Sunday, July 29, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
"This is the largest arms transfer authorized in recent years, and it is meant to aid forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in preventing the possibility of a Hamas challenge and possible takeover similar to that of the Gaza Strip.
The weapons were delivered to the PA security forces three weeks ago following Israeli authorization.
The transfer of the M-16s was kept under strict confidence on both sides, in an effort to prevent any possible leak that could undermine Abbas' standing."
The Palestine Information Center also reported,
"Israeli premier Ehud Olmert is currently studying Abbas's request to allow entry of armored vehicles, bullet-proof vests and other military equipment in addition to the Badr forces stationed in Jordan to boost his power against Hamas."
Thursday, July 19, 2007
In recent days Gaza has internally become more and more organized, laws are upheld. At the Deer Al-Balach party no gun was fired because Hamas has outlawed it, in the past a party this size would have witnessed an array of gunfire. Thankfully there was no sign of Hamas forces either. I have been told unconfirmed stories of Hamas breaking up Fatah parties in Rafah. The newfound law and order has been enforced with the fist in Gaza. I appreciate the fact that such a party can go on without a Hamas crackdown, and yet lately there have been reports of an increase lacking of freedom of expression and breaking of human rights. With one party in power and no real opposition there are few checks and balances to what Hamas can and cannot do. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza had this report,
Detention and Torture of a Police Officer
On Sunday evening, 15 July 2007, the Executive Force arrested Isma’il ‘Ezzat Sha’ban, 32, a police officer from Jabalya town. Sha’ban was detained until Monday morning. During his detention and interrogation, he was beaten and tortured. As a result, he was injured to the head. PCHR has photographs showing signs of torture on his head, back and left hand. Sha’ban stated to PCHR that at approximately 17:30 on Sunday, 15 July 2007, a number of members of the Executive Force came to his house and demanded him to accompany them to an outpost of the Force. They agreed to allow him to change his clothes and then follow them to their outpost. He actually went to the outpost. There, he was violently beaten throughout his body and was verbally insulted by members of the Executive Force. He was then transferred to the headquarters of the Executive Force in Jabalya refugee camp. There, he was violently beaten again. Members of the Executive Force asked him about the reasons of his absence from his work, and he told them that he would not attend his work and that “his legitimate command is in Ramallah”, in reference to an order issued by the chief of police to all police officers to abstain from attending their jobs in the Gaza Strip following Hamas’ takeover. At approximately 01:00 on Monday, Sha’ban was blindfolded and a person stitched his injury in the head without anesthesia. His request to be seen by a doctor or transferred to a hospital was refused. He was then transported in a jeep and was dumped nearly 100 meters away. In the morning, he went to a hospital in Beit Lahia to receive medical treatment.
One cannot forget that in the very building that these men are being tortured in, the perpetrators may well have been tortured themselves by those who today are the victims. Under no circumstances does this justify their actions today. The tables of injustice have turned.
Nothing is black and white.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Monday Hamas replaced the Fatah city countil of Rafah, promising to do the same in other Fatah lead cities across the Gaza Strip. Abbas' new caretakever government promptly rejected any contact with the new council. Meanwhile in the West Bank Mahmoud Abbas recently blamed Hamas for allowing Alqaeda to take root in Gaza while backing Israel in calling for the opening of the Israeli-run Karm Abu Salim border crossing which would successfully seal the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza and completely sever Hamas contact with the outside world. Dialog does not seem to be on the horizon.
During his first appearance in Haifa after 35 years of exile Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish declared sarcastically, "We became independent, Gaza became independent of the West Bank... for one people, two countries, two prisons." The poet labeled the infighting a "public attempt at suicide."
For his part George Bush called for a new peace conference which he says will be "a moment of choice" for Palestinians to choose between Islamist Hamas and Abbas' moderate leadership. Hamas spokesman Ismail Rodwan responded saying, "such a summit will lead to increased pressure on Abbas, and will tear a deeper rift between Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank."
