Western editor, angry at lack of alcohol in Gaza, says Abba Eban was right after all

January 12, 2006


1. Removal of crosses ordered on flights to Saudi Arabia
2. Knife attack in Moscow synagogue
3. Western reporters angry as last alcohol bar in Gaza is burned down
4. Big Ben was a “terror target”
5. UK suicide bomber leaves a fortune
6. Gaddafi: suicide operations will help us cut our defense budget
7. World Bank rep: PA getting more money than anyone else, yet on verge of bankruptcy
8. “Fatah creating anarchy in a ploy to postpone PA elections”
9. Egyptian writer: “Sharon as the quintessential Arab leader”
10. “The choice between peace and war is not in Israeli hands”
11. “Keep your expectations low” (By Jonathan S. Tobin, Jan. 12, 2006)
12. “After all these years, I am ale-less in Gaza” (By Patrick Bishop, Daily Telegraph, Jan. 10, 2006)
13. “Fatah is no better than Hamas” (By Evelyn Gordon, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 5, 2006)

[Note by Tom Gross]


Flight attendants on British Midland – the only UK airline that flies to Saudi Arabia – have been told they must not wear crucifixes because it offends the country’s Muslims, reports the Daily Telegraph. Stewardesses have also been urged to cover themselves in long robes and headscarves.

The airline claims that that the rules are part of an “obligation” to “respect the customs” of the strictly Muslim kingdom.

An unnamed BMI employee told a Sunday newspaper: “It’s outrageous that we must respect their beliefs but they’re not prepared to respect ours. My grandmother gave me a crucifix shortly before she died and I wear it at all times. It’s got enormous sentimental value and I don’t see why I have to remove it.”

The airline’s spokesman said staff who did not wish to adhere to the requirements would be transferred to other routes.


A man armed with a knife wounded eleven people in an attack in a synagogue in central Moscow yesterday evening. Alexander Koptsev, 20, described as a skinhead, ran into the synagogue wielding a knife shouting “I will kill Jews!” and began slashing at worshipers.

Koptsev also shouted “Heil Hitler,” and following the attack neo-Nazi literature was found in his possession.

The stabbing is the latest in a number of incidents apparently involving skinheads or racist groups in Russia. Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar said the attack was part of a growing a fascist “plague” in the country. (Rabbi Lazar is a subscriber to this list.)


The situation in Gaza has finally gone too far for foreign reporters. Following the torching of the UN Beach club on January 1, it is apparently now no longer possible to get a cold beer in Gaza.

Patrick Bishop, the former foreign editor of the Daily Telegraph, who is presently on assignment in Gaza, writes: “At the end of a day like yesterday, I would normally retire to the UN Beach Club, a low-rise concrete joint whose seediness is more than compensated for by its views of the Mediterranean. And, of course, the fact that it is the only place in Gaza where you can get a drink.”

He then laments how bad things have now got in Gaza. “I have always been reluctant to accept the Israeli statesman Abba Eban’s observation that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, now it has to be admitted that the man had a point.” (Article attached below)


It was revealed yesterday during the trial of Egyptian born cleric Abu Hamza in London, that the British capital’s famous Big Ben clock, which sits right next to the Houses of parliament, was touted as a possible terror target.

The jury were played recordings by Abu Hamza telling worshippers at his (now closed) London mosque, that “There is no drop of liquid loved by Allah more than blood of Serbs, Jews or any other enemy of Allah.”

Abu Hamza also described non-believers as “germs and viruses,” and said Jews are “blasphemous, traitors and dirty” and “Hitler was sent to torture and humiliate Jews”.

For more on Abu Hamza and his claim that Israel was behind the March 2004 Madrid terror attacks, please see the dispatch Nearly half British Muslims would become suicide bombers (March 15, 2004).


It was revealed this week that one of the July 2005 London suicide bombers, Shehzad Tanweer, who was 22 and had only graduated university a year earlier, left an estate worth £121,000 (almost $200,000).

This should dispel the common myth – often promulgated by British politicians and the media – that poverty is a cause of terrorism.


Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator, has told Libyan TV that “In our current circumstances, we don’t need to buy tanks, airplanes, missiles, or other huge things like this…”

He continued, “I will fight… with explosives belts, car bombs and Kalashnikovs… If every Libyan is booby-trapped, every car is booby-trapped, every house is booby-trapped and every road is booby-trapped – the enemy will not be able to survive.”


