Why Are the Palestinians Opposed to Ending the Occupation?
Posted Mon, Jul 26, 2010

Foreign Minister Lieberman’s plan to assist the Gaza Strip in becoming an independent entity has encountered wall-to-wall Palestinian opposition. The dual-headed Palestinian regime in Ramallah (Fatah) and in the Gaza Strip (Hamas) totally rejects Lieberman’s proposal to recruit the European Union to build power stations to supply electricity, desalination stations and a sewage treatment plant. This was to be part of a plan that would totally sever all connections with Israel, which would forego its naval supervision over merchandise entering the port of Gaza and would totally seal the border with the Gaza Strip.

The arguments against exercising Palestinian independence resemble each other. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for the Palestinian presidency at Ramallah, views Lieberman’s plan as a plot “against the Palestinian people’s aspirations for unity, liberty and independence” and as one that “expresses the aspirations of the Israeli extreme right.” Ahmad Assaf, spokesperson for the Fatah organization that props up the Palestinian Authority, argued that the Gaza Strip is still under “Israeli occupation” and so it will remain, because the Strip constitutes a single geographic unit with the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Sami Abu Zuheiri , a Hamas spokesperson, explained that “although Gaza was liberated in practice from the military and settlement presence, it is still from a legal and practical standpoint under occupation” and the Lieberman initiative is “an attempt to elude the responsibility imposed on the occupation.” Abu Zuheiri argued that Israel, “the occupying country,” must continue to provide for the Gaza Strip’s needs including food, electricity, and fuel.

The Hamas position exemplifies one of the major absurdities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas, which took pride in liberating the Gaza Strip from the Israeli occupation via Jihad, is struggling with all its might to preserve the “Israeli occupation” of the Gaza Strip and obligate Israel to continue transferring supplies to an entity that avowedly declares that it will liberate all of Palestine, liquidate the State of Israel, and kill and expel its Jewish inhabitants. Hamas receives support for its position from international human rights organizations (Amnesty, Human Rights Watch), Palestinians and Israelis. These, similar to Hamas, vigorously argue that Israel is still “an occupying force” and therefore it must concern itself with “the security and welfare of the Gaza residents.” Unfortunately, the position of the human rights organizations on which Hamas relies raises substantial questions. If Israel is still an “occupying force” in the Gaza Strip, as they contend, why do these organizations not demand that Israel exercise its obligation to assure the security of the Gaza residents and operate against the Hamas regime, that is gradually applying Islamic law in the Gaza Strip while flagrantly trampling human rights, suppressing the opposition with an iron hand and by executions?

Furthermore, not a single one of the human rights organizations suggests the necessary conditions for the conclusion of the “occupation,” but all are demanding that it should be extended by a full opening of the border. This position constitutes a paradox because if Israel was to lift the siege pursuant to the human rights organizations’ demands (including the naval siege and control of airspace), then the occupation is presumed to have concluded, and therefore Israel will no longer be under the obligation to concern itself with the Gaza population. Even currently there is no real effective Israeli “siege” and the Gaza Strip is not a “prison,” as the data of the Hamas government on the transit of goods (imports of $1 billion per year) and people (scores of thousands, including personnel of the Hamas military wing) via the border with Egypt will attest.

Egypt as well is interested in the continuation of the occupation and it once again warns Israel that it should not dare rid itself of it. The official explanation explicitly clarifies the official Egyptian policy: “Concurrence with the argument that posits that the Gaza Strip is considered liberated territory conveys reconciliation with the plan that attempts to impose the burden of managing the Strip on the neighbor who lives in proximity to it, namely Egypt. One must not agree to this, because this will provide Israel with an excellent escape outlet from the strait of the occupation and transfer its repercussions to Egypt, and this could result in the liquidation of the Palestinian problem.”

