A Palestinian protester prepares to burn a U.S. flag during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Over 108 People Injured in “Day of Rage” Protests


Over 108 people have been injured in what’s known as “Day of Rage” protests in response to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to start the process of moving the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Palestine Red Crescent Society claimed they had treated over 108 people who were injured in various protests throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Here is a snapshot of what the protests have looked like:

Additionally, a man in Beit Jalal drove his car into several other cars, wounding seven people and damaging 22 cars.

Israeli soldiers deployed rubber bullets and tear gas to clamp down on the protests.

More riots are expected to occur on Friday, as Hamas is calling for the “Intifada of Jerusalem and the West Bank’s Freedom” to occur on that day.

Hamas’ call for an intifada comes after three rockets were launched into Israel on Thursday from the Gaza Strip. Israel responded by bombing six Islamic Jihad and Hamas locations. The al-Qaeda affiliate Tawhid al-Jihad is saying that they’re the ones who fired the rockets into Israel.

Despite the violence and threats of further violence, the Trump administration is confident that the violence will subside and that the Palestinian Authority will realize that the only way they can achieve statehood is through a U.S.-facilitated peace deal.

“We know there will be short term pain, but in the long term, this action will help with those conversations,” a White House official told the Jerusalem Post.

Times of Israel Middle East analyst Avi Issachoroff noted that the Palestinian Authority is behind the protests.

“The Palestinian Authority and Fatah are organizing the rallies in the city centers, but a key question is whether the Palestinian security services will stop demonstrators from reaching the potential flashpoints,” wrote Issachoroff. “In light of the Palestinian-Arab-Muslim consensus against US President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem, PA security may receive orders not to step in to block protesters on their way to the checkpoints, except, perhaps, to prevent the use of firearms.”

The violence and threats of further violence is why some people have been critical of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. Others argue that the move will eventually cause violence to decline because the Palestinians won’t be able to use violence as a means to extract Jerusalem from the Israelis in future negotiations.

Who Will Protect Children From The Morally Bankrupt Palestinian Children Protection Act?


Killing children, no matter the number, is the ultimate crime against the present and future. The Jewish people having suffered the unfathomable blow of having a generation of their children—1.5 million futures wiped out by the Nazis during the Holocaust—are acutely sensitive to this issue.

But how to react when adults entomb children to dig tunnels on a mission-to-murder other children? What to do when those in power groom youngsters to be the next generation of human shields, or axe wielders, or suicide bombers?

US Representative Barbara McCollum’s (DFL-Minn.) answer is to blame Israelis when they have no choice but to do what they did  a few weeks ago with the shooting of a 17 year-old Palestinian after he nearly murdered a 35-year-old father, injured a 70-year-old Jew standing at a curb and tried to stab other Jews near the community of Efrat.

Just before Thanksgiving, Representative McCollum introduced a House bill 4391, to restrict U.S. aid to Israel if “Israeli military forces or police” engage in “physical violence” or use “military detention” against Palestinians under the age of 18. In other words, should it become law, the next terrorist attack, just like the one in Efrat, would likely trigger a U.S. aid cutoff against Israel, our only reliable Mideast ally, for the crime of defending its citizens every time a Palestinian kid, indoctrinated with hate tries to murder or maim an Israeli.

The use of Palestinian children to carry out terrorist attacks against Jews in the Holy Land actually predates the 1948 Israel War of Independence. In Armies of the Young: Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism, David M. Rosen shows how during the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem modeled his lethal child soldiers after the Nazis’ Hitler Youth.

Last year, Representative McCollum was silent when on January 17, 2016, 16-year-old Morad Abdullah Adais broke into the home of Dafna Meir, mother of six children 4 to 17, in the town of Otniel, armed with an 8-inch knife. Later he bragged, “I plunged the knife into her so deeply that most of it was inside her body. She started screaming, the children saw me and also started screaming, then I stabbed her in her upper body another three or four times. She tried to fight me and tried to take the knife from me. The two children who were there were still screaming, but she continued to resist, so I pushed her, and overpowered her.”

Under McCollum’s bill the Israeli army’s arrest of Adais would likely also be deemed “illegal and abusive.”

Hamas doesn’t even try very hard to hide its criminal and systematic abuse of Palestinian children. A televised video is available for anyone to see children from ages of 3 to 5 dressed like suicide bombers, 10 to 13 year-olds embracing a collective death wish, while 14-year-olds prepare for suicide attacks, sometimes wishing farewell to their beaming parents.

The UN-backed Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers tries to redress such human rights abuse that spans the globe from Africa to Southeast Asia. Indeed, even the UN Security Council designated a “Red Hand Day” to highlight such ultimate serial abuse of children. Yet Hamas openly commits war crimes, not only by targeting Israeli toddlers with rockets, but against Palestinian children who are sacrificed as “human shields.” Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, leverage control of the school curricula, the mosques, and TV to promote a culture that reveres death over life, that prepares youngsters for the next war.

Already in 2012, journalist Nicolas Pelham, no friend of Israel, wrote in The Journal of Palestinian Studies, condemning a “cavalier approach to child labor and tunnel fatalities [that has] damaged the [Palestinian] movement’s standing with human-rights groups, despite government assurances dating back to 2008 that it was considering curbs”. During a police patrol that the author was permitted to accompany in December 2011, nothing was done to impede the use of children in the tunnels, where, much as in Victorian coal mines, they are prized for their nimble bodies. At least 160 individuals have been killed in the tunnels, according to Hamas officials.

Far from imitating the song lyric about constructing a “stairway to paradise,” Hamas prefers to build tunnels to hell.

Embarrassed by revelations, such as Pelham’s about high casualties against child suicide tunnel builders, Hamas decided that the best defense is a good Big Lie offense. It launched a new PR campaign to coincide with Israel’s upcoming 70th anniversary- accusing the Israel Army for “crimes” of killing innocent Palestinian children. No mention of Hamas’ child recruits for violence and terrorism.

Whatever her motivation, McCollum and her nine co-sponsors unfortunately are serving as willing instruments of Hamas’  inversion of this awful truth.

And now, the promised Palestinian “days of rage” over President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. To be sure, it will be young Palestinians that the “brave” leaders of Hamas and Fatah will use as cannon fodder for their bloody photo ops. So the real question remains: Who will finally stand up and demand that Palestinian youth really be protected– from their corrupt and cynical leaders and from the morally bankrupt “Protection Act”?


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Letters to the Editor: Harvey Weinstein, IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel, Pickles


Harvey Weinstein: Disgrace to Judaism

I picked up a recent copy of the Journal, which I always look forward to reading. However, when I saw the photo of Harvey Weinstein on the cover, I was stunned. His picture, if in the Journal at all, should be small and on the last page of the paper, declaring that he shamed himself, his family, and that he is a disgrace to everything Jewish. The cover of the Journal should have someone we respect and emulate, who lives an exemplary life and makes this world a better place. I am sure you can choose more wisely the next time you prepare the paper.

Marion Lienhard, Thousand Oaks


A New Look, New Direction for the Journal

Congratulations on the new format, type, layout and the change in focus.

The new parsha commentaries show the variety of possibilities in interpretation.

The political differences are best shown when focused side by side on a single topic. The expansion of writers gives voice to many other topics of interest.

Mazel tov!

Enriqué Gascon, Los Angeles

When I lived in Baltimore I told people I read their Jewish News and they responded by saying, “Honey, no one reads it, we just look through it.”

One cannot say that about our Jewish Journal.  Its content is rich, diverse, readable and good enough to be savored.  All of that in addition to learning new things, human interest stories, and opinions that do not require you to want to tear your hair out.  OK maybe a little hair-tearing.

Don’t you just love change?

