Saturday, December 23

Corruption Comparisons between Israel and South Africa

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts completely”. The famous axiom repeated ad nauseam when referring to corrupt governments and parliamentarians who have promised their electorate better days during their election campaigns. The moment they are swept into power something happens and they lose their sensitivity towards the people they govern. Apart from that, many parliamentarians use their influence to make shady deals with private entrepreneurs who do not always operate within the framework of the law in the hope of becoming wealthy at the tax payers’ expense.

Many Israel-bashers compare Israel to apartheid South Africa under white minority rule. This shows ignorance of the situation between Israel and the Palestinians and the comparison is totally absurd and false. I have written about that in a previous article on this blog.

However, there is a similarity between some of Israel’s Knesset members and South Africa’s ANC members. They use their coveted positions of power to gain more influence and become richer by using public funds for their own financial advancement. This problem is widespread in the Palestinian Authority as well. This was the reason for Hamas victory in the elections nearly a year ago. However this is not the purpose of this article.

When the African National Congress won in the first democratic elections in April 1994, most South Africans were happy and ecstatic. The evil apartheid system ended and for the first time the majority of South Africans could look forward to a bright future without racism based on skin colour.

It did not take long for the euphoria to disappear. The reality of building a new South Africa with its many problems including massive poverty had to be addressed. Violent crime increased at a horrifying rate. The AIDS problem had reached epidemic proportions. Housing shortages, drugs amongst the youth and massive unemployment became the order of the day. Affirmative action was introduced and this did not result in the best people for the right job. It turned into an “apartheid fiasco in reverse” where once again skin colour became an issue. This time the blacks were given preference for certain jobs. This resulted in many people leaving the country of their birth – hopefully for better pastures overseas.
The ANC members of parliament had become very wealthy. They paid lip service to improving the economic problems of the poor that had elected them into power. These politicians did nothing except enrich themselves by joining “the gravy train” (elected politicians gorging on luxuries, since someone else foots the bill).
Apart from that, many ANC parliamentarians became corrupt and became involved in scandals of all kinds including sex scandals.

The vice-President of South Africa Jacob Zuma was accused of rape and corruption. He is in a similar predicament as Israel’s President Moshe Katzav, who also has a load of sex harassment investigations pending against him. Zuma and Katzav are strange bedfellows indeed! Here is a similarity between the Israeli and South African leadership! The difference is that Zuma was relieved of his post while Katzav remains president because he has not been charged in a court of law. The Attorney-General of Israel, Mani Mazuz, has not yet decided when to charge Katzav in court. The African National Congress chief whip, Mbulelo Goniwe, has been expelled from the party with immediate effect for sexual harassment.

According to IOL (South Africa’s Independent on Line) of 17th December 2006 stated:

“How encouraging that for once the government is sending a clear message: Sexual harassment is not on! Public servants who behave in a disgraceful manner (as in getting drunk and arriving late at state functions), and disregard the law (as in drunk driving and speeding), or blatantly exploit their position of trust and power (as in giving away tenders to their family and cronies) should be publicly shamed and serve a fitting prison term (not in the lap of luxury!). Then a clear message is being sent to the whole of South Africa that crime and corruption is not something one should strive to get away with but something of which to be ashamed!”

South Africa is one up on Israel here! Both countries have governments that do not do justice to their people. Both Israeli and South Africans elect governments that are coalitions of corrupt syndicates. According to The Jurist – Legal News and Research of 17th December 2006:

Lawyers for a business associate of former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma [party profile] filed an appeal Monday with the South African Constitutional Court [official website] asking that the corruption conviction [JURIST report] of Schabir Shaik be overturned. Shaik was convicted of paying Zuma for political favors in a case which has left Zuma's name tarnished as a potential presidential candidate. The South African Supreme Court of Appeals [official website] last month upheld the conviction [JURIST report], finding that enough evidence existed to support the case and the 15-year jail term handed down to Shaik. His lawyers missed the December 15 deadline [SABC report] to file an appeal, but a court official said that Monday's filing included an explanation for missing the deadline. South African President Thabo Mbeki [BBC profile] fired Zuma [JURIST report] from his position last year after Shaik was initially found guilty. Zuma has indicated repeatedly that he intends to run against Mbeki in the 2009 presidential election. In June, the African National Congress [party website] reinstated Zuma to his deputy president position within the party after he was acquitted on rape charges [JURIST reports]. In September, a high court judge tossed the corruption charges brought against Zuma himself [JURIST report], saying prosecutors had failed to follow proper procedures, though the charges may be brought again in the future. Reuters has more. SABC News has local coverage”.

The corruption in high places in South Africa is incredible. The appointment of cronies is rife in the ANC.

The situation in Israel is not very different. Ehud Olmert, Israel’s Prime Minister also has appointed cronies in the past. Here we have two states that show more similarities in corruption than what differentiates them in lacking accountability to the electorate that voted them into power. There is money laundering oligarchs from the ex-Soviet Union who have arrived in Israel. Reports of their influence in the ruling political party in Israel abound.

According to an article in Counterpunch on 1st January 2006, The Spoils of War by James Brooks, Israel’s corruption was inevitable. This article gives an account of what had been going on under the Likud Government before Olmert became Prime Minister when his Kadima Party won by a very slender margin in the March 2006 elections. Since then corruption remains the name of the game but with different players.

The Israeli electorate is divided. The electoral system of proportional representation will always result in voting patterns that will never allow any party to win an absolute majority. In order to govern, the party that gains the most support hurriedly forms coalitions of strange political party hacks from opposite sides of the political spectrum. The moderate left of centre Labour Party joined up with the centre Kadima Party under Ehud Olmert who invited the arch-racist Avigdor Lieberman’s Beitenu right wing party to join his coalition. The religious parties usually hold the balance of power and further create instability by their partisan demands. Their membership in any coalition demands a large price. So, if one is a serious voter one will always end up with a despicable coalition that one does not want. Suddenly all parties forget their principles in order to gain seats in the Knesset so that they can enjoy the benefits of government and self-aggrandizement. Sensitivity for the electorate disappears only to raise its head before the next elections.

Some examples of corruption and abuse of political power in Israel are:

  1. President Moshe Katzav refuses to resign despite the fact that he faces accusations of sexual harassment from eight women including a rape charge that was dropped. This resulted in the odd creation of half a president meaning that some of his official duties such as granting pardons for criminals have been curtailed. A rather strange Israeli invention created to bypass impeachment!

  1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz refuse to resign because of the mistakes made in the conduct of the Lebanese War in July 2006. They accepted responsibility for their failure. They agreed to the appointment of an examining committee, which lacks the confidence of the majority of the public rather than an independent judicial commission.

  1. The Chief-of-Staff, Dan Halutz refuses to step down from his post despite heavy criticism for his conduct of the war.

  1. The chairman of the Knesset Foreign and Military Affairs Committee, Tzachi Hanegbi, is indicted for fraud and perjury. Yet he remains a Knesset Member.

  1. The Minister of Justice, Chaim Ramon, is standing trial for French kissing a twenty-one year old female soldier. At least, to his credit he has resigned from his post until the end of his trial.

The corruption occurring in ANC-led South Africa and Israel are similar. It illustrates the insensitivity of the legislators for the rule of law in their respective countries. It is also a threat to democracy in both countries.

Connections (protektsia), nepotism, pulling of strings and burocracy as a result, are widespread in both countries. Both countries operate in syndicates that prevent people from getting appointments unless they have good contacts with people in the hierarchy of government.

The behavioral patterns of many Israelis in public places are poor. Queue jumping by working in combinot (groups of friends, relatives or business associates who form groups or syndicates to further their own interests at the expense off others) is common place. Reckless driving that shows complete lack of consideration for others is the order of the day. Apologists for Israel always say that “this is excusable because Israel is at war with her neighbours that causes stress in the population”. This is no justification for bad, inconsiderate behaviour!

