Arafat’s Nobel Prize, Suha’s gowns looted (& Gaza’s Christians fear for their lives)

June 18, 2007

* Unreported in Western media: Bibles are being burned and churches ransacked in Gaza
* BBC apologizes for calling Jerusalem capital of Israel

This dispatch is a follow-up to last week’s dispatches on the bloody Fatah-Hamas clashes in Gaza.

 

CONTENTS

1. Gaza’s Christians fear for their lives
2. Did anyone say double standards?
3. No reporting from Gaza
4. Gaza impoverished? Trying telling that to the people of Chad
5. Not believe Hamas spokespeople anymore?
6. Boycotting universities: Slamming Israel, giving Palestinians a free pass
7. Abbas outlaws Hamas
8. “The bitter fruit of the decades of dictatorship and terrorism”
9. Arafat’s Nobel Prize, Suha’s gowns looted (Yediot Ahronot, June 17, 2007)
10. BBC sorry for calling Jerusalem capital of Israel (Jerusalem Post, June 15, 2007)
11. Hamas-land and Fatah-land at war (By Amir Taheri, UK Times, June 16, 2007)
12. “Arafat’s children” (Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2007)
13. “Fundamentalists threaten Israel from all sides” (Daily Telegraph, June 15, 2007)
14. “Our ‘friend’ Fatah” (By Barry Rubin, June 17, 2007)
15. “Iran’s long game sets stage for war” (Sunday Times, June 17, 2007)
16. “Gaza’s Christians fear for their lives” (Jerusalem Post, June 18, 2007)


[Note by Tom Gross]

GAZA’S CHRISTIANS FEAR FOR THEIR LIVES

Bibles are being burned and churches ransacked in Gaza and yet the many (at least nominally) Christian reporters covering the Mideast seem almost completely uninterested in the plight of Christians at the hands of Islamic extremists.

It has been left to the Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh – a Muslim – to take up the story:

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

“‘The masked gunmen used rocket-propelled grenades to storm the main entrances of the school and church,’ Father Manuel Musalam, leader of the small Latin community in the Gaza Strip, said. ‘Then they destroyed almost everything inside, including the Cross, the Holy Book, computers and other equipment.’”

(The full article by Khaled Abu Toameh – who is a longtime subscriber to this email list – is attached as the final item below.)

An estimated 2,500 Christians live in Gaza City.

DID ANYONE SAY DOUBLE STANDARDS?

If Israelis machine gunned protesters at a peaceful demonstration I think we can safely say that the BBC, New York Times and others would cover it in a major way:

From Ha’aretz:

Before noon, two civilians were killed during a protest held in Gaza City under the banner “Stop the Killing.” Some 1,000 Palestinians marched in the city, calling for an end to the fighting, but when they approached a Hamas position, militants fired at the protesters, killing two.

NO REPORTING FROM GAZA

Correspondents from all the main television networks have reported on events in Gaza only by standing on the Israeli side of the Gazan border. Yet the Western media have gone out of their way not to explain why (i.e. that it is the Palestinians, not Israel, who target journalists).

It is interesting that all the media rights organizations that never tire of criticizing Israel for its supposed reporting restrictions, seem to be strangely silent.

GAZA IMPOVERISHED? TRY TELLING THAT TO THE PEOPLE OF CHAD

It is hard to find a news report about Gaza these days in which a western journalist doesn’t tell his or her audience that Gaza is “impoverished”.

Gaza may well be impoverished when compared to Switzerland, or Monaco, but it is not particularly poor when compared with other places throughout the third world.

Indeed money has flowed in to Gaza – the Palestinians are the biggest per capita recipients of aid in the world – while aid to African countries and elsewhere is sparse. In 2006, when Palestinians were supposedly being deprived of aid according to many false reports in the Western media, Palestinians actually received twice the international aid they received in 2005, and over six times the aid given per capita to countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Much of this increased aid to the Palestinian Authority has been diverted to buy ever more sophisticated arms, combat vehicles, mortars, night vision equipment, hand grenades, and so on, as television viewers might have noticed in recent days.

Before the U.S. and European Union give any more aid to Gaza might they not insist that they will hand it over only in return for some of those weapons now in Hamas’s possession?