Given this background, the question of why everybody is so enamored of the Israeli “occupation” is accentuated. Why are the Palestinians still adamant in their opposition to receiving total independence, at least at the first stage, on part of Palestinian territory? A possible key to the answer to the question was provided by Prof. Anat Biletzki, formerly the chairperson of the B’tselem organization, who warned in a lecture at MIT in 2007 of the danger that the Palestinian leadership, due to its fatigue, might agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state on part of Palestinian soil and two-state solution. Biletzki argued that only the solution of a single state in the entire territory of Palestine can provide a just and realistic solution, and she then proceeded to sharply criticize the preparedness of Prof. Sari Nusseibeh to forgo the refugees’ right of return.

This is primarily the guiding logic behind the position of the Palestinian leadership that has not renounced the idea of liberating Palestine in its entirety. Five years have elapsed since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the Hamas government continues to preserve the refugee camps despite their crowded conditions and immense deprivation, and continues to demand international assistance to help them via UNRWA. Housing refugees in the areas of the settlements that were vacated in Gaza (or by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank) will not impair the right of the refugees to raise their right of return during negotiations, just as the rights of Palestinians defined as refugees living in cities and abroad is not impaired. However the objective of both the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government is identical, namely, keeping the lava of the refugee problem at full boil, as this constitutes the key to the ultimate objective of the historic Palestinian odyssey – the liquidation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. This is the real reason behind the Palestinian love affair with the “Israeli occupation.” Hamas wants to eat out of Israel’s hand and then proceed to eat the hand itself and the entire body. Israel’s opposition to placing the noose over its neck with its own hands is depicted by Hamas as a violation of international law.

The Myth of the Siege of Gaza
Posted Thu, Jun 17, 2010

Since 2007, Israel has maintained a legal maritime blockade around Gaza whose purpose is to keep rockets and other weapons out of the hands of Hamas, while letting food and other humanitarian aid in. Yet there have been a wide variety of officials and commentators who insist that Gaza is starving, setting the stage for the repeated efforts of “humanitarian” ships to break the Gaza blockade.
For example, John Ging, the director of operations for UNRWA, told The New York Times in early 2009 that Israel’s blockade was choking off basic humanitarian supplies like medicine, clothing and blankets, as well as food supplies. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Occupied Palestinian Territory released a report in August 2009 arguing that “the blockade has ‘locked in’ 1.15 million people.” The same report asserted that 75 percent of Gaza’s population is “food insecure.” Recently, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) told Don Imus on the Fox Business Channel that Israel was “preventing food and medicine from going into Gaza.” He said there are “people that are starving,” and closed with a vile suggestion that the situation of the Gazans was “almost like in concentration camps.”
Are the Gates of Gaza Closed?
The claims of a hermetic blockade of Gaza are inconsistent with the figures that emerge from Israeli and Palestinian sources alike. The Gaza Strip under Hamas control continues to receive supplies of goods via the border crossings with Israel and the network of tunnels with Egypt, which have become an established import channel that supplements the items not coming in from Israel, on a scale of hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
