Friday, June 24, 2016

24-Jun-16: Vehicle ramming attack in Kiryat Arba: the assailant, a young woman again, is dead

The attack vehicle shortly after it and the young
driver were stopped in a hail of IDF bullets
A security camera video, posted in the past hour on YouTube, shows what the IDF is calling an apparent terror attack on an Israeli vehicle and the people inside, next to the hitch-hiking post at the entrance to the Israeli community of Kiryat Arba. The attack happened around 2:00 pm today.

Times of Israel reports that a Palestinian Arab woman
crashed her car into an Israeli vehicle in a likely car-ramming attack... A soldier who was nearby shot the driver, killing her, the military said, describing the incident as an “apparent” terror attack. An Israeli couple was hurt in the incident... The two Israelis, who are in their 50s, were lightly injured, according to the Magen David Adom emergency service. They were taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center where they will stay through the weekend for observation, the hospital said.
Here's what security camera located at the traffic circle captured:

The Bethlehem-based Ma'an News Agency says 
The Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed her death, identifying her as Majd al-Khadour. Israeli sources said she was 18 years old... Some Palestinian social media outlets reported that eyewitnesses told them the incident appeared to be car accident, not a premeditated attack.
Fatah incitement: ""Run over, friend, run over
the foreign settler!" [Image Source: PMW]
As the video above indicates, the camera is also an eye-witness.

A campaign promoting vehicle rammings by Palestinian Arabs has been a feature of the Arab social media during the past 18 months. 

A Palestinian Media Watch article, "Abbas' Fatah encourages terror attacks by car" [PMW, November 6, 2014] includes some of the Twitter images and posters that deliver the message of redemption via vehicle ramming directly into the heads of young, impressionable Palestinian Arabs, presumably like this afternoon's young driver who is never going to reach her 19th birthday.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

23-Jun-16: Terror in Palestinian Arab society? What terror?

Source Page
Here's a postscript to "15-Jun-16: What do the Palestinian Arabs think?".

Over on the Al-Monitor site, they put up an opinion piece a couple of days ago ["Poll: 65% of Palestinians want Abbas out"] that draws some conclusions from the same Palestinian Arab public opinion survey on which we based our comments. Only the conclusions they reached are quite different.

The Al-Monitor article, written by Ahmad Abu Amer ("a Palestinian writer and journalist who has been working in the field of journalism for nine years [with] a master’s degree from the Islamic University of Gaza"), focuses specifically on what the PSR poll, taken in the past month, says about Mahmoud Abbas' standing as president of the Palestinian Authority. The author gamely suggests the findings, that two-thirds of Palestinian Arabs want Abbas replaced "...were clear and surprising".

Clear, certainly. Surprising? Not so much. In its December 2014 poll, the same polling organization reported that the level of satisfaction with Abbas' performance had reached 35% (39% three months earlier). PSR produces polls about every three months, and Abbas' tanking support has been a factor for several years. Is this somehow related to his having been elected to a four year term of office as president in January 2005? Is the fact that no presidential elections have been called since then and don't seem to be on the horizon even now bothering the voters? We can only speculate.

But that's the less striking aspect of the Al-Monitor. By far more significant is what it says - correction, what it completely fails to say - about the deep attachment Palestinian Arabs have to terrorism. 

That prompted us to write this comment to the Al-Monitor editors earlier today:
The recent PSR poll says *much more* than this article describes. Yes, the Abbas leadership is overwhelmingly rejected by the electors as it has been for years. And clearly Abbas cannot possibly deliver the Palestinian Arabs a peace agreement of any kind - assuming he wanted to do that - because they don't accept his role as their negotiator. But what about *terror*? The PSR poll is filled with concrete data about Pal Arab enthusiasm for it. Yet there's not a single mention of that very central subject in the entire Al Monitor article. Why? The information is certainly available. You just have to want to look at it and understand what it means. Here's a taste:
As of 4:30 pm this afternoon, it had not been published. We remain optimistic.

Even worse than the passion Palestinian Arab society has for bigotry, violence and terror directed at Jews, particularly Israeli Jews, is their utter failure to face up to what this does to them. The fact that most observers, in the region and beyond, Arab and non-Arab, don't know of this blood-lust or deny that it exists ensures that it will continue to exact a heavy price in lives and well-being on all sides of the conflict.