NOT BELIEVE HAMAS SPOKESPEOPLE ANYMORE?

When Palestinian spokesmen from both Fatah and Hamas have made things up about Israel, western media have broadcast them as fact.

Yesterday, Hamas’s spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Fatah has set up “extermination camps” to send “kidnapped” Hamas “partisans” in the West Bank to.

I wonder why western journalists aren’t treating these accusations as fact in the way they so often treat allegations Hamas propagandists invent about Israel as fact?

BOYCOTTING UNIVERSITIES: SLAMMING ISRAEL, GIVING PALESTINIANS A FREE PASS

At last a comment sympathetic to Israel’s predicament from The Economist magazine:

“Israel at present has a centre-left government that proposes a two-state solution for the Palestine conflict. The Palestinians have voted into office an Islamist government under the Hamas movement that says it aims to end the existence of the Jewish state by a policy of armed struggle. By general consent, moreover, Israel’s universities enjoy far greater academic freedom than any in the Middle East. Why, in these circumstances, should Israeli academics be shunned while those from the other side are welcomed?”

ABBAS OUTLAWS HAMAS

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday outlawed Hamas – although of course, he merely outlawed the Hamas militia without any reference to terrorism or past attacks on Israel. A formal announcement is to be released shortly, aides in Abbas’ office added.

Abbas also swore in an emergency Cabinet, to replace the Hamas-Fatah coalition he dismantled after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip at the end of last week.

The Cabinet is headed by economist Salam Fayyad, who will also serve as finance minister and as foreign minister. Fayyad is regarded as a moderate by the U.S. state department and by the European Union.

“THE BITTER FRUIT OF THE DECADES OF DICTATORSHIP AND TERRORISM”

I attach eight articles below. The first, from Yediot Ahronot, reports that Hamas gunmen broke into the Gaza house of late Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and stole his Nobel Peace Prize and the evening gowns of his hated, corrupt widow Suha.

Ironically as the fourth article below points out, the recent inter-Palestinian fighting “is the bitter fruit of the decades of dictatorship and terrorism as statecraft that Yasser Arafat instilled among Palestinians.”

Of course, Arafat, the father of modern terrorism – from the airline hijacking to the suicide bombing – should never have been given the Nobel Peace Prize in the first place. The awarding of the prize to Arafat (who even wore his green terrorist outfit to the award ceremony) has forever diminished the value of the Peace Prize.

The second article below, by the Jerusalem Post’s Jonny Paul (who is a subscriber to this email list) relates that the BBC quickly and profusely apologized for referring to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on of its soccer programmes. Fraser Steel, head of editorial complaints at the BBC, made a groveling apology after coming under pressure from Arab groups. (Of course, Jerusalem is as much Israel’s capital as London is Britain’s. Israel’s government, parliament, president, supreme court, and so on are all located in Jerusalem.)

All the other articles below predict mostly bleak prospects for the future. Amir Taheri (also a subscriber to this list) warns us that it is “welcome to Gazastan”.

Con Coughlin (my former foreign editor at the Telegraph) writes that “Hamas is trying to replicate Hizbollah’s success in Gaza, not a pleasing prospect for Israel, which now faces the threat of having two Iranian-backed, Islamic fundamentalist organisations dedicated to its destruction camped on its northern and southern borders. It is not a thought that will help Israelis sleep easy.” (Yesterday, after he wrote the article, and for the first time in nearly a year, Israel was struck by rockets fired from neighboring Lebanon.)

(Marc Henry in the French paper Le Figaro yesterday carried a similar article. “The Iranian threat approaches Israel: Iran is within five minutes of Ashkelon,” he wrote.)

Barry Rubin (also a subscriber to this list) writes (in an article that includes interesting historical analogies) that if the international community is to work with Fatah, “have no illusions or expectations.” Uzi Mahnaimi in the (London) Sunday Times comments that “Hamas’s stunningly swift victory in a brief civil war has left the Jewish state at its most vulnerable for three decades: Israel awoke last Friday to find itself encircled by enemies with its most determined foe, Iran, entrenched on its southern doorstep in Gaza.”

