Wednesday, June 28

The Kidnapping of an Israeli Soldier

The Palestinians have moved towards a path of potential self-destruction. What is it that drives the Palestinians into a situation that will not achieve anything – not independence, not peace and peaceful coexistence, recognition of Israel and the improvement of their socio-economic situation? Perhaps one can view this problem from a number of aspects. The main aspect is the failure of the Palestinian leadership to come to terms with Israel’s existence. This has now received a fundamentalist Islamic slant with extremism and hate for Israel taking the upper hand. The moment Israel disengaged from Gaza unilaterally in August 2005; this resulted in a power vacuum with many opposing terrorist militias running wild. There are so many of these terrorist para-military militias fighting amongst themselves and uniting when it comes to the common enemy – Israel. They all seem to operate under the Hamas umbrella. The building of the Security Fence on the Gaza Strip border has created new Palestinian tactics. The Palestinian terror groups have now built tunnels under the fence that allows infiltration into Israel. Who knows how many of these tunnels exist undiscovered? The object is to kidnap Israelis – soldiers and civilians. Suicide terrorism has decreased because the Israeli Security forces are successful in curtailing these attacks. The terrorists are seeking other means to achieve their goal of liberation from the “Israeli occupation” that means destruction of Israel. These extremists are not interested in a two state solution.

The Hamas terrorist organizations (Izzadin al Qassam, the Popular Resistance Committees, and a group calling itself the Army of Islam), kidnapped the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on 26 June 2006. The well-coordinated attack on Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, where the kidnapping occurred, proves the capability of Hamas’s military (terrorist) wing to carry our successful attacks. The whereabouts of Gilad Shalit is unknown and surrounded by much speculation.

The use of the kidnapping tactic seems to be rather successful in the short run. It gives the terrorists breathing space to seek the upper hand by trying to bargain for the release of female Palestinian security prisoners including those who are under 18 years of age in Israeli prisons. It is doubtful if Israel will succumb to this kind of blackmail. Any military move on Israel’s side to gain the release of Gilad Shalit could result in a terrible tragedy. Meanwhile there has been another kidnapping in the occupied territories. The youngster is Eliyahu Yitschak Asheri of Ittamar. The kidnappers have threatened to kill him if the Israeli Army goes into Gaza to liberate the soldier.

The situation is becoming more complex. The Hamas leadership under Ismail Haniya has no control over the release of the soldier. Mahmoud Abbas has even less influence over the captors. Gaza is in a state of total anarchy.This means that the Hamas military wing operates very much on its own and receives order from other sources. There are reports that Khaled Mashal, the Hamas leader resident in Damascus Syria, issued orders for the kidnapping operation. This individual is uncompromising in his attitude towards Israel. He wields much influence on Hamas terrorists. There seems to be a similarity in his methods of operation and that of Osama bin Laden of Al Qaeda. Both leaders are in exile and pull the strings on the terrorist cells under their direct or indirect control.

Israel is on the horns of a dilemma. The Israeli Defense Forces have entered the Gaza Strip in order to pressure the Hamas leadership to release Gilad. The military operation “Summer Rain” is under way. The Hamas led Palestinian Authority is impotent in its influence on their ultra extremist hate-filled terrorist militias. Had they had influence, the scenario would have ceased by now. Now that military operations have started, it remains to be seen as to whether it will achieve their objective. It could force the Hamas militias into taking desperate steps to save face. A tragedy could occur because of this operation.

The Palestinian terror groups have changed tactics. They are now using the “kidnapping weapon” increasingly instead of the “suicide-bombing weapon”. We can expect kidnappings to become more commonplace in the Palestinian terrorist lexicon. This tactic will gain more popularity because it will invite Israeli retaliation in populated Palestinian areas where the kidnappers hide their victims. Loss of innocent Palestinian lives in Israeli rescue operations will be difficult to avoid. This will add grist to the Palestinian terrorist propaganda machine to portray for the umpteenth time how the cruel Israeli Army kills innocent Palestinians intentionally. Palestinian sympathizers and ultra-left wing groups will swallow the bait and condemn Israel in every world forum possible including the United Nations. The rescue operations will cause havoc amongst innocent Palestinians and increased suffering.

Despite all these misgivings about the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, Israel really has no alternative. The terrorists are not prepared to enter negotiations to release the kidnapped soldier or at the least, negotiate impossible conditions that Israel will never accept.

No country in the world would allow terrorists to kidnap their citizens. They would also attempt to rescue their captured citizens if negotiations fail. Israel is now exercising that right as difficult as it is. Many innocent people are going to lose their lives. A successful outcome to this military operation is far from clear at this stage let alone achieving the release of Gilad Shalit.