Sherri W. Morr via email

The Journal’s profound new tone and writers continue to amaze. In “A Deeper Feminism (Oct. 27),” Karen Lehrman Bloch’s assertion that freedom requires “thoughtfulness, a need to recognize reality and human nature” is a breath of fresh air. Although Bloch considers herself politically neutral, the media are so predominantly leftist that she seems to speak for the right. Her observation that “Women are equal to men but … different,” and “We should take pleasure in the differences,” is a mature, common-sense response to the growing, misguided progressive dogma that there’s no difference between the sexes or that it’s all cultural indoctrination. She’s a real delight!

I’ve even started reading Marty Kaplan’s column again. For a while, he was just trashing President Donald Trump every week, but his fascinating Oct. 27 rumination, “When Bad People Happen to Good Art,” explores the age-old enigma of profound art created by immoral, self-indulgent people. I wonder if it struck Kaplan that all the abusive artists he cited are likely Trump-haters, and that every Weinstein associate and political crony is a Democrat. Is the contempt some leftists have for Christianity and traditional Judaism eroding their consciences? I’m not suggesting Republicans aren’t sinners, but unlike secularists they don’t just rationalize bad behavior away. I’d love to hear Kaplan’s thoughts on this.

Rueben Gordon via email

What a great editor’s note: “Can Jewish Journalism Aim to Please?” (Oct. 27)! Note, that reveals a great journalist’s mind! Mr. Suissa, you have found that “sweet spot” already. By asking questions, you provoke thought, and by remaining true to yourself, you avoid triggering anger. The three insights you write about are excellent ways to reach out to as many readers as possible.

I am not a Jew, but I really enjoy the Journal, now more than before, finding those insights applied on all the pages. In my opinion, it is impossible to please each and every reader, but it is fully possible and necessary for journalists to be true to themselves when reporting the facts. Then let the readers be the judge! That’s how we, the readers, will be challenged to open our minds to new ideas and to “look beyond our own customs and traditions.”

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles


Put the Brakes on Those GPS Satellites

Your interview with Barry Barish (“Barry Barish on His Nobel Prize — and Why He Never Wrote That Novel,” Oct. 27) contains an egregious error. He is quoted as saying that the GPS satellites travel at 1/4th of the speed of light. They actually travel at 14,000 kilometers per hour (kph) relative to Earth, which is 0.001 percent of the speed of light. The relativistic offset of the space-borne clocks is 38 microseconds/day relative to a stationary clock on Earth, which would cause an Earth-bound user to make a 14-centimeter position error.

As a mere PhD in engineering I hesitate to correct a Nobel Prize winner. I suspect the interviewer misunderstood him.

Myron Kayton via email


Israel’s Destruction of Hamas Tunnel

I would like to thank Aaron Bandler for the story he wrote on the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) destroying a tunnel built by Hamas (“IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel,” Oct. 30). I 100 percent agree with what Bandler wrote about what the IDF did. Not only did I agree with it but I also completely [endorse what] the IDF is doing. In this story, I discovered that the IDF destroyed a tunnel made by Hamas. The tunnel spanned from Khan Younis in Gaza toward Kibbutz Kissufim in Israel. The reason I agree with this is because Israel warned that Hamas digs over six miles of tunnel a month toward Israel and that members of Hamas can travel through the entirety of the Gaza Strip underground through their network of tunnels. So if Israel lets this continue to happen, then many will probably die.

Nathan Tabibi via email


Israel and the Politics of Pickles

In the column “We, the Pickles,” Shmuel Rosner discusses many things. For the most part, I agree with his statements, although he wrote that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin meant that we all no longer care about the country or the people, but rather maintaining the government. But isn’t that what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing? No matter what Netanyahu does, the critics grumble. He does well and he gets no credit, but as soon as something bad happens, he is to blame. As I see it, if Netanyahu is just thinking about the government, he is doing the right thing to please the critics and the country.

Avner Shamtoub via email


The Cause and Cure for Terrorism

When terrorists attack, they tell us very clearly why they are killing (“8 Dead, 12 Injured in Manhattan Attack,” Nov. 3). They yell, “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest) — a jihadi battle cry. Yet we ignore it. We wring our hands and lament. We send teddy bears to the victims. That will not stop the next attack.

What will stop Islamic terror is simple but not easy. Imams, Muslims — all who practice Islam — must begin citing the many specific passages of the Quran, the Hadiths of Muhammad and sharia law that tell their flock that jihad, killing infidels and Jews are holy acts, and then denounce these passages as wrong, despite their appearance in holy texts. Unless and until this happens, we will continue to have more deaths. This is not bias. This is common sense.

Not all who practice Islam will commit jihad but some are doing so. We see their bloody work on an almost weekly basis.

Islamic and all religious leaders should stand together and denounce these passages.

Some examples: A command in the Quran: “Fight against those to whom the Scriptures were given [i.e. Jews and Christians] … until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.”

Ginette Weiner, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Screenshot from Twitter

Israel to Hamas: Give Us Back Our Soldiers’ Remains, and You’ll Get the Tunnel Victims’ Bodies


Israel has issued an ultimatum to Hamas: if you want the bodies of the terrorists that died in the tunnel blast, you’ll have to give us the bodies of our soldiers.

On Monday, Israel blew up a partially built Hamas tunnel, resulting in the death of seven terrorists, two of which were senior commanders of Islamic Jihad. Hamas requested that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Israel retrieve the bodies of five terrorists believed to be buried underneath the tunnel.

Israel has signaled that they will not accept Hamas’ request unless they return the bodies of Israeli soldiers Shaul Oron and Hadar Goldin they kidnapped and killed in 2014 Hamas-Israel conflict. Hamas is also believed to have kidnapped three Israeli civilians.

“Israel will not allow search operations in the area of the security barrier in the Gaza Strip without progress on the issue of Israelis kidnapped and MIAs,” Israel Major General Yoav Mordechai reportedly told the ICRC in Gaza.

The families of the missing soldiers agreed.

The family of Shaul Oron told the Times of Israel, “We hope that the Israeli government will not dare to comply with Hamas’s request as long as they do not return Oron. Oron was kidnapped through a tunnel that Hamas dug, and for more than three years has been held by them in Gaza, and yet they do not allow the Red Cross to check on his condition.”

Goldin’s family echoed Oron’s family, stating: “Any Israeli humanitarian gesture toward Hamas must be contingent on bringing our boys home. If Israel responds [positively] to Hamas, it would be a moral injustice and a sign of political weakness.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is also on the side of the Goldin and Oron families.

“Hamas has violated the basic norms of humanity by holding hostage the remains of two Israeli soldiers,” Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a press release sent to the Journal. “We learned first-hand of the anguish of the family of Hadar Goldin, who visited the Simon Wiesenthal Center a few months ago.

“The International Red Cross should immediately launch an effort to release all the remains to their families, without delay.”

Israel has been working to retrieve their kidnapped citizens and bodies of their soldiers, to no avail. In September, Egypt ceased its mediation between Israel Hamas on the matter, making the prospects of an agreement between the two even more remote.

“We are not giving up on this mission – including over the last few days – until we successfully carry it out,” Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in July.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

An Apologetic No-Apology in Gaza


When Israel found a terror tunnel crossing the border into its territory on Oct. 30, it did what every country would do: It destroyed it. The tunnel was not there for peaceful purposes, and Israel did not use peaceful means to destroy it. It bombed it. And as the tunnel crumbled, Islamic Jihad operatives were killed — no great loss for those wanting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.

Those killed were not the target of the operation; they were collateral damage. But being who they were, you would not expect Israel to feel overcome with sorrow over their unplanned deaths. Still, when Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers were speaking about the incident, they sounded almost apologetic about the killing. Boastful remarks were rare — the military was proud of the new technologies that enabled the operational achievement, yet refrained from counting the killing of terrorists as part of that achievement. Politicians were asked by the prime minister to keep their thoughts to themselves — and did.

Why?

Pragmatism.

Left-wingers more easily accept Israel’s decision in this case.

Israel is a pragmatic country with pragmatic policies — and this is no less true when it has a right-wing government headed by a hawkish prime minister. It does not need an eruption of violence in Gaza. It does not seek confrontation with Hamas. It does not want to give the impression that its goal is to disrupt the process of Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Of course, this does not mean that it will turn a blind eye when a terror tunnel is discovered. But it does mean that a small price, such as faking an apologetic response about killing very bad people, is not out of the question.