-- Tom Gross


FULL ARTICLES

BYE, BYE NOBEL PRIZE

Arafat’s Nobel Prize, Suha’s gowns looted
Hamas gunmen who destroyed late PA chairman’s Gaza house did not spare prestigious award he won, as well as garments left behind by his widow
By Roee Nahmias
Yediot Ahronot
June 17, 2007

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3413794,00.html

The Hamas gunmen who broke into the Gaza house of late Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat on Saturday, also stole his Nobel Peace Prize and his widow’s evening gowns, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

“This morning the Hamas gangs and militia broke into the home of the leader and symbol, Yasser Arafat, broke the door and entered his house under gunpoint. They stole and looted its content, stepped on his picture and military uniform and stole his personal documents,” the report said, using harsh words against Hamas.

According to the report, “(The gunmen) smashed the badges and gifts he received from world leaders, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize medal.”

It appears that the gunmen also visited the private room of the late leaders’ widow, Suha Arafat.

“The militiamen broke into his wife and daughter’s rooms on the second floor of the house and stole the women’s clothes. They also stepped on the picture of the ‘shahid rais’ (martyr chairman) with his daughter Zahwa and his wife, Suha Arafat.”

Fatah spokesman Ahmed Abdel Rahman was enraged by the incident, saying that “this crime took place after Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal promised that Arafat’s house would not be touched.

“This is a real crime which was preceded by crimes of killing, slaughter and theft by the gangs of the Hamas militia and its executing force in the presidential headquarters in Gaza, as well as the execution of Fatah officers.

“These crimes will reveal to the entire world the face of the Hamas leadership and the political leadership which rose to power. The Palestinian people will not forgive these criminal gangs which broke into the home of the great Palestinian shahid, Yasser Arafat. This crime will remain a mark of disgrace on the forehead of the Hamas leadership and its criminal gangs,” he added.

 

BBC APOLOGIZES FOR REFERRING TO JERUSALEM AS ISRAEL’S CAPITAL

BBC sorry for calling Jerusalem capital of Israel
By Jonny Paul
The Jerusalem Post
June 15, 2007

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1181813036973&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

The BBC apologized this week for referring to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and promised not to repeat “the mistake,” following a complaint by four British organizations.

Arab Media Watch, Muslim Public Affairs Committee, Friends of Al-Aksa and the Institute of Islamic Political Thought sent a joint complaint to the BBC after a presenter on its Football Focus program on March 24 mentioned that Jerusalem was Israel’s capital and “historic soul.”

The BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit posted a response on its Web site: “The reference was a passing one in a context where the focus was on sport, not politics. While recognizing the sensitivity of the issue of the status of Jerusalem, the ECU took the view that the program-makers had taken sufficient action by acknowledging the error and rectifying the Web site.”

The Editorial Complaints Unit’s ruling was: “Complaint resolved.”

In a letter to the complaining NGOs, Fraser Steel, head of editorial complaints at the BBC, said: “We of course accept that the international community does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and that the BBC should not describe it as such. I was therefore pleased to see that Katherine Tsang [BBC Information adviser], when she wrote to you in April, acknowledged the error and apologized for it. [Presenter] Steve Boulton and other senior managers in BBC Sport told us they very much regret the mistake and apologize for it.”

“Senior managers will try to ensure, as you suggest, that the mistake is not repeated. Because it appears on the Web site, there will be a public acknowledgement of the error, and the action taken in consequence.”

Steel added: “I’d like to add my apologies for this most regrettable, but I’m sure accidental, factual mistake. I appreciate that the status of Jerusalem is of particular concern to Palestinians, and it is important that it is not misrepresented. I am confident that lessons have already been learned, and they will be emphasized as a result of my decision.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said in response: “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It is the right of every sovereign state to determine which city will be its capital. If this is not accepted by everyone today, I am confident it will be in the future.”

London-based Arab Media Watch told The Jerusalem Post: “Under international law, neither east nor west Jerusalem is considered Israel’s capital. Tel Aviv is recognized as Israel’s capital, pending a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The Institute of Islamic Political Thought is run by Azzam Tamimi, a Hamas supporter and a member of the Muslim Association of Britain, part of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Tamimi spoke at Saturday’s anti-Israel rally in London’s Trafalgar Square. He blamed the British for their role in the Arab-Israeli conflict and vowed to return to his mother’s house in Hebron, which he said could never become a “Zionist place.”

