Israel Resource Review 26th May, 2002


Exiled Palestinian Arabs from Bethlehem Ran Two Year Reign of Terror
Sayed Anwar

Bethlehem Residents of this biblical city are expressing relief at the exile to Cyprus last week of 13 hard-core Palestinian militants, who they said had imposed a two-year reign of terror that included rape, extortion and executions.

The 13 sent to Cyprus, as well as 26 others sent to the Gaza Strip, had taken shelter in the Church of the Nativity, triggering a 39-day siege that ended Friday.

Palestinians who live near the church described the group as a criminal gang that preyed especially on Palestinian Christians, demanding "protection money" from the main businesses, which make and sell religious artifacts.

According to Bethlehem residents, one of the group's top leaders, Jihad Ja'ara, 29, traveled around town with an M-16 rifle, terrorizing the community.

"Finally the Christians can breathe freely," said Helen, 50, a Christian mother of four. "We are so delighted that these criminals who have intimidated us for such a long time are now going away."

Others feared new gunmen will capitalize on the group's disappearance and the pullout of Israeli troops.

"Will new gangs come in?" asked Samer, 33, from the Christian suburb of Beit Jala in Bethlehem. "The gunmen will start taking revenge on the weak, desperate people."

Residents also said that Mr. Ja'ara and another top leader, Ibrahim Abayat, took nine Muslims whom they suspected of collaborating with Israel into an apartment near Manger Square and fatally shot them.

The executions took place shortly before the April 2 gunbattle between Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters that sent more than 200 Palestinians fleeing into the church, where they remained for 39 days.

Abayat, in a phone interview from inside the church while the siege was under way, said he was personally responsible for the killings.

He said there was no need for a trial because "it was a well-known fact that these people were linked to Israel."

Abayat and Mr. Ja'ara are now at a seaside hotel in Cyprus, waiting to be moved to an as-yet-unnamed European country, where many expect them to be set free.

The gang has said it is part of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that has claimed responsibility for several recent suicide bombings in Israel.

Zuhair Hamdan, founder of the Movement for Coexistence in Jerusalem, was sitting on a chair outside his corner shop near Bethlehem in November when an official Palestinian Authority car drew up with a squeal of brakes.

From the back window a gunman, who Mr. Hamdan says was a member of the gang, emptied 12 bullets from a M-16 rifle, hitting him five times in the abdomen, legs and neck.

Mr. Hamdan was so close to death in the hospital that he now jokes, "They took my body to the cemetery but the cemetery rejected me."

Mr. Hamdan said seven members of the gang were involved. Five of the seven assailants have since died, at least one of them fatally shot by Israel during the recent church siege, he said.

"The remaining two gunmen are being kicked out of Bethlehem, but wherever they end up, someone will get to them and make them pay for all the awful things they've done," he said.

The gang apparently used its ready access to guns and close ties with Mr. Arafat's Palestinian security forces to extort money, run guns, smuggle drugs and even demand that young women separate from their husbands.

After one woman was reportedly raped by a gang member, the perpetrator was put in jail, but only briefly. His comrades reportedly forced the jailers to let him go.

The gang's hostility toward Christians extended to a 17-year-old altar boy fatally shot during an Israeli incursion in October.

A small stone monument the family erected in Johnny Talgieh's memory on the spot in Manger Square where he died was kicked and spat on by gang members, then toppled with ropes and cables and left smashed on the ground.

"They did not want to recognize that a Christian could be considered a [martyr]," said a family member, "even though having that statue there would have given the Palestinian cause a huge propaganda boost.

"They hate us Christians more than they love Palestine."

Even during the recent siege, gang members who had not fled into the church continued to demand their regular 10 shekels (about $2) from each taxi driver going in and out of a parking lot close to the compound.

One who refused, saying he had no cash, was reportedly beaten up last month.

The gang apparently operated under the full protection of Mr. Arafat's Fatah organization and Tanzim, its military wing.

During the 19-month uprising, they have often fired into the nearby Israeli suburb of Gilo from church grounds and the homes of Palestinian Christians in Beit Jala.

When Palestinian gunmen would show up at the door, Christian families often had no choice but to let their homes be used as sniper posts and face the consequences of Israeli retaliation.

Written by an Arab journalist under a pseudonym for the Washington Times on may 25, 2002

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Campers Come Home to Roost:
"Seeds For Peace"
Dr. Jerome S. Kaufman

["Seeds for Peace", mentioned below, is directed by Mrs. Aaron Miller, whose husband, Aaron Miller, is one of the architects of the Oslo process . . . ]

Once again the camp, Seeds of Peace hits the news and who can argue with "peace?" Unfortunately the concept, more particularly the sponsoring organization, Seeds of Peace, has developed a glaring glitch. A Seeds of Peace graduate from Dearborn, Michigan, Huwaida Arraf was recently released from an Israeli jail. Ms. Arraf had bravely run into the Church of the Nazareth in order to aid the Palestinian Arab terrorists that escaped there to avoid Israeli arrest. She now lectures around the country on her harrowing experiences under Israeli arrest and the awful plight of her fellow Arabs.

