplied anti-tank weapons -- one more price we will pay, along with the missile attacks on our towns, for the Gaza withdrawal, just as the Israeli right had warned.
Still, I don't regret that withdrawal. If Israelis are united today about our right to defend ourselves against Gaza's genocidally minded regime, it is at least partly because we are fighting from our international border. My son and his friends have one crucial advantage over my generation's experience in Gaza: They know, as we did not, that Israel was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for peace, uprooting thousands of its citizens from their homes and endorsing a Palestinian state. My son confronts Gaza knowing that its misery is now imposed by its leaders. He knows that his country was even prepared to share its most cherished national asset, Jerusalem, with its worst enemy, Arafat, for the sake of preventing this war. That empowers him with the moral self-confidence he will need to get through the coming days. The face of my Gaza enemy was a teenager throwing rocks; the face of Gavriel's Gaza enemy is a suicide bomber.
But we are hardly free of moral anxiety. Even as I pray for Gavriel's physical safety, I pray too for his spiritual well-being: that his tank doesn't accidentally shell civilians, that he isn't caught in some terrible mistake, which can so easily happen in a war zone where terrorists hide behind innocent people.
For the past eight years, Israel has fought a single war with shifting fronts, moving from suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to Katyusha attacks on Israeli towns near the Lebanon border to Qassam missiles on Israeli towns near the Gaza border. That war has targeted civilians, turning the home front into the actual front. And it has transformed the nature of the conflict from a nationalist struggle over Palestinian statehood to a holy war against Jewish statehood. Except for a left-wing fringe, most Israelis recognize the conflict in Gaza as part of a larger war that has been declared against our being and that we must fight.
But how? Even some right-wingers are saying that we should have declared a unilateral cease-fire after the initial airstrike and then dared Hamas to continue shelling our towns, rather than risk another quagmire. And even some left-wingers are saying that we should now destroy the Hamas regime and then offer to turn Gaza over to international control or, if possible, an inter-Arab force led by Egypt. Every option is potentially disastrous. Most Israelis agree on two points: that we cannot live with a jihadist statelet on our border, and that we cannot become occupiers of Gaza again.
The despair of Gaza is contagious. One friend, a Likud supporter, said to me, "I don't know what to hope for anymore."
Meanwhile, I try to reassure myself about Gavriel's safety. Growing up in Jerusalem during the suicide bombings in the early 2000s, he has already known danger, intimacy with death. A 13-year-old acquaintance was stoned to death, and was so mutilated that he could be identified only by his DNA. A friend lost the use of an eye in a bus bombing on his way to school. At least now, Gavriel and his friends can defend themselves. Perhaps one reason most of them volunteered for combat units was because now the generation of the suicide bombings can finally fight back.
Just before the conflict in Gaza began, I happened to visit Gavriel at his base. His unit's barracks had been turned into what young Israelis call a "zula" -- a hangout. There were muddy couches, chairs without backs, a darbuka drum, a TV (Jay Leno was on). It could have been a teenage scene anywhere in the West, except that hanging on the walls were Hamas banners captured by the unit's veteran members in a previous round of fighting in Gaza. In a corner of the room hung a photograph of a fallen soldier. Across the bottom someone had written, "What was the rush, Shachar? Why did you have to leave us so soon?"
Even now, perhaps especially now, I feel that our family is privileged to belong to the Israeli story. Gavriel, grandson of a Holocaust survivor, is part of an army defending the Jewish people in its land. This is one of those moments when our old ideals are tested anew and found to be still vital. That provides some comfort as Sarah and I wait for the next text message.
Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the author of "At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land."
Benny Morris, once the darling of anti-Zionists, has turned out to have quite a different point of view than was attributed to him at one time.
After a week of air assaults on Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian retaliatory rocketing of Israel's southern cities, the Israeli leadership was at a crossroads. It had to decide whether to embark on a ground offensive or to call it quits and find a face-saving diplomatic endgame (which would leave Hamas with most of its military manpower and firepower intact).
