How many degrees does Gilad Shalit have? (& Facebook closes Hamas leader’s fan page)

August 16, 2009

* Hamas kill 28 Palestinians yesterday, including a nine-year-old girl
* Former Palestinian PM: “The forgery in Iran’s recent presidential election was nothing compared to the corruption in Fatah’s elections last week”
* Hamas terrorists given Israeli university degrees, Cable TV, IPods and dental treatment as Gilad Shalit rots (but the international human rights groups criticize Israel)
* Facebook closes down fan page for Hamas leader but “fans of Adolf Hitler” page remains
* Canadian commentator Robert Fulford: “In my personal observation, enemies of Israel often turn out to be anti-Semites as well”

* Ha’aretz headline today: 20 civilians killed during missile test in Syria. Another failure for joint project with North Korea: Missile landed on a crowded market near Turkish border.



1. Hamas kills another 28 Palestinians
2. Jewish delegate wins place on Fatah Revolutionary Council
3. Widespread allegations within Fatah of vote fraud
4. Bedouin sheikh urges Gilad Shalit’s release
5. Hamas terrorists celebrate their 100th Israeli university degree
6. Hamas stages play for children reenacting Gilad Shalit’s abduction
7. Hamas seizes 3 UNRWA ambulances
8. Facebook closes down fan page for Hamas leader
9. Hebrew University marks 7th anniversary of terrorist attack
10. Number of Druze and Arabs in Israel’s civil service on the rise
11. Saddam’s family: Let us keep Saddam’s stolen fortune
12. “When criticizing Israel becomes ritual” (National Post, Canada, Aug. 15, 2009)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


Hamas security forces killed the leader of an al-Qaeda-inspired group, many of his followers, and several civilians, including a nine-year-old girl, in a shootout in Gaza over the weekend.

If you didn’t see the death of so many Palestinians prominently reported in your newspaper, that is because the news editors couldn’t point the finger of blame at Israel.

Hamas forces also stormed a mosque in Rafah on the Egyptian border, where about 100 members of Jund Ansar Allah, or “The Soldiers of the Companions of God,” were holed up. At least 150 Palestinians were injured.

Hamas, which regularly cons Western human rights groups into believing it doesn’t have any money, used a considerable array of weapons, including rocket propelled grenades, to attack the mosque. The militants inside the structure returned fire with automatic weapons and grenades of their own.

According to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, an Egyptian child was hit by a stray bullet fired during the exchange, and ten artillery shells also landed on the southern side of the Gaza-Egypt border, five of which exploded (though no casualties were reported from the shells).

This news is of considerable political significance because it shows that Hamas is determined to maintain absolute control over Gaza and allow no dissent whatever (thereby reducing the prospects of reconciliation with Fatah and the possibility that the Palestinians might be unified enough to form an independent state). It also shows that although Hamas is hardline, there are limits to their extremism and they don’t wish to create a purely Islamic sharia-based society of the kind advocated by Jund Ansar Allah.

The group’s website vowed vengeance against Hamas, saying “we swear to God to avenge the martyrs’ blood and we will turn their women to widows.”



The independent Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports from Bethlehem today that “Loud applause broke out yesterday (Saturday) evening as it was announced that ‘brother’ Dr Uri Davis had been elected to the Fatah movement’s largest governing body.

“Fatah conference spokesman Fawzi Salamah announced the Jewish delegate’s victory at the meeting’s headquarters in the central West Bank city’s Terra Sancta school.”

For more on the participation in Fatah by Davis, whose parents escaped the Holocaust in Czechoslovakia, but is no longer Jewish having converted to Islam, please see the note in this dispatch. (That dispatch also contains background relating to the item below.)



Meanwhile, accusations of widespread election improprieties and corruption within Fatah continue to be raised. Angry delegates said they would submit a memorandum to Abbas stating their rejection of the Fatah elections, which took place in Bethlehem from 4 - 13 August.

All Fatah’s Gaza leaders have resigned in protest at what they say were “rigged” elections held last week for Fatah’s Central Committee.

And former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) (who is based in the West Bank) announced that “the forgery in Iran’s recent presidential election was nothing compared to what happened in Fatah.”

