Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Hamas Imposes Islamic Dress Code on Students

by David Bedein

With the commencement of the school year next week, The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that Hamas has imposed an Islamic dress code on female students.

Hamas announced that female students must wear Islamic dress in schools starting from the current academic semester. The dress code stipulated head covering and full-length robes and required that teachers instruct only those of the same sex.

"Any female student that does not attend class in the proper attire will be sent home," Hamas said on Aug. 24.

The Hamas regulation came in wake of numerous denials by the Islamic regime in the Gaza Strip of plans to impose a dress code for females. Hamas has also established a so-called modesty police force aimed to prevent the mixing of sexes at beaches or unmarried couples in cars.

Under the dress code, the head covering of the girls must be white, and wear a blue robe.

"The uniform should be as follows: Navy blue jilbab with white headscarf and black or white shoes," said the announcement. "We request that all girls follow these instructions."

The Palestinian Education Ministry has banned the employment of male teachers at girls' schools and women teachers in boys' schools. The regulations would directly affect the 250,000 students of government schools, which began the academic year on Aug. 23.

On Aug. 24, Palestinian sources said several girls were sent home when they arrived to school in jeans. The sources said Christian girls in government schools were also forced to observe the Muslim dress code.

In 2009, Hamas, amid the rise of Al Qaida, imposed Islamic law on the Gaza Strip, including forcing female attorneys to wear Islamic dress. Hamas has also been pressing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), with 200,000 enrolled in its school system, to abide by the regulations.

Hamas controls recently won control of the UNRWA teachers association, winning 85 percent of the vote.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli Minister Of Education: Unfreeze School Construction

by David Bedein

Jerusalem, Israel - Current discussions about a freeze on expansion of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria have direct bearing on the future of the school system in these communities.

Overcrowding in Judea and Samaria school classes is particularly problematic, and pupils often study in classes with leaking roofs. The Israel Education Ministry has granted permission to construct additional education facilities there, but due to the Israel Defense Ministry's building freeze, construction has been prevented.

Israel Education Minister Gidon Saar recently demanded of Defense Minister Ehud Barak that he unfreeze the construction of those kindergartens and classrooms that are recognized by the Education Ministry in Samaria. Residents in Samaria are threatening to put the schools on strike next week. In a letter sent by Samaria Regional Council Chairman Gershon Mesika to the Knesset Education and Culture Committee, Mr. Mesika argues that the children are being used "as hostages of the policy of drying out the Jewish settlements in Samaria."

The director of education in the council, Yohai Damari, said that the freeze was a political act harmful to the children.

"Thousands of students are learning in trailers, detached from their pedagogical environment," Mr. Damari said.

According to Mr. Damari, the Israel Education Ministry has granted approval for 24 construction projects of school and kindergarten classes and even allocated funds for these after deeming them essential.

"Defense Minister Ehud Barak is discriminating against the children of Samaria because of a political agenda," said Knesset Parliament Education and Culture Committee Chairman Zvulun Orlev. "As a result, many children are not being provided with a decent learning environment."

According to Mr. Orlev, the children study in crowded classrooms that do not meet regulations, and often, due to scarcity of schools near their homes, are forced to take transportation that puts their lives in danger to study.

"There are in Samaria certain education facilities where conditions are worse than in refugee camps," added Mr. Orlev. "This is an intolerable situation that cannot be allowed to continue."

The Israel Defense Ministry issued a response saying that Mr. Saar's complaint is "being examined by the professional officials in the Defense Ministry."

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli and Palestinian Leaders Meet

by David Bedein

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week welcomed the statement made by Palestinian Authority Chairman Machmud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, who called for a resumption of negotiations with Israel. "If Abu Mazen stands behind that offer, then that is a positive thing and we're talking about progress," Netanyahu said in a meeting with Israeli journalists in Berlin following his meeting with German President Horst Koehler during his visit to Germany.

"We have thought for a long time that there is reason to hold a meeting without reconditions and to begin taking steps that will bring about the promotion of the political process," Netanyahu added.

Netanyahu underscored, however, that without Palestinian recognition of Israel's Jewish character, it would be impossible to resolve the conflict.

"The root of the conflict isn't the settlements, the borders or one area or another," he said. "All of those issues will be raised for discussion and we are going to have to find solutions to them. The problem is the refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state."

However, judging by Abu Mazen's statements yesterday before the Palestinian parliament, the differences between the two parties are larger than the mere question of whether Israel is recognized as a Jewish state. While Abu Mazen voiced his willingness to renew negotiations, he underscored that the condition for renewal was a suspension of all construction in the settlements. Moreover, Abu Mazen said that the negotiations needed to be resumed from the point at which they broke off during Ehud Olmert's term in office.

"In talks with the Olmert government it was agreed that the borders of the Palestinian state would include the Gaza Strip in its entirety and the West Bank in its entirety, including Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the River Jordan," claimed Abu Mazen in his speech. "When we return to negotiations we will begin them from those points and not from zero."

An official in Abu Mazen's office added his own statements.

"We want negotiations in order to reach a solution of two states, but we want to discuss a final status arrangement and not waste time as occurred in the past," he said.

Senior sources in Ramallah said that an agreement in principle has been reached for Abu Mazen to meet with Netanyahu in New York.

"Abu Mazen will meet with Netanyahu not in order to negotiate, but in order to establish the rules of the negotiations," said one Palestinian official.

Sources in Prime Minister Netanyahu's entourage said that no agreements have been reached on that matter yet. If Netanyahu and Abu Mazen do meet, in fact, that will be their fist meeting since Netanyahu assumed office as prime minister.

Prior to his departure for Germany, Netanyahu met in London with special US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell. American officials said after the meeting that Israel had, in practice, agreed to a temporary construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, but that the parties remained divided over the duration of that construction moratorium. The United States has demanded that the freeze last for one year, whereas Israel has agreed to a freeze that will last a number of months. Another issue in contention pertains to Jerusalem. The Americans have demanded that Israel not build inside Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Israel has refused to make any such commitment.

Following the meeting, Netanyahu said that certain progress had been made in that meeting towards a renewal of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"The discussions advanced us in the process, though a number of issues remain unresolved," the Prime Minister said upon his arrival in Berlin from London. "The intention is to advance while striking a balance between maintaining the settlers' basic needs of life and maintaining the basic conditions for launching the political process."

Netanyahu vehemently denied reports in the Arab and British media yesterday as if Israel were prepared to accept a six-month-long settlement construction freeze in exchange for an American commitment to intensify the sanctions against Iran.

Netanyahu met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday. At the center of their meeting will be the Iranian nuclear program and the German mediation efforts to bring about Gilad Shalit's release from captivity. Prior to Netanyahu's arrival in Berlin, Merkel said that she supported stiffening the sanctions against Iran, mainly in the realm of energy, in the event that Iran should refuse to meet the international community's demand that it suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

"The German political position on Iran is a firm and consistent position," said Netanyahu on the eve of his meeting with Merkel. "The volume of Germany's trade with Iran has dropped by approximately one-quarter, and we will welcome another significant cutback."

