Wednesday, June 18

A Dialogue between Myself (S.K.) and an International Law Specialist (A.L).

A.L: "Your government has tortured and killed more Palestinian children than any so called terrorist cell".

S.K: If this is true, it is because Hamas terrorists use children as human shields when the Israeli Security forces enter the territories to rout out the terrorists responsible for shooting rockets into Israel. The Israelis living in the south where the Qassam activity is directed are trained to go into bomb shelters when warning sirens are sounded. In Gaza, no provision is made for protection of Palestinians as a result of Israeli counter attacks. It is in the Hamas interest to show the world how Israel is the aggressor and killing their people.  

A,L."The only points I disagree with are that minors are not often brought on trial and the charges are largely bogus. I am not sure where this file of soldiers bought to account is. I would dare say that file is very slim but I would need to confer with colleagues working in the territories".

S.K: This is quite possible according to what I have seen in the UNCEF Report. I try to be objective and do not justify Israel on this. I do believe that if Israel like any other country does not comply with international conventions then it must be made accountable in the relevant bodies for that purpose.

A.L "I cannot support Israeli white phosphorus justice. Hamas are bad as you say, but they have killed fewer children than Israel"

S.K.I have found conflicting reports on white phosphorus use by Israel. The possibility of its use cannot be denied according to what I have read.

A.L: "'War crimes' are not a slogan, they are a fact. It's not that people are making those facts up. They are what the UN, Geneva Conventions and international law are saying that Israel is committing. Those bodies are the ones who define and classify and finally decide what is a war crime and who is a war criminal. If according to them, Israel is a war criminal because it has been illegally occupying Palestinian land since 1967, then that's just an indisputable fact. If the land they have illegally occupied after a war is being built on and illegal settlers and settlements exist on it, if Palestinian homes are being destroyed, if an illegal wall has been constructed, then they are all war crimes, not according to me, or you, but according to the tenets of International Law".

S.K: I have no argument with the Geneva Conventions or International Law. The use of children as I have illustrated, by Hamas is in contravention of that and in my humble opinion is a war crime. The use of all means (including the training of child soldiers to risk their lives as I have illustrated earlier) to end the Israeli occupation, which in Hamas terms is also Israel's existence, is not in keeping with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions or International Law. If Israel has contravened these conventions it must be made accountable in the ICC like any other country. It would be prudent at this stage to study all Israel's wars and what had initiated them in an honest fashion from reliable, impartial sources which are not easy to find. As you know, all laws are open to interpretation as to what consists of war crimes. Kidnapping of innocent children because of a war and not giving any account as to their whereabouts is contravening the law. One does not have to be a lawyer to accept that. Destruction of civilian property and murder of innocent people is unacceptable, whether Israeli or Palestinian. Nothing can justify this and warring parties always commit war crimes against each other. I am sure that the US is no less guilty of that in its history of wars with Vietnam and also in Iraq. I do not claim for one second that Israel is an angel-state and never committed war crimes against the Palestinians. Awful things happen to innocent civilians caught in the cross-fire on both sides. The popular excuse "collateral damage" is unacceptable morally if not legally.

A.L: "I respectfully ask, don't you think it shows you are biased in favor of Israel when you don't want anyone to look at Israel's crimes and sins? Are you not trying to protect Israel by doing so? Are you not trying to cover up its crimes or trying to tell me that if Israel kills children that are less significant and less important than if some other countries do the same thing? Why is it that other countries killing people is more serious an issue than when Israel does it? Why the special treatment for  Israel?"

S.K. I do not think that I am biased in favor of Israel. I am in favor of objectivity and if Israel does the wrong thing, I criticize. Excuse me for using the old cliché " Hamas has stated that Israel has no right to exist" and they feel that the use of violence, no matter how cruel is legitimate, in ending the occupation "which began as the Naqba in 1948". I have no love for the Netanyhu Government and I have written ad nauseam against the occupation. There is no moral justification for settling the West Bank or any other territory captured in the 1967 Six Day War. These areas should have been declared closed military zones and used as a bargaining chip for a Peace Treaty between Israel and its warring neighbors, including the Palestinians. This was never done and the illegal settler policies of all the previous Israeli Governments made the mistake of colonizing these areas which had complicated the issue even further. At the same time check out the Khartoum Resolutions and this must also be held responsible for what has happened since. We must also bear in mind that the Declaration of the State of Israel was never accepted by the Arab States despite the majority vote in the UN for its legality. I condemn killings from every country, including Israel. I shall never condone it under any circumstances. I try to be objective and put things in perspective wherever I can and it is not easy. There will always be those who are sympathetic to the one side or the other and their ideologies and loyalties are defined by that.