Qurei, who failed to be reelected to the Central Committee, said that there was growing discontent in Fatah over the alleged fraud.

“There are many big question marks about the election, the way it was conducted and the way the votes were counted,” Qurei told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. “There were behind-the-scenes arrangements that removed some names and added others to the winning list.”

Qurei said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and some of his loyalists had intervened to secure spots for their supporters in the Central Committee. For example, many Fatah members said they were shocked when they discovered that one of Abbas’s old-time colleagues, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, was added to the list of winners at the last minute.



Sheikh Salam al-Hoziel, an Israeli Arab Bedouin tribal leader, has begun a campaign for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Among other things, he now regularly stands outside Beersheba’s Central Bus Station collecting signatures for a petition on his small plastic table. “Sometimes I get over 1,000 signatures a day,” he said. “And I stand out here from seven in the morning until ten at night.”

It is very rare for Israeli Arabs to campaign for Israeli Jews in this way.

Al-Hoziel said responses to his campaign have ranged from hugs and compliments from Jews to curses and death threats from some Israeli Islamic leaders. Last month, al-Hoziel and his wife were sitting outside in their garden when a car pulled up around midnight and the passengers inside opened fire on his house. No one was injured.

Al-Hoziel has also traveled to Jerusalem where he met Gilad’s father, Noam Shalit. Shalit has been held captive by Hamas for almost 1,150 days and denied all visitation and other rights contrary to international law.

Last week Gilad turned 23. He has been a Hamas prisoner for over three years, and has had no visits or letters from anybody. In fact, nobody can really confirm if he is even alive.



Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper noted in an article last week that “As Gilad Shalit rots in captivity, Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorist offenses enjoy generous benefits, including hot water all day long, library books, ventilators and cable television with all Arab channels”

In addition, the one hundredth Palestinian Hamas security prisoner jailed in Israel received a university degree last week from the Open University, Israel’s correspondence college, which is recognized by Israel’s Council for Higher Education. Some 250 additional security prisoners are currently studying at the Open University.

The website of Hamas’s so-called armed wing, the “Al Qassam” brigades, proudly noted last week that the one hundredth terrorist affiliated with the group earned an academic diploma at Israel’s expense.

The milestone was achieved by Mahmoud Abu-Sarur, of Bethlehem, who is serving a life sentence for terrorism-related crimes. Sarur received an MA in political science.

The Hamas terrorists’ studies are paid for by Israeli taxpayers, as academic studies are a standard benefit for prisoners in Israel’s jails.

Among other leading terrorists who have received a degree while jailed in Israel is Samir Kuntar, the Lebanese terrorist convicted of murdering several Israelis, including a four-year-old girl. Kuntar completed a bachelor’s degree in social studies and humanities while in jail. He was released to Lebanon last year as part of a highly controversial prisoner exchange deal for the bodies of two Israelis murdered by Hizbullah.


Yediot Ahronot notes that in addition to benefitting from air conditioning and cable TV and access to a wide selection of library books, each security prisoner jailed in Israel is given a walkman, a radio and a budget for the jail’s canteen. They also receive regular medical treatments, dental care and a visit by an optician.

The security prisoners are allowed to send and receive an unlimited number of letters, and are entitled to a family visit every two weeks.

Gilad Shalit, by contrast, who has never committed any crime, has been denied any contact with the outside world and is believed to be sitting in an underground cell with no natural air or light. Shalit, then a teenager, was kidnapped from inside Israel in 2006. The lack of proper concern by international human rights groups towards Shalit’s fate has been disgraceful.

And it is Israel that is accused by papers like The Guardian of being an “apartheid state”.



Despite a recent charm offensive by Hamas to prominent English-language media that has even seen Hamas supreme leader Khaled Meshaal grant an interview to The Wall Street Journal (July 31), and Hamas “deputy foreign minister” Ahmed Yousef give an interview to Britain’s Economist magazine (July 30)*, Hamas continues not only to round up and execute political opponents in Gaza but has also stepped up its campaign of radicalization among Palestinian children.

This summer, more than 120,000 Palestinian children attended Hamas-run summer camps that focused not only on Islamic teachings, but also on “semi-military training.”