Despite optimism from Netanyahu and reports about a possible meeting with Abu Mazen, his party, Likud, is expressing displeasure over recent developments and plans to hold a meeting.

"The Americans are trying to create an imaginary partner for negotiations that does not want and is not capable of making peace with Israel," said MK Danny Danon yesterday and added: "The Middle East is not a Hollywood movie." He said, "Netanyahu's capitulation to American pressure on the subject of construction in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria will lead to further demands to make concessions, without our receiving anything in return from the Palestinian side."

MK Ophir Akunis, a former Netanyahu adviser, also said that he would oppose any agreement from the meeting on a construction freeze.

"There will be no construction freeze in Judea and Samaria and we won't stop the lives of the Israelis who live in the settlements," he said.

Along with the talk, preparations began yesterday to oppose a settlement construction freeze. MK Tzippi Hotovely convened the top leaders of Judea and Samaria for a meeting described as "initial preparation to counter the messages emerging from the prime minister's trip to Europe."

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli Reservists to Sue Swedish Newspaper

by David Bedein

A group of Israeli Army reservists has announced that it intends to submit a lawsuit in New York for slander against the Swedish Aftonbladet newspaper for reporting that IDF soldiers trafficked in Palestinian body organs.

Heading the group is Attorney Ophir Miller from Tel Aviv, a major in reserves who served in the Paratroopers Brigade reconnaissance unit and is now an instructor in the IDF's counterterrorism unit. The group intends to sue the reporter who wrote the story, the editor and publisher of the newspaper.

Mr. Miller explained to the Voice Of Israel Radio that the case could therefore be heard in New York since the Swedish paper is also published and distributed there.

Mr. Miller said he spoke to a number of lawyers in Sweden to examine Swedish law on issues relating to such lawsuits.

"The State of Israel must pick up the gauntlet and silence the reporter and the newspaper with a huge lawsuit for injury to the state and its citizens," said Mr. Miller. "Since the heads of state are busy with requests for apologies, we had no choice but to enlist to submit the lawsuit."

To establish his claim, Mr. Miller turned to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to learn the state's position and to receive confirmation that the claims of the Swedish newspaper have no basis in reality.

The Swedish newspaper is also being sued by two Swedish civil rights groups, since Swedish law forbids publication of material that will lead to "incitement on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion."

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Palestinian Judge - Jews Have no History in Jerusalem

by David Bedein

Khaled Abu Toameh, Arab Affairs correspondent for The Jerusalem Post, reported that the Palestinian Authority's chief Islamic judge, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, has formally announced that that there was no evidence to back up claims that Jews had ever lived in Jerusalem or that the Temple ever existed.

Tamimi claimed that Israeli archeologists have "admitted" that Jerusalem was never inhabited by Jews. Tamimi's statement came in response to statements made earlier this week by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who said that Jerusalem "is not a settlement," and that "the Jews built it 3,000 years ago."

"Netanyahu's claims are baseless and untrue," said Tamimi, the highest religious authority in the Palestinian Authority. "Jerusalem is an Arab and Islamic city and it always has been so."

Tamimi claimed that all excavation work conducted by Israel after 1967 has "failed to prove that Jews had a history or presence in Jerusalem or that their ostensible temple had ever existed."

He condemned Netanyahu and "all Jewish rabbis and extremist organizations" as liars because of their assertion that Jerusalem was a Jewish city. Tamimi accused Israel of distorting the facts and forging history "with the aim of erasing the Arab and Islamic character of Jerusalem." He also accused Israel of launching an "ethnic cleansing" campaign to squeeze Arabs out of the city.

"By desecrating its holy sites, expelling its Arab residents and demolishing their homes and confiscating their lands and building settlements in Jerusalem, Israel is seeking, through the use of weapons, to turn it into a Jewish city," he said. "This is a flagrant violation of all religious, legal, moral and human values."

In another development, Hamas on Wednesday rejected the political platform of the Palestinian Authority's Prime Minister, Salaam Fayad. The platform, which was published on Tuesday, pledges that the Fayad government would work toward establishing a de facto Palestinian state within two years even if no agreement was reached with Israel. The platform talks about peaceful resistance against Israeli "occupation." The two Islamic groups said in response that the only way to establish a state was through "armed struggle." They said that Fayad's plan was unrealistic and unclear, adding that it would be impossible to establish a state "under occupation."

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Swedish Government Stands Behind False News Report

by David Bedein

Jerusalem, Israel - Following a Swedish news report in the newspaper Aftonbladet that reported the IDF kills Palestinians in order to traffic in their organs, Swedish Ambassador to Israel Elisabet Borsin Bonnier immediately issued a sharp condemnation of the article and apologized to the people of Israel.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry, however, disassociated itself from the ambassador's condemnation.

In the wake of this reversal, Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman conveyed a pointed protest to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. Lieberman also instructed the Foreign Ministry personnel to examine the possibility of revoking the press card held by any representative of Aftonbladet in Israel, and in any case not to assist or cooperate on any matter with the newspaper or its representatives.

"It's too bad that after the Swedish ambassador to Israel did the right thing and denounced the article, and thereby made it clear that his newspaper does not represent Sweden in any way, that the Swedish Foreign Ministry chose to dissociate itself from the ambassador instead of backing her," said Lieberman. "The meaning of freedom of the press is the freedom to write the truth, not the freedom to lie and to malign. A country that truly wishes to defend its democratic values must firmly condemn any mendacious articles that smell of anti-Semitism of the kind that was published this week in the Aftonbladet newspaper. It's unfortunate that the Swedish Foreign Ministry is not becoming involved when the matter is one of a blood libel against the Jews. This is reminiscent of Sweden's position during World War II, when it also did not become involved. The article written this week is a natural continuation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and to the blood libels in which Jews were accused of adding the blood of Christian children to Passover matzos."

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Iranian Rockets Attack US Base

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - In what may lead to a possible Iranian-American military confrontation, Pentagon sources have revealed that Shi'ite insurgents fired Iranian rockets in an attack on a U.S. military base in southern Iraq.

Iranian-backed Shi'ites fired Iranian-origin rockets on a U.S. base near the southern Iraqi city of Basra. That rocket strike on Aug. 17 was the latest in a spate of Iranian backed attacks on the U.S. military presence in the Basra region in mid-2009.

On Aug. 18, Iraqi security forces found a launcher with 13 Iranian rockets in the eastern portion of Basra. The rockets appeared to have been smuggled from Iran to Iraq over the last few weeks.

In 2009, the U.S. military replaced the British contingent in Basra. Since then, U.S. forces have come under rocket attacks against their base.

The U.S. military sources say that they have determined that Iran continued to smuggle weapons and insurgents into southern Iraq throughout 2009 and that the Iranian smuggling effort was meant to prepare for a Shi'ite takeover of Iraq's southern oil sector amid a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Egyptian President Mubarak Looks Ill During Visit

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak was received in a state visit in Washington last week. However, those who observed the 82-year-old Egyptian President on his first visit to the United States since 2004, said that he appears to be on his last legs.