Wednesday, June 21

"Slavery" in Israel

The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was based on noble ideas of the Declaration of Independence whereby equality of all was stated clearly. Israel declared that she would uphold human rights and principles of democracy. There would be no discrimination based on colour, creed or religion. The Jewish People had suffered persecution in the Diaspora for centuries. This reached its culmination in Nazi Germany when 6 million were murdered because they were Jews. Israel rose from the ashes of the Holocaust when the majority of the members of the newly established UN voted in favour of partition of the British Mandate of Palestine. The Jews found a new home, free from persecution that welcomed every Jew who wished to make Israel his or her home no matter from where he or she came. One would expect that Israel would be a special country upholding these principles because of the tragic history of the Jewish People. Is this true today?

Israel has fought many wars for her survival and this has taken its toll in lives and in outlook. One would expect more respect for the rule of law and more sensitivity towards those who are different, including migrant workers, Arab Israelis, innocent Palestinians and Israelis who are poor and work for minimum wages with no hope for their future or that of their children.

Many migrant workers go to Israel because future contractors promised them a job, and discover upon arrival that no such job exists. Workers who do not have any work or identification documents usually remain in Israel, because they cannot afford to go home. Such people are liable to arrest and detention at any moment, and ultimately to deportation. Because of their situation, the fundamental rights of migrant workers – both legal and illegal - are not respected.  They receive no days off (or fewer than agreed in the contract), low wages, poor working conditions and are liable to confiscation of passports. The migrant workers are mainly from the Philippines, Thailand, China and other Asian countries, Romania and other Eastern European countries, and a number of African and Latin American countries.

The business of recruiting foreign workers is very lucrative for the employers. Employers’ pressure groups in Israel and their contacts in government and Parliament have been promoting the recruitment of migrant workers. The Chinese migrants, mainly construction workers, are often the worst affected. They have paid U.S. $ 6,000-10,000 each to come to Israel. This sum is divided between the Chinese Government, the Israeli employers or their agency, the Israeli Government (for visa and other fees) and travel costs. Because of the downturn in economic growth in Israel, particularly in the construction industry, many Chinese workers arrive to find there is no work. Many end upon the street, jobless, and illegally resident in Israel.

Although the Israeli Government insisted it has stopped issuing visas for Chinese construction workers, a number of Israeli employers were still holding a batch of visas valid for the next few months, and were continuing to recruit Chinese workers, because they are reluctant to relinquish such a lucrative business. The situation is similar for migrant workers in the areas of agriculture, catering and domestic help. Much of the work now done by migrant workers used to be done by Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (O.T.), and by Palestinian Israeli citizens. However, due to the closures of the crossing points from the O.T. into Israel, most Palestinians can no longer travel to and work in Israel, and some Palestinian Israeli citizens have lost their jobs following the Intifada; this situation has been worsened by Israel’s economic decline and the resulting polarization of society.

Meanwhile the legal or documented migrant workers are under the total control of their Israeli employers, most of who hold on to the workers’ passports illegally. If the workers complain, they are liable to be dismissed, in which case they immediately lose their work permits and become illegal residents. The police have begun a campaign rewarding people who inform the police of illegal foreign workers. A new police unit has been set up to deal with the problem in a more sympathetic manner, but it is too early to determine if it will work. (See MIGRANT WORKERS IN ISRAEL- A Contemporary Form of Slavery - Executive Summary p7 and 8).

A no less macabre situation exists for those poor Israelis - Jews as well as Arabs who work for contractors of all kinds and sorts. Various contractors who employ cleaners for public institutions such as hospitals, businesses and day clinics use a well-known source of contractual labour. “Contracted labour” in Israel is a euphemism for almost slavery. Here the worker earns minimum wage with no chance of promotion or rises in salary apart from cost of living rises that are declared by law. These employees have no recourse to basic employment rights. If they take a lunch break, the time that they take is deducted from their salaries, which decreases the pittance that they earn even more. They have no paid annual leave benefits nor do they have maternal or sick leave. The days that the worker is absent for whatever reason is deducted from his salary. They do not have pension schemes or any form of employment benefits apart from the miserable pittance that National Insurance (Bituach Leumi) pays them on their retirement. Many retire because of ill health and the contractor bosses turf them out without any benefits, as there is none. I once asked a contracted laborer if she has address when she feels that she has been exploited. The answer I received was in the negative. She does not even know who her employer is. Her miserable paycheck does not give any hint by whom she is paid and to whom she is responsible. The Knesset passed many laws in the past to protect the worker but somehow contracted labour fell between the chairs. The Israel Labour Federation overlooks the contracted worker.

