News From Palestine
- Letter from Palestine
Written by : anonymous
Morning came and we found that 90 of the nation's best men were
captured by Israel from their homes in the night. Our mayor, who was
released from four years in prison just a month ago. Someone for whom
I have the utmost respect and admiration, as do his people here,
political allies and opponents alike. And our vice mayor, too. The
last time I talked with him, earlier this week, he was struggling a
lot with chronic back pain. I wonder where they are now. If they have
been fed today, or tortured. If they will sleep on beds tonight, or
not at all. If they will be home tomorrow. If we will never see some
of them again alive.
It's the first time Palestinians have captured an Israeli soldier in a
long time; families of prisoners have begged the resistance not to
release him until there is a prisoner exchange no matter what the
consequences to the communitybeing well acquainted with the suffering
Everyone went about their business today, wedding processions in the
streets, families eating icecream and watermelon in the sticky heat.
Some with the heavy numb shock of loved ones vanished suddenly, shock
without surprise; they expected that the price that has been paid, and
paid, and paid, for keeping one's spirit from being broken, must be
paid again. Myself, I couldn't keep from crying from time to time,
although for me it is just a very small taste of the shock, seeing two
good men that I know a little, powerful in their community with the
power the community has entrusted them with, suddenly made helpless,
pieces of meat for Israeli intelligence officers somewhere to enjoy,
and knowing that if I knew them more, if I knew others, the sense of
anger and sorrow and disbelief would be multiplied. I know that for
the people around me these tears formed years and years ago. The anger
and sorrow and loss and disbelief have happened too many times to
count, but it does not diminish, to the world it is one more added to
a large number, for each mother and sister and wife it is an
unconsolable agony, an irreplaceable loss, an unimaginable theft, a
violation of a family, a marriage, that might never be able to recover
from the traumas and abuses that are being suffered, will be suffered
in the days ahead.
Israel has over 10,000 Palestinian hostages, hundreds of them
children, and slaughters Palestinians of any age on a daily basis.
When Palestinians take 2 Israeli hostages and kill two soldiers,
Israeli bombs Gaza. Bombs out the power stations, the water
reticulation; no electricity, no water, bridges blasted severing
cities from each other. Gaza Strip, the most densely populated area on
earth on account of Israel using it as a specially designed human
garbage can where refugees are disposed off and hermetically sealed
off from the rest of the world. Brilliant, but unsuccessful. If you
treat humans as garbage and they know that they are humans and not
garbage, they will not quietly disappear. You will never sleep safe at
night. You will never have the right to sleep safe at night. May you
never sleep safe at night.
A young woman in my neighborhood asked, can you believe Israel
kidnapped most of our government last night? Imagine waking up to hear
that Palestinian forces had kidnapped 90 Israeli government leaders.
It's hard to imagine that Israel would leave one house standing, one
Imagine if Palestinians had the military capacity to punish Israel
on a comparable scale for every two hostages it takes and two it
kills. Imagine if Americans, and Europeans, valued the blood of
Palestinians and Iraqis as much as their own blood. Imagine if the
nations of the world used their armies to protect the lives of the
innocent and bring to justice thieving, raping, murdering states.
A couple days ago I sat with someone I know, who was taken hostage
last night. He explained part of Hamas' interpretation of the Qur'an
as follows: there are three kinds of people that Muslims have to deal
with. 1) Those who treat you with respect. In this case, it is a crime
against God to treat them with anything but respect, kindness, and
hospitality. In other words, if a Jew wanted to immigrate to Palestine
with full respect for the people here, wishing to become a member of
Palestinian society, he should be welcomed. 2) Then there are those
who do not respect you, and oppose you. You have no obligation to
extend hospitality to them. 3) Then there are those who have no
respect for your humanity, your property or your religion, they take
power over your land and your lives, destroy your land and kill your
people. In this case you have an obligation to fight against them to
protect your land and your people. If they kill your people, you can
kill their people.
Today I visited with another friend who thinks he may be captured
tonight; so many of his friends were captured last night. He said,
Israel doesn't care too much about the lives of the Israeli hostages,
in the past there were cases of them killing the hostages themselves
by indiscriminate bombing of communities. But Israel has been waiting
since Hamas' election for Hamas' first military operation, and so they
knew this massive attack on the community would come, sooner or later.
