Commentary Magazine


Topic: Khaled Abu Toameh

Palestinian Politics Jenin Style

In today’s New York Times, new Israel correspondent Jodi Rudoren writes of how the recently deceased Palestinian governor of the city of Jenin is being viewed as a “martyr” in the fight against gangs and the symbol of the failing struggle to transform the Palestinian Authority into a viable state. Qadoura Moussa, who died of a heart attack following an assassination attempt that is interpreted as part of the battle in which control of the streets is at stake, helped create the idea that there was a “Jenin model” in which good government would replace the mafia-style corruption and violence that had heretofore characterized Palestinian life.

Moussa’s death is rightly seen as yet another blow to Fayyadism, the term that Times columnist Thomas Friedman attached to the efforts of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to transform Palestinian society so as to allow for the rise of a rational modern state. But, as the insightful journalist Khaled Abu Toameh wrote just a day earlier on the website of the Gatestone Institute, the truth about the reality of life in Jenin has been apparent for years. The problem is, the foreign and Palestinian press was far too intimidated to report that the illusion of law and order in Jenin was always a lie.

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In today’s New York Times, new Israel correspondent Jodi Rudoren writes of how the recently deceased Palestinian governor of the city of Jenin is being viewed as a “martyr” in the fight against gangs and the symbol of the failing struggle to transform the Palestinian Authority into a viable state. Qadoura Moussa, who died of a heart attack following an assassination attempt that is interpreted as part of the battle in which control of the streets is at stake, helped create the idea that there was a “Jenin model” in which good government would replace the mafia-style corruption and violence that had heretofore characterized Palestinian life.

Moussa’s death is rightly seen as yet another blow to Fayyadism, the term that Times columnist Thomas Friedman attached to the efforts of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to transform Palestinian society so as to allow for the rise of a rational modern state. But, as the insightful journalist Khaled Abu Toameh wrote just a day earlier on the website of the Gatestone Institute, the truth about the reality of life in Jenin has been apparent for years. The problem is, the foreign and Palestinian press was far too intimidated to report that the illusion of law and order in Jenin was always a lie.

The notion that Jenin, which was the hub of Palestinian terror during the second intifada and the site of a pitched battle between gunmen and the Israeli Defense Force in 2002, had become a PA success story was an attractive theme for journalists eager to paint a more attractive picture of the Palestinians. But as Toameh, who knows more about the politics of the territories than anyone else writing in English, points out, the “Jenin model” was always a myth. The anarchy and lawlessness in the region was not happening in spite of the efforts of the Western-trained PA security forces but in no small measure because of them.

The problem goes deeper than just a few cases of corruption or the fact that many of those recruited into the Palestinian security services are former criminals and killers who quickly revert to their old habits for profit. Rather, it is that Palestinian political culture still treats violence as legitimate. The line between the terrorist groups that double as political parties such as Fatah and Hamas and the armed gangs and clans that the PA fights in the streets of towns like Jenin is razor thin. That’s why any expectation that Fatah or even Hamas can foster law and order other than by their own reign of terror at their rivals’ expense is farcical.

Genuine moderates who desire real change like Salam Fayyad are the outliers, not the criminals. Men like Fayyad also lack a political constituency. That means they are not just outnumbered but outgunned.

Yet this is a tale that has generally been ignored by the Western press that has, as Abu Toameh notes, feared to tell the truth about the Palestinians. The result is that Western governments continue to pour in vast amounts of cash and aid that has done little to help. Fayyadism is a nice idea, but the problem is that it is more popular in American newsrooms than in the streets of Palestinian towns. Though Rudoren’s article in today’s Times gives some belated attention to this problem, it still fails to go to the heart of the cancer eating away at the PA. The rationale for Palestinian statehood as well as for more Israeli territorial withdrawals to further empower these gangsters and terrorists seems more farfetched than ever.

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Is This the End for the Palestinian Authority Leadership?

As more Palestinian Papers continue to leak out, the Jerusalem Post is reporting this morning that Hamas has called on Palestinians to protest the alleged “concessions” the PA offered to Israel.

Hamas’s incitement is no surprise. Since yesterday, Al Jazeera has reported that the PA offered the Israelis many of the settlements and admitted that the “right of return” was impractical. And tomorrow, the news network has indicated it will be broadcasting a story on the PA’s alleged collaboration with the Israeli security forces.

Jerusalem Post columnist Khaled Abu Toameh writes that the manner in which Al Jazeera has covered the papers is the equivalent of a show trial.

“In other words, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his men have been convicted of high treason — which, in the Arab and Islamic world, is a crime punishable by death,” he wrote. “Al-Jazeera is now waiting for the executioner (the Palestinians, in this case) to carry out the death sentence.”

That seems like a very possible fallout from the papers. While PA leaders claim that the documents are inaccurate, they have little ammunition to fight back against Al Jazeera’s reporting. Al Jazeera is a widely respected news outlet in the Arab world; in comparison, Mahmoud Abbas’s government was already viewed suspiciously by many Palestinians.