The continuing rise in imports via the tunnel network provides employment to thousands of Palestinians and lines the coffers of the Hamas government by taxes on operating the tunnels and on the goods that pass through them. The types of merchandise imported via the tunnels are determined by supply and demand, and the tunnel owners frequently create an artificial shortage so as to increase their profit share.
The Hamas government also enjoys funding from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and monies from the European Union (which financed the purchase of fuel for Gaza’s power station) toward the purchase of Israeli-supplied electricity, in addition to aid from the Arab states.
Gaza’s gates are open for entry and exit by Palestinian residents, subject to approval by the Israeli and Egyptian authorities and coordination with them. According to Palestinian figures, Israel and Egypt have approved more than 98 per cent of Palestinian requests for medical treatment in their respective countries.
The tunnel network is also used by Hamas for military purposes, among them sending fighters for training in Iran and Syria, and for the import of advanced weapons systems (anti-aircraft and anti-missile), explosives, and ammunition.
Criminal activity in the tunnels includes drug running and trafficking in young girls for domestic work and marriage to wealthy, older Palestinians.
The position of the human rights organizations, which paint an exaggerated picture of the effects of the “blockade,” is marred by a double standard. On the one hand, they argue vehemently that Israel is still an occupying power and must therefore see to the “security and welfare of the residents of Gaza”; yet on the other hand, they criticize Israel as lacking concern for the welfare of Gaza’s residents—but not for their security, which has been severely harmed by Hamas’s regime with its gradual imposition of Islamic law while violently suppressing the opposition.
Moreover, the human rights organizations are not presenting a demand that Israel cease its “occupation” of Gaza; on the contrary, they would reinforce it by opening the border completely. There is a paradox of sorts in their position, for if Israel removes the blockade at the request of the human rights organizations, the occupation can be said to have ended, and thus Israel would have no further obligation to see to the needs of Gaza’s populace. This being the case, it is hard to understand why the human rights organizations continue to demand that Israel tend to the population of Gaza even after the lifting of the blockade.
These organizations demand that Israel act according to a higher moral standard than that required of other states. According to their logic, by which Israel is obligated to help an enemy entity that is attacking it, the U.S. along with the other coalition members that have occupied Afghanistan have a duty to extend assistance to villages controlled by the Taliban fighters who are attacking their forces.
In contrast to the insistence that Israel open its borders to an enemy entity, the human rights organizations are refraining from (or speaking in very muted tones about) presenting a similarly forceful demand to the authorities in Egypt, which borders Gaza to the south and does not define the Hamas government as an enemy entity.
Egypt, like these organizations, is “enamored” with Israel’s supposed occupation of Gaza. For years, Egypt has demanded that Israel withdraw from the Gaza Strip to make way for Palestinian independence. And although Israel did so, it continues to claim that Israel is still an “occupying power.”
Egypt strenuously rejects the demand by Hamas and the Arab states to open its border with Gaza, and insists on maintaining a situation whereby the border is closed formally but open in practice, so as to claim that the Israeli occupation of Gaza is continuing. The use of pressure against restrictions on the passage of goods and people over the border is a form of leverage intended to push Hamas into accepting Egypt’s terms for opening the border on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, which preserves—in Cairo’s view—Israel’s status as an occupying power.

