What my mother knew about the Assads (& Hamas’ rift with the new Egyptian government)

March 07, 2012

* Hamas criticizes Egypt for blocking oil supplies: Fuel crisis has caused lengthy electricity blackouts

* Fatah activists in Ramallah denounce the visit by Israeli doctors offering help as a form of “normalization” with Israel

* Israel, the “Apartheid State” that minorities keep struggling to get into

* Palestinian journalist Ramzi Abu Hadid: “Does Hanan Ashrawi really care about Palestinians, or is she just being paid by Europeans and Western NGOs to keep bashing the region’s only democratic country, which, though admittedly not perfect, still tries harder than any other to treat all of its people with decency and equality?”

* After the 1973 war, Henry Kissinger visited Assad Sr. 13 times, believing that he could be the most trusted Arab partner of the U.S.

* Tom Gross: The bipartisan Western charm offensive on the Assad family lasted almost 50 years despite their continuous reign of torture and murder throughout this period


A Damascus billboard: Hafez Assad and sons

 

CONTENTS

1. Hamas criticizes Egypt for blocking oil supplies
2. Hatred of Israel trumps treating sick Palestinians
3. “For a while, Syria belonged to my mother”
4. The hypocrisy of Hanan Ashrawi
5. “Hamas blames power crisis on Egypt in rare rift” (Reuters, March 3, 2012)
6. “The Hate Business’ (Khaled Abu Toameh, Stonegate Institute, March 2, 2012)
7. “What my mother knew about the Assads” (Philip Boyes, Wall St Journal, March 6, 2012)
8. “The ‘Apartheid State’ that minorities keep struggling to get into” (Ramzi Abu Hadid, Stonegate Institute, March 1, 2012)


[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach four articles on a variety of subjects.

Many of you are very busy so I have prepared summaries first for those of you who don’t have time to read the articles in full

 

SUMMARIES

HAMAS CRITICIZES EGYPT FOR BLOCKING OIL SUPPLIES

Hamas’s Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, has blamed Egypt for causing a power crisis that has triggered lengthy blackouts, exposing the tensions between Hamas and the new government in Cairo.

The outages in Gaza started in mid-February, leaving households with just six hours of electricity a day.

Crucial fuel supplies that feed Gaza’s sole power plant were unexpectedly cut and Egypt has told Hamas that in future it should import its oil through legal channels – namely the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom border crossing.

Hamas is struggling to overcome unprecedented internal divisions over efforts to overcome a deep rift between itself and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party runs the West Bank.

The reconciliation efforts have been partly brokered by Egypt and Cairo may have turned off the fuel taps to put pressure on a highly hesitant Hamas to accept the proposed unity accord.

 

HATRED OF ISRAEL TRUMPS TREATING SICK PALESTINIANS

The fact that thousands of Palestinian patients receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals each year did not stop Palestinians from voicing opposition to a visit by Israeli physicians to Ramallah last week. The physicians visited the Palestine Medical Compound and another clinic to learn about the Palestinians’ medical services in the West Bank.

Their presence in Ramallah drew furious reactions from some Palestinian doctors and nurses. Fatah activists in Ramallah denounced the tour as a form of “normalization” with Israel. They reminded the Palestinian Authority that its leaders had repeatedly urged Palestinians to resist all forms of “normalization” with Israel.

The Palestinian fury over the visit of the Israeli medical team to Ramallah is a sign of increased radicalization among Palestinians. It is also a severe blow to those Israelis and Palestinians who continue to talk about coexistence and peace between the two sides.

Despite receiving billions of dollars in Western aid, the Palestinian Authority has siphoned off the money and not invested enough in improving medical services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past two decades, many Palestinians continue to rely on Israel for proper medical treatment.

Some of the Palestinian’s top leaders, including ministers and the former mufti of Jerusalem, were among tens of thousands of Palestinians who underwent life-saving surgery in Israeli hospitals over the past two decades.

Scores of Palestinian physicians receive training in Israeli hospitals every year and many even seek the assistance of their Israeli colleagues in treating patients who are admitted to Palestinian hospitals.