Toameh sees this as the beginning of the end for the current West Bank government:

It’s hard to see how, in light of this damning verdict, the PA will be able to salvage what’s left of its credibility. Al- Jazeera has succeeded in instilling in the minds of many Palestinians and Arabs the belief that the leaders of the PA are a bunch of corrupt traitors who serve Israeli and American interests.

The damage to the PA’s image and reputation is colossal and irreparable.

Maybe not irreparable, but it’s very hard to see how the already unstable PA will be able to survive this one.

As more Palestinian Papers continue to leak out, the Jerusalem Post is reporting this morning that Hamas has called on Palestinians to protest the alleged “concessions” the PA offered to Israel.

Hamas’s incitement is no surprise. Since yesterday, Al Jazeera has reported that the PA offered the Israelis many of the settlements and admitted that the “right of return” was impractical. And tomorrow, the news network has indicated it will be broadcasting a story on the PA’s alleged collaboration with the Israeli security forces.

Jerusalem Post columnist Khaled Abu Toameh writes that the manner in which Al Jazeera has covered the papers is the equivalent of a show trial.

“In other words, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his men have been convicted of high treason — which, in the Arab and Islamic world, is a crime punishable by death,” he wrote. “Al-Jazeera is now waiting for the executioner (the Palestinians, in this case) to carry out the death sentence.”

That seems like a very possible fallout from the papers. While PA leaders claim that the documents are inaccurate, they have little ammunition to fight back against Al Jazeera’s reporting. Al Jazeera is a widely respected news outlet in the Arab world; in comparison, Mahmoud Abbas’s government was already viewed suspiciously by many Palestinians.

Toameh sees this as the beginning of the end for the current West Bank government:

It’s hard to see how, in light of this damning verdict, the PA will be able to salvage what’s left of its credibility. Al- Jazeera has succeeded in instilling in the minds of many Palestinians and Arabs the belief that the leaders of the PA are a bunch of corrupt traitors who serve Israeli and American interests.

The damage to the PA’s image and reputation is colossal and irreparable.

Maybe not irreparable, but it’s very hard to see how the already unstable PA will be able to survive this one.

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Why Mahmoud Abbas Cannot Make Peace

Once in a while, I “meet” someone online, on blogs and in comment sections, who thinks the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks might end the conflict, but I don’t think I know anyone in person who lives in the Middle East who believes this. Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh summed up the consensus view a few days ago. “The peace process is going nowhere,” he wrote, “and everyone is just pretending.”

Nations make peace with their enemies, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — also known as Abu Mazen — is not really Israel’s enemy. He’s hardly a friend or an ally, but the Israeli army and Abbas’s security forces have a better and more professional working relationship with each other right now than they ever have. Even Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, doesn’t think of Abbas as the leader of the enemy camp. “I repeat,” he said a few weeks ago, “Abu Mazen will not fight us.”

Israel’s enemy is the Resistance Bloc consisting of Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah. No one from that bloc is participating in peace talks. Even if Abbas signed a treaty with Israel — a most unlikely event while Hamas holds a gun to his head and even he refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — it would only mean the war between Israel and Abbas was over. But that war is effectively, though perhaps just temporarily, over already. Not much would actually change. The Arab-Israeli conflict would rage on, as would the Islamist-Israeli conflict. Not even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would end if Abbas signed a treaty. He couldn’t enforce it.

“By being forced out of the Gaza Strip,” Toameh wrote, “Abbas lost direct control over some 1.5 million Palestinians, roughly half the Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories. … So if Abbas cannot go to the Gaza Strip and has limited control over the West Bank, where is he supposed to implement a peace agreement? In downtown Ramallah? In Tel Aviv?”

The only reason he retains even limited authority is because he extended his expired term in office and is propped up by Israel. He has no authority whatsoever in Gaza and lacks even influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

If the Iran-led Resistance Bloc was wounded or crumbling, if it was under irresistible pressure from within and without to reform or die, a deal might be possible and would be worth exploring. But that’s not what’s happening. None of the bloc’s leaders will even start peace talks, let alone finish them, while they’re rising in power and have no need to change.

Just a few years ago, Hamas was but one force among several in Gaza, but today it rules with a totalitarian fist. Syria and Hezbollah have seized de facto control over Lebanon, despite Hezbollah’s poor performance in the recent election, while Iran is nearing the threshold of becoming a nuclear-armed regional superpower.

If Abbas had the authority of the Jordanian and Egyptian governments, he might be able to force a cold peace on his people, but he doesn’t. The Resistance Bloc has successfully embedded itself in the Palestinian population and rules roughly half of it. Hamas would simply ignore any treaty Abbas might sign and continue its war against Israel, just as Hezbollah does whatever it wants up north in Lebanon. Abbas can’t put a stop even to his own part of this region-wide conflict any more than Saad Hariri in Beirut can end his.

Once in a while, I “meet” someone online, on blogs and in comment sections, who thinks the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks might end the conflict, but I don’t think I know anyone in person who lives in the Middle East who believes this. Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh summed up the consensus view a few days ago. “The peace process is going nowhere,” he wrote, “and everyone is just pretending.”

