Thursday, December 16, 2010

Response to "The Gloves are Off"

Dear Sir,

Katie Green’s article addressed to our dear diaspora bretheren, was superb, we wish that we had written it ourselves and couldn’t agree with it more. We have sent it via our British Israel Group mailing list to over 1,000 people, here in the U.K. and many other parts of the globe and we know it will be forwarded to many more thousands. Hopefully, the now notorious Mick Davis himself will also receive it. An achievement? Maybe, but we have a disquieting thought, are these English Jews so embarrassed and ashamed of Israel’s actions as they perceive them, so entrenched in their twisted ideas, so intent on showing how fair-minded they are when it comes to the subject of Israel, that they won’t even take the time to read it? Are their minds so completely made up that they don’t want to be confused with the facts?

We also have another disquieting thought, had we remained in the U.K. and not made aliya to Jerusalem, as we did, over 25 years ago, would we also have become ashamed of Israel and embarrassed by our association with this courageous little country? We would like to think not but who knows, the misinformation that spews out daily from the British media and the BBC in particular, is very powerful and convincing stuff.

Yours sincerely,

Norman & Lola Cohen
Joint Chairmen
The British Israel Group. (BIG)

The Gloves Are Off

By Katie Green 13-12-10

To our Diaspora brethren: When it comes to criticizing Israel, there are areas you cause grave offense, and others where your input is welcome.

For a couple of years now, I’ve thought of writing an article called “The gloves are off.” But I delayed because I didn’t want the gloves to be off, and even if they were off, I didn’t want to be the one to state that they were. But now they are off, and the person who really helped us admit it is Mick Davis, chairman of the UJIA in the UK.

In a recent speech, Davis berated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for “lacking the courage to take the steps” to advance the peace process, adding: “I don’t understand the lack of strategy in Israel.”

He also predicted an “apartheid state” unless Israel is able to achieve a two-state solution.

His remarks caused a furor in the UK Jewish community, with many prominent Jews in public positions defending his remarks, noting that it was high time “that honest and open discussions” about Israel took place in the public arena. Other Jewish leaders were chagrined or irritated, and issued mixed statements, while only a very few – most notably Jonathan Hoffman of the Zionist Federation and Lord Stanley Kalms – professed outright indignation.

Davis’s comments are disturbing because of who he is. As chairman of the UJIA, he has devoted much time and energy to raising funds for Israel. Yet he still used this language in a public forum. This means that a growing desire to openly criticize Israel is moving from the fringes of the Jewish community into the mainstream. This is the new discussion, and arguments about whether it should or shouldn’t be suppressed, are moot. It’s out there and it’s gaining momentum.

I’M ASSUMING that as a UK-born Israeli who has spent 25 years living, working, voting and paying taxes here, I can be part of this discussion. After all, if we’re going to be honest and open, it’s best to get a lot of stuff which hasn’t been articulated on the Israeli side out on the table.

But before I do this, I’m going to say that if your love of Israel is unconditional, if you’ve come to the conclusion that Israelis are pretty much doing the best they can and are paying a high price to do so, you can skip this article.

But if you’re thinking of joining this new chorus of public criticism, here are the two things that I would like to put across to you.

One: There are areas of criticism where you cause grave offense, and others where your input is necessary and welcome.

In the welcome category are issues which affect Jews everywhere, and where I would be glad to see a concerted joint effort and involvement in Israeli affairs. For example, I don’t see the Western Wall as Israeli only but as a Jewish historical and spiritual heritage that concerns us all. I’m increasingly alarmed at the haredi takeover of this site, and would love for women of all denominations to mount a campaign to claim equal and respectable space, freedom of worship and visual access to the men’s section. Similarly, the behavior of the rabbinical courts in matters of marriage, divorce and conversion affect all of us. I think it perfectly legitimate for there to be loud and furious debate on these issues across the globe.

I would also love to get more of your input and expertise for our school systems and community centers. The achievements of Diaspora communities in Jewish education and engagement, communal cohesion and responsibility and religious diversity and creativity could greatly benefit Israeli society, and have indeed already begun to do so.

But there are some in the UK Jewish community who seem increasingly inclined to level criticism in the grave offense category, on the subject of our conflict with the Palestinians, the finalization of our borders and our responses to provocation from Hamas and Hizbullah. On these issues, I believe you have no right to speak at all, mainly because you have not risked your lives and futures, and the lives and futures of your children, for Israel’s security. We may be equals in many things, but in this matter we are not, because we have not invested equally. We are separated by a vale of tears and an ocean of blood, mostly very young blood.

In my particular case, I’m separated from you guys by two Lebanon wars, two Gulf wars, two intifadas, two children who’ve completed army service and a third about to begin, seven general elections, four unsuccessful peace processes and five terrorist organizations operating in my region. So I don’t believe that your understanding of our region is as nuanced as er… mine.

I do see that these security issues affect your comfort level in British society. But the government can hardly be expected to make tough decisions on the basis of that. Anyway, I think we’ve each chosen our level of discomfort.

You chose the UK, so you get to squirm when the BBC reports, as a deliberate lie, that there’s been a massacre in Jenin. My neighbors and I, on the other hand, chose Israel, so we get to send our sons into Jenin, hoping against hope that they’ll come out again. Which they sometimes don’t (or do, but as paraplegics).

This is why the remarks you fling in our direction leave us astonished and dismayed.

We may not make a big deal of it, but we walk in shadow.

The chief rabbi of the UK, Lord Jonathan Sacks, understands this perfectly well. In a recent piece on the United Synagogue website, he wrote that the debate that has erupted over Davis’s remarks is “deflecting us from the real issue,” which is that Israel’s enemies – Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran – refuse to recognize its existence as a matter of religious principle. And as long as this is the case, he says, “there can be no peace, merely a series of staging posts on the way to a war that will not end until there is no Jewish state at all.”
THERE ARE other areas where the offense is not grave, just annoying. Take the issue of African refugees pouring across the border with Egypt in their tens of thousands.

“How can we not, as Jews, have compassion for asylum seekers?” says UK resident Hannah Weisfeld in the Jewish Quarterly. Well, let’s see – the government has just allocated millions of shekels for the construction of a new transit center for these illegal immigrants.

I pay 50 percent income tax, so with the greatest compassion in the world, I’m not sure I want to finance their long-term support. But no doubt, when the numbers in these temporary dwellings have swelled beyond the originally intended figures, and this holding facility becomes nothing more than an overcrowded slum, Hannah will be campaigning for the food and health and shelter of these immigrants, and she’ll be campaigning for me to pay for it.

Last year, my son spent three months of his IDF service on the Egyptian border, dragging the bodies of dead and wounded refugees to waiting ambulances because they’d been shot on the Egyptian side. One Eritrean, faint from hunger and exhaustion, sank to his knees and wrapped his arms around Yonatan’s legs when he discovered he’d reached the Israeli side. This refugee presumably hadn’t listened to CNN or BBC, so he didn’t know that Israel was a hotbed racism and apartheid. He only knew that nobody on the Israeli side would try to kill him, and that he’d get a hospital bed for his wounds and food and shelter for his family, before being released into Eilat to look for a job.

Of course this issue is ethically complex.

It’s just that I find the need of Jews living outside Israel to enlighten me on those complexities incredibly patronizing. What is their investment level in this social and political dilemma? If it’s zero, then that’s what the opinions are worth.

POINT TWO: What is the motivation behind this need for public criticism? This is a very important factor in the debate. I can castigate a friend or sibling if I believe her behavior to be selfish or unreasonable, but if I do so in public, I will only humiliate and wound her. I would be mad to think that making her look ridiculous in front of others, and permanently damaging their perception of her is going to produce good results. In fact, I would only do such a thing if my friend’s wellbeing were not the primary object. I might want to hurt her and put her down for complicated reasons of my own.

I speak for myself and many other Israelis when I say that for us, public criticism by UK Jews is suspect. For one, your call for “openness” has escalated at exactly the same rate as the delegitimization and demonization of Israel by the British establishment. This vindictive ostracizing of Israel has resulted in an extreme lowering of comfort levels for the Jewish community, as we’ve agreed. But should it result in your shouting to join that vindictiveness? And if you join in, does it increase your status and respectability in British society? My feeling is that it certainly does. So you’ll forgive me if I doubt the integrity of your backing the shrill accusations of the British government and media.

I actually think this discomfort is an encouraging sign that the heart and soul of British Jewry is in good working order. If British Jews were not viscerally connected to Israel, the feeling would be one of apathy or contempt, not discomfort. But they are connected.

To so many of them, Israel is precious and important. When they land at Ben-Gurion Airport, their hearts are filled with belonging.