The combinot syndrome is prevalent in the work place as well and very often prevents people from advancing in their jobs – salary wise or other.

These various practices resulting in corruption and bribery as well as dishonesty in government will endanger both young democracies. Both countries will receive the status of “banana republics” eventually.

Saturday, December 16

Hamas P.M. Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Intrafraternal Strife

It is clear that Hamas P.M Ismail Haniyeh traveled to many Arab countries including Iran with a shopping list. The US, EU and possibly the UN as well (although there are doubts because of the make up of the Security Council, and its anti-Israel voting trends) view Hamas as a terrorist organization. This has resulted in boycotting of funds to the Palestinian Authority. Palestine has become a boiling pot of frustration under the impotent, indecisive leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas. The path of least resistance to gain much needed funds leads to Mahmoud Ahmadinajad’s Iran. P.M. Haniyeh knows that and he arrived with a shopping list.

Haniyeh accompanied Ahmadinajad, hand in hand to various meetings, excelling in anti-Israel rhetoric to “continue the armed struggle to wipe Israel off the face of the earth”. The results of Haniyeh's posturings were pledges of $250 million to the Palestinians. The situation in Palestine is disastrous financially. The Palestinian Authority is bankrupt and civil servants can barely remember the last time they received a salary.

The unfortunate result of all this is that many Palestinians blame Israel for this situation. All the bad things happening to the Palestinian People have a blanket reason – the Israeli Occupation. The lack of funds is the fault of Israel and its US supporter. They do not wish come to terms with reality. This reality is the stubborn arrogance of Hamas never to come to terms with Israel’s existence. Hamas is a product of the occupation. This product in the end will be a divisive factor for the Palestinians, resulting in a situation close to civil war and strife between the various Palestinian factions. There are many who will accuse Israel of fomenting the situation in a “divide and rule” policy towards the Palestinians.

As far as Hamas is concerned, Israel is occupied territory since its establishment in 1948. Hamas sees it as imperative on the Palestinians to wage war on Israel to resist the occupation and Israel’s right to exist and never to reach a compromise or negotiate peace. The use of the suicide bomber is an essential part of their strategy to achieve that end. They view the Palestinian bombers as shuhada (martyrs) in their legitimate struggle for freedom from the occupation since 1948 and a Palestinian state based on Sharia (Islamic Law).

This philosophy is suicidal for the Palestinians. It will not help their cause of ever establishing a Palestinian state. Surely logic requires a different outlook! Israel is strong militarily and the time is more than overdue to come to terms with Israel’s existence. The alternative would be further Palestinian suffering and deadlock. How long can Hamas continue on this path of hate and terror? New terrorist cells motivated towards destroying Israel are established at an alarming rate. Their resilience towards a just and lasting peace in the area is phenomenal.

Now there is an outcry and shouts of the humiliation of Haniyeh at the Egyptian –Rafiah border. He had been stopped and the $35 million packed in suitcases that he was carrying was confiscated by Egyptian Forces and handed over to the Arab League. Haniyeh was allowed to enter Gaza without the Iranian money. It would be na├»ve indeed to presume that this money would be used for anything but financing terrorist activity against Israel. One cannot expect Israel to give the green light for Haniya’s entry into Gaza with money targeted for terrorist activity against Israel. If the money were to be used for the improvement of conditions for the Palestinians rather than Iranian and Hamas interests of provocation of terror against innocent people then the money should be allowed into Gaza for this purpose.

The Hamas-Fatah power struggle erupted into violence,as Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh was nearly killed by Fatah fire at the Gaza border. According to a report from Asharq Alawsat 15th December 2006:

Palestinian security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah opened fired on a Hamas rally in the West Bank on Friday and firefights between the rival groups erupted in Gaza, raising fears of civil war.
The fighting intensified after the ruling Hamas faction accused a Fatah strongman and Abbas's forces of trying to kill Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas vowed to retaliate.In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas's security forces, dressed in riot gear, used clubs and rifles to beat back Hamas demonstrators before shooting broke out.Nearly 20 Hamas supporters were wounded by gunfire, according to hospital sources. Some were in critical condition.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Fatah forces fired at each other on the streets. It was unclear if anyone was hurt.
In a show of force, Hamas had deployed hundreds of heavily armed militants across Gaza City and called on Abbas to remove his presidential guard from the streets.Hamas spokesman Ismail Rudwan singled out by name Fatah strongman and lawmaker, Mohammed Dahlan, as being behind the shooting attack late on Thursday on Haniyeh's convoy as it was leaving the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.Dahlan said on Al Arabiya television that the accusations "are not worth answering". He blamed Hamas "gangs" for the violence, which has surged since unidentified militants shot dead three young sons of an intelligence official loyal to Abbas outside the boys' Gaza school early this week. "It (Hamas) is pouring oil on the fire ... and bears full responsibility for the escalation that may result," said Abdel-Hakim Awad, a spokesman for Fatah in Gaza”.

It is likely that the Hamas leadership does not intend to use any funds for rehabilitation of the Palestinian people who are in a crisis. Their strength lies in their hate for Israel and the West. If this were not the case, the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict would not reach such a low level of hate and bloodshed. The fantasy world of Hamas and its supporters will pave the road to further disaster for the Palestinian People. Their main strategy is to unite the Palestinian People to the lowest common denominator – hate for the “Zionist Entity” (to use a traditional anti-Israel epithet).

President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a speech on Saturday 16th December 2006, in which he condemned Haniyeh's behavior, murder of Palestinian children and he censured the ongoing violence. He also stated that the Qassams destroyed the dream of Gaza progress. He also said that the Hamas-assisted kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit has "cost 500 dead and 4000 wounded and thousands of ruined houses from the resulting war on Gaza." Hamas members boycotted the speech.

The speech reflects Abbas’s frustration with Hamas. He knows that if Hamas carries on with its rejectionist ideas of non-recognition of Israel, reliance and support of terror, the Palestinians will never get much needed financial assistance from the US and the EU. They will be destroying their own people. Abbas never went as far as disbanding the Palestinian Government or calling for new elections in the past. Now he is calling for new elections . Hamas threatens to boycott those elections. It remains to be seen whether Abbas will be strong enough to carry out his decision.

The various factions – the extremist Hamas and moderates of Mahmoud Abbas are now even further from a national unity government than ever before and a movement towards negotiating an end to the conflict is receding even further into the mists. The future for peace between the two sides is grim.

Saturday, December 9

P.M. Ismail Haniyeh's Visit to Iran and its Implications

P.M. of Palestine, Ismail Haniyeh has embarked on a trip to Iran to visit his ally President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad. The purpose of this visit is obvious. Rather than toning down his anti-Israel rhetoric, he visits a common bedfellow who shares his intense, uncompromising hate for Israel in the hope of getting funds from Iran which are denied Hamas from the EU, the US and the UK. It is well known that Ahmadinajad wishes to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth. The Hamas-ruled coalition in the Palestinian Authority shares the same goal. This leaves President Mahmoud Abbas in the unenviable position of being further weakened in his attempt to form a national unity government which would recognize Israel’s right to exist as one of its planks.

The tactics of Ismail Haniyeh in his hate-filled speech against Israel in Teheran serves to erode President Mahmoud Abbas’s negotiating stance with Israel even further. He has outlined his hate-for-Israel rhetoric so clearly at Teheran University that it makes it almost impossible for any form of reconciliation between the Palestinians and Israelis. He has further legitimized the armed struggle Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh vowed on Friday 8th December 2006 that his Hamas-led government will never recognize Israel and will continue to fight for the liberation of Jerusalem.

"The world arrogance (US) and Zionists... want us to recognize the usurpation of the Palestinian lands and stop jihad and resistance and accept the agreements reached with the Zionist enemies in the past," Haniyeh told thousands of Friday prayer worshippers in a speech at Tehran University. Haniyeh continued "I'm insisting from this podium that these issues won't materialize. We will never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem," he said.