Nigel Roberts, the World Bank’s representative in the Palestinian Authority, has told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz that although the Palestinians are receiving $5 billion direct aid in five years, or $300 per capita annually – the highest amount given to any entity since World War II – the P.A. is on the verge of “functional bankruptcy.”

Roberts said this is because of enormous corruption and inefficiency. He added it’s possible that P.A. salaries will not be paid on time, which he said could lead to “devastating consequences.” Rather than improve the economic conditions, Roberts said the Palestinians’ decision to increase the minimum wage was irresponsible and demonstrates that the Palestinians are not fulfilling commitments on budget control. As a result, the World Bank says it is to freeze $60 million of the funds earmarked for the Palestinian operating budget.


Danny Rubinstein, the Arab affairs editor for Ha’aretz, writes: “The ones responsible for the lawlessness in the [Palestinian-populated] territories are affiliated with the Palestinian security services and the Fatah movement. In the Palestinian street, they understand that this is no coincidence. The popular interpretation is that this is intentional and organized chaos whose goal is to generate riots that will lead to the cancellation of the parliamentary elections. There is serious doubt that the elections will take place in the end. Nearly the entire world does not want elections that Hamas will win.”

In the third article below, Evelyn Gordon argues that there is no difference between Hamas and Fatah. She writes: “No one has yet explained why Hamas is so much worse than Fatah – whose list, despite the lip-service denunciations of terror routinely uttered by Fatah leader and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is also comprised mainly of prominent terrorists and terror advocates…”


Whilst many in the Western and Arab media are still vilifying Ariel Sharon, here is a rare example of a more balanced article from Egyptian writer Mona Eltahaway in Asharq Alawsat, one of the leading Arab daily papers.

Sharon as the Quintessential Arab leader
By Mona Eltahaway
Asharq Alawsat (English Edition)
January 9, 2006

The Arab world hates Ariel Sharon so much not because he is responsible for the death of so many Arabs but because he is essentially the mirror image of the Arab leaders that have ruled us for decades. He is the better and improved mirror image.

If hatred for Sharon was based solely on the number of Arabs he has killed, then he would probably lose out to those responsible for the thousands killed in the fighting of Black September [by Arafat and King Hussein] and the thousands more killed in Hama [by Assad].

And when it comes to the massacres at Sabra and Shatila, with which Sharon’s name is synonymous, it is important to remember that an Israeli state inquiry in 1983 found Sharon, then defense minister, indirectly responsible for the killings of hundreds of men, women and children at the refugee camps during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. An Arab inquiry has yet to hold directly responsible members of the Lebanese militias who actually slaughtered those men, women and children with their guns and knives.

The Israeli inquiry forced Sharon’s resignation and hundreds of thousands of Israelis demonstrated their horror and disgust at his role in the massacre. I won’t ask where are the Arab demonstrations against the massacres of Arabs by fellow Arabs. The answer is evident in every Arab news story that holds only Sharon responsible for the slaughter at Sabra and Shatila. It is an answer that reminds us again that Arab victimhood makes sense only when we are being victimized by Israel. The horrors we visit upon each other are irrelevant...

(To read this article in full, see www.asharqalawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=2&id=3367)


Jonathan Tobin writes that “As long as Palestinian leaders can win popularity on the basis of how many Jews they kill – and not on their ability to provide jobs or sewer systems – no plan for regional quiet, let alone peace, is secure…”

Tobin warns that “The descent of the Palestinian territories into chaos is the Palestinians’ fault. The anarchy in Gaza has dampened Washington’s daffy expectations that peace is on the horizon.”

He concludes by warning the U.S administration that they should “lower everyone’s expectations about ‘progress,’ and concentrate its diplomacy on Palestinian terror.”

Tobin’s, and two other articles, are attached below.

-- Tom Gross



Keep Your Expectations Low
Focus on Pliability of Sharon’s Successor Ignores the Real ‘Peace Process’ Story
By Jonathan S. Tobin
The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent
January 12, 2006

A week into the post-Ariel Sharon era of U.S.-Israeli relations, some things are already clearer than they were just a few days ago.

The first is that although the Bush administration is worried about whether any of the prime minister’s possible successors will be as skillful at orchestrating territorial withdrawals as Sharon was, no change in policy toward Israel is imminent or even likely.