Or is it?

Some Israelis on the right, most notably Education Minister Naftali Bennett, did not easily accept these rules of overly restrained Israeli response. “We should not apologize for succeeding in eliminating terrorists,” Bennett said. Politicians in Israel — much like in the United States — see apologies as unfashionable and unnecessary. President Donald Trump does not apologize, but Bennett can take credit for having had a no-apology policy even before Trump. Maybe that’s the reason for his gut reaction to the IDF’s half-hearted celebration of victory.

It is easy to identify with Bennett’s reluctance to accept these rules of restraint. After all, these terrorists were coming to kill us, and we killed them right back! It is also easy to understand why the IDF is being so cautious. After all, the military would be the one having to deal with any eruption of violence. And if such violence can be avoided by having a low-profile celebration of this small victory, why not try this approach?

Politics, as always, stands in the way.

Right-wingers are lukewarm about playing down their response and wonder whether the IDF’s action indicates it is guilty of a defeatist apprehension of Hamas. The Israeli right-wing has developed a bad habit of constantly looking for signs of weakness in others, always suspecting that Israelis other than right-wingers do not have the stomach to do what it takes to keep this country safe.

Left-wingers more easily accept Israel’s decision in this case. Their instinctive preference is for Israel to always be restrained and always be considerate of the sensitivities of the Palestinians. But as they praise Israel for this measured, calculated response, they fail to notice other aspects of this exact same realism. Taking things as they are and not as you’d want them to be, accepting small humiliations so as not to complicate an already complicated situation — these explain both Israel’s limited celebration this week and Israel’s averse response to peace processing.

Sober realism, pragmatic attitude, a results-driven approach — all these have benefits and a price that cut both ways. They can make us curb our enthusiasm when terrorists — our most-detested, most-radical enemies — are killed. They also can make us curb our enthusiasm when a pipe dream of peace is offered.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

IDF Won’t Apologize for Killing Terrorists in Hamas Tunnel Blast


The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will not apologize for killing terrorists while blowing up a Hamas tunnel on Monday.

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said that the explosion, which killed seven terrorists, wounded 12 others and left five terrorists missing wasn’t meant to harm any Palestinian. Education Minister Naftali Bennett used Manelis’ statement to claim that the IDF was apologizing for killing terrorists.

“These were terrorists involved in digging an attack tunnel inside Israeli territory with which they intended to kill Israeli women and children,” Bennett tweeted.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman fired back on Twitter, writing that “comments like this seriously damage the security of Israel and the IDF.” Yesh Atid MK Elaza Stern, a former IDF general, issued a statement denouncing Bennett’s comments and stating that the IDF in no way apologized for the killing of terrorists.

“It is a shame that government ministers, instead of backing the IDF after an incident like this, chose once again to use it to score political points at the army’s expense,” said Stern.

Two of the terrorists killed in the tunnel explosion were senior commanders for the terrorist organization Islamic Jihad.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has responded to the tunnel explosion by accusing Israel of using poison gas to kill the terrorist, who they referred to as “martyrs.”

“We call on all of the international organizations to stop these materials that the Israeli occupation is using against our unarmed people,” PA Health Ministry Spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra said to the PA’s news outlet.

Hamas has called the explosion “a dangerous escalation against our people” and Iran referred to Israel as the “blood-sucking Zionist regime” in response to the explosion.

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza. Suhaib Salem/ Reuters

IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel


The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) destroyed a Hamas tunnel on Monday that was still in the process of being built.

The tunnel spanned from Khan Younis in Gaza toward Kibbutz Kissufim in Israel. The IDF was able to detect it through an unspecified technological advancement and then destroyed the tunnel through a controlled explosion.

The explosion resulted in nine dead Palestinian terrorists, one of which was the senior commander of Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the tunnel’s demolition as how Israel is “developing breakthrough technology to deal with the tunnel threat.”

“Today, we located a tunnel and we destroyed it, and we will continue doing so,” Netanyahu declared. “We will continue to protect Israel’s borders.”

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stressed that the explosion took place on the Israeli border and that the Jewish state isn’t interested in another armed conflict with Gaza. However, Lieberman noted that “despite Palestinian unity, the Gaza Strip remains a terrorist kingdom.”

“There is no doubt Hamas, which controls Gaza, is responsible,” said Lieberman.

Hamas called the tunnel’s explosion a “Zionist crime” that “is a dangerous escalation against our people” to halt “efforts to restore Palestinian unity” in a statement.

“We affirm that resisting the occupation in all its forms and by possessing its various forms is a natural and guaranteed right of our people,” the statement read.

Iran, which funds Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, also denounced the tunnel’s destruction by referring to Israel as the “blood-sucking Zionist regime” that “wants to weaken the resolve of the oppressed Palestinian nation through the massacre of Palestinian youth.”

This is the third Hamas tunnel that has been destroyed by Israel since Hamas first started using the tunnels in the 2014 conflict. In 2016, Israel warned that Hamas digs over six miles of tunnel a month toward Israel and that they can travel through the entirety of the Gaza Strip underground through their network of tunnels. There have been some instances in which the tunnels have collapsed on Hamas members.

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza. Suhaib Salem/ Reuters

Hamas reaffirms goal to destroy Israel


Hamas is rejecting the notion that they need to recognize Israel’s right to exist and disarm their military as they’re in the process of potentially forming a Palestinian unity government.

Israel and the United States have demanded that Hamas renounce violence and respect Israel’s existence if they do form a unity government with the Palestinian Authority. Hamas leader Yehia Sinwar has rejected such demands, declaring in Gaza: “The time in which Hamas discusses the issue of recognizing Israel is over. The discussion now is about ‘when to wipe out Israel.”

Sinwar also scoffed at the request for Hamas to disarm its 25,000-member military.

“Nobody in the world can take away our weapons,” said Sinwar. “Not one minute in the day or night passes without our forces accumulating them. We are freedom fighters and revolutionaries for the sake of our people’s freedom.”

Sinwar was responding to Jason Greenblatt, the White House Middle East peace envoy, who announced in a statement on Thursday, “Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the State of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations. If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements.”

Israel has issued a list of preconditions that Hamas would have to agree to in order for the Jewish state to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government, including ending their ties with Iran and returning dead Israelis to Israel.

Hamas and Fatah, two rival Palestinian factions, recently reached a reconciliation agreement in Cairo and will begin negotiations to form a unity government in November. The Palestinian Authority responded to Israel’s set of demands by stating that they will continue “to move forward with the reconciliation efforts.”

Hamas’ charter explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews. They have attacked Israel repeatedly and were accused by Amnesty International of abducting, torturing and executing Palestinians during the 2014 Hamas-Israel conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 21, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israel lists conditions to negotiate with Fatah-Hamas unity government


Israel has made it clear it will not negotiate with any unity government between Fatah and Hamas unless a set of conditions are met.

In a Facebook post on the Israeli prime minister’s Facebook page, the Israeli government stated that they would not negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless Hamas disarms, ceases their terrorist activity, ends relations with Iran and return the bodies of dead Israelis to Israel.

The Israeli government also demands that the Palestinian Authority cracks down on “Hamas terror infrastructures in Judea and Samaria” and “exercise full security control in Gaza” as well as be the channel of any humanitarian aid toward Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are in negotiations to form a unity government after signing a reconciliation agreement in Cairo, Egypt. The Palestinian Authority is urging Hamas to disarm, but Hamas thus far has been reluctant to cease their attacks on Israel.

“There are no secret clauses in the reconciliation understanding, and what the occupation published on the resistance halting in the West Bank is not true,” Hamas spokesman Husam Bradran told a Palestinian news outlet. “The position to choose resistance is not connected to any person or entity, but rather it is the position of the entire Palestinian people to decide. The natural situation is that when there is an occupation, there will be a resistance to confront it.”