Sunday, July 15, 2007
The passed bill reads as follows,
"Today, when Israeli communities cease to exist in the Gaza area, any Israeli activity in this area is a defensive activity in every sense of the word. In that case, there is no room for damage lawsuits from people who are residents of an entity which is not the State of Israel, all the more so from residents of an entity which sponsors actions against the State of Israel."
The issue being raised at this Knesset session was whether Israel would be liable by law to compensate Palestinians for damages that occur during IDF incursions into Gaza. Yet, what is really at stake is whether Israel is historically responsible for the Gaza Strip as a territory it occupies. Immediately after Israel's disengagement from Gaza in October of 2005 an attempt was made to divest itself of its legal role over a territory it occupies. In December 2006 the Israeli high Court overruled a Knesset law that would prevent the state from bearing any responsibility for Palestinian damages accrued during Israeli attacks. Today this overruling was overruled.
In 1948 Israel forced over 200,000 Palestinian refugees to flee to the Gaza Strip. Since that day it has tried to strip itself of any responsibility for these refugees and their descendants. This week that dream seems to have come true and Hamas' military takeover has served as perfect justification. One wonders what Israel has stood to gain from recent events in Gaza. What exactly did Fatah warlord Mohamed Dahlan mean when he spoke of Hamas falling "into a trap?" Who set the trap?
Friday, July 13, 2007
The emergency Palestinian government led by Salam Fayyad was scheduled to step down Friday night, to be replaced by a caretaker Palestinian government led by - Salam Fayyad.
The new government is exactly like the old one, plus a few extra ministers. But it will have an indefinite mandate so long as the current Palestinian Parliament is unable to meet with a quorum.
The maneuvering was required because the emergency cabinet, named by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, after he fired the government led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas, could last for only 30 days unless Parliament ratified it.
But when Abbas called a session of the legislature, Hamas boycotted it, denying it a quorum. Hamas did so because with so many of its legislators in Israeli jails, it would have lost the majority it won in the elections of January 2006.
But that allowed Abbas to decree that the Fayyad emergency government would transform into the Fayyad caretaker government until either the Parliament met or there were new elections, both of which currently seem unlikely because of Hamas opposition.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
A Palestinian once told me, it is better to have corrupt leadership (referring to Fatah) than leaders that cannot provide Palestinians with their daily needs. In the second example he was of course referring to the 2006 election victory of Hamas subsequent to which a majority of international aid to the Palestinians was suspended and Israel illegally withheld all tax monies collected on behalf of the Palestinians. This only added to another Palestinian social crisis. Since the start of the second Intifada in late 2000 Palestinian laborers permitted into Israel, once numbering over 100,000, were on a constant decline. By the time Hamas was elected to power the gate into Israel for laborers was finally closed. One would think that a pragmatic unemployed Palestinian is likely to see the immediate consequences of those years of violent resistance and Hamas’ election win as a disaster. Many Palestinians with their immediate need in mind turn a very critical gaze towards Hamas’ latest actions in Gaza, other than the unprecedented safe internal security situation in Gaza, the material consequences of the Hamas takeover have been largely bad news for most Palestinians and their shattered economy.
On the 4th of July, while many were celebrating the reported release of abducted journalist Alan Johnston, an event which cemented Hamas’ ability to implement law and order, Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization issued a very different report entitled, “Commercial Paralysis: Deleting Gaza’s Economy from the Map.” In it they detailed the recent closure of 75% of Gaza’s few functioning factories since Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip; 30,000 factory workers, 10% of Gaza’s work force stand to loose their jobs. Furthermore, with the shortage of wheat in Gaza, three mills are at a standstill with others soon to follow; it is the poorest of the poor (73% of Gazans live under the poverty line) that will suffer most under these conditions.
With exports at a complete standstill, salesmen are also feeling the crunch as Israel is allowing only a fragment of the minimum Palestinian humanitarian needs to enter Gaza. Although government employees have received the first full month’s wage in 17 months, they aren’t spending much of it, for that the days ahead are too uncertain. The Rafah border that connects Gazans to the outside world has remained closed since June 9th. Thousands remain stranded there with no way back to Egypt and no way to their homes in Gaza.