 

“FOR A WHILE, SYRIA BELONGED TO MY MOTHER”

Philip Boyes (the former speechwriter for Jerzy Buzek, who served as president of the European Parliament from 2010-12) writes (in summary):

… For a while, Syria belonged to my mother, Farida Kuligowska, who studied at Damascus University in the 1970s and later returned as a journalist in the early ‘80s. She was shy, flaxen-haired and fluent in Arabic…

The other day, on the anniversary of my mother’s passing, I was rummaging through a box brimming with tourist knick-knacks and my mother’s photos of people in flared jeans and sequined jackets, when I found a bulky book of newspaper clippings from her time in the Middle East. Stuffed between the yellowed pages were her student letters to her anxious father in Warsaw, scribbled notes for a book, and the articles she wrote later as a roving reporter in and around Syria for Polityka, a Polish weekly.

The letters … paint a vivid picture of Hafez’s Damascus. My mother lived close to what the locals called Hanging Square, the place that had until recently been used to string up supposed traitors and spies…

Why was my mother instinctively skeptical of Assad père? Her inheritance surely had something to do with it. She was born in Cairo to Polish parents. Her mother was a Polish Jew who spent the war wading through Warsaw’s sewers as a partisan. Her father was a pre-war socialist who became Poland’s ambassador to Egypt in 1946.

My grandparents named her Farida – Arabic for “unique” – in honor of Queen Farida, the wife of Egypt’s King Farouk... That Jewishness stayed a family secret for decades, not just to allow my grandfather to function as an envoy in the Arab world but also to shield his wife, a Holocaust survivor and onetime staunch believer in socialism, from subsequent anti-Semitic purges in Poland.

Belief, disillusion and concealment: These were the undercurrents in socialist Poland as they were in socialist Syria… I just wish my mother were around to see Bashar get his just deserts.

 

THE HYPOCRISY OF HANAN ASHRAWI

Jordanian-based Palestinian journalist Ramzi Abu Hadid writes (in summary):

Has Ashrawi, the self-declared human rights advocate, never heard of the thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who try to infiltrate into Israel every morning in search of work and a better life?

Prominent PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi is demanding that the international community declare Israel an “Apartheid State.” Her demand was included in a statement she published in Ramallah this week: she accused Israel of incitement against Arabs and of violating international laws.

How come she never mentions the incitement of Palestinians against Israelis in the Palestinian government-issued textbooks, or in the schools and summer camps named after terrorists, or in the government-controlled TV stations which just last week again glorified terrorists with video celebrations again and again of the tenth anniversary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group that over the years has killed dozens of Israelis, including many children?

How come Ashrawi never mentions that in Saudi Arabia there is not only gender apartheid – in which women have virtually no rights and are kept as virtual prisoners, unable to travel without the permission of a male guardian or relative, even if he is a child or retarded or mentally defective – but also that there are separate roads marked for Muslims to drive on and for non-Muslims to drive on? You are not even allowed to bring a Bible into the country. How come those acts are not “Apartheid”?

How come Ashrawi never mentions that here in Jordan the government has been trying to strip thousands of us Palestinians of our Jordanian citizenship – a move Israel never made against its Christians and Muslims…

Does Hanan Ashrawi really care about Palestinians, or is she just being paid by Europeans and Western NGOs to keep bashing the region’s only democratic country, which, though admittedly not perfect, still tries harder than any other to treat all of its people with decency and equality?

[Summaries above by Tom Gross]

 

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FULL ARTICLES

HAMAS BLAMES POWER CRISIS ON EGYPT IN RARE RIFT

Hamas blames power crisis on Egypt in rare rift
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
Reuters
March 3, 2012

GAZA (Reuters) - Gaza’s top political leader blamed Egypt on Friday for causing a power crisis that has triggered lengthy blackouts in the Palestinian enclave, laying bare tensions between his Islamist group Hamas and Cairo.

The outages started in mid-February, leaving households with just six hours of electricity a day, provoking widespread criticism within the territory of Hamas, which governs Gaza.

Looking to deflect the anger, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told supporters that Egypt controlled the flow of fuel into Gaza and suggested the authorities in Cairo should have done more to help following the downfall of former president Hosni Mubarak.

“Is it reasonable that Gaza remains without electricity a year after the revolution in Egypt?” Haniyeh said in a weekly address, accusing Cairo of trying to force Gazans to accept their energy supplies via arch foe Israel.