Hamas has been designated by the United States’ State Department as a terrorist organization. They came to power after winning Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006, resulting in a civil war in Gaza that ended with Hamas seizing control of the region. Hamas and Fatah have had prior unity agreements before that did little to ease tensions between the two groups.

Palestinian members of Hamas's armed wing senior militant in Gaza City on March 25. Photo by Mohammed Salem

Hamas reportedly will remove goal of destroying Israel from new policy document


Hamas will remove its goal of destroying Israel from a new policy document.

The Palestinian terrorist organization’s document is expected to be released Monday, Reuters reported, citing Gulf Arab sources. It will also drop Hamas’ association with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The new statement of policy is believed to be designed to improve relations with Gulf Arab States and Egypt. Most Arab Gulf states consider the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization; most Western countries have similarly labeled Hamas.

Hamas reportedly also will agree to a “transitional” Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. The document will still deny Israel’s right to exist and call for “armed struggle” against Israel, Reuters reported.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. Its 1988 charter calls for Israel’s destruction.

The document is being released two days before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to meet President Donald Trump at the White House.

The Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades cadets marching in the town square of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip on June 15, 2015. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Hamas hangs 3 accused of collaborating with Israel in killing of commander


Hamas hanged three men in Gaza accused of “collaborating” with Israel.

The death sentence was carried out Thursday by the terror organization that controls the coastal strip.

The men were accused of being involved in giving information to Israeli military intelligence to aid in the assassination of a top Hamas commander, Mazen Fuqaha, late last month in Gaza, which Hamas blames on Israel. Israel has neither affirmed nor denied involvement in the killing.

The men, aged 32, 42 and 55, were charged with providing information on the location of Hamas operatives and military sites over the past three decades. Hamas said they were allowed to defend themselves as provided under Sharia law.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the executions and said they were illegal because Hamas did not get the permission to execute from P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas.

Human Rights Watch also condemned the hangings.

“The abhorrent executions by Hamas authorities of three men in Gaza deemed to be collaborators project weakness, not strength,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the organization’s Middle East division, said in a statement. “Hamas authorities will never achieve true security or stability through firing squads or by the gallows, but rather through respect for international norms and the rule of law.”

10 US Muslim leaders urge Hamas to release remains of Israeli soldiers


Ten U.S. Muslim leaders, including both Muslims in Congress, urged Hamas to return to Israel the remains of two soldiers.

“In the name of Almighty God the most merciful and compassionate, we appeal to you on the basis of humanity and charity to release the remains of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two Israeli soldiers killed in action, to their families,” said the letter sent Sept. 21 to Khaled Meshal, a leader of Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Signatories include Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Andre Carson, D-Ind., the two Muslim congressmen; M. Ali Chaudry, the former mayor of Basking Ridge, New Jersey.; Sayyid Syeed, the director of interfaith alliances at the Islamic Society of North America; and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who directed an unsuccessful and controversial effort to build an Islamic community center near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York.

“Both Israelis and Palestinians have felt the pain of war, of losing loved ones and children far too soon,” the letter said. “The Holy Qur’an reminds us that ‘Whoever pardons and makes reconciliation will receive his reward from Allah.’ We ask you to act upon these words and allow the Goldin and Shaul families to bury their loved ones.”

Shaul and Goldin were killed during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, the president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, initiated the letter. He made it public on Sunday at the annual Washington conference of the Israeli-American Council, where Goldin’s parents were in attendance.

“Here, in the presence of the Goldin family, I am proud to share that many of the most prominent leaders of America’s Muslim community have joined their humanitarian campaign,” Schneier said. “We are hopeful that these voices can make an impact in bringing Hadar and Oron home.”

The Israeli-American Council’s CEO, Shaul Nicolet, praised the foundation “for taking a leadership role in this campaign to bring Israel’s boys home.”

Goldin’s parents last week opened an exhibition of their son’s artwork at United Nations headquarters in New York in a bid to raise awareness about their quest to return their son’s remains.

Shaul’s father, Herzl, died Sept. 2, from intestinal cancer. His family released a letter he had written to his son.

Israel to pay Turkey $20 million in compensation after six-year rift


Turkish lawmakers on Wednesday submitted to parliament a settlement deal with Israel that would see Israel pay Ankara $20 million within 25 days in return for Turkey dropping outstanding legal claims, ending a six-year rift.

Relations between the two countries crumbled after Israeli marines stormed a Turkish ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, killing 10 Turks on board.

Israel had already offered its apologies for the raid. Both countries are to appoint ambassadors, and Turkey is to pass legislation indemnifying Israeli soldiers as part of an agreement partly driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals.

Gaza reconstruction proceeding too slowly


This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Two years after the fighting between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, about 70,000 Palestinians have not returned to their homes that were damaged in the fighting. Just 200 homes have been completely rebuilt and the families have returned.

“We ask the international community to increase their donations and the countries who pledged billions to respect their pledge,” Adnan Abu Husna, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, told The Media Line. “The people of Gaza should not get to the point that they feel they are forgotten.”

Abu Hasna said that nearly 140,000 homes were damaged either totally or partially, mostly from Israeli airstrikes. Of those, 9500 were completely demolished, and 5000 were so damaged that people cannot live there. At an international donors conference soon after the fighting ended, UN officials asked for $724 million, but only received $257 million.

Abu Hasna says the UN has helped nearly 70,000 families with some type of financial assistance. While thousands of families were originally housed in UN schools, all of those whose homes were destroyed have either rented new homes, paid for by the UN, or are living with relatives.

The pace of reconstruction has been glacial, partly because Israel accuses the Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza, of diverting cement and other materials to build weapons and tunnels. Those allegations were strengthened last week, when the Israeli Shin Bet announced charges in two separate cases, against local employees in Gaza allegedly working for Hamas.

In the first case, Israel accused Mohammed al-Halabi, the head of World Vision in Gaza, of diverting more than seven million dollars each year since 2010 to Hamas in Gaza. “We condemn any diversion of funds from any humanitarian organization,” World Vision International President Kevin Jenkins said in a statement. “If any of these allegations are proven to be true, we will take swift and decisive action,” although added that the organization had “not seen any of the evidence,” and suggested the numbers had been exaggerated.

“World Vision's cumulative operating budget in Gaza for the past ten years, was approximately $22.5 million, which makes the alleged amount of up to $50 million being diverted hard to reconcile,” the statement read. The organization suspended its operations in Gaza.

In the second case involving the UN Development Program, Israel charged Wahid Borsch, funneled resources to Hamas to build a naval port for Hamas commandos. UNDP denied any wrongdoing, saying that “the rubble in question was transported to its destination according to written instructions from the Ministry of Public Works and Housing of the Palestinian Authority as to where it should be placed.”

UNDP officials also questioned the details of the case, saying they had not yet seen the evidence against Borsch.

“We are waiting for the proof on all of these things,” Dania Darwish, a spokeswoman for UNDP told The Media Line. “Wahid is a contractor at UNDP. He does not have any management responsibilities. UNDP has strict processes and guidelines that must be followed.”

In any case, even if all of the damaged homes are rebuilt, the economy in Gaza faces growing challenges. A World Bank report found that Gaza’s unemployment is the highest in the world, and many of Gaza’s residents are completely dependent on UN food aid.

Although Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it continues to control what goes into and out of Gaza. Palestinians call it a blockade, while Israel says it has worked to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

“Everyone talks about what is going in to Gaza, but we also have to think about what is going out,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told The Media Line. “Unless Gaza can export there won’t be a viable economy there. There have been no meaningful exports from Gaza since 2007.”

A spokesman for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said they were unable to provide details of Palestinians exports allowed to leave Gaza.

Israeli envoy: Hillary Clinton led the way to Gaza cease-fire in 2012


Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador the the United States, credited Hillary Clinton with the leading role in achieving a cease-fire in Israel’s 2012 conflict with Hamas.

