Hamas enraged by mixed dancing on the West Bank (& Egypt builds a wall)

April 28, 2008

* International dance festival in Ramallah outrages Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza, as Palestinian men and women dance together
* Palestinian Health Ministry says Hamas, not Israel, to blame for fuel shortage in Gaza
* Hamas gunmen yesterday again shoot at Israeli fuel trucks trying to make deliveries to Gaza
* BBC and other media fall for Hamas propaganda

 

CONTENTS

1. No dancing, we’re waging Jihad
2. Hizbullah prepares for war while the UN stands by
3. Israel: UNIFIL hiding info about Hizbullah from Security Council
4. German paper says Syria to supply new missile systems to Hizbullah
5. Hizbullah detains member of French Socialist Party
6. Egypt builds a barrier
7. “It is crassly Eurocentric to think that this can be negotiated to any conclusion”
8. Palestinian Health Ministry: Hamas, not Israel, to blame for fuel shortage in Gaza
9. Hamas: we are proud to have killed them
10. “Ramallah refuses to dance to Hamas’ cue” (Ha’aretz, April 28, 2008)
11. “Hizbullah builds up covert army for a new assault against Israel” (Observer, April 27, 2008)
12. “Egypt builds a wall. And changes its tune on Israel’s barrier” (By David Schenker, Weekly Standard, April 28, 2008)
13. “Dead end: The heartbreaking realities of today’s Israel” (By David Pryce-Jones, National Review, April 7, 2008)
14. “Hamas disrupts fuel supplies to Gaza” (By Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, April 28, 2008)


[Note by Tom Gross]

NOTES AND SUMMARIES

I attach five articles of interest relating to the Middle East, three from today, one from yesterday and one from earlier this month.

For those of you who don’t have time to read these articles in full, I have summarized them first and added various comments of my own and other news items first.

 

NO DANCING, WE’RE WAGING JIHAD

The first article below concerns the international dance festival currently taking place in Ramallah on the West Bank. Since the Islamic movement Hamas took control of Gaza in 2006, much to the anguish of the non-Islamist majority in Gaza, they have cracked down on dancing between men and women.

In the past few weeks, Islamists have also blown up a women’s hair salon, an Internet cafe, a library belonging to a Christian organization and have even tried to damage the famous restaurant at the Al-Deira Hotel located on Gaza’s beachfront.

 

HIZBULLAH PREPARES FOR WAR WHILE THE UN STANDS BY

“Villages are empty as Shia militia [Hizbullah] sends recruits to tough training camps in the Bekaa Valley, Syria and Iran,” The Observer newspaper in Britain reported yesterday. While the left-leaning Observer is often highly critical of Israel and the west in general, in recent years it has sought to distance itself from its daily sister paper The Guardian, and not pretend that Iranian-backed Islamic militia like Hizbullah don’t pose a threat to democracies and moderate states like Israel.

“An Observer investigation has discovered that this covert organization [Hizbullah] is quietly but steadily replacing its dead and redoubling its recruitment efforts in anticipation of a new, and even more brutal, conflict. Hizbullah has embarked on a major expansion of its fighting capability and is now sending hundreds, if not thousands, of young men into intensive training camps in Lebanon, Syria and Iran to ready itself for war with Israel,” the paper reported on page 39 yesterday.

It added: “But what is becoming more obvious, even as Hizbullah tries to hide it, is that the group has embarked on an unprecedented build-up of men, equipment and bunker-building in preparation for the war that almost everyone – Lebanese and Israeli – considers inevitable. ‘The villages in the south are empty of men,’ said one international official. ‘They are all gone, training in Bekaa, Syria and Iran.’”

This is what Israel has been saying for more than a year, but few western journalists seem interested in reporting the growing Hizbullah threat.

Meanwhile the Spanish, French and Italian-led UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL is doing virtually nothing to stop Hizbullah rearming – which is meant to be part of its core mandate and why Israel agreed to cede security over Israel’s north to them in the first place. It once again makes Israelis think that relying on international organizations, and in particular the UN, to protect them is a foolish and dangerous policy.

 

ISRAEL: UNIFIL HIDING INFO ABOUT HIZBULLAH FROM SECURITY COUNCIL

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is intentionally concealing information about Hizbullah activities south of the Litani River in Lebanon to avoid conflict with the group, Israeli government sources told Ha’aretz today. In the last six months there have been at least four cases in which UNIFIL soldiers identified armed Hizbullah operatives, but did nothing and did not submit full reports on the incidents to the UN Security Council.