If this is the attitude of Hamas, it comes as no surprise that he will receive a sympathetic ear from Ahmadinajad. This form of rhetoric encourages further violence. Hamas is leading the Palestinian People down the road to disaster! Israel will see this speech as encouragement for more Hamas, Islamic Jihad terror directed towards Israel’s citizens.

Haniyeh sees Iran as an ally of the Palestinian People. There is none as blind as those who will not see! Iran will never alleviate Palestinian suffering! Iran has one goal –domination of the Middle East, replacing Sunni Islam with an extreme form of Shia Islam that serves Iran’s interests of colonization! The only commonality between Iran and Hamas is their uncompromising hate for the Jewish State and its people. Haniyeh has failed his people miserably. His anti-democratic attitude towards his people by prolonging their suffering because of the occupation is his source of strength. It is a great pity that so much energy is wasted in hate-filled rhetoric instead of adopting a pragmatic attitude towards Israel’s existence. Iran has a nuclear programme which is a threat to the world and this includes all the peoples of the Middle East. Nobody is immune from the nuclear war head!

Hamas has not done anything to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians! They have not embarked on any programme to rehabilitate their people to eventual statehood. They have not encouraged the development of democratic government nor made any movement towards human rights. Many Palestinian civil workers have not received salaries for months. Why? Hamas blames the US and Israel for the crisis of the Palestinian People. In reality they (Hamas) are largely responsible for the situation. The money that arrives is used for terror and not for reconstruction of a future Palestinian state. One cannot have responsible government when it is also involved in terror!

The fragile cease-fire is still being violated by both sides! This means that international monitoring of the cease-fire is a matter of urgency. While there is a cease-fire, Israeli and Palestinian lives are saved. There is no trust between Israelis and Palestinians. How can there be when Hamas is so intransigent in her attitude towards Israel? Surely the time for the false Hamas sense of self prestige is over! If there was a genuine indication between both sides to mutual recognition and respect and a true desire for peace, negotiations could start and much could be achieved in alleviating Palestinian suffering. Palestinians deserve far better. Everyday lives of innocent Palestinians who suffer from the occupation must be addressed. The road blocks, severe economic hardships, humiliating security checks, delays in receiving medical attention and travel restrictions are all the results of the insensitivity of both sides to reach an agreement. Israel also shares part of the blame for this despicable situation.

The “developing friendship” between Iran and the Palestinians is an illusion. It will create further strife for the Palestinian People. Israel will also view this as adding fat on the fire of hate. When will Hamas adopt a policy of “real politic” and show a true desire for negotiations with Israel? They must cease their fantasy of destroying Israel. While they do not change their attitude they will prolong the suffering of the Palestinian people which in the short term is their strength but in the long term it will prove to be their weakness.

Saturday, December 2

The Hudna as Proposed by Khaled Mashaal of Hamas

While it is desirable and logical that Hamas changes its attitude towards Israel and recognizes Israel’s right to exist so that negotiations could move beyond a cease-fire. There is great difficulty in the Hamas ruling camp coming to terms with Israel’s existence. The most that they are prepared to do is declare a “hudna” within the framework of a cease-fire. It would be ideal to ignore Hamas and appeal to the moderate Palestinians to negotiate with Israel in order to achieve peace and a just two-state solution. Unfortunately, Hamas holds all the bargaining chips in this regard and, as difficult as it is, Israel has to come to terms with negotiating with the Palestinian People’s majority choice – Hamas!

Naturally, Israel will not accept this reality. Is it very pessimistic? Most Israelis will say “Yes!” unanimously. If one examines the Hamas condition of a “hudna” or temporary peace until they have mustered enough strength to declare war on Israel in order to destroy her, it proves that Hamas de facto does recognize Israel’s existence! If Israel did not exist then there would be no need to destroy Israel. They are prepared to sign a “temporary treaty” with Israel. If one signs any treaty, whether temporary or permanent, surely this is recognition of the party with whom the treaty is signed. This is logical.

How does Hamas come to terms with signing a “hudna” with a country that does not exist? Perhaps this question should be addressed to the Hamas leadership. Maybe Khaled Mashaal could answer that. A hint to his de facto recognition of Israel can be found in the link if nothing else. Israel has to find away to come to terms with that for what it is worth and take advantage of it in its negotiating stance.

If we take Hamas at face value, perhaps Israel should find a way to sign a “hudna”, if this is their desire. It does not necessarily have to be to Israel’s disadvantage. The longer the “hudna” lasts, this period could be used for initiating confidence building tactics on both sides. The cease-fire, as fragile as it is, would strengthen. It would give Hamas time to climb down from the “tree of non-recognition of Israel” to a more pragmatic stance of recognition. During this period, there should be total cessation of violence on both sides. This should also be accompanied by international monitoring of both sides to prevent violence and re-arming.

While there is this period of cease-fire, intensive negotiations should begin to find a permanent solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. At the same time, the embargo on the Palestinians should cease and the European Union, Israel and the US should pour in funds to rebuild Palestine and at the same time there should be accountability that these funds will be used for reconstruction, education, health, industries, social services and infra structure. This would result in vast improvement for the Palestinian People economically. If this were not done, the situation would rapidly slide back into violence and bloodshed between the two sides. Improvement of conditions for the Palestinians would be the best method to counter violence. Economic investment in a stable Palestinian state is the best insurance to counteract violence and hate. The longer there is peace and quiet, the better are the chances of a permanent peace and stability for both peoples. The desire and motivation to renew violence would decrease substantially.

There would have to be a system of checks and balances to prevent Hamas and its allies from resorting to terror by serious international monitoring. Once this is achieved, the motivation for violence will decrease and Hamas will recognize Israel’s right to exist as the occupation will cease over a period of time when final stage negotiations begin.

Of course, this will be viewed as dreaming by most people. Nevertheless a start has to be made even if it is the tentative “hudna” which, given time, would become permanent. The alternative will be worse!  

The sticky issues such as the refugees and East Jerusalem would then be discussed as part of a fair deal with which both sides will be able to deal and live.

Wednesday, November 29

The Tentative Cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians

The call for a cease-fire coming form P.M. Ehud Olmert is a very positive development and one that ought to be encouraged. He had stated quite clearly various points that any reasonable party could accept. The bloodshed and hate between Israelis and Palestinians has been going on for two long and both sides have achieved nothing apart from further destruction, hate, mistrust and unnecessary loss of life and suffering. Enough is enough! As mentioned in a previous article, the time has come for us to lay down arms and start serious negotiations!

While a cease-fire is a welcome development, it is nothing more than that – a cease-fire! Cessation of hostilities, which according to Hamas and its factions, is a temporary measure – a tahida. President Mahmoud Abbas has reacted positively which is a good sign. The question is whether he will be able to convince the various factions in his government to accept the cease-fire. Dr. Saeb Arekat, a veteran Palestinian negotiator, has also expressed support for the cease-fire. He also expressed regret over the sporadic cease-fire violations of the Al Aqsa Brigades.

The cease-fire is very fragile indeed and after all the experiences in the past of failed cease-fires one cannot avoid being skeptical about the implementation of this cease-fire. Nevertheless it is a beginning – hopefully the beginning of better days for both peoples.

Olmert has listed wide ranging concessions to the Palestinian People which at face value seems reasonable and a good basis to make a fresh start in negotiations. Olmert told the Palestinians on Monday that he was prepared to grant them a state; release desperately needed funds and free prisoners if they choose the path of peace. He also said that Israel would pull out of West Bank land and uproot settlements under a peace deal with the Palestinians. One of the sticking problems that will arise is the solution of the Palestinian refugee problem. This painful problem should also be placed on the agenda for solution. It should not be left on the backburner as many Israeli negotiators desire. Perhaps a solution would be in the direction of unification of families and there fore a return of some refugees on these grounds. Another possible solution could be in the direction of financial reparations to those families who are affected. These are possible ideas that should be open for negotiations in a final settlement. Jerusalem should be less of a problem and could be the capital of both Israel and Palestine with various logistic agreements.

