Saturday, September 24

Where are the Palestinians Heading?

The situation in Palestinian Street is moving towards total anarchy. Hamas is still basking in their artificial euphoria since the disengagement. They are adding explosives to their expressions of hate for the "Zionist Entity". This time the careless handling of explosives had resulted in the deaths of 19 Palestinians. This was even stated by the Palestinian Authority. Naturally, Hamas made a massive cover up by blaming Israel for the explosion. Hamas denied their responsibility for the incident to prevent opposition in their ranks. A rain of Qassam rockets landed in Shderot resulting in injury to five Israelis. The Israel Air Force went into Gaza and pounded Hamas weapon factories killing 4 Hamas activists as a form of retaliation.

Anybody who entertained the idea that there will be progress towards peace and further withdrawals after the disengagement must now receive a rather rude awakening. It is back to violence as before. The culture of violence and hate for Israel is so ingrained in Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The movement towards peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state will not occur for many years. What are the Palestinian terrorist groups trying to achieve by instigating violence and creating conditions for retaliatory acts by Israel? They seem to live in a world of fantasy! It is obvious that their belief in Israel's total destruction is unabated.

Hamas are very involved in having dramatic demonstrations of hate for Israel. Since Israel's pullout from Gaza, there have not been any signs of pragmatism in the Hamas camp. The provocations and rabble rousing against Israel continues unhindered by the Palestinian Authority. Gaza is ungovernable and the chances of democratic Palestinian elections are becoming a contradiction in terms. The weakness and ineffectiveness of the Palestinian Authority to disarm the Palestinian terrorist groups will backfire on them in the end. It would not be surprising if Hamas seizes power from the impotent Palestinian Authority even before elections. Their patience with the Palestinian leadership is wearing thin.

If this scenario develops, and the firing of Qassam rockets continue, it will not take long before the Israeli Security Forces will move into Gaza in order to rout out Hamas and Co terror cells which are rebuilding their strength to create havoc against Israel.

The future for the Palestinians will be very grim indeed. There will be a continuation of the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians. No power on earth will be able to prevent that. The Hamas fantasies of driving the Jews into the sea will be the order of the day and this will result in more violence and anarchy.

One would expect that after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, there would be an attempt by the Palestinian leadership to embark on rebuilding the infrastructure of Gaza as well as law enforcement against the Palestinian militias. Nothing has been done. The anarchy and violence in Palestinian street seems to pay off dividends for Hamas and their terrorist allies. Terror is always rampant when the population has limited economic resources. A prosperous Palestinian population would never serve the interests of Hamas and Company. Hamas will do all in its power to upset any movement towards peace, as this would render them redundant. Hamas can only succeed in a bloody environment filled with hate and turmoil. They will ensure this situation for many years to come. They hold the key to the future of peace or war.

Monday, September 19

The Future for the Palestinians

Since the disengagement from Gaza, the Palestinians have plunged themselves into lawlessness, anarchy and a macabre-style euphoria. It is understandable that there would be a sense of satisfaction on the Palestinian side because of the Israeli pullout from Gaza. What we are witnessing is destruction and looting of immense proportions. Have the Palestinians chosen the path of anarchy?

There are massive rallies headed by Hamas. The Egyptians are supposed to be guarding the Philadelphi strip on the border between them and the Palestinians. This is to prevent weapons and goods smuggling. The Palestinians and Egyptians have done nothing to prevent this and it looks as if Hamas will be adopting Hizbollah-style tactics to ingratiate themselves with the Palestinian people. If anything, the parties involved may invite the European Union to station their forces along the border.

Mahmoud Abbas, as predicted, is paying lip service to controlling the entry points from Egypt. He will not disarm Hamas. He shows great weakness as a leader of his people. He will continue to sit on the fence of terror, allowing Hamas to be in charge in Palestinian street. Maybe, by adopting this attitude of appeasing Hamas, he hopes to seek re-election. He will play a secondary role to Hamas without compromising his legitimacy in the Palestinian electorate. He will maintain his status quo of support in the eyes of the world.

If this anarchy continues it will increase instability and hope for a better future for the Palestinians will soon diminish. The much-needed funds, promised by the world of nations for building the Palestinian economy, will not arrive. It does not take much imagination to realize that the Palestinian leadership is impotent. The atmosphere is not conducive for Israel to give up more territory for the establishment of a viable, stable Palestinian state. The anarchy and lawlessness is not in the Palestinian’s interests. It could be a threat to Israel’s security that will not serve Palestinian aspirations of an independent state.