Even though different groups have participated in the Palestinian
military operations in the past few days, all of Israel's targets are
Hamas leaders. Israel wants to see Hamas destroyed, Europe and America
want to see Hamas destroyed, and Abu Mazen seems to be trying his best
to join them. Many of those arrested were among the Hamas members that
Israel exiled to the no mans land between Israel and Lebanon, a decade
He told me some of his friend's stories from those three terrible
years, living in tents through snowy winters. He talked about the warm
spirit that thrived in the tents during freezing months. He told of
how hungry men went to an apricot orchard and couldn't find the owner,
so they took some fruit and then tied some money in a handkerchief to
the tree. When the owner found it, he tracked them down, and said to
them, with tears coming down his face, what kind of men are you,
starving and rejected by the world, who have such principles that you
will not even take fruit that you find on a tree. I give you my fruit,
I give you my orchards!
I felt the poverty of being from the West, where the media can say
nothing about these men except to endlessly regurgitate simpleminded
slander of those captured I know just a few names, and little of
their stories. For anyone here, each of these names represents a rich
story, decades of struggles, of suffering, heroism, years of prison,
of pain, of courage, of trying again, of hopes betrayed, of
disappointment and endurance that continues forward to find new hope.
We had this conversation over lunch in his daughter's home. She and
her husband were active with Hamas and he was seized by Israel and
killed in prison, leaving her with their three small children. Don't
forget, it is America that gives Israel everything it needs to do this
to us, she said. When we left, she and her three boys kissed him over
and over, not knowing if tomorrow they will wake up to hear that her
dad, their grandpa, has become a prisoner.
This week I spent with a French student, an orphan of war in
Bangladesh, who is doing research on women's views of dignity. Dignity
is a word thrown around a lot in international law but without
definition; people have a "right to dignity" but since no one knows
what it is, when it comes right down to it violations of this right
cannot be prosecuted. I helped her interview dozens of women this
week, from Fatah, Hamas, PFLP, poor and wealthy, educated and
illiterate, young and old. We would sit down with strangers and as
soon as dignity, al karame, was mentioned, the room burst into life
with passionate opinions, terrible stories, and incredibly brave and
inspiring statements. Here are some of the things I heard about dignity.
There is no dignity in Palestine; we face humiliation at checkpoints,
restriction from visiting our families or going to school, soldiers in
our homes during the night, prison Israel's war is first of all
against our dignity which Israel attacks from every angle and with
every means possible, because if it can succeed in destroying our
dignity, we will not be able to resist anymore. There is tremendous
dignity in Palestine; perhaps more than anywhere else in the world,
because the occupation with all its mechanisms for humiliation makes
us aware of our dignity; the more they try to destroy our dignity the
stronger our dignity becomes; they are getting the opposite results
that they want. There are two kinds of dignity: one that you get from
others, when you are treated with dignity, the other comes from inside
of you, from what you know about who you really are before God, and no
one has the power to take this away from you unless you let them. Even
if as women we are captured by Israel, stripped naked and raped in the
prisons, if we resist every attack upon our dignity it will not be
lost. A woman was told at a checkpoint to remove her scarf. She
refused, and the soldier showed her a metal rod and said he would
drive it through her eyes if she did not take it off. You can have
your eyes, or you can have your dignity. She refused. He drove it
through her eyes. She survived, but she is blind. And she did not lose
her dignity. A friend of the Prophet Mohammad, a woman, was tied to
the ground by a man who made her choose between her dignity or her
life. The only thing she was able to do was to spit in his face, and
she did. He killed her. But he did not destroy her dignity.
Arab people have a great source of dignity from the rich and deep
history of our culture. But now all Arab lands are captive and only in
Iraq and Palestine are we free within ourselves, because we do not
accept the enslavement that is forced upon us; our resistance gives us
We get our dignity from our land. It is our life. As long as we are
in our land, no matter how much we suffer, we will have our dignity.
If they succeed in expelling us to Jordan, our dignity will be lost
forever. I have my family's olive trees. Every year I used to have
precious olive oil from my own trees that I could give generously to
my friends and neighbors. Now Israel has killed half of my trees and
imprisoned the rest. These trees are like my own children. It is a
terrible, terrible sorrow and shame for me each day to know that I am
powerless to help them. Now, when we need olive oil for ourselves, we
have to go to the store and buy it. But I was one who could generously
give olive oil to my friends and relatives.