In their final ceremony of this year’s Hamas summer camps children reenacted the abduction of Gilad Shalit before an audience that included top Hamas officials Osama Mazini and Sheikh Ahmad Bahar, the acting speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council. After the abduction ceremony, Bahar distributed copies of the Koran to the camp counselors.

While Hamas whines to gullible reporters from certain Western news outlets that there is a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza, it continues to spend vast sums of money on summer camps educating the next generation to become militants.

(These Hamas camps are not the same summer camps as the ones run this summer in Gaza by UNRWA. Last week, senior Hamas official Dr. Younes al-Istal told Al-Arabiya TV that the UNRWA summer camps were part of a plan to corrupt the younger generation and prepare it for normalization with Israel. UNRWA camps included inflatable swimming pools, toys, spray paint and musical instruments.)


FOOTNOTE: “Clarifying” his remarks for Palestinians in Arabic following the publication of his interview in The Economist, Ahmed Yousef denied having said that Hamas was close to recognizing Israel. He said that The Economist had either not understood what he said or had misquoted him when the interview was translated into English. He added that the Palestinians would never recognize Israel (Hamas’s Palestine-Info website, August 2, 2009).



The IDF has harshly criticized the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) after three ambulances that Israel transferred to the organization two weeks ago were seized by Hamas.

Hamas gunmen overpowered the UNRWA drivers and took control of the vehicles. The IDF noted that UNRWA failed to condemn the incident, “again proving the UN’s double standard toward Hamas, and towards Israel, whom it is constantly criticizing.”

“When Israel deviates a little from procedures in Gaza, there is a massive world outcry, but when Hamas intimidate and shoot at UN staff, the world doesn’t even open its mouth,” an IDF spokeswoman said.

Israel fears Hamas will use the ambulances to carry out terror attacks against Israel, as it has done in the past. It is an extremely sensitive matter for Israel to monitor ambulances and therefore Hamas makes full use of them to mount attacks.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, a former BBC news presenter, is notorious for giving interviews on international TV networks slandering Israel. For more on Gunness and his links with the BBC’s biased Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen, see this dispatch.



The social networking website Facebook has removed a user group dedicated to supporting Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. The group had more than 10,000 confirmed “friends”, according to the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat. However, four other, less popular pages dedicated to Haniyeh remain online.

Facebook also hosts a range of other controversial fan pages and user groups, including one dedicated to all “fans of Adolf Hitler” and several promoting admiration for the accused Nazi war criminal Ivan Demjanjuk.



The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has marked the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attack on the university with a memorial ceremony at the scene of the attack on the Nancy Reagan Plaza at the university’s Mount Scopus campus.

Nine students and university staff were killed: Benjamin Blutstein, Marla Bennett, Revital Barashi, David Gritz, David Diego Ladowski, Janis Ruth Coulter, Dina Carter, Levina Shapira and Daphna Spruch. Almost a hundred students and others were wounded.

To my knowledge not a single academic institution from outside Israel expressed any solidarity at last week’s ceremony with the Hebrew University, one of the leading universities in the world, and whose student body is one quarter Arab. At the same time many academic bodies in Europe and North America continue to campaign for a boycott of Israeli (and only Israeli) academics.



Israel’s Civil Service Commission (CSC) said the number of Druze and Arabs employed in the ranks of the civil service has increased from 193 to 578 over the past six years.

According to the CSC, while in 2003 only 4.2% of its employees were Druze or Arabs, they now constitute 11.6% of civil service personnel.

Also, the number of Druze and Arab women now employed by the various government bureaus rose from 66 in 2003, to 282 in 2008.

The data further revealed that that 70.9% of all Druze and Arab workers have an academic education, 11.4% of them have PhDs and 9.2% have a Master’s degree.

36% of Druze and Arab workers were employed by the Interior Ministry, 16% by the Science and Technology Ministry, 8.5% by the Ministry of Social Affairs, 8% by the Health Ministry and 7% are employed by the Education Ministry.



Relatives of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein are protesting a decision by the Iraqi government to confiscate possessions belonging to the late dictator and mass murderer.

The government passed a bill last month approving the confiscation of property, both movables and real estate, belonging to Saddam and to other high-ranking figures in the former regime.