This is something we all share, we who live here and we who come to visit. To sever us from this profound recognition and unity in our psyche, to force us to feel that we have no choice but to expunge it, is to cripple us indeed. So my suggestion to you is don’t agree to be crippled. Hold your head high, take it on the chin, fight it like a lion or leave.

Where does that leave us, you and I? I personally would rather we did not go this route.

But if you would like to criticize Israel as much as you like, then I, by the same token, will feel free to criticize you as much as I like. We will call this new way of relating “tough love.”

We will use the two-directional model, instead of Diaspora Jews behaving as if their criticism is a lifesaving antibiotic, which Israel, the ever truculent child, refuses to swallow.

In conclusion, I’d like to invite Jonathan Hoffman, Lord Kalms and Chief Rabbi Sacks to dinner the next time they are in Beit Shemesh. In a crisis, it sure is nice to know who your friends are. As for poor Mick Davis, he will not get even one bite of my fabulous lasagna.

The writer is a filmmaker.

Israel Should Ban All 26 Former EU Leaders

Robin Shepherd – December 11th

European extremism against Israel reached a new low this week with a letter from 26 former top officials to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton calling for sanctions against Israel and the abandonment of a negotiated solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict in favour of a UN-imposed solution if Israel does not stop settlement building by April 2011. Ashton is signalling that there will be no change to current policy for the moment, but the tide in Europe is clearly now turning and the risk is that change along such lines is only a matter of time.

Former EU foreign policy supremo Javier Solana, best known on matters Jewish for suppressing a 2003 (EUMC) report outlining the growing problem of Muslim anti-Semitism in Europe, was among the signatories of the letter which was sponsored by former French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and former EU commissioner from Britain Chris Patten. Other notable signatories include Italy’s Romano Prodi and Giuliano Amato, Richard von Weizsaecker and Helmut Schmidt of Germany, Ireland’s Mary Robinson, Spain’s Felipe Gonzalez and Norway’s Thorvald Stoltenberg.

So, what to say about this? Mainly, Israel should stop pussy-footing around — ban each and every one of these people from entering the state of Israel or having any contact with Israeli embassy staff in their countries or anyone else’s. This is important for a number of reasons:

First, the 26 have launched an all out assault on Israel and Israel needs to respond. What European leaders fear more than anything is that they will be made irrelevant. By making this bunch persona non grata and isolating them, Israel will be sending a message that should the EU change tack along the lines the 26 are recommending, it will become as irrelevant to peace making in the Middle East as they are.

Second, Israel needs to make a very public statement against what amounts to a piece of unbridled bigotry. Let us restate the facts: it is the Palestinian side that refuses to negotiate, not Israel. It is the Palestinian side that has rejected two-state peace agreements since 1947 while Israel has accepted them. It is the Arab and Muslim states that refuse to recognise Israel, and not the other way around. The 26 signatories have thrown basic historical realities out of the window in order to sustain and support a bigoted anti-Israeli narrative.

Third, Europe has a long and sordid history of hostility to the Jews and this letter shows that the lessons simply haven’t been learned. The fact that two prominent Germans — former President Richard von Weizsaecker and former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt — are among the signatories is shameful. They should become the first two German leaders since the Second World War to be banned from Israel for hostility to the Jewish people.

Fourth, doing nothing will simply allow the problem to fester and grow. These people have the wind in their sails. Israel needs to take it out of them.

Of course, the State of Israel can and must choose its own policies. But the boycott movement is gathering strength and now has some very prominent allies. Surely a tougher line from Jerusalem is now in order.

Illuminating the Possibilities,0,5941958.story

One lesson of the Carmel fire in Israel is that enlightened cooperation is possible in the tense Middle East.
By Michael B. Oren
December 7, 2010

Hanukkah, which we celebrate this week, recalls the miracle of lights that burned for eight days. Israel, meanwhile, struggled to extinguish a forest fire raging out of control. Fanned by Santa Ana-type winds, the blaze engulfed the Carmel region of the Lower Galilee, claiming 42 lives, destroying communities, and consuming about 10,000 acres and more than 4 million trees. A country that has prevailed through successive wars and terrorist attacks, Israel had never before confronted such a devastating natural disaster. And we could not overcome it alone.

Admitting that was not easy for us. A self-reliant people who are renowned as first responders to disasters abroad — in earthquake-stricken Haiti and Turkey, for example, or in a Congolese village decimated by fire — we are accustomed to offering rather than requesting aid. And yet, as the Carmel fire spread, forcing 17,000 people from their homes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not stand on pride. "We live in a global world," he explained. "We give and receive help, and it's not shameful to ask."

Among the first to answer this call was President Obama. "This is what friends do for each other," he announced at the White House Hanukkah party last Thursday, and personally assured me that the administration would act immediately to "assist Israel in its hour of need." Consequently, the National Security Council headed an interagency task force that worked around the clock to locate and deliver fire retardant and the aircraft to disperse it. Teams of firefighters from across the United States were swiftly dispatched. On arrival in Afghanistan the next day, the president immediately checked on the operation's progress and personally updated the prime minister.

Our European and Mediterranean allies also mobilized their resources. Within 24 hours, Israelis could see Greek, Russian, British and Cypriot helicopters, together with French and Spanish planes, rushing to fight the inferno, while Israeli firefighters were joined by their counterparts from Croatia, Bulgaria and Azerbaijan.

Far more unexpected were the contributions from governments that are often critical of us.

Turkey, despite the strains in our relationship since the Gaza flotilla incident this year, sent two firefighting helicopters with an 11-man team, and fire engines and crews arrived from neighboring Arab countries. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, though still declining to return to peace talks, offered to help without hesitation and conveyed their condolences to the people of Israel. "A firefighter's job transcends borders," a Palestinian firefighter told an Israeli newspaper. "Our job is to save human life regardless of religion, nationality and politics."

Predictably, radicals such as Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh quickly ascribed the fire to "punishment from Allah." Four years after they were pummeled by rockets, Israeli neighborhoods are still targeted by 50,000 Hezbollah missiles, any one of which could ignite an inferno.

But this hatred should not overshadow the outpouring of goodwill and common humanity aroused by the fire. For Israelis, who sometimes feel isolated in the world and misunderstood, the international response to the conflagration gave us the rare opportunity to feel part of a caring global community. And for a Middle East plagued by constant tensions and upheaval, extinguishing the fire illuminated the possibilities of peace.

The victims of the fire — Jews, Arabs and Druze, along with the nation's highest-ranking female police officer, Ahuva Tomer, and Elad Riban, a 16-year-old volunteer — represented a cross-section of Israeli society. They were trying to rescue prison inmates, including convicted terrorists, caught in the blaze's path. Similarly, Israelis from all religious and ethnic backgrounds joined in combating the flames. Consequently, a fire that may have raged for weeks was contained in a matter of days.

Israel is investigating the causes and examining ways to prevent future disasters. We know that our adversaries in the Middle East still strive to cause us harm by unnatural means. Yet among the lessons of this tragedy is that friendship can blossom even in the most scorching conditions. The miracle of this Hanukkah is not that a fire lasted so long but rather that it was extinguished by enlightened cooperation.

Michael B. Oren is Israel's ambassador to the United States.

A Fair Press for Peace

By JPOST EDITORIAL 11/29/2010 06:49

The vast majority of local and international news outlets have so far refrained from reporting at all on Fatah’s hard-line declarations.

The Fifth Fatah Revolutionary Council did not have an auspicious beginning. Participants kicked off discussion by giving special honor to Amin al-Hindi, one of the masterminds of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of 11 Israeli athletes, who died earlier this year. What followed was sheer intransigence on the part of the 120-member Palestinian “congress,” which represents “moderate” Palestinian opinions – as opposed to the radical Islamic Hamas, which openly calls for using violence to bring about Israel’s demise.

After two days of meetings in Ramallah this weekend, Fatah, which makes up the backbone of the Palestinian Authority leadership, issued a resounding “no” to compromise, further dimming even the faintest hopes for a negotiated peace with Israel.

The Fatah council derogatorily rejected recognition of “the so-called Jewish state” or any “racist state based on religion.” It reasserted the “right of return” which, if implemented, would facilitate the end of a Jewish majority within the pre-1967 Green Line by allowing about four million Palestinian refugees and their offspring to settle in Israel proper.

Land swaps as part of a peace agreement were ruled out as well. Large settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, such as Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim and other cities located just over the Green Line, consisting of no more than five percent of the West Bank, where about 80% around 320,000 Jews live, must be uprooted and settlers must be expelled, it decided.

“Illegal settler gangs can’t be put on an equal footing with the owners of the lands and rights,” declared the council.

Israeli and US understandings, starting in December 2000 with the “Clinton parameters” and continuing with former US president George Bush’s declaration that any permanent peace deal would have to reflect the West Bank’s demographic realities, were effectively dismissed.