The situation with legal Palestinian workers in Israel is no better. Israel embarks on an exercise of public relations to highlight her problems with the Palestinians and Palestinian terror, but in the social field of employment, the situation is drawing close to being inhuman! The Histadrut – the Israeli Labour Federation – does not protect the rights of contracted workers. The Histadrut is impotent and ineffectual and is only affective in declaring strikes of workers who are members of strong unions such as the Airports and Harbour Workers Union, Internal ministries and other strong public sectors that are Histadrut affiliated. The law enforcement agencies have forgotten the contract worker. The contracted laborers of the Dead Sea Works suffer a similar fate. Justice for the workers is limited to those represented by strong unions.

If there is a parallel between Israel and apartheid South Africa of the past, this is it and not the Security Fence. Black contracted labourers suffered a similar fate in apartheid South Africa.

Wednesday, June 14

The Tragedy on Gaza Beach and Retaliation

The tragedy on Gaza Beach has filled us all with horror. Hamas and its ilk use this tragedy as an excuse to continue their Qassam rocket attacks on the people of Sderot almost unabated. Conclusions as to who was responsible for the unfortunate killing of seven members of the Ghalia family are controversial. Israel carried out an investigation into this tragic incident and stated that a shell unaccounted for by the Israeli Army caused the explosion. According to their investigation findings, they have apportioned the blame on the Palestinians for leaving an unexploded shell in the vicinity. Investigations of this nature, carried out by involved parties are suspect to be biased and inaccurate. The Hamas leadership decided to abandon the cease-fire (which was fragile to non-existent anyway) and sent a volley of Qassam rockets into Sderot. Following these incidents, Israel has adopted a more aggressive stance towards the Hamas leadership and has carried out retaliatory action resulting in further loss of life on the Palestinian side. Unfortunately, seven Palestinian civilians were killed and dozens wounded in the IAF strike on a Katyusha-launching cell in Gaza City. Two of those killed were civilians, another three were medical personnel, as well as two Islamic Jihad terrorists.

The ongoing retaliation violence continues. While it is true, that Israel does not intend to carry out violence against innocent Palestinian civilians, the same is not true of Hamas that controls the Palestinian Authority. When they attack Israelis, they must expect a reaction and if innocent Palestinians happen to be in the field where launching of Qassam rockets occur, it is an unfortunate reality that these innocent people will be harmed as well. This does not make the Israeli Army “humane” as claimed by P. M. Ehud Olmert. Armies are not humane by nature! If they were humane then they would not be able to wage wars or serve their countries. There will always be abuses of human rights by the army in carrying out their duty. The U.S. Army has not been over humane in Iraq or in Afghanistan.

The endless cycle of violence continues and there is no sign on the Palestinian side of any desire to come to terms with Israel’s existence or to cease their terror activity. The sickening comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa remains a tactic used by the Hamas leadership and their allies ad nauseam. The shadow of the cynical “anti-racist” Durban Conference of 2001 remains a standard by which to judge Israel.

While Israel carries on with her duty to defend her citizens against terrorist attacks, the terror apologists will continue to accuse Israel of carrying out genocide against the Palestinians who are engaged in a legitimate struggle against the occupation. All means at their disposal to achieve that end, according to these apologists, is legitimate and this includes the use of the suicide bomber. The futility and results of their cruel tactics is well known and yet the fantasies of these perpetrators, which colour their aims, motivate them on this path of blood and hate.

There are journalists who write about “trying times for the Palestinians”. They overlook the fact that much of the Palestinian suffering was brought upon the Palestinians by their leadership in the past and present. The past Arafat leadership with its corruption and inability to come to terms with Israel by negotiation and the present Hamas leadership elected by default must bear the blame for much of the violence and Israel’s retaliation to it. All these apologists express their support for the Palestinian cause of achieving independence. They do not condemn the terror tactics used against Israel or at best, they overlook the terror that Palestinian terrorists had committed against innocent Israelis. They fail to realize (or do not wish to come to terms with) the fact that all the restrictions that the Palestinians suffer is because of the terror activity against Israel. Had there been no restrictions, road barriers or security fence, Israel’s citizens of all creeds would be subjected to further suicide bombings and bloodshed on a daily basis. What has this to do with genocide, apartheid fence or call it what you will? If anything, the attempt at genocide comes from the Palestinian Hamas leadership. It is not the struggle against the occupation but a desire to destroy Israel.  Hamas and company have been uncompromising in their attitude towards Israel. This is an indisputable fact!

