Friday, August 01, 2014

1-Aug-14: An urgent request for prayer

Please pray in your own words, or via whatever formulation is customary in your circle, for the safe return of the kidnapped soldier, Hadar Ben Hedva Leah.
נא להתפלל עכשיו לשחרור החייל שנחטף הדר בן חדווה לאה וכל כוחות הבטחון באשר הם

1-Aug-14: Reporting from a Gaza hospital, European reporter confirms what mainstream media prefer not to say about Hamas and human shields

Crowd throngs outside Al Shifa hospital, Gaza City,
November 2012 [Image Source]
When mainstream news media sites find it difficult to figure which of two sides - one, a terrorist regime with a long record of inventing, obscuring and denying facts; the other, a democratic government with a vibrant and unstoppable journalism sector and a robust and completely open political culture - is lying, something fishy is happening.

TIME Magazine's non-committal review of what happened this week at a certain medical facility in rocket-rich Gaza ["Israel and Hamas traded blame..."] is one of many fresh exemplars of this failure of common sense and of journalistic ethics. There is a long, depressing list of others.

Al-Shifa Hospital (Al-Shifa means "healing" in Arabic) is Gaza's main hospital. Originally an army barracks for the British when they ruled the area prior to 1948, it was transformed into a medical center during the Mandate, but on a limited scale as a center for the treatment of febrile diseases and for purposes of quarantine. Israel took control of Gaza in 1967 after blunting Egypt's unsuccessful aggression. During the 1980's, according to Wikipedia, it underwent major renovation as part of Israel's efforts to provide hugely improved living and medical conditions for the chronically-neglected Gazan Arabs.

Israel abandoned the Gaza Strip in 2005, and soon afterwards it fell under the jackboot of the Islamists of Hamas. Wikipedia describes what happened next:
Hamas used Al-Shifa hospital as bunker and refuge, knowing it will be spared by air-strikes. Ahmed Jabari hid there during the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict... Hamas members have taken control of wards in Shifa Hospital... using them for interrogation and imprisonment, while withholding medical care.
During mid-July 2014, after the current Gaza war had gotten underway, the reality of today's Shifa was captured in an eye-witness article published in one of the world's leading newspapers:
At the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, crowds gathered to throw shoes and eggs at the Palestinian Authority’s health minister, who represents the crumbling “unity government” in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The minister was turned away before he reached the hospital, which has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices [Washington Post, July 14, 2014]
Reinforcing the point, Nick Casey of the Wall Street Journal tweeted this photo of a Hamas official unabashedly using Shifa Hospital for his media interviews:

A reporter for Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki Times), Aishi Zidan, has now revealed on camera, and in the clearest way, that the terrorist forces of Hamas are firing rockets from the hospital. (YouTube has a sub-titles option; to see the English-language translation, make sure the option is selected on your computer.)

Brave young woman, given what we know ["Italian Reporter Reveals Hamas Cover-Up Over Misfired Rockets", Israel National News, July 30, 2014; "Trapped in Gaza: How Hamas punishes reporters for the truth", The Australian, July 31, 2014] about the tolerance of Hamas for open, honest reporting. We hope she has managed to get out of Gaza by now. (Hat tip to Aussie Dave and to Tundra Tabloids.)

1-Aug-14: Amos Oz, interviewed by Deutsche Welle, starts this way

Oz [Image Source]
Amoz Oz: I would like to begin the interview in a very unusual way: by presenting one or two questions to your readers and listeners. May I do that?
Deutsche Welle: Go ahead!Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?
Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?
With these two questions I pass the interview to you...
Deutsche Welle is Germany's international broadcaster. Amos Oz, professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, published in 42 languages, including Arabic, is the recipient of a long list of awards for his writing including the French Legion of Honour, Germany's Goethe Prize and the Israel Prize. Wikipedia says that "since 1967, Oz has been a prominent advocate of a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict."

1-Aug-14: This is where the years-long charade about a "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas should be brought to an end

Arch-terrorist and multi-murderer Arafat and protege [Image Source]
Under the heading "The fact that no one is willing to admit", Elder of Ziyon writes this today:
It would be enormously better to have the PA controlling Gaza than Hamas, for everyone - for Gazans, for Israel, and for Egypt. But as usual, there is an elephant in the room that no one is willing to admit... Mahmoud Abbas' party has shot hundreds of rockets into Israel during this war, tooThe Abu Nidal Brigades of Fatah's Al Asqa Martyrs Brigades helpfully gives us a tally34 N103 missiles, 173 107 missiles, 32 Grad rockets, 53 120 mm mortar rounds, 23 80 mm mortar rounds, 14 60 mm mortar rounds, one RPG-7, Moltka anti-missile shields. At least three other Fatah terror groups have also fired rockets at Israel. 
Israel doesn't want to mention this because they want to maintain security cooperation with the PA security forces, and this would embarrass Abbas. But the entire point of making peace with Abbas is that he is the best candidate to make peace with. Yet this "man of peace" cannot stop, or control, his own party. Or - he is unwilling to stop them from firing at Israeli civilians. That is not exactly a man of peace. And it is irresponsible for so many to so willfully give him a pass and bury this basic fact because of their wishful thinking.
Only one reporter I could find mentioned this fact: "A senior Fatah official told me earlier this week in Ramallah that Fatah has felt obliged to fire some rockets against Israel, lest it be seen as collaborating with the Jewish state."
This is Fatah's defense for war crimes - because they don't want to look too peaceful to their own people! The world deserves to know exactly how "moderate" - or exactly how ineffective - he is over terrorists who report to him, and who brag about their targeting Israeli cities.
There's some valuable background in a bluntly-titled July 30, 2014 article, "From Arafat and Abbas to Hamas: Lying and Crying for Terror" by Michael Widlanski over on the site. (The author was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel's Ministry of Public Security, and will be a visiting professor at University of California, Irvine.)

1-Aug-14: Compromise and its price

The serious message underlying Antonio Branco's wry point is hammered home by the video we posted at "30-Jul-14: The ordinariness of utter evil".

1-Aug-14: Iran says its terror-enabling role in this war is about to rise by several notches

Khamanei the supreme
This past Tuesday in a speech marking the Muslim breaking-of-the-fast festival of Eid al-Fitr, the Iranian "supreme leader" since 1989 Ayatollah Ali Khamenei celebrated the occasion by urging the Islamic world to counter what he termed Israel’s “genocide” in the Gaza Strip by arming the Palestinian Arabs. Israel, he said, was acting like a “rabid dog” and “a wild wolf,” causing a "human catastrophe that must be resisted", according to this video report.