The release of the kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit, in exchange for many long-term Palestinian prisoners was also emphasized by Olmert. Olmert even had some positive word to say about the Saudi Plan which could also be considered as part of a wide ranging deal with the Palestinians.

Of course, there will be much tough discussions if the Palestinian Authority accepts the peace initiative. There are some pitfalls in the initiation of talks. The main pitfall is that Mahmoud Abbas does not have majority support of Hamas which is the majority faction in the Palestinian parliament. They remain determined not to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The point is that Israel is still an occupying power and if they remain an occupying power then the chance of them recognizing Israel’s right to exist remains remote. This is the main obstacle. Let us look at the situation hypothetically. If Israel never had the territories occupied in the Six Day War, would Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist? After all one must remember that Israel had an existential problem with her Arab neighbours from the day that she was established in 1948. Wars were waged against Israel’s existence even before 1967. This means that the occupation is not the only reason for Hamas not recognizing Israel’s right to exist. The hate for Israel goes beyond the occupation. If there are any doubts about that, the Hamas Charter makes it perfectly clear. There has to be a party to whom Israel can return the territories occupied in the Six Day War. It is absurd to even think about returning territory to Hamas ruled Palestine if they are going to use the territories to launch attacks on Israel in order to destroy her. Highlights from the Hamas Charter are:
"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf 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. "
"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."
"After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."
If this mind set in the Hamas attitude towards Israel remains, negotiations and long term maintenance of the cease-fire is going to be more of a challenge than a long term reality. The cease-fire will be evasive to both peoples a long time. In order for the cease-fire to be effective, Hamas – the main players have to come to terms with Israel’s existence and all that goes with it. This means cessation of violence and releasing Gilad Shalit. They must embark on a programme for improving economic conditions for the Palestinian people who elected them into power. This means rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed by violence. Social services for the Palestinians must be improved as well as cessation of hostile propaganda against Israel. If Hamas changes its attitude towards Israel and shows pragmatism in recognizing Israel, then the path to ending the occupation could be paved. A Palestinian state could take her place alongside Israel and both countries could benefit.

The occupation is bad and it is not in Israel’s long term interests to rule over the Palestinians. It is morally indefensible! The occupation must end but it is imperative that the Palestinians take part in serious negotiations with Israel over ending the occupation so that both sides can benefit. A new approach must be made to move towards peace. The success of the cease fire is dependent on the desire of both parties to the conflict to reach a peaceful solution.  

Saturday, November 25

A Cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians is Overdue

The situation in the south of Israel – Sderot and some of the kibbutzim in the Negev is becoming untenable. What is it in the Gaza psyche to continue this policy of terror against innocent people? Are these people unable to accept the fact that the havoc that they wreak will hit innocent Palestinians hard? The steadfast attitude of Hamas never to recognize Israel’s right to exist is a contributing factor to this violence. The absence of leadership qualities of the Israeli leadership with its rookie triumvirate responsible for defense is another factor.

The Qassam rockets fall unabated on the citizens of Sderot coupled by Hamas threats that if the Israeli Army does not cease its activity, they will continue their terror until every resident vacates Sderot. The Hamas-Islamic Jihad hate for Israel and the Jewish People is irreconcilable! Israel vacated Gaza unilaterally without negotiations. The worst fears of many people is that the vacuum left as a result is being filled by Palestinian terrorists whose motivation for the destruction of Israel is high.

When one is faced with an enemy of this magnitude, even army operations are useless.

The terrorists manage to gain world sympathy for their activities. Their propaganda machine portraying themselves as freedom fighters for the liberation of Palestine is very effective. The price that they are prepared to pay is high as well as their motivation. This problem has to be fought. How can the Israeli Army deal a crushing blow to the terrorists without harming innocent Palestinian People? Israeli intelligence does not seem to have the answer nor does Israel’s faltering leadership that is involved in bitter infighting. Amir Peretz, Minister of Defense and P.M. Olmert are unable to work together because of their differences of approach. Added to that problem is the Commander in Chief of the Israel Defense Forces, Dan Halutz, who is an Air Force Commander-In-Chief whose knowledge of ground army operations is questionable. One thing this triumvirate has in common is their inexperience in military security matters. This is not good for Israel! The conclusions are obvious – the triumvirate must go! The escalation of violence serves the Palestinian terrorist interests. They prove to the world that the strong Israel Army with its military resources is no match for the Palestinians and that they use the tragic accidents against innocent Palestinians that occur to their advantage.

P.M. Olmert has no agenda for peace. It is all hit, miss, hit again, unintended killings, hit the target at times, and miss again at other times! The result is more suffering, frustration and further escalation of violence! This is the result of “No Agenda”! It just cannot go on anymore! We have all had enough! Palestinians and Israelis have indecisive leadership that is achieving nothing but more hate and bloodshed!

The solution seems to lie in inviting an International Force, as well as observers that have the power to observe rather than being impotent sitting ducks as has been the case in the past, to separate the two sides from killing each other. This seems to be working on Israel’s border with Lebanon against Hezbollah attacks on Israel. Both sides must climb down from the tree of war. Hamas has stated its desire to a hudna (temporary cessation of hostilities). Surely this is better than the continuation of violence and bloodshed! Maybe it is not the ideal solution, but it could be a small step towards dual recognition and eventual peace. How long must this war continue with no end in sight? How many people must still be killed to add to the increasing death statistics on both sides? Where is the United Nations – as weak and ineffectual as it is?

While it is true that there is no trust between Israel and the Palestinians, the necessity of a neutral honest broker to initiate talks between the two sides has become even more urgent. Perhaps the Quartet could fill that post. The U.S. is not trusted in the Palestinian camp nor is Britain. Representatives from the European Union could fill the role of facilitator. Israelis and Palestinians are tired of this no win situation. Both sides must have a common desire for peace. Hamas has not shown any true indication to achieve peace, while Israel in their eyes has become once more the despised “Zionist Entity” of the past.

Saturday, November 18

The Importance of Peace

The saga never seems to end as the one side accuses the other side of aggression and the retaliations carry on unabated. The firing of Qassam Rockets into Sderot on Wednesday killed Faina (Fatima) Slutzker, 57, a Sderot resident. The wounded included one of Defense Minister Amir Peretz's guards, Maor Peretz, and a 17-year-old boy. All this acceleration of violence was explained as retaliation for the killing of 19 people in Bet Hanun, Gaza. Israel. The killing of 19 people was a tragic accident! The tragedy goes beyond words. The Palestinians do not trust the Israelis and they will not accept Israel’s apologies.The retaliations by Qassam rockets are no less tragic. This brings home the message even further of the importance of ending this pointless bloodshed and starting a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

The hate between Israelis and Palestinians goes so deep that on the outside it seems impossible to bring both sides together in meaningful negotiations. Both sides are busy engaging one another in a fight which nobody can ever win.

There is yet another peace initiative by Spain, France and Italy. Does this area need another peace initiative which will not be acceptable? Saeb Arekat, a veteran Palestinian negotiator aptly said, “Do we really need to re-invent the wheel?” He is right! There is such an abundance of Peace Plans, none of which seems to be acceptable by the one side or the other.

The original Road Map Plan is dead and its chances of revival are slim indeed. Hamas is remaining stubborn in not recognizing Israel’s right to exist. It demands a great challenge on the part of Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians when their Hamas leadership is so adamant. It is the desire of Hamas to wear Israel down as much as possible so that it will cease to exist. They accept the fact that they will not succeed in this in the short run, but in the end they will be victorious. They have stated that.

Under these conditions, it is difficult if not impossible to even start any form of negotiations. How do we, Israelis and Palestinians, overcome this obstacle of obstinacy? It seems a “Catch 22” situation with no winners only losers and increased suffering for the Palestinians and for the Israelis as the carnage of blood continues.