In what sounded more like a battle cry than a declaration, Fatah essentially articulated its intent to do everything short of relaunching an armed struggle to undermine the existence of the Jewish state.

THE FATAH council’s articulation of such an extremist position has far-reaching ramifications for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. That’s why Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh’s report on the council’s decisions appeared at the top of this newspaper’s front page on Sunday.

By bizarre contrast, the vast majority of local and international news outlets have so far refrained from reporting at all on Fatah’s hard-line declarations. While news media usually respond quickly and amply to steps taken by Israel that are perceived as potentially detrimental to the peace process, the silent treatment of the Fatah decisions reflects a media norm, in which Palestinian incitement and intransigence is often downplayed or completely ignored.

Just last Monday, for instance, this paper was the first to report on the PA Ministry of Information’s outlandish “study” claiming that the Western Wall, known to Muslims as Al- Buraq Wall, constitutes Wakf property and that “the Zionist occupation falsely and unjustly claims that it owns this wall.” Some other news outlets reported this several days later; others not at all.

Similarly, a survey commissioned by the Israel Project, indicating highly antagonistic Palestinian attitudes toward Israel, barely received media attention when it was released earlier this month.

Two-thirds of Palestinians living on the West Bank and Gaza agreed that “over time, Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state.” Sixty percent said that “the real goal should be to start with two states but then move it to all being one Palestinian state.” Fifty-six percent agreed that “we will have to resort to armed struggle again.”

When news reporters and editors fail to give the proper space to revelations of Palestinian extremism and intransigence, they help perpetuate prejudices against Israel. Not only is skewed journalism a betrayal of the profession and those who rely on it, in this case it hurts the peace process by untenably misrepresenting the imperative for compromise by the Palestinian leadership and their public, thereby dooming hopes for negotiated progress.

Palestinians must come to terms with the legitimacy of Jewish rights to sovereignty in this sliver of land if they are to internalize the need for compromise and thus walk the path to peace. That process of recognition requires the disseminating of an honest narrative by the Palestinian leadership.

And that, in turn, requires the international community to, first, understand accurately the nature of current Palestinian hostility to the notion of a legitimate Israel and, second, to impress on the leadership the need for change.

The extent of the challenge was made perfectly clear over the weekend by Fatah’s Revolutionary Council. Too bad that most of the world has not heard about it.
In response to the great interest Rev. Malcolm Hedding’s reply to Edwin Arrison’s biased and twisted article has generated among BIG subscribers, we are now sending out the Arrison article itself.

A number of Christian members on our mailing list have pointed out that the words, “Finally, a Christian Response,” were a little unfair, for which we apologise. There are indeed, many Evangelical Christians, in all parts of the world who are constantly speaking up for Israel. As an example, our friend Canon Andrew White, better known as The Vicar of Baghdad, stated recently that, “Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians are safe.”

We would like to take this opportunity of thanking all of you who read and pass on the BIG articles and to express our appreciation to those of you who respond personally, we very much enjoy getting to know our readership and renewing contact with old friends.

Best wishes,

Norman & Lola Cohen

Joint Chairmen
The British Israel Group (BIG)

Cape Argus 10 Nov 2010
Christians, our calling is to love and aid the suffering Palestinians

FOR MANY years, Christians have, on the whole, accepted the Israeli narrative in the Middle East crisis.

The first reason for this was compassion for those who suffered in the Holocaust, the complicity of many Christians in that genocide and the need not to make the same mistake again.
This position was solidified with the “Jesus was a Jew” narrative. The question is only now being asked about what kind of Jew he was and what kind of prophet he was, but linking Jesus and Judaism certainly cemented the above relationship.

The “Tours to Israel” movement, of course, also helped with Christians going on so called “pilgrimages” (often really just tours to heritage sites). These tours are conducted by Israeli guides and completely ignore the existence of the Palestinian people, let alone the Palestinian Christians.
It must be one of the biggest ironies that the many Christians who have gone to Israel have rarely interacted with Christians there.

For Christians, who have a strong “we who are many are one body” theology, this is particularly shocking. But slowly, Christians around the world are waking up to the fact that besides the dead stones in Israel, there are also living stones – the Palestinian Christians. The “Jesus was a Jew” narrative is slowly being replaced by “Jesus was a Palestinian Jew” narrative.
This view sees Jesus as not only being on the side of the marginalised but having been one of them.
What this means is that the solidarity Christians felt towards the Jewish people during and after the Holocaust was quite correct – but today the suffering Palestinians are the ones needing our support.
This awakening also leads to other awakenings: Christians always thought that this was simply a fight between Jews and Muslims (and often we took the side of the Jews), but suddenly we are realising that there are also Christians involved, and the Christians are Palestinian. But even if there was not one Christian in Palestine, we would still have to ask: whose side is God on? And inevitably we would come to the conclusion that God is on the side of those who suffer.
Some might want to argue that the Israelis are the ones who are suffering, but that is not the truth.
Suddenly Christians are beginning to question their own faith. What do we mean by the elect people of God? What do we mean by the covenant or covenants? How does the Jesus story intersect with what we call the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible? There are even deeper questions to be asked: were the promises to Isaac the same as the promises to Hagar and Ishmael? And are we not really all part of one faith tradition that emphasises truth, justice and love? And if we are, to what extent does the situation in Israel and Palestine conform to these values?

The Christians in Palestine have written what is called the Palestine Kairos document, drawing inspiration from the South African Kairos document of 1985. In it they raise many of the questions above, and call for commitment to a theology that leads to life rather than one that leads to death. They also call for non-violent actions against the state of Israel by the international community. The call by Archbishop-Emeritus Tutu to Cape Town Opera is in line with this wish expressed by the Christians in Palestine. The fact is that if we do not want to see even more violence in Israel and Palestine, we need to call for and support non-violent actions. Failing to do so would only encourage those who are using the tools of violence.

What we also have come to realise is that some Christians (in fact many millions of them, based particularly in the US) have a particular understanding of the Bible – and, in some of their most extreme views, there must be a war in Israel to egg on the Armageddon.

This is partly what is behind the call to invade Iran. This is also what is behind the movement to destroy the environment and consume as much as possible. The attitude is this: why care for the environment if it is going to be destroyed in any case in the above scenario, and this destruction is in any case part of “God’s plan for the world”?

Thank God for the Palestinian Christians who have called us to a theology of life and of love.
The Rev Edwin Arrison is an Anglican priest and Board member of the Centre for Christian Spirituality in Cape Town. Comments can be sent


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finally, a Christian Reaction

Anglicans, Methodists and numerous other Christian organization are jumping on the band wagon to bash Israel. The comments made in their articles are so far removed from truth that one wonders just what does the Christian religion stand for.

One of the latest diatribes comes from the Rev Edwin Arrison, an Anglican priest and Board member of the Centre for Christian Spirituality in Cape Town, South Africa.

Such were the irrational claims stated by Rev Arrison, that Malcom Hedding, the Director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem ( )was motivated to write a considered reply.His letter below puts the record straight from a Christian perspective about life for the Christian community here in Israel. This is a community that is growing consistently year on year, with full freedom to practice their religion unlike any other country in our region.

Dear Rev. Edwin Arrison I recently read your article in the Mail and Guardian. Living in Israel and deeply engaged in these matters I was consequently amazed that you could so easily blur the line between fact and fantasy. We all believe in a free press, but this also means that we should protect this freedom by also believing in and ensuring a factual press!

Many, if not all of your assertions were untrue and at best sweeping generalizations. For instance Jesus was not born in Palestine, according to the biblical record, but in Bethlehem of Judea. He was consequently never a Palestinian with an identity other than Jewish. To suggest otherwise is to contradict the clear biblical record. Actually, the Bible nowhere refers to the region of Jesus' birth and ministry as Palestine. You should know this. Jesus was born to a Jewish family, is of the line of David, was circumcised on the eighth day, had a Bar Mitzvah, lived under the law and was acknowledged as a Rabbi. You can't be more Jewish than this and consequently Paul asserts that our faith has Jewish roots. Palestinian? I think not!

You furthermore assert that Christian tourism to Israel is Israel centric to the detriment of Palestinians. Where is your burden of proof? Some of the biggest tour companies in Israel are Arab Christian owned. They have Arab/Palestinian guides and specialize in Holyland Pilgrimage. If you know anything about the tourist industry here this is a term for tours that do not emphasize Israel, but specialize in Christian sites and the relevant Christian communities in the land. This is a huge sector within the travel industry of which, apparently, you know nothing!

I am responsible for organizing Israel's biggest annual tourism event. This involves an eight day event that brings thousands of evangelical Christians from over a hundred nations to Jerusalem. There is nothing bigger in Israel. We also bring Christians to Israel throughout the year, so we know something about this market. At the annual event in the Jerusalem Convention Center we have plenary sessions that introduce our participants to Arab and Palestinian Christians. We also arrange bus tours to their respective communities so that our participants can meet them personally and learn to know their struggles and hopes. Therefore your assertions are not based on fact but sadly propaganda!