Mr. Mubarak has been struggling in his meetings in Washington. A participant in one meeting said Mr. Mubarak appeared to be in physical pain and unable to understand much of what was being said to him.

"He looks like a zombie," the participant said.

In 2009, he underwent a battery of medical tests in Paris that identified heart illness, blood ailments and a serious back problem. Moreover, the president was said to have sunk into a depression when his favorite grandson died suddenly in May 2009.

"The doctors told him to take a long vacation abroad, but he felt he could not be outside Egypt for so long," a Western diplomatic source said. For his part, Mr. Mubarak reassured the Obama administration that he would remain in office in the years to come. He did not rule out running for another term of office in 2011.

On Aug. 19, Mr. Mubarak met President Barack Obama for a review of bilateral relations and Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. An official said Obama urged Mr. Mubarak to recruit Arab support for a peace agreement with Israel that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"We are moving in the right direction," Mr. Mubarak said after the meeting. "The Arab states are ready to help if the Israelis and the Palestinians returned to peace talks."

Over the last few weeks, the administration has approved a series of Egyptian weapons requests and deliveries, including that of military helicopters and anti-ship missiles. The White House was also expected to approve an Egyptian request for the advanced F-16 Block 52+ multi-role fighters later in 2009.

"Relations between us and the United States are very good relations and strategic relations," Mr. Mubarak said. "And despite some of the hoops that we had with previous administrations, this did not change the nature of our bilateral relations."

During his visit, however, Mr. Mubarak appeared to concentrate on promoting his son and heir-apparent, Gamal, an economist and regarded as the No. 2 figure in Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israel Challenges Human Rights Report Alleging that Israeli Troops Killed Civilians Holding Up White Flags

by David Bedein

JERUSALEM - On Thursday, The Israeli army issued a statement in which it attacked Human Rights Watch's latest report on Israel's January incursion into Gaza, which claimed s that IDF soldiers killed 11 Palestinian civilians holding “white flags.” The Israeli army claimed that the report was based on fabricated eyewitness reports.

The wartime reality in the Gaza Strip was made especially complex due to the intense nature of combat and Hamas' strategic decion to locate the battlefield in the midst of populated civilian areas

The Israeli army produced films of Hamas fighers shooting from behind white flags as cover for belligerent action and to protect themselves from return fire.

In the words of the Israeli army spokesperson, “Merely displaying a white flag does not automatically grant immunity, and in cases of suspicion that a person holding a white flag is endangering security forces, they are authorized to take necessary precautionary steps and, in accordance with rules of engagement, to verify and neutralize the threat.”

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: IAEA Covering Up Iranian Weapons Program: Ranking Republican On HFAC

by David Bedein

Jerusalem, Israel - On a visit to Jerusalem this week, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commented on reports that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has refused to publish evidence that Iran is “pursuing information about weaponization efforts and a military nuclear program.”

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen stated “Instead of preventing nuclear proliferation, it appears that an increasingly politicized IAEA may be concealing evidence of just that by the Iranian regime...Worse yet, U.S. funds are also being used by the IAEA to provide nuclear assistance to Iran and other rogue regimes.”

She went on to say that “The IAEA must immediately release all evidence of Iran’s nuclear activities, and Congress should pass pending legislation that stops U.S. taxpayer dollars from indirectly bankrolling Iran’s nuclear program.”

Background: Ros-Lehtinen is the author of the Stop Nuclear Assistance to State Sponsors of Terrorism Act (H.R. 3107), which includes provisions to withhold U.S. funding to the IAEA for technical cooperation assistance to regimes that are designated state sponsors of terrorism or are in breach - or suspected breach - of their nonproliferation obligations and IAEA commitments.

The IAEA would not respond to the allegations raised by Congresswoman Ros- Lehtinen.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: 'Instead of Archaelogy, You Are Talking Politics'

by David Bedein

JERUSALEM - The Israel Antiquities Authority has dispatched a letter denouncing the World Archaeological Congress for excluding Israel from its congress.

The congress, which is currently meeting in Ramallah, is discussing, among other things, the excavations in Jerusalem. However, no Israeli representatives were asked to participate.

The World Archaeological Congress is presently convening archaeologists from all over the world in a conference entitled “Overcoming Structural Violence.” The congress, which is taking place in Ramallah, the biggest city of the Palestinian Authority, did not invite the Israel Antiquities Authority despite the fact that some of the topics being discussed at the conference deal with regions in Jerusalem where an archaeological excavation is being conducted exclusively by the IAA.

According to Dr. Uzi Dahari, Deputy Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “An international archaeological congress does not act this way.

“The congress came to a region where there is a conflict and chooses to present one side of the story. It is forbidden that such a thing should happen. For example, it is professionally unethical that an international archaeological forum will tour sites without the knowledge of the archaeologists who are excavating them. In addition, the congress uses the names of sites as they are referred to by one side only (e.g. the congress refers to the Temple Mount in English as Haram al Sharif). It would be best if the World Archaeological Congress would focus on archaeology and not on politics.”

The spokespeople of the World Archaeological Congress said that the Israelis were invited to participate in the event. However, the WAC could not produce the invitation that the WAC claimed to have sent to Israeli achaeologists to attend the event.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Giving Congress a New Perspective on Palestinian Incitement

Originally posted by

Israeli journalist David Bedein and activist Jeff Daube met with visiting United States Congressmen this week and attempted to give them a new perspective on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. “They get a pretty self contained view of things... I think they would benefit from hearing from different perspectives,” said Daube, who compared Israel-PA talks to “kicking a dead horse.”

Bedein warned congressmen that their own State Department had deliberately kept them in the dark regarding the true nature of the PA and the PLO.

Both Daube and Bedein addressed U.S.-Israel ties in light of America's increasingly pro-PA stance.

See: Calls to Reexamine the US-Israel Relationship

Congress people Face Evidence of PA Incitement

Visiting United States congressmen praised Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad during a news conference following their visit in Israel. America is “more committed than ever” to pushing talks between Israel and the PA, they said.

Congressmen faced an awkward moment when, shortly after the delegation's spokesman praised Fayyad for fighting incitement, reporter David Bedein presented them with proof of continuing PA incitement under Fayyad's auspices. The spokesman said America would look into the matter.

See: Congressmen Decry Continued Hate Education

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Monday, August 10, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Abbas Won't Abandon Armed Resistance

Abbas: Won't Abandon Armed Resistance

by David Bedein

The Fatah general conference convened this week in Bethlehem, 20 years after the previous conference that was held in Tunisia. Discussions addressed the question of whether Fatah should give up the armed struggle.

Large posters featuring Palestinian children brandishing rifles decorated the conference hall.

“Our determination to choose the path of peace and negotiations-does not mean that we have abandoned our noble path of legitimate resistance, which is based on international law,” declared PA Chairman Abbas in his keynote speech at the three day conference of the Fatah, which is the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority.

“Yes, resistance is legal, and we are with this resistance”, Abbas repeated, over and over.