All in the Same Boat
Posted Thu, Jun 3, 2010

The flotilla affair was the hour of the “advisors.” Many “experts” raised their voices in Israel and elsewhere. All are clever and witty; all know naval tactics perfectly well, as though they were veterans of the marines, special units’ commanders and senior Intelligence officers. All, from the soldiers who hung down the rope to the pre-planned lynch on Marmara’s deck, to the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister, behaved with poor judgement. If only the “advisors” and “experts” sat on the leaders’ chairs, Israel would have been benefited with great marshals and statesmen who are knowledgeable in all fields of expertise and immune to any inadvertency or mistake.
The flotilla affair has many aspects. First and foremost, there is a deteriorating geopolitical atmosphere in the Middle East, the gradual transformation of Turkey into an enemy of Israel and a strategy striving to bind the hands of Israel from exerting the right to self defence. The organizers of the flotilla and those behind it – Turkey, radical Islamic organizations, leftist and human rights organizations – intended to create international shock waves and impose restrictions on Israel whether by violent confrontation as occurred or by defiant breaking of the siege.
It is not a onetime “protest”, but a devised plan; which its next stages may include dispatching from Lebanese ports ships packed with Palestinian refugees, many of whom “peace activists” of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad along with international “peace activists.” Dozens and maybe hundreds of boats will head the port of Tel Aviv in their humanitarian mission to return to the homeland of Palestine. Hezbollah will deport them willingly and with their consent and the dilemma will be intensified. How could Israel resist the return of the “deported” refugees from Lebanon on Tel Aviv’s coast? If Israel absorbs the refugees from Sudan and Eretria there would be no justification for closing the borders to those who were born in Palestine and became once more refugees. Israel will probably be accused of violating the international law, failing to comply with resolution 194 and numerous other UN resolutions regarding the Palestinian refugees.
A golden opportunity has emerged for the “advisors” and “experts” to express their voice and opinion, now beforehand and not retroactively. The floor is yours to advise how Israel should behave in this aforementioned scenario and when the flotilla of the “peace seekers” are escorted with Turkey’s destroyers and warplanes in order to coerce Israel to abide by the international law. Should Israel confront the peaceful flotilla and jeopardize its relations with its close friend Turkey and other countries or to accept settling the successive waves of Palestinian peace seekers in Tel Aviv as a humanitarian gesture and consequently gaining the sympathy of the world. All of Israel, from left to right, are in the same boat and no one has an interest in adopting the option of willingly committing suicide as a political strategy.
The public debate regarding the flotilla affair was focused also on the “siege” on the Gaza Strip. Zahava Galon, former Knesset Member (Meretz), blamed the Israeli government of “stupidity” and quoted the “reliable” data published by Amnesty International on the severe economic situation in Gaza. The very same organization, Amnesty International, has published early this week an official announcement harshly criticizing the Israeli policy in Gaza and arguing that “Only a fraction of [Palestinian] patients in need of treatment outside Gaza are allowed out.” Official data published by Hamas government portrays different reality. Last year 11,608 Palestinian patients left Gaza for receiving medical treatment and the entrance of only 150 was refused by Israel.
Human rights organizations call the Gaza Strip a huge “prison” in which 1.5 million Palestinians are trapped. Their description has nothing to do with the real situation in Gaza. 62,726 people crossed in and out the Rafah border to Egypt. The Rafah crossing is open “irregularly” on Wednesdays and Thursdays and it is learned from Hamas official reports that it is also “irregularly” open on other days of the week. There is consistency between the number of those who registered for travel in Hamas Ministry of Interior and those who actually crossed the border to Egypt. The Gaza Strip’s export from Egypt is approaching one billion USD annually, according to an estimation published in the official Hamas newspaper. This export, depicted as “smuggling”, includes all necessities from cement, iron, motorcycles, and food products to hundreds of poor Egyptian girls who are sold to the wealthy Gazans for one thousand USD each paid to the middleman. Taxes on the export from Egypt enriched Hamas government treasury and the surplus goes to financial and real estate investments. In addition, the Gaza Strip receives hundreds of millions of USD from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, the European Union, international organizations and from Israel every year. Hamas leaders enjoy free movement in and out Gaza and the Hamas’ military operatives are sent regularly for training in Syria and Iran.
Peculiar alliance has developed between Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and human rights organizations who insist to contend that Israel is still the “occupying force” of the Gaza Strip. None outlines the conditions to end the “occupation”, but rather all of them demand pressuring Israel to open its borders to its enemy Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It seems that the principal consideration standing behind the hesitant Israeli policy towards Gaza is related to an Egyptian threat to firmly react on any attempt to transfer the responsibility for Gaza, it is quite possible that the threat includes an intention to deploy army forces in Sinai Peninsula, in contradiction to the Camp David peace treatment, as proactive measure to deal with the security threat of the Gaza Strip. Hesitation proved itself as bringing about a political catastrophe and Israel, even though it pulled all of military and civilians from the Gaza Strip, Israel still pays high price for “virtual occupation”.
The political manoeuvring area is extremely narrow. However, Israel should act with resolve for absolute disengagement from the Gaza Strip correspondingly to diplomatic efforts to gain support from the US and EU in order to minimize damages to its relations with Egypt. The flotilla affair can be used as trigger to make changes in Israeli policy.

Killed a Jew? Free to Go
Posted Fri, May 7, 2010

The psychiatric evaluation, arguing that the Jewish terrorist Jack Teitel is insane and unfit to stand trial, stirred a furious reaction last week from Arab leadership in Israel. Teitel, who during 12 years carried out a series of terrorist attacks aimed at Palestinians and Jews identified with the left, may escape punishment if the Israeli court approves the psychiatric evaluation.