S.K:I am a great believer in peace with dignity and justice for all. I do believe in a Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar to what was in South Africa at the end of the apartheid era. This could go a long way to end the conflict and the hate if there are suitable, impartial moderators who prepared to undertake this task. There are wounds on both sides that need to be healed. 

Monday, June 16

The Kidnapping

The kidnapping of Eyal Yifrah, 19 years, from Elad, Gil-Ad Shaer,16, from Talmon and Naftali Frenkel, 16 from Nof Ayalon in the Hebron Area by an extremist Islamist terrorist group is cruel, disgusting and tragic. Nothing on earth can justify such barbarity. It does not serve any cause at all - certainly not the Palestinian cause of freedom from occupation! We are waiting to hear sane voices of condemnation of this barbaric act from the Palestinian Authority. It serves the interests, if any, of the Netanyahu Coalition Government that blames the PA and Abu Mazen for this and justifies their (the Coalition)  hardline attitude towards a peaceful solution. These Islamist Jihadi terrorists do not care because they hate any form of peace with Israel, irrespective of who rules Israel. It has nothing to do with the occupation, as many opponents of Israel claim. There were wars and terror even before the Six Day War of June 1967 and even before the capture of the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza that resulted from that war.

The PA does recognize Israel as a sovereign state, while Hamas and its various extremist allies do not.  These barbaric Islamist terrorists continue to kill and kidnap Israelis, resulting in peace being evasive between Israel and the Palestinians. They want to destroy Israel and the Jewish People, thus serving the right wing Jewish religious extremists more than anything else. Any remains of sanity, moderation and pragmatism will recede into the mist.

One must remember that Hamas is an Islamist, racist organization whose agenda does not cater for democracy, transparency, justice or human rights not even for their own Palestinian people.

Netanyahu's Press Conference on Saturday evening of 14th June 2014  was a predictable knee-jerk reaction. Terror and kidnappings of Israelis have been occurring even before the so-called unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah. It is not new and has nothing to do with Hamas-Abbas.

The whole unity bit is a technocratic agreement with not much meat on it. It is excellent fodder for the Netanyahu cronies. The barbarism of terror by the various Islamist groups has been going on for many years and to make political capital out of it is pathetic and shallow. It is just as logical as saying that Israel is responsible for Price Tag terror against the Palestinians, because the IDF and police are not doing enough to halt it. As it so happens, the PA Security Forces are cooperating with the Israeli Security Forces to find the Islamist Terror Groups responsible for this. They make political capital out of this terrible tragedy. Netanyahu's blame game on Abbas because of the technocratic agreement he signed with Hamas is a political tactic far from reality. There are moderate voices in the Palestinian camp and using the Netanyahu-Bennett tactic of the shallow blame-game is cheap and not helpful at all - not even in finding the barbaric terrorists who committed this foul deed.

The news in Israel these days are full of the kidnapping. Much of what is reported is speculation and to date the whereabouts or the fate of these three teenagers are unknown. Many experts - usually retired generals, who were connected with Israeli Intelligence, are commenting on the situation and theorizing. One does not have to be an intelligence expert to realize that each kidnapping case is different and the outcome can indeed end tragically.

As mentioned earlier in this article, the Palestinian Security Forces are cooperating with the Israeli Security Forces to find the kidnapped youngsters as well the perpetrators of the ghastly deed. It would be in Israel's interest if Netanyahu's tactless rhetoric against Abu Mazen ceases, as the cooperation with the Palestinians to find the kidnapped victims is more important than reaping political points from this despicable tragedy.