An Israeli Arab Member of the Israeli Knesset Parliament, MK Ahmed Tibi, former advisor to the late PLO founder, Yassir Arafat, also spoke at the conference, calling upon the delegates to expel Jews from the future Palestinian state, leading thousands of Palestinians in a chant: “Get out of the Palestinian lands. Get out of all of our souls. Get out already!”

Following Mr. Tibi's harangue, the Israel Legal Forum demanded that Israel Attorney General Meni Mazuz prosecute Mr. Tibi for incitement sedition and racism in his remarks

One of the possible future leaders of the Fatah, the former security chief Jibril Rajoub, presented a clear position:

“Fatah will never give up the armed struggle,” he said, “there are tactics of struggle and policy, but they depend on Israel's position and recognition of the existence of the Palestinian people.”

MEMRI, a credible middle east think tank, translated that Palestinian Legislative Council member Jamal Huwail’s speech at the Fatah conference, which reflected the tenor of events at the event: “This conference must confirm the right of resistance by all means, as they appear in U.N. conventions, considering that Fatah is a national liberation movement and its people are under occupation. The resistance is carried out not only with guns, but also [with] political activity and serious negotiations.”

MEMRI also translated Husam Khader, another senior Fatah member who has spent the last few years in an Israeli prison for active participation in the who declared that: “Fatah has not changed its national identity, and it retains the option of resistance and armed struggle. But now, for the first time... it is permitting the option of negotiations as one of the Palestinian people's strategic options and as a possible way of attaining its political goals.”

Interviewed in prison, where he is serving life for the murder of 13 Jews, Marwan Al-Barghouti, a senior Fatah member imprisoned in Israel, said in an August 4, 2009 interview with the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: “Resistance to the Israeli occupation is a national obligation, and it is a legitimate right...”

In an earlier interview, on July 21, he said: “Fatah believes in a combination of all forms of struggle, and it will not abandon, thwart, or rule out any form of struggle. As long as a single Israeli soldier or settler remains on the Palestinian land that was occupied in 1967, Fatah will not relinquish the option of resistance.

“There isn't a single Fatah member who does not believe in resistance, because the very essence of the Fatah [movement] is resistance, [more] resistance, and eventual victory. There isn't a single people in history that was under occupation and did not resist. Resistance is a legitimate right that is confirmed by religious law, U.N. resolutions, and international law.

“We in Fatah think that political activity and negotiations complement resistance, and harvest its fruits. Therefore, we have always called for adhering to the option of resistance, negotiation, and political activity alike.”

MEMRI also translated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades commander Zakariya Al-Zubeidi, called on the Fatah conference “to propose a plan that will combine the political line with the resistance line within Fatah, against the backdrop of the past failure of [each path alone] to obtain results favorable to the Palestinian cause.” He likewise rejected the possibility that Fatah would omit the armed struggle from its plan.

Fatah spokesman Fahmi Al-Za'arir stated: “It is not possible to rule out or to marginalize the military option. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are the jewel in Fatah's crown. We must strengthen their status... [and] maintain them in a state of alert..

During the Fatah conference, former PA Prime Minister Abu Alaa welcomed Khaled Abu-Usbah to the conference and referred to him and Dalal Mughrabi as Palestinian heroes for carrying out the bus hijacking in 1978, which killed 37 Israeli civilians, including 12 children.

At the same time, the Fatah party platform that was adopted at the conference, explicitly stated that Israel must not be recognized as a Jewish state.

Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations sharply criticized the statements made by former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abu Alaa and other Fatah officials at yesterday’s Fatah Congress.

Conference Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said,
“Statements by Abbu Allah praising suicide bombers who have killed dozens of people is wholly unacceptable and represents the true challenge to the chances for peace in the region. Statements by other Fatah officials urged the continuation of armed resistance and asserted that Fatah would not recognize the State of Israel. These declarations, made by the so-called ‘moderate’ Palestinian faction puts into sharp focus the question of the real beliefs of the party with whom Israel is to negotiate. Such rhetoric cannot be dismissed as it glorifies murderers and incites others to emulate their example. The U.S. has urged the Palestinians to address the issue of incitement, which is both an immediate and long-term obstacle to the prospect of meaningful negotiations. Too often such statements have been dismissed. But as history has shown, it is a serious impediment, not only undermining the confidence of Israelis, but exhorting this and future generations to violence and hate. The leadership of the Palestinian Authority must speak out against these actions to declare and take steps that all such incitement will be stopped."

David Bedein can be reached at

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Gaza Regime Prepares Children for Death

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - At a time when Israel continues to come under scathing criticism for the deaths of 22 children during Israel’s three week counter attack in Gaza last winter, the Gaza regime has been training teenagers as young as 14 in military camps throughout Gaza p.

This summer, Hamas and several other Palestinian militias have recruited high school students for military training. Gaza teenagers are being taught basic combat skills as well as the use of explosive belts for suicide missions.

“In the war against Israel, there were more than 100 children trained to attack Israeli forces in Gaza,” a Gaza source told the Middle East Newsline., adding that “Some of them ran away and many of them were killed.”

Most recently. the Saudi-owned news agency Elaph ran a news feature about the recruitment of teenagers by Islamic militias in the Gaza Strip and other parts of the Arab world. Elaph, based in Beirut, visited military training camps in the Gaza Strip that included teenagers.

“Several minors who trained in Palestinian military camps confirmed that they were there of their own free will,” Elaph reported.

Correspondents toured several youth military training camps in Gaza.

One teenage fighter, who identified himself as Mohammed, an 11th grader, said that he underwent weapons training in Gaza's Futuh district. The recruitment was said to have begun with Islamic sermons at mosques controlled by Hamas or Palestinian militias. Teenage recruits represented the youth wing of the militias at their school and eventually were invited to training camp.

“A year ago, he [Mohammed] underwent training in carrying weapons, and received permission to aid resistance fighters in night reconnaissance of advancing Israeli military vehicles,” Elaph reported. “He was also trained to [aid the fighters] from a distance in armed clashes. Mohammed hopes to die defending the homeland for the sake of Allah, and follow his comrades who have already reached paradise.”

“There are institutions belonging to organizations dealing with educating children and deepening their awareness by means of summer camps” said Abu Mohammed, a senior agent in the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad, based in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Gaza regime now employs thousands of children to construct and operate the tunnel network between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

The youngsters help dig tunnels to smuggle weapons from Egypt to Gaza.

A Palestinian report asserted that 16,000 people have been working in an estimated 800 tunnels that span the city of Rafah, which remains artificially divided between Egypt and Gaza... The report by the Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution, estimated that half of the employees were under age 18.

The report said about 25 percent of the Palestinian victims of tunnel collapses were teenagers. The center said 30 of the 115 casualties since 2007 were below age 18.

In early July four Palestinian children suffocated to death in the tunnel network.

On late July five Palestinians teenagers were killed in a fire in a tunnel.