Nations make peace with their enemies, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — also known as Abu Mazen — is not really Israel’s enemy. He’s hardly a friend or an ally, but the Israeli army and Abbas’s security forces have a better and more professional working relationship with each other right now than they ever have. Even Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, doesn’t think of Abbas as the leader of the enemy camp. “I repeat,” he said a few weeks ago, “Abu Mazen will not fight us.”

Israel’s enemy is the Resistance Bloc consisting of Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah. No one from that bloc is participating in peace talks. Even if Abbas signed a treaty with Israel — a most unlikely event while Hamas holds a gun to his head and even he refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — it would only mean the war between Israel and Abbas was over. But that war is effectively, though perhaps just temporarily, over already. Not much would actually change. The Arab-Israeli conflict would rage on, as would the Islamist-Israeli conflict. Not even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would end if Abbas signed a treaty. He couldn’t enforce it.

“By being forced out of the Gaza Strip,” Toameh wrote, “Abbas lost direct control over some 1.5 million Palestinians, roughly half the Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories. … So if Abbas cannot go to the Gaza Strip and has limited control over the West Bank, where is he supposed to implement a peace agreement? In downtown Ramallah? In Tel Aviv?”

The only reason he retains even limited authority is because he extended his expired term in office and is propped up by Israel. He has no authority whatsoever in Gaza and lacks even influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

If the Iran-led Resistance Bloc was wounded or crumbling, if it was under irresistible pressure from within and without to reform or die, a deal might be possible and would be worth exploring. But that’s not what’s happening. None of the bloc’s leaders will even start peace talks, let alone finish them, while they’re rising in power and have no need to change.

Just a few years ago, Hamas was but one force among several in Gaza, but today it rules with a totalitarian fist. Syria and Hezbollah have seized de facto control over Lebanon, despite Hezbollah’s poor performance in the recent election, while Iran is nearing the threshold of becoming a nuclear-armed regional superpower.

If Abbas had the authority of the Jordanian and Egyptian governments, he might be able to force a cold peace on his people, but he doesn’t. The Resistance Bloc has successfully embedded itself in the Palestinian population and rules roughly half of it. Hamas would simply ignore any treaty Abbas might sign and continue its war against Israel, just as Hezbollah does whatever it wants up north in Lebanon. Abbas can’t put a stop even to his own part of this region-wide conflict any more than Saad Hariri in Beirut can end his.

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Western Media Take a Pass on Palestinian Repression

Critics of Israel are fond of saying that a disproportionate focus on Israel’s failings is justified because of American support for the Jewish state. After all, they argue, no matter what goes on elsewhere, Israel’s activities, for good or ill, are in some measure the result of American generosity. But the same can also be said for the Palestinian Authority, whose government and armed forces are far more heavily subsidized by American taxpayers than those of Israel. But there remains little interest on the part of the media in exposing Palestinian misdeeds, besides which Israel’s foibles appear quite insignificant.

This unfortunate fact has been once again illustrated by the lack of interest on the part of the Western media in reporting the story of the PA’s imprisonment of seven Palestinian academics last week. Over at the Hudson Institute’s website, the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Palestinian journalists did their best to interest their Western colleagues in the fate of these academics. Of course, Palestinian writers didn’t dare report this themselves, knowing all too well the fate of those who cross the PA security services. But unsurprisingly, of all the hundreds of Western reporters and correspondents stationed in Israel, Abu Toameh says only one chose to go with the story. Some blamed their editors back in the United States or Europe, who considered the topic “insignificant.” Others admitted that “they were concerned about their personal safety should they report a news item that was likely to anger the Western-funded PA security forces in the West Bank.”

Abu Toameh says that one Palestinian journalist then pitched a story about a Palestinian academic being denied the right to visit Israel and found that every journalist who had turned down the lead about the seven imprisoned scholars were quite eager to jump on the story that allegedly put the Jewish state in a bad light.

As Abu Toameh notes, the Western reluctance to report anything that shines a light on Palestinian corruption or tyranny isn’t new. The same “see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil” motto characterized Western coverage of Yasir Arafat’s reign of terror at the Palestinian Authority. That the object of their crimes is at times — as the arrest of the academics proved to be — part of Fatah’s civil war against the Islamist thugs of Hamas doesn’t make the Western media’s refusal to tell the truth about the Palestinian Authority any more defensible. Under the rule of Mahmoud Abbas, the thugs of the PA continue to run roughshod over their own people and to intimidate journalists on America’s dime.

Critics of Israel are fond of saying that a disproportionate focus on Israel’s failings is justified because of American support for the Jewish state. After all, they argue, no matter what goes on elsewhere, Israel’s activities, for good or ill, are in some measure the result of American generosity. But the same can also be said for the Palestinian Authority, whose government and armed forces are far more heavily subsidized by American taxpayers than those of Israel. But there remains little interest on the part of the media in exposing Palestinian misdeeds, besides which Israel’s foibles appear quite insignificant.