UPDATE 4:40 pm: Our comment on the Al-Monitor site is published. Thank you, editors.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

21-Jun-16: Confronting terrorism and antisemitism... even in Sweden

We don't do this often but we are asking readers to consider signing a petition.

A new documentary made by acclaimed Swedish filmmakers Bo Persson and Joanna Helander is shortly to be screened in the European Parliament. It has already been shown at a successful private screening in the Swedish parliament, at several international film festivals and before selected audiences in the United States and Europe.

Called "Watching the Moon at Night", the documentary of 90 minutes addresses in a lyrical and insightful way the intertwined issues of terrorism and antisemitism. (You can view a trailer here.)

We previously blogged about it ["13-Jan-15: Terrorism: watching its victims, trying to understand their experiences" and "28-Mar-16: Upcoming premiere screenings (NYC, Washington) of an important documentary on terrorism and antisemitism"]

Inspired by some of the world's most eminent authorities in these two fields - among them Walter Laqueur, André Glucksmann and Robert S. Wistrich - its distinguishing feature is the sensitive and enlightening role it gives to the voices of the victims. They speak, in apolitical terms, of their awful personal experiences in a variety of places including Algeria, Spain, France, Moscow, Israel, New York, Colombia, Munich, Northern Ireland and elsewhere.

The project began as a co-production of Kino Koszyk HB, Film i Väst (a regional Swedish film fund) and Sveriges Television with important support from the Swedish Film Institute. But Sveriges Television officials have now, shockingly, refused to allow it to be screened on TV in its home country.

Several reports in the mainstream Swedish and Danish media refer to political correctness and to a concern about a backlash (for showing a television documenary!) from certain corners.

From "Watching the Moon at Night"
Prominent Swedish commentators have called for this awful decision to be reversed. In these fraught and dangerous times, terrorism and antisemitism threaten the institutions of democracy everywhere. Attempting to hide this reality and distorting the public debate is the worst way to confront these threats when we should instead stand up for human rights and European values.

We are joining the call by distinguished Scandinavians and a growing circle of concerned Europeans to require the management of Sveriges Television to reverse its gagging of this important film, and to immediately schedule it for the widest possible television exposure in Sweden. The silencing of this fine film (full disclosure: we play a small role in it) is an outrageous abuse of bureaucratic power, an act of thuggery dictated by unspoken and shameful motivations.

There's a new petition calling for the film to be shown in Sweden. Please go to the GoPetitions site and sign. And help get the word out. (We have more to say about this, and have been working on a longer piece. Hopefully we will get it out in the next day or two.)

21-Jun-16: Martyrs, rocks and firebombs: Scenes from an Israeli highway

When a rock hits a fast-moving car, the damage is certainly serious
enough to be lethal: Aftermath of last night's assault on Israeli
vehicles on Route 443 [Image Source: Haaretz this morning]
There are two major highways that connect Jerusalem with the coastal plain, Ben Gurion Airport and the Tel Aviv area. One is Highway One, currently undergoing a multi-billion shekel enlargement and refurbishment. The other is Route 443.

In the early hours of this morning. according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report quoting Israeli security officials, a gang of Palestinian Arabs hurled bottles, rocks and incendiary Molotov Cocktails at fast-moving vehicles on Route 443.
"An initial review suggests that as the mob continued, nearby forces acted in order to protect the additional passing vehicles from immediate danger and fired towards the assailants," a military statement said. "Forces confirmed hits resulting in the death of one of the attackers. At the moment I am aware of one other attacker that was wounded and treated by medical forces and later evacuated to hospital. Two additional suspects were arrested." [AFP via Times of India - today]
Though the AFP reporter says this happened "near the village of Beit Sira", the description suggests to us it happened where the highway passes just below the village of Beit Ur El Fauqua, population around 1,000 people. (An Israel National News report reaches the same conclusion this morning.) We ourselves have been hit by rocks while driving past that spot, as have many of our friends in the neighbourhood. It has a reputation as a source of lethal violence.