Essentially your difficulty is that you don't live in Israel and therefore you have no understanding of the facts on the ground. You therefore express real concern for the Palestinian Christians but totally ignore the fact that they have been and are brutally persecuted by their Arab/Palestinian Muslim neighbors. In Gaza the Muslim/ Palestinians lynched them on the streets and beheaded the Director if the Bible Society there. The remaining Christian leaders fled to Bethlehem where they are now in hiding.

Bethlehem itself, once a Christian village, is entirely Muslim. The very small Christian community is treated with disdain and disrespect and some of their courageous leaders have been shot. Of course you write nothing of this and will not because it does not suit your narrative. We know all of this because we are engaged with them and have poured millions of Shekels into their communities to help them. I wonder how much money you have invested in their well being?You further write that Jesus is on the side of the weak. You also imply by this that Israel is their oppressor. On what factual grounds do you make such a sweeping statement? I travel all through Israel and the Palestinian Authority and I have yet to see the poverty levels one witnesses in South Africa. Millions of people live in shanty towns, 40% are unemployed, crime is out of control and the country is the rape capital of the world. It appears that you have a bigger problem on your doorstep. Didn't Jesus say something about taking the plank out of your own eye? For sure Israel has made mistakes and there are serious issues to be addressed, but to highlight the plight of the Palestinians without reference to Muslim persecution against them is dishonest. Why would one do this? Because it is both politically correct and popular to bash Israel.

Actually, when I last read the Bible, I discovered that Jesus is no respecter of persons and He loves us all the same. Indeed, if anything, He calls on all men, rich and poor, regardless of race, creed or national affiliation to repent and warns that failure to do so will lead to destruction. (John 3:16) I suppose this annoying part of the Bible is reserved for evangelical Christians like me who still believe in the 39 Articles of the Anglican Church!

Then there is your smear against the American Church. You unashamedly imply that they serve mammon and thirst for Armageddon. You further assert that this group is in the millions. I actually have a home in the USA and have preached in all Christian traditions throughout that country. I have rarely found this theological position. I do not deny that this theology exists, but only a tiny minority hold it. You demean the Body of Christ in that great country by suggesting that they live for mammon and long for conflict. Shame on you! Indeed no other nation has invested in world missions to the extent that American Christians have. The official statistics prove that they have been and are the most generous people on earth!

And then concerning the weak: Over the last ten tears the Muslims of North Sudan murdered two million Christians in the South. These dear Christians, many of them Anglican, endured a genocide that is unspeakable. Many of them were actually crucified! They produced a DVD called, "we thought God forgot us." The question is why? The answer is simple, because the wider Church left them to die and to die alone! Most Christians are not bothered and know nothing of it. These are the weak and we have all neglected them and have not stood up or done anything to defend them. What have you done? The problems of the Palestinian Christians pale into insignificance compared to this and this, friend, is where you need to find your prophetic voice, or is it more comfortable to bash Israel?

Actually, we are deeply involved in South Sudan. We have poured millions of Dollars into their well being and, as of writing, my daughter, who lives in Israel, is in Juba the capital of South Sudan. She tells me that there are only four other agencies there; three evangelical aid groups from America and a Jewish relief organization. Isn't that interesting?

I would very much like to know the relief programs that you have put in place to help these weak Christians. After all you are deeply concerned for Christian spirituality, you live in Africa and you are looking at the wholesale murder of the Church. Today, the Christians of Egypt have been plundered and murdered. It's all over the media. I sincerely trust that you equally stand up for them. After all these Christians are the ancient Coptic Church that goes back to the early Church. Who will be their voice?

Best regards,
Malcolm Hedding
South African born Minister of the Assemblies of God of Southern African and outspoken critic of the Apartheid regime and presently serving as the Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kafr Bara school for autistic Arab children opens

By RUTH EGLASH 09/02/2010 05:12

The first school for autistic Arab children in the center of the country officially opened its doors Wednesday with a ceremony that included a visit from Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog.

The Center for Autism in Kafr Bara, near Petah Tikva, is run with assistance from the Education and Social Welfare ministries, as well as support from the local municipality and Alut, the Israeli Society for Autistic Children, among others. It will provide treatment and educational programs for children aged three through 21.“All children, including those that suffer from this type of disability, should be given the chance to become part of the community,” Kafr Bara Mayor Mahmoud Assi said in an interview Wednesday morning. “If they are not afforded this opportunity they will be alive, but not part of the world around them.”

Assi pointed out that there is a severe lack of awareness about autism in Israel’s Arab community and that a stigma exists surrounding the condition, which is also known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder. It includes impairments in social interaction, imaginative activity, verbal and nonverbal communication skills.“Many parents are not aware of what resources are available to them or that a center such as ours even exists,” he said. “If they do not know that there is a center to help them then these children will basically remain ignored.”Information published by the new center, which started operating informally several months ago, stated that 14 autistic children from the surrounding area attend the school daily. The children just ended a two-week vacation.

While there are more than 60 similar facilities run by the Education Ministry countrywide, only a handful are aimed specifically at the Arab sector, said a spokeswoman for Alut. She pointed out that Alut runs family centers that provide similar treatments and after-school programs for those in various frameworks.

A social worker Mohammad Igbaria, who heads Alut’s outreach to the Arab community, said that along with poor awareness and stigmas surrounding autism, there is also a serious lack of Arab professionals working in this field.“There are very few Arabic speakers available to work [with autistic children] and that means there is a big gap between the Jewish and Arab sectors in helping those with autism,” he continued.

Kafr Bara’s mayor also highlighted the problem, saying that while the center is receiving support from the government and from Alut, it is still short on many resources, including qualified Arabic-speaking professionals to help the children and their parents. “We need to increase the staff and either widen the government’s involvement or find a charity to increase funding for this project,” he said.“I have no personal experience with autism but I believe that every child, especially those with a disability, should be helped as much as possible and therefore it’s important to encourage these projects,” Assi said.


Dear BIG Subscribers and Friends,

Firstly, we want to thank all of you who continue to read and circulate the articles that we send out each week, some of you, we know send on to very large numbers of friends and family. This is also a good opportunity to thank Stuart Palmer who has added the task of mailing the BIG articles each week to his already hectic hasbara schedule and to Andrew Balcombe and Ian Solomon who are always on the alert for suitable articles and constantly give us the benefit of their wise advice. Our thanks go too to veteran journalist, Tom Gross who makes a point of suggesting those of his articles that he thinks we might find useful and who always answers any queries by return.

Regrettably, the persistent anti-Israel reporting from all quarters of the globe and the constant attempt to legitimise Israel make work in the field of public diplomacy increasingly difficult but we are constantly encouraged by the positive support we do have, especially from the Christian world. This year, BIG has continued to entertain Christian groups from many countries who have been visiting Jerusalem and we have been greatly moved by their great love for Israel and the Jewish people which manifests itself in prayer, financial support for Israel’s needy and in educating other Christians about Israel. Here we would like to express our thanks to the host families who have welcomed these wonderful people into their homes on behalf of BIG.

We have to remain positive, however bleak the outlook seems, and continue to pursue BIG’s only object, that of promoting the good image of Israel. We believe that truth will out and that eventually the world will understand the reality of the situation in the Middle East. When we lived in the U.K. 25 years ago, Israel was still the flavour of the month and our many non-Jewish friends, work colleagues and neighbours regarded it with admiration and respect. “How is our side doing asked a neighbour during the Yom Kippur War, “Don’t worry, Mrs. Cohen, our side will win,” said a member of the school staff, to Lola. Due to the BBC and so much biased and twisted reporting in the media in general, this attitude has largely changed but we have faith that one day it will return and that organisations such as BIG will become redundant. Your participation in our work is helping to hasten that eagerly awaited day.

We wish you all a healthy and happy New Year and Chag Sameach.

Norman & Lola Cohen
Joint Chairmen
British Israel Group (BIG)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Yes there are poor areas of Gaza too

There has been circulating widely in the last week, photos, ostensibly from Gaza, purporting to show a modern State, quite the opposite from what we are led to believe from reports by the BBC or in the Guardian and other newspapers.

These photos had NO context and NO description and were highly suspect.

From research by Tom Gross, a correspondent whose articles we have used in the past, it appears that some of the photos are actually from Damascus or Beirut, and one we know for certain is from a beach in Ashdod.

Below are Tom’s comments.

IT is strongly recommended NOT to send on the photos in the original e-mail with the title “Can you guess the location of these photographs?”


Notes from Tom Gross

Yes, there are poor areas of Gaza too. There are also plenty of slums in Paris (and London and Rome and New York), but the media tend to focus their pictures on the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysee instead.