The Israel Defense Forces and the Foreign Ministry are furious with UNIFIL’s Italian commander, Major General Claudio Graziano, who is said to be ignoring his mission, as assigned by Security Council Resolution 1701, passed at the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

 

GERMAN PAPER SAYS SYRIA TO SUPPLY NEW MISSILE SYSTEMS TO HIZBULLAH

The German daily newspaper Die Welt, reported on Friday that “Syria is supplying Surface-to-Air missiles to Hizbullah.”

Syria has promised to equip Hizbullah forces with SA-18 surface-to-air shoulder-fired missile systems. This is a small, mobile surface-to-air missile, capable of shooting down helicopters flying at up to 18,000 feet, from a distance of up to six kilometers. The system is of joint Russian-Syrian manufacture, and has been in service with the Syrian Army for the past year.

Over the past few months, says the paper, the radical Shia group has already received new surface-to-surface missiles, with ranges of up to 115 kilometers.

Die Welt says Hizbullah wants them not only for use against Israel but for use against the Lebanese army.

 

HIZBULLAH DETAINS MEMBER OF FRENCH SOCIALIST PARTY

Meanwhile, a member of the French Socialist Party, in Lebanon for an international conference, was detained by Hizbullah for four hours yesterday after he was seen taking photographs in a Hizbullah-controlled area south of Beirut. Karim Pakzad and a co-traveler were taking pictures of a mosque, when Hizbullah gunmen drove up on motorcycles and a SUV and detained them.

The French Foreign Ministry has demanded an “investigation and judicial follow-up.” Walid Jumblatt, the leader of an anti-Syrian socialist party in Lebanon, said that Hizbullah’s actions demonstrated that it acted as a state-within-a-state, and Hizbullah’s sympathizers on the left in Western Europe should not support the group.

 

EGYPT BUILDS A BARRIER

The third article below, by David Schenker, is titled “Egypt builds a wall. And changes its tune on Israel’s barrier.”

Schenker writes: “Much ado has been made of the Israeli security fence isolating the West Bank. When it is completed in 2010, the barrier – which runs roughly along the 1967 border between Israel and Palestinian territory – will span nearly 500 miles. Israelis say the purpose of the structure is to curtail terrorist attacks against the Jewish state. There’s little reason to doubt them: Despite a March attack that killed eight students at a Jerusalem seminary, statistics suggest that the barrier and a corresponding one around Gaza are working.

“... Until recently, Egypt [like militant Palestinians and their apologists in the West] was a vociferous critic [of Israel’s barrier]. In 2003, Egypt’s foreign minister at the time, Ahmed Maher, described the structure as “defying international legitimacy and world public opinion.”

“... Now following bomb attacks, such as the one that killed 23 tourists in the Sinai resort town of Dahab, Egypt is going to build its own fence along the border with Gaza.

“... As Israel learned some time ago, good fences make good neighbors, especially when your neighbors are your enemies.”

 

“IT IS CRASSLY EUROCENTRIC TO THINK THAT THIS CAN BE NEGOTIATED TO ANY CONCLUSION”

In the fourth article below, the esteemed British writer David Pryce-Jones, notes:

“Israel’s enemies have always wished to destroy it, of course, but what’s new this time is that they are avoiding the set-piece battles that lost them all previous wars, and are instead elaborating the tactics of terror. Islamist Iran has made itself the driving force. The terrorist movements Hizbullah and Hamas are both Iranian satellites, and their presence on Israel’s borders ensures that Iran can already engage in terrorism on its own terms and at times of its own choosing.

“... In the new Cold War shaping up between Islamism and the democratic West, Israel holds the front line. Once again, the values of the opposing sides are irreconcilable. Israel, and behind it the United States, treats even the most intractable issues as open to negotiation and compromise. In the Arab and Muslim order, power is absolute and has to be victorious, so “negotiation” and “compromise” are euphemisms for shame and surrender.

“... It is crassly Eurocentric to think that this can be negotiated to any conclusion. Iran evidently has the opposite, Islamocentric belief that power is indeed absolute, and that the conquest of Israel is not only desirable but achievable. As the ayatollahs see it, the fighting launched by Hizbullah in 2005 led to a temporary stalemate, and with a lot more arms and money they will do better next time. Hamas operates identically. The borders of the Gaza Strip with Israel and with Egypt are fortified and closed. Hamas activists have been smuggling arms through tunnels dug under the border with Egypt.”