To huge applause, Tamimi called Israel “a racist entity that sees us [Palestinians] as subhuman while they see themselves as superhuman.”

Tamimi told BBC in an interview in 2004 he did not recognize Israel’s right to exist and would be willing to become a suicide bomber. Last year, Merrill Lynch pulled its sponsorship from an event hosted by the London Middle East Institute because of Tamimi’s participation.

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee has faced continuing allegations of extremism and anti-Semitism. In 2005, during the last general election in the UK, the group campaigned against pro-Israel and pro-Iraq war MPs, and attempted to slur one MP by claiming she was a Jew. It eventually apologized when they learned the candidate was not Jewish.

Last year, The Observer discovered that the committee’s co-founder, Asghar Bukhari, had funded Holocaust denier David Irving.

The Friends of Al-Aksa states on its Web site that the first Jewish commonwealth lasted “only 98 years - from 1020 BC to 922 BC,” and that after the destruction of the First Temple, “all Jews are either killed, exiled or taken prisoners. This marks the end of Israel after 400 years of its inception.”

The Leicester-based organization had its bank accounts closed by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2005.

The Muslim Association of Britain accused the bank of being a tool of the pro-Israeli lobby. “It appears the Royal Bank of Scotland is being used as a tool against those that express sympathy with Israel’s victims,” a representative of the Muslim Association said.

“No bank or institution should be allowed to get away with such anti-Palestinian or anti-Muslim bias.”

 

“WELCOME TO GAZASTAN!”

Hamas-land and Fatah-land at war
Amir Taheri on three reasons for trouble ahead
Times of London
June 16, 2007

www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article1940406.ece

Welcome to Gazastan! This is how the Arab media greeted the seizure of control by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Although some have blamed the fighting on “the international community”, Israel, and even George W. Bush, what is happening is prompted by intra-Palestinian political rivalries. The fighting has three causes: immediate, medium-term and long-term.

The immediate cause is the desire by Hamas to bring the security apparatus of Fatah, its rival group in Gaza, under its own control. Months of negotiations with the help of Saudi Arabia failed to persuade Fatah to put its security forces under government (which in practice meant Hamas) command.

To Hamas, Fatah’s security machine, led by Muhammad Dahlan, is little better than “the Zionist enemy”. Dahlan, for his part, knew that, without his machine, he would have little chance of making a bid for the presidency when the incumbent, Mahmoud Abbas, is forced out. Dahlan ran a lucrative protection racket in Gaza, set up by the late Yassir Arafat and his family, to bankroll Fatah.

Having expelled Fatah, Hamas takes over this protection racket. Despite a $250 million cash gift from Tehran, Hamas has been short of money for almost a year. Thus, seizing control of Arafat’s business empire in Gaza will be a godsend.

The medium-term cause of the fighting is Hamas’s desire to push the wooden nail into the heart of the Oslo accords, the “undead” that haunts Palestinian politics with the elusive prospect of a two-state solution.

Fatah bought into the two-state philosophy in the 1990s. It regards Gaza and the West Bank as pieces of a jigsaw that, put together, would make an independent Palestinian state that would exist alongside Israel. The constitution of Hamas, however, commits it to the creation of a single state. Gaza and the West Bank are regarded as bases from which the struggle for the liberation of the entire mandate of Palestine, that is to say the elimination of Israel, is pursued for as long as necessary.

The longer-term cause of the duel is the deep ideological divisions in Palestinian society: Hamas is religious, Fatah secular. Hamas is pan-Islamist, Fatah Palestinian nationalist.

Although Gaza has been Hamas’s principal base for a decade, the presence of Fatah’s armed security networks prevented the pan-Islamist movement from reshaping the enclave according to its radical ideology. Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, an international movement dedicated to creating a single global Islamic state. For it, Palestine is no more than a small corner of Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) that must one day defeat Dar al-Kufr (the House of the Infidel) to unite mankind under its banner.