We now have to find a way, even unofficially, to end the conflict. Both Israel and Palestine do not have imaginative leadership that is capable of making peace. Perhaps, we, the common people – Palestinians and Israelis – victims of circumstances of which we have no control, must develop ways of communicating with one another, understanding one another’s tragic history and using our past as a pillar to build a future together. Both sides have suffered injustices! We cannot forever live in our past, we owe it to our future generations to build a decent future so that Israelis and Palestinians remain in this area to build it up and strengthen it. We need professional Palestinians here to build a viable Palestinian state that can take its place amongst the world of nations alongside Israel and living in peace for the benefit of both sides. What a wonderful part of the world this area could be! If Palestinians and Israelis lived in peace, trading with each other and helping one another, this area would be so different to what it is today.

Today, with the Internet and advanced means of communication, ordinary Israelis and Palestinians have a powerful means to make peace. We can communicate with each other using the advanced technology available which is beyond the borders of governmental control. We can join dialogue groups in order to chat amongst ourselves. We need that and it can be turned into a powerful tool that could sway governmental decisions on both sides of the great divide in the future. It often happens that in the height of despair, great things can be achieved by both sides. That is the human spirit and I do believe that both peoples have that.

Wednesday, November 15

The Possible Future Unity Government in Gaza

While the shadow of the terrible tragedy in Gaza last week remains in evidence, Mahmoud Abbas is initiating talks once again for the establishment of a National Unity Government in Gaza. The facilitators towards this end are Egypt and Jordan. Hamas has climbed the trees of non-recognition of Israel, continuing terror against Israel and still not releasing Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped soldier. Qassam rockets are being fired relentlessly into Sderot, causing injuries, loss of life and destruction of property. Despite all this, there is some Hamas movement trying to gain legitimacy in Europe, the US and the rest of the world in order to gain much needed funds for their strapped economy. It has been referred to as “Hamas-lite” tactics which just stops short of recognizing Israel.

An unknown personality has been found who could replace Ismail Haniyeh. Dr. Mohamed Shbeir, a US-educated academic, as the prime minister in a unity government. Shbeir, who has a PhD in microbiology from the University of West Virginia in the US, was president of the Islamic University in Gaza for 15 years until 2005 and has no previous political career. There seems to be a consensus amongst the various factions in the Palestinian Government to appoint him. He is a moderate and he could be a positive change provided he accepts the three conditions - recognition of Israel, cessation of violence and release of the kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

In his interviews to the press he has not committed himself to these conditions which are the key for much needed European, U.S. and World Aid generally. It seems that he is playing for time and does not want to make any changes in attitudes towards Israel at this stage in case he jeopardizes the trust that the various factions now show towards him. Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, the Foreign Minister and a Hamas hardliner, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, 13th November 2006, has stated that “we will not recognize Israel, and we will not set conditions. We do not want to repeat the mistakes of Fatah when it recognized (Israel) and made concessions. The result is the tragedy we are living now.” He continued “Hamas will not change its position no matter how high the level of pressures”. Zahar will not accept the idea of land-for-peace despite the Arab initiative that accepts that principle. Zahar continues, “We did not recognize the Arab initiative, and we ask: What is its value on the ground? The answer is "nothing," because America rejected it, and so did Israel. Besides, we do not accept anything that recognizes Israel.” The point is whether this hard-line attitude will prevail under Shbeir or not.

Despite this, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about cessation of hostilities towards Israel in the end. One thing Shbeir has admitted and that is a desire to be pragmatic. Will Shbeir be able to show a desire towards moderation despite the hardliners in the Hamas ruled coalition? Time will tell. It is still early to judge what direction Shbeir will move.

It would not be surprising if his appointment could create a split between the moderate Hamas members and the hardliners in the Hamas lead Palestinian Authority. The Fatah members, who support rapprochement with Israel, may be able to influence the moderates in Hamas to be pragmatic in their attitude towards Israel. If this happens then perhaps the moderates under Mahmoud Abbas would agree to negotiate with Israel. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has stated his readiness to negotiate even with Hamas if they accept the conditions as proscribed by the International Community.

Dr. Mohammed Shbeir has lived and studied in the United States. This could be an advantage as he knows the American mentality. The United States has shown signs of supporting Shbeir’s appointment.

It is also important to emphasize the danger of Iran’s nuclear programme to the Palestinians. If Mohammed Ahmadinajad continues in his rhetoric, about his nuclear programme, and desire to destroy Israel as he has been doing recently, the Palestinians are not immune to nuclear fall-out from Iran. The Palestinian leadership must realize that nuclear weapons know no boundaries and they are in no less danger than the rest of the world. Ahmadinajad is not interested in the Palestinians! He is only interested in them if it promotes his own megalomaniac interests in dominating them! Ahmadinajad views Israel and the West as an obstacle to his desire to rule the world and introduce his warped world view of extremist Shiite Islam as a model of iron rule. Ahmadinajad is an evil man and it is incumbent on the world community (including the Arab States) to apply pressure on Iran to remove him from power.

If Hamas adopts an extremist attitude as it has done up to now, the future for the Palestinian People will be very bleak indeed. Further acts of terror against Israel, such as suicide attacks and Qassam rocket fire in southern Israel, will result in the predictable Israeli Army retaliations and more tragedies like the recent Bet Hanoun tragedy whether intentional or not.

The time has come for both the Palestinians and Israelis to climb down their trees of intransigence. Whether both sides realize it or not, they have a common enemy called Ahmadinajad and both sides must come to terms with that. Apart from that, the long term interest for both sides is obvious. Peace is beneficial to the Palestinians no less than to the Israelis. It will allow the Palestinians to establish a Palestinian state with an economy that will offer job opportunities, education and a sound infra-structure which is lacking today. There is nothing to replace peaceful negotiations between the two sides in achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Saturday, November 11

The Aftermath of the Bet Hanoun Tragedy

The unfortunate loss of life of 19 civilians in Bet Hanoun on Wednesday morning, 8th November 2006, has resulted in the predicted outcries of grief, anguish and anti-Israel rhetoric from the Palestinians. Israel has apologized for the unfortunate tragedy and an investigation into the cause is now underway. All of us are upset about this tragic loss of life and while it is true that no matter how many apologies are uttered it will not bring the dead back. However, the question that should be uppermost in our minds is “Where do we go from here?” It is a matter of urgency to end the bloodshed on both sides. No side will gain from the deadly Qassam rocket fire into Israel or the Israeli military retaliations which will cause further death and misery to the Palestinian People.

According to a report in Haaretz 11th November, 2006, the United Nations Security Council will discuss on Saturday a softened version of a proposed resolution calling for a condemnation of Israel for killing 19 Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanun on Wednesday because of Israel Defense Forces artillery shelling.The proposed resolution, initiated by Qatar, originally called for an "immediate investigation into the massacre that took place in Beit Hanun" and for Israel to "cease all violence against the civilian population in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem."

The Qatari draft also demanded the deployment of UN observers in the area to oversee the implementation of the cease-fire outlined in the draft. Unfortunately, the record of UN observers in this area has been poor and ineffective. They have had no influence in preventing violence at all.In its current softened version, the resolution no longer calls the shelling a "massacre" and does not include the demand to place international observers in the northern Gaza Strip.The resolution includes a demand that Israel vacate its soldiers from the Gaza Strip.

While the resolution falls short of total condemnation of Israel, it does not take into consideration the provocations of Qassam rocket fire into Sderot and Ashkelon in the south of Israel. The fact that there have been relatively few losses in life and damage to property is because of the inaccuracy of these rockets. However, the psychological damage to victims is great. This, unfortunately, cannot be measured accurately. The UN Security Council resolution in this context shows some balance but falls short of demanding the immediate release of Gilad Shalit the Israeli soldier kidnapped in June.