The teenagers were said to earn less than $30 per day, spending more than 10 hours underground.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Jerusalem Thinktank Attacks Obama for Failing to Name Anti-Semitism Envoy

by David Bedein

Jerusalem, Israel - A monograph published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, run by Dr. Dore Gold, a close advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, entitled "The Politics of the American Response to Global Anti-Semitism." has leveled stinging criticism of the Obama administration for failing to to name an envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism around the world. This position is mandated by US law. Since President Obama assumed his position on Jan. 20, the position has not been filled.

Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the Washington DC-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, who wrote the monograph for the Jerusalem think tank, said that

"Foot-dragging on the selection sends a message that anti-Semitism is not of great importance to the United States," said Medoff.

According to Medoff, "At a time when anti-Semitism remains a staple of government propaganda in the Middle East, when violent anti-Semitic incidents are reported almost daily throughout Europe, and when even the streets of Washington are not untouched by anti-Semitism's violent potential, that is the wrong message to send."

The State Department's Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, which was established by a Congressional initiative in 2004, advocates American policy on anti-Semitism both in the US and internationally.

The proposal to establish such an office was initially opposed by the Bush administration, which took 18 months to appoint an envoy to head the office, Medoff said.

"On the one hand, it is understandable that at a time of multiple domestic and foreign crises, the Obama administration does not see this position as a top-tier concern," Medoff wrote. "Yet it is nevertheless surprising how far down anti-Semitism appears to have slid on the new administration's list of priorities, particularly when it was the Democrats themselves who fought so hard to create the position over the vehement opposition of the Bush administration.”

View this story at Israel Behind the News

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israel Renews Construction Supply Sale to Gaza

by David Bedein

Fourth Anniversary Of Explusions Marked: What Do The Katif Communities Look Like Now

An area where Israel continues to cope with is the world wide campaign against Israel’s restrictions of potentially lethal exports into Gaza.

Since the Hamas terror takeover of Gaza in June 2007, Israel did halt the sale of iron, cement and other building materials into Gaza to prevent the construction of fortifications such as underground bunkers and the use iron to manufacture weapons and rockets

On July 16, a group of Philadelphia Rabbis, led by Rabbi Arthur Waskow of Germantown’s Shalom Center, organized Rabbis from all over the United States to conduct an international day of fasting to protest the Israeli “blockade” of humanitarian and medical supplies into gaza.

Due to such pressure, Israel on Thursday allowed renewed export of 300 tons of cement, steel pipes and construction materials into Gaza, for the first time since its military offensive last January.

Rabbi Waskow would not return phone calls to explain why he spread the false rumor that Israel had blocked humanitarian and medical supplies into Gaza.

Mr. Raed Fattouh, an official in the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy, confirmed in an interview with the Palestinian Ma'an news agency that cement would be shipped through UNRWA, the United Nation's relief agency for Palestinian refugees. The Israeli government also approved the transfer of 25 million dollars in cash into Gaza each month, earmarked to pay the salaries of the Palestinian Authority workers and UNRWA workers-

An Israeli security establishment spokesman stressed that "We will carry out all the necessary examinations to ensure that the cement does not fall into the wrong hands-to Hamas,"

However, since Hamas terrorists won an overwhelming victory in the March 2009 UNRWA workers election, with Hamas winning more than 80% of the vote, UNRWA facilities are solidly in the hands of the Hamas terror personnel. This was the third straigt election which affirms the dominant Hamas role in UNRWA.

Israel Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, would not respond to a Bulletin query as to how Israel could avoid cement and cash payments from falling into the hands of Hamas, since Hamas personnel dominate UNRWA facilities in Gaza.

Fourth Anniversary Of Explusions Marked

This week, more than 2,000 people took part yesterday in a rally to mark the fourth anniversary of Israel’s expulsion of 21 Jewish communities from the Katif district of Gaza.

The rally, held near the Kissufim border crossing to the east of Gaza was attended by expelled residents from various Katif communities, including hundreds of teenagers and young children.

"I am a refugee in my own land and am trying to rehabilitate myself,"

said Mr. Avi Farhan, who was evicted from Yamit in the Sinai in April 1982 after the Camp David Accord and then from Elei Sinai in northern Gaza in August 2005. "You need to understand that it is going to take seven years of living out of boxes, moving from one rented apartment to another, until we move into our own house."

At this point in time, 8 out of the 23 permanent communities earmarked for the Katif evictees are still under construction.

In 11 of the communities, preliminary infrastructure work has yet to be begun. Unemployment among the evictees is 21%, as opposed to the 5% unemployment rate that existed when the Katif communities were thriving.

What Do The Katif Communities Look Like Now?

Four years after the destruction of the 21 Katif Jewish communities, several Israeli journalists hired Palestinian cameramen to take pictures of the destroyed Jewish communities, to see what Palestinians had done there since taking over the area.

What Israelis want to know is whether overcrowded UNRWA refugee camps had moved into the abandoned Jewish communities of Katif.

Polls show that Israeli and international public opinion supported the eviction of the Jewish communities from Katif in order to enable a better life for thousands of Palestinian families who have been confined to teeming tenements of UNRWA refugee camps since 1948.

However, pictures taken by a Palestinian photographer show that contrary to what Israelis believed would happen, Palestinians have not built a single new house in the

any Katif community, four years after the destruction of these Jewish communities, where public buildings were allowed to remain..

The photographs indicate that the Palestinians completely destroyed anything that was left standing following the evacuation process, including synagogues and buildings that remained standing.

More than 100 photographs were taken in the framework of the project.

"What is sad is that it's very hard to identify the buildings that are documented in the photographs," said one Israeli journalist who had covered Katif for the international media.

Why have Palestinians from overcrowded UNRWA camps not moved into the abandoned Katif communities?

An UNRWA camp committee spokesman explained that, “These were not our homes - we want to move back to the homes that we left after we were expelled in 1948 - from places like Beer Sheva and Ashkelon”

Obama To Achieve Normalization Gestures From Arab World?

After several days of consultations with Israeli government officials, US Presidential Middle East envoy George Mitchell left his Israeli interlocutors with an assurance that President Obama would be able to extract some normalization gestures towards Israel from the Arab world within a month, following White House confirmation that Preisdent Obama had indeed sent letters leaders of Morrocco, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, asking them for confidence-building measures toward Israel.

However, Saudi Arabia, the kingpin of the Arab League of Nations which has been in a formal, full scale war with Israel since 1948, immediately responded with a full rejection of any gesture of normalization with Israel, so long as Israel does not relinquishsovereignty over Jerusalem, allow recognition of the right of return of Palestinian refugees from 1948, and stop the development of any Jewish community that lies in areas acquired by Israel in 1967.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli Government Accuses Rights Group of Fraud

by David Bedein

Jerusalem, Israel - Over the past few weeks, the Israeli government has gone on the offensive against human rights groups who have publicized allegations against Israel for many months, without any concerted Israeli response.

One of these rights groups which gained attention of late has been “Breaking the Silence”.

