Posted tagged ‘Hamas’

Palestinian Normalization — With Hamas, Not Israel

October 11, 2017

Palestinian Normalization — With Hamas, Not Israel, Gatestone InstituteBassam Tawil, October 11, 2017

The most widespread conspiracy theory, which has been floating around for decades and can be heard in almost every coffee shop on the streets of Cairo, Amman, Ramallah and Beirut, is that Zionist Jews, together with American capitalists and imperialists, have a secret plan to take control over the Arab and Islamic countries and their resources.

How exactly are the “Zionists and imperialists” trying to “undermine” the Palestinian “national project”? And what, precisely, is this project? Is it the project of Hamas and many other Palestinians that seeks the destruction of Israel?

The corrupt Arab and Palestinian leaders spread such rumors to divert attention from problems at home, such as corruption and dictatorship. These leaders want their people too busy hating Jews and Westerners to demand reform, democracy and transparency from their leaders. Those valuables, of course, are what Arab and Palestinian leaders still refuse to offer their people.

Why do many Palestinians prefer peace with Hamas? Because they identify with Hamas’s dream of destroying Israel and killing Jews. It may be an unpleasant a truth, but that is the bottom line.

When Palestinian women took part in a march with Israeli women for peace this week, they were condemned in the harshest terms by many other Palestinians, who called for their punishment. The Palestinian women who participated in the October 8 event, organized by a group called Women Wage Peace, have been denounced by many of their own people as “traitors” and “whores.”

Conversely, when Palestinian Authority (PA) officials held “reconciliation” talks with Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip and Egypt during the same period, many Palestinians praised them as “heroes” and “brave.”

Judging from the reactions of many Palestinians, especially on social media, they prefer peace with Hamas rather than with Israel.

The thousands of Palestinian women who participated in the march with Israeli women are being accused of promoting “normalization” with Israel. This, in the eyes of their critics, is an abhorrent and despicable act, tantamount to “high treason” — an offense punishable by death.

Palestinian and Israeli women from the “Women Wage Peace” group participate in an event on September 30, 2017. (Image source: Women Wage Peace/Facebook)

Prior to the women’s march, Palestinian activists waged an online bid to stop the Palestinian women from taking part in the “shameful” event. It was a vicious campaign that lasted for several days and that accused the Palestinian women of treason for promoting “normalization” with the “Israeli enemy.” One group, The Women’s Campaign for Boycotting Israeli Merchandise, said in a statement that the planned march was “hurtful to Palestinian and Arab and international efforts to boycott and isolate Israel.” The group pointed out that the march coincided with a “Zionist-imperialist onslaught to undermine the Palestinian national project.”

Exactly which “Zionist-imperialist” conspiracy these protesters are referring to remains unclear.

Such rhetoric, however, reflects the mindset in the Arab and Islamic world. The most widespread conspiracy theory, which has been floating around for decades and can be heard in almost every coffee shop on the streets of Cairo, Amman, Ramallah and Beirut, is that Zionist Jews, together with American capitalists and imperialists, have a secret plan to take control over the Arab and Islamic countries and their resources.

What does a peaceful march of Israeli and Palestinian women have to do with Zionism and imperialism? How exactly are the “Zionists and imperialists” trying to “undermine” the Palestinian “national project”?

And what, precisely, is this project? Is it the project of Hamas and many other Palestinians that seeks the destruction of Israel? Is it the project that still talks about a phased plan to destroy Israel by demanding a Palestinian state next to Israel so that it would be used in the future as a launching pad to eliminate Israel?

Palestinian and Arab leaders have long advanced anti-Israel, anti-Jewish and anti-Western conspiracy theories. Why do these leaders do so? For one purpose: distraction.

The corrupt Arab and Palestinian leaders spread such rumors to divert attention from problems at home, such as corruption and dictatorship. These leaders want their people too busy hating Jews and Westerners to demand reform, democracy and transparency from their leaders. Those valuables, of course, are what Arab and Palestinian leaders still refuse to offer their people.

Back to the controversial women’s march.

The abusive comments hurled against the Palestinian women who took part in the march are frankly embarrassing to read. Even the PLO committee that permitted the participation of the Palestinian women in the march is being pilloried by many Palestinians, with some calling for holding the PLO officials involved accountable.

The verbal abuse is reminiscent of the experience of teenage Palestinian girls who recently participated in a summer camp with Israeli girls in the US. The Palestinian girls endured a massive smear campaign for attending the summer camp, which was organized by Creativity for Peace, an organization in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Like the women from the march, the teenage girls were also cursed on social media and dubbed as “sluts” and “traitors.” The abuse reached the parents of the Palestinian girls, for allowing their daughters to commit the sin of dancing and mixing with Israeli (Jewish) girls. The girls, like the women, were also accused of promoting “normalization” with Israel.