If Israel would withdraw its soldiers from Gaza then there should be provisions to replace them with an International Force, similar to the International Force stationed in Lebanon. The border between Israel and Lebanon is relatively quiet. At least for the moment, the International Force does seem to be effective. This International Force should have powers of monitoring violations between the two sides and preventing any hostile activity between Israel and the Palestinians. It is odd that the resolution proposed does not make any provisions for that and seems to lay an emphasis on Israeli Army withdrawal without any form of security monitoring on both sides in order to prevent tragedies between the two sides from occurring. The resolution calls for an international enquiry into the tragedy. It is reasonable to assume that an internal Israeli Army enquiry is not sufficient. It is important that the findings of an Israeli Army enquiry be ratified also by the findings of an international enquiry in order to prevent possible Israeli Army cover-ups of this tragedy and thus increase Israel’s credibility.  This is positive if it is objective and accepts the evidence of the Israeli side no less than the Palestinian side and reaches a fair conclusion. This is the attitude of Human Rights Watch (HRW) according to reports from Aljazeera.

There are reports of the possible resignation of Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister in order to pave the way for uplifting the embargo on Hamas. This is not sufficient unless there is a change of attitude on the side of Hamas in ceasing terror and recognizing Israel’s right to exist. However, it may be a sign towards some moderation and a movement towards a new path of recognizing Israel and ceasing violence. After all, Haniyeh has been considered a more moderate Hamas leader. If he leaves the scene, who knows who will replace him? If Haniyeh resigns, this does not mean an automatic facilitation of forming a National Unity Government between Hamas and Fatah. The main sticking points of recognizing Israel and ceasing violence are still not clear.

However, the magnitude of this tragedy is so great and may emphasize the futility of the Hamas present attitude towards Israel. This could cause a change in direction of Hamas’s thinking towards recognizing Israel. Hopefully, it will result in an improvement in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians and a chance for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Wednesday, November 8

The Massacres Go On!

The same scenario is continuing. The firing of Qassam Rockets into southern Israel and the Israeli Army retaliation for this goes on unabated. At the same time the toll in human lives increases. According to a Haaretz report of 8th November 2006, 19 Palestinians were killed in Bet Hanun in Northern Gaza. The situation is so tragic and hopeless! If only all sides would stop this retaliation of bloodshed! Hamas and its allies must come to terms with Israel’s existence and lay down their arms. Israel must show willingness to negotiate an end to this destructive violence and tragedy which causes so much suffering to innocent Palestinian People and to Israelis as well. Israel is a strong country militarily and Hamas must cease its fantasies of destroying Israel! Time is on nobody’s side least of all on the side of innocent victims, Palestinian and Israeli, in this conflict.

Many of us see the heart rending photographs of wounded innocent Palestinian children caught up in the cross fire. It must stop! If we examine a study of Physicians for Human Rights, 57 unarmed Palestinian minors were killed since June this year by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). This does give course for concern. However, we must put all this in the correct perspective. There is no doubt that much of the blame for the situation in Gaza must be laid at the doorstep of Hamas. The extremist rhetoric of hate against Israel comes from there. The refusal of Hamas to become a responsible ruler of its people is a strong factor in promoting this terrible violence! Even in Gaza, there is factional fighting between Fatah and Hamas supporters which prevents any establishment of a national unity government that could rule the Palestinian People. The attempts to form such a government will remain futile for a long time. What we have in Gaza is total anarchy between rival factions with hate and non-recognition of Israel being a pseudo-unifying factor.

Hamas was granted a mandate by the Palestinian people because the previous Palestinian government was corrupt, inept and did not help improve the situation of the Palestinians. Hamas is following the same road of destruction of her people. Their philosophy is blood and hate of Israel! They use this as an excuse so that they can relinquish their responsibility of governing and improving the socio-economic situation of the Palestinian People. If Hamas would govern their people and their economic situation would improve, the motivation for Israel’s destruction would drop and this would weaken the extremists in the Palestinian camp. Now it suits Hamas to remain at the helm by blaming Israel for their inability to govern. This is what keeps them in power. It is bad for the Palestinians if they continue along this path of hate and violence. The Palestinian People will not receive the much needed financial help from the world, apart from Iran, Syria and various other regimes that harbor terrorists. The money that comes from these countries will be used for more terrorist action against Israel by arms-smuggling and establishment of more laboratories for manufacture of Qassam rockets! No money will come in for improving the economic situation of the Palestinians. The result – both Palestinians and Israelis, will lose more innocent people to violence. Suicide bombers will increase their activity because of Israeli military action.

The Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority, with its lack-lustre weak leadership under Mahmoud Abbas, is leading the Palestinian People to disaster and further suffering. The situation has reached a stage of almost total hopelessness. The scenes of violence and bloodshed in Gaza are awful and tragic. Where are the leaders of both Israel and Palestine? The cards are in their hands to negotiate peace and security for both peoples.

If we rely on the Israeli Olmert-Lieberman-Peretz axis and the Palestinian Haniyeh-Abbas regimes to negotiate peace, we are doomed to failure. Avigdor Lieberman is now acting Prime Minister of Israel! The moderate Labour Party has capitulated by acquiescing to Lieberman and his Israel Beitenu Party. He has non-compromising views towards the Arabs. Lieberman is on the border of being a racist (if he is not one already!).His inclusion in the Israeli coalition will doom any moves towards peace with the Palestinians even further! The only way to initiate peace between Israelis and Palestinians is to encourage the simple moderate people on both sides of the great divide to meet each other and create an atmosphere of dialogue which will build up trust. We must find ways to meet our fellow Palestinians and talk to them. We must understand each other’s tragic history and use that as a building block to strengthen our common resolve for peace and coexistence so that our tragic histories never repeat themselves. We must strive for an independent Palestinian State living in peace and dignity alongside Israel. The future Palestinian state must be able to ensure a future for its citizens so that they can prosper.

We must never forget that Israelis and Palestinians are bound by a common humanity! It is up to us to bring this to realization so that we can start a peace process amongst ourselves. Israeli people are not war mongers and do not have horns nor are all Palestinians terrorists or supporters of terrorism!

Saturday, November 4

The 11th Anniversary of P.M. Yitzchak Rabin's Assassination

We have once again entered the period of the commemoration of P.M. Yitzchak Rabin’s assassination. The memory of that unforgettable night of the 4th November 1995 returns to us as articles of that tragic night in the Israeli Press is retold. As one who was present at that Kikar Malchei Yisrael and witnessed the last few moments of Rabin’s life, it fills me with pain when eleven years later; the realization of the cruel truth that many Israelis have not learned the lesson of what occurred that night. Human memory seems to be short and there is a growing number of right wing religious Jews who are supporting a pardon for Yigal Amir, the assassin.

The murderer is gaining legitimacy as the various excuses for his conjugal activities to procreate his kind make headlines. The irony of it all is that it precedes the 11th Anniversary of Rabin’s assassination by a few days. The arguments over the years for conjugal rights for this despicable assassin not only make a mockery of his life sentence, but also for the rule of law concerning premeditated, political murders. The fact that he is no longer a “security risk” gives him the right to marry and consummate his marriage. Assuming a child is born from this despicable union, Yigal Amir will receive parole to visit his son. His wife, Larissa Trimbobler, will have her visiting rights extended and, who knows, in the future another child will be born. This will mean further relaxation on Amir’s prison sentence until it will become a farce and he will be pardoned.

One cannot help asking the question if this pathetic excuse of “not being a security risk” is applicable to Rehavim Ze’evi’s murderers. While they sit in prison they are also not “security risks”. They do happen to be Arab murderers and this is the difference. Let us not pull the wool over our eyes in this matter. Will Ze’evi’s murderers be given conjugal rights should that matter arise for debate? After all there is no difference between Yigal Amir and Ze’evi’s murderers. Both are condemned to life imprisonment for despicable crimes of murder. There is the odour of double standards regarding Jewish murderers and Arab murderers. The big difference is that Yigal Amir is becoming a “folk hero” amongst some extremist right wing religious Israelis (these right wingers are believers of a form of messianic Judaism not to be confused with Jews for Jesus). They are adherents of Jewish Fundamentalism, which is a cancer eating into democracy and human rights in Israel. According to the polls of 27th October 2006, 30% of Israelis are in favor of pardoning Yigal Amir. This was not the case 5 years ago. This percentage will grow larger every year.