The next step, a solely-Iranian one that does not depend on the goodwill of the Islamic world, came quickly but has been reported nowhere outside Israel as far as Google knows:
A former adviser to Iran’s defense minister said that Tehran would seek to arm Palestinians in the West Bank with “strategic weapons” including missiles to target Tel Aviv and Haifa. Iranian researcher Amir Mousavi told Lebanon’s Mayadeen TV channel this week that “a major reshuffle awaits the region” as “new and significant fronts will be opened all of a sudden, to support the Palestinian cause in the West Bank and Gaza.”
A new front must be opened from the West Bank, after it has been armed, especially with missiles,” Mousavi said in comments relayed by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), “because we know very well that the distance between the West Bank and Tel Aviv, Haifa, and other areas is much shorter than the distance from Gaza. Therefore, simple means are required. There is no need for long-range missiles. Short-range missiles can change the entire picture in the occupied lands.”
Mousavi added that Gaza would also receive increased military support from Iran. As for the Palestinian Authority which controls the West Bank and has in recent years cooperated closely with Israel on security issues, Mousavi remarked: “We hope that the brothers in the Palestinian Authority will help rather than impede this.” [Times of Israel, July 30, 2014]
Mousavi [Composite of
images from MEMRI]
Whatever Mousavi's bluster means, it has little to do with blunting Israel's military force and (in common with the strategy of both Hamas and its 'moderate' PA counterpart, Fatah) everything to do with again terrorizing Israel's civilian population.

As for how to get those "strategic weapons" into place, Mousavi is not bashful. The “resistance camp” - his euphamism for Iran's clients here in the area: Hamas, Hezbollah, Iraq, Syria - have “established very important channels via Jordan, the Golan Heights, and other areas.”

Israel has gotten to see some of the "important channels" - those running underground from the Gaza Strip into the earth directly underneath Israeli civilian settlements - from up close and from inside (like these) in the past three weeks. It's been an explosive experience.

Iran's wholehearted and whole-pocketed backing (other than during a brief spat in 2013) for the terror practiced by Hamas, PIJ and Fatah is an open secret. In "Iran’s fingerprints all over Hamas-Israel conflict", lawyer and former-Iranian Sayeh Hassan (Toronto Star, July 19, 2014) writes that while
few have picked up on the significant Iranian connection to the conflict... one cannot comprehend the events of recent weeks without an adequate understanding of Iran’s role in Gaza... Many of the more than 1,000 missiles fired at Israelis in the past month were manufactured in Iran, transferred by Iran or built in Gaza with Iranian technology. This includes, for example, the Iranian-built Fajr 5 and the made-in-Gaza M-75, both of which have a range of 75 kilometres. In 2012, Iran openly admitted to having given Hamas the technology to manufacture the M-75. These weapons have been a strategic game-changer for Hamas, allowing it to extend its range of attack to Israel’s two largest cities: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The longer-range M-302, which enabled Hamas to hit cities in northern Israel, was reportedly imported from Syria via Iran... None of this would be possible without extensive funding from Iran. At one point, the government of Egypt revealed that Iran was funnelling upwards of $300 million annually to Hamas. Additional numbers are equally staggering. Prior to Israel’s current operation, terror groups in Gaza possessed an estimated 10,000 missiles. Hamas operatives, many of whom were trained in Iran, now also number at least 10,000. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is even closer to Iran than is Hamas, boasts several thousand fighters in Gaza. Analysts have noted that the two factions have been competing to see which one can fire missiles deeper into Israel. Despite a falling-out between Hamas and the Iranian-Syrian axis when the group moved its headquarters out of Damascus in the wake of the Syrian civil war, co-operation in fighting the common enemy, Israel, has resumed... Iran’s mentorship of Hamas in Gaza is modelled on its development of Hezbollah in Lebanon. In both cases, Iran seeks to advance the Islamic Revolution throughout the Middle East and support local groups willing to wage a proxy war with Israel. Unfortunately, those who pay the price for Iran’s destructive ventures are Israelis and innocent Palestinians alike... Tehran’s fingerprints are all over the current round of violence.
Final note: as critically important as Iran's support is for the terrorist forces of Gaza, its role is augmented by both North Korea and Qatar. They may be relative minnows in a sea of sharks but each brings to the Gaza war a passionate dedication to the harm that terrorism inflicts on ordinary people, making what they have to offer (advanced weapons in one case, cash in the other) indispensable to the dreams of the Hamas insiders.

1-Aug-14: About those Gazan rocket firings that BBC's editors deem unworthy of mention in this morning's ceasefire report...

At the BBC, they play fast and loose with the realities of the Gaza war now raging. (Please see "1-Aug-14: A three-day ceasefire has just started in Gaza" to understand what we mean.) 

So for the BBC's editors, and for BBC news consumers around the world interested in how things look from a non-London vantage point, here's a very, very small taste of what those who carry the burden of defending Israel's civilian population see when they peer into the vast darkness of Hamas-controlled Gaza:

Funny how you can overlook such matters when trying to simplify war, jihadism, terror and similar complex realities.

1-Aug-14: A three-day ceasefire has just started in Gaza [Updated]

A volley, from among the several thousand Gazan rockets directed at anything Israeli,
is fired from Gaza City on Tuesday July 15, 2014 [Image Source: Agence France-Presse/Getty Image]
From Reuters:
A 72-hour Gaza ceasefire period began on Friday, the most ambitious attempt so far to end more than three weeks of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Hamas Islamist-dominated enclave. The humanitarian truce, brokered by the United Nations and the United States, went into effect at 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT), and was to be lead to talks in Egypt on a longer-term solution.
For the information-challenged wondering what kind of fire is being ceased, the BBC tells us:
Since Israel began its offensive in Gaza on 8 July, more than 1,420 Palestinians have been killed, most of them civilians, health officials say. Sixty-one Israeli soldiers have died, as well two Israeli civilians and a Thai national in Israel. Israel says its operation in Gaza is designed to defend its population from attacks by Palestinian militants. Hamas wants a blockade of Gaza, maintained by both Israel and Egypt, to be lifted.
As for those almost-3,000 rockets that preceded Israel's "offensive", the BBC's editors would prefer their audience knew as little as possible about them. So they're absent from the report. Life is so much simpler when it's black-and-white.

UPDATE at 1:00 pm Israel time, Friday: Reuters says:
A Gaza ceasefire was in jeopardy just hours after it began on Friday, with the Islamist group Hamas saying Israeli tank fire killed four people and Israel accusing militants of violating the truce... Some two hours after the truce went into effect, a Reuters photographer and the Gaza Interior Ministry said Israeli tanks opened fire in the southern Rafah area, and Hamas media reported four people were killed... An official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip had "flagrantly violated the ceasefire". But the official did not elaborate.
And over at Ynet:
The lull was seemingly first broken by terror factions in Gaza who fired a mortar at Israel at roughly 10 am Friday morning. The mortar, which was followed by another shortly after, failed to land in Israel, falling in Gaza territory.
The prime minister's office is quoted on BBC TV (1:25 pm). Israel, it says, is avoiding the term "collapse" and speaking of "gross violations" of the 72-hour ceasefire by Hamas. BBC's 1:30 pm headline says the ceasefire is "unraveling" and that the IDF is warning residents of near-Gaza communities to stay indoors.