Palestinian Arab "security officials" told AFP the dead person is Mahmoud Badran, 20. Times of Israel ["Palestinian firebombs Israeli cars, is shot dead by IDF"] says he is a resident of Kafr Qadum, east of Qalqilya. It adds that two other Palestinian Arabs were "seriously injured", quoting the same Palestinian Arab source. 

Several vehicles driving in the early hours of Tuesday morning were damaged as a result of the Arab attack. Ynet's report says of the victims:
An Israeli and two foreigners in their twenties were lightly injured and taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center overnight Monday when rocks and Molotov Cocktails were hurled at a passing vehicle on Route 443. The terrorists also poured oil on the main road... IDF forces were called to the scene and shot at the terrorists, killing one of them and moderately-seriously wounding four others. Three were evacuated to a government hospital in Ramallah while the other was taken to Hadassah Ein Karem. Two suspects were arrested and taken in by the security forces for investigation.
Associated Press, unwisely (having regard to decades of Arab news-reporting history - this sort of partial and biased journalism didn't exactly begin yesterday) basing itself on an Arab version of events, says
"A Palestinian official says a 14-year-old Palestinian boy has been shot dead by Israeli troops. Wagie Ahmad, head of the Beit Our local council in the West Bank, says Mahmoud Badran was killed and four others were wounded early on Tuesday when their car was fired upon by a military patrol. The Ramallah hospital says another person was moderately wounded and three were lightly wounded. The Israeli military had no immediate response. Israeli media says the shooting took place after rocks were hurled at Israeli vehicles, wounding three."
Haaretz, no stranger to bizarre manipulation of facts if there's a greater need, offers this headline: "Two Tourists, One Israeli Wounded in Stone-throwing Incident Near Major Highway". The vehicles that were hit and damaged were on the major highway. So were the victims. The only part of this that was near the major highway was the gang of thugs with the firebombs, bucket of oil, rocks and evil murderous intentions. That's an odd reason to choose that way of describing where this attack happened.

The editors and reporters at the Palestinian Ma'an news service, not so surprisingly, have a substantially different version of who did what to whom.
"Israeli forces shot and killed a 15-year-old Palestinian [they offer a photo] and injured four other Palestinian teens early Tuesday morning in the village of Beit Ur al-Tahta in the central occupied West Bank, after they reportedly threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli settlers, lightly injuring them.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed the death of Mahmoud Raafat Badran, and added that three of the Palestinian minors sustained serious injuries after being shot by Israeli forces in the head and chest, and were evacuated to Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah City.
Initial reports said the fourth teen was taken to an unidentified Israeli hospital, but it was revealed later by Palestinian medical sources that he was detained by Israeli forces for interrogation.
Local sources in Beit Ur al-Tahta identified the three being treated in Ramallah as Dawood Isam Kharroub, his brother Muhammad, and Ahd Ikram Suleiman.
Local Palestinian sources said five teenage Palestinians were travelling in a car between Beit Ur al-Tahta and the nearby village of Beit Sira west of Ramallah when Israeli forces “showered” the vehicle with live fire, killing one and injuring four."
Amid the conflicting claims, we can safely express total confidence that the dead Palestinian Arab is either already a designated "martyr" or being upgraded to one at this very minute.

