Friday, September 21, 2007

JPost: Israel seeks again to rid itself of Gaza

This report from the Jerusalem Post points to two things. First, Israel's continued attempt to wash its hands of the chaos of the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, what justifies Israel internationally even to such a statement is the Hamas takeover there in mid-June. Thus, second, as this blog has posited in the past, Israeli dreams have actually been vastly aided by the Hamas takeover of Gaza. Today this becomes even more evident.

"A day after the cabinet defined the Gaza Strip as "hostile territory," The Jerusalem Post learned Thursday that the IDF is working on a proposal that calls for a "complete disengagement" from the Gaza Strip - involving the closure of all border crossings with Israel and the transfer of all responsibility over the Palestinian territory to Egypt.

The proposal, defense officials said, was recently raised by Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky during a series of meetings within the defense establishment.

While Israel removed its military positions and settlements from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it has maintained a certain level of responsibility for the Palestinian population there, including coordinating the Gaza-based activities of humanitarian organizations such as UNRWA, the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

According to the proposal, which officials stressed was in its early stages, Israel would completely disconnect from Gaza by closing off the Erez, Karni, Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossings and instead directing humanitarian organizations to work with Egypt."

UN: warning to Israel over Gaza

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Yousef Krauss- A dreary Ramadan descends on Gaza

GAZA CITY (AFP) — On a normal Ramadan evening Kazem's ice cream shop in Gaza City would be packed, with a mob of people pressing towards the counter and cars jamming the street outside.

But on the first weekend of this year's Muslim holy month no more than a dozen people were waiting and the street in front was clear. Weary Gazans had broken the fast, said their final daily prayers and decided to stay indoors.

"Because of all the problems between Fatah and Hamas the people are at home, afraid," said Faris Kafarna, 25, as he walked past Kazem's on his way home.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fatah Plants Bomb in Gaza

AZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas forces on Sunday said they discovered a bomb next the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza City and accused the rival Fatah movement of planting the device.

Islam Shahwan, spokesman for Hamas' paramilitary Executive Force, said the 33-pound bomb was defused after it was discovered at about 5 a.m.

"It's a dangerous escalation," he said. "We believe that some elements in Fatah, based in Ramallah, are behind this and other attacks," he said. No arrests were made.

And this, within the Animal Farm,

Raji Sourani, PCHR Director, told a 7-member British parliamentary delegation visiting the Center’s office in Gaza that Israel’s policy of hermetic closure of Gaza allowing only food in has transformed Gaza’s 365 square kilometer area into an animal farm. He added that this closure transforms 1.6 million people in Gaza into a nation of beggars by only allowing food products to enter. Sourani stated that the US and Europe are parties to the crime against the Gaza Strip and its population by their consent and silence towards this policy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fatah General Strike hits Gaza

A PLO called for strike was carried out in Gaza, where shops, businesses and schools were closed in response to heavy handed Hamas crack downs on Fatah organized prayers on Friday.

This from Aljazeera,

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Fatah Warlord, Dahlan returns

Former Fatah strongman Mohamed Dahlan, speaking at a London conference, stated that Hamas had made "a strategic and historic mistake" in their takeover of Gaza. He made bold claims concerning a political solution between Israel and the Palestinians referencing his comeback in the Palestinian political scene, "I am quite convinced that the solution I am hoping for will succeed by 70 percent."

As he himself pointed out ("I am a person detested by Hamas, to my honor,"), Dahlan was already a detested figure in the Islamic movement's camp prior to the Hamas takeover in Gaza and yet after Hamas took power, he was possibly hated even more by his own Fatah supporters for his poor showing during Hamas' military routing of Fatah forces in Gaza in mid June. With strong outside support, which he seems to have, Dahlan would be able to prevail over even these seemingly impossible odds.

Meanwhile Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has for the first time made a committed statement to return to the negotiating table with Hamas by promising to re-activate a power sharing deal with his political rivals if the latter cede power in Gaza.

He went on to say,
"the Mecca agreement... is still a valid way out of the tense situation in the Palestinian territories, on condition that the situation in Gaza returns to what it was."

Abbas furthermore called for the Saudi backed Arab Peace Initiative to be considered part of the Mecca Agreement between Hamas and Fatah.
Egypt for its part has already condemned to failure the US proposed November Peace Talks.

Dahlan backed such predictions,

"I find that the prevailing atmosphere is not conducive to a breakthrough at this conference... I sincerely hope I'm mistaken because the opportunity is a historic one."

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Between Baghdad and Gaza

This is the story of a friend. I do not use his real name.
This is the plight of being Palestinian, stateless.

The 4km stretch of land was squalid, with no water, no food and nowhere to take shelter. The strip of land truly did justice to its name, No Man’s Land. Roughly 400 refugees were located there with no way of returning where they had come from, the hell of Iraq, and without permission to continue on to the police state of Syria. The people that inhabited this No Man’s Land were paperless and stateless.