1-Aug-14: For liberals, and everyone else, war demands hard choices

London, July 26, 2014 [Image Source]
An extract from Liel Leibovitz's short and very worthwhile essay: "Hey, Liberals Who Oppose Israel: You’re All Right-Wingers Now | Don’t call yourselves progressives if you put up with religiously zealous, violent maniacs like Hamas", Tablet Magazine, July 31, 2014
...Assume for one moment that Israel accepted all the liberal critiques of its behaviors and acted accordingly. The force it was using was disproportionate? It withdrew most of its soldiers, curbed its artillery, and pulled back the deeply unfair advantage of the Iron Dome missile defense system. Gaza is an open-air prison, the responsibility for which lies solely with Israel and not with Gaza’s other neighbor, Egypt? Israel removed its naval and aerial blockade and opened wide its borders. You don’t have to be a three-star General to realize the outcome of such moves. Which leads us back to a terrible observation: wars are so ghastly in part because they crush so much of the ambiguity and nuance that permeates everyday life in times of peace. They’re so awful because often they force us to make stark choices that are scary and absolute, and annihilate so much of the space that exists in between polar opposites. War requires us to choose...
So too these selected observations of Leibovitz, directed at liberal-minded folk who would normally espouse values probably similar to his own:
  • Before you say one more thing about this conflict, ask yourself which side is fighting for a society most like the one in which you’re likely to want to live, and then support that side passionately and vigorously. And understand, please, that we’re at war, and that philosophical inquiries, existential ponderings, and musings about identity are all welcomed and valued in free societies, but that to entertain such soulful pursuits said free societies must first survive the attacks of their enemies
  • All the homicidal zealot has to do is mumble something about justice and disproportionality and self-determination, and he’s transformed into a respectable, not to say sympathetic, figure.
  • To my former friends on the left who see themselves as champions of progressive values while criticizing Israel’s attempts at self-defense I have this to say: You have already chosen. You’re all right-wingers now... In making excuses for Hamas, you’re endorsing a force of religious intolerance and a purveyor of oppression far, far more demonic than those benign forces at home you characterize as the destroyers of civil liberties and human rights.
Most of us are deaf to challenging voices at the best of times, and especially so when war rages around us. Still, it would be a shame if Leibovitz's insights got lost in the rush.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

31-Jul-14: What possible excuse could decent civilized leadership have for attacking a holy place of worship? Let's see

The Al-Sousi mosque, northern Gaza City, yesterday
[Image Source: Xinhua]
The headline above will make little sense if readers don't click below and view the video.

Photographs of mosques destroyed by Israeli forces in Gaza (like the one over on the right) are all over the web and the newspaper world right now.

The anger of Islamic masses is being whipped up as the outrageous desecration of holy places gets understood by believers. See for instance "Calls to Raid and Desecrate Al-Aqsa Mosque", "Historical mosque destroyed by inhuman zionist terrorists", "Palestinians Fiercely Clash With Zionist Army At Al-Aqsa" and many others.

Attacking places of religious worship is never something of which to be proud. It may have legal consequences, and certainly has an impact on public sensitivities. What would bring a military to open fire on a church, synagogue or mosque?

So let's take a look at a documented instance of desecration from this past week.

In the background, there's a well-established and shameful history of open manipulation of Islamic sensibilities by religious and political leadership of the various arms of the Palestinian Authority. See for instance this Palestinian Media Watch backgrounder, "Israel to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque".

Is it time for some focus on the cold-blooded desecration of Moslem holy places by Moslems?

31-Jul-14: Perhaps we're winning the war against the terrorists but what if it's more luck than wisdom?

"Life sucks", the now-dead young man
says [Image Source]
From the New York Times today:
When Moner Mohammad Abusalha drove a truck packed with explosives into a restaurant in northern Syria in May, American authorities conceded that they knew little about how a young man who grew up a basketball-obsessed teenager in a Florida gated community had become a suicide bomber. And they have never publicly acknowledged the startling discovery they made weeks into their investigation: that after receiving training by an extremist group in Syria, Mr. Abusalha had returned to the United States for several months before leaving the country for the last time. Mr. Abusalha chose to carry out his attack in Syria rather than in the United States, but the difficulty learning about his background, motivations and travels illustrates the problems law enforcement officials face in trying to identify the Westerners - including dozens of Americans - believed to have been trained by Islamic militants in Syria.
If it's comfortable to think that young jihad-minded men and women like this one are constantly on the radar of the authorities in Western country, then let's keep thinking it.

But for those of us open to far-less-comfortable thoughts, there is a real possibility that massacres like the one he executed, via an explosives-filled garbage truck, in Syria can be staged just as easily in the US, in the UK, in Australia, anywhere really.

The disclosure that this human bomb flew back to his American home-town with a head filled with angry, pseudo-theological, explosives-fueled ideas and no one knew it until now ought to encourage a little more modesty on the part of those who say "we're smart and we're winning against the terrorists".

We need to consider the possibility that we're neither winning nor all that smart. And also that we need to be demanding of the responsible authorities that much more has to be done to protect our families and communities from their onslaught - wherever we live.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

30-Jul-14: The ordinariness of utter evil

An ordinary young woman, a mother, from Gaza:

Is she the problem? Is she a monster? No and no - or perhaps. As unremarkable as she is in almost all respects, this young woman is a symptom of something so astonishingly malevolent that it defies belief. 

How do you co-exist with a society that sends you its children for world-class medical attention (or education or anything valuable that their society can never produce) and wants to destroy you, down to the last of you?

How do you compromise with them? How do you reach an understanding?

How do you live beside them?

30-Jul-14: Lies, damned lies, statistics and Gazan death tolls

Reporter- Gaza [Image Source]
There's no better designed, authoritative-looking running tally of the human-lives cost of the current war between the Hamas terrorists of Gaza and the State of Israel than the constantly-updated page on the NY Times website.

But - excuse the impertinent question - how truthful is it?