We get our dignity from Islam, as women, and as human beings. In our
culture, before Islam, women were just seen as property, baby girls
could be buried alive. We see women in many parts of the world who
have no dignity. Islam has given us our full rights as women in every
sense, and full equality with every other human being. In the Qur'an
God says that he has given the same dignity to every human beingit
does not depend on whether you are male or female, or whether you are
Muslim or from another religion, each of us has the same worth.
What do you expect and hope for in the future?
Things will get much, much worse. It is written that we will suffer
like this until near the end.
Our hope comes from knowing that Jesus will come back and will remove
all injustice from the earth, and at last the race of mankind will be
free to live in peace and equality.
What do you believe should be the political outcome for Palestine?
If only they would all go back where they came from, we could live in
peace in our homes and land again.
We can never live with them; if someone has killed your children, can
you accept them as a neighbor?
We already live with them, of course we can in the future.
We cannot live with them, we must have a state, and they must have a
state. About all the refugees who have their homes and lands in
Israel, I don't know ..
We can live with them in one state, the refugees must be given back
their homes and their land.
If we have an Islamic state on all of Palestine, it is the only way we
will be able to live together, us and them, because Islam is the only
system where equality between people of different religions is protected
Do you think negotiations or armed struggle is the best strategy at
Of course, if we could get our rights back without violence, that
would be the best way. If negotiations ever worked, then we should use
that instead of armed struggle, but they have never produced anything.
We have to keep fighting to protect our land and our community. How
could it be right to do nothing when daily they are attacking our
lives and our land?
As a woman would you participate in armed struggle?
I admire women who do, but I myself don't think I'm capable of it. My
contribution is to study and be a good mother to my children.
No, I don't think women should carry weapons.
Yes! It would be a great honor to fight for my country!
Yes! How I wish we had the chance to be trained as soldiers like all
the Israeli women are. I am not married yet, but I hope that one day I
will have a son who will give his life for our country to be free.
The Americans, Europeans and Israelis place more value on the blood of
their dogs and cats than they do on the blood of Palestinians. None of
us can ever forget the sight of little Huda screaming for her father
on the beach of Gaza, throwing herself on the sand next to his dead
body over and over. No one in the world has expressed their outrage,
or even sorrow, to us about these atrocities against us. They care
deeply about the Mundial, and Huda's agony is an interruption, a
distraction, from the soccer score. Our blood is so, so cheap to the
world, and Israeli blood is so valuable. They do not see our humanity
How do you find your sense of your own humanity, when all the world is
telling you your life, your death, your blood is worthless?
When it comes down to that, we know that God sees us, even if we are
suffering in an Israeli torture chamber and no one in our family knows
if where we are or if we are alive or dead, we know that God sees us
and knows our value, our humanity. We belong to him, and in that is
our worth, and our hope, our fates are in his hands and our lives are
very precious to him, no matter how worthless they are to our brothers
and sisters in the human race, and in the end, that is what matters.
We know who we are. Our lives, our deaths, our suffering, our hopes,
our disappointment, are not insignificant. Yesterday I met a new
appointee from the German government in Jerusalem, a young guy with an
American accent. He was happy that Hamas and Fatah had agreed on the
Prisoners' Document. Great, we've gotten Hamas to recognize Israel, he
said. Now we just have to get them to renounce armed struggle, and
then get rid of these ideas of an Islamic state. The problem is when
we bring democracy to the middle east, we always have to deal with the
challenge of making sure there is a secular state when so many people
want an Islamic state. (Jewish states, apparently, are just dandy.)
What these Palestinians just don't understand, he said, is that armed
struggle won't get them anywhere. Haven't they learned anything, after
all these years? It's really hurting their image in the international
community. Well, I said sarcastically, since you understand this so
well, and none of the Palestinians have been able to grasp it, maybe
you should explain it to them then. Oh, I am, every Palestinian I
meet, he said with sincerity.
And what is that dazzling offer that Europe will extend, if
Palestinians promise to sit on their hands and open their mouths? In
exchange for your dignity, what? Maybe longlife, lifelong food
rations? Maybe the chance to clean toilets in Israel, and the dream
that your grandchildren could do the same?
