Israel Resource Review 7th April, 1997


The Man Who Swallowed Gaza
by Ronen Bergman and David Ratner
Ha'aretz, Weekend Supplement
4th April, 1997

  • The cement monopoly, The Al-Bahr Company, belongs to Muhammad Rashid, Arafat's chef de bureau and economic advisor.

  • Palestinian Authority chief Yasser Arafat maintains what people in the know in the territories call "A-Sunduk A-Thani," Fund B, the Chairman's second, secret budget in the Hahashmonaim branch of Bank Leumi, only two people, Arafat and Rashid, have the right to sign vis-a-vis this account. Since it was opened in 1994, Israel has transferred at least NIS 500 million - rebates for taxes on fuel paid to Israel for fuel bound for the autonomy - into the secret account in Tel Aviv, which an International Monetary Fund (IMF) internal document states "is not under the control or supervision of the Palestinian finance ministry."

    The money was used to cover an inflated bureaucracy, fund a fall back plan to relocate Arafat and in the event of a coup, and cover other expenses which the contributing nations would never approve such expenses."

    The Palestinian Authority put the West Bank under the jurisdiction of Jordanian law of the 1960s, and Gaza subject to Egyptian law of the same time period. The result is that in the territories of the Authority today there is no obligation to register a company, or to compete in tenders; there is no organized system for enforcing or collecting debts; there is no law governing mortgages for housing; no way of documenting joint entrepreneurial initiatives; the list goes on and on.

  • Under the economic agreement between the Authority and Israel, the Authority pledged not to interfere with contracts between Israeli suppliers and Palestinian customers that had been signed before the signing of the Paris protocol. Overnight, the Israeli energy company, Pedasco, found itself without contracts, without customers, and without the equipment it had leased to the gas stations. Instead Dor Energy sells the fuel to the Palestinian monopoly at a certain price, and the monopoly sells it to the station owners at a much higher price.

  • Every merchant and truck owner must pay the preventive security apparatus a tithe to Rajoub or Dahlan in order to proceed at the transit points. Sometimes, its done in a simpler fashion. An Israeli importer of cleaning products, who opened a branch in Gaza, was asked to pay $2,000, a "donation" to Force 17. A year ago, a rich Arab from East Jerusalem was asked to purchase 14 new jeeps, out of his own money, for Rajoub's organization's use.

  • Yiftah fuel transport company director Eli Mutai: "It's not just a question of taxes and monopolies. It is Middle Eastern economics. Nothing works without bribery. Its first and foremost Jibril Rajoub, and then Dahlan. Business there runs smoothly, everyone gets a piece, the people in power receive percentages.

  • Husam Khader, PLC representative from Nablus: "They cut up the pie among themselves. The Palestinian leaders thought that our economy was some sort of inheritance due them and their children. Every honcho got himself a fat slice of the imports into the Authority. One got the fuel, another got the cigarettes, yet another the lottery, and his crony the flour. Gravel is a monopoly belonging directly to the security apparatuses, and they earn a fortune from it that finances their operations."

  • The monopolies' activities in several sectors have jacked up the prices to the consumer. Feed for sheep (khalta) sold under Israel's administration at 120 dinars a ton. Today, the price is 300 dinars a ton. The price of a six-kilogram bag of flour has nearly tripled, from $15 to $40. Khadr does not object to the Authority's collecting a commission on import taxes. "The problem is that the money does not get to the Authority, and the Authority has no idea of what is happening or what the monopolies' profits are. Freedom of information. You make me laugh. I could yell in parliament and set up commissions of inquiry, but nothing would come of it. We don't get the information from the Authority that we ask for. We don't know how much the monopolies earn, or where the money goes. The senior economists and monopoly owners, especially Muhammad Rashid, are not willing to appear before the parliament; and when they do appear, they just leave unanswered questions behind them -- and all this they cloak under the guise of state security, and it's all classified."

    According to American State Department reports, 27 monopolies are currently operating in the Authority's territories. In addition, the Authority issues import licenses to only a few of the applicants. Thus, Nabil Shaath's Egyptian company imports computers into the territories. Ramallah is the headquarters of Paltech, importers of consumer entertainment electronics (televisions, VCRs), owned by Yasser Abbas (the son of Abu Mazen) and Sami Ramlawi, one of the top officials of the Palestinian ministry of finance were supposedly doing the work for the Authority and selling it equipment, but in actuality, all the work was ours."