Sheik Ibrahim Abdallah Sarsour, member of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset), entirely rejected the psychiatric evaluation and asserted that, based on his deeds and statements, Teitel is fit to stand trial. “I’m hoping that the court will decline the psychiatric evaluation and clearly affirm that this terrorist will face justice,” said Sarsour. “The decision not to prosecute the terrorist Jack Teitel, while claiming that he is mentally unfit to stand trial, is a crime against humanity and a green light to continue the killing of Arabs.”

Member of the Knesset (MK) Hanin Zuabi takes a similar position. “This kind of psychiatric evaluation is a protection mechanism for those who commit crimes against Palestinians, meaning that there is no one criminal, but three: the perpetrator, the legitimizing political atmosphere and the legal system which absolves the criminals of punishment,” said Zuabi. “How can we trust this argument [the psychiatric evaluation] referring to murderers who plan, follow [the target] and prepare the improvised bombs. This has only one meaning – a licence to kill Palestinians.”

The Arab leadership also strongly denounced the increasing phenomena of violence and killing in Arab society in Israel. MK Jamal Zahalka blamed the police for negligence in not imposing law and order and of creating a state of no deterrence to the killers, as many of them are not arrested and or put behind bars.

The position of the Arab Leadership is unequivocal: murderers, Jews or Arabs, should be punished regardless of their political or criminal motives. However, there is a small reservation – only if the slain are Arabs. The Israeli Arab leadership, that identifies itself as Palestinian, regards the Arabs prisoners who murdered Jews while driven by nationalist motives as “Prisoners of Freedom” who should be released from jail. In the political agenda of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, these murderers, citizens of Israel, are called “political prisoners regardless of the severity of their crimes”. The Arab Higher Monitoring Committee utters its absolute support of the “Prisoners of Freedom” with no distinction and its objection to the Israeli establishment’s attempt to portray “any sympathy for the prisoners of freedom as support of terrorism”. Based on these positions, the committee calls for the release of all “Prisoners of Freedom” in any future prisoners swap deal with the Palestinians, arguing that the Arab Israeli prisoners are integral part of the Palestinian national struggle.

The cat is out of the bag once again. The Arab Israeli leadership maintains dubious moral standards. Using their own methodology and arguments may lead to the conclusion that they are not only adopting tolerant approach to murderers, but even giving legitimacy to the killing of Jews. By doing so, the Arab Israeli leadership places itself in the same position as the most extremist right wing organizations in Israel that are using similar arguments while calling for the release of Jewish terrorist prisoners. A murder is a murder is a murder. Any readiness to lessen the verdict against murderers because of their “nationalist motives” is a moral distortion, even if such a decision is taken as a gesture of “goodwill” to the Palestinian Authority or by accepting political parties’ demands to condition the release of Arab murderers with the release of Jewish murderers.

Israel is Also Guilty
Posted Tue, Apr 20, 2010

The anti-Israel atmosphere on Canadian universities is becoming more extreme. The attacks on pro-Israel students from Carleton University and York University could be a step up in terms of the threat level. It was by miracle that the latest incident didn’t end with casualties. Extremists are cynically exploiting freedom of expression and are sometimes violent in an attempt to stifle others’ freedom of speech. The same situation occurred during Ann Coulter’s recent visit to the University of Ottawa, where violence prevailed. This is a test for Canada. A democracy must defend itself against those who seek to attack its values.

At the same time, one can understand the hostility against Israel. It is perfectly justified and Israel achieved it “rightly”. Israel criminally abandons the field of advocacy and leaves the opponent’s side to write history as well as the indictment against it. More than a year has passed since the war in Gaza, and until now the Israeli government has not published its version of the serious events that occurred causing Israel to be a war crimes suspect. Why? Does an investigation about an incident in which five people were involved require more than a year? Israel is using gross negligence and it will pay a heavy political and legal price for it. A friend recently contacted me and offered me to join in the establishment of a new group which will deal with PR for Israel. I replied that my work is in research and he should contact the ambassador and consul in charge for issues of PR, and that Shalom Toronto is willing to dedicate a column for their representatives to respond to the allegations against Israel.