Not so much, according to the aptly-entitled "Palestine Makes You Dumb" op ed by Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal (July 28, 2014):
According to a daily tally in the New York Times, NYT as of July 27 the war in Gaza had claimed 1,023 Palestinian lives as against 46 Israelis. How does the Times keep such an accurate count of Palestinian deaths? A footnote discloses "Palestinian death tallies are provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs."
OK. So who runs the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza? Hamas does. As for the U.N., it gets its data mainly from two Palestinian agitprop NGOs, one of which, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, offers the remarkably precise statistic that, as of July 27, exactly 82% of deaths in Gaza have been civilians. Curiously, during the 2008-09 Gaza war, the center also reported an 82% civilian casualty rate.
When minutely exact statistics are provided in chaotic circumstances, it suggests the statistics are garbage. When a news organization relies—without clarification—on data provided by a bureaucratic organ of a terrorist organization, there's something wrong there, too.
There's some additional good sense expressed over at TIME Magazine, where Steven Stotsky of The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) argues ["How Hamas Wields Gaza’s Casualties as Propaganda", July 29, 2014] that
Hamas-affiliated fatality figures should be viewed with suspicion... Not only do Israeli figures cast doubt on claims that the vast majority of fatalities are non-combatants, but a careful review of Palestinian sources also raises doubts. Analyses of the casualties listed in the daily reports published by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Gaza-based organization operating under Hamas rule, indicate that young males ages 17 to 30 make up a large portion of the fatalities, and a particularly noticeable spike occurs between males ages 21 to 27, a pattern consistent with the age distribution typically found among combatants and military conscripts. Palestinian sources attempt to conceal this discrepancy with their public message by labeling most of these young men as civilians. Only a minority is identified as members of armed groups. As a result, the PCHR calculates civilian fatalities at 82% as of July 26... Its figures closely match those of the Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry and other groups... Children, here defined as those under age 17, represented 194 of fatalities, 20% of the total. Any child fatality is a tragedy, but it is important to note that children make up over half the population of Gaza.
Then there's the reality of Hamas and its life-negating values. These are routinely ignored in the media coverage of death tolls and innocent victims. But the jihadism at the core of Hamas' existence is salient and must never be permitted to be swept aside. Times of Israel editor David Horovitz commented a few days ago that the terrorist leadership of Hamas
doesn’t care who it kills in support of its declared goal of destroying Israel. It especially likes to kill Israelis, but it has no compunction in killing Palestinians too. It killed many Palestinians when seizing power in Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in 2007. And it has cynically got hundreds of Gazans killed in this conflict, by storing its rockets in Gaza schools, firing from inside hospitals, building ammunition stores, rocket launchers and command centers in the heart of residential neighborhoods. Its leaders — while sending their recruits to their deaths, assuring them that they’re doing Allah’s work and are on their way to paradise — would rather not die themselves, however, and they’re faring reasonably in that effort as well.
None of this augers well for the ordinary people of the Gaza Strip.

30-Jul-14: Is Europe's uncritical funding connected with Hamas' ongoing terrorism?

Europe's parliamentarians: Are they part of the problem or
part of the solution? [Image Source]
An incisive op-ed in the Wall Street Journal places much-needed focus on the role played by Europe's national and multi-lateral institutions in enabling the capacity of Hamas' inner circle to keep doing the massive harm they do. Here's the full text:

How Europe's Good Intentions Harm Gaza

In response to the latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas, European leaders have issued the familiar calls for peace and made the usual four-hour pilgrimages to the region. Yet little has come out of this European engagement, with the Continent remaining "a payer, not a player" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

If anything, the war between Hamas and the Jewish state can in part be blamed on the massive and unaccountable aid Europeans have poured into the Palestinian territories. The European Union and its 28 member states continue to channel millions of euros, pounds and kroner annually to both Hamas-controlled Gaza and the West Bank, without responsible supervision, transparency or oversight.

In Gaza, instead of building schools and developing a functioning economy, Hamas diverted resources into the two main local "industries": acquiring thousands of missiles and building a huge underground infrastructure designed to terrorize Israeli civilians. The miles of concrete-lined strategic tunneling under houses, schools and hospitals are estimated to have cost €1 billion, which wouldn't have been available without European aid.

The EU's Court of Auditors issued a detailed evaluation of aid to the Palestinians in December 2013. Yet the contributions to the war industry were noticeably missing. The report discussed the EU's project for private-sector reconstruction in Gaza, which pays for buildings "destroyed or damaged during the Israeli 'Operation Cast Lead' offensive of 2008." But there was no mention of the role of these structures as facades for the underground maze. Auditors visited Shifa hospital in Gaza City, but their report doesn't mention the concrete bunkers below the emergency room, which house a Hamas military command center, according to Israeli officials.

By contrast, the report repeated the standard EU slogans condemning Israel for trying to protect its citizens from Hamas attacks, writing that "restrictions on Gaza are particularly severe." Framing the conflict this way promotes the Palestinian-victimization narrative, which is then translated into intense pressure on the Jewish state to relax restrictions. When Israel accedes to such demands, Hamas accelerates its acquisition of thousands of missiles and the transformation of Gaza into an underground terror fortress.

Many of these policy blunders are closely linked to political nongovernmental organizations that Brussels funds and turns to for "expert" advice. Israeli "human-rights" groups, such as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and B'Tselem, are close EU partners. In public statements to international bodies and in their press releases, these groups frequently condemn Israeli policies but ignore the war crimes of Hamas.

Similarly, Europe has been a central source of funds to United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or Unrwa, which for six decades has helped to perpetuate the conflict by treating generations of Palestinians as "refugees." Unrwa facilities, like the rest of Gaza, are closely integrated into the Hamas war structure. On two occasions during the current conflict, deadly missiles have been found in Unrwa schools. Unrwa reported turning them over to "local authorities," which according to Israeli officials means Hamas.

Chris Gunness, UNRWA's spokesman, frequently echoes Hamas messaging in the mainstream media, and European officials then amplify his talking points in their capitals. His Twitter account and interviews are replete with indictments of Israeli actions in Gaza, but his condemnations of Hamas rocketing of Israeli civilians are muted, if they are issued at all.

Many individual Western European states have also inadvertently empowered extremism. The Dutch government, for example, has provided at least €300,000 to the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation. The Christian aid group is a major funder of Electronic Intifada, an anti-Israel website notorious for its rejectionist stance toward Israel's right to exist. Electronic Intifada's founder, Ali Abunimah, routinely uses inflammatory, ugly rhetoric against the Jewish state, labeling Gaza, among other things, a "ghetto for surplus non-Jews" in a 2010 tweet.

When Europeans finally find the courage to conduct full, independent and credible investigations of these policies, the reports will make tragic reading. This could take some time. The European Parliament in 2004 ordered the EU's Anti-Fraud Office to investigate previous funding for Yasser Arafat. A decade later, that report remains top secret—a blatant affront to democratic principles.

Before European statements can be taken seriously in this conflict, Brussels must become a more responsible player by keeping closer watch over whom and what it funds.

Mr. Steinberg is president of NGO Monitor and a professor of political science at Bar Ilan University.

30-Jul-14: Is Qatar's stupendous wealth connected with Hamas' ongoing terrorism?

Optimistic crowds cheer Qatar's then-owner Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
as he tours the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, promising
millions in aid [Image Source]

We keep writing here over and again of the central role that money (and the corruption that inevitably comes with it) plays in the tragically ongoing war waged by jihad-minded terrorists on Israelis and on a wide and broadening spectrum of other global targets.

As the ruling regime in Gaza brazenly declares again this morning its determination to keep firing its rockets into anything Israeli and to reject all calls for a truce ["Hamas demands end to siege before truce"] so long as its own demands are not met first, we pause for a moment to reflect on how other people's cash and an appalling indifference to the price their own people pay make the devastation we see happening in Gaza possible - and inevitable.