I have not been here too long, but it is long enough to be sure of one
thing: It is the Europeans, the Israelis, and the Americans who fail
to grasp the central truth, after all these decades of trying to
finetune the catastrophe they have engineered in Palestine: these
women and men and children, who carry their heads so high, know who
they are. They are prepared to sacrifice their lives, but they are not
prepared to sacrifice their dignity. While the world discusses the
moral or strategic aspects of armed resistance, there is no confusion
about these issues here. Undefended, dignityand the landwould be
lost, and death would be better. With or without your permission, they
will continue to fight.
this letter was received by NECDP, New England Committee toi Defend
WHAT'S ALL THIS ABOUT A "KIDNAPPED" ISRAELI SOLDIER?
by Michael A. Hoffman II
June 26, 2006
What's all this about a "kidnapped" Israeli soldier? When Palestinians
are abducted by Israelis the US media terms it an "apprehension" and
describe the Palestinian victims as having been "taken into custody."
There is no international alarm or outcry.
Every time a Palestinian father or brother is spirited to an Israeli
concentration camp the operation is never, under any circumstances,
described as a kidnapping, but rather in terms of a legitimate police
action by legitimate authorities: "seizure, arrest, apprehension,
But when Palestinians apprehend an Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit,
suddenly we have a "terrorist kidnapping" on our hands and the
Palestinian people are threatened by the Israelis with collective
punishment and mass murder.
Whenever an Israeli killer -- or potential killer -- is made a
prisoner of war by the Palestinian resistance that is one less state
terrorist available to shoot their children in the head.
It is absolutely incumbent upon the Palestinians, however, to treat
the Israeli combatant they have taken into custody better than
Israelis treat Palestinians, and Americans treat Muslims at Abu Ghraib
and Gitmo. The Israeli soldier must be treated humanely, according to
the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war. The failure to do so causes
the Palestinians to descend to the level of the Israelis and the
regime of George W. Bush.
The Talmudic racism inherent in this latest incident is palpable. The
lesson here is that no one on earth has the right to arrest a Judaic
soldier. His person is sacred and inviolable. But the Israelis may do
whatever they like to disposable Palestinian Amalekites: put them in
concentration camps, shoot them and their children in the head, or
blow their religious leaders out of wheelchairs with missiles.
Judaism exempts itself from the rules it demands for everyone else.
Palestinians in Gaza have
NO cooling fans
NO water (pumped by electricity)
NO Drinking WATER (pumped by electricity)
NO sewage (pumped by electricity)
NO communication IN or OUT
NO cooking oil
Most critical of all is NO DRINKING WATER. Sitting ducks for 6
months minimum - what will people of Gaza do?
Just as importantly, what will we do?
Israel's Appalling Bombing in Gaza
Starving in the Dark
By VIRGINIA TILLEY
On the excuse of rescuing one kidnapped soldier, Israeli is now
bombing the Gaza Strip and is poised to re-invade. It has also
arrested a third of the Palestinian parliament, wrecking even its
fragile illusion of capacity and reducing the already-empty vessel of
the Palestinian Authority into broken shards.
In the shambles, Palestinians may be observing one bitter pill of
compensation: vicious angling by Fatah to reclaim control of
Palestinian national politics and its rivalry with Hamas are now
rendered obsolete. Even the dogged international community cannot
maintain its dogged pretense that the PA is actually capable of
any governance at all. The demise of the disastrous Oslo model,
Israel's device to ensure its final dismemberment of Palestinian land
and its fatal cooptation of the Palestinian national movement, may
finally be at hand. Perhaps Palestinian unity again has a chance.
But no one knows what will replace the PA. It is therefore not
surprising that this transformed diplomatic landscape is absorbing the
principal attention of an anxious international community.
Nevertheless, politics should not be the greatest international
concern. For over in Gaza, one appalling act must now eclipse all
thoughts of "road maps" or "mutual gestures": on Wednesday, Israeli
war planes repeatedly bombed and utterly demolished Gaza's only power
plant. About 700,000 of Gaza's 1.3 million people now have no
electricity, and word is that power cannot be restored for six months.
It is not the immediate human conditions created by this strike that
are monumental. Those conditions are, of course, bad enough. No
lights, no refrigerators, no fans through the suffocating Gaza summer
heat. No going outside for air, due to ongoing bombing and Israel's
impending military assault. In the hot darkness, massive explosions
shake the cities, close and far, while repeated sonic booms are
doubtless wreaking the havoc they have wrought before: smashing
windows, sending children screaming into the arms of terrified adults,
old people collapsing with heart failure, pregnant women collapsing
with spontaneous abortions. Mass terror, despair, desperate hoarding
of food and water. And no radios, television, cell phones, or laptops
(for the few who have them), and so no way to get news of how long
this nightmare might go on.