Remember the Women’s Holocaust
Posted Thu, Apr 15, 2010

This past week, Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day. A traditional and moving ceremony was held in Toronto. Two thousand people were in attendance. It is difficult to understand the evil behind the Nazi death machine, and the ideology which authorized the execution in the name of racial cleansing. The indications were abundant, the evidence set in the stories of survivors as well as their bodies and souls, in documents and photos from the valley of death which documented the genocide. All of these are not enough for their ideological successors who continue to deny the Holocaust.
It is not surprising that the premier Holocaust denier is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His grounds for Holocaust denial are not academic and he is not really interested in a historical discourse about the Second World War. Iran’s motives are different than Nazi Germany’s, but the goal is similar. The political ambitions of the Iranian President are driven by a passionate, deep religious faith. He continues to speak of “the likely destruction of Israel” as a messianic concept code which is surging in him and in his mentor Ayatollah Yazdi, the most radical of the ayatollahs who advocates political and military activism to advance the global Islamic revolution led by Iran.
Ahmadinejad’s determination to develop nuclear weapons can also be interpreted as a sign of messianic redemption. He and his associates see their dealing with international pressures who seek to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear technology, as one way to prepare the ground for the appearance of the Mahdi. In the era of “salvation”, according to Ahmadinejad’s Islamic philosophy, all heretics will be sentenced to death by Muslims. The warnings against the rebirth of a modern version of Nazi Germany in an Islamic form are not the fruit of imagination or a false alarm. Israel is the immediate target of Ahmadinejad. The free world, democracy and liberal values are the real enemy of Ahmadinejad.
Historically, the practice of dealing with the Holocaust focused less on the suffering of Jewish women. This issue was the focus of the Yom Hashoah ceremony in Toronto this year. In Israel a group of women set up an organization by the name Sodot (Secrets), whose goal is to document sexual abuse of women and children during the Holocaust. The organization has called out to Holocaust survivors to document their personal stories, as well as the stories of Holocaust survivors who have passed away and witness accounts of these horrors. The organization’s founders claim that it is unacceptable to silence the female voice in the Holocaust on the grounds that documentation of sexual abuse embarrasses the victim and violates the dignity of those who perished. The evidence collected will be used for the establishment of a monument in memory of women Holocaust victims.
The Sodot crew – Roni, Vital, and Efrat – may be contacted by phone at 972-52-5727776 or by e-mail at ronione@netvision.net.il. Shalom Toronto newspaper and Shalom Life, the website for the Toronto Jewish community (www.shalomlife.com) have also taken on this important historical task. They will translate at no cost the testimonies by women survivors of the Holocaust and will publish them for posterity.