Hamas, according to "Qatar invests in the West, and funds Hamas" [Ynet, July 30, 2014], has annual operating expenses of some US$1 billion. It's a vast burden, made orders of magnitude more challenging by the jihadists' systemic failure to invest in basic infrastructure, in jobs and in anything resembling economic security for the people under its iron boot. Where does the money come from? The Foundation for Defense of Democracies says Qatar.
Qatar's investment authority may be slowly taking over the world; and the Western world is indirectly funding Hamas because of it. Isolated and almost alone in the Arab world, Hamas has one sponsor left and that is the world's richest country, on paper at least. [Ynet]
The Qatar Investment Authority manages Qatar's oil and natural gas "surpluses", according to Wikipedia. Qatar, with a population of less than 2 million [source] is the world's largest liquefied natural gas exporter. Its holdings stand at an astronomical $170 billion, and are growing. That enables a mind-numbing degree of freedom of movement for the family who own it, the Al-Thanis. So too does Qatar's legal structure: power passes from one to another member of the Al-Thanis. Often described as a constitutional monarchy, it is in reality (as Wikipedia notes) an absolute monarchy for all purposes. It might be more accurate to describe it, along with various other hydrocarbon-rich entities in the same neighbourhood, as a very-large-scale family business. In that light, it's less than shocking that money decisions are made by Qatar's national treasury in ways that reflect that the owners' prejudices and preferences.

Where and how Qatar makes its money grow is a concern for people outside the region as well as those of us more immediately affected. As a Ynet article this week showed ["Qatar invests in the West, and funds Hamas"], its footprint is wide:
The public may be surprised to find out just how much it is indirectly funding Hamas. According to Bloomberg, [Qatar is] prepared to increase investments in the UK, after claiming shares of and buying out major companies such as supermarket giant Sainsbury's, the exclusive Harrods department store and leading bank Barclays Plc, among others. Ahmad Al-Sayed, chief executive officer of the Qatari wealth fund, told Bloomberg that the QIA has its eye on Britain as a major investment opportunity, as it has "great systems, great regulations." He also told Bloomberg that since its purchase of Harrods in 2010, the QIA has invested approximately $413 million in the business, gaining major revenue. Additionally, Qatar has shares in a number of oil companies, such as Total SA, as well as Volkswagen, Porsche Automobil Holding SE, and Glencore plc. Meanwhile, the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is the sponsor of FC Barcelona, and the QIA owns Paris Saint-Germain. Qatar also has a strong history of buying US-made weaponry. Business Insider reported last week that the country has recently bought $11 billion worth of Patriot missile batteries and Apache attack helicopters.
Wikipedia says that's far from all:
Qatar Investment Authority... was part of an investment group known as Filmyard Holdings, which purchased Miramax from Disney. In February 2012, it completed the acquisition of Credit Suisse's headquarters in London. QIA holds a 6% stake in Credit Suisse and owns shares in Apeldoorn, the majority owner of Canary Wharf Group. Qatari Diar, a property arm of the fund, along with Canary Wharf, won a £300mn deal to redevelop the Shell Centre in London that houses the Royal Dutch Shell's London headquarters. The French government has offered tax exemptions for Qatari real estate investments in the country... In January 2013, Qatar... said it would invest $5 billion into petrochemical projects in Malaysia in the three to four years. The investment was said to help Malaysia compete with neighbouring Singapore to become the region’s top petrochemical hub. The QIA was planning to invest $200 million in residential property in India through Kotak Realty Fund in late December 2013...
And not to forget that the Al Jazeera global television and Internet news empire is "funded" (Wikipedia's word) by "the House of Thani, the ruling family of Qatar". In simple terms, the Qatari family own and control it.

Hamas is a major Qatari beneficiary. Major may be an understatement.

 Over at TIME Magazine ["Hamas Still Has Some Friends Left", July 25, 2014] they say that Qatar
hosts Hamas’ political bureau which includes Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal,” says Shashank Joshi, Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. “Qatar has a long history of providing shelter to Islamist groups, amongst them the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban... Hamas used to be strongly allied with both Iran and Syria, with the former giving Hamas an estimated $13-15 million a month as recently as 2011, as well as long-range missiles. Hamas’ political bureau used to be based in the Syrian capital of Damascus before its move to Qatar in 2012.” [TIME]
It goes well beyond hospitality, however.
Qatar financially supported Hamas with donations, grants and field projects (not cash, as Hamas wished) to compensate for the cessation of Iranian support, as Hamas leaders Meshaal, Khalil al-Haya and Sami Abu Zuhri had openly declared for the first time that the movement was financially suffering... Qatar also gave Hamas a regional role. Qatar was considered Hamas’s “godmother” in regional and international forums. Then came the visit by Qatar’s emir to Gaza in October 2012 and his call at the recent Arab summit in March 2013 for a mini-summit to discuss reconciling Fatah and Hamas...  ["Hamas Ties to Qatar Have Cost", published in on the Al-Monitor site in April 2013]
Here in Israel, the current view of Qatar’s role is more straightforward:
Former national security adviser Maj. Gen. (res) Yaakov Amidror told The Times of Israel that the emirate’s funding for the organization’s terror apparatus, including tunnel diggers and rocket launchers, has continued unabated. “Hamas currently has two ‘true friends’ in the world: Qatar and Turkey,” Amidror said. The small Gulf state is currently Hamas’s closest ally in the Arab world... “The one supporting this organization financially, almost alone, is Qatar,” Amidror said. ["Israel singles out Qatar as key Hamas terror sponsor", Times of Israel, July 23, 2014]
Reinforcing that view, Israel's outgoing president, Shimon Peres, told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem a week ago that Qatar is becoming “the world’s largest funder of terror”, referring to Qatar's financial support for Hamas in Gaza. Following the announced establishment in June 2014 of a Palestinian Arab "unity" government, Qatar tried to finance the salaries of unpaid Hamas civil servants in Gaza. It was blocked by the United States which brought pressure on Arab Bank not to process the funds transfer. The message from Peres to Ban:
Qatar does not have the right to send money for rockets and tunnels which are fired at innocent civilians,” the outgoing statesman told . “Their funding of terror must stop. If they want to build then they should, but they must not be allowed to destroy.” [source]
Qatar's neighbours have looked on with rising alarm as Qatar puts its money where its jihadism is. At the BBC, they recently reported ["How the Middle East has gone cool towards Qatar", BBC, March 10, 2014] that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar
after accusing the emirate of meddling in their internal affairs... They had wanted a return to the days when the Arabian Peninsula's most powerful rulers worked together to resolve crises rather than exacerbate them. [BBC]
As Qatar's backing of the mayhem-minded kleptocrats of Hamas shows [see "27-Jul-14: Gaza's death toll keeps rising but for Hamas insiders it's all worth it"], exacerbating problems is something that money - huge volumes of it and the wrong hands managing it - can do with frightening efficiency.