There is also a cross-cultural part of the story that gives it some human interest. It turns out this Arab girl from Dearborn Michigan is marrying a Jewish boy from Brooklyn, New York named Adam Shapiro. They met in Jerusalem where they were both working for Seeds of Peace! Mr. Shapiro had been working for the camp for about four years and was the director of the project while she was a program coordinator.

Mr. Shapiro is now a hero in his own right among the Palestinian Arabs. He has an illustrious history. He took it upon himself to traverse an Israeli/Arab battlefield hidden in a Red Crescent Ambulance furnished to him by the PLO, in order that he might breakfast and show solidarity with his beleaguered hero, Yasser Arafat, and a coterie of his terrorist lieutenants in Arafat's Israeli surrounded headquarters in Ramallah.

Other credits for Mr. Shapiro include that he is also the co-founder with Ms. Arraf of a PLO front organization called the International Solidarity Movement. The credentials of this organization were accepted by Yasser Arafat, himself, at a group meeting December 18, 2001. The movement has a web site in which they proclaim the following goals:

  • Raise awareness of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and an end to Israeli occupation.
  • Recognize the Palestinian right to resist Israeli violence and occupation via armed struggle.
  • Right of Return of Palestinian Refugees and the Palestinian capitol to be in Jerusalem.
  • Immediate compliance by Israel with international law, (as interpreted by the Arab" judiciary.")
  • Expose Israel's lack of respect for Palestinian human rights and human life.

All these goals right out of Yasser Arafat's manifesto!

Unfortunately, this incident is not our first revelation relative to Seeds of Peace. Listed among the international camp sponsors are Saeb Erekat, long time senior advisor and Arab propagandist Terry Ahwal, also from Dearborn, Michigan. Included on the honorary committee sponsoring the camp are Congressmen David Bonior, John Conyers and John Dingell - all well recognized as members of the Arab Hall of Fame for voting most consistently against all measures favoring the State of Israel.

Nationwide fund raising events sponsored by the camp have had as their primary speakers former Ambassador to Egypt, Edward S. Walker Jr. who is now president of the Middle East Institute. Walker's numerous writings and opinions can easily be found on the Internet. Currently they revolve around how Saudi Arabia is maligned by the American press and the Saudi government is truly a great friend of the United States. His position is also that if the United States would stop and had stopped their favoritism toward Israel, the World Trade Center disaster would likely never have occurred and the Arabs would now happily join the newest coalition against Saddam Hussein! Other speakers have included Martin Indyk past U.S. ambassador to Israel and the Middle East who was famous for consistently taking the Arab side in any dispute with Israel. Other speakers have been Abed Rabbo, Yasser Arafat's Minister for Information and Culture and Yossi Beilin, known as Peres' poodle and now a marginal member of his own Labor party and one of the authors of the now irrelevant and justly maligned Oslo Peace Accords.

With this formidable bunch of supporters, one can't help but wonder what are Jews doing involved as monetary contributors and even worse, sending their kids to the camp? Are the kids to come out with the ideology of director Adam Shapiro and his program coordinator Arab bride? Do parents think the above cast of characters really has the well being of the State of Israel in mind? Do these Seeds of Peace supporters think of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people and as a sanctuary for Jews fleeing from persecution once again rampant all over the world? What do they teach the kids in that camp or is it all just canoeing and camp songs? Perhaps those donating to the camp and the parents of the children involved should answer those questions themselves?

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"Scope of Terror Attacks Due to Increase"
Yoav Limor
Correspondent, Maariv

"We cannot go back to the situation that existed before seder night. If the security measures don't work, we may have to carry out a deeper and broader operation," said Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz yesterday.

Mofaz said that the scope of existing warnings has still not reached a level similar to that of before Operation Protective Wall, since the level of terrorism today is "five times less" compared to the situation that existed in Israel two months ago. However, he emphasized, the scope of attempted terror attacks is expected to increase, since the "nucleus that can restore the terrorist infrastructure [still exists], and we need to fight it as much as possible." He said that there is now an accelerated process of rehabilitation of terrorist infrastructures in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, and Jenin, and that most of the IDF's present operations are directed against it.

The IDF, Mofaz said, means to continue to operate in PA territory, mainly on the basis of intelligence information. "The operations are meant to prevent terror attacks and arrest terrorists, and we will act anywhere we deem appropriate." At present, the operations are brief in duration, since longer operations do not obtain the desired results.

Yesterday, the IDF continued operating in PA territory, with infantry and Armored Corps operating in Tulkarm and Kalkilya. Last night, the IDF also planned to continue operating in several sectors at the same time.

Mofaz said that if there is an increase in the scope of terror attacks, the IDF might have to carry out a broader operation in the PA. However, at this stage there is no talk of a broad ground operation in the Gaza Strip, where "the IDF is taking a posture of aggressive defense, during which about 50 terrorists were hit and bombing attacks against communities and IDF outposts were stopped." Mofaz said that at present there is no intention of calling up more reservists. That will be done "only if there is no other choice. A larger call-up will depend on the security situation." [ . . . ]

This article ran in Maariv on May 27th, 2002

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