For some, the solution to all this is Mahmoud Abbas’ newly designated emergency government in the West Bank. The newly formed cabinet, made up mostly of “independents” is taking a strong pro-Western line in order to loosen the burden on their people.
The emergency government is taking a stance of submission.
President Mahmoud Abbas responded to Hamas’ military takeover of the Gaza Strip by forming an emergency government, annulling the Fatah-Hamas unity government and isolating the Hamas leadership, considering them the perpetrators of a military coup. The Palestinian emergency government immediately agreed to the Quartet’s demands (made up of the US, EU, UN and Russia) that included the recognition of Israel, applying all past agreements made between Israel and the PA and condemning all use of violence. Western funds and taxes held by Israel were immediately promised to the new government, headed by US and EU favorite Salam Fayyad. Promises were made by Israel to ease roadblocks and closure on the West Bank. The roadblocks were never changed and yet within weeks a segment of withheld taxes were transferred to the PA who subsequently paid most government employees a full month’s wage for the first time in 17 months.
Many Palestinians that are willing to submit to Israel and international demands are doing so because of a simple pragmatism or an undying party allegiance and yet in the long run their decision will have no positive results for their people. The end of this path will ultimately be the wiping out of the Palestinian cause. Israel will continue to build settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank, implement its vision for a greater Israel and carry out any “security measures” on Palestinians that it deems necessary along the way. The West Bank will eventually become a large number of small Gazas, cities and communities enclosed, walled off and separated from each other.
By submitting to Western and Israeli pressure Palestinians sacrifice their cause on behalf of a pragmatism that includes Western governments paying Palestinian government salaries and returning to a sustained status quo of weakness in the face of harsh Israeli occupation and subjugation. The PA will maintain its status as a collector of handouts in order to preserve its function. Today an illegal process accompanies the choice of submission, which undermines the voice of the people and their election vote and undoes Palestinian legislative laws by overruling the elected parliament and setting up an illegal emergency government.
Submission is a short-term band-aid leading to long-term disaster in the form of the annihilation of the Palestinian cause.
After Hamas formed a government and even during the unity government that followed the Mecca Agreement between Hamas and Fatah in February of this year, the elected leaders were never given control of the security forces in Gaza. On June 14 Hamas used force to finally claim its rightful position, thereby preventing a US funded Fatah plot to overthrow Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Last week, Jordan’s king Abdullah said that Hamas's control of Gaza was sure to worsen the humanitarian plight of the 1.5 million Palestinians living there. U.N. officials have confirmed the ominous humanitarian crisis. Yet, closure is nothing new for Gazans. Borders remained increasingly closed after Hamas’ election win in early 2006 and again tightened after an Israeli soldier was captured on the border of Gaza in June later that year. With the increased pressure today, mind you without allowing the Palestinians to starve thus preventing an international uproar, the Hamas leadership is not buckling under the pressure. Their response with a variety of forms of resistance is causing a threat precisely because Hamas is not willing to submit to Israel and its allies and their imperial strategies.
On Monday Hamas barred Israeli fruit from entering the Gaza Strip, thereby implementing a plan to boycott Israeli goods. According to the Israeli Fruit Growers Association this will cost Israeli farmers NIS 3-5 million a day. The Jerusalem Post reported that the extra fruit was likely to flood Israeli markets causing a price crisis. Recently Haaretz reported that some Israeli fruit was grown specifically for the Gaza market and was not sale worthy elsewhere. Israel has been using Gaza as a captive market, even at a high price Hamas is not willing to play along.
Another development has pitted Hamas’ position against that of the emergency government and president Abbas. Hamas will not allow Israel to replace the Rafah border crossing with the Israeli controlled Karm Abu Salim (Kerem Shalom) crossing as Gaza’s only gateway to the outside world.