 

PALESTINIAN HEALTH MINISTRY: HAMAS, NOT ISRAEL, TO BLAME FOR FUEL SHORTAGE IN GAZA

The Palestinian Health Ministry has blamed Hamas for preventing fuel oil from reaching hospitals in the Gaza Strip. In a statement yesterday, the ministry said “members of Hamas opened fire on Sunday on fuel trucks [coming from Israel] that were full of fuel destined for hospitals in the territory.” (Agence France Presse and The Jerusalem Post both report this but other media prefer to ignore it.)

Hamas militiamen in the Gaza Strip yesterday attacked fuel trucks headed toward the Nahal Oz border crossing, forcing them to turn back, officials at the Palestinian Petroleum Authority said. The fuel was supposed to go to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

“Dozens of Hamas militiamen hurled stones and opened fire at the trucks,” the sources added. “The trucks were on their way to receive fuel supplied by Israel. The drivers were forced to turn back. Some of them had their windshields smashed.”

UNRWA workers admitted for the first time yesterday that Hamas had been prevented fuel trucks entering the Gaza Strip.

Israel, for its part, claims the fuel storage depots in Gaza are full and that Hamas is artificially creating the impression of a humanitarian crisis to gain world sympathy. In recent days, the world’s biggest news organization, the BBC, has run hour after hour of statements about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, treating Hamas propaganda as if it were true.

 

HAMAS: WE ARE PROUD TO HAVE KILLED THEM

Hamas yesterday took credit for the murder of two Israelis in the Nitzanei Oz industrial zone (inside Israel, near the West Bank) on Friday. For Hamas’ claim of “full responsibility for the heroic operation” click here. (The murdered Israelis were not soldiers, and other information in the Hamas statement is also incorrect.)

The Nitzanei industrial zone, where the attack took place, is located near the separation fence, not far from Tulkarem. The complex was built in 1995 and houses nine factories that provide jobs to many hundreds of Palestinians from the West Bank.

Many western media failed to report on these murders but did then report (in an out-of-context way, without mentioning the shootings of the Israelis) the Israeli army actions to arrest the two gunmen.

Meanwhile Hamas rocket fire from Gaza continues to rain down on southern Israel. It caused heavy damage to Ashkelon’s cemetery on Friday, and dozens of graves were destroyed. More homes were hit in Sderot this morning. A kibbutz was also struck.

-- Tom Gross

(Khaled Abu Toameh and David Pryce-Jones, whose articles I attach below, are both longtime subscribers to this email list.)


FULL ARTICLES

RAMALLAH REFUSES TO DANCE TO HAMAS’ CUE

Ramallah refuses to dance to Hamas’ cue
By Avi Issacharoff, Ramallah, West Bank
Ha’aretz
April 28, 2008

Half an hour later than scheduled, the lights were dimmed and the audience quieted down at Ramallah’s packed Kasbah Theatre. City luminaries, humble villagers and Europeans garbed in smart suits sat side-by-side to watch a performance by the Italian dance troupe, Bottega. For an instant, one might have thought that the well-dressed crowd had assembled in Tel Aviv or a European city. But the large number of smokers who filled the mezzanines revealed the event’s actual location.

Khaled Elian, the organizer of the Contemporary Dance Festival, took to the stage. He looked emotional and perturbed. In the past week, a number of articles calling for the festival to be canceled have appeared on television channels and Web sites run by the Islamist group Hamas. One article claimed the event was akin to “dancing on the blood of the martyrs.” Another argued that Islamic law forbids women and men from dancing together. Others argued that organizing a dance festival at a time when battles are raging in the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas, was treason on the part of its rival Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority areas in the West Bank.

Well aware of the criticism against him, Elian rebuffed his critics. “There are people who say art is forbidden these days,” he emotionally declared from the stage of the packed theater in Ramallah. “To them we respond, so is lying. The people who organized this festival are the same that lead the resistance against the occupation. The festival will continue!” The crowd burst into a round of applause.