Clinton flew to the region and conducted shuttle diplomacy between Egypt and Israel to end hostilities between Israel and Hamas through indirect negotiations. Dermer said that because of the quick cease-fire, the eight-day conflict was the only one of Israel’s three rounds of fighting with Hamas to not include an Israeli ground operation in Gaza.

“She came in and had to get it right, and had, I think, basically one shot,” Dermer said at an event hosted by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. “A lot of lives were saved.”

Dermer said the talks defined “how the U.S. and Israel work together as allies.”

He also defended Israeli settlement expansion in areas that would likely be part of a Palestinian state in a negotiated agreement. Dermer admonished the international community for criticizing Israeli building in settlements that would likely remain part of Israel. And he said that settlers living deeper in the West Bank should, in the event of Palestinian statehood, be given the option of gaining citizenship in that state.

“When you think settlers are undermining the prospects of peace, you are saying Palestine must be ‘judenrein,'” he said, using a Nazi German term meaning “free of Jews.” “There is no reason, concretely and in principle, why Jews should not be able to live in a future Palestinian state.”

Early in the event, a protester disrupted Dermer, standing in front of him, holding a banner and yelling “Occupation is not a Jewish value. Settlements are an obstacle to peace. We need justice and peace. We need equality for all people in Palestine and Israel.” After security guards escorted her out, protesters outside chanted “Free, free Palestine.”

Dermer said the next U.S. president should pursue the peace process by engaging with the Palestinian Authority and the wider Arab world on parallel tracks. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested, Dermer said shared opposition to Iran and the Islamic State terror group could draw Israel and Arab states closer together.

“The Arab states in the region understand the dangers of Iran, understand the danger of ISIS, and see Israel as a potential ally in that struggle,” he said. “One of the opportunities for a new administration is to take this new realignment in the Arab world and see how to translate that into a policy that advances peace.”

Netanyahu to U.N. chief: Urge Hamas to free Israelis, return bodies


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to use his position to help pressure Hamas to repatriate two Israeli citizens and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.

In a joint appearance here during Ban’s 48-hour visit with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Netanyahu also called on the U.N. to “highlight Hamas’s crimes and understand that our security measures are aimed only at keeping our citizens safe from this threat and we use judicious force in this regards.”

Ban and Netanyahu also met with the families of presumed killed Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose bodies are being held by Hamas in Gaza. Two Israeli citizens are also being held by Hamas in Gaza — Avera Mengistu, a 28-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli, and an unidentified Bedouin-Israeli who crossed into Gaza of their own volition.

“Hamas is cruelly and illegally holding the remains of our soldiers and holding our citizens. I ask you to use your standing to help return home these soldiers and these citizens. It’s a humanitarian position and elementary humanitarian requirement that Hamas and its criminal activities is of course throwing into the winds,” Netanyahu said Tuesday during an appearance with Ban in front of reporters before the two leaders started a private meeting.

Netanyahu reminded Ban of his stated goal during a 2013 visit to Israel to work to halt anti-Israel bias in the international body.

“Regrettably, the goal of treating Israel fairly remains unfulfilled across a wide spectrum of U.N. activities and U.N. forums,” Netanyahu said.

“I know that your desire for all countries to be treated fairly and equally remains true today. I urge you to dedicate your last six months as the Secretary General of the United Nations in trying to right this wrong. And when I say that, it’s not just for Israel’s sake. It’s for the credibility of the UN,” Netanyahu said.

Ban called on Israel to work quickly toward a two-state solution.

“I encourage you to take the courageous steps necessary to prevent a one-state reality of perpetual conflict,” Ban says. “No solutions to the conflict will be possible without the recognition that both Palestinians and Jews have undeniable historic and religious connection to this land. No solutions can come through violence. It must be based on mutual respect and recognition of the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”

Earlier on Tuesday Ban visited the Gaza Strip, where he called on Israel to lift the “suffocating” blockade on the coastal strip, Reuters reported.

“The closure of Gaza suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction effort. It is a collective punishment for which there must be accountability,” Ban said.

The call to lift the closure came a day after Israel and Turkey announced a reconciliation agreement which keeps the blockade in place.

‘Dig’ producer sues insurer, saying 2014 Hamas rockets were terrorism, not war


USA Network’s owner is suing the company’s insurer for refusing to cover expenses after filming of the series “Dig” in Israel was interrupted by Hamas rocket attacks.

The Atlantic Specialty Insurance Company is denying a $6.9 million claim because it defines the 2014 rocket attacks as war, not terrorism, the Hollywood Reporter reported Monday. The insurer excludes coverage for war or warlike action, according to the suit.

The mystery-thriller miniseries is set in Jerusalem and began filming in Israel, but shifted production to New Mexico in the summer of 2014 when Israel was hit by multiple rockets fired by the terrorist group Hamas, which governs Gaza. 

 

Israel launched the seven-week Operation Protective Edge in response to multiple Hamas attacks that summer.

In a complaint filed in a California federal court on Monday, Universal Cable Productions, of which USA Network is a subsidiary, the company is arguing that the coverage should have been provided because the insurance policy does not exclude acts of terrorism, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The complaint alleges that a representative of the insurance company told NBCUniversal in a letter dated July 28, 2014, that “the terrorism coverage should not apply” because the focus of the acts “is not the United States or its policy” and “the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury has not certified” that summer’s events as “acts of terrorism.”

The suit also argues that the Gaza Strip is not a “recognized sovereign nation.”

“The United States government does not recognize the Gaza Strip as a sovereign territorial nation, and does not recognize Hamas as a sovereign government,” the complaint argues. “Rather, the United States government has officially designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. Nevertheless, Atlantic has ignored the United States government position and applicable law.”

The production company called the insurer’s position “a self-serving attempt to invoke the war exclusion and avoid its coverage obligations.”

The complaint also references State Department reports and travel advisory warnings about Hamas and says that the insurer initially agreed that an insured event had occurred but then changed its position.

The series, which was canceled after airing for one season in the spring of 2015, was created by “Homeland” creator and Israeli director Gideon Raff. Pro-Palestinian groups objected when it was announced that it would be filmed in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, which has been a flashpoint in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Reports: Senior Hamas official defects to Israel, Gaza hit with airstrike


A senior Hamas officer from Gaza reportedly has defected to Israel.

Bassam Mahmoud Baraka, who is believed to have extensive knowledge of Hamas’ underground tunnel networks, has been missing for several days and may have fled to Israel, Haaretz reported Tuesday, citing several Palestinian media outlets.

Baraka, the son of a Muslim religious judge affiliated with Hamas, is believed to have given himself up to Israeli soldiers waiting for him at the border, the Palestinian reports said.

Fatah websites said the Red Cross informed Baraka’s family that he was in Israeli custody.

Meanwhile, Israel reportedly launched an airstrike into Gaza, causing damage but no injuries.

According to The Times of Israel, Palestinian sources on Tuesday said Israelis were targeting a Hamas tunnel opening when they hit an agricultural area near the border.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed there were explosions near the border but said they were related to an Air Force test. The IDF did not say whether the explosions occurred in Israel or Gaza.

Israel Air Force destroys Hamas post after mortar fire


Retaliating for the firing of mortars on Israeli troops near the border with Gaza, Israel Air Force aircraft destroyed a Hamas facility south of Gaza City.

The strike Friday morning, in which a missile was launched at a Hamas watch post, followed the targeting from the Gaza Strip of soldiers patrolling the fence along the southern part of the Gaza Strip, Army Radio reported. The firing of two mortar rounds at Israel Defense Forces troops resulted in no injured and no damage.

The strike Friday was the third time in three days that Israel has retaliated for mortar attacks from Gaza. One woman was killed Thursday during one such attack, according to Palestinian sources in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

At least 16 mortar rounds were launched into Israel from Gaza this week – double the number recorded in the previous four months. Israel holds Hamas directly responsible for the recent attacks, which broke a lull in April, when no launches were recorded, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.