Sadly, only a handful of Palestinians have thus far dared to come out in defense of the summer camp girls or the women who participated in the October 8 march.

While many Palestinians may be opposed to the brutal and senseless attacks on the girls and women, they are terrified of voicing their views in public. No one wants to get targeted by the abusers, especially if some of these people are affiliated with terror groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Palestinians have an unfortunate habit of allowing thugs and terrorists to intimidate them, control the discourse and set the agenda. This is certainly not new. Most Palestinians prefer to sit on the fence instead of speaking their minds. This is what happens when you live under ruthless dictatorships such as the Palestinian Authority and Hamas that suppress freedom of expression.

Yet this most recent exhibit has an ironic twist. Just as the women were shamed publicly for taking part in an event with Jewish women, many Palestinians were celebrating the “reconciliation” between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip took to the streets to express their jubilation over the “accord,” and when the PA Prime Minister and his delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, scenes of kissing and hugging were easy to spot.

What does all this teach us?

First, that many Palestinians continue to consider any form of contact with Jews and “normalization” with the “Zionist entity” an act of treason.

Second, that Palestinians do not hesitate to designate their own women as prostitutes and traitors for engaging in the most basic activities with Jews. Such disrespect for women is not, by the way, something that should surprise us about conservative Arab and Islamic societies.

Third, that for many Palestinians, the priority remains making peace with Hamas and not Israel. Why do they prefer peace with Hamas? Because they identify with Hamas’s dream of destroying Israel and killing Jews. It may be an unpleasant a truth, but that is the bottom line.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.

An epic moment at the UN as former Hamas member speaks up for Israel

September 28, 2017

An epic moment at the UN as former Hamas member speaks up for Israel | Anne’s Opinions, 28th September 2017

This has to be one of the most epic and stunning moments in the history of the UN. Once more the UN Human Rights Wrongs Council was holding a debate on “the human rights situation in Palestine”. All the usual anti-Israel suspects had their say, spouting lies, slander, blood libels and epithets at the one and only free, civilized and democratic country in the Middle East. How the likes of Pakistan, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria and other like dictatorships, who between them have killed millions and imprisoned even more – how they can sit there with straight faces while they accuse Israel of the very crimes of which they are guilty, is a subject for a psychologist to deal with.

And then it was UN Watch‘s turn. We have already seen Hillel Neuer speak at the UN many times, and his is superb. But Mosab Hassan Yousef (aka The Green Prince) was in a class of his own, not only for what he said, but for who he is.

Just watch the faces of the Palestinian delegation and enjoy a bit of schadenfreude from the UN for a change.

The funniest reaction was the face of this Palestinian delegate:

Shock horror at the UN as Palestinian speaks up for Israel

 

This speech was a master-stroke by UN Watch.

Kol hakavod on their persistence and devotion to the cause of Israel’s defence.

Iran Quadruples Cash Flow to Hizballah Since Nuclear Deal

September 15, 2017

Iran Quadruples Cash Flow to Hizballah Since Nuclear Deal, Investigative Project on Terrorism, September 15, 2017

Proponents of the Iran nuclear deal, including many within the Obama administration, argued that the agreement would moderate Iran’s behavior. On the contrary, Iran immediately enhanced its support for terrorist organizations, while extremist factions within Iran gained more influence. Two years later, Iran has proved to be even more emboldened to pursue its regional hegemonic ambitions, drastically increasing financial and military support to terrorist organizations and cells worldwide.

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Iran has drastically increased financial support for its Lebanese-based terrorist proxy Hizballah since the Iran nuclear deal was signed two years ago, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Iran secured $100 billion in frozen assets and sanction relief in January 2016 as a result of the deal with the United States and European countries. Flush with cash, Iran immediately increased its support for terrorist proxies in the region and nefarious activities worldwide. Hizballah was receiving $200 million from Iran. Now, it’s $800 million.

Last month, Hamas terrorist leader Yahya Sinwar admitted that “relations with Iran are excellent and Iran is the largest supporter of the [Hamas military wing] Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades with money and arms.” Iran reportedly provides Hamas with about $60-$70 million.

Both Hizballah and Hamas remain dedicated to Israel’s destruction and continue to invest considerable resources to fight the Jewish state. Iran also spends hundreds of millions of dollars for Shi’ite militias in Syria and Iraq, while increasing support for Houthi militants in Yemen.