A tale of two cities

In the past few weeks, unknown Islamists have blown up a women’s hair salon, an internet cafe, a library belonging to a Christian organization and have even tried to damage the famous restaurant at the Al-Deira Hotel located on Gaza’s beachfront. These attacks on “Western symbols” seem to be gathering pace, though the Hamas government does not support them outright. Meanwhile, the third annual Contemporary Dance Festival in Ramallah started 10 days ago, and the 14 dance groups from Europe, as well as 12 Palestinian dance groups, found themselves in the middle of a political and theological tempest.

The manager of the Italian group last night addressed the audience immediately after Elian. “I would like to say a few things before we begin,” he told the crowd in English, and then greeted them good evening in Arabic. “Ana mabsut bi Ramallah (I am pleased to be in Ramallah)”, he said. His heavy accent raised a few smiles in the audience. “We are proud to be in Palestine and present our show,” he then said, in English. “We are dancers and dancing is our life. It isn’t just entertainment, but our way of supporting Palestine and Palestinians. Tomorrow we are going back home so shukran (thank you).”

The performance began. Six dancers in minimal dress came on stage, including a scantily-clad dancer that the brochure says symbolizes ostro (the north wind). As she kisses the dancer next to her, she breathes life into him. The crowd does not seem either shaken or enthused by the sensuousness displayed. Ana, a 27-year-old woman from Spain, said she was surprised by the act’s risque. “It’s different from what people in Ramallah are used to,” she explained.

Ana is wearing a kaffiyeh, a traditional headdress for Arab men, to show her support for the Palestinians. Meanwhile, the show, which incorporates break-dancing and improvisational moves, hip-hop and touches of classic ballet, continues. One of the youths in the crowd, Amal, explains in fluent Hebrew that she heard about the festival through the media. A short inquiry reveals Amal is from Haifa. “I heard that Hamas rebuked the organizers because of events in Gaza and I came to show support,” she said. “I think it’s important to preserve art for those who oppose the occupation. They have to be educated and enlightened and not entirely focused on military issues. The religious people can pray and do whatever they want except tell us secular people what we can or can’t do.”

Toward the end of the performance, the music becomes more up-tempo. The dancers ask the audience to clap their hands, and the audience responds by clapping loudly. Jamil, a dancer of the debke dance that originated in the Levant area, said after the show that art must not be neglected. “It’s true that we come from a traditional society but we have to look ahead,” he said. “Contemporary dance is a new concept for most of us, or at least for me, but I like it.”

 

LEBANESE VILLAGES EMPTY AS SHIA MILITIA TRAIN IN IRAN

Hizbullah builds up covert army for a new assault against Israel
Villages empty as Shia militia sends recruits to tough training camps in Bekaa Valley, Syria and Iran, reports Mitchell Prothero in southern Lebanon
By Mitchell Prothero
The Observer (UK)
April 27, 2008

www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/27/israelandthepalestinians.lebanon/print

The dead of southern Lebanon watch the living from the sides of buildings and from lampposts, their faces staring out defiantly from posters, heads often superimposed on bodies of generic men in uniform. These are Hizbullah’s martyrs: men killed fighting against Israel before it abandoned the occupation of the south in 2000 or in the numerous clashes since, including the bloody summer war of 2006.

The images are often the only public acknowledgement of the individuals who make up this most secretive of institutions: Hizbullah’s military wing.

But an Observer investigation has discovered that this covert organisation is quietly but steadily replacing its dead and redoubling its recruitment efforts in anticipation of a new, and even more brutal, conflict. Hizbullah has embarked on a major expansion of its fighting capability and is now sending hundreds, if not thousands, of young men into intensive training camps in Lebanon, Syria and Iran to ready itself for war with Israel. ‘It’s not a matter of if,’ says one fighter. ‘It’s a matter of when Sayed Hasan Nasrallah [Hizbullah chief] commands us.’

The group’s policy of refusing to discuss military matters extends to the highest levels. In speeches and rare interviews, Nasrallah refuses to answer even the simplest questions about the military wing, never referring even to the fact that his eldest son, Hadi, was a fighter himself. Life as a Hizbullah fighter is anonymous until death. But meetings with fighters, activists, Lebanese security officials, the UN peacekeepers along the border and residents of south Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut, where the group is most active, offered a glimpse inside the workings of a group rarely open to outsiders. None of the sources within the group can be named - Hizbullah has barred members from speaking with the Western media since the mysterious death of a top commander, Imad Mughniyeh, in a Damascus car bomb.