As far as the Palestinian elections are concerned, the Palestinians claim that Hamas has every right to announce its candidacy in the upcoming elections and that Israel has no right to interfere. This does ring true and there is logic in this. However, Hamas does interfere in Israel’s right to exist because of the terrorist activity that it has carried out against Israel. The attitude of Hamas towards Israel’s existence is uncompromising.

Hamas has made it clear in all her statements that she will never recognize Israel’s right to exist and vowed that the war for Israel’s annihilation will continue. Under these conditions, Israel has every right to try to prevent Hamas from participating in the upcoming elections until she is prepared to lay down her arms. If Hamas does win, she could be a terrorist threat to Israel judging from their rhetoric and their history of terrorism.

Ariel Sharon is correct in insisting that Hamas should not participate in the Palestinian elections on those grounds. If Hamas participates and wins the elections, either one of two things could happen:

1. Hamas gains legitimacy, becoming pragmatic by recognizing Israel de facto despite their statements to the contrary. This would involve starting negotiations with Israel on a peace treaty or hudna for an unlimited period because of American, Egyptian and European pressure.

2. Hamas could become more radical and make impossible demands for territory and resettlement of Palestinian refugees, which Israel would not accept. This would create an excuse for them to continue terrorist activity against Israel, plunging the area into further anarchy, chaos and bloodshed.

There is not much Israel can do to prevent Hamas from participating in the elections. A “wait and see” attitude with a finger on the pulse in Palestinian street is the most that they could achieve at this stage. It would be wise not to interfere in the election process unless Hamas carries out terror attacks against Israel. Israel could use that as a pretext to interfere with the election process.

However, one looks at the situation, it seems very bleak indeed for the Palestinians unless they become organized and the violent anarchy ceases. Their leadership has to restore law and order so that serious negotiations for a viable Palestinian state can begin.

Wednesday, September 14

Prosecution of Israeli Army Officers for War Crimes, in Foreign Countries

This is a very painful situation for Israel when extreme left wing organizations regard Israeli officers as "war criminals" in carrying out their duty in protecting Israeli citizens from Palestinian terrorists. It weakens their position and gives terrorists legitimacy to carry out terrorist acts. The irony of the matter is that organizations in Israel such as Yesh Gvul are involved in opening Pandora's Box in the British Courts of Law.

This is unacceptable! Many officers have risked their lives in protecting Israeli citizens against terror. Yesh Gvul has shown itself up to be a traitorous organization. Israel is involved in a war against terror. Yesh Gvul ought to be put on trial for treason and its desire to harm Israel's ability to fight terror.

Hamas and company have found an ally in Yesh Gvul. While it is true that much collateral damage occurred in the army pursuit of terror and many innocent Palestinians were killed as a result. This was because the terrorist leaders hid amongst a civilian Palestinian population uninvolved in terror activity. It is the duty of the Security Forces to round them up, bring them to justice, and if this was not possible kill them. These terrorists chose the path of violence and they must pay the price! Yesh Gvul wants to bring those officers for trial in the killing of Hamas terrorist leader Salah Shehada in July 2002. Unfortunately, the Israeli Security Forces had killed 14 innocent Palestinians in this military action. The Israeli Government had apologized for the action that may or may not have been adequate. Were there any apologies from those responsible on the Palestinian side for the killing of innocent people?

If Israeli Officers are tried overseas for so-called "war crimes", it could set a precedent for legitimizing terrorist activity against innocent people all over the world. If overseas courts prosecute Israeli officers, Israel should give them the best defense team of lawyers possible at her expense and pay for the bale if demanded.

It will be a sad day when terror gains legitimacy because of pseudo kangaroo court trials against those who carry out their duty to protect innocent citizens from terror attacks.

Another legitimate question arises in the Iraqi War where many innocent Iraqis had been caught up in the crossfire from American and British troops. Are those officers, responsible for the loss of innocent Iraqi lives, also accountable in British Courts?

Sunday, September 11

To Destroy or Not to Destroy the Gush Katif Synagogues

The issue of destroying the synagogues or not has become a hot potato. The cabinet backtracked on an earlier decision to destroy the synagogues and voted against the destruction by 14 - 2. This vote had exacerbated antagonism between Israel and the Palestinians and this resulted in the Palestinians boycotting the pullout ceremony from Gaza. There was a certain amount of surrealism in the modest pullout ceremony without the Palestinian presence. One would have expected a handing over ceremony of Gaza to the Palestinians with the raising of the Palestinian flag after the lowering of the Israeli flag. This symbolic ceremony could have caught the attention of the world and Israel's credibility may have received a few more points.