This Israeli group held a press conference on April 1, 2009 in Sderot, one mile from Gaza, in which they announced that the British government had financed them to survey more than 1000 Israeli soldiers who had taken part in last December/January Israeli military incursion into Gaza, in order to “find evidence of Israeli war crimes against Gaza civilians”

An organization known as the Rabbis for Human Rights facilitated funding from the Spanish government to hold a conference this past Wednesday in which the Breaking the Silence organization promised to bring about thirty testimonies of Israeli soldiers who had witnesses crimes against Gazan civilians.

Rabbis for Human Rights had claimed that it had brought such testimonies to the attention of the Israeli army. However, the Israeli army spokes man issued a strong statement, saying that “testimonies were never presented” to the Israeli army from Rabbis for Human Rights or from “Breaking the silence:”

Neither were testimonies brought to the Wednesday conference - only anonyms statements by Israeli soldiers that they had heard of abuse of Palestinian civilians by Israeli soldiers.

However, the damage was done, and the impression left by the Rabbis for Human Rights in the world media is that Israel must have conducted atrocities against civilians in Gaza.

Most importantly, some board members of the Rabbis for Human Rights have reacted with disappointment that the “Breaking the Silence” group, after all of its publicity, could not and would not provide even one affidavit from an Israeli soldier who witnessed any atrocity by an Israeli soldier.

At the same time, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the British Ambassador to Israel to express Israel’s “outrage” at the UK sponsorship for the “Breaking the Silence:” campaign.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has issued an internet accessible 164 page report, "The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects", which examines the biases of non-government organizations that have been issuing reports against Israel since the recent conflict.

On the central issue of how Palestinians used civilians as human shields, this Israeli government report noted that prominent human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, claimed to have no evidence of Hamas' utilization of this practice.

The Israeli report also quoted Hamas operatives who openly bragged that they had launched rocket attacks from schools.

The report also described incidents "in which Hamas activists requested children to wheel carts laden with rockets, in case IDF forces noticed them."

Numerous examples are provided, including televised speeches of a Hamas legislator who encouraged women, children and the elderly to use their bodies to protect Hamas military sites against Israeli attack.

View this story at Israel Behind the News

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Historic Fatah Conference to Convene in Bethlehem

by David Bedein

Jerusalem, Israel - For the first time in more than 20 years, Fatah (Arabic for “conquest”), the dominant ruling power of the Palestinian Authority, will gather next week for a conference in Bethlehem, with than 1,7,50 of its active members expected to attend. This is the first since the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, which the Fatah never ratified.

Israel has decided not to not keep any delegate to the Fatah convention from being able to attend the parley next week in Bethlehem, including those coming from Syria and Lebanon.

A senior Fatah official Muhammad "Abu Maher" Ghneim returned to Palestinian territory on Wednesday from in Tunisia ahead of the movement's general conference, which opens next week in Bethlehem. Palestinian news sources reported that President Mahmoud Abbas convinced Israeli authorities to allow Ghneim to attend the conference.

After crossing the Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge border crossing from Jordan on Wednesday, Ghneim was whisked to the Palestinian Authority (PA) headquarters in Ramallah in a presidential car, accompanied by top negotiator Saeb Erekat. In Ramallah, the Fatah official was welcomed by Abbas in an official ceremony.

Ghneim's return also marks a reversal in Palestinian politics. Ghneimopposed the Oslo peace agreements, and at first refused to return to Palestine until all of its territory was "liberated

On the eve of the conference, the Middle East Newsline broke the story that Israel's military has determined that the ruling Fatah movement continues to engage in weapons smuggling, after capturing Fatah militia commanders who admitted to

smuggling weapons acquired weapons from such sources as Israeli organized crime, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority itself.

"The weapons are sold for profit, mostly to Israeli and Palestinian criminals, some of them who engage in terrorism," a military source said.

Fatah weapons smugglers were operating in Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah and Tulkarm, in coordination with the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad. Israeli military sources also confirm that Fatah weapons smugglers have also sold weapons to the opposition Hamas.

On July 24, the Israel Army arrested a suspected Fatah weapons smuggler in Nablus named as Nasser Mahmoud Abu Kishk, a 34-year-old Fatah militia operative from Nablus Abu Kishk, wanted by Israel for several years, was also said to have supplied weapons to Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is identified by both Israel and by the United States intelligence agencies as a terrorist organization.

Israeli army spokesmen also said that Kishk has participated in shooting attacks against Israelis.

Policy Issues On The Agenda

An organization known as has put forward four policy issues for the Fatah to reconsider, if Fatah is to be seen as a real party to peace talks in the future.

1. Fatah does not recognize Israel's right to exist. Fatah leaders emphasize that this ideology is current and not merely an oversight

2. Fatah continues to use maps that don't acknowledge Israel's existence

3. Fatah charter still calls for Israel's destruction

4. Fatah continues to support the cease fire, only in terms of the continued armed struggle against Israel

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: 1,800-Year-Old Roman Building Discovered in Jerusalem

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - A spacious edifice from the 3rd Century was recently exposed in the excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority that is carrying out a major excavation in the 'City of David', located in the heart of Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

“Although we do not have the complete dimensions of the structure, we can cautiously estimate that the building covered an area of approximately 1,000 square meters,” said Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, the excavation director. “In the center of it was a large open courtyard surrounded by columns. Galleries were spread out between the rows of columns and the rooms that flanked the courtyard. The wings of the building rose to a height of two stories and were covered with tile roofs.”

A large quantity of fresco fragments was discovered in the collapsed ruins from which the excavators deduced that some of the walls of the rooms were treated with plaster and decorated with colorful paintings. The painted designs that adorned the plastered walls consisted mostly of geometric and floral motifs. Its architectural richness, plan and particularly the artifacts that were discovered among its ruins bear witness to the unequivocal Roman character of the building. The most outstanding of these finds are a marble figurine in the image of a boxer and a gold earring inlaid with precious stones.

The building was likely shaken by a tremor in the 4th Century, the results of which are clearly apparently in the excavation area: the walls of the rooms caved-in and their stone collapse, which was piled high, covered the walls of the bottom floor, some of which still stand to a considerable height. Architectural elements such as columns and capitals, as well as mosaics and the large amount of fresco fragments that were used in the rooms of the second story were discovered inside the collapsed ruins. The coins that were discovered among the collapse and on the floors indicated the building’s ruins should be dated to circa 360 AD. The structure appears to be archaeological evidence of the an earthquake that struck the Middle East in 363 AD.

“We know of no other buildings from the Roman period that were discovered in Israel which have a similar plan to that of the building from the City of David,” said Dr. Ben-Ami. “The closest contemporary parallels to this structure are located in sites of the second to fourth century that were excavated in Syria. Edifices such as these are 'urban mansions' from the Roman period that were discovered in Antioch, Apamea and Palmyra. If this parallel is correct, then in spite of its size and opulence, it seems that this building was used originally as a private residence.”