Not so in Gaza where many journalists (who in private, even more than in public, disparage Israel in every way) are doing their best to paint a distorted picture of the economic situation there, showing off the worst possible aspects -- and using words like “devastated economy” (BBC) and “dire humanitarian situation” (Sky news) -- in order to fool everyone from the common reader right up to politicians such as British Prime Minister David Cameron into thinking conditions in Gaza resemble some kind of prison camp.

Such media distortion is unhelpful; to say the least, in helping policy makers formulate good policy for the region for the benefit of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

You would never know from the media coverage that people in Gaza are by many economic and health indicators, on average better off than those in Turkey, from where the most controversial of the recent “humanitarian aid” flotillas came. For example, in Turkey life expectancy is 72.23 and infant mortality is 24.84 per 1,000 births. In Gaza, life expectancy is 73.68 and infant mortality is 17.71 per 1,000 births.-- Tom Gross

For genuine pictures of Gaza, please see

The Islamic University of Gaza:

Al-Quds University:

The Gaza Grand Palace Hotel:

Democracy is flagging in both the Palestinian Territories

Aug 12th 2010 Gaza and Ramallah

The Economist

HANNA NASIR, the head of Palestine’s Central Elections Commission, is not prone to expletives. But the Christian nuclear physicist and former dean of Palestine’s leading university was full of them when the cabinet of the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad (pictured above left), who runs the West Bank, recently cancelled the municipal elections he was organising. If anything, his rival prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas (pictured on the right), is even less keen to put his movement’s popularity to the test.

It was the third election the Palestinian Authority (PA) has annulled in less than a year. The terms of the PA’s presidency, parliament and municipalities have all now expired. With no date for fresh polls and in constitutionally uncharted waters, officials increasingly rule by fiat. How far, bemoans Mr Nasir, has Palestine fallen from the heights of 2005 and 2006, when he ran elections that international observers hailed as being among the fairest in the Middle East. Instead of building a democratic state, the PA is fast on its way to creating just another Arab autocracy.

Western governments which bankroll it do not seem unduly worried. Most of them view the PA as a necessary bulwark against an Islamist electoral tide, which in 2006 swept Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, into power in the Palestinian territories. Instead of accepting the Islamist victory, Western governments diverted funds from the PA’s democratic institutions into the PA security forces under the control of Mahmoud Abbas, the PA’s previously (and fairly) elected president, whose secular Fatah party Hamas had beaten in the 2006 general election. When, the year after, Hamas chased Fatah out of Gaza, Western governments invested in an unelected emergency government established in the West Bank under Mr Fayyad, a technocrat appointed by Mr Abbas though not in hock to Fatah.

Western governments have hailed Mr Fayyad for his efficient rule. In contrast to Yasser Arafat, the PA’s capricious but charismatic first leader, Mr Fayyad has made the wheels of bureaucracy turn smoothly. His well-managed service-delivery is lubricated by Western largesse but also by the collection of electricity bills. Still, a growing chorus of Palestinian sceptics say they have yet to see evidence of the institutions Mr Fayyad has promised to build.

Nor do they see tangible signs of his promised state. Palestine’s biggest symbol of sovereignty, its parliament, has been emasculated. For three years Mr Fayyad’s government has rebuffed efforts to revive it and put legislation to parliamentary scrutiny. “The focus on Fayyad’s personal virtues has obscured a series of unhealthy political developments, and mistakes honest administration for sound politics,” says Nathan Brown of George Washington University in Washington, DC.

The result is that in both Palestine’s cloven halves, governance is remarkably similar. Both Hamas and Mr Fayyad rule by decree, merging executive and legislative arms into one. Both promise elections sometime in the future but in the meantime round up their opponents and silence unlicensed independent media outlets. As a signal of their intention to rule without the restraints of impending elections, Mr Fayyad has a two-year plan for government; Hamas has a ten-year one. Both try to replace popular participation with populism. Mr Fayyad ostentatiously parades in public, telling his people not to buy products made in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Mr Haniyeh, his Hamas counterpart in Gaza, takes to the pulpit in mosques and personally dishes out dollars to his beleaguered people.

In both parts of the Palestinian territories, most people accept their rulers’ decrees without a murmur, for fear they may otherwise be thumped. If they are lucky, dissenters are invited to tea with local intelligence officers. Repeat offenders are sent to prison. Applicants for a government job, such as a post as a teacher, must get a certificate of good conduct—in the West Bank from local security officials and in Gaza from the local mosque. So most people are wary of stepping out of line.

But such constraints have sown apathy in both Palestine’s halves. The main political factions either boycotted Mr Nasir’s local elections or were too disorganised to mount effective campaigns. Protests after their cancellation were meek and brief. Opinion polls say most Palestinians are more or less willing to put up with their muzzled lot, since they have been exhausted by their own intifadas (uprisings), by Israeli repression and by periodic chaos.

Western policymakers, now straining to get direct talks to resume between Israel and the PA, with luck in the next few weeks, seem in no mood to promote a new round of elections that could lead to another triumph for Hamas. Fatah, the faction they favour, is fractious and disorganised. Faced with Egypt’s proposal for a new caretaker government to succeed the rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza and to prepare for elections there, the American administration and the European Union have both balked. “The last thing many in Europe want is for Hamas to regain an executive role in the West Bank,” says a European official. “We prefer division and no elections to reconciliation and elections.”

Instead, some appear to favour grafting the model that prevails in Jordan, where King Abdullah intermittently suspends parliament and rules by decree, but maintains stability, refuses to threaten Israel and listens as keenly to his foreign backers as he does to his own people. Egypt may even have urged the PA to halt its local elections.

But such regional policies have drawbacks. Keeping the status quo means putting off the task of reuniting the West Bank and Gaza and building a single Palestine state. With scant hope of peaceful change through elections, challengers inevitably consider other, more violent, options. “We had a choice of seeking power by democracy or revolution,” says Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza. Like most Palestinians, his faith in democratic change has been undermined by Western-backed efforts to overturn or ignore the results when Hamas won in 2006. The ascent of Mr Fayyad, whose party won only two of the Palestinian parliament’s 132 seats in that election, has taught other aspirants that the ballot box is not the only way to the top.

Mr Fayyad is only 58, but his list of rivals, some of them armed, is long. And contenders are already baying to replace the PA’s increasingly frail president, Mr Abbas, now 75, who often says he wants to step down. Succession in Palestine may yet come by appointment, palace coup or something even bloodier, rather than by the ballot box.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Demonizing Israel is bad for the Palestinians

MUDAR ZAHRAN 08/01/2010 05:53

The negative focus on Israel by the global media has harmed the Palestinians’ interests for decades.

Since the establishment of the
State of Israel, the international media have been unhesitant in criticizing the Jewish state on almost everything. This has evolved into a media culture by itself, to the point that many internationally renowned newspapers would have a button labelled “Israel” or “Israeli-Arab conflict” on their Web sites including very little positive content about Israel. Media hostility toward Israel has been mainly focused on its military operations and, in more quiet times, on the living conditions of the Palestinians in Israel.Amazingly enough, the international media, and particularly the Western ones, pay very little attention to the conditions of the Palestinians living in Arab countries, despite the extreme oppression they have been enduring for decades in most Arab countries.

These Palestinians do not have someone to speak for them in the global media, possibly because a news story about countries other than Israel is less interesting or “sexy” by media standards. This tendency to blame Israel for everything has lead to the development of numerous myths about the situation of the Palestinian there that have provided an excuse to purposely ignore and compromise the human rights of the Palestinian in many Arab countries.THE EXAMPLES for that are plentiful and sometimes cross the line into tragic comedy. While the world is crying over the Israel-imposed blockade on Gaza, the media, for some unknown reason, choose to deliberately ignore the conditions of the Palestinians living in camps in Lebanon.Lebanon, a country with some of the most hostile forces to Israel, has been holing up Palestinians inside camps for almost 30 years. Those camps do not have any foundations of livelihood or even sanitation and the Palestinians living there are not allowed access to basics such as buying cement to enlarge or repair homes for their growing families. Furthermore, it is difficult for them to work legally, and are even restricted from going out of their camps at certain hours. Compare this to the fact that Palestinian laborers were still able to go to work every day in Israel while Hamas was carrying out an average of one suicide bombing per week a few years ago, and until recently launching missiles daily on southern Israel. Not to mention the fact that Israel allows food items and medications into Gaza if handled through the Palestinian Authority.

The Lebanese atrocities toward the Palestinians have been tolerated by the international community, not only by the media. Today, while some Israeli military commanders have to think twice, in fear of legal consequences, before they visit London or Brussels, well-known Lebanese leaders who had directly participated in mass killings of Palestinian civilians, during and after the Lebanese civil war, are becoming world-respected political figures – Nabih Berri, for example, the leader of Amal Shi’ite militia who enforced a multi-year siege on Palestinian camps, cutting water access and food supplies to them. The Palestinians underBerri’s siege were reported to be consuming rats and dogs to survive.

