|Israel Resource Review
||21st March, 2007
Commentary: From Hebron to Winograd
Two days ago, Jewish residents of the Hebron area moved into an unoccupied four-story house in Hebron, on the road between Kiryat Arba and the Cave of Machpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs) in the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron. They came carrying papers indicating the building had been purchased for them legally and properly; the price was $700,000 with the purchase made by an American Jewish businessman via a Jordanian office. They explained it had been bought two years ago, and that they had been expecting to complete renovations before taking occupancy; they decided to move in now because they heard that Arabs were planning to take it over. As it stands, it is not hooked up to either water or electric lines.
A local Arab who claims ownership denies having sold it, but the Jews say his denial is necessary in order to avoid revenge by the Palestinian Arab community. (I described precisely this sort of situation quite recently.) According to one report, a second Arab is making the same claim. The police have not evicted the Jews; some 100-200 yeshiva students and youth from Hebron came by nightfall and are sleeping in the building in sleeping bags, with a heavy IDF security guard. Authorities are now investigating the ownership, which involves, as the Post put it, a "web of bureaucracy that complicates property issues in the West Bank area." The Jewish residents hope to make apartments for 20 or more families within the building. They emphasize that they want only to be peaceful and are pleased to strengthen the linkage between Kiryat Arba and the Machpelah.
I readily express my admiration for those Jews who are brave enough to live as a small enclave within the Arab population of Hebron. Their motivation is simple: This is Jewish heritage and must be maintained as such. There is a long historical Jewish connection to this ancient city, second only to Jerusalem in its holiness. Surviving Jews were removed from the city by the British in 1929 after the horrendous Arab pogroms in which Jews were slaughtered, and subsequently in 1936. It was easier to move Jews out than defend their right to be there. From 1949 to 1967, when Jordan controlled the city, it was made totally Judenrein; Hebron had become "Arab." Jewish "imposition" into the city since 1967 is much resented.
It is likely that many of you know little about Hebron, and its on-going connection to the Jewish people. If you would like to learn more, see: http://www.arlenefromisrael.info/hebron/
Something else I wrote about recently was the presence of a fifth column within Israel, even within the Knesset. What is this, if not an essential disloyalty to Israel:
MK Taleb El-Sana (United Arab List - Ta'al) has put out a call to the international community to boycott Israel because of the takeover of the house in Hebron.
Said he, this is "like South Africa during the apartheid era." Such a statement indicates either total ignorance of what apartheid was like, or -- far more likely -- a willfully ludicrous use of the word "apartheid" because it is the slanderous term of choice within Palestinian Arab PR. Don't bother with the facts -- just use that expression and hopefully people will become incensed. With apartheid there was total segregation; white Afrikaners did not purchase buildings from the native black population in order to live within black regions.
What I would further point out is that rather than speak about the rights of Jews, and the right of these residents of Hebron to move into a house that was legally purchased, certain offices of the government express enormous nervousness about the possibility of Palestinian Arab unrest and violence. Peretz has expressed fear of violent clashes; Peres has come out highly critical of Jews seeking to live in Hebron -- creating an "unbearable situation" -- instead of staying in adjacent Kiryat Arba. For me this goes to the heart of the matter. Fear of Arab violence trumps Jewish rights in many minds. This was true of the British during the Mandate period, and sadly it often remains true today.
Civil administration authorities, I will say, have pleasantly surprised me by not moving the Jewish residents out of the building, saying they have no legal basis for doing so. This has not always been the case -- sometimes they evict first and then investigate. Here I strongly suspect that they know the building was legally purchased, even though an investigation must be done. And there were some MKs -- for example, Gideon Saar (Likud) and Otniel Shneller (Kadima) -- who praised what the Jewish residents were doing. In fact, Shneller has come out with a statement that he knows Ariel Sharon would have approved.
But I will be more comfortable when the investigation is declared complete, for I am reading that Peace Now is pressuring Peretz to evict the Jewish residents.
MK Uri Ariel (NU/NRP) put it well: "Any act of strengthening the hold of Jewish roots in the City of Patriarchs is a blessing for the people and the land . . . this is moment of trial for the government: shall it make the law subject to its political whims, or will it prove that the government too is subject to the law, and allow the Jews to remain in the house?"
Just two days after participating in the formation of a unity government that they hoped would convince the world of its moderation, Hamas was exposed as deep into continuing terrorism:
-- An Israel Electric Corporation employee near the Karni crossing was shot by a sniper and Hamas took credit.
-- Egypt apprehended a member of Hamas who was on his way to Israel to perpetrate a suicide attack.
In spite of the international boycott of the PA this past year, the amount of international donations increased from $1 billion to $1.2 billion; this does not include whatever amounts were smuggled in by Hamas officials carrying cash from Arab or Muslim countries. The donations were given via NGOs or individuals, rather than directly via the PA treasury; there is the suspicion that some was lost in transit, but it is my impression that this was certainly the case, as well, when the money went to the treasury. Salaam Fayad, when serving previously as finance minister, had indicated that monies donated could not be accounted for.
Middle East Newsline put out a report that was not well carried elsewhere: Gunmen who are members of Islamic militias have been attempting to seize control of UNRWA in Gaza and have already succeeded in expelling most foreign staffers. Their goal is the acquisition of "hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and supplies for the refugee camps."