That’s because acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert looks like he is going to have a good chance of holding on to the top job. And that would suit the Bush administration just fine.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu probably has more of a shot to beat Olmert than the experts are giving him, but the Bush team is not eager to have to deal with the testy and unpredictable Bibi. Though he is as likely as Olmert to make concessions, the path Netanyahu followed in his time as prime minister – speaking loudly, but carrying a very small stick – won him few friends in Washington.

As for Labor leader Amir Peretz, it’s not too probable that an unreconstructed socialist with poor English skills will bond with the Texan in the White House.

Getting the ‘Green Light’

Which brings us back to Olmert, who will campaign as the true heir of Sharon. Don’t be surprised if Bush, who rightly declined to interfere in the 2003 Israeli election (in marked contrast to Bill Clinton’s decision to do everything but stump for Labor candidates Shimon Peres in 1996 and Ehud Barak in 1999), takes a different tack in the coming weeks. Not so subtle hints of American favor, such as an invitation to the White House, would be very helpful to Olmert.

Though the Bush-Sharon relationship has not always been the bed of roses that Sharon’s P.R. machine often portrayed it as being, it was strong. Most of all, Bush gave Sharon the green light to counterattack and crush the last round of Palestinian terror warfare, and he was perfectly okay with isolating the late and unlamented Yasser Arafat in his hole in Ramallah.

Following Arafat’s death, the administration developed a crush on his successor, Mahmoud Abbas. That led to tension with Sharon, who wasn’t willing to drop security measures, such as checkpoints, which would have made it easier on Palestinian terrorists and Abbas.

So despite the fact that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza last summer, the blame-Israel-first crowd in Europe and this country still think Abbas’ abject failures are Israel’s fault. His inability to govern effectively, let alone honor the Palestinians’ road-map obligation to disarm terror groups, is considered to have been the result of Israeli hard-heartedness.

That is, of course, nonsense. The descent of the Palestinian territories into chaos is the Palestinians’ fault. The anarchy in Gaza has dampened Washington’s daffy expectations that peace is on the horizon. But their real priority is to keep the Israel-Palestinian struggle from interfering with their plans elsewhere in the Middle East, such as the war effort in Iraq.

And that is why they are hopeful that Olmert will follow through on past hints that he’s willing to lead future withdrawals from parts of the West Bank. Since “progress” in the peace process is synonymous with Israeli withdrawals, as long as more pullbacks are in the offing, Washington can tell its European and Arab “allies” things are moving in the right direction.

Though Sharon’s new Kadima Party was put down as a one-man show, it appears that’s not the case. As much as it was created by the force of Sharon’s appeal, it looks as if something deeper was at play.

Namely, the thesis – that it was a true “third way” between the illusions about negotiations with the Palestinians championed by Labor and the Likud’s rejection of any further concessions – still clicked with the Israeli public.

Can Olmert, a man without Sharon’s security credentials or political stature, continue a policy of unilaterally declaring Israel’s borders by pullouts from the West Bank and completion of the security fence?

If the answer turns out to be yes, that’s because the willingness of the Israeli public to divest itself of as many Palestinian Arabs as possible should not be underestimated.

Abandoning parts of the West Bank will not be as easy as Gaza. These places are the heart of the Jewish homeland and resonate in the Jewish consciousness. We are also talking about a lot more Jews who would have to be displaced in order to accomplish a withdrawal to the security fence that most observers see as Israel’s de facto border for the foreseeable future.

But even if we assume that Olmert has the political skills and the backing to accomplish such a traumatic plan, there is still a problem in the offing that could upset both Olmert’s and Bush’s plans for the region.

The problem is the willingness of the Palestinians to abide by the new terms of engagement between the two sides. Sharon’s unilateralism is predicated on the notion that Israel can dictate not merely its borders, but the terms of the conflict.

Israelis Plan, Palestinians Decide

But what if a strengthened Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade (an affiliate of Abbas’ own Fatah Party) decide that it’s time to launch a new wave of terror in the coming months. Though the Israelis are right to be confident about their ability to limit their losses, it is not hard to imagine things getting out of hand, especially if Israel is forced to again enter Arab cities to destroy terror bases.

The question that must haunt all of the men who want to be prime minister of Israel is whether or not George Bush will give them the leeway he gave Sharon.

