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June 9, 2014 3

Hamas-Fatah Unity Deal Raises Many Questions

On Mon­day June 2nd, a tran­si­tional Pales­tin­ian unity gov­ern­ment was sworn in based on an agree­ment reached between Fatah and Hamas. The gov­ern­ment, which is headed by Pales­tin­ian Author­ity Prime Min­is­ter Rami Ham­dal­lah, con­sists of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Fatah and so-called inde­pen­dent “tech­nocrats” who appear to be not directly affil­i­ated with Hamas. The agree­ment requires elec­tions to be held within six months.

Although the US admin­is­tra­tion rushed to pub­licly say it “would work with” the new gov­ern­ment, even they have acknowl­edged there are many ques­tions regard­ing the prac­ti­cal impli­ca­tions and via­bil­ity of this unity gov­ern­ment. After all, sim­i­lar past rec­on­cil­i­a­tions, includ­ing the 2011 Cairo Accord and 2012 Doha Dec­la­ra­tion, both of which are cited as a basis for parts of the cur­rent agree­ment, quickly fell apart.

Hamas Flag

Hamas Flag

At this very early stage, it is fool­ish to pre­dict how the arrange­ment will work in prac­tice, and espe­cially whether free and fair Pales­tin­ian elec­tions will indeed be held in six months. In fact, in the days since the agree­ment was signed, there have been pub­lic dis­putes over finan­cial issues between Hamas and Fatah, and secu­rity forces of both par­ties have detained and arrested offi­cials from the other. Hamas retains its con­trol over a highly trained and well-armed ter­ror­ist para­mil­i­tary force, and an arse­nal of rock­ets and mis­siles which it has used to tar­get Israeli civil­ians. Will the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity secu­rity forces be deployed in Gaza and will Hamas lay down its weapons? If not, how can the pledge by Pres­i­dent Abbas to adhere to the Quar­tet con­di­tions be taken seriously?

Mid­dle East ana­lyst Ehud Yaari argues that by enter­ing into the unity agree­ment, Hamas is fol­low­ing the so-called Hezbol­lah model. Sim­i­lar to Hezbol­lah in Lebanon, Hamas gets polit­i­cal legit­i­macy and main­tains its intim­i­dat­ing and bru­tally effec­tive mil­i­tary force through their Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade. Indeed, Hamas’s secu­rity forces are larger and bet­ter equipped than the Pales­tin­ian Authority’s, and the unity agree­ment makes no men­tion of Hamas dis­arm­ing the al-Qassam Brigade.

Other dif­fi­cult ques­tions about the unity agree­ment that remain murky include what role the so-called tech­nocrats will play in set­ting pol­icy for the new gov­ern­ment, how much influ­ence Hamas’s lead­er­ship will actu­ally have in the Pales­tin­ian Authority’s pol­icy mak­ing, and if or how finan­cial sup­port to the PA from the US and other inter­na­tional donors will be applied in Hamas’s strong­hold over Gaza.

Regard­ing the inde­pen­dent tech­nocrats, there are likely two rea­sons why Pales­tin­ian Pres­i­dent Abbas decided to include them as opposed to actual Hamas offi­cials. First, Abbas cal­cu­lated that the US and oth­ers in the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity would almost cer­tainly reject a Pales­tin­ian gov­ern­ment which included Hamas, a State Depart­ment des­ig­nated For­eign Ter­ror­ist Orga­ni­za­tion. And sec­ond, there are inter­nal Fatah con­cerns about grant­ing Hamas sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence within the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity, and how it could under­mine Abbas and Fatah’s stand­ing among Palestinians.

Yet even with­out its direct par­tic­i­pa­tion, Hamas’s back­ing of the new gov­ern­ment raises seri­ous ques­tions about Pres­i­dent Abbas’s desire and abil­ity to pur­sue a peace­ful end to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict. Despite Pales­tin­ian Author­ity claims that Hamas’s acqui­es­cence to the unity gov­ern­ment is suf­fi­cient to estab­lish its accep­tance of the inter­na­tional community’s cri­te­ria for engage­ment – which includes renounc­ing ter­ror against Israel, acknowl­edg­ing Israel’s right to exist and accept­ing exist­ing Israeli-Palestinian agree­ments – no senior Hamas offi­cial has ever made such a pub­lic pro­nounce­ment. In fact, when asked recently about the unity deal, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh stated emphat­i­cally that Hamas would con­tinue its “resis­tance” efforts against Israel, even in the face of an agreement.

Thus far, the US admin­is­tra­tion has lit­tle or noth­ing to say about all of these open questions.

One last big ques­tion remains — what if new elec­tions are held in the next six months and Hamas wins again, just as it did in 2006?

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May 22, 2014 2

Palestinians Welcome Pope Francis To Bethlehem With Anti-Semitism

On Sun­day, when Pope Fran­cis cel­e­brates mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, he may be con­fronted with bill­boards depict­ing Jesus being attacked by Israeli soldiers.jesus-palestinian-pope-israel

This not-so-subtle mod­ern day ver­sion of the dei­cide is trans­par­ent clas­si­cal anti-Semitism in the guise of crit­i­cism of Israel.  The posters are a prod­uct of The Pales­tin­ian Museum, which announced that at the request of the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity (PA)’s Supreme Pres­i­den­tial Com­mit­tee for Church Affairs, it had pre­pared spe­cial bill­boards to dec­o­rate Manger Square which “com­bine recent media pho­tographs of the Pales­tin­ian land­scape and its peo­ple with West­ern baroque paint­ings of bib­li­cal scenes.”