UPDATE Tuesday at 12:30 pm: Haaretz has an updated report now.
Palestinian Killed in Stone-throwing Incident Near Major Highway Was Likely a Bystander, IDF Says | 15-year-old Palestinian was killed and four were Palestinians wounded, three seriously, after two tourists and one Israeli were wounded along Israel's Route 443 | The 15-year-old Palestinian killed by Israeli military fire during a stone-throwing incident along a major highway was apparently a bystander near the site of the original incident, according to an IDF press release. According to the army, he was traveling by car with his family, according to an initial report conducted by the army that was released Tuesday morning. The investigation reported that stones and a firebomb were thrown at the highway leading from Jerusalem to Modi’in, near the village of Beit Sira, around 1 A.M. Oil was also spilled on the highway. The stones injured an Israeli citizen travelling on a bus as well as two tourists travelling by car. An officer and some soldiers from the Kfir Brigade serving in the vicinity were passing through. They noticed the injured and launched a hunt for the stone throwers. Gunfire was errantly shot at the car, in which the boy was a passenger, killing him, according to the report. Others wounded by gunfire were evacuated to a Ramallah hospital. The army still has been unable to say whether the injured include passers-by shot by accident or people connected to the stone throwing. The army said the investigation into the incident would continue in the Binyamin regional battalion serving in the Ramallah area. 
The Palestinian Authority identified the slain Palestinian as Mahmoud Rafat Mahmoud, a 15-year-old from the village of Beir Ur al-Tahta, west of Ramallah.  Abdul Karim Kassem, head of the village's local council of the Palestinian village of Beit Ore-Tahta, told Reuters that the wounded Palestinians were in a car "returning from a pool in a village near us when they came under fire." According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, four Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire, three of them seriously. Three of the wounded Palestinians were taken to a medical center in Ramallah, while the other remains hospitalized at Ein Karem. Two of the wounded are brothers, according to sources in the village. [Archived at 12:40 pm, June 21, 2016
UPDATE Tuesday June 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm:
From Reuters: "Israeli troops mistakenly killed a Palestinian bystander on Tuesday while responding with gunfire to a petrol bomb and rock attack on Israeli vehicles in the occupied West Bank, the military said. An earlier statement from the military had identified the Palestinian as an assailant. The mayor of his village said he was a 15-year-old. The military said several Palestinians threw petrol bombs and stones at vehicles, injuring three civilians, on a highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that traverses the West Bank... Troops gave chase and "after an initial inquiry, it appears that uninvolved bystanders were mistakenly hit during the pursuit," a military spokeswoman said, identifying one of them as the Palestinian killed in the incident. She said the military had opened an investigation... Abdul Karim Kassem, head of the local council of the Palestinian village of Beit Ore-Tahta, told Reuters that Mahmoud Badran, the teenager killed in the incident on Highway 443, was in a car with other passengers "returning from a pool in a village near us when they came under fire". Another Palestinian was wounded by Israeli gunfire and taken to hospital in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The military said two additional suspects were arrested.
Who is the dead 20-year old mentioned in the AFP report above? At this point, anyone's guess.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

15-Jun-16: What do the Palestinian Arabs think?

Gazan Palestinian Arabs dance for joy as word gets out of a terrorist
massacre in a Jerusalem synagogue, November 18, 2014 [Image Source: AP]
Unless you make an effort to be an expert on these matters, it can seem confusing to get a grasp on the views Palestinian Arabs hold. But in reality it's really not that hard to get it right.

The difficulty doesn't stem from any lack of credible, unbiased data. Plenty of it is out there, and has been for years based on polls conducted by professional Arab organizations using solid polling techniques and respectable science.

The problems - and there are plenty - start with the fact that analysts tend to attribute views to the Palestinian Arabs based on speeches of prominent figures, interviews with officials and (forgive us) a degree of wishful, or even malicious, thinking. They end up being certain of things that look suspiciously unsupported. And those packaged statements of sentiment tend to get adopted at large.

For us, examining the data is better. We have posted here several times about poll data in the past and despite all the political correctness in the air, we believe it's hard to avoid reaching concrete fact-based conclusions. See:
For those of us hoping for peaceful relations and better lives for everyone impacted by the conflict, what the data show is depressing, frustrating, even chilling. Perhaps that's why they are quoted so rarely and taken into account so little. But that's self-defeating.

Here's the latest installment.

The current views of Palestinian Arabs are captured in a study that was released just a few days ago by a respected source. It's Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No. 60, made public last week by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), whose head is Dr. Khalil Shikaki. (PSR's previous findings take a central role in those earlier posts we listed above.) 

This latest poll was carried out between June 2 and June 4, 2016 via face-to-face (as distinct from phone) interviews among 1,270 adult Arabs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 127 randomly selected locations. (The margin of error is 3%.)
Shikaki [Image Source]

Leaving aside the numbers, the findings are sometimes expressed in ways that obscure rather than clarify. For instance, when the summary at the top of the report says the poll data show "a continued and significant drop, particularly in the West Bank, in support for stabbing attacks...", many will feel a flutter of optimism in our breasts. But then you look at the numbers and reality smacks you over the head. The pollsters measure a thing they awkwardly term "Support for use of knives in the current confrontations with Israel". On that, indeed, there's been a drop in the past 90 days. It's come tumbling down from 44% to 36% among West Bank Arabs. And from 82% to 75% in the Gaza Strip. 