But this time, the situation is worse than that. As food in the
refrigerators spoils, the only remaining food is grains. Most people
cook with gas, but with the borders sealed, soon there will be no gas.
When family-kitchen propane tanks run out, there will be no cooking.
No cooked lentils or beans, no humus, no bread the staples
Palestinian foods, the only food for the poor. (And there is
no firewood or coal in dry, overcrowded Gaza.)
And yet, even all this misery is overshadowed by a grimmer fact: no
water. Gaza's public water supply is pumped by electricity. The taps,
too, are dry. No sewage system. And again, word is that the
electricity is out for at least six months.
The Gaza aquifer is already contaminated with sea water and sewage,
due to over-pumping (partly by those now-abandoned Israeli
settlements) and the grossly inadequate sewage system. To be
drinkable, well water is purified through machinery run by
electricity. Otherwise, the brackish water must at least be boiled
before it can be consumed, but this requires electricity or gas. And
people will soon have neither.
Drinking unpurified water means sickness, even cholera. If cholera
breaks out, it will spread like wildfire in a population so densely
packed and lacking fuel or water for sanitation. And the hospitals and
clinics aren't functioning, either, because there is no electricity.
Finally, people can't leave. None of the neighboring countries have
resources to absorb a million desperate and impoverished refugees:
logistically and politically, the flood would entirely destabilize
Egypt, for example. But Palestinians in Gaza can't seek sanctuary with
their relatives in the West Bank, either, because they can't get out
of Gaza to get there. They can't even go over the border into Egypt
and around through Jordan, because Israel will no longer allow people
with Gaza identification cards to enter the West Bank. In any case,
a cordon of Palestinian police are blocking people from trying to
scramble over the Egyptian border--and war refugees have tried,
through a hole blown open by militants, clutching packages and children.
In short, over a million civilians are now trapped, hunkered in their
homes listening to Israeli shells, while facing the awful prospect,
within days or weeks, of having to give toxic water to their children
that may consign them to quick but agonizing deaths.
One woman near the Rafah border, taking care of her nephews, spoke to
BBC: "If I am frightened in front of them I think they will die of
fear." If the international community does nothing, her children may
soon die anyway.
The astonishing scale of this humanitarian situation is indeed matched
only by the deafening drizzle of international reaction. "Of course it
is understandable that [the Israelis] would want to go after those who
kidnapped their soldier," says Kofi Anan (while the Palestinian
population cowers in the dark listening to thundering explosions
demolish their society), "but it has to be done in such a way that
civilian populations are not made to suffer." Even as Israel bombs
smash Gaza's roadways, the G-8 stands up on its hind-legs to intone,
"We call on Israel to exercise utmost restraint in the current
crisis." How about the Russians, now angling for position in the new
"Great Game" of the Middle East?
"The right and duty of the government of Israel to defend the lives
and security of its citizens are beyond doubt," says Russia's foreign
ministry, as though poor Corporal Shalit warrants any of this mayhem,
"But this should not be done at the cost of many lives and the lives
of many Palestinian civilians, by massive military strikes with heavy
consequences for the civilian population."
And what says noble Europe, proud font of human rights conventions,
architects of the misión civilizatrice? "The EU remains deeply
concerned," mumbles the mighty defenders of humanitarian law, "about
the worsening security and humanitarian developments." Seemingly soggy
phrases like "deeply concerned" are diplomatic code for "We are
seriously unhappy." But under these circumstances, "remains deeply
concerned" suggests that this staggering crime is just one more
sobering moment in the failed "road map."
Diplomatic bubbles of unreality in the Middle East are the norm rather
than the exception, but at some point the international community must
face the very unwelcome fact that it needs to change gear. A country
that claims kinship among the western democracies of Europe is
behaving like a murderous rogue regime, using any excuse to reduce
over a million people to utter human misery and even mass death.
Plastering Corporal Shalit's face over this policy is no more
convincing that South African newspapers emblazoning the picture of
one poor murdered white doctor over their coverage of the 1976 Soweto
Israel has done many things argued to be war crimes: mass house
demolitions, closing whole cities for weeks, indefinite "preventative"
detentions, massive land confiscation, the razing of thousands of
square miles of Palestinian olive groves and agriculture, systematic
physical and mental torture of prisoners, extrajudicial killings,
aerial bombardment of civilian areas, collective punishment of every
description in defiance of the Geneva Conventions--not to mention the
general humiliation and ruin of the indigenous people under its
military control. But destroying the only power source for a trapped
and defenseless civilian population is an unprecedented step toward
barbarity. It reeks, ironically, of the Warsaw Ghetto. As we flutter
our hands about tectonic political change, we must take pause: in the
eyes of history, what is happening in Gaza may come to eclipse them all.