‘The most important thing is to never talk,’ says one fighter, who agreed to speak about the group without revealing his name or specific duties inside ‘the Islamic Resistance of Lebanon’, as the military wing of Hizbullah is known. ‘From the moment we begin our training, we are told two things: never disobey an order and never talk about the resistance. Hizbullah is not a job, it is not a family. It is a mix of religion, honour, dignity and discipline. It is my life.’

But what is becoming more obvious, even as Hizbullah tries to hide it, is that the group has embarked on an unprecedented build-up of men, equipment and bunker-building in preparation for the war that almost everyone - Lebanese and Israeli - considers inevitable. ‘The villages in the south are empty of men,’ said one international official. ‘They are all gone, training in Bekaa, Syria and Iran.’

A trip by The Observer through villages in the Hizbullah heartland confirmed a conspicuous lack of fighting-age men. Visible were several new martyr posters, but unlike the traditional ones they portrayed anonymous, fresh-faced youngsters without military garb. According to locals, these are boys who have been killed accidentally in the latest wave of training in Iran. In the city of Tyre, too, posters showing young men killed in training exercises are cropping up. One is of Ahmad Hashem, killed while instructing recruits in the use of rocket-propelled grenades.

The initial training and selection of recruits is done in Lebanon, with Iran preferred for training on specialities - use of certain weapons, RPGs and anti-tank missiles - that require firing live rounds. ‘But mostly the training in Iran is in theoretical things: philosophy, religion. The best training for fighting is done here in Lebanon,’ said a fighter. ‘We are so close to Israel here that our training becomes real.’

Israeli official statements suggest the increasingly aggressive recruiting results from the heavy casualties suffered by the group in 2006, a notion dismissed by sources within Hizbullah and even by the US military. While Israel contends that between 500 and 700 Hizbullah fighters were killed, the group itself said that about 80 fighters had died. Hizbullah sources admit that the losses were double that figure, while the US military study decided the death toll was 184.

‘How could they be lying so much?’ asked one resident of the south. ‘People would not tolerate not having a funeral or posters of their son or husband. If it were 700 dead fighters, we would all know. We’d know more people killed, we’d be hearing the complaints from the families. Where can you hide 700 dead bodies in south Lebanon? It’s too small.’

Losses aside, before 2006 most observers also widely overestimated the size of the military group. Some analysts put it as high as 5,000 men with more than 10,000 reservists, including its allied Amal - meaning Hope - militia supporting them.

‘Ridiculous,’ says the Hizbullah member. ‘Before 2006 there were not more than 1,000 professional fighters, guys who manned bunkers and conducted operations full-time. The rest are trained and armed but lead ordinary lives unless called upon.’

This assessment is supported by regional intelligence services and Lebanese Shias, but now signs of the militia’s dramatic expansion are alarming Hizbullah’s domestic and international enemies.

The US military study described Hizbullah’s military wing as ‘completely decentralised’. Its commanders famously exercised this independence when they refused orders by the top command to abandon Bint Jebel in 2006 - then under massive Israeli ground assault. The town did not fall and Hizbullah rank-and-file today laud the refusal of orders as one of the biggest victories in the war. Recruiters closely watch youngsters for this kind of nerve and self-motivation, selecting the most talented boys for advanced training when they reach adulthood.

Hizbullah fighters describe a series of units - built around specialities such as rocket teams, heavy weapons experts, infantry, scouts and or part-time basis. ‘Some units will be sent for training or operations for one, even two, years. Others continue to work or go to school. But even if you work your life is still Hizbullah. They call and that’s it - you go. Maybe you tell your boss or professors you’re going to Qatar or something for family reasons. But you never tell anyone what you’re really doing.’

The decision to expand both the military wing and the supporting militias stems not from the losses during the 2006 war but from Hizbullah’s success as a conventional military force in that conflict, says a Lebanese army commander who has worked with the group, his view being confirmed by the US military study. ‘They were guerrillas during the occupation but shocked Israel in the war by standing and fighting from fixed positions. Even badly outnumbered, they held territory with minimal losses even under assault from tank units,’ he says. ‘Now they want to expand to make sure they can stop the next invasion before the tanks reach the flat plains of the Bekaa, where Israel’s armoured units will have the advantage.’