According to latest reports, Hamas is responsible for the kidnapping and have been sworn to secrecy not to cooperate in finding those responsible. This is very sinister and does indicate beyond reasonable doubt that they have connections to those responsible for this heinous crime. The demonstrations in the territories by Hamas supporters praising the kidnappings does give some hint as to the ideologies of those responsible.

Mahmoud Abbas has issued a statement condemning the kidnappings and pleading for an end to the violence. It is obvious that he has no control over the Hamas terrorist wing and he would be advised to annul the agreement with Hamas in a technocratic unity government. It remains to be seen if he will do so.

There is strong speculation that Hamas has many cells that are not answerable to any central Hamas command if it exists. This means that these cells operate independently and do what they wish without the knowledge of the political arm or even the so-called military wing of Hamas. If this is the case, the fate of the kidnapped teenagers is even more uncertain. No group within Hamas has claimed responsibility.

The most important thing now is to bring the kids back home safe and sound. All the accounts and blame-games must be placed on hold until we all know what their fate is - good or bad!

Saturday, June 7

Israel and Hamas-Abbas - Another Israeli Blunder?

Benjamin Netanyahu - Caricature
Benjamin Netanyahu - Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)
Here we go again - not as happy as can be with the Abbas-Hamas "shaky unity" government, whose stability will remain questionable over time. The ideologies of Fatah and Hamas are poles apart. There have been so many attempts by both Palestinian groups to rapprochement. It is unlikely that this agreement between the two parties will have sufficient glue to unity.
The Netanyahu Government reaction is based on hysteria and paranoia. Any country that does not buy into Netanyahu’s rhetoric is viewed as being anti-Semitic in the Netanyahu Coalition view.
The US, with its power base waning in the Middle East, was one of the first countries and Israel's greatest friend to recognize the Abbas-Hamas Unity Government. This was followed by the EU, Russia and a host of other countries who find it expedient for their own interests to follow suit.
The frustration over the failed peace talks and the intransigence of Israel in ending the occupation are contributing factors that pushed Hamas and the PA into forming a unity government. Hamas has lost its Moslem Brotherhood patron in Egypt causing Hamas to become isolated. The new president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Assisi is not well disposed to Hamas or the Moslem Brotherhood. The smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza to Egypt are blocked, forcing Hamas to seek other solutions for their isolation. The Netanyahu Government gave Hamas an opportunity by placating his right wing partners in the coalition. He achieved this by pandering to his right wing coalition members by not agreeing to end the occupation and not freezing settlement activity in the occupied territories.
Even, Tzippi Livni, Israel's negotiator has shown signs of frustration with Netanyahu who is moving from center right to extreme right in order to placate the Bayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home Party of Naftali Bennet). When the peace talks fail, the vacuum is filled by Hamas, who is seeking a "god-father". What better "god-father" is waiting for a unity move than Mahmoud Abbas?
Hamas is in a weakened position and its shaky unity with the PA may be good for Israel in the end despite Netanyahu and company's hackneyed paranoid mantras which does not achieve anything apart from increasing Israel's isolation. The world is tired of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the stalemate which is illegal settler friendly.
It would be in Israel's interest had Netanyahu kept a wise silence and not reacted to the Hamas-Abbas unity government. He should have adopted a wait and see attitude even though the silence would have been condemned by the extreme right wing members of his coalition. Netanyahu is more sensitive to the right wing demands than he is to world opinion. He wants the stale-mate to continue with increasing settlement activity in the occupied territories. His reaction is one of self-righteous vindictiveness and vengeful towards the US and the world at large.
Is it reasonable to expect the US to abandon the peace process because of the Abbas-Hamas agreement? Is it really so dangerous for Israel if the US continues on its path recognizing the Abbas-Hamas move? Hamas will not be involved in decision making as far as peace negotiations and agreements are concerned. Their status will be similar to the status of Hezbollah in the Lebanese Government, which has diplomatic relations with the US. There is no room for Netanyahu-style hysterical paranoia in reaching peace with the Palestinians - and certainly not accelerating building in the occupied territories as a form of an automatic reaction against the Abbas-Hamas agreement.
Netanyahu's pandering to the right-wing settlement parties in his government rather than facing reality is detrimental to Israel's interest. He must come to terms with the Abbas-Hamas reality and cease his verbal threats against Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority by threatening sanctions. It will achieve nothing. The Israel Government must share part of the blame for the failure of the peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyyeh of Hamas
No matter how one views the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, we always return to the same problem - the occupation and illegal settlement expansion. The Netanyahu Government and their violent Price Tag allies are detrimental to Israel’s interests. Many will ask where Price Tag fits in. Price Tag hooligans are never arrested and if they are they are very soon released. They are the offspring of the settlers in the occupied territories. They received their education from right wing, racist rabbis of various yeshivot in Kiryat Arba, Betar Illit, Yitzhar and many other settlements where the cancer of hate for the Arabs and non-Jews is rife.