Dr. Virginia Tilley is a professor of political science, currently
working in South Africa. She can be reached at tilley @ hws.edu.
In Gaza, Seeking Shelter From Israeli Fire
Missile Strikes Set Interior Ministry Ablaze
By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, June 30, 2006; A23
BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip, June 29 -- Fatin Shabaat left home here
Thursday with her three hip-high children, looking for safety from a
slow-moving Israeli military assault launched to free a 19-year-old
soldier being held by Palestinian gunmen.
Israeli artillery batteries lobbed shells around this farming
community in the Gaza Strip's northeastern corner throughout the day,
after leaflets dropped from the sky warned residents to remain clear
of Israeli military operations. Shells whistled overhead, slamming
into the fields and dunes where Palestinian gunmen regularly fire
crude rockets at the Israeli city of Sderot, a white smudge along a
ridgeline three miles away.
Although she never received one of the written warnings, Shabaat
clutched her children, ages 2, 3 and 4, and headed to her father's
home in the town center, far from the dirt paths that have served in
the past as routes for Israeli tanks. An Israeli airstrike had already
left her without electricity, along with about 700,000 other residents
of the strip, and artillery shells were falling close to her back yard.
"This is only going to get worse," said Shabaat, 25, who despite the
impending clash favors keeping the Israeli soldier captive until at
least some Palestinian prisoners are released from Israeli jails. "We
will not get anything otherwise. And they are going to invade anyway.
This soldier is just an excuse."
Shabaat's grim prognosis regarding the crisis over the captured
Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, was echoed in the West Bank, where
the Israeli military arrested more than 60 officials from the
governing Hamas movement in a pre-dawn sweep. The detainees included
two dozen members of parliament and nine cabinet ministers, more than
a third of the Hamas cabinet.
[Early Friday morning, Israeli military aircraft fired missiles at the
Interior Ministry headquarters in Gaza City, setting the building
ablaze. An army spokesman said the ministry, headed by Saed Siyam of
Hamas, was being used "for the planning and carrying out of terrorist
activities." Siyam's office was struck directly.
[Israeli airstrikes also hit several other targets Friday, including
the headquarters of a new Interior Ministry militia dominated by Hamas
members and a building that military officials said was used by
al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Fatah party's armed wing. Missiles also
struck roads in the north and south of the strip, some landing near a
key bridge that had already been hit this week. There were no
immediate reports of injuries.]
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government holds Hamas
responsible for Shalit's capture, which occurred Sunday during an
attack on an army post just outside Gaza's southeastern corner that
left two soldiers dead. The radical Islamic movement's armed wing was
involved in the attack and is one of three groups demanding the
release of 421 Palestinian women and minors in Israeli prisons in
exchange for information about Shalit's welfare.
Israel has arrested elected members of the Palestinian legislature
before, but never as many as it did Thursday.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said the
detained Hamas officials would be either charged and brought to trial
or released in the days ahead. He said plans to arrest Hamas officials
for belonging to what Israel designates a terrorist organization had
been in the works since Hamas's armed wing ended a 15-month cease-fire
with Israel after the June 9 explosion on a Gaza beach that killed
seven members of a Palestinian family.
Regev denied speculation that the Hamas legislators would be offered
in exchange for Shalit's freedom. "Hamas's involvement in terrorism is
the reason for these arrests, nothing more," he said.
But Palestinian political analysts said they believed the arrests were
timed to undermine a rare political agreement reached this week by
leaders of the two leading Palestinian political movements, Fatah and
The two parties have been at odds since Hamas's electoral victory in
January over how to respond to the international economic sanctions
that have choked off most of the government's funds. The United States
and European Union also designate Hamas a terrorist organization, a
classification that led to a freeze of most foreign aid.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the secular
Fatah movement, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas agreed in
principle this week to a unified political program that would usher in
a national unity government in the weeks ahead and endorse the
creation of a future Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East
Jerusalem, territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
Since it was founded nearly two decades ago, Hamas has called for an
Islamic state across a far larger territory that includes Israel.