Another crisis driving the build-up is Lebanon’s political conflict, which pits Hizbullah and its allies against a coalition of Sunni, Druze and Christians supporting the Western-backed government. Street fights between Sunnis and Shias are becoming commonplace but Hizbullah cannot afford to take its men away from the bunkers in the south to fight on the streets of Beirut, say members of Amal and the Lebanese army.

‘They know they can’t send their best fighters, or the Israelis could attack. Israel will always be their main focus. But they have access to many that are good enough to fight with rocks, sticks and maybe some guns. They’re training those guys to fight the Sunnis in Beirut,’ says the army officer.

One Hizbullah fighter says he hopes that the situation doesn’t deteriorate into them taking up arms against other Lebanese groups, but admits it is possible. ‘God willing, I will never fight a Lebanese, but I will if ordered.’

 

“GOOD FENCES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOUR NEIGHBORS ARE YOUR ENEMIES”

Egypt Builds a Wall. And changes its tune on Israel’s barrier.
By David Schenker
The Weekly Standard
April 28, 2008

www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/010aplyi.asp?pg=1

Much ado has been made of the Israeli security fence isolating the West Bank. When it is completed in 2010, the barrier – which runs roughly along the 1967 border between Israel and Palestinian territory – will span nearly 500 miles. Israelis say the purpose of the structure is to curtail terrorist attacks against the Jewish state. There’s little reason to doubt them: Despite a March attack that killed eight students at a Jerusalem seminary, statistics suggest that the barrier and a corresponding one around Gaza are working.

West Bankers condemn the structure because it encroaches into pre-1967 Palestinian territory, limits mobility, and separates farmers from their fields. Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since June 2007, describes its territory as “a big prison.” Until recently, Egypt too was a vociferous critic. In 2003, Egypt’s foreign minister at the time, Ahmed Maher, described the structure as “defying international legitimacy and world public opinion.”

Even as Israel moves expeditiously to seal off its West Bank threat, however, Palestinians face the prospect of another wall hemming them in. This latest wall is not being constructed by the Israelis, though, but by Egypt, which seeks more protection from its Palestinian neighbors in Gaza.

Cairo has every reason to be concerned. In January 2008, Hamas demolished the Gaza-Egypt border fence, allowing an estimated 700,000 Palestinians – nearly half of Gaza’s population – to stream into the Sinai desert. Initially, Cairo viewed the Gaza breach as an opportunity to solidify its pro-Palestinian bona fides. Then reality set in. Egypt, it seems, was concerned that Palestinians entering the Sinai might exacerbate Egypt’s own terrorism problem. In April 2006, 23 tourists were killed in a car-bomb attack in the Sinai resort town of Dahab; two days later, U.N. Multi-national Force Observers, enforcing the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, were targeted by suicide attacks.

For Cairo, the threat extends beyond Sinai. Islamists in Egypt – led by the Muslim Brotherhood – have been making significant political gains in recent years, winning an unprecedented 88 of 444 elected parliamentary seats in 2005. The prospect of Hamas’s hooking up with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood terrifies the government of Egypt. As one Egyptian political analyst describes it, “Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood on steroids.”

Less than two weeks after the Gaza breach, Cairo took draconian measures to return the Palestinians to Gaza. It arrested dozens – including a group of armed Palestinians reportedly planning to attack Israeli tourists in the Sinai – and quickly resealed the border with miles of barbed wire. Hamas cried foul and pledged that it would not allow the border to remain sealed. In February, two Egyptian border guards were injured by Palestinian gunfire and several more were treated for broken bones after being hit by rocks thrown across the border.

With tensions along the border increasing, Egypt has softened its position on Israel’s West Bank barrier. In March, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said, “Whoever wishes to build a security fence on his land is free to do that.” Subsequently, it was announced that Egypt, with $23 million in U.S. assistance, would build its own fence along the border with Gaza. Teams from the Army Corps of Engineers are expected in Egypt shortly to advise the project.

At least in part, Cairo’s change in attitude was driven by Washington. For more than a decade, weapons have moved freely into Gaza via ubiquitous smuggling tunnels linking Sinai to Palestinian areas and bypassing Israeli scrutiny. Since Hamas’s Gaza takeover, though, the issue has increasingly garnered attention, as longer-range katyusha rockets – presumably transported via these tunnels – have started falling on Israeli cities with greater frequency. During the 2008 budget discussions, Congress was so concerned about perceived Egyptian inaction on the tunnels that a clause was inserted to condition nearly $100 million in U.S. aid on Cairo’s countering these smuggling routes.