The Fifth Question of Passover
Posted Thu, Apr 15, 2010

re commanded to observe, to remember the exodus from Egypt that symbolized their move from slavery to freedom and their becoming a nation. The exodus was and still is a founding event in the history of the Jewish people, and the story of the Hagaddah is taught year after year in a tradition passing from father to son and from mother to daughter. The significance of the Freedom Holiday is different within the different streams. Among the Orthodox Jews, the holiday symbolizes the move from slavery under a foreign regime to serving the world’s creator, which is the essence of the Jewish people during this lifetime before they enter eternity in the after world. Other movements in Judaism put an emphasis on the modern significance of the word “freedom”, be it from a national perspective with regards to the existence of the Jewish state or from a universal perspective with regards to human rights.
Four questions are traditionally asked on Passover, about eating Matzah, bitter herbs and roasted meat, as well as about the eating practices (“dipping” and “reclining”). One question has remained unsolved: Why was the plague of the firstborn, when “all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sits upon his throne, even unto the first-born of the maid-servant that is behind the mill; and all the first-born of cattle” chosen? What was the point behind killing all the firstborns without exception, and why were the Israelites commanded to celebrate the deaths of newborns and young children who had not even sinned?
The Hagaddah ends with the words “Next Year in Jerusalem”. Jews in the Diaspora repeat this pledge to return to the land of Israel every single year, and promise to say it again next year. The technological reality of the modern world has turned the whole world into a single small village which allows one to feel the Israeli atmosphere even in the Diaspora. One can skip from east to west at the speed of surfing the net. For some, the mitzvah messengers are already in Israel and the money from donations assist in the polishing of the soul and the conscience.
In a few days, we will all be reclining around the table, wearing our best clothes, together with children, family members and friends. Two chairs will remain empty. One for Elijah the prophet for those who keep the tradition, and one more chair for Gilad Shalit who is still being held captive by Hamas in Gaza. The decision on how to act in terms of the prisoner exchange deal with Hamas is in the hands of the government of Israel who sees the entire picture. Regardless of its decision, it is important to remind the young generation about Gilad Shalit and end with the prayer: “Next Year in Mitzpe Hila”.

Same Old Refrain
Posted Thu, Mar 18, 2010

Once again Jerusalem is not quiet. Its familiar sounds are back: The ringing of the church bells is deafened by the sound of the muezzin calling once again for the protection of Jerusalem from the Jews. The “day of rage” declared in Jerusalem this week (March 16) was a repeat of the violence of the “Days of Rage” in 2000, which led to the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada (which has never officially ended). The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is written like a deterministic script. Nothing has changed. The roots of the struggle are unfortunately religious, so the chances of a political compromise that would allow a stable co-existence over a long period of time are considerably smaller.

In September 2000, the Palestinian Authority started the terror war called “The al-Aqsa Intifada: Independence and Return”, after it incited the masses to conduct violent riots by claiming that then MK Ariel Sharon “defiled” the al-Aqsa mosque when he visited the Temple Mount. Then (just like now) strident claims about the Jews “defiling” the holy places of Islam on the Temple Mount were sounded. Even now (just like then) these statements are meant to remove the demon of violence from the masses, while in the background are threats to renew attacks inside Israel and open a third armed intifada.

Arab leadership in Israel is taking a peculiar policy. It warns against a wave of violence, argues that Israel’s actions are an implicitly justified cause for violent protests by the Palestinians, and calls the Israeli government to stop construction in Jerusalem in order to calm the situation. One thing they are saying remains unintelligible. Why not directly call on the Palestinians to stop violence? Even if the rights of any citizen have been trampled by the authorities, this does not justify acts of violence and mass murder. In Israel, like any other country, authorities sometimes expropriate land from its owners for the benefit of the public, for purposes such as road paving, construction of shopping centres and more. There are some citizens who feel, rightly or wrongly, that the state deprived them of their rights, and to that end they retain the right to go to court and a higher court of the judicial system. In the Palestinian context, there is a sharp transition between the sense of deprivation and acts of violence and terror. The Arab leadership places the responsibility for the violence on the victim, Israel. A strange logic: Hug the Thug, the Palestinian edition.

The crisis between Israel and the U.S. was surprising both by its gravity as well as the massive American pressure on Israel for the most trivial affair. It is quite obvious that the Americans’ motive is not the “insult”, but rather the administration’s attempt to exploit the circumstances to advance political goals at the expense of Israel. The Obama administration feels the Israeli government’s weakness and is interested in fully exploiting it by forcing concessions on Israel at the political level. The Americans have a serious problem: Their only trump card in the Palestinian arena is Abu Mazen and the fragile Palestinian Authority. In the background Hamas is threatening to devour the cards also in Judea and Samaria. On the other hand, the government of Israel does not see and/or can not move substantially on the political level, because it does not trust the Palestinian Authority that has not given up on the vision of the liberation of all of Palestine by the return of refugees, and is not ready to reach a real compromise with Israel. The current Israeli policy is therefore perceived in Washington as threatening America’s vital interests. The problem does not end there, because as the United States (Israel’s main strategic back) distances itself more and more from Israel, it conveys a message of Israeli weakness and a golden opportunity to put pressure on it. In other words, the temptation for another intifada is greater than even before.