In a talk to students at Tehran University a few months ago, Ismail Haniyah, the Hamas Prime Minister fired yesterday by President Abbas, cautioned against “the trap of nationalism”, which he described as a “Zionist-Crusader conspiracy” to divide Muslims across national lines. To be sure, Haniyah wants a Palestine as much as Dahlan does, but not just any old Palestine. Haniyah wants a Palestine that covers the entire 22,000sq km of the old British mandate, not the 5,000 sq km of Gaza and West Bank that Fatah has accepted. He also wants an Islamic Palestine in which Sharia, not Western-style law, is in force.

Having won the general election 18 months ago, Hamas launched a drive to “Islamicise” Gaza, forcing women to wear the hijab and men to grow beards. It burnt down the last beer factory in Gaza and banned the sale of alcoholic drinks. Bands of youths calling themselves “Brigades of Enforcing the Good and Combating Evil” raid homes in search of alcohol, Western music and videos, unIslamic T-shirts and other “sinful items”. Young men and women found together in public, or even in private cars, are stopped and interrogated to make sure unmarried couples do not violate Sharia rules.

Hamas is convinced that time is running out for Israel and that, with Islam experiencing a global renaissance, the chance of victory against the “Infidel”, in this particular corner of the world, is rising by the day. Exclusive control of Gaza will enable Hamas to devise a low-intensity pincer war against Israel with the help of Hezbollah in Lebanon, supported by Iran and Syria. Hamas is also encouraged that, for the first time in two decades, several regional powers, including Iran, Syria, and Libya, support its “one-state” strategy.

Fatah’s analysis, however, is based on the assumption that the longer the “two-state” solution is delayed, the smaller the chances of creating a viable Palestinian state.

By expelling Fatah, Hamas will have exclusive control over an area that accounts for almost half of all Palestinians in the occupied territories. Fatah has retaliated with “cleansing” operations against Hamas supporters in the West Bank. As things are shaping up, Gaza could end up as Hamas-land while the West Bank becomes Fatah-land. And, that, if anything, looks like a three-state scenario: a Jewish one in Israel, a secular Arab nationalist one in the West Bank, and an Islamist one in Gaza. And that means bigger troubles ahead.

 

“THE WAY OF THE GUN HAS BEEN PAYING DIVIDENDS FOR 40 YEARS”

Arafat’s children
Editorial
The Wall Street Journal
June 16, 2007

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118195901651137457.html

Scores of Palestinians were killed this week in Gaza in factional fighting between loyalists of President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and those of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. As if on cue, it took about 24 hours before pundits the world over blamed the violence on Israel and President Bush.

This is the Israel that dismantled its settlements in Gaza in August 2005, a unilateral concession for which it asked, and got, nothing in return. And it is the U.S. President who, in a landmark speech five years ago this month, called on Palestinians to “elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror.” Had Palestinians done so, they could be living today in a peaceful, independent state. Instead, in January 2006 they freely handed the reins of government to Hamas in parliamentary elections. What is happening today is the result of that choice – their choice.

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

* * *

In 1972 Palestinian terrorists murdered Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Yet only two years later Yasser Arafat addressed the U.N.’s General Assembly – the first non-government official so honored. In 1970 Arafat attempted to overthrow Jordan’s King Hussein and tried to do the same a few years later in Lebanon. Yet in 1980, the European Community, in its Venice Declaration, recognized Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization as a legitimate negotiating partner.

In 1973, the National Security Agency recorded Arafat’s telephoned instructions to PLO terrorists to murder Cleo Noel, the U.S. ambassador in Sudan, and his deputy George Curtis Moore. Yet in 1993, Arafat was welcomed in the White House for the signing of the Oslo Accords with Israel. That same year, the British National Criminal Intelligence Service reported that the PLO made its money from “extortion, payoffs, illegal arms-dealing, drug trafficking, money laundering and fraud.” Yet over the next several years, the Palestinian Authority would become the largest single recipient of foreign aid on a per capita basis.

In 1996, after he had formally renounced terrorism in the Oslo Accords, Arafat told a rally in Gaza that “We are committed to all martyrs who died for the cause of Jerusalem starting with Ahmed Musa until the last martyr Yihye Ayyash” – Musa being the first PLO terrorist to be killed in 1965 and Ayyash being the Hamas mastermind of a series of suicide bombings in which scores of Israeli civilians were killed. Yet the Clinton Administration continued to pretend that Arafat was an ally in the fight against Hamas. In 2000, Arafat rejected an Israeli offer of statehood midwifed by President Clinton and instead initiated the bloody intifada that left 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians dead.