On Thursday, the IDF said it had uncovered a tunnel from Gaza leading into Israel, whose function was to enable terrorist attacks on Israeli soil. Stretching for hundreds of yards, the tunnel was 90 feet underground, according to the IDF.

Israeli troops come under mortar fire from Gaza


Israeli troops came under mortar fire from Gaza while performing engineering work near the border fence.

The Israel Defense Forces responded to the Wednesday morning attack by shelling Hamas-run military posts in Gaza, the IDF said.

No Israeli soldiers were injured in the morning mortar attack; a second mortar was reported fired at troops on Wednesday afternoon.  The Hamas military post fired on by Israel was damaged but there were no Palestinian casualties, Ynet reported, citing Palestinian sources.

The shelling on the border was the second attack in less than 24 hours. Israeli troops working near the border with northern Gaza on Tuesday afternoon came under gunfire. An Israeli army engineering vehicle was hit in the fire from northern Gaza and damaged by the bullets, and no troops were injured, the Israel Defense Forces said. There has been no claim of responsibility from Gaza.

Tuesday’s incident came several hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited troops in the southern border area of Gaza, and remarked on the relative quiet of the border area in the two years since Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

Israel bombs Gaza targets in retaliation for Hamas shelling


Israel bombed five targets in Gaza after Hamas fired more than five mortar rounds into Israel in a 24-hour period — an escalation attributed to Israel’s intensified efforts to detect and destroy Hamas’ underground tunnels leading toward and across its border.

Israel Air Force warplanes struck five targets near the Gazan border town of Rafah Wednesday evening, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed in statements on Twitter.

The IDF confirmation followed Palestinian media reports of the bombings, The Times of Israel reported. No injuries have been reported yet.

In a statement on Twitter, IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Israel “will continue to operate in order to protect the civilians of Israel from all Hamas terrorist threats above and beneath ground.”

“Our efforts to destroy the #Hamas terror tunnel network, a grave violation of Israel’s sovereignty, will not cease or be deterred.”

Shortly before launching the strikes, Israeli officials warned Hamas to cease firing mortars at its troops on the Gaza border or face a strong military retaliation, according to Israeli news website Walla.

Hamas said in a statement that Israel bore “full responsibility” for the escalation in hostilities.

In the 24 hours preceding the Israeli strikes, five mortars were fired at Israeli troops near the Gaza-Israel border, and soldiers responded with tank fire.

The IDF said it believes Hamas’ recent attacks near the border are an effort to prevent Israel from finding and destroying new tunnels leading toward and into Israel. New technology has helped locate more tunnels in recent weeks.

In a statement Wednesday night, Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, warned Israel to stop digging near the border in its search of tunnels.

The Hamas statement said the digging is an incursion into Gazan territory and a breach of the 2014 ceasefire, according to The Times of Israel.

“[Al-Qassam Brigades] will not allow this aggression and the enemy should not make any pretexts whatsoever, and leave the Gaza Strip immediately,” the statement reads.

Jerusalem bus bombing was Hamas suicide attack, Israel says


The recent bus bombing in Jerusalem was a suicide terror attack planned by Hamas, and several members of the cell responsible were arrested, Israeli security forces said Thursday.

The bomber was identified by the Shin Bet security service as Abed al-Hamid Abu Srour, a 19-year-old Palestinian from near Bethlehem in the West Bank. He was among the 21 people injured in the attack Monday on the No. 12 bus, and died of his injuries Wednesday.

The Shin Bet and Israeli police, who are jointly investigating the attack, partially lifted Thursday a gag order on the case.

Abu Srour, who lost both of his legs in the explosion and underwent several surgeries, died at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Afterward, Hamas claimed in a statement that the teenager was a member of its military wing.

Several Hamas members from Bethlehem have been arrested on suspicion of helping Abu Srour carry out the attack, according to the Shin Bet. Their names remain under gag order.

Abu Srour’s father on Thursday denied that his son was a terrorist.

“I was not expecting that my son would do such act. My son did not make me feel even for 1 percent, that he has feelings or thoughts like that. Never. I know that my son failed in one subject in his secondary schools exam and was preparing to take the exam again and pass it and focus on his future. This is the deal that we had together, me and him,” Mohammad Abu Srour said, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The family discovered a will written by Abu Srour, according to the French news agency, AFP, which cited the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Information Center website. The Arabic website reported that Srour’s father had been asked to identify his son’s body.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health later announced the body had been identified, according to the Palestinian Maan news agency.

Six people wounded in the attack remain hospitalized, including a teenage girl in serious condition.

The victims had burns on their upper bodies, as well as wounds from nails and ball bearings packed into the explosive device. The wounds, according to Avi Rivkind, head of Hadassah’s trauma unit, were similar to those from previous Jerusalem terror attacks.

The attack was the first bus bombing in Israel in several years. Such attacks terrorized Israelis during the second intifada, a violent Palestinian uprising from 2000-2005.

The attack followed a six-month wave of Palestinian stabbings and shooting attacks in Jerusalem, the West Bank and across Israel. The rate of the attacks had slowed to normal levels, though Israeli officials remained concerned about a flare-up in violence surrounding upcoming religious holidays, including Passover.

Bernie Sanders and Israel’s ‘disproportionate’ use of force


There’s been much agitation recently over Bernie Sanders’ accusation that Israel used disproportionate force in Gaza during the 2014 summer war with Hamas.

In an April 1 meeting with the New York Daily News, Sanders cited Israel’s killing of more than 10,000 civilians, an inflated figure, during that conflict as evidence of Israel’s use of disproportionate force. When an interviewer looked it up and found that the United Nations estimate was 1,462 killed, the Independent senator from Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate immediately accepted the revised figure but held to his view that Israel’s actions were disproportionate.

Sanders reiterated the assertion of disproportionality during last week’s debate with rival Hillary Clinton, saying that the war wounded some 10,000 civilians. His unusually critical position on Israel has generated a great deal of commentary, both supportive and critical, especially given his Jewish background.

On Monday, JTA sent some questions to the Sanders campaign to try to drill down a bit more why the candidate believes Israel’s response was disproportionate, what he thinks the United States should have done to ensure a “more proportionate” response and whether he believes the U.S. is using disproportionate force in its own wars against terrorists in places like Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria.

The Sanders campaign declined to address JTA’s questions, instead directing us to a page on the campaign website outlining Sanders’ Mideast policies.

Here are the questions we sent the Sanders campaign:

1. Sen. Sanders has said he believes Israel’s use of force in Gaza in the 2014 conflict was disproportionate. Is that conclusion based on the militant-to-civilian Palestinian death ratio, the lopsided Israeli-to-Palestinian ratio of civilian deaths, or something else?

Israel contends that Palestinian civilian deaths largely were the result of Hamas intentionally conducting its military operations from within civilian areas – rocket launchings from residential neighborhoods, the use of a hospital as a military baseattacks from schools. Israel also contends that its own low Israeli civilian death toll was the result of its sophisticated defense systems, including its Iron Dome missile-defense system and the precautions Israeli civilians took.

Would the senator feel differently about proportionality if more Israeli civilians had been killed? Does the senator believe Israel should have held its fire in responding to rocket attacks from civilian areas? What sorts of steps does the senator believe Israel should have taken (but did not) in minimizing civilian casualties?

2. Should the United States take (or have taken during the 2014 conflict) steps to pressure Israel to use more proportionate force toward the Palestinians? Should the United States withhold some military aid to Israel to get the Israelis to shift policy toward the Palestinians? Should the United States withhold its veto in the U.N. Security Council as a means of pressuring Israel to shift its Palestinian policies? Would you, as president, consider withholding Israeli military aid or the Security Council veto?

3. Sen. Sanders has spoken several times about the disproportionality of Israel’s response in the 2014 Gaza conflict. What is his view on the proportionality on the use of American force in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemenand elsewhere? Does he believe Israel or the United States has a worse record on civilian deaths killed in military strikes?