Shortly after the July 2015 nuclear deal was signed, Iran expanded its presence in regional conflicts and even increased its own intervention in Syria’s civil war, leading to mounting Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) casualties.

Iran also increased efforts to subvert its neighbors. In March, Bahrain security authorities arrested members of an Iranian-sponsored terrorist cell, accusing them of planning to assassinate senior government officials. The IRGC reportedly provided military training to several cell members.

Beyond Iran’s regional ambitions, it continues to plan terrorist attacks around the world. Earlier this year, for example, Germany accused Iran of plotting attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets.

Proponents of the Iran nuclear deal, including many within the Obama administration, argued that the agreement would moderate Iran’s behavior. On the contrary, Iran immediately enhanced its support for terrorist organizations, while extremist factions within Iran gained more influence. Two years later, Iran has proved to be even more emboldened to pursue its regional hegemonic ambitions, drastically increasing financial and military support to terrorist organizations and cells worldwide.

IDF’s Gaza Wall May Change Hamas Terror Strategies

September 15, 2017

IDF’s Gaza Wall May Change Hamas Terror Strategies, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, September 15, 2017

The big question now is whether Hamas will sit back and watch Israel take away its offensive tunnel option, or whether it will feel cornered and strike out, risking a new conflict.

Hamas is most likely to respond to Israel’s improved position against the tunnels in Gaza by upping attempts to generate terrorism from the West Bank.

Hamas, together with Iran, could try to smuggle rockets into the West Bank, Karmon said, citing a directive by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to assist West Bank terrorist cells.

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Time may be running out for one of Hamas’s main weapons against Israel: Its cross-border terror tunnels.

By 2019, according to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) assessments, Israel will complete an underground wall that stretches along the 60-kilometer (37 mile) border with Gaza. The wall is the product of several years of research and development, and is designed to eliminate the tunnel threat to Israeli communities located near Gaza.

During the past three years, since the end of its last conflict with Israel, Hamas has invested big resources into its tunnel maze. One of its top goals is to rehabilitate an ability to inject murder squads into Israeli territory through the tunnels.

Once inside Israel, they could target IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians for murder or kidnapping, whenever the next conflict breaks out.

But Israel has invested far more than Hamas to try stopping that threat. It is paying 150 million shekels ($42.5 million) for each kilometer of the new wall.

Work began on the subterranean project in areas where Israeli communities were very close to the border. Then, gradually, other areas began receiving protection.

During a conference call held with reporters in August, the commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, said the wall will prevent “the digging of tunnels into our territory,” adding that work is “advancing according to plan. In the coming months, this project is going to significantly accelerate. We will see an expansion in the scope of the works. Within two years, we will be able to complete work.”

Many details about the wall remain classified. But IDF sources have previously indicated that the wall will come with electronic sensors. The sensors will issue alerts to military control centers, sounding the alarm about suspicious tunnel digging activity.

The control rooms, would, in turn, be able to order action if necessary.

Similar military control rooms are popping up along the Gaza border to handle intelligence coming in from Israel’s above-ground border fence. Sensors installed on the barrier, together with units from the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Collection Corps, are joined by drones, spy balloons, and radars, all feed the control centers with a flow of data, and alert them to suspicious activity.

The big question now is whether Hamas will sit back and watch Israel take away its offensive tunnel option, or whether it will feel cornered and strike out, risking a new conflict.

“We very much hope we will not be challenged as this [work] continues,” said Zamir. “We hope that this quiet will continue, but continue to prepare. We are on high alert.”

Hamas’s military wing, the Izzadin Al-Qassam Brigades, issued a statement earlier this month saying that the underground wall “will not limit the ability of the resistance,” and vowing to “find the solutions needed to overcome it.”

But Hamas is unlikely to launch attacks in response to Israel’s wall, Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

“They cannot initiate a military maneuver now. The timing is bad for them,” he said, citing Hamas’s financial woes, made worse by the fact that Qatar, under U.S. pressure, is cutting off the cash flow to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas wants to engage Egypt to improve its isolation and find a way out of its financial crisis. It just opened an office in Cairo. It cannot depend on friends like Turkey, which has a limited ability to provide assistance, Karmon said. “Beyond that, Hamas is under pressure from the Palestinian Authority. A new military clash with Israel will harm them,” he said.

During his remarks, Zamir said that the “Gaza arena is stable,” adding, “We have identified that Hamas remains deterred, and that it is restraining many attacks [by smaller Palestinian armed factions].”

At the same time, he said, Hamas is encouraging the flames of terrorism to spread in the West Bank, and is orchestrating terror cells remotely, as it prepares itself for future war in Gaza.