Despite the talk of Sharon changing the paradigm of the conflict, the choice between peace and war, even after unilateral withdrawal, will not be in the hands of any one Israeli leader.

It’s always the Palestinians who have that choice. As long as Palestinian leaders can win popularity on the basis of how many Jews they kill – and not on their ability to provide jobs or sewer systems – no plan for regional quiet, let alone peace, is secure. And any hint that the administration wants to hamper Israel’s right to defend itself will be an open invitation to bloodshed.

Rather than promoting Olmert as the person who will advance a peace process that doesn’t exist, the best thing the administration can do is to lower everyone’s expectations about “progress,” and concentrate its diplomacy on Palestinian terror.



After all these years, I am ale-less in Gaza
By Patrick Bishop
The Daily Telegraph
January 10, 2006


I have always been reluctant to accept the Israeli statesman Abba Eban’s observation that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Arriving in Gaza yesterday, it had to be admitted that the man had a point. Four months ago, when I was last here, the place sparkled with optimism. With the hated Israelis gone, Gaza was going to show the world what Palestinians could do when left to their own devices.

The Strip’s miles of golden sand were to become a sort of Islamic Miami Beach, minus the booze and bikinis. Maybe, a few diehard optimists dared to hope, Yasser Arafat’s vision of Gaza as a Middle Eastern Singapore might at last start to be realised.

Yesterday, it felt more like the Wild West. The first sign of just how dodgy security has become came when Said Ghazali, The Daily Telegraph’s local man in Jerusalem, and I arrived at the Palestinian side of the crossing to learn that our regular driver – stocky, dependable Ashraf – would not be there to meet us.

He had a reasonable excuse. He has the bad luck to belong to the Masri clan, who are currently engaged in a blood feud with their rivals, the Kafarnehs. The toll so far is five dead and 70-odd wounded. Yesterday a Kafarneh was injured in a shooting attack and Ashraf thought it prudent to leave his cab in the garage.

We found another driver and set off for Rafah, the scene of an extraordinary outbreak of anarchy last week. A mob killed two Egyptian border guards and bulldozed concrete walls in a successful attempt to force the authorities to release a man suspected of kidnapping the British aid worker Kate Burton and her parents.

On the way, we passed through the town of Khan Younis. The main road was blocked by what I took at first to be an election rally.

Wrong. The Masri boys were at it again, this time wading into the Tahas, their sworn enemies in the southern end of the Strip.

The action in the main street was confined to fists and boots, but, as we turned into a parallel street to detour round the mob, we ran into a gun battle, with the rivals trading Kalashnikov fire from opposing blocks of flats. The cars in front of us sped up a bit, but 50 yards from the shooting, life was going on as normal.

Most Gazans grew up with gunfire. Before, it was only the Israelis they had to worry about. Now they are shooting each other. The security forces are no help. Their rivalries are the cause of much of the bloodshed.

Somehow, though, it is never all gloom in Gaza. Yesterday, pace Abba Eban, I saw one opportunity that the Palestinians have definitely not missed.

On the site of what was once an Israeli army base, there now stands the Al Bashir Joy Land. Where once there were walls and watchtowers are slides, merry-go-rounds and swings.

At the end of a day like yesterday, I would normally retire to the UN Beach Club, a low-rise concrete joint whose seediness is more than compensated for by its views of the Mediterranean. And, of course, the fact that it is the only place in Gaza where you can get a drink.

Over the years, thousands of Middle Eastern hands have had reason to remember it fondly. Yes, we often thought as the barman placed the first frosted glasses of Heineken before us on a scorching mid-summer evening, there is a point to the United Nations.

Yesterday the Beach Club was still there. But the bar wasn’t. Unknown saboteurs arrived at dawn a few days ago, tied up the guards and planted a bomb that reduced the interior to matchwood.

The way things are going in Gaza, it seems unlikely that the dear old Beach Club will be re-opening its doors any time soon.



Fatah is no better than Hamas
By Evelyn Gordon
The Jerusalem Post
January 5, 2006

The prospect of a strong Hamas showing in the upcoming Palestinian elections appears to have generated an international panic. Israel is threatening to deny Hamas candidates freedom of movement to campaign and to prohibit voting in east Jerusalem due to Hamas’s presence on the ballot. The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution demanding that Hamas be barred from running. The Quartet (the US, UN, European Union and Russia) warned that the future Palestinian cabinet must include nobody not “committed to” both Israel’s right to exist and “an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism.” And the EU even threatened to halt aid to the Palestinian Authority should Hamas win the election and then fail to renounce violence.