 

Gaza terror tunnel into Israel discovered


A Hamas-built tunnel from Gaza into Israel aimed at executing terror attacks has been discovered, the Israel Defense Forces said Monday.

The tunnel is the first to be found since Operation Protective Edge, the summer 2014 Gaza War, according to the IDF, which worked in conjunction with the Shin Bet security service in discovering the tunnel. The IDF said it has destroyed the tunnel openings on both the Israeli and Gazan sides.

In a statement, the IDF said the tunnel was built by the terrorist organization Hamas “in order to infiltrate Israel and execute terror attacks against the people of the southern communities.” In a statement Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is “investing considerable capital” in countering the tunnels, and that the effort “will not end overnight.”

“Israel will respond strongly to any attempt to attack its soldiers and civilians,” Netyanyahu said. “I am certain that Hamas understands this very well.”

But Hamas vowed that the destruction of this tunnel did not signal an end to conflict, according to the Times of Israel.

“What the enemy has discovered is only a drop in the sea from what the resistance has prepared to defend its people, to liberate the holy places, its prisoners and land,” Hamas’s military wing said in a statement Monday.

The 2014 war, which saw more than 2,100 Palestinians and some 70 Israelis die, was fought largely over the tunnels. Following several attempted infiltrations into Israel, the IDF invaded Gaza hoping to root out the tunnel network, resulting in brutal battles across the coastal territory. Israel withdrew after destroying or otherwise eliminating the threat of some three dozen tunnels.

The tunnel discovered Monday began in a southern Gaza residential neighborhood, according to Haaretz. On the Israel side it is located between the border fence and Israeli military bases, and was about 100 feet below ground.

It is not known when the tunnel was constructed and how many branches it has.

Citing Hamas violation, Israel temporarily blocks Gaza cement imports


Israel has temporarily barred cement and other construction materials from entering the Gaza Strip after finding that Hamas was diverting some of the materials for its own use.

The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, said the cement freeze went into effect on Sunday, the Times of Israel reported.

According to an announcement on the Israeli coordinator’s Arabic-language Facebook page, the deputy director of Hamas’ Economic Ministry has confiscated an undisclosed amount of cement that had been earmarked for rebuilding private-sector infrastructure damaged in the 2014 war with Israel.

Reconstruction agreements between Israel and the Palestinians prohibit Hamas, which governs Gaza, from accessing any imported construction materials over Israeli concerns that Hamas will use the materials to rebuild its vast network of underground tunnels designed for launching terrorist attacks against Israel and kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

Hamas has acknowledged rebuilding the tunnels, and numerous Hamas workers have died in recent months when tunnels they were working on collapsed.

“We are disappointed that Hamas continues to harm and take advantage of the Palestinian population, only to advance the personal interests of the organization,” COGAT wrote on its Facebook page, according to the Times of Israel.

The United Nations condemned the “deviation of materials” in a statement released Monday but did not mention Hamas.

“Those who seek to gain through the deviation of materials are stealing from their own people and adding to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza,” said Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N.’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.

Hamas blames Israel after operative killed in Gaza tunnel collapse


Another tunnel under Gaza has collapsed, killing a Hamas operative digging it, and the terrorist group’s military wing is blaming Israel.

The tunnel collapse Thursday in southern Gaza killed Muhammad Musa al Astal of Khan Younis, the Times of Israel reported. Days earlier, a tunnel collapsed in eastern Gaza, injuring five Hamas members.

Citing unnamed Palestinian sources, The Jerusalem Post said some Hamas operatives are blaming Israel for the tunnel collapses and are afraid to enter the tunnels. The operatives say they have seen Israeli soldiers on the border using liquid explosives and “causing small earthquakes” to destroy tunnels.

Seven tunnels have collapsed in the past two months, according to the Times of Israel, including one that killed a nephew of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar.

In January, senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh announced at a funeral for seven Hamas operatives that were killed in a tunnel collapse that Palestinian “heroes” are digging tunnels to be used in future attacks on Israel.

At that time, the Times of Israel reported that Hamas had more than 1,000 people working around the clock, six days a week, digging tunnels lined with concrete and “being dug 30 meters deep, with sophisticated engineering equipment and more advanced technological support, including engineers’ blueprints.”

Hamas’ vast network of tunnels, many leading into Israel, was a major issue during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 2014 war in the Gaza Strip. During the war, Israel destroyed more than 30 tunnels, which were used to smuggle weapons, as well as stage terrorist attacks and kidnappings inside Israel. Thousands of people, the majority of them Palestinians, were killed in the 2014 war, and much of Gaza’s infrastructure was severely damaged.

Why the world turns a blind eye to the battle between Hamas and the PA


Civil servants in Gaza have gone on strike. For a change, this strike has nothing to do with Israel. On the contrary, 50,000 Gazan workers are striking against Hamas.

In Gaza, striking involves more than parading with placards and not going to work. In Gaza, strikes and protests are dangerous acts. People who protest in the Hamas-controlled territory tend to disappear. But this time, these workers are taking a firm stand by telling the leaders of Gaza that it is time for them to truly lead.

Public workers in Gaza have not been paid regularly since 2014. They allege that they have received only 40 percent of their regular salaries.

Schools and courts are closed. Governmental bureaucrats are staying home. Medical facilities (except emergency care) are shuttered. Sanitation workers are letting garbage pile up. Every worker who receives a salary from the government is taking part in the strike (except for public security employees; they have been receiving their full salaries).

In June 2014, a unity agreement was signed between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. The agreement stipulated that a technocratic unity government would be put in place. That never happened.

Instead, the sometimes violent conflict between Hamas and Fatah, the ruling faction of the Palestinian Authority, has continued. They battle over policies and politics and, when words do not suffice, they murder each other. And no one — other than the people of Gaza — seems to care. The world deems the violence taking place between Fatah and Hamas as infighting. The civil service workers of Gaza want to change that.

Salaries are important, surely, but this strike was called in order to regain international attention.

The strike was coordinated to coincide with Palestinian unity talks between Hamas and the PA that were taking place in Doha. But other than a few Arabic news websites, the story barely made a bleep. Even while striking, the workers of Gaza have struck out.

We are told that the 2014 agreement was about solving issues regarding workers’ rights. But the total deal was never made public. What we do know is that Hamas thinks it is the responsibility of the PA; the Palestinian Authority believes that is not so.

Hamas ousted Fatah and the PA from Gaza in a bloody coup in 2007. The fighting was brutal. There were public murders. Entire Gazan families and family leaders, people who had been part of the Gaza elite for decades, were publicly humiliated and forced to flee.

After the coup, Hamas replaced the entire civil service branch, which had numbered 70,000 people, with 50,000 of its own replacements. The Palestinian Authority continued to pay the original employees even though they were removed from their jobs and many had relocated to the West Bank. The pay was intermittent, but they still were paid.

The 2014 unity agreement stipulated that the PA would hire and pay Hamas workers “according to need.” The essential point in the agreement was that Hamas would return all PA employees to their former positions. This never happened.

Perhaps the world is weary of what happens in Gaza; after all, it’s been going on, almost unchanged, for so long. Certainly there are other sexier, gorier altercations and civil wars being waged.

Or maybe the world is interested only when Israel is involved.

Look for yourselves. A quick Google search of “government strike in Gaza” brings results about the last strike in 2014. And Googling “strike in Gaza” or “Gaza strike” brings up only matches of military and terror attacks.

What is certain is that money is coming into Gaza and that money is not going toward running the state. And because of the tensions between Fatah and Hamas, the money coming into the Palestinian Authority is not going to Gaza to help run the Hamas state.

Monies coming into Gaza go into the military infrastructure. Gaza’s leaders are rebuilding tunnels and training terrorists. Unless there is direct supervision of the money and the materials they are receiving, Hamas is not going to sidestep ideology and begin using it to rebuild society. It might say that the tunnels are being rebuilt for security and defense, not for warring against Israel, but those statements echo as hollow as the promise to work alongside the PA to rebuild their society.