Monday, July 28, 2014

28-Jul-14: Darkening clouds this side of Gaza

"Stone-throwing" Palestinian Arab "activists" [Image Source]
For Israelis, the disturbing signs of an armed terrorist insurrection emerging from multiple quarters among the Arabs who shares our cities, hospitals and buses - the non-Gaza Arabs - are mounting and becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. A small and random selection:

A Mahmoud Abbas speech signals preparations for war
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas ended a speech about the current conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza with a quote from the Quran justifying war. His Fatah party interpreted Abbas' statement to mean that fighting against Israel is justified on religious Islamic grounds: "[PA] President [Mahmoud Abbas] concluded his brief speech with the first verse of the Quran that permits Muslims to wage war for Allah." [Facebook, "Fatah - The Main Page", July 22, 2014] [Source: Palestinian Media Watch | July 24, 2014]
Scene of yesterday's intercept
[Image Source]
A foiled terror attack on Jerusalem's southern fringe on Sunday morning
Security forces intercept a Palestinian Arab vehicle on outskirts of Jerusalem this morning driving from the Jerusalem suburban community of Tzur Hadassah, to the nearby town of Beitar Illit. The vehicle approaches a Border Police security checkpoint where a policeman observes the Palestinian driver acting "strangely'. From Times of Israel's report: "He orders the car to stop and turn off the engine. When the driver doesn’t respond, he leans in the driver’s window to remove the keys himself. The driver then accelerates, leaving the policeman hanging halfway out the driver’s-side window. The policeman pulls out his handgun and yells at the driver to stop. The car stops. In the ensuing search of the vehicle, police discover gasoline tanks in the car’s trunk linked to an explosive detonator. The driver is arrested... [his car] turns out to be rigged with explosives and multiple gasoline tanks
Temple Mount crowd this morning
[Image Source]
In Jerusalem, this morning's religious prayer service becomes an incitement fest
Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in support of war-torn Gaza Monday as they gathered to pray at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque at the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Police put the number of worshippers at 45,000 people, with an AFP correspondent saying many were dressed in black t-shirts emblazoned with slogans reading "Gaza, supporting you is our Eid" and "We are all Gaza." Others wore T-shirts proclaiming support for Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which has been locked in a 21-day confrontation with Israeli troops in Gaza... Among the crowds was a young child on someone's shoulders holding up a plastic gun. "Kidnap more soldiers!" they chanted. "Our blood for Gaza." Police distanced themselves from the crowd which soon dispersed without incident, the correspondent said. [Agence France Press, July 28, 2014]
Yasser Abbas on YouTube
The PA's most inside insiders tell the Palestinian Arabs they are confronting "a Nazi army"
Yasser Abbas, son of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, donated blood "for the martyrs" of Gaza some days ago, and managed at the same time to conduct an interview which was shortly afterwards screened on official Palestinian Authority TV. Subsequently it was translated from the original Arabic by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and published by MEMRI website on YouTube (here). In it, the younger Abbas asserts that "even the Nazis would have been ashamed" to act like the army of Israel. We will not forget, he says; we will just become more extreme"...

28-Jul-14: Some things change, some stay the same

Well-used bomb/rocket shelter in Sderot [Image Source: Wikipedia]
So how ought Israel to deal with those jihadism-obsessed, armed-to-the-teeth, child-sacrificing neighbours we have just over the fence in Gaza? Here's one ordinary man's view:
I don't think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens. The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens. And so I can assure you that if -- I don't even care if I was a politician. If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.

In terms of negotiations with Hamas, it is very hard to negotiate with a group that is not representative of a nation state, does not recognize your right to exist, has consistently used terror as a weapon, and is deeply influenced by other countries. I think that Hamas leadership will have to make a decision at some point as to whether it is a serious political party seeking to represent the aspirations of the Palestinian people. And, as a consequence, willing to recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce violence as a tool to achieve its aims. Or whether it wants to continue to operate as a terrorist organization. 
Until that point, it's hard for Israel, I think, to negotiate with a country that -- or with a group that doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist at a country...
That's the voice of Senator Barack Obama, speaking in the long-beleagured Israeli city of Sderot on July 23, 2008, as quoted by the New York Times here (and on video here).

Some things keep changing. Some just remain the same
as they were. Aspiring US politician inspecting jihadist
rockets in Sderot, six years ago [Image Source]

Generally speaking, Israelis don't need foreign visitors to teach us how we need to do
everything to protect our frightened daughters and sons: A mother in Sderot
comforts her daughter after yet another rocket attack [Image Source: Wikipedia]

28-Jul-14: The blithering foolishness of accommodating terrorists

Kerry and entourage [Image Source]
David Horovitz has articulated, in the op ed below, a good deal of the puzzlement and fury that currently have America's friends in Israel in their grip. Readers will know from our previous posts about Kerry and his work how we view the failures of ethics and leadership of his State Department and its spokespersons. To us, this latest turn in Kerry's performance as Secretary of State is less than a total shock.

John Kerry: The betrayal

Astoundingly, the secretary’s intervention in the Hamas war empowers the Gaza terrorist government bent on destroying Israel
BY DAVID HOROVITZ | July 27, 2014, 2:55 pm | Times of Israel

When The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff first reported the content of John Kerry’s ceasefire proposal on Friday afternoon, I wondered if something had gotten lost in translation. It seemed inconceivable that the American secretary of state would have drafted an initiative that, as a priority, did not require the dismantling of Hamas’s rocket arsenal and network of tunnels dug under the Israeli border. Yet the reported text did not address these issues at all, nor call for the demilitarization of Gaza.

It seemed inconceivable that the secretary’s initiative would specify the need to address Hamas’s demands for a lifting of the siege of Gaza, as though Hamas were a legitimate injured party acting in the interests of the people of Gaza — rather than the terror group that violently seized control of the Strip in 2007, diverted Gaza’s resources to its war effort against Israel, and could be relied upon to exploit any lifting of the “siege” in order to import yet more devastating weaponry with which to kill Israelis.

Israel and the US are meant to be allies; the US is meant to be committed to the protection of Israel in this most ruthless of neighborhoods; together, the US and Israel are meant to be trying to marginalize the murderous Islamic extremism that threatens the free world. Yet here was the top US diplomat appearing to accommodate a vicious terrorist organization bent on Israel’s destruction, with a formula that would leave Hamas better equipped to achieve that goal.

The appalled response to the Kerry proposal by the members of the security cabinet on Friday night, however, made plain nothing had gotten lost in translation at all. The secretary’s proposal managed to unite Israel’s disparate group of key political leaders — from Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Liberman on the right, through Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni on the center-left — in a unanimous response of horrified rejection and leaked castigation.

The Netanyahu government has had no shortage of run-ins with Kerry in the mere 18 months he has held office. The prime minister publicly pleaded with him in November not to sign the interim deal with Iran on its rogue nuclear program, and there has been constant friction between the two governments over thwarting Iran’s bid for the bomb. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in January ridiculed Kerry’s security proposals for a West Bank withdrawal, calling the secretary “messianic” and obsessive” in his quest for an accord with the Palestinians that simply wasn’t there. The collapse of the talks in March-April was accompanied by allegations from Jerusalem that Kerry had botched the process, telling Israel one thing and the Palestinian Authority another, including misrepresenting Israel’s position on Palestinian prisoner releases.

But none of those episodes, though deeply troubling and relating to issues central to Israel’s well-being, provoked the kind of outraged disbelief at Kerry’s performance that has been emanating from the Israeli leadership in the past 48 hours. Leaked comments from unnamed senior government sources to Army Radio, Channel 2 and other Hebrew outlets have described the secretary as amateurish, incompetent, incapable of understanding the material he is dealing with — in short, a blithering fool.