In 2005, only months after Arafat’s death, Israel dismantled its settlements and withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have used the opportunity to intensify their rocket fire at civilian targets within Israel. Last month, Israeli security services arrested two Gazan women, one of them pregnant, who were planning to enter Israel on medical pretexts in order to carry out suicide attacks. Yet the same month, the World Bank issued a report faulting Israel for restricting Palestinian freedom of movement.

Now it appears Hamas has taken control of the Gaza Strip’s main road, its border with Egypt as well as the offices of the so-called Preventive Security Services, traditionally a Fatah stronghold. “They are executing them one by one,” a witness told the Associated Press of Hamas’s reprisals against the Preventive Security personnel.

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

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

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

* * *

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

 

“HAMAS SEES ECONOMIC DEPRIVATION AS A FORM OF POLITICAL OPPRESSION”

Fundamentalists threaten Israel from all sides
By Con Coughlin
The Daily Telegraph
June 15, 2007

Welcome to the new Islamic Republic of Hamas-stan, where every Palestinian woman is obliged to wear the veil and all traces of corrupting Western influences, from pop music to internet cafés, are strictly banned.

The creation of a mini Islamic state in Gaza now appears the most likely outcome as the militant Palestinian group Hamas strikes against the more secular-minded government of President Mahmoud Abbas.

And with fighters loyal to Mr Abbas’s Fatah movement either surrendering or fleeing, it seems that not even the might of Israel can prevent Hamas from fulfilling its long-held ambition of establishing an Islamic state within the Palestinian territories.

The Gaza Strip, the 20-mile stretch of desert scrub wedged between Israel and the Sinai Desert, has never been a happy place. The majority of the 1.4 million Palestinians who live there are mainly refugees from Israel’s 1948 war of independence and have rarely seen their living standards rise above subsistence level. But the addition of religious fanaticism to economic privation has severely worsened their plight.

Even before this week’s violence, activists had been busy attacking cafés, video shops and restaurants that serve alcohol or sell what are regarded as subversive Western films.

An internet café at the Jabaliyah refugee camp was bombed because zealots believed its customers might be exposed to pornography or pop music. The desire to enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law even resulted in a gunman attacking a UN primary school because it allowed young boys and girls to mix together in the playground.

And all this with Ismael Haniyeh, the Palestinian Prime Minister who came to power on the back of Hamas’s surprise election victory in the 2006 elections, yet to establish his de facto Islamic state. Even if Gaza remains under Mr Abbas’s nominal control, the implications of it becoming a self-contained Islamic entity are alarming not just for Israel, but for the wider region.

Hamas makes no secret of the fact that it now receives most of its financial and military support from Iran. The Iranian government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Hamas leadership in June last year, in which it agreed to fund the militant group to the tune of £400 million.

Until then, most of the Palestinian Authority’s funding came from the EU and America, but this dried up when Hamas came to power and refused to give up its long-standing policy of seeking Israel’s destruction or to renounce its terrorist past.

In addition to financial support, Iran provides training to members of the military wing of Hamas by sending them to camps in Lebanon and Iran run by the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards.

Past Iranian attempts to supply the Palestinians with military hardware have been less successful, with the Israeli navy intercepting a ship laden with explosives destined for Gaza in early 2002. But earlier this year, the Iranians sought to establish new supply lines to Gaza.

On February 24, Khaled Mashaal, Hamas’s supreme leader, travelled to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, where he met senior Quds Force officials and Sudanese politicians who are broadly sympathetic to Hamas’s political objectives.

The main topic of conversation was setting up a supply route that would enable Iran to smuggle rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, guns and explosives through the porous border between Gaza and Egypt.

The dispute over tightening the border is now one of the issues at the heart of the current violence; Hamas refuses to countenance the deployment of an international force that would seriously curtail the activities of the arms and money smugglers who use a sophisticated network of tunnels to transport their contraband into Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian campaigners frequently claim that the main reason Gaza is in crisis is that the economic blockade imposed by America and Israel following Hamas’s election victory has reduced the civilian population to penury. This was the essence of the argument advanced by Alvaro de Soto, until recently the UN’s special co-ordinator for the Middle East, who seems happy to blame anyone for the Palestinians’ plight except the Palestinians themselves.