“Is it reasonable that Gaza remains blockaded a year after the dismissal of the tyrant (Mubarak) regime?” he said.

There was no immediate comment from Egypt.

Crucial fuel supplies that feed Gaza’s sole power plant were unexpectedly cut last month and Egypt has told Hamas that in future it should import its oil through legal channels – namely the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom border crossing.

Officials have indicated that Egypt was angry that Hamas was smuggling in subsidised fuel intended for the Egyptian people. Haniyeh said he could not agree to shift imports via Kerem Shalom because they would be too costly and vulnerable.

Haniyeh said Egypt wanted Gazans to pay $1 a litre for fuel in future – more than what they paid for smuggled diesel. Hamas used to tax the oil that came in from the tunnels, but goods entering Gaza via Israel is taxed by its rival, the Palestinian Authority (PA), thereby jeopardising Hamas finances.

“There is also a security problem. If someone fired a bullet three kilometers away from Kerem Shalom, the Israelis would close the crossing and prevent the entry of fuel,” Haniyeh said.

Hamas has not renounced violence and militants in the enclave regularly fire missiles at Israel.

The power crisis has come at a bad time for Hamas, which is struggling to overcome unprecedented internal divisions over efforts to overcome a deep rift between itself and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose PA body runs the West Bank.

The reconciliation efforts have been partly brokered by Egypt and some newspaper commentators have suggested that Cairo turned off the fuel taps to put pressure on a highly hesitant Hamas to accept the proposed unity accord.

Without mentioning Egypt by name, Haniyeh appeared to give credence to the speculation. “Some parties want to continue to pressure Gaza, Hamas and the government, believing they can get concessions,” he said, adding: “Neither electricity nor anything else will push Gaza people make any concession.”

With the situation deadlocked, Haniyeh said Gaza might be able to get fuel for free from Algeria or Iran.

 

THE HATE BUSINESS

The Hate Business
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Stonegate Institute
March 2, 2012

The fact that thousands of Palestinian patients receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals each year did not stop Palestinians from voicing opposition to a visit by Israeli physicians to Ramallah last week.

The Israeli physicians arrived in Ramallah as part of a tour that was organized by the Palestinian Authority.

The physicians visited the Palestine Medical Compound and another clinic to learn about the Palestinians’ medical services in the West Bank.

The presence of the physicians in Ramallah drew furious reactions from the workers at the medical compound and many Palestinians, including the Western-backed Fatah faction headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

Some doctors and nurses claimed that the physicians were in fact Israeli army officers. Palestinian media outlets quoted “eyewitnesses” as saying that the army vehicles and soldiers accompanied the Israeli doctors during the tour. Attempts by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to explain that the visitors were not army officers have thus far fall fallen on deaf ears.

Fatah activists in Ramallah denounced the tour as a form of “normalization” with Israel. They reminded the Palestinian Authority that its leaders had repeatedly urged Palestinians to resist all forms of “normalization” with Israel.

The Palestinian fury over the visit of the Israeli medical team to Ramallah is a sign of increased radicalization among Palestinians. It is also a severe blow to those Israelis and Palestinians who continue to talk about coexistence and peace between the two sides.

If anyone stands to lose from boycotting Israeli physicians it is the Palestinians themselves.

Because the Palestinian Authority has not invested enough in improving medical services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past two decades, many Palestinians continue to rely on Israel for proper medical treatment.

Some of the Palestinian’s top leaders, including ministers and the former mufti of Jerusalem, were among tens of thousands of Palestinians who underwent life-saving surgery in Israeli hospitals over the past two decades.

Scores of Palestinian physicians receive training in Israeli hospitals every year and many even seek the assistance of their Israeli colleagues in treating patients who are admitted to Palestinian hospitals. Some Palestinians sold their homes and lands to be able to cover the expenses of being admitted to an Israeli hospital.

But instead of welcoming Palestinian-Israeli cooperation in the medical field, some Palestinians are calling for boycotting those who are trying to save the lives of their own patients.