But actually, it’s worse than that. What emerges from Kerry’s self-initiated ceasefire mission — Israel had already accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal; and nobody asked him to come out on a trip he prefaced with sneering remarks about Israel’s attempted “pinpoint” strikes on Hamas terror targets — is that Jerusalem now regards him as duplicitous and dangerous.

Contrary to his public claim at his press conference in Cairo that his ceasefire proposal was “built on” the Egyptian initiative, it manifestly is nothing of the kind. As indicated by the unconfirmed text reported by Issacharoff, by other subsequent reports of its content, and by the cabinet’s outraged rejection, it is a proposal that, to quote an unnamed official cited by Channel 2, “tunneled under the Egyptian initiative,” a document, to quote from another of those leaked comments, that reads like it was drawn up for or even by Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal.

And Kerry didn’t let up after unleashing his dreadful proposal. Following Friday’s fiasco, he jetted off to Paris and, quite extraordinarily, convened further consultations dominated by countries that overtly wish to do Israel harm. He met with his counterparts from Turkey, whose Hamas-backing leadership has lately accused Israel of attempting genocide in Gaza and compared Netanyahu to Hitler, and with Qatar, Hamas’s funder in chief, directly accused by president Shimon Peres last week of financing Hamas’s rockets and tunnels. Staggeringly, he did not bring Israel, Egypt, or the PA to his Paris sessions.

There were further leaks from the cabinet at the weekend to the effect that Netanyahu and his colleagues did not formally announce their unanimous rejection of Kerry’s ceasefire proposal in order to avoid provoking a public diplomatic confrontation with Israel’s most important ally. Instead, word of the rejection was allowed to find its way out. That seems rather quaint given what is clearly a major crisis in Israel-US ties at a time when Israel finds itself in the midst of a complex and costly war.

When Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Clinton, got involved in the effort to broker terms for ending Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, it was self-evident, first, that a ceasefire was at hand, and, second, that the diplomatic work was being coordinated effectively with Jerusalem to ensure that Israel’s vital interests were being served. It is a testament to Kerry’s incompetence (or worse), and to the collapse of faith between him and Israel, that, when he headed ignominiously home on Saturday, neither of those assumptions held sway.

Whether through ineptitude, malice, or both, Kerry’s intervention was not a case of America’s top diplomat coming to our region to help ensure, through astute negotiation, the protection of a key ally. This was a betrayal.

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004). He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin (1996).

Sunday, July 27, 2014

27-Jul-14: What's scarcer than a photo of a dead Hamas gunman in Gaza?

A photo of a live Hamas gunman in Gaza:

From a photo essay in the UAE news site The National, today [Image Source]
For anyone who cares about the integrity of the news organizations who are supposed to deliver comprehensible objective coverage of what is happening in and from Gaza, there's a question that is rarely articulated: where are the images of Hamas gunmen, alive or dead

The image above, published today, is a rarity. Understanding why involves giving thought to how news images get from the scene of the events to the editor's computer and then into the finished news product. Who is manipulating that flow of news images so that news consumers are seeing endless images of crying women perched atop destroyed buildings but virtually zero visual evidence of armed Gazan terrorists.

Note also the juxtaposition of headline and image:

Headline: "In pictures: heartache as Gazans return to their flattened homes"

Heartache? We're supposed to see the gunmen, along with their invisible close associates the rocket-men, as victims? Our sympathy is being demanded?

27-Jul-14: Strewth - plain Australian talk about Hamas terror

Australian Moslems exercising democratic freedoms
in Sydney, September 2012 [Image Source]

Given our background, things Australian tend to get our attention, particularly when they have a connection to terror. 
The Australian government has formally listed Hamas as a terrorist organisation... Until last week it was only the military wing of Hamas, Izz alDin al Qassam Brigades, that Australia designated as a terrorist organisation... Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who announced the listing of Hamas as a terrorist organisation has criticised the group for not accepting last week's ceasefire, and has praised Israel for its leadership. "The Australian Government has listed Hamas as a terrorist organisation pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1373, which deals with the prevention and suppression of terrorist acts," Bishop said in a statement. "Hamas claims to represent Gaza, yet it has jeopardised the welfare of its own people by rejecting the proposal for a ceasefire," she added. "The Israeli Government demonstrated leadership by accepting the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire proposal.," the Australian foreign minister added, referring to the ceasefire proposed last week which was accepted by Israel, but rejected by Hamas - although Hamas claimed it had not been notified of the proposed truce. [Source: Big News Network]
Australian Moslems have been getting a very different view of Hamas. Australia's Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohammed Salem [his Facebook page is here], visiting our neighbourhood a year and a half ago, paid a deeply devotional visit to the top-level terrorist leadership of Hamas in Gaza. According to this report from the Sydney Daily Telegraph, December 31, 2012, the religious functionary -
led an Australian delegation of Muslim scholars to the Gaza Strip, where they met Hamas senior political leader Ismail Haniyeh... Dr Mohamed, who has been styled as a moderate since taking the top Australian Muslim post, last week expressed his happiness at being in Gaza, describing it as the land of pride and martyrdom. "I am pleased to stand on the land of jihad to learn from its sons and I have the honour to be among the people of Gaza where the weakness always becomes strength, the few becomes many and the humiliation turns into pride," he told local news agencies. "We came here in order to learn from Gaza. As I said in my speech, we will make the stones, trees, and people of Gaza talk, in order to learn steadfastness, sacrifice, and the defence of one's rights from them. We feel like we are on cloud nine. We feel like we are on top of the world." 
Strewth! Given what we know now about arsenals deliberately embedded inside mosques, schools and hospitals, it would be interesting to know what sort of world Salem felt he was on top of in the time he spent in Gaza. And only slightly less interesting to know why he and his acolytes seem to prefer living in Sydney and Melbourne to the paradise they encountered in Hamastan.

Peter Wertheim, speaking as executive director of the organization that represents Australia's Jewish community, delivered a sound response at the time that we think is even more worthwhile hearing now:
There is nothing he can learn from Gaza and its Hamas rulers that can possibly have any legitimate application in Australia. His visit and his comments undermine Australia’s efforts to build a peaceful, inclusive and democratic multicultural society [source]

27-Jul-14: Gaza's death toll keeps rising but for Hamas insiders it's all worth it

Hamas insiders at 2012 Gaza rally: Things have been working out surprisingly
well for them; not so great for ordinary Gazans [Image Source]
Sitting here listening to wave after wave of incoming-rocket warnings and reports of dead children in Gaza get a person thinking. What in the name of all that's decent could possibly be motivating the Gazan political leadership to reject ceasefires [Reuters: "Israel extends Gaza ceasefire for 24 hours, Hamas rejects terms"] and taunt their enemy's vastly superior leadership and fighters? Does the devastation that Israel is visiting on Gaza have no impact on the fat-cats who run Hamas?