This is one more indication of the ruthlessness of these militias, who literally will steal from the poor for their own gain.
But I also find interesting the silence of UNRWA, which screams bloody murder if Israel closes a crossing and supplies cannot get through. The only thing that made the news broadly was the attempted abduction of UNRWA chief of operations John Ging.
As one analyst I spoke with commented, "They're scared out of their minds." So, here we have an international agency that is cowed by the terrorists and won't do battle or, better yet, call on the international community to do battle for it. I've known about this attitude for some time, as UNRWA -- in spite of US regulations requiring it to -- has never withheld relief funds from those connected to terrorism for fear of retribution to its staff. (This means terrorists have been funded by international relief money in some cases). It's just gotten worse now. And you see . . . once again Arab violence is the trump card.
One additional thought: Foreign staffers have been expelled, but this is a very small percentage of the total staff. Less than 100 people out of some 25,000 employees of UNRWA (not all in Gaza) are foreigners, the vast majority are themselves Palestinian Arab refugees. So, does this mean that once the foreigner staff is expelled the gunmen expect that the other employees will be complicit?
Allow me to cite Sec. of State Rice from a press conference she gave yesterday with European leaders:
" . . . for a generation now -- well, a political generation, the Palestinian leadership has adhered to the principles that would undergird a two-state solution, including renunciation of violence and the willingness to live side by side with Israel. It's in the roadmap. It is the foundation really of Oslo. And so I'm not going to try to interpret what the right of resistance means, but I'll tell you, it doesn't sound very good to me . . . "
Here you have the crux of the matter in terms of foolish, self-deluded diplomatic thinking. It is not remotely true that the Palestinian leadership has adhered to "renunciation of violence and the willingness to live side by side with Israel." Not true at all, as the record readily shows. They have never renounced violence in their actions, whatever their words. It is this thinking that enables her to label Abbas a "moderate." Abbas, who courted the overtly terrorist groups from the day he became president. And Oslo? She hasn't noticed that this was a failure? Arafat, when offered a state in 2000, opted for another Intifada instead.
Condoleezza, give it up!
As to the "right of resistance" not sounding very good to her: Is this as strong a statement as she could make? Is she, still, afraid of implicitly criticizing Abbas, who signed on to this endorsement of terrorism?
Rice has just announced a planned reduction in the proposed $86 million that was supposed to go to Abbas to strengthen Fatah forces against Hamas. She said that the reduced package would only go to security forces loyal to Abbas and that there would be a "firewall" in place to insure this.
This strikes me as the height of lunacy. Rice perhaps has failed to notice, along with everything else she seems to have failed to notice, that Abbas has signed on with Hamas for a unity gov't? I do not believe for a second that money can go to Abbas's forces alone, nor do I believe for even a microsecond that there is any advantage to giving them money at all. To strengthen them to what end?
Lunacy, I tell you.
In testifying before a House foreign aid subcommittee, Rice said that Hamas's inclusion in the government created a challenge for peacemaking because it refuses to recognize Israel or reject violence. But she's got that wrong too. The partners in the unity gov't put together a platform that refuses to recognize Israel or reject violence. That makes Abbas, the "moderate," complicit -- but she'd rather not go there.
I strongly recommend Barry Rubin's column, "Putting the Impossible First," which speaks to exactly what Rice is doing. Says Rubin:
"The attempt to turn radicals into moderates, terrorism into resistance, serial political murderers into negotiating partners, and situations of total anarchy into great opportunities for diplomatic progress never ends.
" . . . Far too much of the quality time of leaders, policymakers, and diplomats is spent on the impossible - or at least highly improbable."
Rubin then lists four things with regard to the Middle East that take up the most of the time of western leaders even though they are doomed to fail. One of these is trying to moderate Hamas, which does not want to moderate.
The other is resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It's the worst time in history for this, says Rubin. "Every Israeli concession has inspired escalation . . .
" . . . True, efforts can be justified by saying, 'We have to try,' or the belief that pretending to do so will make Arabs and Muslims happy. Yet now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is pinning her reputation on making progress. Why tie your future to an inevitable failure?"
Here inside of Israel . . .
Yesterday, we had a major civil defense exercise, the largest in Israel's history. This is part of an increased effort at all levels in terms of preparedness for any military eventuality. Intensive training is going on within the IDF as well with training for more effective use of tanks and for urban warfare. The IDF will also be spending 2 billion shekels to overhaul reservists' equipment. All movement in the right direction and very necessary. When we get into that inevitable next war, I want to see us unequivocally knock their heads off, with an absolute minimum of casualties to our own.
Today, we had a one day general strike that has now been resolved.
On the political front . . .
The Winograd Commission has announced that the testimony of Olmert, Peretz and Halutz will be released before their report.
The "Peres bill" -- which would have increased Shimon Peres's chances of being elected president by requiring an open ballot in the Knesset -- has been frozen. Good thing, too.
Speaking of election for president, I must go back and share this news, which is no longer fresh: The Knesset has voted not to impeach President Katsav. (My apologies for failing to transmit this news, when I had reported on the build-up to it; I was simply distracted by matters of larger consequence.) This does not mean the investigation, with possible indictment, is halted; it simply means he stays in office until his term is up or he is indicted.
see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info
Associated Press Published: 03.21.07, 19:59 / Israel News
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