That’s an assessment that was echoed by Karmon, who said Hamas is most likely to respond to Israel’s improved position against the tunnels in Gaza by upping attempts to generate terrorism from the West Bank.

Hamas, together with Iran, could try to smuggle rockets into the West Bank, Karmon said, citing a directive by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to assist West Bank terrorist cells.

“The Iranians understood that Hamas is deterred in Gaza, and limited in what it can do,” Karmon said.

As a result, Hamas likely will remain focused on igniting the West Bank, and using it as a launchpad for terrorist attacks on Israel, he said.

Karmon cited information unveiled by the chief of Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, in recent days, which told the government that about 200 terror attacks had been thwarted in 2017.

“Most of the big attacks [that were stopped by the Shin Bet] were organized by Hamas, not Fatah,” Karmon said. “Hamas’s whole campaign is focused on the West Bank, and includes using clans that support Hamas, and distributing propaganda for violent incitement. They are neutralized in Gaza, and are trying to heat up the West Bank.”

Meanwhile, back in Gaza, Hamas continues neglecting the basic needs of the 2 million Palestinians it rules over, as it remains focused on its quiet military build-up, according to the chief of the IDF’s Southern Command.

“Many resources in Gaza are going to the Hamas military wing. They could be used instead to improve the humanitarian situation,” Zamir said. “We continue to prepare. Reality is explosive. It could deteriorate into a conflict at any time.”

In addition to offensive tunnels, Hamas has built a maze of tunnels that crisscross Gaza City. Zamir described them as “an underground metro network,” designed to move Hamas armed members, weapons, and logistics out of Israel’s sight.

Yet Israel’s Southern Command is watching these activities closely, and preparing a range of solutions designed to enable Israel to turn Hamas’s underground city into a large death trap if a new conflict begins.

The IDF’s Southern Command recently sent out images of civilian facilities in Gaza that Hamas uses as a cover for its military-terrorist activities.

One image is of a six-story residential building, which Hamas used to build an underground facility nearby, according to the military. The second photo is a of a home containing a family with five children, which is linked to a tunnel that leads to a mosque, enabling Hamas terrorists to move underground and use human shields as they do.

This type of activity “endangers the civilians of Gaza,” Zamir cautioned. “We hope that this quiet will continue, but we are continuing to prepare, and are on high alert.”

Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.

More arrests as terror stalks Jerusalem again

August 16, 2017

More arrests as terror stalks Jerusalem again, DEBKAfile, August 16, 2017

Finding the UAE funding Hamas terror was somewhat of a shocker to Israel.  After all, the emirate formally joined the anti-terror coalition that US President Donald Trump created during his visit to Riyadh and later to Israel in early April.

Obviously, Israel’s sovereign presence on Temple Mount, which is holy to three monotheistic faiths and claimed by Muslims, is an abidingly explosive issue. Last month’s crisis centering on the shrine, appears to have abated – but only on the face of it. The embers of the conflagration continue to simmer under the surface of the site and the city.

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Three major Israeli counter-terror operations in a week (Aug.10-16) are a measure of the intensity of terrorist plots for the commission of mass-casualty strikes in Jerusalem.

On Aug. 10, a combined effort of the Shin Bet, the police and the IDF, led to five Palestinians from Hebron being intercepted in the Palestinian Jerusalem neighborhood of El Azaria on their way to an attack. No details of this plot were released. But it was obvious that the five terrorists, armed with guns and explosives, were only stopped at the last minute from reaching the center of Jerusalem, just 15 minutes drive from El Azaria, and conducting a major attack.

Then, on Saturday, Aug. 12, a Palestinian woman knifed a man on Suleiman Street in East Jerusalem, mistaking him for a Jew. He turned out to be a local Arab Christian and was not badly hurt, before a police patrol nabbed the woman.

On Sunday, Aug. 13, a suspect was shot in the foot while resisting arrest at Bet Tsafafa, in southern Jerusalem . The police later reported they acted on a Shin Bet tipoff that the suspect, a resident of the mixed Abu Tor neighborhood, was primed for a terror operation.

On Monday, Aug. 14, indictments were filed at the Jerusalem district court against three residents of East Jerusalem on charges of plotting a shooting attack, as well as targeting police forces and persistent rock attacks on traffic – all in Jerusalem. They were also accused of planning to loose gunfire and explosive devices on vehicles using the Nablus bypass. This group therefore harbored ambitions for a widespread terrorist offensive in and outside Jerusalem.

Although Israel’s security authorities are cagey with the information they release on the mostly covert war they wage on Palestinian and Israeli Arab terror, three geographical areas may be marked out as significant: They are metropolitan Jerusalem including Bethlehem; Hebron – the city and mountain district; and the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, northeast of Tel Aviv, which was the home town of the three gunmen who shot dead two policemen on Temple Mount on July 14.