Israel’s interests would be served if the Netanyahu government would cease its negative opposition rhetoric towards the Palestinian Authority and be diplomatic. Netanyahu should disregard his right wing coalition partners and show courage. Israel will pay a large price in being isolated by countries, whose record of good relations with Israel is untarnished.
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South Africa 2014 - A Visit and Comparison with Israel

Frederik de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shake han...
Frederik de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shake hands at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum held in Davos in January 1992 Copyright World Economic Forum ( (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the modern mantras of today is comparing Israel with apartheid South Africa, which is an insipid exercise, especially by those who never grew up under the apartheid regime. Comparisons, if any, are more with ANC rule today under Jacob Zuma concerning corruption. The difference is in Israel's favor when it comes to indicting public figures involved in corruption and even rape. In South Africa, Zuma is president, while in Israel, his behavior would be regarded as moral turpitude and he .would face trial 
I visit Cape Town every two years or so. For me South Africa is a very special country that has undergone an incredible transformation from apartheid rule to democracy peacefully. So much has been written about this transformation and the part that the late Nelson Mandela played in 
ensuring a peaceful change. 

My roots are in South Africa, where I was born, bred and educated. Even though I have lived 
most of my life in Israel, I shall always remain a Cape Townian at heart. Not only is Cape Town one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it is also a city with many contrasts and the people are very friendly. It has also become a very popular tourist center with many attractions. The famous Waterfront, which was once the Cape Town Harbor and the gateway to Africa, has now become famous for its excellent restaurants and classy shops. It is also the departure point for the famous Robben Island, where the late President Nelson Mandela had spent nearly 27 years in prison under the most inhumane conditions.

The most positive development in South Africa is the total disappearance of apartheid. People are mixing freely. There is not even a remnant of the old apartheid regime. The Afrikaners, who were identified with apartheid, have accepted black majority rule. A common South African patriotism has arisen from the ashes of the evil apartheid regime
Nelson Mandela deserves great credit for the peaceful change from apartheid to democracy. The other player that people forget is Frederik de Klerk, the last white President, also deserves credit. Both Mandela and de Klerk had a desire to initiate peaceful transition to democracy and an end to apartheid in South Africa. Both Israelis and Palestinians have much to learn from the example of these two great leaders. They succeeded in avoiding a racial blood bath in South Africa. They had the same interests in negotiating a peaceful change. This desire for change is lacking in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Both sides lack vision.
Twenty years of African National Congress rule has taken its toll on the majority of South Africans, many of whom are living in severe poverty.  The ANC that had such a noble history of fighting the evil apartheid regime is now a party of corrupt fat cats who involved in enriching themselves at the expense of those who put them in power. The legacy of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and many others is still strong despite the change of direction of the ANC. No doubt these great leaders would turn in their graves if they were to see what has happened to the party that they had established. 

While in South Africa I had decided to go off the beaten track and visit some of there townships around Cape Town. Most of the townships such as Macassar and Hout Bay are inhabited by the Colored Community. I had some rather interesting encounters with these people. The  impression that I got was, a feeling of disappointment with ANC rule. Black Affirmative Action is conspicuous. The Colored Community feels that very little has changed in their standard of living. Today the Blacks get priority in the job market. Whites are at the bottom of the ladder while the Coloreds remain somewhere in between. One Colored gentleman told me that a black face" gets priority in the job market."

We are witnessing apartheid in reverse in South Africa due to various affirmative action programs. The idea of the best man for the job is not top priority rather his skin color not so much his ability.  