This unfortunate fact has been once again illustrated by the lack of interest on the part of the Western media in reporting the story of the PA’s imprisonment of seven Palestinian academics last week. Over at the Hudson Institute’s website, the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Palestinian journalists did their best to interest their Western colleagues in the fate of these academics. Of course, Palestinian writers didn’t dare report this themselves, knowing all too well the fate of those who cross the PA security services. But unsurprisingly, of all the hundreds of Western reporters and correspondents stationed in Israel, Abu Toameh says only one chose to go with the story. Some blamed their editors back in the United States or Europe, who considered the topic “insignificant.” Others admitted that “they were concerned about their personal safety should they report a news item that was likely to anger the Western-funded PA security forces in the West Bank.”

Abu Toameh says that one Palestinian journalist then pitched a story about a Palestinian academic being denied the right to visit Israel and found that every journalist who had turned down the lead about the seven imprisoned scholars were quite eager to jump on the story that allegedly put the Jewish state in a bad light.

As Abu Toameh notes, the Western reluctance to report anything that shines a light on Palestinian corruption or tyranny isn’t new. The same “see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil” motto characterized Western coverage of Yasir Arafat’s reign of terror at the Palestinian Authority. That the object of their crimes is at times — as the arrest of the academics proved to be — part of Fatah’s civil war against the Islamist thugs of Hamas doesn’t make the Western media’s refusal to tell the truth about the Palestinian Authority any more defensible. Under the rule of Mahmoud Abbas, the thugs of the PA continue to run roughshod over their own people and to intimidate journalists on America’s dime.

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Say It in Arabic

David wondered yesterday why revolutionary statements by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had been largely ignored by the mainstream media, and suggested that perhaps it’s because “it doesn’t fit well with the current climate of radically de-legitimizing the Jewish state.” But there could be a far less sinister reason: The smarter Middle East hands have figured out by now that what Arab leaders say in English to American audiences is meaningless; what matters is what they are willing to say in Arabic to their own people. And so far, Abbas shows no sign of being willing to say the same in Arabic.

Granted, the statements represent progress: Even in English, I can’t recall Abbas ever before so openly acknowledging Jewish historical ties to the Middle East or Israel’s claim to (part of) Jerusalem. But in Arabic, the standard narrative continues to be that Jews are colonial interlopers with no claim whatsoever to the land. And as Max Singer of the Begin-Sadat Center perceptively noted, until this changes, peace will be impossible: Palestinians will not make peace unless they believe they can do so honorably, and this “depends on whether the Jews are colonial thieves stealing land solely on the basis of force, or whether they are a people that also historically lived in the land.”

It would be nice to think that Abbas’s statements last week were a dry run for the more difficult job of telling his countrymen the same things in Arabic. Far more likely, however, is that his goal was simply to woo liberal American Jews, who are presumably close to the Democratic administration, in the hope that they will in turn use their influence with the administration to help him secure his real goal — which is not a deal with Israel, but a deal with Barack Obama.

And that is not mere cynical speculation. It is, almost word for word, what a close associate quoted Abbas as saying less than three weeks ago.

According to the Jerusalem Post’s invaluable Khaled Abu Toameh, Abbas Zaki, who sits on the central committee of Abbas’s Fatah party, told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi paper in May that at a recent meeting with U.S. envoy George Mitchell, “President Abbas told Mitchell that the Israelis are no longer peace partners as much as the Americans are,” and therefore urged the U.S. to present its own peace proposals instead of waiting for an Israeli proposal.

“The Palestinian Authority is negotiating with Washington and not with Tel Aviv,” he added, lest anyone miss the message.

That interview, incidentally, occurred several days before Israel’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. Numerous Western commentators have since blamed that raid for thwarting peace efforts. But as long as Abbas remains determined to negotiate with America rather than Israel, there can be no serious peace effort to thwart.

David wondered yesterday why revolutionary statements by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had been largely ignored by the mainstream media, and suggested that perhaps it’s because “it doesn’t fit well with the current climate of radically de-legitimizing the Jewish state.” But there could be a far less sinister reason: The smarter Middle East hands have figured out by now that what Arab leaders say in English to American audiences is meaningless; what matters is what they are willing to say in Arabic to their own people. And so far, Abbas shows no sign of being willing to say the same in Arabic.

Granted, the statements represent progress: Even in English, I can’t recall Abbas ever before so openly acknowledging Jewish historical ties to the Middle East or Israel’s claim to (part of) Jerusalem. But in Arabic, the standard narrative continues to be that Jews are colonial interlopers with no claim whatsoever to the land. And as Max Singer of the Begin-Sadat Center perceptively noted, until this changes, peace will be impossible: Palestinians will not make peace unless they believe they can do so honorably, and this “depends on whether the Jews are colonial thieves stealing land solely on the basis of force, or whether they are a people that also historically lived in the land.”

It would be nice to think that Abbas’s statements last week were a dry run for the more difficult job of telling his countrymen the same things in Arabic. Far more likely, however, is that his goal was simply to woo liberal American Jews, who are presumably close to the Democratic administration, in the hope that they will in turn use their influence with the administration to help him secure his real goal — which is not a deal with Israel, but a deal with Barack Obama.

And that is not mere cynical speculation. It is, almost word for word, what a close associate quoted Abbas as saying less than three weeks ago.