Each location occupies a special place on the terror map.

The terrorist networks of Hebron and its environs are mostly tied ideologically and operationally to the extremist Palestinian Hamas. In the past fortnight, Hamas was found to be receiving large sums of money, most of it coming from sources in the United Arab Republic in the Persian Gulf. Some of the cash was funneled to Judea and Samaria and provided those networks with an extra incentive to go into action.

Finding the UAE funding Hamas terror was somewhat of a shocker to Israel.  After all, the emirate formally joined the anti-terror coalition that US President Donald Trump created during his visit to Riyadh and later to Israel in early April.

The terrorist cells operating in Jerusalem mostly belong to Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, or its militia, the Tanzim. Most are fringe groups that are not directly associated with their leaders. But the fact that they are free to perform acts of violence against Israelis is worrying Israeli security authorities.

The networks of Umm al-Fahm and its rural villages appear to be ideologically inspired by the outlawed Northern Branch of the Israeli Arab Muslim Movement (which is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood), or directly tied to the Islamic State command center in Syria.

At least 20 Israeli Arabs are known to have crossed into Syria to fight in ISIS ranks, some of them from Umm Al-Fahm.

Last Friday, Aug. 11, an indictment was filed against two residents of the town, who were preparing to leave for Syria and join the Islamic State. They were being helped by a former resident who had already reached Syria and was fighting with ISIS. One of the accused belonged to the same Jabarin clan as the murderers of police officers on Temple Mount.

Then, on Tuesday, Aug. 15, police arrived at the Umm Al-Fahm home of Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the banned Northern Branch of the Israeli Muslim Movement, with a warrant for his arrest. He was accused of publicly inciting to violence and terror and membership of an illegal organization.

Salah has been in and out of Israeli prisons for years over his fiery hate-filled sermons, which regularly call on his followers to “fight for the liberation” of Al Aqsa. Last year, he was locked up for calling on Israeli Arabs to join a Palestinian uprising against the state of Israel.

However, this time, the wide publicity given to his arrest so soon after the Temple Mount clashes – in an attempt to press charges serious enough to keep him behind lock and key for the long term – has brought the firebrand sheikh solid sympathy among sections of the Israeli Arab populace.

Obviously, Israel’s sovereign presence on Temple Mount, which is holy to three monotheistic faiths and claimed by Muslims, is an abidingly explosive issue. Last month’s crisis centering on the shrine, appears to have abated – but only on the face of it. The embers of the conflagration continue to simmer under the surface of the site and the city.

Palestinians Escalate War on Journalists

August 12, 2017

Palestinians Escalate War on Journalists, Gatestone Institute, Bassam Tawil, August 12, 2017

They said they did not know what “sensitive information” Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) were trying to hide.

Today, it is safe to say that the situation of the freedom of the media under the PA and Hamas is not much different than that under Bashar Assad’s Syria or even North Korea.

Palestinian journalists’ hateful obsession with Israel brings them no dividends. Rather, such venomous bias diverts attention from the true challenges and threats they face from the PA and Hamas. By expending their efforts in this twisted fashion, the journalists aid and abet their leaders in building dictatorial regimes that suppress public freedoms.

As part of its overarching effort to silence critics, President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA) has resumed its war against Palestinian journalists who refuse toe the line or are suspected of being insufficiently loyal to their leaders in Ramallah.

But this is nothing new: Abbas and his team have long been notoriously intolerant of news stories that reflect negatively on them in particular and on Palestinians in general.

In the past few days, PA security forces arrested six Palestinian journalists from Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron. The journalists — Mamdouh Hamamreh, Qutaiba Kassem, Tarek Abu Zeid, Amer Abu Arafeh, Thaer Al-Fakhouri and Ahmed Al-Halaykeh — are suspected of “leaking sensitive information to hostile parties.”

This is the first time that Abbas’s PA has made such a ridiculous charge against Palestinian journalists. In an attempt to justify the latest crackdown on freedom of the media, Abbas’s news agency, Wafa, published a statement by an unnamed “senior security source” who said that the detained journalists were being interrogated about their role in “leaking sensitive information to hostile parties.” The detained journalists, meanwhile, have gone on hunger strike to protest their incarceration.

Upon hearing about the baseless charge, many Palestinian journalists said they did not know whether to laugh or cry. They said they did not know what “sensitive information” Abbas and the PA were trying to hide.