The exposure of the Roman building in the City of David is a significant contribution to understanding the extent of the construction in the Roman city in the 3rd to 4th Centuries AD. It constitutes extremely important archaeological evidence regarding the growth of the settlement at the end of the Roman period into the southern precincts of the city, and it shows that the prevailing supposition among scholars that the City of David remained outside the area of Roman settlement is no longer valid.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Terrorist murderer whom Israel allowed to attend Bethlehem Fatah conference hopes Fatah returns to terror

Originally published by the Ma'an News Agency

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an Exclusive) - “I have waited 30 years to come back to
Palestine, and I won’t leave. I will wait until I get a Palestinian ID card
so I can bring back my wife and children,” said Khalid Abu Isba, one of two
Palestinian fighters who survived the famous attack on a beach in north of
Tel Aviv on 11 March 1978.

In the city for Fatah’s upcoming convention, Abu Isba was speaking during an
interview at Ma’an’s Bethlehem office.

The operation that made him famous was led by the legendary female fighter
Dalal Al-Mughrabi. Al-Mughrabi’s name is synonymous with the 1978 attack,
which is today a symbol of an earlier era when the Palestinian movement was
led by refugees living in Lebanon and other places of exile, struggling to
retrieve the homeland they lost in 1948.

The Palestinians who carried it out called the attack the “Martyr Kamal
Udwan operation,” after the PLO chief of operations killed in an Israeli
commando raid on Beirut in April 1973. The Israelis called it “Coastal Road

Palestine, Abu Isba says, is the homeland for which he sacrificed in the
1978 operation that saw him injured and detained. During that operation, 13
Palestinian fighters hijacked an Israeli bus, and fierce battle erupted
between them and Israeli forces. Thirty five Israelis were killed as well as
all the Palestinian fighters except Abu Isba and another named Hussein

Both were injured and detained by Israeli forces. After spending seven years
in prison, both were released in a prisoner exchange deal in 1985 between
Israel and The Popular front for the Liberation of Palestine- General
Command led then by Ahmad Jibreel.

Abu Isba says he was worried Israel would not allow him to come to Palestine
to partake in sixth Fatah conference in Bethlehem. For reasons that may
never be known, Israeli authorities allowed the former guerilla leader to
cross into the West Bank this weekend.

Yet Abu Isba is returning to a Palestine, and a Fatah, that have changed
dramatically in the three decades since the raid on the coast road. Inside
the occupied territories, his movement has become closely identified with
the Oslo peace accords and its offspring, the hapless bureaucracy of the
Palestinian Authority. A weak Palestinian “sovereignty” has returned to a
few square kilometers of the homeland, but the rest has been annexed,
splintered, and subdivided over the Olso years. Fatah is embroiled in a
bitter power struggle with Hamas. It is a movement also seeking to reconcile
its past as a resistance movement with its present state.

While visiting Ma’an, however, Abu Isba seemed happy to be back in one
corner of Palestine. He says he is happy with the young Palestinian
generation. “For your sake, young people, we sacrificed, and we will
continue to,” he said.

”Bring back the Fatah of the revolution”

Asked about his expectations for the Fatah conference, he said, “After the
conference is finished, Fatah should continue with change, close the ranks,
and restore Fatah’s dignity.”

The veteran fighter said he hoped his movement would return to a program of
popular resistance.

“We hope the conference will bring back the Fatah of the revolution, the
Fatah of Abu Ammar [Yasser Arafat] and the Fatah of sacrifices after waiting
20 years since the fifth conference,” he added.

Abu Isba applauded the decision to increase the number of delegates to the
conference to 2,260 highlighting that more delegates are still needed in
order to cover all the regions where Fatah is active. He pointed out that
Fatah in Jordan and Lebanon need to have more representatives in the
conference. He mentioned that late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat had
increased the number of delegates to the fifth conference 20 years ago.

With regards to Hamas’ refusal to allow Fatah delegates from Gaza to leave
to Bethlehem, Abu Isba said, “Hamas plans to thwart Fatah conference to tell
the world that Fatah is unable to lead the Palestinian people.”

“They [Hamas] try to impose religion by force, thus, the Palestinian people
in the beloved Gaza Strip will rebel. If Hamas was confident about its
strength, and popularity, they would have accepted president Abbas’ call for
elections,” he added.

Commenting on the Israeli military offensive against the Gaza Strip last
winter, he said, “Hamas did not achieve anything in that war. They continued
to slam Egypt for refusing to open the Rafah crossing during the war without
considering that Egypt wanted to avoid displacing the Palestinian people....
Hamas is not ready to stage a coup in the West Bank, and if they stage a
coup, they will then start criticizing Jordan for not opening the Allenby
Bridge,” he added.

He said that Hamas lauds Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi, who is in prison in
Israel for his actions during the Second Intifada, “But once the man is
released and starts playing a role in PA [Palestinian Authority] politics,
Hamas will have prepared accusations [against him] in advance.”

With regards to Fatah leader Farouq Qaddoumi’s recent accusations that
President Mahmoud Abbas was being involved in an assassination of Yasser
Arafat, he said, “If he [Qaddoumi] had such information, why did he remain
silent for five years? His silence is complicity. There must be
international sides who planned these accusations with Qaddoumi.”

View this article at Israel Behind the News

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Special Report: UNRWA - Its Role in Gaza (The Center for Near East Policy Research)

UNRWA: Its Role in Gaza


It is less than a year since the last report on UNRWA by this author was released. (1)

However, the current critical political/security situation in the Gaza Strip requires a new analysis of UNRWA’s various roles in this specific locale.

In December 2008, after seven years of Hamas and other terrorist groups launching
rockets and mortar shells from Gaza at civilians in the south of Israel, Hamas announced that a six-month temporary ceasefire—during which 538 rockets had been fired (2) at Israel—would not be renewed. In the days that followed, rocket firings averaged 40 per day, with over one million Israeli citizens within range.
On December 27, 2009, Israel began a major military operation — Operation “Cast
Lead”—against Hamas in Gaza. As Hamas operated within densely populated civilian
areas, Israel utilized pinpoint strikes and unprecedented efforts to warn the civilian population; nonetheless Israeli operations were unable to avoid collateral damage. As international critics were quick to blame Israel, often without an accurate assessment of the situation, Israel opened a second, information and public relations, front.

Operation “Cast Lead” ended on January 18, 2009, with a ceasefire unilaterally declared by Israel, followed by a similar ceasefire announcement from Hamas. In the course of the Operation, Hamas was disabled but not defeated; it is still in control in Gaza, and still smuggling in weaponry. From the time the war ended through July 20, 2009, 144 rockets, 79 mortars and 6 Grad Katyushas3 have been fired into Israel.
With some specific exceptions,4 crossings today are open for commercial5 and
humanitarian materials. By March 2009, $4.5 billion, including $900 million from the
US, had been pledged by the international community for humanitarian relief and
reconstruction. There is considerable unease, however, about how to proceed with the
major reconstruction that is required but at the same time prevent money and supplies
from falling into hands of Hamas.

Consideration is being given within the international community to utilizing UNRWA—
which is broadly viewed as a purely humanitarian organization—as a major conduit of
these funds and supplies.