Nonetheless, he has been the undisputed speaker of the Lebanese parliament for a long time. He travels frequently to Europe and criticizes Israel for its “crimes against the Palestinians” on every occasion.MANY OTHER Arab countries are no different than Lebanon in their ill-treatment and discrimination against the Palestinians. Why do the media choose to ignore those and focus only on Israel? While the security wall being built by Israel has become a symbol of “apartheid” in the global media, they almost never address the actual walls and separation barriers that have been isolating Palestinian refugee camps in Arab countries for decades.While Palestinians targeted by the IDF are mostly fighters pledging war on Israel, the world swiftly overlooked the Sabra and Shatila massacre in which Lebanese Christian and Shi’ite militiamen butchered thousands of Palestinian women and children. Unsurprisingly, the international media accused Israel of being responsible for the massacre, despite the fact that live testimonies aired by Al-Jazeera satellite television a few years ago show massacre survivors confirming that IDF commanders and soldiers had nothing to do with the killing.

The demonization of Israel by the global media has greatly harmed the Palestinians’ interests for decades and covered up Arab atrocities against them. Furthermore, demonizing Israel has been well-exploited by several Arab dictatorships to direct citizens’ rage against Israel instead of their regimes and also to justify any atrocities they commit in the name of protecting their nations from “the evil Zionists.”This game has served some of the most notorious Arab dictatorships, and still does today, as any opposition is immediately labelled “a Zionist plot.”This model had served Gamal Abdel Nasser in ruling Egypt with an iron fist until he died, and was the main line for Saddam Hussein, who was promoting that “Iraq and Palestine are one identical case” in his last years in power.The global media must be fair in addressing the Palestinians’ suffering in Arab countries and must stop demonizing Israel. It should start focusing on the broader conditions of the Palestinians in the Middle East region.There is much to see.

The writer, a Jordanian of Palestinian heritage, is a researcher at the University of Bedfordshire.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Albert the Alligator and the British Ambassador

By Barry Rubin

August 1, 2010

Once upon a time in an intellectual galaxy now seemingly far away, liberals and conservatives shared a common view. There were the forces of democracy and the forces of totalitarianism (or, if you prefer, authoritarianism) that threatened the world, took away freedom, and held back both economic and social development. The goal of Western foreign policy was to help those favoring liberty against the tyrants and would-be tyrants.

Naturally, there were different views about how to do this, for example should some dictatorships be backed against those deemed worse, but the basic template was the same.

Then came a turning point which can be symbolized by a line in Walt Kelly's comic-strip "Pogo." A dialogue balloon destined to shake the world: "We have met the enemy," said either Pogo the possum or Albert the alligator, "and he is us." Kelly later wrote that he originated this line in 1953 in an essay opposing McCarthyism but it really took off in a 1972 cartoon, perfectly timed for the "1960s," the era whose ideas rule us today in much of the West.

The sentence was a parody of Oliver Hazard Perry's message-"We have met the enemy and they are ours"-describing his naval victory during the War of 1812. So what had once been a triumphant shout of American victory was transmuted in a post-Pogo world to symbolize a vitriolic yell of self-induced anti-Americanism.

And so if there are evil forces in the world, they are said either not to be evil at all (mislabeled as so by false Western propaganda) or were only made to behave that way by our (Western, American, democratic, capitalist, etc) sins. In other words, the guilty party is the democratic victim whose bad behavior created the monsters. In this spirit, a supposedly great American intellectual claimed America was the cancer of the world. Formerly, it had been known as the last, best hope of humanity.

How often do we see this worldview evinced nowadays? After September 11, America was said to be the cause of the terrorism that struck it. After the bloody July 7 attacks on British mass transport, a top British intelligence official said the terrorism happened due to Britain's involvement in the Iraq war. President Barack Obama has made this a constant theme, most recently putting the Turkish trend toward Islamism (without admitting it exists) on the shoulders of European states that didn't admit Turkey into the EU.

So nowadays, the most common way of dealing with radicalism, repression, terrorism, and such things in the Third World is to blame it on democratic states so often victimized by such issues.

The latest contribution to this genre comes from British ambassador to Israel Tom Phillips who said Israel's sanctions' regime on the Gaza Strip "was breeding radicalism."

He claimed it had driven "Gaza into a Hamas-controlled tunnel economy, and the Palestinian Gaza private sector has been almost completely destroyed....Young boys on the streets [have had] no role models apart from the Hamas guy in the black shiny uniform on the street corner...creating, in psychological terms, another generation of people that are not going to feel that friendly about Israel."

The message is that the problem is completely due to "us." The other side doesn't actually exist. It has no history, no worldview, no ideology, and no goals. The "other side" is merely a blank screen or mirror, reflecting back what we do.

This is, of course, a racist and imperialist vision. It denies the others any culture or history or mentality of their own. If one is only a victim always, one has no volition, higher intelligence, or ability to affect history.

Can somebody just be a sincere revolutionary Islamist or radical nationalist who wants to seize state power, wipe you out, and implement his own program for achieving utopia?

The truth can be found by examining the sequence of events. For instance, Islamist Iran is not radical because it has been isolated; rather, it has been isolated because of its radical behavior. Same thing with Syria.

In the case of the Gaza Strip, the publicly known facts should be recalled. Let's count the number of times Hamas was treated generously and not driven toward radicalism.

The participation in elections of Hamas in Palestinian elections was clearly illegal, since that group did not accept the Oslo Accords, recognize Israel, or cease using terrorism. Yet despite all of this, the United States actually urged, and Israel accepted, its participation. (1)

When Hamas won the elections, neither the United States nor Israel tried to intervene or reverse the results. Again, they didn't "drive" Hamas into radicalism by denying it that electoral victory. (2) True, the Palestinian Authority tried for a while to hang on, but in the end it signed a power-sharing agreement with Hamas. (3) But then Hamas staged a coup, killed fellow Palestinians, and seized power. Yet even then there was no move by Israel or the United States to unseat the new regime. (4)

After repeated Hamas attacks on Israel and Israeli retaliation a ceasefire was signed. There were restrictions on supplies but they regularly flowed into Gaza. (5) There was, for example, a border industrial area that provided jobs for Gazans from Israeli companies until Hamas attacked it.

Finally, near the end of 2008, Hamas tore up the ceasefire and launched a massive attack on Israel. Israel defended itself. After the resulting war in which Western countries made sure Hamas would not be overthrown (6) the sanctions' regime we've seen until recently was implemented by both Egypt (which feared Hamas's revolutionary Islamism and status as an Iranian client) and Israel.

This is not a picture of Gazans being driven to radicalism, it is a story of how the consequences of a radical policy unfolded, forcing Israel to react.

There's more. Ambassador Phillips, and the many others who speak about events around the world in similar terms, simply fail to comprehend how a dictatorship works. They think that if you engage hardline ideological revolutionaries they will moderate. If you offer to trade with them, a process of materialism will set in so that the once fire-breathing radicals will be transformed into luxury-loving bourgeois.

Suppose Gaza didn't have a "Hamas-controlled tunnel economy" but merely had a Hamas-controlled normal economy, would that be better? And why should one believe that the economy wouldn't be controlled by the dictatorship, because Western governments or companies were doing business there? But that is equally true of Syria, Iran, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and ideological dictatorships in other parts of the world. Has this turned them toward love and moderation?

Oh, and let's remember that the main purpose of those tunnels was to import weapons for attacking Israel. Hamas will take advantage of any openings to bring in more arms and things that can be used for fighting (cement for military installations; pipes for rockets). It will tax and seize assets to build up its military machine. The more satisfied are people's material needs, the less reason they will have to oppose the Hamas regime.

This Phillips-Pogo view also ignores the political mechanisms of ideological dictatorships. Hamas doesn't wait for young boys to see its cadre as role models. Here's what it does:

--Pays people with money obtainable, including that siphoned off from aid and trade, to recruit them and make them the arms of the regime. The more commerce, the more money Hamas has to spend on indoctrination, organization, and weaponry.

--Arrests and intimidates opponents so they don't provide alternative role models. In the Gaza Strip there aren't that many moderate role models. Wealthy businessmen? Fatah gunmen? Corrupt figures against whom people voted for Hamas. Maybe the dedicated UNRWA teacher offers an alternative role model? OK, but how many of these are also radicals?

--Control all institutions including mosques, media, youth organizations, schools, and so on which all actively and intensively preach the same message. Support Hamas; kill the Jews; be a Jihad fighter. The regime isn't going to let external institutions or countries that oppose its Islamist radicalism have influence in its territory. Hamas would rather sacrifice benefits to its people than give up authority to those it knows want to overthrow the regime.