Yes, technically a fall. But a solid majority continues to rule. 56% of the Arabs on the other side of the fence favour stabbing Jews to death (a blunter term - but frankly a more accurate one). 

Underlining the seriousness of that Palestinian Arab devotion to murder, support for a specific terror assault - the cowardly bombing attack on a Jerusalem city bus ["21-Apr-16: The Hamas jihadists claim the Jerusalem bus bombing as one of their own"] in the Talpiot neighbourhood of the capital, injuring some 20 ordinary Israelis - got support from 65% of the Palestinian Arab respondents. Translated into the realities of our daily lives: two out of every three Arabs we meet in Israeli hospitals and on our light rail commute are with the bombers. 

Amazing. Appalling.

If there's some logic to favoring bombings over knifings, the pollsters did not explore it or reveal what they learned. (We will get back to the distinction between general support and enthusiasm for a specific outrage in a few paras.)

Israelis frequently get told that Mahmoud Abbas, the extremely long-serving president of the Palestinian Authority. is a peace partner, the peace partner. This happens even though there has never been the smallest bit of actual evidence that he wants to reach a compromise settlement with the Israelis or capable of doing that given the belligerence among the people he rules. Israelis, acutely aware that Abbas is in the twelfth year of his four year elected term with no sign of anyone being able to get rid of him, see him as a man seriously lacking in support from his own ranks. 

Consistent with one after another past polls, the latest Palestinian Arab opinion poll numbers show
two thirds demand Abbas resignation, Fatah has not gained any additional support during the last three months, and a majority of Palestinians believes that the PA has become a burden on the Palestinian people... Level of satisfaction with the performance of president Abbas stands at 34%...
Dissatisfaction is related to the sense that Palestinian Arabs live lives mired in official corruption: 80% of them say they believe the PA's institutions are corrupt. The signs are they are astute enough to understand that press freedom is not going to make things better. Only 17% say there is press freedom in the West Bank. In the Gaza Strip, belief in freedom of the local press stands at 16%.

Abbas: A steady two-thirds of his constituency want to see him quit
and go home and take the corruption with him [Image Source]
Who will replace Abbas when, as he must, he eventually goes? Here's the current field: 
  1. Marwan Barghouti 30%
  2. Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas) 22%
  3. Rami al Hamdallah 6%
  4. Khalid Mashaal 5%
  5. Mustapha Barghouti 5%
  6. Mohammad Dahlan 5%
  7. Saeb Erekat 2%
  8. Salam Fayyad 2%
Any Israeli government making concessions to a political figure as despised and disregarded as Abbas is would be accused - justifiably in our eyes - of reckless mismanagement of their electoral mandate. 

The pollsters examined how Palestinian Arabs view next steps, on the demonstrably safe assumption of an "absence of peace negotiations". "Return to an armed intifada" gets 54%, compared with 56% three months ago. Are we closer to, or further away from, things getting worse?

More than half (56%) want the Palestinian Authority to abandon the Oslo agreement today (63% held that view 90 days ago). Walking away from the Oslo agreement gets slightly more support among West Bank Arabs (57%) than among Gazans (55%).

(And this side-issue: Which US presidential candidate is seen as better for the Palestinian Arabs? 12% say Clinton. 7% go for Trump.)

We quoted Dr Daniel Polisar when we last wrote about PSR opinion poll data [see "03-Nov-15: What do they mean when the Palestinian Arabs say they oppose terror?"]. We felt his views added a lot to our understanding, so we went looking again just now at his most recent analysis. 