The UNRWA role in Gaza
UNRWA involvement in Gaza is greater than in any of the other regions in which it
operates, including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Judea & Samaria (West Bank). (4)

This is a function of demographics: 70% of Gaza’s population, estimated at 1.5 million, consists of persons registered with UNRWA as refugees (6) — thus UNRWA maintains a significant presence in the region. There are 10,000 UNRWA workers in Gaza, who are almost all Palestinian Arab refugees themselves; this means roughly one out of every 150 persons resident in Gaza is an UNRWA employee.

A strong connection between UNRWA in Gaza and Hamas has been previously
documented (7) and evidence that this continues is provided later in this report. Of
particular significance are the recently held elections within the teachers’ sector of the UNRWA union in Gaza,. Candidates associated with the Islamic Bloc, an affiliate of Hamas, won all 11 seats for the executive council8— granting Hamas an enormous influence within the UNRWA schools.

The Islamic Bloc (known in Arabic as Al-Kutla Al-Islamiah) maintains broad programs in these UNRWA schools, beginning as early as junior high school, which promote radical incitement for jihad and opposition to Israel. Its goal is winning the hearts and minds of students so they can be recruited into the Hamas military wing during high school or after graduation.(9)

UNRWA positions during “Cast Lead”
During “Cast Lead,” statements of a political nature and accusations leveled at Israel were repeatedly made by key UNRWA personnel, even though this is highly
inappropriate from individuals who represent an organization the official mandate of
which is purely humanitarian.10 What is more, these statements indicated an anti-Israel bias and frequently a misrepresentation of facts.

UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness —in a radio interview11—began talking about
“proportionality” on January 5, 2009, without reflecting what international law actually says12 on this subject:
“This is not proportionate. And what is happening in Sderot [in Israel, where Hamas rockets hit], which is utterly condemnable, I don’t think justifies this level of disproportionality…This degree of killing of innocent women and children and babies is not justified.”

Gunness also took it upon himself to explain Hamas’s rocket attacks:
“But let me also say that the root of the rockets – and people in Gaza tell you this…They will tell you that the occupation is being resisted. That’s the reason for the rockets…”(5)

Gunness is saying here precisely what Hamas says for PR purposes: That it launches
rockets because of “the occupation,” where military occupation of Gaza and the West
Bank is implied. Gunness, who is speaking for an ostensibly humanitarian agency, has no business explaining why Hamas launches rockets in any case. It is wrong from a
humanitarian perspective; from the perspective of international law, it is forbidden.
What Gunness does is to offer a sort of justification, totally disregarding Hamas’s
insistence on the illegitimacy of Israel and its call for Israel’s destruction via jihad. (13)

Perhaps most egregious of all, however, was a statement (14) made by Commission-General of UNRWA, Karen AbuZayd:
“The saddest thing,” she intoned, “is that all of the private sector – every single factory and workshop – was destroyed. Anybody who was working has to start all over.” (15)

To have destroyed “every single factory and workshop,” Israel would have had to carpet bomb all of Gaza, and this was not remotely the case. In fact, Israeli attacks were pinpoint — done to hit specific identified targets. What is more, one must ask how AbuZayd determined such a thing: how could she know that there was not a single
workshop left standing?

This is not a case of expressing an empathy for the residents of Gaza that engenders a tendency to exaggerate. In this instance one is led irrevocably to the conclusion that AbuZayd willfully and maliciously misrepresented.

Instances are also documented in which UNRWA representatives made fallacious
charges against the IDF—or leveled charges before facts were checked—with regard to
damage done to UNRWA buildings or personnel during the conflict.
The incident that received the most press was the one in which it was either claimed or strongly implied that the IDF hit an UNRWA school in Jabaliya that was sheltering
civilians, thereby killing 40 people.16 An IDF investigation, however, indicated that eight to ten Hamas gunmen were killed near the school, which was never hit, after the terrorists had fired mortar shells at IDF troops. (17)

Precipitous charges were made—before facts were confirmed —that the IDF had killed
an UNRWA driver in a convoy. An IDF investigation later found this was not true. (18)
Other charges included the claim made by UNRWA that the IDF had made illegal use of
white phosphorus (19), which was later refuted by the IDF. (20)

Click here for the full report: UNRWA: Its Role in Gaza



1 “UNRWA Overview and Critique.” See:
2 Sderot Media Center
3 IDF spokesman’s office.
4 Items not let in are those that have a “double use.” This includes, broadly, materials that could be utilized
for manufacturing munitions — fertilizer, which can become an explosive and items made of heavy metals, or for building bunkers for the storage of munitions — concrete, etc. Additionally, luxury items such as gourmet foods — that would go primarily to the wealthy elite of Gaza, which is primarily Hamas-associated, are not permitted in.
Source: Guy Inbar, spokesman for the IDF Gaza Administration in telephone interview July 20, 2009.
5 According to the Israel-Palestine Chamber of Commerce, it is expected that by the end of 2009, there will be 2 billion shekels in Israeli exports into Gaza.
6 This is a considerably higher ratio of refugees to general population than is the case in the other areas served by UNRWA.
7 “UNRWA Overview and Critique.” See:
8 Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas wins teachers union elections for UN schools in Gaza,” The Jerusalem Post, March 29, 2009.
9 Lt. Col. (res.).Yoni Dahoah Halevy, in direct communication with the author. Arabic-speaking, he provided information based on his research, on request.
10 When founded by UN Resolution 302 (IV), UNRWA was charged with providing “direct relief and work programmes” for the Palestinian refugees.
According to its website ( UNRWA later “adjusted” its programs, so that now it is” the main provider of basic services - education, health, relief and social services.” UNRWA’s role is exclusively humanitarian.

This contrasts strikingly with the mandate of the UN High Commission for refugees, a second refugee agency founded by the UN, which is instructed to “lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and wellbeing of refugees.” See

When the two mandates are considered in juxtaposition, it becomes imminently clear that UNRWA’s role is restricted to the non-political. When its representatives step make political declarations, they are stepping beyond the purview and the mandate of the agency they represent.
11 A radio news show for Democracy Now! hosted by Ami Goodman, January 5, 2009.
12 President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, Rosalyn Higgens, has noted, proportionality “cannot be in relation to any specific prior injury — it has to be in relation to the overall legitimate objective of ending the aggression.” That is, Israel was not required to limit attacks in Gaza to
force commensurate to the force of attacks from Kassams that hit southern Israel. It is, rather, legitimate for Israel to use whatever force is necessary to stop the Kassams.

See a full discussion of this issue at:
13 According to the Hamas Covenant:
“The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [trust] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up.” (Article 11)
“Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas]… There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.” (Article 13)
“The day that enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In face of the Jews' usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised.” (Article 15)
14 In the course of a talk delivered at DePauw University (her alma mater) on March 12, 2009.
16 From Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff, “UNRWA offers political cover to Hamas,” The Jerusalem Post,
February 25, 2009, which cited an interview Guiness gave with “Democracy Now!” radio.
18 Amir Mizroch, “IDF: Army didn’t fire on UN truck,” The Jerusalem Post, January 10,2009.