According to the Jerusalem Post’s invaluable Khaled Abu Toameh, Abbas Zaki, who sits on the central committee of Abbas’s Fatah party, told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi paper in May that at a recent meeting with U.S. envoy George Mitchell, “President Abbas told Mitchell that the Israelis are no longer peace partners as much as the Americans are,” and therefore urged the U.S. to present its own peace proposals instead of waiting for an Israeli proposal.

“The Palestinian Authority is negotiating with Washington and not with Tel Aviv,” he added, lest anyone miss the message.

That interview, incidentally, occurred several days before Israel’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. Numerous Western commentators have since blamed that raid for thwarting peace efforts. But as long as Abbas remains determined to negotiate with America rather than Israel, there can be no serious peace effort to thwart.

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No One Cares About Gaza

You might think that with all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over Gaza lately, the Palestinian suffering would move people like no other cause in the world, but if so, you would be wrong. Few activists, journalists, or diplomats genuinely seem to care what those people are going through.

Consider this: Hamas, not Israel, refuses to allow donated food and medicine in. If it’s “collective punishment” when Israel restricts certain items, what should we call it when Hamas refuses all of the items? Few seem to have given it any thought. So far I haven’t found a single person indignant about the Israeli blockade who has said or written a word about Hamas refusing to allow donated goods into the territory. Even those who actually donated and delivered the items are quiet about it.

And consider what Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh wrote at the Hudson New York website on Tuesday. He describes how the Hamas raid on several non-governmental and human-rights organization offices recently was largely ignored by the media, how Hamas banned municipal elections, how hundreds have been arrested for protesting its draconian rule, and how dozens of opposition leaders have been jailed or killed since the terrorist army seized power. “Under Hamas,” he writes, “the Gaza Strip is being transformed into a fundamentalist Islamic entity resembling the regimes of the Ayatollahs in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

And yet, for the most part, the only people who vigorously protest Hamas are Palestinians, Israelis, and Israel’s supporters in Western countries. Most “pro-Palestinian” activists in the Middle East and the West hardly say anything about the Taliban of the Eastern Mediterranean except when cheering them on at creepy rallies.

An extraordinary amount of time and energy has been spent in the last ten days denouncing Israel for its supposedly inhumane treatment of Gaza, but Hamas — under which Palestinians fare orders of magnitude worse — gets a pass from most of the people yelling at Israel. It’s not hard to figure out who and what all the fuss is really about. If Gaza weren’t at war with a half-Western Jewish country, Palestinians who suffer as a result would get no more attention than victims of the civil conflict in Yemen.

You might think that with all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over Gaza lately, the Palestinian suffering would move people like no other cause in the world, but if so, you would be wrong. Few activists, journalists, or diplomats genuinely seem to care what those people are going through.

Consider this: Hamas, not Israel, refuses to allow donated food and medicine in. If it’s “collective punishment” when Israel restricts certain items, what should we call it when Hamas refuses all of the items? Few seem to have given it any thought. So far I haven’t found a single person indignant about the Israeli blockade who has said or written a word about Hamas refusing to allow donated goods into the territory. Even those who actually donated and delivered the items are quiet about it.

And consider what Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh wrote at the Hudson New York website on Tuesday. He describes how the Hamas raid on several non-governmental and human-rights organization offices recently was largely ignored by the media, how Hamas banned municipal elections, how hundreds have been arrested for protesting its draconian rule, and how dozens of opposition leaders have been jailed or killed since the terrorist army seized power. “Under Hamas,” he writes, “the Gaza Strip is being transformed into a fundamentalist Islamic entity resembling the regimes of the Ayatollahs in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

And yet, for the most part, the only people who vigorously protest Hamas are Palestinians, Israelis, and Israel’s supporters in Western countries. Most “pro-Palestinian” activists in the Middle East and the West hardly say anything about the Taliban of the Eastern Mediterranean except when cheering them on at creepy rallies.

An extraordinary amount of time and energy has been spent in the last ten days denouncing Israel for its supposedly inhumane treatment of Gaza, but Hamas — under which Palestinians fare orders of magnitude worse — gets a pass from most of the people yelling at Israel. It’s not hard to figure out who and what all the fuss is really about. If Gaza weren’t at war with a half-Western Jewish country, Palestinians who suffer as a result would get no more attention than victims of the civil conflict in Yemen.

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Fuel Wars and Media Wars

Hamas has lost — often badly — in every military theater it has fought in. Its suicide bombings have been thwarted by fences and walls, its rocket attacks, while a serious problem, do not cause many casualties and whenever Katyushas have been employed Hamas has suffered a stinging response from the IDF. So Hamas is now concentrating its efforts on fighting in the only theater in which it still enjoys superiority over Israel — in the media. Almost everything the terror group does today is oriented toward winning media coverage that condemns Israel and apologizes for Hamas.

Check out Khaled Abu Toameh’s report in today’s Jerusalem Post if you had any doubts. Hamas is now fanatically trying to cause fuel shortages in the Gaza Strip, so that a litany of horrors can be blamed on Israel — hospital closures, blackouts, sewage overflows, pestilence, boils, locusts, everything.