The border between Iraq and Syria was the only space on earth where Karim was given permission to exist. It was July when Karim arrived at the border, escaping a death threat and having left his family and all that he knew behind, he was making an attempt at reaching his mother’s homeland that he had never visited, Syria. During those four months, with the sun beating down on the hundreds of people stuck there, the most immediate concern was a mere drink of water. Karim’s only travel document was a Palestinian passport issued by the Palestinian Authority in 1994, but never acknowledged by Israel who holds the official registry of all Palestinians within the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians residing outside of these areas have no “right of return” while Europeans, Americans, Russians, Ethiopians… really anyone who could trace their family origins back to the Jewish people was given access and legal rights to live, work and die in Israel, the land of historic Palestine.

Four months after arriving at the border, on November 8th, Karim’s mother picked him up, driving him to their new temporary home on the outskirts of Damascus. His skin was like leather she said as every drop of water he was able to find during those months was barely enough for drinking. Karim’s teeth had begun to decay. After months of trying Karim’s family was able to receive a letter from a Syrian government official giving Karim permission to enter Syria but without residency. At any moment he could be deported to the very place he had come from. Syria had given him temporary permission to become an illegal refugee in the police state.

In 1994 Karim’s father, Abu Karim, had chosen not to take on the Iraqi citizenship in the hope of one day returning to a state of Palestine still to be established. Abu Karim was Palestinian, from the Gaza Strip’s city of Deer Al-Balach where his family had fled from Beer Sheva in 1948 today located in Israel. Abu Karim was one of those ambitious Palestinians that despite the odds fought his way into university in Gaza and then continued his higher education in engineering in the UK. When he took on a job with General Electric in Baghdad he settled there with his family.

Karim was raised in an upper class neighborhood of Baghdad, his brother called it, the “Hollywood of Baghdad”. There he described to me a life wholly unimaginable to one who had grown accustomed to the media’s bloody reports of the city. Karim described today’s city of anarchy as the playground of his youth. There, he drove fast motorcycles through the streets and along with his brother was known as a little trouble maker at school. All this was to change with the international community’s siege on Iraq in the early 90s following the first Iraq war. By this time Abu Karim was running Iraq’s biggest import-export company. It was the people of Iraq who suffered most from the siege. At that time Karim’s life was affected dramatically, but it was the war in 2003 that changed everything.

The US lead invasion transformed the way of life in Iraq. It was for one of the US soldiers roaming the streets of Baghdad that Karim translated in a shop one day. Abu Karim had raised his children speaking English, he himself knowing seven languages. After the short encounter in the shop the soldier asked Karim to translate for the army and Karim agreed. But upon interrogation and the US officials realizing Karim did not have Iraqi citizenship, they imprisoned him in order to investigate his status in Iraq. Within seven days he was cleared and yet it was not until eleven months later that Karim was released by the Americans having passed through some of the worst US run prisons in Iraq.

Saddam Hussein, much like the Assads, the neighboring Arab dictators in Syria, was gaining political capital by officially taking the Palestinians under his wing. It was well known in the West Bank and Gaza that the Ba’ath party sent monies to family’s whose members had died as “martyrs”, especially in attacks on Israeli army outposts. Yet, within Iraq this was largely for show and Palestinians though given a space to live in Iraq, a packed refugee camp not unlike those within the Palestinian areas, remained a stateless people at the mercy of a foreign Arab tyrant. Karim had excelled in a private school for advanced students and one day Saddam Hussein had come to visit the academy that was named after him. Upon his discovery that the top 17 students were Palestinians he had all Palestinians dismissed from the school the following day. Karim had been the first in his class and early on experienced the racism of living without rights.

Yet, it was the perception that Saddam made the Palestinians his spoiled favorite minority that brought on them the wrath of Shiite militias that sought revenge on anything connected to the legacy of the man who had suppressed, tortured and killed thousands of Shiites during his reign.

Karim’s family left their neighborhood a ghost town, partially occupied by militias but devoid of anything resembling the life that had not so long ago existed there. Even deeper tragedy struck when Karim lost his father in July.

Abu Karim had remained in Baghdad after the rest of his family had fled to Syria. There he was captured by a Shiite militia. He was tortured and upon release Abu Karim was able to travel to Syria and underwent an emergency operation to amputate his leg to try and prevent the gangrene from reaching the rest of his body. He lost the race against time. One week later Abu Karim died as the virus reached throughout his body.

Abu Karim was a wise man with deep love for his family. With the civil war looming in Iraq he had told his son Karim never to be overcome by a desire for revenge. Revenge, he taught, was an animal instinct that needed to be rooted out of humans. Karim today seeks no revenge on his father’s killers.

Karim is a prisoner in this world, only temporarily escaping the cell of No Man’s Land he has been sentenced to. Karim is fatherless and homeless as a result of war, as a result of occupation, as a result of injustice.

Iran: Palestinian Reconciliation; Israel: Palestinian Division

Some absurdities are taking place in the happy Western world balance of Good ("the West"...oddly enough including War ally Australia) and Evil (the so-called "Middle East" "/" "Islamic World"). It is one of the members of the famed "Axis of Evil" (North Korea by the way has just asked to be excused from this list) Iran, who is hosting reconciliation talks between the various factions.