In the more classy suburbs of Cape Town, there are few vagrants and homeless visible as they 
are rounded up. This is not the case in other areas of South Africa.

The ANC, after twenty years of rule, has not delivered the goods to the majority of South Africans, who live in severe poverty - many even below the breadline. Educational standards have dropped and strikes are frequent. While I was in South Africa, there has been a lot of unrest on the mines. Whenever there is a strike, the strikers always dance and sing in rhythm as if they are celebrating. This is emphasized by raising and lowering their sticks or poles in time to their songs. Today the ills of mismanagement in government are on the rise as well as corruption. In other democracies, the electorate would vote for a change of government.

In South Africa the corrupt ANC won the elections with hardly a dent in their power base. They use similar propaganda tactics as the old apartheid government. There are rumblings of discontent by the old guard of the ANC, who are dissatisfied with the way the ANC is governing. The mantra is: "Blame it on apartheid!"

The ANC cronys in government are enriching themselves on the backs of the majority of the impoverished in South Africa. President Jacob Zuma, whose past is tarnished with accusations of rape and has had all these indictments closed. He continues to is rule and ruin the country.Can this be blamed on the apartheid legacy that ended in 1994?

Oh! Let us not forget the Nkandla home that Zuma built at a heavy cost to the tax payer.. Why do the majority of South Africans still  vote for the corrupt ANC with its incompetent leadership and enriched corrupt cronies? Is it because of the ANC legacy of Nelson Mandela? Maybe!  However this legacy is disappearing into the mists of history. The ANC is not that of Mandela anymore. Its history of fighting for freedom and democracy in South Africa is noble. Today it is corrupt, insensitive and inefficient. There are so many social problems including the high crime rate  that the ANC has not addressed. Cronyism is the name of the game. The homeless, shanty towns, drug problems and high crime rate still remain - blame the apartheid of 20 years ago is an excellent excuse to do nothing except enrichment of ANC cronies. South African currency is weak and wages are poor. Blame apartheid of course!

South Africa has rich natural resources yet the mine-workers are still exploited as in the apartheid years. No accountability with the Platinum Miners going on strike.    
When the ANC wishes to quell a strike, they employ similar methods as used by the apartheid police. The Marikana strike is an example of brute force that was used.

Affirmative action, while it is understandable and justifiable for the short term in order to integrate all South Africans into the professions and work force. It has its pitfalls. The standard of education for blacks under apartheid was poor. The democratically elected government had to integrate education so that all South Africans receive a good education. Unfortunately, this resulted in the standard being dropped in order to achieve this. Laws were passed that ensured that blacks were integrated into all jobs. A compromise was made and this resulted in lowering standards of admission to colleges of higher learning in order to accommodate these people.

Affirmative action gives preference to those who are black rather than to those of all races who are skilled for the required job. We have a system of apartheid in reverse. The ANC is not 
doing enough for all the people of South Africa. Hidden apartheid is alive and kicking with the 
racial roles being reversed. Race for the job takes priority over rate for the job.
This brings me to the so-called comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa. There is no comparison at all. There were never separate amenities for Jews and non-Jews in Israel. Parks, beaches, public places and transport were segregated in South Africa. Entertainment, education and a host of other facilities were unavailable for blacks but the whites were not short of anything. In Israel this was never the case. In the occupied territories, there are roads for the Jewish settlers which are forbidden for Palestinians use. Still this is a far cry from apartheid. Even the Security Fence is not the "apartheid wall" as it has saved many lives - Jewish as well as Arab. When this wall was not built, suicide Islamist terrorists would infiltrate and bomb up innocent people. No country would tolerate having its citizens being harmed or killed in terrorist acts irrespective of the cause.

There are developments in the new South Africa which give rise for concern. There is talk of transparency in government but in practice there is none. The ANC closes its eyes when it comes to cronyism and corruption. President Jacob Zuma is insensitive to the serious problems that need attention.

Despite all these problems, hope lies in the hands of the young people. They are more educated than those in the present ANC Government. Many are travelling more and are aware of the corruption of the present government. This is the silver lining at the end of the dark tunnel built by the ANC.
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