“We don’t have nuclear facilities,” remarked a Palestinian journalist from east Jerusalem sarcastically. “It’s clear that the Palestinian Authority leadership is using the security issue as an excuse to justify its punitive measures against journalists.”

Another Palestinian journalist from Ramallah scoffed at the charge against his colleagues. “This is the most ridiculous claim I’ve heard in years,” he commented. “It reminds us of Arab dictators who accuse their opponents and critics of revealing state secrets and consuming narcotics.”

That the PA leadership has refused to provide further details about the nature of the offense committed by the suspected journalists has only reinforced the belief that they were targeted as part of an ongoing campaign by Abbas and his lieutenants to silence critics and deter other journalists from doing their job or reporting any story that could reflect negatively on the Palestinian leaders.

Some Palestinian journalists take a different view of the matter. These reporters trace the arrest of the six journalists to a desire to pressure Hamas to release two journalists it is holding in the Gaza Strip: Amer Abu Shabab and Fuad Jaradeh.

In other words, the PA security forces are holding the six journalists hostage until Hamas frees the two newsmen it is holding. The journalists detained by the PA work for Hamas-affiliated media outlets in the West Bank.

Notably, the two Palestinian regimes – the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip — have hardly championed freedom of speech and freedom of the media. In fact, the two parties share the same values when it comes to silencing all forms of criticism. Dozens of Palestinian journalists have been targeted over the past two decades by both the PA and Hamas.

These regimes have their own special way of defining freedom of the press. That is, the press is utterly free to blacken the name of Israel. The name of Hamas or the PA, however, is sacrosanct: criticism of either would land a Palestinian reporter behind bars or in an interrogation room.

Hamas and the PA prefer that the press pound Israel. Short of that, they tolerate journalistic critique of municipal services or the shortage of medicine in hospitals.

Today, it is safe to say that the situation of the freedom of the media under the PA and Hamas is not much different than that under Bashar Assad’s Syria or even North Korea. The failure to achieve a free media for the Palestinians is yet another sign of the Palestinian failure to build proper and transparent state institutions.

The Palestinians have no functioning parliament, no open debate and no free media. In the West Bank, the media is controlled, directly and indirectly, by Abbas and his loyalists. In the Gaza Strip, the only “media” is that which is controlled by Hamas — again, directly and indirectly.

But there is an interesting twist to the latest story of Palestinian Authority and Hamas assaults on freedom of the media. Sadly, many Palestinian journalists do not seem to care much about the harassment and suppression of their colleagues at the hands of their leaders in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip.

Instead of organizing widespread protests to demand the release of their colleagues who are being tortured by PA and Hamas interrogators, Palestinian journalists are still scapegoating Israel. Incredibly, they continue to incite against Israel despite the fact that they are being detained and tortured by the PA and Hamas.

Instead of demanding the release of their six colleagues from PA prison, some Palestinian journalists are protesting because some Israeli (Jewish) journalists came to Ramallah last week to cover the visit of Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

The presence of the Israeli reporters in Ramallah enraged several Palestinian journalists, who took to social media to condemn the Palestinian Authority leadership that gave them permission to come and cover the monarch’s visit.

The presence of Israeli reporters in Ramallah last week, to cover the visit of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, enraged several Palestinian journalists, who took to social media to condemn the Palestinian Authority leadership that gave them permission to cover the visit. (Image source: Palestinian President’s Office)

In this cartoon by Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Sabaaneh, an Israeli journalist, carrying a microphone dripping with blood, is interviewing a dog.

Such incitement was easy to find on Palestinian social media websites this week. The presence of several Israeli Arab journalists seemed to roll right over the racist, raging Palestinian journalists — it is the presence of Jewish journalists that they cannot stand.

This attack on Israeli journalists has been backed by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), a Fatah-affiliated group headed by Nasser Abu Baker, a correspondent of the evidently unprofessional Agence France-Press: Baker has also run for election in the Fatah Revolutionary Council.

In a statement published in Ramallah, the PJS strongly condemned the presence of Israeli (Jewish) journalists in Ramallah and urged Abbas to hold accountable whoever gave the Israeli journalists permission to come to the city to cover the Jordanian king’s visit.

It seems that for the PJS, the presence of Israeli (Jewish) reporters in Ramallah is more disturbing than the arrest of Palestinian journalists by the PA and Hamas.

For the record, in recent years the PJS has served as a mouthpiece for Abbas’s office; instead of defending the rights of Palestinian journalists, it devotes more than 95% of its words and actions to denouncing Israel and whipping up rage against Israeli journalists.

Palestinian journalists’ hateful obsession with Israel brings them no dividends. Rather, such venomous bias diverts attention from the true challenges and threats they face from the PA and Hamas. By expending their efforts in this twisted fashion, the reporters aid and abet their leaders in building dictatorial regimes that suppress public freedoms.