Many people will say that Jewish Fundamentalism has lunatic fringe support. That may be the case today, but will it be so in the future? If polls show increasing support for the pardoning of Amir then this despicable mutation of Judaism is definitely on the rise. Its parallels are Islam Fundamentalism and Christian Fundamentalism. Amir is a practicing Orthodox Jew that abides by the philosophy and teachings of this dangerous brand of Judaism.

Its origins come from the extreme right wing philosophy of the National Religious Party, ruled by supporters of the messianic tendency of Jewish fundamentalism, have continuously opposed any and all withdrawals from territories conquered and occupied by Israel since 1967. These fundamentalists opposed Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai in 1978, just as twenty years later they continued to oppose any withdrawal from the West Bank. These same Jews printed and distributed atlases allegedly showing that the land of Israel, belonging only to the Jews and requiring liberation, included the Sinai, Jordan, Lebanon, most of Syria and Kuwait. Jewish fundamentalists have advocated the most discriminative proposals against Palestinians. Not surprisingly, Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir, the most sensational Jewish assassins of the 1990s, and most of their admirers have been Jewish fundamentalists of the messianic tendency.”

Yigal Amir took this philosophy a couple of steps further.

The majority of Israelis still see the assassination of Rabin as a terrible tragedy for Israel. Unfortunately the thought of pardoning Yigal Amir seems to be a rolling stone that gathers moss. Let us hope that the support for Amir’s pardon does not increase despite the disturbing trend of increased support that he is getting from the lunatic right wing religious fringe.

Suggested reading: Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel

Saturday, October 28

The Compromising Labour Party under the Vascillating Amir Peretz

It was just a year ago that the Labour party membership elected Amir Peretz as their leader. He was given a tremendous ovation with the exception of Shimon Peres – a case of sour grapes, who resigned from the party soon afterwards to join the Kadima Party. He took with him Dalia Itzik (the present speaker of the Knesset) and Chaim Ramon (under investigation for sexual harassment and former Justice Minister in the Kadima coalition). The Labour Party, prior to the 29th March 2006 Elections, made its social agenda and peace its platform for election. They failed dismally and made no significant inroads in the electoral vote. All that remained was to form a coalition with Kadima in order to maintain some sort of a power base. Instead of going into opposition and rebuilding, they accepted the coalition guidelines of Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz became Minister of Defense – a post for which he is ill-suited. Olmert knew this and the gut feeling is that he did this in order to neutralize Amir Peretz. He knew that this would be his downfall. He succeeded in that.

It is over six months since the elections and much has happened. Amir Peretz had to handle decision making in the Lebanese War as an inexperienced Defense Minister. This was short of a disaster! Now to add insult to injury, he has swallowed a toad as well as his principles as one who cares for the weaker sectors of Israeli society by agreeing to serve in a government with Avigdor Lieberman, the extreme right-winger of the late Rehavim Ze’evi mould. The latter was the architect of the idea of “voluntary” transfer of the Arabs to the Arab Countries. Now that Lieberman is joining the coalition, Amir Peretz will be sitting with this demagogue of anti-Arab platitudes in the same coalition. By this action, many feel that he has betrayed his supporters who voted for him and his party because of its commitment to a social agenda that is friendly to the under-privileged and the revival of the Peace Process with the Palestinians.

Now, there is neither social agenda nor peace process! The latter perhaps is unattainable now because of the Hamas attitude towards Israel and its own problems with Fatah. Nevertheless, the excuse is that Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu Party is prepared to accept the coalition guidelines that are incumbent on all the coalition members. This assumption is open to debate. Lieberman has no guidelines except his own for his own personal political advancement and influence on his supporters.

Ze’ev Sternhel of Ha’aretz 27th October 2006 puts it concisely in his article “A Lethal Combination”:

“Because it betrayed all its promises, from the convergence plan to repairing society, and thus finds itself in serious distress, the governmental elite are now calling for help from the most dangerous politician we have ever had in Israel. Rehavim Ze'evi was also a racist whose "legacy" is a disgrace to Israeli society, but he did not have the benefit of a power base such as the one that Avigdor Lieberman has consolidated. This base does not consist only of the Russian-speaking community; Lieberman also has the ability, through the power of xenophobia and by slinging mud at the Knesset and the Supreme Court, to mobilize the frustrations of the lower middle class. In the past, this role was reserved for the Likud, but Benjamin Netanyahu's movement today represents the interests of the bourgeoisie, rather than those of the weaker sectors. Lieberman caught this wave even before the war, but now he is exploiting his success in order to fill the vacuum that has been created by the center's moral collapse.”

If Amir Peretz does decide to sit with Avigdor Lieberman in the Olmert Coalition, it will cause a split in Labour Party ranks. It is hard to imagine people like Prof. Yuli Tamir, Prof. Ishai Braverman and Ofer Pines sitting with right-wing Lieberman. There is no doubt that the Labour Party has let its supporters down. All for the sake of tidbits that are worthless! All tidbits that are gained by sacrificing one’s ideology and principles will boomerang on the Labour Party and its leadership in the next elections. It seems that the Labour Party is undergoing a total ideological collapse. It will not have the strength to offer the electorate a clean alternative to the political morass that exists in the Kadima-led coalition. Labour members, such as Binyamin “Fuad” Ben-Eliezer, will support the coalition as they wish to retain their power base at all cost. Ben-Eliezer feels that he could sway the coalition into a more moderate stance. That is dreaming! It is never possible for a junior coalition partner to sway the majority coalition partner in matters of policy. It does not work that way in politics. The Labour Party is too weak for having that kind of influence as there are many potential coalition partners waiting in the shadows to take its place when the opportunity arises. The Torah Judaism Party and even the Likud are potential partners that could replace Labour.

According to Haaretz, in an editorial of 28th October 2006, Amir Peretz promised his voters that he would not sit in the same government with Lieberman. This promise was made shortly before the elections, when many voters were debating over whether to support the Labor Party. Unlike other promises, which are hard to insist upon when one is part of a coalition, this is a promise that should be easy to carry out. Had the Labor Party threatened to pull out from the coalition, Lieberman would not have been able to join. Peretz proved unable even to carry out this minor task, and bought his continued role as partial defense minister at an exorbitant cost. But perhaps the Labor Central Committee will yet prove that party institutions are valuable as critics of the leadership and guardians of the flame, and will prevent this damaging move, whose sole purpose is to preserve the cabinet members' jobs.

Now that the die is cast and the possibility of a reversal of that decision by Olmert is almost zero, Amir Peretz could still salvage himself and the Labour Party by leaving the coalition and going into opposition. It is unfortunate that the opposition is divided between extreme right and left wing factions that have nothing in common to form an alternate government to the Olmert-Lieberman coalition. This is where Labour could play an important role by uniting with the moderate left-of-centre elements such as Meretz. They could strengthen their commitments to a proper social friendly programme for the weaker segments of society and the direction of the future peace process which today is moribund. They would then gain back the credibility of their voters that will leave Labour in droves because of this narrow-sighted decision of remaining in the Olmert-Lieberman Coalition.

Wednesday, October 25

A "National Prize" for Assassinating P.M. Yitzchak Rabin

On that fateful night 5th November 1995, P.M. Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated by an extremist right-winger, Yigal Amir. This horrendous and tragic crime was carried out in the Kikar Malchei Yisrael (Kikar Rabin). I was present at that peace demonstration and just after we dispersed to return to our destinations, tragedy struck. In about two weeks, Israel will be commemorating the 11th Anniversary of Rabin’s assassination. By a cruel coincidence of fate, the assassin will be granted conjugal rights so that his wife, Larissa Trimbobler, can bear his child! All this at the time of commemorating Rabin’s murder!