The permanent closure of Rafah for travelers would completely isolate Hamas and cripple their leadership’s ability to freely travel while giving Israel full control of who to permit exit and entry to Gaza. In order to prevent the establishment of these unjustifiable “facts on the ground” Hamas and other resistance forces in Gaza have been carrying out continuous attacks on the Israeli crossing. Abbas’ emergency government’s recent calling for the Karm Abu Salim’s opening after government officials visited Palestinians stranded in Egypt, reveals its complicity in the plan to undermine Hamas and oppose any serious form of resistance against unilateral Israeli policies. The Jerusalem Post cites the attacks on the border as “anti-Israeli.” Are not the international community, Israel and the emergency government’s opposition to the opening of the Rafah border anti-Palestinian?
During the emergency government ministers’ visit to Palestinians stranded in the Egyptian town of Rafah, protesters responded by chanting, "We don't want Fatah or Hamas, we just want to get out of here," There are likely many in the Palestinian street who would call for this very thing, yet a current poll carried out on the independent news agency Maan’s website, shows a significant point of view. At the time of viewing approximately 81,000 individuals had participated in the survey which determined that over 42% of voters would choose Ismail Haniyeh as their candidate of choice in renewed presidential elections, while 34% would vote for Mahmoud Abbas.
The people have spoken.
Submission is not the answer.
One more leader belongs in the company of these two men of opposition:
During the court case the Corrie's lawyer asked the judge to consider the hypothetical case of a U.S. oven manufacturer during World War II: "If the company continued selling ovens to Germany, knowing they were being used to kill Jews, would there be legal grounds to go after the company?"
Such court cases are often too easily misunderstood. The company is not being boycotted merely because of the fact that their products are being used for purposes that are harming to or end human life and commit human rights abuses. Boycott has been threatened by well-organized campaigns after the case been made very clear to the executive decision makers at Caterpillar. Their decision in the end is whether to continue playing a role in such crimes or to take the financial loss. So far, Caterpillar has opted for the first option, thus perpetuating the existence of Rachel's blood on their hands.
Rachel stood up for the rights of a voiceless people. I am challenged by her life.
Here, the rest of the report.
Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe makes the case for boycotting his own country.
More background on boycott, divestment and sanctions.
Monday, July 9, 2007
As I was driving with Dr Attalah yesterday a Hamas security force member came up to our vehicle and kindly asked if we were intending to turn right, as we were lined up on the right side of the street. Upon admitting this was the case the armed policeman politely requested we turn our blinkers on.
Hamas is astoundingly improving traffic with religious zeal and is continuing its program of law and order and yet its leadership seems to show no signs of having any strategy to break Gaza’s economic deadlock. Gaza’s new realities may be causing Gazans to flock to the beach and yet are doing little to quench Palestinians deep fear of what the future is to bring.
This from Rannie Amiri,
It thus behooves us to retell this man’s remarkable story, lest we forget what a person of conscience can achieve.
Mordechai Vanunu was the first to expose Israel’s dirty little secret: it was a major atomic power. He worked as a technician at the Dimona nuclear plant in the Negev desert from 1976 - 1985. Then, in a 1986 interview with London’s Sunday Times, he disclosed pictures that not only proved Israel had the capacity to produce nuclear weapons, but was actually in possession of them.
Just prior to the publication of his interview on October 5, events unfolded as if they came straight off the pages of a Robert Ludlum thriller. On September 30, Vanunu was lured by a female Mossad agent from London to Rome, where he was captured and scurried off to Israel. Behind closed doors he stood trial for treason, was quickly convicted and sentenced to an 18-year term. If the Israeli government had hoped he would quietly and contritely fade away, they were sadly mistaken.
Vanunu vociferously renewed his call for Israel to come clean regarding its nuclear arsenal (reportedly the world’s fifth largest) and open the Dimona reactor to international inspection. Israel still remains the only country in the Middle East to be a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has likewise barred entry to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) personnel.
Although the term “whistleblower” is often used to describe Vanunu, it is a rather weak and understated characterization. He was a siren, alerting the world that nuclear weapons had found their way into the Middle East, shattering Israel’s official policy of nuclear ambiguity.
Saturday, July 7, 2007
After three weeks of a complete ban on importing commercial goods to Gaza, the industrial sector in Gaza is collapsing. Over 2,900 factories (out of 3,900) have shut down due to the shortage of raw materials, banned from entering Gaza with the closure of Karni crossing.