The Algerian ambassador in Cairo for his part has also called for a "fact-finding committee on Hamas' takeover Gaza Strip to become a reconciliation committee between the Palestinians."

Just a few weeks ago Palestinian premier had seemed to soften his hard line stance towards Hamas when he called for a
"return to national unity."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office responded by stating that any Fatah-Hamas unification would cause "a breakdown of the diplomatic process", Abbas they said was "well aware" of their position. Israel seems to be quite fond of this (convenient) division.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

JPost: Fatah "Intifada" vs. Hamas

The Jerusalem Post can finally appease its readers by writing of an "intifada" that has broken out between Palestinian factions in Gaza. Monday morning a second Hamas vehicle was blown up by unidentified Fatah members. As someone in Jerusalem once told me, the Israelis have never had it better, the Palestinians are attacking and killing each other and for the most part are leaving Israel alone. As I have been trying to point out for the past many months the story goes much deeper than Palestinian "Extremist Muslims" hate and kill "Secular Nationalists" and vice versa.

Division has very often been the strategy to control a people, especially when the occupied population is
bigger than the occupying power. One has to look past what the media is telling in its most common platforms in order to see that this is also the case in the Gaza Strip. In no way does this excuse either members of Fatah or Hamas of the actions they are perpetrating, but one always must look beneath the surface for the root of disease. Violence is no natural state of being.

This is the Jerusalem Post's superficial perspective of what takes place in Gaza, by using the Palestinians' own language of "intifada' they are demonizing their Palestinian neighbors and solidifying their place in the annals if history as a self-destructive people that are not to be trusted, who are naturally inclined to such inter-fighting.

"There are increasing indications that Fatah is trying to organize an intifada against Hamas, as Fatah members in the Gaza Strip try to snap out of what one commander termed a state of "depression" following their defeat at the hands of Hamas in June...

Fatah officials expressed deep satisfaction with the anti-Hamas demonstrations...

Hamas leaders said they did not rule out the possibility that Fatah members would resort to an "armed struggle" against the Islamist movement.

They added that there was growing evidence that Fatah was preparing for armed attacks on Hamas figures and institutions. They also noted that over the weekend Hamas militiamen discovered a weapons factory inside the house of a former Fatah security commander in the Strip."

Aljazeera provided this report of a Hamas cartoon that is communicating to Gaza's children this deepest of divides between the two factions. A division driven by external forces and kindled by conditions that bring us back to a mentality of survival of the fittest.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

First Fatah attack on Hamas since takeover; Hamas breaks up prayers

The DPA and local news sources reported the first Fatah violent attack of revenge on Hamas since the Hamas takeover June 14,

"An explosion in southern Gaza city on Saturday ripped through the car of a member of the Gaza Strip's ruling Hamas movement, which has been running the enclave since June, Hamas sources said.

The sources said the blast has completely destroyed the vehicle which was parked in front of the home of the owner, whom the sources did not identify.

The incident took place following a day of clashes between the Hamas police force and supporters of rival Fatah movement whom Hamas drove from power on June 14.

Fatah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, started to hold weekly Friday prayers outside mosques, protesting Hamas incitement against them."

Few journalists are able to film the events that are taking place in Gaza without permission from Hamas; here are some images that were captured. Depicted is Hamas security members detaining Fatah members who on Friday gathered to worship in a downtown square in Gaza City because they do not feel welcome within Hamas-run mosques.

On August 27th, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights provided the following report of Hamas detentions of Fatah members.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, on Saturday morning, 25 August 2007, the Executive Force arrested 15 residents of al-Daraj neighborhood in the east of Gaza City to interrogate them about their participation in the prayer conducted in the Unknown Soldier Yard in Gaza City on the preceding day, and the demonstration that followed. Fatah movement had called for doing the Friday Prayer in the Unknown Solider Yard, in protest to what it described as “the incitement and politicization of religious preaches at mosques.” According to a number of released detainees, they were beaten and humiliated during their detention at al-Saraya security compound. They were also forced to sign a document pledging not to participate in any activities organized by Fatah movement and not to give any information to the media, and if they break this pledge, they must pay 3,000 JD (approximately US$ 4,285).

In the same context, the Executive Force arrested 3 residents of the same neighborhood on Sunday morning, 26 August 2007. They were also beaten, humiliated and forced to sign the same pledge.

In his testimony to PCHR, one of the released detainees stated:

“At approximately 04:15 on Saturday, 25 August 2007, many members of the Executive Force broke into the yard of our house and arrested my brother who got out to check what was going on. They then ordered me and my other brothers to get out. As soon as I got out, they handcuffed, blindfolded and violently beat me. They placed me in a jeep and then transported me to al-Saraya compound. During our way to al-Saraya compound, they continued to beat me. I sustained fractures to my left hand and upper jaw. In al-Saraya security compound, they interrogated me about my participation in the Friday prayer and the demonstration that followed. During the interrogation, they beat and insulted me. They then forced me to sign a document pledging not to participate in demonstrations and activities organized by Fatah movement and not to talk to the media, and if I violate this pledge, I must pay 3,000 JD. They released me and my brothers at approximately 09:00 on the same day.”