For Cairo, the U.S. pressure was a blessing in disguise. The Egyptian government gives a lot of lip service to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, while privately it is apprehensive about the militant nature of Hamas-ruled Gaza. These sentiments have only been heightened by recent political and social inroads made by Egypt’s own Islamists.

At the end of the day, the Gaza border is above all else a matter of Egyptian national security. So despite the obvious comparisons that will be drawn between the Israeli and Egyptian barriers, Cairo had few alternatives other than to move ahead with a wall of its own. As Israel learned some time ago, good fences make good neighbors, especially when your neighbors are your enemies.

 

“IN THE NEW COLD WAR SHAPING UP BETWEEN ISLAMISM AND THE DEMOCRATIC WEST, ISRAEL HOLDS THE FRONT LINE”

Dead end: The heartbreaking realities of today’s Israel
By David Pryce-Jones
The National Review
April 7, 2008

Israel’s enemies have always wished to destroy it, of course, but what’s new this time is that they are avoiding the set-piece battles that lost them all previous wars, and are instead elaborating the tactics of terror. Islamist Iran has made itself the driving force. The terrorist movements Hizbullah and Hamas are both Iranian satellites, and their presence on Israel’s borders ensures that Iran can already engage in terrorism on its own terms and at times of its own choosing. There’s a civilizational dimension to it as well: Science and technology have hitherto given Western states their supremacy over the Muslim world. As Iran moves toward possession of the nuclear weapon, this historic advantage is neutralized. A nuclear-armed Iran will be able to promote terror at state level, changing the balance of forces as never before against the West in general and Israel in particular. You don’t have to be in Israel very long, or hold many conversations, to realize how the threat from Iran induces denial in some and fear in others.

In the new Cold War shaping up between Islamism and the democratic West, Israel holds the front line. Once again, the values of the opposing sides are irreconcilable. Israel, and behind it the United States, treats even the most intractable issues as open to negotiation and compromise. In the Arab and Muslim order, power is absolute and has to be victorious, so “negotiation” and “compromise” are euphemisms for shame and surrender.

The present plight of the Palestinians perfectly illustrates how the logic of absolute power dictates extreme behavior. For the past 50 or so years, Arab nationalism had been the dominant ideology in the Middle East. Fatah under Yasser Arafat, a typically absolute leader, was the Palestinian branch of Arab nationalism, but its failure to provide a decent life for the masses was total. Islamism appeared a viable alternative. The founding of Hamas in 1987 as an Islamist movement was thus a challenge to Fatah. Slowly but steadily, the conflict between Hamas and Fatah grew, and came to an inevitable head in the civil war in Gaza in 2005. This was small-scale, but still brutal enough to frighten the population into submission.

Civil war has divided the Palestinians ideologically and even geographically, with Hamas in Gaza and Fatah on the rump of the West Bank. The loser, Mahmoud Abbas, heir of Arafat as leader of Fatah, is a broken man. Nominally he governs from his office in Ramallah, but actually he is hardly more than a figurehead. Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, the general officer commanding the Israeli army’s central command, makes the stark point that, without the Israeli presence on the West Bank, Hamas would take over within two days. Yet out of the blue, President Bush said that he expects the Palestinians to have a state of their own by the end of the year, and to guarantee Israeli security on top of it. The Western powers have pledged $7.7 billion to Abbas, though how much of this will ever find its way to the people on the street is a very open question.

It is crassly Eurocentric to think that this can be negotiated to any conclusion. Iran evidently has the opposite, Islamocentric belief that power is indeed absolute, and that the conquest of Israel is not only desirable but achievable. As the ayatollahs see it, the fighting launched by Hizbullah in 2005 led to a temporary stalemate, and with a lot more arms and money they will do better next time. Hamas operates identically. The borders of the Gaza Strip with Israel and with Egypt are fortified and closed. Hamas activists have been smuggling arms through tunnels dug under the border with Egypt.