The Saddam family said it will file a lawsuit in international and Iraqi courts against the confiscation bill. Two of Saddam’s daughters, Raghad and Rana, have been living in Amman since July 2003, while their mother and younger sister Hala now live in Qatar.

Saddam’s two sons, Uday and Qusay, known for their high-living and their pathological cruelty, were killed by U.S. forces in Mosul in 2003.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]



When criticizing Israel becomes ritual
By Robert Fulford
National Post (Canada)
August 15, 2009

It begins, reasonably, as a response to apparently unnecessary violence by Israel. Then it moves on to accuse Israel of expanding on land the Arabs insist is theirs. Nothing wrong with criticizing that, surely. Israel, a state, deserves to be judged like any other.

Even those friendly toward Israel have often felt duty bound to point out its mistakes. In more innocent times, I imagined that intellectuals in the West paid careful attention to Israel’s faults because they expected it to set a high standard. Who would worry about the moral status of, say, Bolivia? No one except Bolivians. Jews, however, live with the injunction to be (as Isaiah quotes God) “A light unto the nations.”

But now everything has changed. Opposing Israel has become an institutionalized ritual. It’s now a movement across Europe and North America. It has its traditions, like Israel Apartheid Week, celebrated every spring in universities, often the cause of riots and an occasion to intimidate Jewish students. Vehement opposition to Israel appears to be the major interest of thousands of people all over the world. Many are Muslims, sympathizing with the Palestinians, but many are not. This week, attacks on Israel once more appeared on the agenda of the general council meeting of the United Church of Canada, a critic of Israel for generations.

What are reasonable people to think about these relentless campaigns in the universities, churches and unions?

Those involved often insist that it’s not a matter of anti-Semitism. They like to say, “I’m anti-Israel, not anti-Semitic. A different thing entirely.”

After decades of use, this declaration of innocence has ceased to be credible. In my personal observation, enemies of Israel often turn out to be anti-Semites as well. The true agenda of anti-Israel activists often is reflected in their style of propaganda, and in the exclusive attention they give to one particular country.

The style of the protests goes far beyond “criticism,” that benign noun implying civil disputes. Often, anti-Israel propaganda distributed on campuses and elsewhere borrows the style of Nazi cartoons. As Craig Offman reported in the Post, last winter students at the University of Manitoba found themselves confronted by posters near a campus bookshop depicting, among other things, a hooked-nosed Hasidic Jew with a star of David pointing a bazooka at the nose of an Arab carrying a slingshot; and an Israeli helicopter with a swastika on top, bombing a baby bottle.

Moreover, the word “apartheid,” now a favourite of the anti-Israel movement, carries intentionally vicious overtones of racism. It’s a way of setting the final terms of an issue before it can be discussed.

The most distressing quality of the attacks, however, is their singularity. They leave us with the impression that Israel deserves more censure than any other country on Earth — in fact, more than all other countries combined. Enemies of Israel may sometimes claim that they have also passed resolutions deploring genocide in Africa or dictatorship in Burma. But these views are expressed in comparative privacy. No widespread, long-running movements accompany them.

Does York University in Toronto, so dedicated to justice for Palestinians, also devote a week every year to the fate of the Falun Gong in China? Do Concordia University students in Montreal demonstrate against the mass rapes in the Congo? Does the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which favours boycotting Israeli universities, have anything to say about Tibetan freedom? Have any of them heard of the World Uighur Congress’s defence of oppressed Muslims in the Xinjiang province of western China? And when dealing with the Gaza conflict, not one campus group anywhere (so far as I know) mounted a campaign against Hamas killings of fellow Palestinians. They also avoid mentioning the Hamas policy of using women and children as human shields.

So far as we can learn from how they act in public, these organizations appear to have a foreign policy with only one item on its agenda, the same one they would have if they were in fact motivated fundamentally by anti-Semitism.

Howard Jacobson, a British novelist and journalist, calls this phenomenon “Jew-hating pure and simple, the Jew-hating which many of us have always suspected was the only explanation for the disgust that contorts and disfigures faces when the mere word Israel crops up in conversation.”

Those who oppose Israel’s policies have a right to their opinions and their anger, however unreasonable. And those, like me, who are infuriated by the relentless and totally selective drumbeat, also have a right to our grave suspicions.

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