The Palestinian Minister of Health, Fathi Abu Mughli, is now facing sharp criticism for permitting the Israelis to visit the medical center. Some Palestinians have gone as far as calling on the Palestinian government to bring him to trial for his “crime.”
But to his credit, Abu Mughli has come out in defense of the visit, arguing that he did not advocate a boycott of Israeli physicians and medical services. The minister explained that it would be foolish of Palestinians to boycott Israeli doctors and hospitals at a time when many Palestinian patients are being treated in Israel.

Palestinians who are opposed to “normalization” with Israeli physicians are the victims of years of indoctrination and messages of hate emanating from their leaders and media. And some Palestinians have become so enriched by hatred that it it would not pay for them to stop.

 

WHAT MY MOTHER KNEW ABOUT THE ASSADS

What my mother knew about the Assads
The experience of Eastern Europe teaches that sooner or later a despot’s mask always slips.
By Philip Boyes
The Wall Street Journal (European edition)
March 6, 2012

I often wonder what my mother, who died in 2002, would have made of Syria today: the bloodshed, the butchery, the brutality of Bashar Assad’s regime depicted in grainy cell-phone videos on YouTube. A country torn at the seams.

For a while, Syria belonged to my mother, Farida Kuligowska, who studied at Damascus University in the 1970s and later returned as a journalist in the early ‘80s. She was shy, flaxen-haired and fluent in Arabic.

I like to think she would have seen through Bashar Assad long before these dark days, and balked at his pretense of being a reformer. She certainly had her doubts about Hafez, Bashar’s father, even at a time when he was America’s darling. After the 1973 war, Henry Kissinger visited Assad Sr. 13 times, believing that the cunning peasant-leader could be the most trusted Arab partner of the U.S.

The other day, on the anniversary of my mother’s passing, I was rummaging through a box brimming with tourist knick-knacks and my mother’s photos of people in flared jeans and sequined jackets, when I found a bulky book of newspaper clippings from her time in the Middle East. Stuffed between the yellowed pages were her student letters to her anxious father in Warsaw, scribbled notes for a book, and the articles she wrote later as a roving reporter in and around Syria for Polityka, a Polish weekly.

The letters set her father’s mind to rest – there was a war brewing, after all. But they also paint a vivid picture of Hafez’s Damascus. My mother lived close to what the locals called Hanging Square, the place that had until recently been used to string up supposed traitors and spies. The rents were cheaper there, but even so, Polish students had to share cramped digs to make ends meet. Soldiers in khaki were everywhere, a reminder that before Hafez, Syria had witnessed coup after coup.

In the months after the 1973 war, Damascus was a dark place. The Israelis had hit the main power plant, so all of the lights were kept dimmed. My mother reported that faces would emerge out of the evening gloom as a painterly chiaroscuro. Unlike the bustling capitals of Cairo and Beirut, the streets would empty of cars by 9 p.m.

Yet Hafez Assad’s Damascus retained a sheen of glamour, and enough metropolitan flair to make outsiders believe that Assad was on the way toward making his people richer and happier. My mother wrote home about the fashionable boutiques on Kasar Street, well beyond her shoestring budget. She longed to hang out in the Piccadilly, the place to see and be seen. It had been renamed Cordoba due to a ban on English names, and the city’s murals depicting 18th-century London had been plastered over on the orders of a Baathist official, but it retained its allure as a society hangout.

All of this was part of Hafez Assad’s confidence trickery, the illusion that Baathist dictatorship could have a smiling, youthful face. His 1973 constitution, for instance, guaranteed women’s “equal status in society.” Assad boosted investment in infrastructure, the health sector and education. My mother’s dissertation analyzed these education reforms and was broadly supportive, but soon enough she was no longer giving Assad the benefit of doubt.

And indeed, by 1982 Hafez was massacring tens of thousands of Sunnis in Hama. My mother was back in Poland by then, her country ruled by generals but mercifully massacre-free. Assad’s killings barely made the heavily censored newspapers, but she had known that sooner or later the mask would slip.

Why was my mother instinctively skeptical of Assad père? Her inheritance surely had something to do with it. She was born in Cairo to Polish parents. Her mother was a Polish Jew who spent the war wading through Warsaw’s sewers as a partisan. Her father was a pre-war socialist who became Poland’s ambassador to Egypt in 1946.