An analytical piece with the improbable title "Meet the Hamas billionaires" appeared in Israel's main business newspaper, Globes, on July 24, 2014. It offers what we think is a serious explanation by taking a close look at the extraordinary phenomenon of
how much the Hamas leaders, the Arab world's new tycoons, are worth, and how they, born and raised in refugee camps, who raise aloft the cause of their people's welfare, have become so wealthy and reclusive.
Authored by Ella Levy-Weinrib, it is largely based on original research by Dr. Moshe Elad of the Western Galilee Academic College in Acre. His career in the IDF included three decades of senior positions in Judea and Samaria.

Elad's thesis is that the founders of the Hamas terrorist organization accumulated phenomenal personal wealth from tapping into Islamic charitable sources. These initially came from Syria and Saudi Arabia. At a later stage, Iran took a major role that today has been eclipsed by the stupendously-wealthy rulers of Qatar. He tracks the rise of the personal fortunes of several key Hamas figures.

Ismail Haniyeh:
Haniyeh's newly-acquired style includes private jets
[Image Source]
Born into an exceedingly modest family from the Al-Shati refugee camp, Haniyeh today has some $4 million, according to Elad. Not exactly in Khaled Mashaal's league or Marzook's (see below), but none too shabby. Elad says Haniyeh has taken the trouble to register most of his assets in the Gaza Strip in the name of a son-in-law, Nabil, as well as the names of a dozen sons and daughters and several lesser-known Hamas insiders. All have homes in good neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip "where the value of every home is at least $1 million." Haniyeh became prime minister of the Palestinian regime after Hamas won legislative elections in 2006. Mahmoud Abbas dismissed him from office in 2007 at the height of the Fatah–Hamas bloodbath; Haniyeh ignored this and has continued to exercise prime ministerial authority in the Gaza Strip ever since. Ynet, quoting the Egyptian news magazine Rose al-Yusuf in 2010, says Haniyeh paid a cool $4 million for a 2,500 square meter parcel of land area in Rimal, "a tony beachfront neighborhood of Gaza City... Since then, there have been reports that Haniyeh has purchased several homes in the Gaza Strip, registered in the names of his children - no hardship, as he has 13 of them."
Khaled Mashaal:
Mashaal in his private work-out room
[Image Source]
Born in a village near Ramallah in 1956, he moved with his family to Kuwait "for financial reasons" around 1967 according to Wikipedia and obtained his education there. Since that move, Mashaal has spent no part of his adult life living in Gaza or the Palestinian Arab towns of the West Bank. Nonetheless he has risen to the position of head of Hamas' so-called “Political Wing”. A Jordanian website reported in 2012 that he controlled $2.6 billion of Hamas funds including investments in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Dubai. Residing these days in Doha, Qatar, Mashaal's personal worth may be larger than that. Globes: "The numbers mentioned by the Arab commentators (based on their many sources) are much higher, varying from $2-5 billion invested in Egyptian and Persian Gulf banks, and some in real estate projects in the Persian Gulf countries." His Wikipedia entry mentions a Hebrew-language article published this past week on the Walla site in which it is alleged Mashal appropriated, for himself and his inner circle the entire Hamas "Syrian Fund" consisting of hundreds of millions of US dollars when he departed Damascus (where he had lived for some years) in 2012 for a well-publicized life of opulence in Qatar. The Jerusalem Post recently disclosed how that money smuggling caper worked ["The corruption at the head of Hamas"].
Musa Abu Marzook:
Marzook in 1996 [Image Source]
The one-time chief of the Hamas Political Bureau was born in Gaza in 1951. He eventually made his way to the United States where he pursued a notably undistinguished education, making his largest mark at Louisiana Tech in the use of bar code technology. A 1995 article in the Washington Post quoted one of his professors observing that "he was not a bright student" who received a number of incomplete grades. But it turned out that he had a knack for taking money from others, particularly wealthy American Moslems. This skill eventually led to his sitting atop a financial services conglomerate of his own. Marzook was arrested by the US authorities in 1995 and charged [indictment here] with racketeering and terrorism. He spent two years in a US prisons and was eventually expelled from the US in 1997. By then, says Elad, "He was already worth several million dollars [and] evaded the clutches of the US Internal Revenue Service and was not charged with financing terrorism. People in the know say he probably became connected to the administration and cooperated with it. There is no proof, but it's hard to think of any other reason why he escaped punishment for such serious offenses." The Globes articles quotes Arab sources estimating his wealth today at more than $2 billion.
Iman Taha:
Iman Taha: Aspirational and
facing corruption charges within Hamas
[Image Source]
Not a household name even in Israel, and far from Hamas' highest levels, this aspirational junior Jihadist is one of several depicted in the Globes article as feeding from the Islamist trough. We stumbled across a 1998 Associated Press report that reveals him to be the son of a Hamas founder; so he's a Hamas insider and a man with access. Elad: "He was a poor rebellious kid from the al-Borg refugee camp, but he recently built a home in central Gaza worth at least $1 million. He's responsible for coordination between oversea Hamas and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and he's not even a leading figure, but he's already among the millionaires." In 2009, he was arrested by Egyptian border authorities [INN] attempting to bring a suitcase stuffed with dollars and Euros through the crossing; he was arrested, and the money was confiscated. Evidently the man is sufficiently resourceful to have overcome this minor setback. He currently faces larger problems, having been arrested by Hamas in February 2014 [source: Al-Quds] for engaging in certain "irregularities". 
The Globes piece steps back from the individuals to offer a view as to how so much money flowed to so few in a society so enmired in poverty:
  • The Arshaq Al-Awsad (Middle East) newspaper, one of the most prestigious in the Arab world, recently reported that at least 600 millionaires were living in the Gaza Strip - the same people sitting on the money pipelines there... 
  • Senior Hamas leaders charged a 25% 'tax' and $2,000 on every disassembled vehicle coming through the tunnels. There are hundreds of smuggling tunnels from Egypt to Gaza, and these are the types of tunnel Israel has been less busy in destroying, because Egypt has destroyed many of them. From June 2007 until 2010, $800 million in cash was transferred in tunnel deals (according to information from Hamas money traders). Hamas also taxes Gaza merchants on everything traded, from boxes of vegetables to luxury cars, and the leaders scoop the money into their pockets." 
  • Hamas insiders "took over land mainly near the sea in good areas, such as the former Gush Katif, then sold it. In effect, they are the cat guarding the cream - the land - so they were able to take over land and loot it for themselves...
  • "There are hundreds of fictitious names of soldiers and officials supposedly in Hamas. Actually, the leaders and officials put the money in their own pockets"...
  • Elad: "What has united the Palestinian leaders all throughout the years is the saying, 'We have to get rich quick.' This is how the regime sees it. Their leaders have no shame. Shortly after they got power, they took control of fuel, communications, and any other profitable sectors in the country. There are get-rich-quick schemes and corruption in Western society, too, but there it's done sophisticatedly with envelopes of money and complex structures of bribery and the like. Among the Palestinians, they tell you straight out, 'I want to get rich.'"
Not for the first time, it's evident [see our post "6-Jul-14: For Hamas, Fatah and the PA, those rockets are about money, power, foreign aid and (naturally) corruption"] that the death and mayhem that results from Islamist hatred and jihad has cash at its heart.