Most of us are against the occupation and we support a Palestinian state living alongside Israel in dignity. Both Palestinians and Israelis could achieve so much by embarking on joint projects for the good of both peoples. Why is the Palestinian leadership so intransigent in coming to terms with Israel’s existence? Why do they not wish to negotiate a fair and just settlement with Israel so that both peoples can exist together in peace, dignity and respect? Unfortunately, these questions will remain rhetorical questions for many years to come. So many lives on both sides have been lost because of this intransigent hate and lack of trust. There are no optimistic signs of any change in the Hamas Palestinian attitude towards Israel!

There does not seem to be any way out of this total stalemate of violence between Israel and the Palestinians while the problem remains an existential one with both sides unable to realize the importance of becoming partners in peace rather than rivals in hate rhetoric and violence.

Sunday, June 4

Boycotting Israel's Universities

Israel’s academics have been through this before. NATFHE (National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education), under the influence of the new left, has embarked once again on an Israel-bashing exercise. Only this time they have funneled it into a boycott of Israel’s institutions of higher learning. The grounds for this are so shaky and shallow. The new left once again compares the situation in Israel to that of apartheid South Africa of old by referring to the security fence as the “apartheid wall”. The Union is prepared to rescind the boycott if Israeli Academics actively renounce what the group calls Israel's "apartheid policies" in the territories. How can anybody, let alone academics, renounce Israel’s “apartheid policies” in the territories when such an organized fiction of a new left warped imagination does not exist?

Just over a year ago on 22nd April 2005, the AUT (Association of University Teachers) decided to boycott the University of Haifa and Bar Ilan University because of the “illegal occupation policies” of Israel. This boycott was revoked subsequently. Now NATFHE voted to boycott for a different reason - the so-called parallel between Israel and apartheid South Africa. It seems that these so-called associations of British academics will continue to find a reason to boycott Israel’s universities. The likelihood of this latest boycott being rescinded like the previous boycott is possible in the near future. This will occur when these associations come to their senses.

It is unfortunate that these academic bodies do not even bother to try to understand why Israel has adopted so-called “repressive measures” against the Palestinian population. The Palestinian terrorists with their suicide bombing tactics have not even received any mention by these associations let alone condemnation. It seems that the indifference of these associations is a form of support for terrorism against Israel rather than condemnation of terror.

The Israeli Ambassador in Britain Zvi Heifetz denied that universities in his country practiced discrimination against Palestinians. "Israeli universities are open institutions, where students and teachers are selected on merit, regardless of their religious or ethnic backgrounds. As a means of promoting dialogue and coexistence in the Middle East, an academic boycott of Israel is counter-productive in the extreme,'' he said.

The pro-boycott teachers insisted that Israeli academics must be held accountable for their "silence'' over their Government's "repressive'' actions in the occupied Palestinian territories.”The majority of Israeli academics are either complicit or acquiescent in their Government's policies in the occupied territories,'' said Tom Hickey, a philosophy lecturer who proposed the motion. He said that for Israeli academics to ignore all this amounted to "culpable blindness''.

Is it not “culpable blindness” to ignore Palestinian terror against innocent Israelis? Does Israel not have the right to protect its citizens from terrorist acts? After Britain had suffered the terror on their subways, were there not incidents of arrests and interrogation of suspects involved that also went against so-called “human rights”? No country in its war against terrorism behaved “over humanely” towards terror suspects. What about the U.S troop behaviour in Iraq and the establishment of Guantanamo Prison Camp in Cuba where terror suspects are held without much recourse to a lawyer? Why do British academics close their eyes to that?

There are no initiatives for boycotts against other countries: not against Iran, which is denying the Holocaust and threatening to destroy Israel; not against Sudan, which is committing genocide in Darfur; not against Saudi Arabia, where the Saudi Courts execute people for religious infractions, and not against China, which is carrying out oppression in Tibet and Shenzhen. Nor is the hated United States being boycotted, because this would hurt academics who want to get to Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

As an Israeli, I am opposed to the occupation but am also aware of the fact that it occurred because of aggression by Arab states in their attempt to destroy Israel since its establishment. If there were no Arab attacks on Israel, there would not have been an occupied West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights.

The use of the boycott weapon against Israel illustrates total ignorance of Israel and Jewish history as well as the holocaust! The Palestinian leadership under Hamas supports terror and the Israeli reaction to this terror is just as legitimate as Britain’s hunt for terrorists responsible for blowing up subways in London.

The use of the boycott weapon against Israel by British academics is unfair, unjust and illustrates total ignorance of the Palestinian – Israeli Conflict. The use of the comparison of the situation in apartheid South Africa to Israel is frivolous and is far from knowledge of reality.
The Palestinians have created a situation whereby terror against Israel has become a legitimate weapon against the occupation in the eyes of many British academics. The British academics that support boycotting Israel’s Universities, for reasons of expediency, have ignored Palestinian terrorism, thus condoning it.