  • Dr. Hisham Awartani: "When it was founded, the Palestinian Authority promised a market economy. In actuality, it is doing exactly the opposite, interfering constantly in private enterprise while its leaders stuff their pockets. We, the Palestinians, have a tendency to blame Israel for all our economic problems. That is a major mistake. We have to blame ourselves as well. First of all, I think we have to get rid of the Authority's entire economic leadership: Nabil Shaath, Abu Ala, Muhammad Shtiya, Muhammad Rashid. We can't possibly allow a man like Nabil Shaath, who has such extensive private business dealings in the Authority, to preside over its official economy in a manner that places him in a position of constant conflicts of interests. We cannot possibly take such an ineffectual economics minister [the reference is to Mahr al-Mitzri]. They have all failed. They must all go home."

    It is possible to enter into an agreement with a senior official to agree on the import of a certain product into the territory of the Authority in amounts much greater than the needs of the local market. The Authority will get the full amount of the taxes from Israel, and kick some of it back to the importer. This way, the Authority earns money on merchandise that was never marketed in its territory, while the importer, who has gotten back some of the duties he has paid, can sell his goods at a very cheap price on the Israeli market. Yoni Shastovich, the importer of Gillette products in Israel estimates that approximately 10% of Gillette's turnover in Israel, which was previously his alone, has been captured by merchandise that comes back from the territories to be sold in Israel.

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This Song Must be Stopped
by Gadi Blum
"Al Hasharon" Regional Weekly
4th April, 1997

It is estimated that the market for pirate recordings in Israel has reached NIS 250 million while the legal market is NIS500 million. Israeli, Palestinian and Eastern European criminals have joined forces to turn the autonomy into the source for pirated music. Factories in Ramallah, Hebron and other locations produce virtually identical copies of the original recordings. The factory in Ramallah is owned by the family of the mayor. While there are heavy pirate music sales in Saturday markets in Israeli Arab cities where Israelis can buy recording sometimes by weight, the copies are also now making their way into the regular stores. The music industry fears that soon the pirating will collapse the market.

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"Kill & Run" Precedent of the Oslo Accord?
by David Bedein
Media Research Analyst

The March 21, 1997 explosion at a Tel Aviv cafe once again brought the issue of terrorism to the forefront of the peace process.

In order to allay Israelis' fears and resume negotiations, both Netanyahu and Clinton have demanded that Arafat take a stronger initiative against terrorism, resulting in the arrest of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists.

The arrests are meant to demonstrate that Arafat is committed to eliminating terrorism. However, both Israel and the United States have refrained from issuing a greater demand on Arafat, a demand which would have a much greater effect in demonstrating that Arafat no longer tolerates violence: arresting and handing over to Israel the Palestinian terrorists who have committed murder within the areas of Israel's jurisdiction and taken refuge in the areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian autonomy

Under the terms of the interim agreement the PA is obligated to comply with Israeli requests for the transfer of suspected killers.

Israel has already made 27 such requests. Not one has been honored.

Yet while the PA clearly is culpable of violating an important part of the Oslo accords, Israel cannot place responsibility entirely on the Palestinians.

Yet in some cases in which Israelis were murdered by terrorists who then fled to the Palestine Authority, the government has never issued any demand that the killers be arrested, let alone handed over.

In light of such a lack of committment on the Israeli side, the Palestinian response is less than surprising.

Perhaps the Israeli government's attitude towards Palestinians who murder Israelis and then find refuge in the Palestine Authority was best typified by MK Michael Eitan, the chairman of the Israel Knesset Coalition,who referred to the murder of Yakov Yamin, a sixty year old Israeli whose killer fled to Bethlehem and promptly received a warm reception, as a "small infringement."

Such a cavalier response by an MK to a murder may be surprising. However, politicians would not make such comments, nor would the government treat the matter so lightly if the population as a whole felt differently.

The murder of Yaakov Yamin occurred on the day of the Hebron agreement between Arafat and Netanyau, and it quickly escaped public attention.