¨ 75% of Gaza's factories have been paralyzed due to the shortage of raw materials.
¨ Israel’s Customs Authority deleted from its computers the customs code used to identify goods entering Gaza, with the exception of humanitarian goods, such as donations of food, medicine and medical equipment. Gaza is closed to the importation of goods.
¨ The price of raw materials for household and industrial consumption has risen between 15% and 34%.
¨ Approximately 30,000 factory workers stand to lose their jobs (factory workers constitute 10% of those working in Gaza, and together they support approximately 210,000 dependents).
¨ The policy of closure is turning Gaza residents into charity dependents.
Read also this report from Oxfam's Michael Bailey on the border situation between Israel and Gaza
Friday, July 6, 2007
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Since Hamas’ election victory early last year Hassan has not received a full month’s salary, going many months without pay. Today, for the first time in 17 months he did received a full month’s wages, and this while remaining home, actually being ordered by his commanders now in the West Bank to stay home. Government employed policemen also are staying home obeying similar orders. Hamas has replaced these with, for the most part quite capable Hamas traffic controllers. These Hamas men, who are now doing the work, are not being paid, while the original government employees (mainly Fatah supporters) remain home, yet are paid.
My friend Ra’ed was at my place earlier this morning and was outraged at this imbalanced and unjust situation. Reacting with reservation I tried to calm him justifying the situation as being such as the forces that be desire them to be. Later, I was shocked at my complacency. I do believe there is truth in my reasoning, yet should we none the less not be appalled at injustice?
Hassan is one of the many Fatah men who participated in a US-funded training camp, along with 40 of Dahlan’s men in Egypt two months ago. 250 of them returned during the first round of fighting in May. His hatred for Hamas runs deep, of the 500 men who trained in Egypt with him, four were killed last month. Many more were shot in the legs. He spoke of the likelihood of one of his colleagues wheeling himself into a mosque (in the Gaza Strip these are almost entirely run by Hamas) and blowing himself up among men who are fellow Palestinians, yet, political foes.
How terribly deep this division has seeped into the psyche of so many Palestinians.
Last night I was visiting my friend Abu Joudat and his family, who live right next to the Doughmosh clan, some of their members were the ones holding Alan. I got to Abu Joudat’s house after 10pm and the street was full of checkpoints, and masked gunmen in some areas. These scenes are not new in Gaza and yet in the past three weeks there has been very little of this. There was much talk that Hamas had taken the spokesman of the Islamic Army hostage along with other clan members while the Islamic Army had taken some Hamas members and negotiations were under way.
Abu Joudat predicted to me he expected this to be the night Alan would be freed. At 6:30am he called and confirmed his prediction. Alan was amazingly calm in a press conference. After a nice homos breakfast with all the Hamas leadership he is now off to Jerusalem.
Here, a timeline of his time in captivity.
Alan's freeing is incredible proof of Hamas’ ability to ascertain law and order, Fatah and no one else was ever able to do the same. Sadly I doubt this will change international leaders relations with Hamas, who are calling for both negotiations with Fatah’s new emergency government as well as with Israel. Neither is replying. I am pleased that Hamas have made Gaza a much safer place to live in again. Radio stations in Gaza aired many callers who were relieved and overjoyed at Alan’s release. Today Gaza loses a true friend, who lived in Gaza for three years as the only international journalist to be stationed here full-time, telling of the plight of the Palestinians.
The fact that beaches have been packed over the past weeks is proof of Hamas’ ability to bring security. For many in Gaza the beach is really the only distraction, the only escape from the unemployment and poverty. While conflict continued between Fatah and Hamas in the past many months, beaches remained rather empty, few people had the nerve to seek such enjoyment under those circumstances. By 8pm most nights the streets were almost completely empty.
Now all that has changed. Yesterday, a regular workday, the beaches were full. Even by 9pm in the Northern Gaza Strip, just kilometers from Israel’s border and the very site where an entire family was murdered when Israeli tanks shelled a beach one year ago families were still out enjoying the summer and the new found safety in the Gaza Strip.
Let us hope that this summer will bring some quiet for the people of Gaza.