Eyewitnesses in Gaza City said that at least on four occasions over the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen confiscated trucks loaded with fuel shortly as they were on their way from Nahal Oz to the city.

They added that the fuel supplies were taken to Hamas-controlled security installations throughout the city.

“Hamas is taking the fuel for it the vehicles of is leaders and security forces,” the eyewitnesses said. “Because of Hamas’s actions, some hospitals have been forced to stop the work of ambulances and generators.”

PA officials in Ramallah said Hamas’s measures were aimed at creating a crisis in the Gaza Strip with the hope that the international community would intervene and force Israel to reopen the border crossings.

“As far as we know, there is enough fuel reaching the Gaza Strip,” the officials said. “But Hamas’s measures are aimed at creating a crisis. Hamas is either stealing or blocking most of the fuel supplies.”

Hamas has also been exerting pressure on the Gaza Petrol Station Owners Association to close down their businesses so as to aggravate the crisis. Some of the station owners and workers said they were afraid to return to work after receiving death threats from Hamas militiamen and ordinary residents desperate to purchase gas and diesel for their vehicles.

Over the winter, Hamas rode high on a crescendo of international sympathy for Gaza and outrage at Israel when it convinced the world that Israel had caused a blackout of the Strip. Its conduits for doing so were the international press corps and international human rights and aid organizations, all of which (to varying degrees) are deeply invested in advancing the narrative of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli cruelty.

Is there any doubt today that the most important battlefield in this conflict is not in Gaza or Sderot, but in newspaper articles and television broadcasts?

Hamas has lost — often badly — in every military theater it has fought in. Its suicide bombings have been thwarted by fences and walls, its rocket attacks, while a serious problem, do not cause many casualties and whenever Katyushas have been employed Hamas has suffered a stinging response from the IDF. So Hamas is now concentrating its efforts on fighting in the only theater in which it still enjoys superiority over Israel — in the media. Almost everything the terror group does today is oriented toward winning media coverage that condemns Israel and apologizes for Hamas.

Check out Khaled Abu Toameh’s report in today’s Jerusalem Post if you had any doubts. Hamas is now fanatically trying to cause fuel shortages in the Gaza Strip, so that a litany of horrors can be blamed on Israel — hospital closures, blackouts, sewage overflows, pestilence, boils, locusts, everything.

Eyewitnesses in Gaza City said that at least on four occasions over the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen confiscated trucks loaded with fuel shortly as they were on their way from Nahal Oz to the city.

They added that the fuel supplies were taken to Hamas-controlled security installations throughout the city.

“Hamas is taking the fuel for it the vehicles of is leaders and security forces,” the eyewitnesses said. “Because of Hamas’s actions, some hospitals have been forced to stop the work of ambulances and generators.”

PA officials in Ramallah said Hamas’s measures were aimed at creating a crisis in the Gaza Strip with the hope that the international community would intervene and force Israel to reopen the border crossings.

“As far as we know, there is enough fuel reaching the Gaza Strip,” the officials said. “But Hamas’s measures are aimed at creating a crisis. Hamas is either stealing or blocking most of the fuel supplies.”

Hamas has also been exerting pressure on the Gaza Petrol Station Owners Association to close down their businesses so as to aggravate the crisis. Some of the station owners and workers said they were afraid to return to work after receiving death threats from Hamas militiamen and ordinary residents desperate to purchase gas and diesel for their vehicles.

Over the winter, Hamas rode high on a crescendo of international sympathy for Gaza and outrage at Israel when it convinced the world that Israel had caused a blackout of the Strip. Its conduits for doing so were the international press corps and international human rights and aid organizations, all of which (to varying degrees) are deeply invested in advancing the narrative of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli cruelty.

Is there any doubt today that the most important battlefield in this conflict is not in Gaza or Sderot, but in newspaper articles and television broadcasts?

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Candlelight by Daylight

Illustrating the old adage that a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on, the story of Israel cutting off power to Gaza continues to circulate. What really happened? Something very typical, alas: a collaboration between journalists and Palestinians in manufacturing anti-Israel propaganda. As Khaled Abu Toameh (among others) reports:

On at least two occasions this week, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of its campaign to end the political and economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip, Palestinian journalists said Wednesday.

In the first case, journalists who were invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles.

In the second case on Tuesday, journalists noticed that Hamas legislators who were meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles.

But some of the journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight.

A bit under a third of Gaza’s electricity is supplied by a power station inside of Gaza; a tiny bit is supplied by Egypt, and the rest is supplied by Israel. It was the power station inside of Gaza that was shut down, and not shut down by Israel, but by Hamas, in order to lend credibility to its effort to generate international pressure against Israel’s blockade of the Strip. For the media, it staged candle-lit scenes and trumpeted the fiction that Israel had plunged Gaza into darkness.

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Illustrating the old adage that a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on, the story of Israel cutting off power to Gaza continues to circulate. What really happened? Something very typical, alas: a collaboration between journalists and Palestinians in manufacturing anti-Israel propaganda. As Khaled Abu Toameh (among others) reports:

On at least two occasions this week, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of its campaign to end the political and economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip, Palestinian journalists said Wednesday.

In the first case, journalists who were invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles.