The posters, some of which depict Jesus suf­fer­ing at the hands of Israeli sol­diers, will high­light “the ten­sion between the pop­u­lar image of the Holy Land and Palestine’s ongo­ing his­tory of suf­fer­ing under occu­pa­tion and oppres­sion,”  accord­ing to the Museum.

Pales­tin­ian efforts to present them­selves as the direct descen­dants of Jesus are noth­ing new.  Nor is the manip­u­la­tive and anti-Semitic com­par­i­son of Pales­tin­ian suf­fer­ing at the hands of Jews just as they claim Jews were respon­si­ble for suf­fer­ing and death of Jesus.

The mes­sage care­fully cho­sen by an offi­cial Pales­tin­ian body to pub­licly wel­come Pope Fran­cis demon­strates how deeply inter­min­gled anti-Jewish and anti-Israel atti­tudes are in the Pales­tin­ian pub­lic sphere.

At the weekly meet­ing of Israel’s cab­i­net, Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu decried Pales­tin­ian incite­ment, cit­ing the ADL Global 100 Sur­vey find­ings about the high level of anti-Semitic atti­tudes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

While the PA reg­u­larly com­plains that incite­ment is an Israeli-manufactured excuse, there is no deny­ing that extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic mes­sag­ing appears rou­tinely in offi­cial Pales­tin­ian pub­li­ca­tions and institutions.

Ear­lier this week, the May 21st edi­tion of the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, fea­tured an op-ed by one of its fre­quent writ­ers, Yahya Rabah, enti­tled “No One Believes Shy­lock,” fea­tur­ing the denial of the Jew­ish con­nec­tion to the Land of Israel, com­par­isons of Israel to the Nazis and other out­rages.   Rabah writes:

“… Israel lives on a broad and exten­sive sys­tem of laws from the British Man­date, on illu­sion­ary Torah maps, as well as on hal­lu­ci­na­tions from the Baby­lon­ian cap­tiv­ity or from the Roman, the exis­tence of nei­ther has no sin­gle evi­dence. (It also lives) on prac­tices bor­rowed from the Nazis, cur­rently imi­tated by the Israelis against the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple, as clearly estab­lished by a num­ber of intel­lec­tu­als, authors and his­to­ri­ans in Israel these days.”

The issue of Pales­tin­ian incite­ment, and the PA’s chronic fail­ure to pre­pare the Pales­tin­ian pub­lic for peace with Israel was on ongo­ing con­cern cited by Israeli offi­cials dur­ing the recent cycle of US-brokered peace nego­ti­a­tions.

And with these egre­gious exam­ples appear­ing almost-daily, it is cer­tain to con­tinue to alarm all those com­mit­ted to true Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.

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January 30, 2014 Off

The Media’s Coverage of Palestinian Incitement Towards Israel

Recently, the New York Times ran an infor­ma­tive piece on the pro­lif­er­a­tion of Hamas train­ing camps in Gaza, where impres­sion­able Pales­tin­ian teens are taught to hate Israel through par­tic­i­pa­tion in military-style boot camps, where they are trained to fire guns and build bombs in order to attack the Jew­ish State.

While the arti­cle itself was inter­est­ing, the tim­ing seemed to sug­gest that Pales­tin­ian incite­ment was some­thing of a new phe­nom­e­non. The real­ity is that this type of vio­lent indoc­tri­na­tion equip­ping chil­dren with the skills and moti­va­tion to kill Israelis, as well as other forms of Pales­tin­ian incite­ment, are noth­ing new.

A recent Israeli gov­ern­ment report high­lights how Pales­tin­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials, media out­lets and edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions are engaged in an ongo­ing incite­ment cam­paign towards Israel. Hitler is quoted on school Face­book pages, Jews are described on TV as “bar­baric mon­keys” and the “mur­ders of Mohammed,” and Pales­tin­ian Pres­i­dent Abbas has repeat­edly embraced released Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ists as “heroes.”

Per­haps one of the most infa­mous instances of Pales­tin­ian incite­ment occurred in 2007 with Mickey Mouse “Far­four” episode, where Mickey was shown on Hamas TV being beaten to death by an actor pos­ing as an Israeli agent try­ing to buy land. Young view­ers of the TV pro­gram were than told that “Far­four was mar­tyred while defend­ing his land” and was killed “by the killers of chil­dren.” The Hamas TV episode was so hor­rific it even mer­ited a spot on The Daily Show.

With Israel and the Pales­tini­ans cur­rently engaged in an intense and pro­tracted period of nego­ti­a­tions over the poten­tial for a future Pales­tin­ian state, the need to high­light and coun­ter­act the dan­gers of incite­ment is even more press­ing. The issue has been repeat­edly raised in recent weeks by Israeli polit­i­cal lead­ers in meet­ings with inter­na­tional lead­ers, pub­lic speeches and other forums, but hasn’t received as much inter­na­tional media atten­tion as it should.

In order for peace to be achieved, the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity must end the incite­ment cam­paign against Israel. It is the task of respon­si­ble media out­lets to con­tinue to draw atten­tion to the issue, and not allow incite­ment to con­tinue exist­ing under the surface.

 

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