Abbas and others had hoped the shift in Hamas's position would
persuade Israel to revive peace talks, which have been dormant for
more than five years.
"I don't think that, at a time ministers are in prison, a national
unity government with Fatah can be established," said Ali Jarbawi, a
political science professor at Beir Zeit University in the West Bank.
"It won't have legitimacy with Palestinian public opinion. What Israel
did through these arrests is interfere in a process that would
stabilize internal Palestinian relations, thus allowing it to continue
to claim that there is no Palestinian partner" for peace talks.
This town, which has been under the arc of Israeli military fire for
months, readied itself in small ways Thursday for what many of its
30,000 residents feared was an imminent assault. But Israeli Defense
Minister Amir Peretz later postponed a ground incursion into Beit
Hanoun, which had been scheduled to begin Thursday evening, after
Egyptian diplomats requested more time to negotiate Shalit's release.
A senior Israeli military official said Peretz did so after signs that
Khaled Mashal, Hamas's political leader in exile, could be softening
his position. Israeli officials and Egyptian diplomats say Mashal, who
lives in the Syrian capital of Damascus, has been the most important
voice inside the organization opposing Shalit's release.
"If he would change his mind and come around, he really has a lot of
influence," the senior military official said. "We will try to wait as
long as we can if we feel pressure is being put on him. We are not in
But the official also said the operation here was not only about
freeing Shalit but also about "weakening the Hamas government" and
ending rocket fire into southern Israel. In that sense, the official
said, Shalit's release through diplomacy may not be enough to
guarantee "our strategy of making sure they know that there will be a
very high price to pay for future kidnappings."
Before the operation was suspended, some residents here decamped to
stay with relatives, while others prepared to retreat. Some accused
Israel of using the capture of one soldier -- at a time when the
Israeli government holds 8,503 Palestinians in prison -- to stage an
attack that would do little to free him.
Others fired rockets toward Israel. Two of the missiles traced white
contour trails against the blue sky during a brief lull in the Israeli
"We have a plan to withdraw if the Israelis attack," said Hamada
Abdullah Hamada, 31, a sergeant with the Palestinian national forces
who was manning a makeshift outpost between the town and the Gaza border.
From the five shipping containers that formed the post, Hamada could
see flatbed trucks moving Israeli tanks along the border. The two
rockets rose from behind a nearby agricultural school a quarter-mile
from Hamada's concrete pillbox, and Israeli guns answered minutes
later with steady, thumping fire.
Pointing to the tank movements, Hamada said: "Even before the soldier
was kidnapped, the Israelis were doing this. They will come in."
Special correspondent Samuel Sockol in Jerusalem contributed to this
Economic Boycott of the Palestinian Government
The Price of Not Talking to Hamas
The situation in Palestine is deteriorating dramatically. However, not
only Hamas is to be blamed but the EU and other international donors
as well their attempt to sideline Hamas has fuelled the current
crisis. A commentary by Bettina Marx.
B. Marx: "The lack of prospects is radicalising people." - Thousands
of civil servants haven't received salaries in nearly four months
The picture was highly symbolic. After several weeks of boycott, corn
was finally delivered again to the Gaza Strip from Israel in mid-May.
Through a hole in the thick concrete wall at Checkpoint Karni, a thin
stream of corn grains was transported on a conveyor belt and then
loaded onto a truck on the Palestinian side of the border.
Karni is the only place where goods are exchanged between Israel and
the Gaza Strip. Palestinians were handed the food and commodities they
urgently need as though they were prisoners who get their meals
through a flap in the door to their cell.
The election victory of Hamas has led to economic sanctions with
devastating consequences for the Palestinian territories. From the end
of January to mid-May, the border was completely closed on seventy
days. Thanks to international pressure, it was open on a few days, but
only few goods were delivered to the Gaza Strip on those occasions.
Direct dependency on the funds
Sometimes, only five trucks were dealt with; on better days, 150. The
norm would be 400. The consequences have been dramatic. Sometimes, the
territories with the world's highest birth rate even lacked milk and
The European Union and other international donors have stopped
transferring funds, thus exacerbating the crisis. Salaries that were
normally covered with money from the EU can no longer be paid. Some
165,000 public officials teachers, bureaucrats, doctors, security
forces directly depend on these funds. And they are the ones who
feed their families.
Normally, these salaries provide a living to some 1.5 million
Fierce power struggle with the Islamists
Poverty is getting worse. The lack of prospects is radicalising people
and fostering anarchy. Many are disgruntled, if not desperate.