In the second case on Tuesday, journalists noticed that Hamas legislators who were meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles.

But some of the journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight.

A bit under a third of Gaza’s electricity is supplied by a power station inside of Gaza; a tiny bit is supplied by Egypt, and the rest is supplied by Israel. It was the power station inside of Gaza that was shut down, and not shut down by Israel, but by Hamas, in order to lend credibility to its effort to generate international pressure against Israel’s blockade of the Strip. For the media, it staged candle-lit scenes and trumpeted the fiction that Israel had plunged Gaza into darkness.

The terrorists of Hamas may be brutal, but they understand how to wage war in the media far better than the Israelis do. They knew the fact that Israel had never cut the electricity to Gaza or even reduced it was entirely beside the point, and would probably not be investigated by reporters–and they understand that images of people sitting in darkness with their faces illuminated by candlelight are visually compelling and can do more to convince the world of Palestinian victimization than a hundred press releases could ever accomplish.

Yet the fact remains that the speciousness of this story is readily available to anyone with an internet connection and a basic sense of skepticism and curiosity. But that hasn’t stopped the rigorously fact-checked exemplars of the MSM from repeating it. Here is yesterday’s New York Times editorial:

We are deeply concerned about the many innocent Israelis who live along the border with Gaza and must suffer through the constant bombardment. But Israel’s response—shutting off power and other essential supplies—is a collective punishment that will only feed anger and extremism.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Times editorialists could become deeply concerned with getting their facts straight?

Here is the Washington Post‘s editorial:

Israel closed its border with the territory and disrupted power supplies over the weekend in response to a massive escalation of Palestinian rocket launches from Gaza at nearby Israeli towns.

And for the greatest hilarity, check out this photograph in TIME magazine, which is captioned: “The Palestinian Parliament was forced to meet by candlelight on Tuesday night.” Now look at the window in the upper left corner of the picture: The curtain blocking it has a rather curiously bright, luminous border around it, doesn’t it? Tuesday night? Do TIME’s editors know how gullible they look?

The New York Times, the Washington Post, TIME magazine: When it comes to Israel, the lies often find themselves traveling first class. I doubt corrections will be forthcoming.

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The End of Mashaal, Haniyeh, and Zahar?

Khaled Abu Toameh reports in the Jerusalem Post today that

Israel is planning to assassinate exiled Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal, deposed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and former PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, but is waiting to give the green light on the operation until after US President George W. Bush leaves the region, the London-based newspaper, Al-Hayat reported on Sunday.

Color me skeptical. Israel has had good cause to take such action for years, but has not done so, save for a terribly botched attempt on Mashaal in 1997 in Jordan. If the story is true, however, I suspect that the assassinations would be a component of a larger operation in Gaza that would seek to substantially weaken Hamas’ power there, preparing the territory for the return of Fatah, which is an American objective–and which would give the Israelis, I would imagine, explicit American approval for the assassinations.

The above speculation should not be construed, though, as anything other than tea-leaf reading.

Khaled Abu Toameh reports in the Jerusalem Post today that

Israel is planning to assassinate exiled Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal, deposed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and former PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, but is waiting to give the green light on the operation until after US President George W. Bush leaves the region, the London-based newspaper, Al-Hayat reported on Sunday.

Color me skeptical. Israel has had good cause to take such action for years, but has not done so, save for a terribly botched attempt on Mashaal in 1997 in Jordan. If the story is true, however, I suspect that the assassinations would be a component of a larger operation in Gaza that would seek to substantially weaken Hamas’ power there, preparing the territory for the return of Fatah, which is an American objective–and which would give the Israelis, I would imagine, explicit American approval for the assassinations.

The above speculation should not be construed, though, as anything other than tea-leaf reading.

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Changing the Ground Rules in Gaza

I’ve never quite understood the uproar that Israel’s targeted killings of terrorists always causes. These assassinations are surely the most morally pure way to wage war: they allow minimal, often zero, civilian casualties or collateral damage; the people who bear the greatest culpability for terror attacks are eliminated instead of the lower echelons, which inevitably are comprised of fevered, brainwashed young men; their deterrent power is immense, as terror leaders are driven underground in fear for their lives and are forced to invest large amounts of time in the avoidance of being killed; and perhaps best of all, they instantaneously impose a debilitating paranoia on terror organizations, as the leadership scrambles to figure out who among them is collaborating. All in all, a morally righteous and devastating way to wage war — which is perhaps exactly why the tactic is so frequently condemned.

Over the past two weeks Israel has revived its targeted killing policy, re-instituting a tactic that was vital to winning the second intifada. In Gaza, the IDF and Shin Bet have been methodically picking off Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror leaders, creating a situation, in remarkably short order, in which Hamas is begging for a “cease-fire” (that is, a reprieve from the war it started), and both Hamas and Islamic Jihad are now turning on themselves, desperate to figure out how their rocket crews and terror chiefs continue to be plucked from existence by precision munitions while driving anonymously around the Gaza strip.