My grandparents named her Farida – Arabic for “unique” – in honor of Queen Farida, the wife of Egypt’s King Farouk. Her father asked King Farouk in person for permission to name his daughter after Her Majesty, and made sure that the king did not find out that his wife was Jewish. That Jewishness stayed a family secret for decades, not just to allow my grandfather to function as an envoy in the Arab world but also to shield his wife, a Holocaust survivor and onetime staunch believer in socialism, from subsequent anti-Semitic purges in Poland.

Belief, disillusion and concealment: These were the undercurrents in socialist Poland as they were in socialist Syria. And just as these resentments all at once erupted into cataclysm in Eastern Europe more than two decades ago, they are surfacing spectacularly in Syria today. In the case of the Assads, it’s like father, like son. Bashar – an ophthalmologist trained in the West, his wife hailed by Vogue as “a rose of the desert” – came to power promising a Damascus Spring. Instead he has delivered artillery attacks on civilians.

Only fools take despots at face value. I just wish my mother were around to see Bashar get his just deserts.

 

THE “APARTHEID STATE” THAT MINORITIES KEEP STRUGGLING TO GET INTO

The “Apartheid State” that minorities keep struggling to get into
By Ramzi Abu Hadid
Stonegate Institute
March 1, 2012

Prominent PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi is demanding that the international community declare Israel an “Apartheid State.” Her demand was included in a statement she published in Ramallah this week: she accused Israel of incitement against Arabs and of violating international laws.

How come she never mentions the incitement of Palestinians against Israelis in the Palestinian government-issued textbooks, or in the schools and summer camps named after terrorists, or in the government-controlled TV stations which just last week again glorified terrorists with video celebrations again and again of the tenth anniversary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group that over the years has killed dozens of Israelis, including many children?

How come Ashrawi never mentions that in Saudi Arabia there is not only gender apartheid – in which women have virtually no rights and are kept as virtual prisoners, unable to travel without the permission of a male guardian or relative, even if he is a child or retarded or mentally defective – but also that there are separate roads marked for Muslims to drive on and for non-Muslims to drive on? You are not even allowed to bring a Bible into the country. How come those acts are not “Apartheid”?

How come Ashrawi never mentions that here in Jordan the government has been trying to strip thousands of us Palestinians of our Jordanian citizenship – a move Israel never made against its Christians and Muslims.

As an Arab Christian, Ashrawi would have done better if she had chosen to focus on the plight of her fellow Christians in the Palestinian territories, many of whom continue to complain about persecution and harassment from Muslims.

Has Ashrawi, the self-declared human right rights advocate, never heard of thousands of the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who try to infiltrate into Israel every morning in search of work and a better life?

Why has it become the dream of many Arab Christians and Muslims to emigrate to the “Apartheid State”? Is it possible that all these people are uninformed? Or do they really know the truth about Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East? In Egypt, Syria, and Iran, for example, government officials put journalists in jail, but Israel is the only country in the region where one small journalist nobody has ever heard of can put a government official in jail.

In the past few decades, many Christian families from Bethlehem and even the Gaza Strip have moved to live in Israel because they feel safer in the “Apartheid State” than they do among their Muslim “brothers”.

Has Ashrawi ever asked herself how come dozens of Christians and Muslims from neighboring Arab countries and Africa try to infiltrate the border into Israel every day, or how come so many of her fellow Christians want to live in the “Apartheid State”?

Is Ashrawi aware of the fact that while Christians are being persecuted and slaughtered in the Arab world and Africa, the Jewish state remains the safest place for them to live? Is she aware that the Christian population in Israel is on the rise while in the Arab and Islamic world it is dwindling – and even faster in places such as Nigeria, Egypt and the Sudan where Muslims are slaughtering Christians?

What has Ashrawi done to promote the rights of women and freedom of speech under Hamas and Fatah?

On the same day that she issued her appeal to the international community, a Palestinian court in the West Bank sentenced a man to only five years in prison for murdering his sister. And on the same day also, Palestinian policemen raided a university campus near Ramallah and threatened peaceful protesters and reporters.

Tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims have put their lives at risk by crossing the border into Israel from Egypt, where border guards often open fire at women and children.

Does Hanan Ashrawi really care about Palestinians, or is she just being paid by Europeans and Western NGOs to keep bashing the region’s only democratic country, which, though admittedly not perfect, still tries harder than any other to treat all of its people with decency and equality?

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