Followers of the Fatah Movement, which lost the elections for
Parliament, refuse to accept their defeat. They feel that the
international boycott is supporting their cause, and they are engaging
in a fierce power struggle with the Islamists. Violence is escalating,
sometimes to a point resembling civil war, especially in the Gaza Strip.
The Hamas government faces an intractable dilemma. It is being called
on to dismiss its election platform and anti-Israeli ideology
without talks, without anything in return. Moreover, it is expected to
maintain peace and order in the Palestinian territories and prevent
terrorist and missile attacks on Israel.
At the same time, it has lost the means of doing so. It is neither
able to set up loyal security forces of its own, nor to pay the police
recruited by the previous government. Government head Ismail Haniye
and his ministers cannot even leave the Gaza Strip to make their
presence felt on the West Bank.
Demand for democratic institutions
The Middle East Quartet has proposed that limited financial aid be
reinstituted but given directly to the people, not to the government.
However, that approach will not solve the problem. Should funds be
channelled through Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian
National Authority (PNA), on the other hand, things will again be as
they were in the days of Yassir Arafat.
The late PLO leader and first PNA president paid those loyal to him as
he saw fit, funnelling funds to undisclosed recipients including
For years, Israel and the international community have demanded that
Palestinians set up democratic institutions, create the post of a
prime minister, and hold elections. Palestinians have now fulfilled
all of these demands. They have elected a government they hope will
deliver more than the corrupt Fatah leadership did.
Instead of punishing Palestinians for doing so and thus driving them
into the arms of extremist groups, one should contact the new
government immediately, offer support, and encourage it to start
negotiations with Israel. After all, if one does not talk with Hamas
today, one will eventually have to deal with Al Quida terrorism.
Dr. Bettina Marx works as a correspondent for German Public Radio
(ARD) in Tel Aviv.
American Muslims for Palestine
Call your Congressman and the White House and demand an end to Israeli
military operations in the Gaza Strip.
EMAIL AND OR CALL THE WHITE HOUSE
WHITE HOUSE COMMENTS LINE: 202-456-1111
WHITE HOUSE SWITCHBOARD: 202-456-1414
WHITE HOUSE FAX: 202-456-2461
The Israeli Army once again is amassing in large numbers for an
operation against Gaza¹s defenseless civilian population. Far from
being in response to the holding of a solider beginning on June 25th,
the Israeli Military has been conducting daily bombardment on Gaza the
result of which the killing of 50 civilians this month alone including
members of a whole family enjoying a day at the beach.
The US should send a clear message to the Israelis and the
Palestinians that all human lives are equal and both parties should
act with utmost restraint and take needed measures to ensure the
safety and well-being of all civilians.
We call on Congress, the White House and State Department to remind
Israel of its obligation as the top recipient of US foreign aid, which
should be directed at peaceful means and not at escalating the tension
in the region.
We call of the US Congress and Administration to fulfill their
obligations under the 4th Geneva Convention and ensure the safety and
security of persons under occupation. The US as a contracting party is
responsible and should act in accordance to bring an end to violations
of the 4th Geneva convention including the collective punishment
visited on Gaza¹s civilian population by the Israeli army.
We call on Congress, the White House and the State Department to
demand Israel¹s adherence to the guidelines governing the use of US
made weapons provided at tax-payers expense. It is the law of this
land that no US made weapons provided to a foreign government be used
in offensive military operations or targeting civilian population,
both of which have been violated regularly by Israel. Uphold US law
and demand Israel¹s compliance.
Israel¹s military actions supported by US funding and weapons only
increases the level of mistrust and continue the loss of US standing
across the Arab and Muslim World. The US should not have a double
standard in the conduct of its foreign policy and should heed the
results of the most recent Pew research, ³THE GREAT DIVIDE: HOW
WESTERNERS AND MUSLIMS VIEW EACH OTHER.² (www.pewglobal.org
We call for the immediate end of all military operations and embarking
on a diplomatic approach governed by the rich body of international
law and existing UN resolutions.
EMAIL AND OR CALL THE WHITE HOUSE
Congress and Senate e-mails contacts:
Enter your state¹s name to get the list of representatives and senators.
WHITE HOUSE COMMENTS LINE: 202-456-1111
WHITE HOUSE SWITCHBOARD: 202-456-1414
WHITE HOUSE FAX: 202-456-2461
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