Bassam Tawil, an Arab Muslim, is based in the Middle East.

Deadly False Narratives Drove the Temple Mount Crisis

August 2, 2017

Deadly False Narratives Drove the Temple Mount Crisis, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, August 2, 2017

Until the attack, Israel had been relying on intelligence alerts, rather than physical security measures, to defend the site. But the shootings led the Israel Police to ask the Israeli government to beef up security, and install metal detectors.

The government agreed, despite the misgivings of the Israeli defense establishment, which was concerned that the move would fuel the propaganda of fundamentalist forces, leading to unrest and instability.

Iran helped fuel the unrestIsrael Hayom reported, by sending protesters “tens of thousands of … prepackaged meals along with notes in each one citing a famous quote attributed to 1979 Iranian Revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: ‘With the help of Allah, Palestine will be liberated! Jerusalem is ours.’ The note also depicted the Dome of the Rock and the Palestinian flag.”

Additionally, a senior Iranian official reportedly met with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad representatives in Iran, offering them assistance for Palestinians injured in clashes. The IRGC released a statement, condemning “the Zionist regime’s  aggressive and criminal actions against Al-Aqsa mosque.”

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The crisis between Israel and the Palestinians that raged in recent weeks over the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa holy site in Jerusalem has died down, but the affair provides important clues about the rising ability of fundamentalist Islamists to seize control of the narrative.

Radical rhetoric espoused by those who sought to inflame religious conflict dominated the Temple Mount crisis.

“Israel wants more than ever before to implement its plan for complete control over al-Aksa Mosque,” Hamas politburo chief Ismael Haniyeh said, even after Israel moved to defuse the situation. Days earlier, Hamas had called for a “religious war” against Israel.

Islamists in Gaza, Jordan, east Jerusalem, and within the Israeli Arab community, had the upper hand in their ability to push their interpretation of events. They claim Israel wants to take over the holy site and destroy the mosque to make way for a third Temple. This baseless narrative sweeps away the terrorist attack that caused the crisis and presented three Palestinians killed in subsequent clashes with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem as martyrs who died defending Islam.

Not to be outdone by their Islamist rivals, Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders peddled the same falsehoods. Religious Affairs Minister Sheikh Yusuf Idai’is told the official PA television channel that Israel “has plans to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and establish the alleged Temple in its place.”

Those seeking religious strife were able to mobilize masses onto the streets, with the help of self-organizing demonstrators and rioters who were infected with the Islamist fervor, and spread it themselves on social media.

Together, these elements forced pragmatic Arab leaders – who do not subscribe to Islamist ideology – to adopt the Islamist narrative, and to deal with Israel as if it was guilty of the Islamic hard-liners’ fabricated accusations.

A recap: The crisis erupted when a terrorist jihadist cell, made up of three Arab-Israeli gunmen, used firearms smuggled into the Al-Aqsa Mosque – Islam’s third holiest site – to shoot dead two Israeli police officers. Security forces then returned fire, killing the gunmen.

Until the attack, Israel had been relying on intelligence alerts, rather than physical security measures, to defend the site. But the shootings led the Israel Police to ask the Israeli government to beef up security, and install metal detectors.

The government agreed, despite the misgivings of the Israeli defense establishment, which was concerned that the move would fuel the propaganda of fundamentalist forces, leading to unrest and instability.

The defense establishment’s concerns came true. Rioting erupted in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Mass demonstrations were held in Israel’s eastern neighbor, Jordan, and included members of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood.

A Palestinian knife attacker, pledging to “die for Al-Aqsa” on his Facebook page, massacred three members of an Israeli family in their home in the West Bank.

All of these events were driven by incitement to religious violence. The unrest was sparked by the false accusation that Israel was seeking to change the status quo at Al-Aqsa, and that the site needed defending from Israelis schemes. It is a conspiracy theory that has been peddled by Palestinian hardliners for decades, dating back to the days of Hajj Amin Al Husseini in the 1920s and 30s.

Hamas in Gaza and Palestinian Islamic Jihad praised the Temple Mount shooters as “heroic,” and called for more attacks. They issued a rallying call to defend Al-Aqsa. A Salafist-jihadist group in Gaza fired two rockets at southern Israel.

Israel responded with tank fire at a Hamas military post.

Turkey, ruled by a pro-Hamas variant of the Muslim Brotherhood, exploited the tensions to urge all Muslims to “protect Jerusalem,” and called on Israel to end the crisis. Israel’s Foreign Ministry called it “absurd that the Turkish government, which occupies northern Cyprus, brutally represses the Kurdish minority and jails journalists, lectures Israel, the only true democracy in the region. The days of the Ottoman Empire have passed.”