It is horrifying that Israel’s penal system allows such a meeting to take place. There is no lack of admirers of Yigal Amir and it certainly raises many questions as to whether they were involved in this macabre decision. The idea of Yigal Amir receiving conjugal rights in order to bring a child into the world should raise eyebrows. Unfortunately, there was no great outcry in Israel. This outcry should have come from governmental level but the government is too busy forming coalition partners with Avigdor Lieberman’s extreme right wing Yisrael Beitenu Party to be even bothered by this horrifying decision. Even Amir Peretz, the Labour Party Leader and “National Disappointment”, has not even said a word about it. Why should he? He has been sucked into the right wing camp by Ehud Olmert and has been neutralized as Lieberman “accepts” the principles of the coalition agreement to receive the coveted prize of becoming a Minister in the Cabinet. (It is not likely that Lieberman and Company cares about coalition agreements anyway). After all, Peretz will be given all kinds of Olmert tidbits to keep him in the coalition.

Somehow the message that this conjugal rights decision conveys is that, with the passage of time, the punishment fits the crime less and less, thus eroding the effectiveness of the punishment of political murderers. This gives legitimacy to the extreme right wing of Yigal Amir`s despicable ilk to carry out another political murder which will add another nail to the faltering democracy in Israel. A question that may be asked is: Would a Hamas terrorist be granted privileges of conjugal rights as Yigal Amir after a paltry eleven years of imprisonment? This despicable human being will be celebrating his honeymoon on Rabin’s Memorial Day! His behaviour had not been exemplary by any standards. He never uttered any regret for his dastardly deed. The press, which is usually critical of the government, has been strangely silent about this. The only journalist, who criticized this decision, is Nehemia Shtrassler of Ha’aretz. The assassination of Rabin is slipping into the mists of memory. This diabolical decision of conjugal right for Rabin’s assassin is proving the point. Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said, in response to a petition Amir filed with the Tel Aviv District Court, that the conjugal visits do not pose a security risk. He can receive conjugal privileges. The fact that he committed such a horrendous crime does not seem to be an issue anymore. The cynical use of the term “security risk” as applied to Yigal Amir is ridiculous. Yigal Amir is the perfect example of a Jewish Fundamentalism mutant an offshoot of the illegal settler movement. The conjugal rights granted to Yigal Amir could give legitimacy to this extremist, dangerous ideology. This is a “security risk” for left of centre Jewish Israelis as much as it is for Arabs in Israel. In fact, it is a danger to democracy in Israel which has taken a bash from this gross conjugal rights decision for Yigal Amir. The damage that this assassin did for Israel goes beyond a mere “security risk”.

Yigal Amir had done irreparable harm to the direction of peace in Israel. Because of the assassination he also killed the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and gave grist to the Hamas mill. It will only be a matter of time before Yigal Amir is pardoned. He is already half way there. Who knows? Maybe if President Moshe Katzav never had his problems with his lady accusers of sexual harassment and rape, perhaps he would have pardoned Yigal Amir. Now his powers of pardoning criminals have been suspended. It is bound to happen sooner rather than later by one of the next presidents who hopefully will not be tainted by some pending lawsuit. There is no doubt that this granting of conjugal rights will somehow soften the establishment’s attitude towards granting Yigal Amir a pardon.

Saturday, October 21

Hamas is a Cancer in Palestinian Society

Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas said on Friday 20th Oct 2006, that Israel is an abomination in the Middle East that will some day disappear. Does this not resemble Iran’s President Mohammed Ahmadinajad’s rhetoric against Israel? The Palestinian factions – Hamas and Fatah, are on the eve of a civil war between them. Perhaps the renewed violence between the various Palestinian factions can be postponed by the one faction outdoing the other on anti-Israel rhetoric. After a period of relative calm, the firing of Qassam rockets into southern Israel has commenced again.

Egypt has once again shown its inability to prevent weapon smuggling from its borders into the Gaza strip via thirteen tunnels that were discovered by the Israeli Security Forces. Are the Egyptians ignoring this or are they incapable of preventing the smuggling of weapons through its borders? To date, the Egyptians have done nothing to prevent that despite their lip service to the contrary.

If one were to examine Hamas’s contribution to the improvement of the Palestinian People’s condition it does not take much imagination to conclude that they have done nothing for their people. Their strength lies in their anti-recognition-of-Israel stance and they believe that they can continue receiving grass roots support from the Palestinians while they remain intransigent towards negotiations with Israel. At the same time, Palestinian suffering will increase further because of lack of much needed foreign funds.

Since Hamas won the elections, they have achieved nothing for the Palestinian People. There is no programme of rehabilitation, building up infrastructures destroyed because of Palestinian violence and Israeli Army retaliations. Programmes for improvement of the various structures of running a state are absent. Civil servants have not received salaries for months and this has exacerbated the situation. They have replaced the corrupt Fatah regime with a regime that is autocratic, evil and a threat to stability in the Middle East. They have been consistent in three things:

  1. They have refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

  2. They have encouraged violence and destruction against Israel.

  3. They have ensured that the Palestinians remain ungovernable due to factional fighting which will result in a civil war.

Surely any regime that is so totally obsessed by hate of Israel and its people will never be able to achieve an independent Palestinian State alongside Israel.

Hamas has adopted an uncompromising attitude towards Israel (View clip 1293) and still dreams of one day destroying Israel and establishing an extreme Islamic state in its place whereby non-Muslims will be second class citizens, subjected to Sharia (Muslim Law). Surely this racism is even worse than the despicable apartheid regime of White South Africa of the past! Assuming that Hamas does achieve this nightmarish scenario, people will be punished severely if they show any disagreement to the Hamas regime. In other words, what has happened in Gaza is that Hamas has utilized the so-called democratic institutions to win the elections in January 2006 in order to establish an extremist Islam regime that will be intolerant of non-Muslims. The Nazis gained power in Germany by democratic means in 1933.

Hamas has built an unstable regime. They have proved that after 10 months in power they are capable of hate rhetoric but not governing! The Palestinians are in a crisis and are in great need of foreign capital. This capital will not arrive unless Hamas shows willingness to change its uncompromising attitude towards Israel. Time is not on their side. Iran will find a reliable ally in Hamas. They both share a common hate of Israel. Maybe for a while, Iran will send money into Gaza in order to strengthen its influence in the same way that it invested in Hezbollah in Lebanon.

President Mahmoud Abbas has very few options. He is unable to negotiate any peace deal with Israel while his shaky Hamas-Fatah coalition is paralyzed. Both factions in his coalition are pulling his government apart weakening him even further. Trying to negotiate with President Mahmoud Abbas is a futile exercise in polemics that will achieve nothing. There is only one option left for Abbas and that is to dismantle the coalition and appoint a government of technocrats. It is unlikely that he will take this step. He will remain sitting on the fence watching impotently as the factions continue their violence against each other. According to the latest reports from Al Bawaba 20th October 2006, Fatah and Hamas officials agreed on Friday to take steps to end violence between the two movements. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said an Egyptian security delegation had brokered the talks, Reuters reported. However, it is unlikely that this agreement to end the violence between the two sides will last.

Israel will continue to raid Gaza in order to prevent the firing of Qassam rockets into southern Israel. This will result in further hardships for the Palestinians. Israel will soon launch a heavy strike against Gaza due to Hamas’s terrorist activities. Hamas has also threatened to kidnap more Israeli soldiers to use as bargaining chips to achieve their ends of releasing Hamas prisoners who were involved in planning terrorist attacks against Israel. The stakes for the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit is rising and there is still no light at the end of the dark tunnel as to his fate.

The blame for the Israeli Army retaliations against Palestinians must be laid at the door of Hamas. The latter has done nothing to improve the economic situation of the Palestinian People. Hamas has taken the road of destruction of Palestinian society in the same way that cancer destroys its victims. In reality, Hamas is an abomination to the Middle East and to the Palestinian People that it claims to represent.