Slain Christians Remain “Restrained”
Posted Wed, Mar 10, 2010

Another grisly atrocity struck Nigeria. More than 500 innocent Christian villagers, including toddlers and pregnant women were slaughtered early this week. Accounts from the scene tell the shocking chronicle of barbaric genocide.
The mass massacre occurred Sunday (March 7, 2010) when Muslim groups, described as herdsmen, raided Christian villages in Nigeria’s central Plateau state. The Indigenous Christians and Muslims who immigrated to the area have been clashing over control of the land’s resources. Witnesses said that Hausa-Fulani tribesmen came from surrounding hills, firing guns in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday. When startled villagers emerged from their homes they were either shot or hacked with machetes. Mass graves were dug to bury the victims.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday he was deeply concerned about the recent “appalling” deaths in Nigeria, and urged the country’s political and religious leaders to solve the nation’s crisis. “I am deeply concerned that there has been more inter-religious violence, with appalling loss of life,” Ban said in New York. “I appeal to all concerned to exercise maximum restraint.”
The UN’s human rights chief, Navi Pillay, said she was appalled by the massacre but said the government had to tackle festering poverty. “Better security is clearly vital,” Pillay said, “but it would be a mistake to paint this purely as sectarian or ethnic violence, and to treat it solely as a security issue.
“What is most needed is a concerted effort to tackle the underlying causes of the repeated outbreaks of ethnic and religious violence which Nigeria has witnessed in recent years, namely discrimination, poverty and disputes over land,” she added. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch are still silent.
The main Canadian newspapers made a different choice in covering the massacre on March 9, 2010. The Toronto Star did not see the carnage as an important event as it is understood, by reporting about it on page A16 with only two sentences and a picture. The Globe & Mail told the story in 650 words on page A14 accompanied with a picture of the horrors while explaining that “reprisal killings believed motive for slaughter”. The National Post was the only newspaper to bring the massacre to the front page as the main headline: “Sectarian Slaughter Claims 500 in Nigeria”.

The international and media reaction to the massacre raises questions on the double standards of the UN and human rights organizations. Unsurprisingly, Judge Richard Goldstone was not summoned to investigate the atrocities and the UN Secretary General finds it suitable just to call all sides to exercise “maximum restraint”. No word has been said on the need for an impartial investigation and the accountability of the Nigerian Government that failed to supply protection to its citizens. The slain Christians are definitely at “maximum restraint”.
The recent carnage sheds once again the light on radical Islamists. We may hear spokespersons explain that Islam is a religion of peace and compassion and that such an act contradicts the commands and spirit of Islam. I tend to believe them, but still wonder why so many people worldwide from Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, iran and other countries fail to comprehend the moderate message of Islam and find it a divine source for legitimizing mass killing of infidels “in the path of Allah”. Certainly, something is wrong in the interpretation process of Islam and that should be investigated as it may affect the national security of Canada. The recent government decision which outlawed the Somali Shabab organization for radicalizing the Somali Canadian youth is a reminder in this regard.

Antonia Zerbisias and Pedophilia in Palestinian Society
Posted Fri, Feb 26, 2010

Canadian journalist Antonia Zerbisias published an article in the Toronto Star (January 27, 2010) bearing the title: “Gazan weddings not aboutpedophilia”… Read more »

Jonathan Dahoh-Halevi
Fellow and senior researcher at the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs , head of research of the Orient Research Group Ltd., investigative journalist and an activist in the Jewish and Israeli communities.