So when Rabbi David Foreman, a leading member of Rabbis for Human Rights, was asked about the case of Yaakov Yamin, he simply blurted out, "who?" Rabbi Foreman said that despite the PA's inability of keeping convicted killers behind bars, (Ten Palestinians recently convicted in the Palestine Authority of killing Israelis are now serving in the Palestinian Preventive Security Force) the Rabbi said that he did not have a strong opinion on whether Yamin's killer should be turned over to the Israeli authorities. "I'm not big on double standards," he said, noting the case of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, a leader of the Hebron Jewish community who received a light sentence for killing a Palestinian after his car had been stoned. Other human rights groups seemed to apply a similar "two wrongs make a right" approach in dismissing charges against the Palestinian judicial system. A staffer for B'Tselem, a group that monitors both Israeli and Palestinian human rights violations in the West Bank, stressed that both sides have failed to administer justice in a fair manner, saying that she doubted whether a Palestinian could receive a fair trial within Israel, adding that B'Tselem does not involve itself in matters which it considers to be of a primarily political nature and not directly relating to human rights.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Bat Shalom, a human rights peace group dedicated to protecting rights of women, said it was insincere for Israel to pretend that it was innocent in such a matter, since in the past Israeli courts have released Jewish killers. Bat Shalom, she said, cannot address "every" legal issue of the Oslo process, although she defended her group's decision to support the release of a group of Palestinian women prisoners, including convicted murderers, because Israel is legally obligated to do so by the Oslo accords. She said that Bat Shalom had no position on the matter of the PA turning over killers, even though this remains part of the accords. "I'm sure there are people that take care of that," she said.

The widely held assumption that the Israeli government makes every possible effort to get justice for the murder of its citizens is far from the truth. Despite Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi's March, 1997 tough posturing - he threatened to "send Arafat back to Tunis if the peace process broke down" - HaNegbi failed to ask his counterpart, PA Justice Minister Abu Medein, to investigate Yamin's murder as well as the May, 1996 murderer of 16-year old David Boim nor the mastermind of the October 1994 abduction and murder of 19 year-old Nachshon Wachsman.

Boim and Waxman were American citizens. In a letter to President Clinton, U.S. Representative James Saxton of New Jersey asked the president if the arrest of Mohammed Deif, the man behind the Wachsman killing three years ago, remained a top priority. Saxton mentioned the public promise that Clinton gave to Wachsman's parents at Nachshon's grave in Jerusalem, in the presence of U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk, mentioning that Israel did not have to make any further concessions until Deif was in custody. However, when Indyk's spokesman was asked about Deif, he refused to comment, claiming that "he had not seen the letter" that Saxton had also forwarded to Indyk. Another State Department official said that the U.S. was making efforts to locate Deif, who is believed to be living in Gaza, and that the killer of David Boim was in custody. When asked if he could provide any letter that detailed the United States' attempts to locate Deif, or evidence pertaining to Boim's killer's arrest, he would not do so. Was any such request ever really made by the American government to Yassir Arafat?

The reluctance of United States and Israeli officials to pursue the matter of Palestinians who murder Israelis and find refuge within the PA may result from their unwillingness to do anything that might disturb the peace process.

Speaking at an Israeli Labor Party sponsored press briefing at the Knesset, Hebrew University Professor Ehud Sprinzak, a respected Israeli intelligence expert, said there was no point in trying to force the PA to hand over terrorists. Sprinzak's remarks show a certain prioritization. Not angering Arafat takes on a greater importance than protecting individuals from terrorism. "It doesn't mean a great deal to the peace process," said Sprinzak, dismissing the significance of the PA's failure to fulfill its committments under the Oslo accords.

One wonders when Israel's citizens will begin to put as much importance on human life as its government and the United States put on the peace process.

The question remains:

Will Palestinians feel free to kill as many Israelis as they like, since neither the American or Israeli government will take any real action if they do so?

The "kill and run" principle remains a relatively unknown precedent of the Oslo peace accords.

Where are the human rights groups? Where are those who advocate adherence to the Oslo accords?

David Bedein
Media Research Analyst
Beit Agron International Press Center,
Jerusalem, Israel
Fax: (+972-2) 623-6470

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Fraud Alert:
Rabbis Who Masquerade AFTER Purim
by David Bedein
Media Research Analyst

Once in a while, an eccentric person walks into the press center in Jerusalem, going from one news agency to another, telling you that he is something that he is not. Sometimes he tells you that he has met Moses or Jesus, sometimes he tells you that he has seen the Messiah. Sometimes he tells you that he is the Messiah. The standard attitude to these visiting sources from outer wherever is to write their stories on a proverbial yellow pad and show them the door.

A few years ago, a certain Rabbi wandered the press center, claiming to represent all Orthodox Rabbis in North America. He was carrying stationary to prove it, he said. He carried with him a number of proclamations from all the ďleadingĒ Rabbinic authorities around the world - that Israel must immediately annex Judea and Samaria, expel the Arabs, and declare that any Jew who was not an observant Jew to be declared invalid to participate in the government of Israel. I wrote down his story and showed him the door. This Rabbi was persistent, insisting that I organize a press conference for him. I only got rid of him when he realized that press conferences cost money, and, well, he did not have any money to pay for it. He left me his card and his letter of reference from some unknown Rabbinical organization. And then I noticed something funny. He was carrying Rabbinic stationary with most of the Rabbis on the letterhead who are no longer of this world.