As much as some people would like to blame Israel for the horrors taking place in Gaza, this strike proves the point: Responsibility lies squarely and solidly with Hamas. Even the civil servants of Gaza know that Hamas is not interested in building a society. Hamas is taking the money and using it to prepare for war against Israel.

The world had better start paying attention to Hamas again.


Micah Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. His latest book is “Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World Through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder,” Thomas Nelson (2007). Reprinted with permission from Observer.

Cruz highlights Iron Dome funding in national security address


Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz hailed the success of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system in intercepting rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza as he unveiled his plan to rebuild the U.S. military on Tuesday. This statement came despite Cruz voting against the annual National Defense Authorization Act, a comprehensive defense budget authority bill that helps fund missile-defense programs like the Iron Dome.

Speaking aboard the USS Yorktown in South Carolina, Cruz pledged to invest in the U.S. military to ensure that it has the resources it needs to protect our homeland and maintain its status as a beacon of freedom and opportunity across the world. “America needs a strong military to protect our great nation and the freedoms we hold dear,” said Cruz. “Rebuilding the American military will be one of the most serious tasks facing the next Commander in Chief. We will invest in our military with a simple goal: more tooth, less tail.”

A rebuilt military and a strong defense, according to Cruz, will restore America’s strength so “it will be feared by our enemies and trusted by our allies.” The Texas Senator highlighted the success of the Iron Dome, funded in large part by the U.S. Congress, as he also called for greater collaboration with the Jordanian, Egyptian and Israeli militaries, and to partner with them on the war against terror.

As Cruz was delivering his remarks, the Rubio campaign distributed a memo that accused Cruz of lying on national security matters. As Rubio did in the past, his campaign pointed out that in 2013, Cruz signed on to Senator Rand Paul’s budget resolution proposal that, among other cuts, slashed defense funding and international aid, “including aid to Israel.” 

“Senator Cruz will say or do anything to win an election including lying to cover-up his own weak record on national security. Senator Cruz is the only candidate in this race who has consistently sided against our military and intelligence professionals and whose foreign policy vision changes with his poll numbers,” Joe Pounder, Rubio’s spokesman said in a statement.

Israelis near Gaza fear Hamas is tunneling beneath them


Nissim Hakmon and his neighbors say they hear banging and clattering at night. They are convinced it can only mean one thing: Hamas is tunneling under their homes from Gaza and will one day emerge, guns blazing, to attack or kidnap them.

The Israeli government says its investigations have not come up with any evidence the night-time noises reported by villagers living near Gaza emanate from tunnels, but assertions by Hamas of extensive cross-border digging has only fueled concern.

“The fear among everyone here is constant,” Hakmon told Reuters in his village of Pri Gan, near the Gaza Strip. “I've heard the sound of a hammer and chisel and my neighbor says she can hear them digging under the cement. We're stressed out.”

The Palestinian Islamist group which runs Gaza used tunnels running out of the strip to give its heavily outgunned fighters the advantage of surprise during its 2014 war with Israel.

Twelve soldiers were killed by Hamas tunnel raiders and one was kidnapped. No civilians have been targeted by the fighters, who describe the tunnels as a defensive tool in case of future conflict. But that is little reassurance to the villagers.

Underground infiltration by gunmen from Gaza “is something we know deep inside is just a matter of time, even though we tell the kids everything is okay,” Hakmon said.

POLITICAL PRESSURE

Hakmon's worry is being echoed by some others who live on the Gaza periphery, putting extra political pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his handling of the standoff with the Palestinian territory since the war in 2014.

Beset by a months-long surge of street attacks by Palestinians from the West Bank and Jerusalem, Israel has little desire to see a fresh flare-up in Gaza, where Hamas has mostly held its fire in the past 18 months. 

The movement announced last week it had rehabilitated cross-border tunnels destroyed during the war – a muscle-flexing message to Israel, its security partner Egypt and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Islamists' U.S.-backed rival. 

“The resistance factions are in a state of ongoing preparation underground, above ground, on land and sea,” Hamas deputy leader Ismail Haniyeh said at a rally called to honor seven tunnelers who were killed in a cave-in on Tuesday.

Hamas has twice the number of tunnels as those used in the Vietnam war against U.S. forces, Haniyeh said – a tall order, but bold enough a claim to shore up the worries voiced in Pri Gan, 4 km (2 miles) away from the Gaza border, and elsewhere.

The residents' alarm, amplified by local media, and calls for preemptive military action by opposition politicians, roused Netanyahu to warn Hamas on Sunday. 

“Should we be attacked through Gaza Strip tunnels, we will take forceful action against Hamas, with far greater force than was used in Protective Edge,” he said, referring to the 2014 war, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most civilians. 

“We are working systematically and level-headedly against all threats, including the Hamas threat, through both defensive and offensive measures.” 

Israel lost six civilians in the war as well as 67 soldiers.

Military engineers unearthed and destroyed 32 tunnels, Israeli officials say, and have since, with U.S. help, been developing a half-dozen technologies for detecting digs along the sandy, 65-km (40 mile) frontier with Gaza.

When those counter-measures might be ready is a closely guarded secret. Hamas, for its part, may be hoping to lay down as many new tunnels as possible before the system is in place. 

“We are not asking for war, but getting ready for one should Israel launch it,” Hamas military spokesman Abu Ubaida said.

“GUNS DRAWN”

Israel's refusal to elaborate on its anti-tunnel efforts has fanned fears in the 30-odd villages near the Gaza frontier. 

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israel Radio on Monday that military experts “rush anywhere that someone claims to hear noises (but) those tests have not shown that the noise is from the digging of tunnels”.

The conservative government has found itself in the unfamiliar situation of preaching restraint after center-left opposition leader Isaac Herzog demanded any tunnels be bombed. 

“What are the prime minister and defense minister waiting for? For terrorists to surface with guns drawn?” Herzog said.

Yaalon shot back that such discussions should be held behind closed doors, and argued that the passive build-up of an enemy's capabilities did not necessarily warrant initiating hostilities.

“It might also be proposed that we go and attack (Lebanese guerrilla group) Hezbollah's 100,000 rockets in the north or the hundreds of missiles that Iran has aimed at us,” Yaalon said.

Hakmon does not share the government's equanimity, and says he and other Pri Gan residents are going around armed, locking their doors and shuttering their windows as a precaution.

“We are waiting for the army, or, God forbid, for the worst to happen,” he said.

Israelis near Gaza border concerned about stepped-up tunnel construction


Israelis living next to the Gaza border are reporting that they can literally feel the effect of Palestinians digging tunnels nearby.

Gadi Yarkoni, the head of the Eshkol Regional Council, said Thursday that many residents of Moshav Pri Gan are complaining that they have heard increased underground digging in the past few weeks and that it even causes the floors of their homes to shake, the Times of Israel reported.

Yarkoni expressed disappointment that the Israel Defense Forces still has not built protective barriers to block cross-border tunnels, despite promises to do so after Operation Protective Edge, its summer 2014 war in Gaza. No money has been allocated for the $700 million project, the Times of Israel said, citing a Haaretz report.

Other evidence of tunnel digging has been surfacing in recent weeks.

Eight members of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas disappeared Wednesday when rain and flooding caused an underground tunnel near Jabaliya to collapse. A tunnel in central Gaza collapsed on Saturday, killing a 30-year-old man, AFP reported, citing Hamas officials. In December, 14 Palestinians were trapped for hours in another tunnel, near the Gaza-Egypt border, after it flooded.

Hamas’ vast network of tunnels, many leading into Israel, was a major issue during the 2014 war. During its operation, Israel destroyed more than 30 tunnels, which were used to smuggle weapons, as well as stage terrorist attacks and kidnappings inside Israel.

According to Haaretz, the IDF believes Hamas, which governs Gaza, is building new tunnels leading into Israel and is rebuilding its arsenal of rockets. Haaretz said it “is reasonable to assume that the number of tunnels crossing under the border is close to that on the eve of Protective Edge.”

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