A third alternative was to continue the air campaign while sending in ground forces with limited objectives, designed to curtail Hamas rocketing in specific sectors and to interdict Hamas resupply from Egypt through the tunnels under the Philadelphi axis along the Gaza-Sinai border. A number of Israeli brigades were massed along the Israel-Gaza border, and the troops, according to reports, were raring to go. Last night they went into Gaza.
I believe Israel is right to go ahead: to deliver ground incursions, in various sectors, to bleed Hamas and ultimately to destroy its will and ability to rocket Israel by occupying the border area permanently.
The Israeli cabinet, however, may be more cautious. It has apparently rejected the idea of conquering the strip and crushing Hamas - given the densely packed urban terrain, the limitations imposed by international and internal Israeli opinion and the cost in military and civilian lives.
These considerations are compounded by the fact that the defence minister and Labor party leader, Ehud Barak, and the foreign minister and Kadima party leader, Tzipi Livni, face general elections on February 10 and an electorate unwilling to countenance big sacrifices. At the same time, the leaders cannot allow Hamas to continue rocketing Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod - cities with a total population of some 750,000.
From Israel's viewpoint, the problem is that Hamas, like Hezbollah, will remain - and at some point down the road it can be expected to harass or assault Israel, independently or in collaboration with Hezbollah or Iran. And the basic realities of the contemporary Middle East will remain the same, with Israelis continuing to feel boxed in and under threat.
Israeli foreboding has general sources and specific causes. The general problems are simple. First, the Arab and wider Islamic worlds have never accepted the legitimacy of Israel's creation or the continued existence of the Jewish state, notwithstanding Israel's peace treaties with the Egyptian and Jordanian regimes, signed respectively in 1979 and 1994.
Second, public support for Israel in the West (and in democracies, governments can't be far behind) has steadily withered over the past few decades, as the memory of the Holocaust - which in an ill-defined but general way underwrote Israel - has dimmed and as Arab power and assertiveness have surged. As well, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and its occasionally heavy-handed treatment of the Arabs have played a part.
More specifically, Israel faces a combination of dire short- and medium-term threats. To the east, Iran is advancing its nuclear project, which most Israelis and most of the world's intelligence services believe is designed to produce nuclear weapons. The fact that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly threatened Israel with destruction quite naturally leaves Israelis deeply perturbed.
In the next year or so, if the world community does not force the Iranians through diplomacy and economic sanctions to halt their nuclear programme, then either the US or Israel will have to attack and destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities.
To the north lies another threat: Hezbollah, a fundamentalist Shi'ite Muslim organisation that vows to destroy Israel and is funded by Iran. It has recovered from the thrashing it received in 2006 when Israeli forces struck into south Lebanon and reportedly now has an arsenal of 30,000-40,000 rockets, some of which can reach Tel Aviv and Dimona, the site of Israel's nuclear facility.
To the south, Hamas will remain Israel's implacable foe, its charter/constitution of 1988 proclaiming the necessity of Israel's destruction "at the hands of Islam".
Between 1948 and 1982 Israel coped relatively well with the conventional threats posed by the armies of the Arab states, trouncing them repeatedly. But the current threats are unconventional and pose a far more difficult challenge. This past week, Israel has taken on one of them, the Hamas rocketry; in future, it is likely to confront - in the absence of cogent western intervention - the far more dire threat of Iran's atomic programme.
Only a change of mindset among the Palestinians, and the wider Arab and Islamic worlds, could allow for peace. And that's not going to happen as long as the Arab world is so strong (and growing stronger) and, at the same time, governed by a mentality of grievance and victimhood.
Benny Morris teaches Middle East history at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, and is author of 1948, A History of the First Arab-Israeli War
This is the Israel News and Commentary Weblog of Zionism-Israel Center. Contact: info(at)Zionism-Israel.com
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