Ordinary Palestinians, it is true, in both Gaza and the West Bank, are suffering hardship. But this is not because of a lack of funds entering the Palestinian territories: it is because successive Palestinian administrations have made no effort to distribute the resources available equably among the population.

Hamas, on the other hand, sees economic deprivation as a form of political oppression. The World Bank reported that donors contributed about £375 million to the Palestinian territories in 2006, twice the amount they received in 2005. But since taking power, Hamas ensures any funds are spent on Islamic causes and its 6,000-strong militia, leaving the majority to fend for themselves.

The bonus for Hamas is that, by forcing the majority of Palestinians to exist in dire poverty, it succeeds in attracting widespread sympathy from international do-gooders who do not understand the sadistic economic manipulation that is taking place.

Not surprisingly, many Palestinians who were previously agnostic about their Muslim heritage have found themselves embracing the Hamas cause, more out of economic necessity than religious obligation.

Hizbollah – another Iranian-funded militia – used similar tactics to establish its power base in southern Lebanon during the 1980s. Hizbollah, of course, has now become a dominant force in Lebanese politics.

Hamas is trying to replicate Hizbollah’s success in Gaza, not a pleasing prospect for Israel, which now faces the threat of having two Iranian-backed, Islamic fundamentalist organisations dedicated to its destruction camped on its northern and southern borders. It is not a thought that will help Israelis sleep easy.

 

“AUSTRIA-HUNGARY AND THE BOURBONS ROLLED INTO ONE”

“Our ‘friend’ Fatah”
By Barry Rubin
June 17, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, all right, work with Fatah but have no illusions or expectations. And don’t give something for nothing.

 

THE JEWISH STATES IS AT ITS MOST VULNERABLE FOR THREE DECADES

Iran’s long game sets stage for war
By Uzi Mahnaimi
The Sunday London Times
June 17, 2007

Israel awoke last Friday to find itself encircled by enemies with its most determined foe, Iran, entrenched on its southern doorstep in Gaza.

Hamas’s stunningly swift victory in a brief civil war has left the Jewish state at its most vulnerable for three decades.

Inspired by a philosophy of militant Islam and backed by Iranian weaponry and military training, Hamas poses a direct threat to Israel and, if left unchecked, will soon be in a position to step up its lethal rocket attacks on towns and villages across the border.

In Lebanon to the north, Israel faces Hezbollah, the militant Syrian-backed militia, which has rebuilt its frontline forces – also with Iranian help – since last summer’s war exposed the shortcomings of the Israeli defence forces. The Lebanese government can do little to curb Hezbollah’s growing strength.

“Tehran has succeeded in planting an Iranian division in the north and now they have a foothold in the south by establishing their southern division - Hamas,” said a source in Israel’s defence ministry.

Then there is Syria, with which Israel is still officially at war. Damascus is demanding the return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967. Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, said recently his country did not want war with Syria but warned that a “miscalculation” could spark one.

To the east – beyond Jordan – lie the deeply unstable Iraq and the greatest threat of all in Israeli eyes, Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has declared that Israel should be “wiped off the map” and continues to advance a nuclear programme in defiance of the United Nations security council.

Israeli intelligence has little doubt that if Israel or the US attacks Iran’s burgeoning uranium enrichment programme, much of the retaliation will come from Tehran’s clients on its borders.

They are also watching a fierce debate inside the US administration between doves led by Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, and hawks such as Vice-President Dick Cheney, on the repercussions of any military strike against Iran.

With the doves seemingly holding the upper hand in Washington, US support for a hardline Israeli response may be fading. But Israeli leaders continue to warn that they will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Ehud Barak, who is expected to be appointed defence minister tomorrow, met Olmert to agree a crisis plan to deal with the threat of Hamas before Olmert left for Washington to meet President George W Bush this week.

“Israel will not tolerate a Hamastan at its back door,” said one of Barak’s close associates.

 

GAZA’S CHRISTIANS FEAR FOR THEIR LIVES

Gaza’s Christians fear for their lives
By Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
June 18, 2007

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1181813061916&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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