Phillips' line that it is Israel's policy which is creating "another generation of people that are not going to feel that friendly about Israel" is rather ludicrous in light of this reality. After all, the same thing is happening on the West Bank where there is no sanctions' regime in place, Western aid flows lavishly, and supposed moderates are in control. Whatever Israel does, incitement and indoctrination will continue at the same level from those who hate Israel because it exists.

Here's the truth: revolutionary forces that use terrorism, preach a totalitarian ideology, create dictatorships, and have genocidal goals are responsible for war and conflict in the Middle East.

No matter how intensely Western democracies flagellate themselves, no matter how much they appease and concede, that basic and deadly fact will not change. No, let me correct the end of that sentence: the cost will become more dangerous, bloody, and deadly.

Speaking of alligators, it was another Briton, Winston Churchill, who said that an appeaser is someone who feeds the alligator--ok, nitpickers, I know he said crocodile but they differ only in the roundness of the snout--in hopes that it will eat him last.

Our problem is that contemporary appeasers also hope the alligator will eat us first.

Gaza: Open Air Prison?

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, exploited his visit to Turkey to curry favour with his hosts, using Palestinian propaganda hype, saying that Israel’s blockade turned the Gaza strip into a “prison camp”. Every last Israeli left Gaza long before Hamas' bloody take-over. Closing the borders and even war has not stopped the incessant rockets and terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens and border checkpoints. More than 30 terrorist attacks come out of Gaza each month.

Applying international law, Israel inspects the constant flow of goods through its borders into Gaza, in an attempt to exclude war material. Propagandists (and it seems European politicians) conveniently ignore the rules of war and international law, and claim these actions to be a form of occupation. They declare that Israel ruthlessly keeps Gazans in poverty.Visiting international politicians and aid agency representatives are taken to view the deliberately unrepaired damage of the war Hamas provoked.

Poverty stricken areas, including families living in plastic tents since their houses were destroyed in the war, are all on the carefully pre-arranged agenda. Israel is obligingly condemned. And more western tax payer money is pledged to the highest ever per capita aid program.

Although of little interest to the mainstream media, Gazan "poverty" is strongly questioned in the blogosphere. No accumulation of facts seems to be able to stop the constant flow of lies, cynically manipulated into very effective anti-Israel (and often anti-Semitic) propaganda.Even the Palestinian media reports a very different picture. There is an abundance of both basic and luxury goods. It is not clear if it comes via the Egyptian border, underground tunnels, or the thousands of trucks that the Israelis officially allow to stream through their border crossings. But the fact is that there is plenty, and often at very attractive prices.

Ordinary Palestinian citizens say that there is enough to go around - but the Hamas apparatchiks steal it. And what of building materials to house those wretched families? Somehow, they don't seem to rank in the Hamas list of priorities. A brand new shopping mall replete with luxury goods, a luxury hotel fancy restaurant, an olympic size pool and a fancy jail to lock up prisoners accused of crimes such as "passing information to the Palestinian Authority" do make it into the list of latest completed projects, though.Electricity shortages? Also an internal problem. Seems that Hamas collects electricity bills from the end user & then steals the money - expecting the Palestinian Authority and international donors to pay the Israeli suppliers. When the suppliers want their overdue money before providing more goods, who do you guess is blamed?But those wretched Palestinians are suffering.

Then again, life expectancy, infant mortality, and even cell phone penetration statistics show Gaza to be better off than other Muslim countries – and in many cases better than most places on earth!Forgotten is the Economist report of 2004 that the West Bank and Gaza rank amongst the most obese populations in the world. Clicking on the links embedded above will bring you to lots of reports and pictures showing the truth.

But what about the charge that Israel has turned Gaza into a large open-air jail? We all value freedom of movement. We want to be able to leave our country of residence either permanently or temporarily for vacation, to receive better medical care, to advance our education or business. But of course, we all know that no-one can get in or out. Don't we?Israel can be forgiven for being very cautious about allowing enemy aliens through its territory - after all Hamas has officially and openly declared its intent to wipe Israel off the map and sends regular rockets across the border to remind us all.

Nevertheless, many people do cross the border - usually for humanitarian reasons, often to receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.But what everyone seems to forget is that Israel is not Gaza's only border. Fellow Arab country Egypt, which has supported the Palestinian cause since it was first invented, is linked to Gaza with a little more than 11 km of border, and an official crossing at Rafah.So why an open air prison? The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) regularly exposes the real problem in its monthly reports. Here it is from this month's bulletin:

Violations of the Right to Travel and Movement Gaza residents are still suffering from the unavailability of passport books since November 2008 until the end of this current month.

According to ICHR information obtained from officials from the Ministry of Interior of the Deposed Government, the MOI in the West Bank does not send passport books for citizens in Gaza Strip which entails depriving them from the right to travel and movement. In addition, it affects most of those in urgent need for traveling abroad for seeking medical care, university education, students and thousands of expatriates whose passports have expired and require renewal.
International travel, even via Egypt, requires a passport.

The PA won't issue Gazans with passports. Gazans can't travel. That's Israel's fault. Clear

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Palestinian Suffering in Gaza at the Hands of Hamas: 5 Reasons

(The Israel Project – July 15th 2010)

Quality of life for Palestinians in Gaza has deteriorated considerably since Iran-backed Hamas took over the area in a bloody coup against the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in June 2007.[1] Hamas – designated a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States, Israel, Canada, and Australia[2] – has deprived its people of basic rights and created a regime that endangers its own citizens.[3] Meanwhile, for four years Hamas has held kidnapped Israeli soldier Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit and has refused to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit him, in violation of the Geneva Convention.[4] Following are five reasons people in Gaza are suffering under Hamas rule.

1. Loss of Palestinian lives and property due to Hamas’s continued rocket attacks against Israel. Hamas’s years-long campaign of rocket, missile and mortar attacks against Israel led Israel to launch Operation Cast Lead, a defensive operation in Gaza from December 2008-January 2009 during which more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed.[5] Additionally, more than 2,600 buildings, as well as roads and other infrastructure, were destroyed or severely damaged.[6]

Despite efforts by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to minimize civilian casualties,[7] Hamas made the operation more dangerous for Palestinians through its widespread use of civilians as human shields.[8] Video evidence, eyewitness testimonies and Israeli intelligence reports demonstrate that Hamas routinely stored weapons in mosques, used hospitals as command headquarters and overall endangered the civilian Palestinian population of Gaza.[9] In contrast, the IDF dropped leaflets and left Arabic-language messages on the cell phones of Gaza civilians urging them to leave homes in combat zones.[10] The defensive operation has reduced by 90 percent the number of rocket, missile and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza.[11]

Hamas’s continued attempts to smuggle arms into the territory and refusal to release Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit have also led Israel to maintain a blockade on Gaza while still allowing in humanitarian aid. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced June 20 that he was easing the restrictions on Gaza and that all civilian goods will be allowed in, although restrictions would remain on dual-use items that could be used for military purposes.[12]

2. Hamas’s violent takeover of Gaza and persecution of political opponents. During Hamas’s June 2007 overthrow of Fatah – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ political party – more than 150 Palestinians were killed and at least 700 wounded. Atrocities committed by Hamas included throwing opponents from rooftops, disabling them for life by shooting them in the knees and attacking hospitals.[13] In the months following Hamas’s victory, its forces continued to use violence to suppress Fatah.[14] Hamas stepped up its brutality against Fatah during and after Operation Cast Lead, executing and torturing Fatah activists it accused of collaborating with Israel.[15]

Hamas recently rejected an offer by Abbas to discuss a plan to end the ongoing violence between the two groups.[16] The Hamas-Fatah rivalry also led to a power outage in Gaza, because neither group would pay electricity bills.[17] “Were it not for Israel’s presence between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Fatah and Hamas would most likely be dispatching suicide bombers and rockets at each other,” Jerusalem Post correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh said. [18]

3. Hamas’s indoctrination of children in violent ideology through its network of summer camps. Each summer, Hamas organizes children’s camps that instill hatred towards Israel and Jews.[19] In 2009, Hamas operated 700 camps for 120,000 Palestinian children.[20] The military-like camps teach children weaponry, marching drills, anti-Zionist and anti-American songs, and to idolize martyrdom.[21] Most casualties among young Palestinians occur because of their direct participation in violence against Israel.[22]

Hamas and other extremist groups have accused the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) – the UN’s aid organization for Palestinians – of corrupting Palestinian youth by operating secular summer camps, which incorporate sports and human rights lessons. A Hamas spokesman said the UNRWA camps were a “barbaric attack on our children…whose objective is to corrupt their morals with drugs and other things.”[23] In May and June 2010, armed jihadist groups vandalized two UNRWA summer camps in Hamas-run Gaza.[24] A Fatah spokesman blamed Hamas for one of the attacks.[25] Click here and here to read more about the recent attacks on UNRWA summer camps.