I thought that was that and that I wouldnít hear from this joker again. When I got home that night, I was more than surprised to turn on the radio newsreel and hear this Rabbi giving press interviews to the Voice of Israel. he had managed to convince the night editor of Israel radio that HE was the voice of American Orthodox Jewry. And then I saw him pop up on a few of the wire services. And then he was featured in a few Orthodox-owned newspapers. He only stopped his schvung when he could no longer pay his hotel bill. I know because a friend of mine was the hotel manager who called the next day with an amazing story: a Rabbi was staying at the hotel wanted the Chief Rabbinate to pay his bill but they nothing about him , so the Rabbi mentioned that the reporters at Beit Agron press center vouch for him.

The hotel sent him packing, which is what the press should have done, but he was so articulate, so genuine, and he made such a good story.

The Rabbi made one more visit to the press center, this time leaving his picture because he wanted a "shiduch" - a match made in heaven for this devil who was 40+.

I didnít hear from this "Rabbinical source" for quite awhile. I canít say that I missed him.

And then, the night of Yitzhak Rabinís assassination, that same Rabbi was on all the prime time radio and TV programs in New York, and quoted in the New York Times, expressing joy and praise at the news of Rabinís death. Once more, the Rabbi was saying that represented the biggest organization of American Orthodox Rabbis.

In the aftermath of the assassination, the same Rabbi, again on a roll, went one step further, claiming to know one Moshe Gross, a Rabbinc student who had raised half a million dollars for the YIGAL AMIR LEGAL DEFENCE FUND. A cooperative media in shock picked up on the Moshe Gross story and published it all over the world. The New York Times, the Israeli consulate in New York, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and many others publicized the fund as fact, although nobody had met Gross and nobody had seen any bank statement. The Rabbi had a way to convince people. He simply faked another voice, claiming to be "Gross in hiding", and gave tens of interviews to hungry reporters who were ready to hear about an Orthodox Jewish conspiracy to kill Rabin & protect his killer.

The Rabbi went one step further - he fabricated a tape recording on a telephone line in Brooklyn that advertised the fact that Yigal Amir sought a "shiduch", a match that would marry the assassin while he served his life sentence. That tape played on Israel radio and Israel TV, with the number for young eligible ladies to call.

And, you guessed it, women who called the line got a call back from the horny single Rabbi who was "available". If you can't love the nut you want, love the nut you're with.

After some reporters smelled a rat, the Rabbi again disappeared from the public eye.

Well, the Rabbi resurfaced.

While discrete discussions were underway in the Israeli Knesset to try to organize a compromise between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Knesset members over new proposed religious identity legislation, the same Rabbi Of Fraud appeared in the office of one of the major wire services in New York at the end of a work day, with his Rabbinic proclamation that declared that anyone who was not Orthodox was simply not Jewish. The release was carried on all major wires, having an immediate international lightening effect, and the story was headlined up as a serious news item by the hundreds of member syndicates of New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and many others, as it reverberated to the Israeli news services, and bounced back to the US with seeming Israeli verification, as the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jewish movements shried with justified anger and repulsion.

Later the next day, the three authentic Orthodox organizations in the US and Israel denounced the initiative. However, the damage was done. As my grandmother used to say, you never get more than one chance to make a first impression.

Any Orthodox denial of the story simply gave the news item more attention and credibility, as the wily Rabbi continues to flood the wire services and every possible media outlet with faxes of his Rabbbinic decree with his proclamation of excommunication... to a media and public that is ready to believe and swallow this garbage.

The Rabbi plays the stereotype of Orthodox Jews that the Jewish and Israeli public would like to believe, and the Rabbi knows how to play the press for what it is worth.

What will it take to convince the reps of the non-Orthodox Jewish movements of fraud? Does it matter? One of my colleagues who fundraises for the Movement for Conservative Judaism in the US confides to me that he makes his best money when Orthodox Rabbis mouthe off like this, and that he expects the money to flow thanks to a certain Rabbi with diarreaha of the mouth.

David Bedein
Media Research Analyst
Beit Agron International Press Center,
Jerusalem, Israel
Fax: (+972-2) 623-6470

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