The synagogues in Gush Katif were a rallying place for extremist right wing views. Right wing rabbis have used these pulpits for spewing out zealotry views not very different in motivation to the extremist hate filled imams in many Gaza mosques. The content of the sermons between the two faiths may differ. Perhaps it is understandable that the Palestinians would like to see the end of all vestiges of settlers in their areas.

The settlers in the Gaza strip had it good in the midst of a sea of poverty stricken Palestinians. The settlers had made full use of Palestinian cheap labor for working their agricultural projects. Right wing rabbis never mentioned increasing Palestinian worker's salaries and improving their social conditions. There was great emphasis on the right of the settlers to colonize Palestinian territory. The basis for this was the Torah in its extreme interpretation. The Gush Katif synagogues became symbols of oppression and racism. Here the affluent settlers would make peace with their belief in God and then return to their palatial homes at the end of the day. These homes were the result of generous Israeli Governmental aid at the taxpayer's expense. There were islands of affluent settlers amidst a tragic sea of poverty stricken Palestinians who are weak economically. This in itself is grist for the mill of dissatisfaction amongst the Palestinian population whose offspring have no future. This frustration amongst the Palestinians is also a factor in terrorism and hate for Israel.

The settlers had not done anything to improve the lot of the Palestinians in their midst. It paid them to keep them impoverished and dependent on them for work at starvation wages.

Israel, itself has not done justice to her own workforce within the green line as far as salaries are concerned. Promotions in many jobs are slow. Many people are employed at minimum wages. This is far worse in the Arab sector, not to mention the shocking wages and inhuman treatment meted out to the Palestinians.

At the end of the day, the Gush Katif Synagogues, a breeding ground for zealotry and racism is symbolic of an intolerant, self righteous, perverted mutant of Judaism. Unfortunately, the government had voted against the destruction of these synagogues, which are a negative blot on Jewish history. Houses of worship that are hot beds of extremism and hate (and this applies to all faiths) ought to be treated with the contempt that they deserve. They do not serve the intended purpose of their respective faiths, which claim to be tolerant towards all, irrespective of race, color or creed.

Saturday, September 10

The Future Palestinian State and Israel

These days are interesting and Israel as well as the Palestinians face new opportunities which never existed before prior to the disengagement. Many countries in the world accept the fact that the heart of the Israeli - Arab conflict is the Palestinian problem. There are signs of this in the tentative negotiations that have started between Israel and Pakistan. Pakistan, being a non-Arab state is not bound by decisions that Arab states make regarding Israel. President Jalal Talabani of Iraq has hinted to Chaim Saban, the Israeli business magnate that Israel has to solve the Palestinian problem before Iraq will establish diplomatic relations with her.

As far as the Arab states are concerned, there does seem to be a large shift in pragmatism towards recognizing Israel's right to exist. The main obstacle today is the solving of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. The Arab countries have come a long way since Israel's establishment in recognizing Israel's right to exist. There are many unofficial meetings between Israel and her Arab neighbors. This is a good sign for the future.

Since the disengagement, Israel has chalked up many positive points in her favor from states that were formerly hostile. There is no doubt that Israel's disengagement from Gaza will have a positive snowball effect in her future relations with her Arab neighbors. Israel has proved that she is willing to forego territory and make painful decisions for the sake of achieving peace.

The situation in Gaza, however, does not give much cause for optimism and it looks as if they are going to miss the boat for consolidating their gains from Israel's pullout. The situation in Gaza is chaotic. When President Mahmoud Abbas does not show any signs of disarming the militants in his midst, including those who are terrorists, he is endangering his own people's future as well as his own life. There is incredible intra fraternal strife amongst the various Palestinian groups which could eventually result in a power struggle. This would render Gaza ungovernable and would postpone the establishment of a Palestinian state indefinitely. The assassination of Musa Arafat is an example that all is not well in Gaza. No country in the world would be prepared to invest in a future Palestinian state that is approaching total anarchy.

Mahmoud Abbas is playing a very dangerous game. A game of indecisiveness is not in his people's interests. The demonstration scenes of hooded militias firing their weapons do not create a favorable atmosphere of stability for the future of Gaza. These scenes are fearful and show total lack of leadership. The fact that Musa Arafat lived not far from Mahmoud Abbas could also mean that he could be the next on the firing line.