But in all this hysteria, no one has yet explained why Hamas is so much worse than Fatah – whose list, despite the lip-service denunciations of terror routinely uttered by Fatah leader and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is also comprised mainly of prominent terrorists and terror advocates.

The No.1 slot on the Fatah list has been awarded to Marwan Barghouti, who is currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail for terror attacks that killed five civilians during the current intifada. Moreover, his presence in the top slot was deemed sufficiently vital to justify breaking the rule that he himself dictated: that the national slate be reserved for new faces, while sitting PA parliamentarians such as Barghouti would have to run in the district races that will elect the other half of the PA parliament.

Barghouti is not only a practitioner of terror; he is also one of its vocal advocates. Indeed, the platform of the breakaway Fatah list that he formed last month (the two lists later reunited) stressed the importance of both negotiation and “struggle” – the Palestinian euphemism for anti-Israel terrorism.

Similarly, in a 2001 interview with the London based newspaper Al-Hayat, Barghouti proudly claimed credit for having orchestrated the intifada, saying that when Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in September 2000, “I saw within the situation a historic opportunity to ignite the conflict … After Sharon left, I stayed in the area for two hours with other well-known people and we spoke … of how people should react in all the towns and villages … We made contact with all the factions.”

Even Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin – who wants him released to promote “peace” – acknowledges that Barghouti advocated violence even at the height of the peace process. In a December 2004 interview with The New York Times, Beilin described a meeting with Barghouti on May 14, 2000, during the preparations for that July’s final-status negotiations at Camp David. “Barghouti told me that he wanted to continue the use of violence and that if there were no peace agreement by September, he would use violence,” Beilin recalled.

But Barghouti’s presence at the top of Fatah’s list is no mere anomaly. That is evident from the slate that Abbas composed during Fatah’s brief split, when Barghouti was heading the rival list. In the top slot, Abbas placed Muhammad Abu Ali Yatta – who is also serving a life sentence for murder in an Israeli prison.

In other words, Barghouti is not first on the list because his popularity forced a reluctant Abbas to accept him, but because Abbas deliberately decided to head the list with someone convicted of murdering Israelis. And whether he did so because he personally admires such killers or merely because he deemed this necessary to win votes makes little difference in terms of the prospects for peace: Even if Abbas personally wants to end the conflict, that is unlikely to happen if the Palestinian public prefers terrorism.

Indeed, most of the Fatah list is one long paean to terrorism. Barghouti is No. 1. Yatta is No. 2. No. 3 is Umm Jihad, whose claim to fame is being the widow of another famous terrorist, Abu Jihad. And so on and so forth.

Then, finally, there is! Abbas himself – who, for all his anti-terrorist rhetoric, has facilitated terror rather than fighting it.

Ever since the disengagement, for instance, Kassam rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel almost daily. The main culprits are Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, both of which are small organizations that lack broad popular backing, and would therefore be easy targets for the tens of thousands of armed PA security personnel in Gaza.

Yet Abbas refused to order his forces into action, allowing the launches to continue unmolested. Only last week, after Israel decided to try to protect its southern towns itself by using air force and artillery to turn popular launch sites into “no-go zones,” did Abbas finally move – not against the terrorists, but against Israel. Declaring that Israel “has no right to return [to Gaza] under any pretext, including the firing of rockets," he began trying to mobilize international pressure against the Israeli operation.

In other words, Abbas will not lift a finger against terrorism himself – but he will do his best to stymie any Israeli countermeasures, thereby facilitating the terrorists’ operations.

Given this picture, one has to wonder why Fatah should be considered better than Hamas. Granted, Fatah does not openly call for Israel’s destruction – but that merely makes the world more willing to overlook its members’ involvement in, advocacy of and facilitation of terrorism, and to pressure Israel to do the same. That is hardly to Israel’s benefit. Yet incredibly, Israel has actively promoted a Fatah victory – even to the point of allowing Barghouti to campaign from his jail cell.

It would be far better for Israel, and the world, to finally acknowledge reality: Secular terrorists are no better than the Islamist kind – and Fatah, in its current incarnation, is no more of a peace partner than Hamas.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.