4. Hamas’s enforcement of strict Islamic morality and repression of women. In line with its roots as a fundamentalist religious movement based on the Muslim Brotherhood,[26] Hamas has gradually imposed Sharia (Islamic religious law) on Gazans, despite past statements by the group’s leaders that it would not do so.[27] As part of its “virtue” campaign, Hamas in recent months arrested a female Palestinian journalist for laughing while at a public beach and for not wearing a head covering.[28] Hamas forbids women from riding motorcycles with men and has banned men from working at women’s hair salons.[29] Hamas dispatches “modesty patrols” to check cars for men riding with single women to whom they’re not related.[30] Hamas has closed a number of Internet cafes, movie theaters and bars frequented by young people in Gaza.[31] In contrast, the PA-ruled West Bank city of Ramallah has a burgeoning nightlife.[32]

5. Hamas’s repeated attempts to block humanitarian aid from reaching its citizens. Although Israel has delivered more than a million tons of food and other supplies into Gaza since January 2009,[33] Hamas has attacked Israel-Gaza border crossings, including the Kerem Shalom crossing through which about 200 truckloads of aid enter Gaza per week.[34] In 2009, UNRWA suspended all aid to Gaza because armed Hamas police stole blankets and food meant for the Palestinian people.[35] More recently, Israel offered to deliver aid from an illegal Gaza-bound flotilla it intercepted on May 31, but Hamas turned away the shipment, stalling its delivery for a full month.[36] The aid included 20 truckloads of medical equipment, clothing, blankets and toys.[37]

[1] “Hamas Coup in Gaza, ” International Institute for Strategic Studies Web site, June 2007,
olume-13---2007/volume-13--issue-5--june-2007/hamas-coup-in-gaza; “Hamas takes full control of Gaza,” BBC, June 15, 2007,; “Freedom in the World - Palestinian Authority-Administered Territories (2010),” Freedom House,, accessed June 30, 2010

[2] "Council Decision," Council of the European Union, Dec. 21, 2005; "Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs)," U.S. Department of State Web site, Oct. 11, 2005,; Wilson, Scott, "Hamas Sweeps Palestinian Elections, Complicating Peace Efforts in Mideast," The Washington Post, Jan. 27, 2006, accessed Jan. 18, 2006,; Public Security and Emergency Preparedness Canada, National Security, Listed entities, accessed Jan. 18, 2007,; "Listing of Terrorist Organisations," Australian Government Web site, May 24, 2007,

[3] McCarthy, Rory, "Hamas murder campaign in Gaza exposed," The Guardian, Feb. 13, 2009,; "Hamas waged a deadly campaign as war devastated Gaza," Amnesty International, Feb. 12, 2009,;
"Hamas exploitation of civilians as human shields: photographic evidence," Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 6, 2010,

[4] Berger, Robert, “Israel Marks 4th Year of Soldier's Captivity in Gaza,” VOA News, June 25, 2010,; Mar’i, Mohammed, “Red Cross visit to Shalit not possible: Hamas,” Arab News, June 12, 2010,

[5] “Operation Cast Lead,”,, accessed July 14, 2010

[6] “Satellite-based Gaza damage assessment review,” UNOSAT, Feb. 19, 2009,

[7] “IDF Operation in Gaza: Cast Lead,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jan. 21, 2009,
Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terrorism+and+Islamic+Fundamentalism-/Aerial_strike_weapon_development_center+_Gaza_28-Dec-2008.htm, accessed Dec. 15, 2009

[8] “Hamas exploitation of civilians as human shields: Photographic evidence,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 6, 2008,
evidence.htm, accessed Dec. 15, 2009

[9] Marcus, Itamar; Crook, Barbara, “Hamas using children in combat support roles,” Palestinian Media Watch, Jan. 13, 2009,; “Hamas TV Pictures Promotes Female Suicide Bombers Squad,” CBS News, Jan. 14, 2009,; “Operation Cast Lead – Update No. 5,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Jan. 1, 2009,; Mizroch, Amir, “Dichter: Hamas salaries paid at Shifa Hospital,” The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 12, 2009,; “The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 2009, p.57,

[10] Barzak, Ibrahim and Teibel, Amy, “Israeli assault on Hamas kills more than 200,” AP, Dec. 27, 2008,; “IDF Releases Information on Military Investigations,” IDF Web site, April 22, 2009,; Greenberg, Hanan, “IDF to give better warnings before attacks,” YnetNews, July 29, 2009,,7340,L-3753851,00.html

[11] Greenberg, Hanan, “90% drop in rocket attacks since Cast Lead,” YnetNews, Dec. 9, 2009,

[12] “Prime Minister’s Office statement following the Israeli Security Cabinet meeting,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, June 20, 2010,; “Gaza: Lists of Controlled Entry Items,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 4, 2010,

[13] “Black Pages in the Absence of Justice: Report on Bloody Fighting in the Gaza Strip, from 7 to 14 June 2007,” Palestine Center for Human Rights, Oct. 1, 2007,
Eng%209%20october..pdf; Issacharoff, Avi, “Shock, awe and dread,” Haaretz, June 22, 2007,

[14] El-Khodary, Tagreed, “6 Palestinians Killed in Gaza at Fatah Rally,” The New York Times, Nov. 12, 2007,

[15] Toameh, Khaled Abu, “Hamas torturing Fatah members in Gaza,” The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 19, 2009,

[16] Toameh, Khaled Abu, “Hamas nixes Abbas' reconciliation talks,” The Jerusalem Post, June 16,

[17] “UNRWA criticizes Palestinian infighting,” The Jerusalem Post, June 27, 2010,

[18] Toameh, Khaled Abu, “The Palestinians’ Dirty War,” April 13,

[19] “Summer camps in the Gaza Strip run by Hamas and other terrorist organizations inculcate youngsters with radical Islamic ideology and the culture of terrorism. Some camps offer military training to prepare future ranks of operatives for the terrorist organizations,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Aug. 24, 2008,

[20]“Report: Hamas Summer Campers Re-Enact Abduction of Israeli Soldier,” Fox News via The Jerusalem Post, July 27, 2009,,2933,534938,00.html

[21] “Participation of children and teenagers in terrorist activity during the Al-Aqsa intifada,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jan. 30, 2003,

[22] “Behind the Headlines: Hamas’ss Mickey Mouse teaches children to hate and kill,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 10, 2007,

[23] “Hamas summer camps in the Gaza Strip integrate social activities with political and Islamic indoctrination and semi-military training,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Aug. 16, 2009,

[24] “Militants attack U.N. Gaza summer camp,” Reuters, May 23, 2010,

[25] Translated by TIP staff: Hamid, Chad, “Hamas Government Pledges it will Pursue UNRWA Camp Attackers,” Alghad (Jordan), May 24, 2010,

[26] “Hamas,” Council on Foreign Relations, Aug. 27, 2009,

[27] Issacharoff, Avi, “Hamas to expel Gaza schoolgirls not wearing muslim dress,” Haaretz, Aug. 24, 2009,

[28] Issacharoff, Avi, “Hamas arrests Palestinian woman for not wearing headscarf,” Haaretz, July 6, 2009; Toameh, Khaled Abu, “'They accused me of laughing in public,'” The Jerusalem Post, April 7, 2010,

[29] “Hamas bans Gaza motorcyclists from giving women rides,” AP, Oct. 7, 2009,
hamas-bans-gaza-motorcyclists-from-giving-women-rides-1.6530; “Hamas bans men from women's hair salons in Gaza,” Haaretz, March 5, 2010,

[30] “Islamists torch summer camp in Gaza,” The Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2010,

[31] Herzog, Michael, “The Hamas Conundrum,” Foreign Affairs, Feb. 8, 2010,; “Hamas bans men from women's hair salons in Gaza,” Haaretz, March 5, 2010,

[32] Luongo, Michael T., “Ramallah attracts a cosmopolitan crowd,” The New York Times, June 3,,

[33] “Behind the Headlines: The Israeli humanitarian lifeline to Gaza,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 25, 2010,

[34] Ravid, Barak; Harel, Amos; Azoulay, Yuval; Eyadat, Fadi, “Hamas vows ‘harsh’ attacks on Israel, says previous assaults were ‘practice’,” Haaretz, April 21, 2008,

[35] Kershner, Isabel and Taghreed El-Khodary, “UN says Hamas stole aid intended for Gazans,” Feb. 4, 2009,

[36] Bronner, Ethan, “Turkish Aid From Flotilla Begins Arriving in Gaza,” The New York Times, July 1, 2010,

[37] Sherwood, “Harriet, Hamas refuses flotilla aid delivered by Israel,” The Guardian, June 3, 2010,