Iran helped fuel the unrestIsrael Hayom reported, by sending protesters “tens of thousands of … prepackaged meals along with notes in each one citing a famous quote attributed to 1979 Iranian Revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: ‘With the help of Allah, Palestine will be liberated! Jerusalem is ours.’ The note also depicted the Dome of the Rock and the Palestinian flag.”

Additionally, a senior Iranian official reportedly met with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad representatives in Iran, offering them assistance for Palestinians injured in clashes. The IRGC released a statement, condemning “the Zionist regime’s  aggressive and criminal actions against Al-Aqsa mosque.”

In Israel, Sheikh Raed Saleh, the former leader of the now banned Islamic Movement – a sister organization to Hamas – led a funeral procession for the three Arab Israeli terrorists. Thousands of mourners marched belligerently by the coffins of the terrorists, shouting, “By fire and with blood we will redeem you, Al-Aqsa,” and, “You are the martyrs of Al-Aqsa.”

Palestinian social media buzzed with calls to defend Al-Aqsa. The Islamist narrative had won the day.

Israel tried to challenge this mythology by directly addressing Palestinians. “So that the truth is clear, when did the Temple Mount incidents erupt?” IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai asked in Arabic on Al Jazeera. “A week ago. After a terror attack was committed by three Muslims, who entered the Temple Mount with weapons and opened fire. Israel does not want to change the status quo. This is a clear message to the world from the Muslim world.”

His message appeared to largely fall on deaf ears. With the fundamentalist rhetoric leading the way, even pragmatic Arab leaders, some of whom rely on cooperation with Israel for the very stability of their rule, felt the need to play according to the radical playbook, in order to avoid being tagged as Israel’s ‘abettors.’

The most obvious example was Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. Without Israel’s steps to quell Hamas in the West Bank, Abbas’s Palestinian Authority would have faced multiple armed attempts by Islamists to depose him .

During the Temple Mount unrest, Abbas cut security coordination between his forces and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

“Jerusalem is ours. It is our capital and our sovereignty. As long as the situation in occupied Jerusalem does not return to what it was before July 14 [when Israel installed metal detectors], there will be no changes [in our position],” Abbas said, according to a Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translation.

Promoting the lie that the Al-Aqsa Mosque required protection from Israel, Abbas told east Jerusalem Palestinians, “What you did was defend your honor, your religion and your holy sites. It was the true answer to those who wish to harm our holy sites and the principles of our faith. We supported you in what you did and are [still] doing. We decided to suspend the security coordination; [that decision] still holds. We [decided to] defend the holy sites; that still holds as well.”

The Fatah movement, which runs the Palestinian Authority, added fuel to the fire. With the full knowledge that it was risking new clashes, Fatah’s Central Committee called for mass protests.

Egypt and Jordan, both of whom are busy combating Islamist threats at home, called on Israel to remove the metal detectors.

The situation in Jordan became even more complicated when an Israeli embassy guard was stabbed by a local youth. The guard opened fire to defend himself, killing the attacker and accidentally shooting dead a second Jordanian citizen who was nearby.

Jordan’s King Abdullah refused to allow the Israeli guard to leave Amman, reversing his decision only after Israel said it would remove the metal detectors.

King Abdullah, one of the Arab worlds’ most moderate leaders, whose Kingdom shares many common interests with Israel, still felt the need to issue a statement vowing to prevent the “Judaization” of holy sites in Jerusalem.

Jordan controls the Jerusalem Islamic trust in charge of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, called the Waqf. Behind the scenes, Jordan helped end the Temple Mount crisis, which threatened to destabilize it.

The Waqf told Islamic worshipers that they could re-enter the Temple Mount after Israel had removed the metal detectors.

Even after the crisis reached a resolution, the Palestinian Authority remained highly wary of being labeled as a collaborator with Israel.

An aide to Abbas said security coordination with Israel would only be resumed “gradually,” to avoid giving the impression that the Palestinian Authority is too enthusiastic about working with the Israeli military in the West Bank.

The crisis provides a clear indication of the influence that Islamist propaganda has on the area. Even Arab leaders who are directly threatened by radical forces feel they must march according to their drumbeat, or risk their very legitimacy.

Israel’s decision to dismantle the metal detectors was designed to prevent the Islamist pyromaniacs from using the Al-Aqsa crisis to set the region on fire.

The fact that the Islamists came so close to succeeding, however, is the latest indication of who is in charge of the popular narrative in the region.