Khaled Abu Toameh has an interesting piece in the Jerusalem Post today about the inner chaos that Israel’s assassinations are causing:

The turmoil in Hamas reached its peak this week when a number of top Hamas officials were summoned for questioning by the movement’s security forces on suspicion of involvement in the alleged plot. Among those interrogated was Sami Abu Zuhri, a prominent spokesman for Hamas, the sources told the Post. . . .
The Hamas security forces have also interrogated Muhammad Abdel Al (Abu Abir), a senior commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of radical armed groups closely associated with Hamas.

The sources said Abdel Al was questioned following the assassination of one of his colleagues, Mubarak al-Hasanat, and a top Islamic Jihad commander, Majed al-Harazeen. The two, who were responsible for firing rockets at Israel, were killed by the IDF. Abdel Al has also denied the charges.

The arrests have left the top brass of Hamas in disarray, the sources said, noting that tensions between top members of the movement reached a boiling point late Wednesday with the assassination of Hazem Muhammad Khalil.

The only thing more remarkable than the IDF and Shin Bet’s penetration of Palestinian terror groups is the continued calls on the part of a few Israeli politicians — and of course, among so many members of the international cognoscenti — to accept Hamas’s truce. No such cessation should happen. Israel demarcated terrible boundaries for itself after it disengaged from Gaza and allowed rocket fire to go unanswered; that acquiescence vindicated Hamas’s belief that its resistance forced Israel out of Gaza and that Israelis have a weak will to fight. Those boundaries are now, finally, being redrawn — and only the continuation of a relentless military campaign against Hamas will finish the job.

12/29 Update: This piece in Ynet by Uri Elitzur — titled, “Keep on striking” — makes some of the same points. Elitzur, writing about the targeted killings that helped win the second intifada: “very quickly the moment arrived where reality is stronger than fury. People who must hide all the time, who cannot sleep two nights in one place, who cannot speak on the phone, are unable to run a terror group or plan terror attacks. Their motivation may be growing, yet the tools at their disposal are increasingly declining.”

I’ve never quite understood the uproar that Israel’s targeted killings of terrorists always causes. These assassinations are surely the most morally pure way to wage war: they allow minimal, often zero, civilian casualties or collateral damage; the people who bear the greatest culpability for terror attacks are eliminated instead of the lower echelons, which inevitably are comprised of fevered, brainwashed young men; their deterrent power is immense, as terror leaders are driven underground in fear for their lives and are forced to invest large amounts of time in the avoidance of being killed; and perhaps best of all, they instantaneously impose a debilitating paranoia on terror organizations, as the leadership scrambles to figure out who among them is collaborating. All in all, a morally righteous and devastating way to wage war — which is perhaps exactly why the tactic is so frequently condemned.

Over the past two weeks Israel has revived its targeted killing policy, re-instituting a tactic that was vital to winning the second intifada. In Gaza, the IDF and Shin Bet have been methodically picking off Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror leaders, creating a situation, in remarkably short order, in which Hamas is begging for a “cease-fire” (that is, a reprieve from the war it started), and both Hamas and Islamic Jihad are now turning on themselves, desperate to figure out how their rocket crews and terror chiefs continue to be plucked from existence by precision munitions while driving anonymously around the Gaza strip.

Khaled Abu Toameh has an interesting piece in the Jerusalem Post today about the inner chaos that Israel’s assassinations are causing:

The turmoil in Hamas reached its peak this week when a number of top Hamas officials were summoned for questioning by the movement’s security forces on suspicion of involvement in the alleged plot. Among those interrogated was Sami Abu Zuhri, a prominent spokesman for Hamas, the sources told the Post. . . .
The Hamas security forces have also interrogated Muhammad Abdel Al (Abu Abir), a senior commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of radical armed groups closely associated with Hamas.

The sources said Abdel Al was questioned following the assassination of one of his colleagues, Mubarak al-Hasanat, and a top Islamic Jihad commander, Majed al-Harazeen. The two, who were responsible for firing rockets at Israel, were killed by the IDF. Abdel Al has also denied the charges.

The arrests have left the top brass of Hamas in disarray, the sources said, noting that tensions between top members of the movement reached a boiling point late Wednesday with the assassination of Hazem Muhammad Khalil.

The only thing more remarkable than the IDF and Shin Bet’s penetration of Palestinian terror groups is the continued calls on the part of a few Israeli politicians — and of course, among so many members of the international cognoscenti — to accept Hamas’s truce. No such cessation should happen. Israel demarcated terrible boundaries for itself after it disengaged from Gaza and allowed rocket fire to go unanswered; that acquiescence vindicated Hamas’s belief that its resistance forced Israel out of Gaza and that Israelis have a weak will to fight. Those boundaries are now, finally, being redrawn — and only the continuation of a relentless military campaign against Hamas will finish the job.

12/29 Update: This piece in Ynet by Uri Elitzur — titled, “Keep on striking” — makes some of the same points. Elitzur, writing about the targeted killings that helped win the second intifada: “very quickly the moment arrived where reality is stronger than fury. People who must hide all the time, who cannot sleep two nights in one place, who cannot speak on the phone, are unable to run a terror group or plan terror attacks. Their motivation may be growing, yet the tools at their disposal are increasingly declining.”

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