It is difficult to imagine that P.M. Ariel Sharon will cede more territory to the Palestinians under these conditions of total anarchy. There could also be a severe spill over of terror into Israel from various terrorist groups. One should view Gaza as an example of what could occur when Palestinians gain more territory. The possibility of a severe problem of Al Qaeda establishing terrorist cells in Gaza within its anarchy exists.

Blaming Israel for the anarchy in Palestinian street is no real excuse. It has become a cliché to say that the ball is now in the Palestinian court depending on whether they will receive more territory from Israel. This statement does ring true despite sentiments to the contrary on the Palestinian side.

The establishment of peace between Israel and the Palestinians are dependent on a number of factors:

  1. There should be total cessation of violence between the sides.

  1. They must agree to negotiate peace that would allow initiation of confidence building measures between the sides to the conflict.

  1. They should show willingness towards a third party, preferably neutral to the conflict, to help bridge their enormous differences.

  1. Both sides must recognize each other's rights to security, peace and dignity.

  1. The rights of both sides to independence are unquestionable.

When a peaceful atmosphere between the two sides is attained, Israel must be prepared to negotiate further withdrawals so that a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel can be established. Israel will have to make future very painful decisions regarding settler removal from the remaining occupied areas and resettle them in Israel.

A future Palestinian state will be dependent on international good will to ensure its viability. It will require much investment in order to rebuild its infrastructure including social and health services, education and economy to create meaningful employment for the Palestinians in building their state. This will take many years but at least a path for a decent future for the Palestinians would begin.

The Palestinian Government must decide on a programme of transparency so that corruption, which had been rife at the expense of the Palestinian people, does not reoccur.

Much work remains in bringing the two warring sides together. The advantages of peace will be a prosperous Middle East beneficial to all. Many Arab states would then show willingness to have diplomatic relations with Israel and Palestine allowing both countries to improve their economic situation. Foreign investment would not be slow in arriving for the benefit of both Israel and Palestine alike.

This does seem like dreaming. However, new positive ideas could create a new reality.

Wednesday, September 7

The Security Fence separating Tulkarem from Bat Chefer. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 6

Protesting the Security Fence

The security situation has been very tenuous during the intifada years because of the almost daily occurrence of Palestinian suicide terror directed against innocent Israelis. This had lead to the decision to build a security fence in order to protect Israelis from the suicide terror. Since the building of the security fence, terror had dropped dramatically. The security fence had proved its worth but it had given rise to other problems.

It is unfortunate that the route of the security fence had cut into Palestinian lands and had caused tremendous difficulties for Palestinians. In many cases, Israel had confiscated Palestinian lands unlawfully in order to build the security fence. This had led to abuse of power and the Israel Defense Forces had not acted with restraint towards those innocent Palestinians who were not involved in terror as in the case of Bil'in, a Palestinian Town within the West Bank. This security fence construction was also a precedent for expanding Jewish settlements that encroached on Palestinian lands. Will this also create another Gaza-like situation, which will eventually result in withdrawal?

While the legitimacy for building a security fence is obvious. What is immoral is the building of the fence in Palestinian lands for reasons mentioned earlier in this article. Construction of the security fence should be within the green line to prevent terrorist incursions. It should not encroach on Palestinian lands. Obviously, it would be better had their not been a need for a security fence. However, the situation being what it is and the desire of terrorists to carry on their violence makes the security fence a necessity.

Legitimate protest against the security fence is fine if protest is peaceful. The route of the security fence is unfair to Palestinians because it creates division of their lands and abuse of their human rights. The result is division of Palestinian families! The direction of protest towards injustice against the Palestinians is preferable rather than towards the security fence itself whose purpose should be safeguarding Israelis from terror.

The use of the security fence for creating new facts on the ground such as building and expanding existing Jewish settlements in the occupied areas, under the guise of security, is trickery of the worst kind. It only adds fuel to the fire of Palestinian discontent and animosity, which is understandable.

The best solution would be a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This is far better than a security fence. After all, true peace is security for both sides.

Saturday, September 3

Reaping the Fruits of Disengagement

It is early days yet to come to any conclusions about the future for Israel and the Palestinians. Theoretically, the pullout should bring the Palestinians closer to the establishment of a Palestinian state. In practice, this does not necessarily follow for a number of reasons. Israel will benefit from improving her relationships with the outside world. She has illustrated that she is able to pullout from occupied territories with less havoc than was predicted.