Over the last 18 months, Hamas and affiliated Islamist groups have fired some 8,000 rockets and other missiles to a depth of about twelve miles into the Israeli territory adjoining the Gaza Strip, and especially the small town of Sderot, with a population of 20,000, many of them immigrants. Known as Qassams, these rockets are erratic, and have killed only about a dozen people, though maiming many more, and driving out of their homes hundreds of others. The rockets are fired from behind a screen of civilians so that Israeli countermeasures are liable to kill innocent women and children, prompting an international outcry that the response is “disproportionate” and thus handing Hamas a propaganda victory. As a constant needling challenge to Israeli sovereignty, yet not one so damaging as to merit serious reprisal, the Hamas tactic displays undoubted imagination and innovation, however callous. The shaping of the conflict remains with them.

Lately Hamas organized a mass breakout through the fortified barrier with Egypt, and used this occasion to bring into Gaza Iranian-made Grad missiles with a heavier payload and a longer range than the Qassams. (They also brought in a number of men, possibly from al-Qaeda, trained in Iran.) At the beginning of March, several of these Grads hit the city of Ashkelon, which has a population of 120,000 and much industrial capacity. At the same moment, a barrage of some 50 Qassams was fired daily. Here was an escalation of the ongoing test of strength. An Israeli armored column then entered Gaza and killed about 120 Palestinians, most of them from Hamas, only to have to withdraw to the usual worldwide clamor about “disproportion.” Olmert made it plain that if Hamas desisted from violence he would accept a truce. “We don’t have a policy of operations, but rather one of systematic fighting, over time, every place there is terror,” he said, or, in plain language: He has no idea what to do. As if to prove Olmert’s helplessness, a Hamas gunman shot dead eight teenage students in a religious seminary in Jerusalem.

The military strategist with whom I talked argues that there are no solutions. A truce only allows Hamas to rearm. In his view there is no alternative to a local version of the Petraeus surge, an occupation of Gaza in great force, and a clearing-out of Hamas. As the terrorists can’t easily be identified and separated out from civilians, the operation would be “like punching air,” both necessary and futile. Which is the problem in a nutshell.

 

HAMAS TRYING TO CREATE A PALESTINIAN CATASTROPHE FOR PROPAGANDA PURPOSES

Hamas disrupts fuel supplies to Gaza
By Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
April 28, 2008

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1208870504767&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Hamas militiamen in the Gaza Strip on Sunday attacked fuel trucks headed toward the Nahal Oz border crossing, forcing them to turn back, sources in the Palestinian Petroleum Authority said.

The fuel was supposed to go to the UN Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] and hospitals in the Gaza Strip, the sources said.

“Dozens of Hamas militiamen hurled stones and opened fire at the trucks,” the sources added. “The trucks were on their way to receive fuel supplied by Israel. The drivers were forced to turn back. Some of them had their windshields smashed.”

The Palestinian Petroleum Authority reached an agreement with Israel over the weekend to receive 250,000 liters of fuel after UNRWA complained that it did not have enough fuel to distribute food aid to more than 500,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry also accused Hamas of blocking fuel supplies to hospitals and clinics in the Gaza Strip. The ministry said Hamas gunmen opened fire at a number of trucks that were trying to transfer fuel to the hospitals and clinics.

Eyewitnesses in Gaza City said that at least on four occasions over the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen confiscated trucks loaded with fuel shortly as they were on their way from Nahal Oz to the city.

They added that the fuel supplies were taken to Hamas-controlled security installations throughout the city.

“Hamas is taking the fuel for it the vehicles of is leaders and security forces,” the eyewitnesses said. “Because of Hamas’s actions, some hospitals have been forced to stop the work of ambulances and generators.”

PA officials in Ramallah said Hamas’s measures were aimed at creating a crisis in the Gaza Strip with the hope that the international community would intervene and force Israel to reopen the border crossings.

“As far as we know, there is enough fuel reaching the Gaza Strip,” the officials said. “But Hamas’s measures are aimed at creating a crisis. Hamas is either stealing or blocking most of the fuel supplies.”

They pointed out that last week Hamas dispatched hundreds of its supporters to Nahal Oz to block the fuel supplies from Israel. Hamas claimed that the protest was organized by farmers and fishermen demanding an end to the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The officials also noted that the shortage in fuel supplies has created a high-priced black market for individuals and institutions.

UNRWA workers admitted over the weekend that Hamas had prevented some fuel trucks from entering the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has also been exerting pressure on the Gaza Petrol Station Owners Association to close down their businesses so as to aggravate the crisis. Some of the station owners and workers said they were afraid to return to work after receiving death threats from Hamas militiamen and ordinary residents desperate to purchase gas and diesel for their vehicles.


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