An interesting and positive development has occurred last week because of the pullout. Pakistan has decided to start negotiations with Israel under the auspices of Turkey to improve relationships between the two countries. A rather interesting observation is that Pakistan initiated the dialogue between the two countries. Pakistan, with its 160 000 000 inhabitants makes it the second largest Moslem country in the world after Indonesia. Whatever Pakistan's motivations are, this move is an important step in moving towards an understanding between Israel and the Moslem world. Hopefully, Indonesia will follow suit as well as the Arab countries. Jordan's King Abdullah is also showing signs of improving relations with Israel with an impending visit in the near future.

This could create an important impetus for the Palestinians to get their act right and lay down their arms. The Palestinians, unfortunately, are in the stranglehold of non-compromising terror groups. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president has no control over them.

While the threat of Palestinian terror hovers over Israel, the chances of establishing a Palestinian state remain remote. Hamas and Islamic Jihad show no signs of changing their attitude towards Israel's existence. Mahmoud Abbas also does not wish to disarm the terrorist groups under his official jurisdiction. This is the key obstacle to the establishment of a Palestinian State alongside Israel. Hamas believes in a Palestinian state replacing Israel and not alongside Israel. Hamas is uncompromising in that belief. It will attempt to use all forms of terror to try to achieve that aim.

A big question mark that remains is whether the Arab states, including the Moslem states such as Pakistan will be able to pressurize Hamas into changing her stance. This is the only hope for the Palestinians to achieve an independent state that will be dependent entirely on further withdrawals by Israel from territory she occupied in the Six Day War of June 1967. If Mahmoud Abbas is sincere in his commitment to peace, perhaps he could appeal to these states to help him disarm Hamas and Company. This would force Hamas to become a political organization rather than a terrorist one. Perhaps this is dreaming. If there would be stability in the Middle East, everybody would benefit. This could force Hamas to become more pragmatic.

When a trend of a warm up in relations between Israel and Moslem States begins, it could create the right atmosphere for a movement towards the establishment of a Palestinian State alongside Israel and at peace with Israel for mutual benefit.

Daniel Barenboim refuses to be interviewed by Israel Army Radio

Daniel Barenboim, in many ways, is to be admired for initiatiating joint music projects between Israelis and Palestinians. This is very positive for improving relations between two sides who have been victims of terrible tragedy. His relationship with the late Edward Said in this common endeavor is laudable. There is nothing anti-Semitic about that at all. The contrary is true, as any method used to promote peace and understanding between the two sides should be encouraged.

However, Barenboim did show a severe lack of tact towards his interviewer on Army Radio by his attitude and rude behavior. He could have made many new friends as well as muster more support for his projects of good will. This is very unfortunate for a talented musician and humanitarian of his international stature. It has left a blot on his character. The reason given - the Israeli Army uniform that the interviewer wore - is pathetic and shows a certain immaturity on his part if not spitefulness.

Staff on Israeli Army Radio has to wear uniform when they are on duty. The fact that a correspondent on Army Radio interviewed Barenboim and he disagreed with her wearing a uniform is ludicrous. She was interviewing Barenboim in her line of duty. His demand that she change her uniform for the interview is illogical. It is the same as telling a surgeon not to wear green, sterile uniform when he is in the operating theatre performing an operation. Many places of work involve wearing a uniform.

Many people in the world do not understand the concept of Israeli Army Radio. This radio, apart from its entertainment value for soldiers, also supplies news and updates. It is a radio station like any other. It does not have any political viewpoint. Many of its staff members serve on the Army Radio staff as part of their compulsory service. Army uniforms are part of the conditions of employment. It has nothing to do with waging war. Embedded journalists who are on assignment in war zones also wear army gear as we saw in Iraq. Why should Barenboim object to this? Surely, he must be aware of Israel Army Radio policy if he grew up in Israel. It is not clear whether he served in the Israeli Army or not.

Contrary to what many people think, Daniel Barenboim is not a self-hating Jew. If this were the case, he would never come to Israel to perform or gain such accolades from Israeli Academic Societies. Limor Livnat, the Minister of Education, accuses him of anti-Semitic behavior is way off the mark! It shows her up as being paranoiac and her ignorance as to what is true anti-Semitism.

Perhaps it would be more correct to accuse Barenboim of indiscretion and lack of insight towards the workings of Israel Army Radio. His reaction towards his prospective interviewer was degrading and unnecessary. This is a great pity because of his contribution towards music and furthering peace between Palestinians and Israelis.