Writing in the wake of last week's terror attack on the Sorona Market complex in central Tel Aviv ["Palestinian public opinion is behind Tel Aviv terror attack", Times of Israel, June 10, 2016], Dr Polisar makes some sharp observations about how Palestinian Arab public opinion has evolved in the past years. In our words, a summary of his views:
  • There is a clear pattern of what he terms "sympathy and even adulation" among ordinary Palestinian Arabs for bloody attacks directed at Jews. How this works - at the "in principle" level and when actual terrorist outrages are done - is truly disturbing.
  • In PSR’s September 2004 survey, in-principle support for armed attacks on Israeli civilians stood at 54%. When asked how they felt about a specific bombing attack carried out in Be'er Sheba a few weeks before the poll, an attack in which 16 Israelis were murdered, support for that specific outrage sky-rocketed to 77%. 
  • PSR's June 2006 poll found about a slightly higher level of general support for terror attacks on Israeli civilians: 56%. Questioned again about one specific terror bombing in Tel Aviv two months before, with a death toll of 11 Israelis, support zoomed to 69%.
  • PSR's March 2008 poll found general support for terror attacks on civilians reached an all-time high of 67%. There had been two Arab-on-Israel terror attacks just before the polling interviews. One was a bombing on Israelis in Dimona during February: 78% said they were in favor of that. Then there was a much more lethal terror attack on a high school for religious boys in Jerusalem [see "9-Mar-08: Terrorism. Their world. Our world."]: eight Israeli children were murdered. Support for that specific atrocity (unarmed children! in their school!) was measured at the stratospheric level of 84%. 
  • PSR stopped asking about specific terror attacks after that. (Perhaps they were embarrassed. Perhaps the results generated negative feedback.) 
  • Since August 2014, PSR has done eight more polls, each one including a question about Palestinian Arab attitudes to “attacks against Israeli civilians within Israel”. Each time, the majority expressed support.
In the March 2016 poll, the last time this question was asked, 60% of Palestinians backed Arab-on-Israeli-civilian terror attacks. Dr Polisar notes, and most of us would probably agree, that there are
good reasons to expect, or at least to hope, that support for a concrete case of violence would be lower than for attacks against civilians in general. After all, it is one thing to favor in principle the use of bombs or guns against Israeli civilians and something else, after seeing coverage of the grisly results of a particular suicide-bombing, to declare one’s support. But in practice, the opposite effect can be observed...  Disturbingly, this pattern has been consistent during the past decade and a half, with only a brief exception, as high percentages of Palestinians have supported terror attacks on Israeli civilians in general, while even higher percentages have backed specific bombings and shootings that killed and wounded Israelis.
Here's what we said when we last looked at the poll numbers. We believe, and the polling data bear it out consistently over years, that when columnists and analysts speak of the desire of Palestinian Arabs to live in peace, to get on with ordinary, quiet, constructive lives - as compelling as this interpretation is, the data don't support it. It's, to put it kindly, wishful thinking unsupported by any evidence and contradicted by what we can measure based on Arab pollsters. 

Anyone paying attention to the incitement pumped, generation after generation, into their communities and heads will not be surprised. What the people living on the other side of the fence are saying is clear, credible and measurable. Being optimistic about the prospects for the sort of painful compromise that leads to peaceful relations is counterfactual and foolish, as much as we wish it were otherwise

That's a message we wish the public figures pushing their literally-hopeless "peace plans" would internalize. (And no, we have not given up hope of something better ahead, but specific things must happen first, all of them connected to how Palestinian Arab children are educated.)

15-Jun-16: Contemplating a Pal Arab lust for terror, The Economist goes for whitewash

Villagers in Nabi Saleh prepare to celebrate the release (via the Shalit Deal)
of the most celebrated of the clan's numerous murderers, the woman who
engineered the Sbarro pizzeria massacre [Image Source]. For obvious reasons,
the adoration of its murderers is generally absent from
agenda-driven reporting about the odious clan.
Over at UK Media Watch ("Promoting Fair and Accurate Coverage of Israel") they have just published a critical analysis of what it takes to pull the wool over the eyes of the editors at one of the world's best-regarded weeklies:
The Economist fancies itself a sophisticated magazine, one which “offers authoritative insight” into news, politics, business, finance, science and technology.  However, as it pertains to Israel, they've sometimes proven themselves just as vulnerable to the mindless group-think plaguing the rest of the media. A case in point involves their review of The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine by Ben Ehrenreich (The view on the ground, June 11), a book featuring the Tamimis of the West Bank town of Nabi Saleh.  Though some British media outlets have caught on to the family’s well-choreographed ‘Pasbara’, the anonymous Economist critic barely shows even a hint of journalistic skepticism in the face of Ehrenreich’s risible narrative... ["‘Sophisticated’ Economist duped by Pallywood tale starring the Tamimis", Adam Levick, UK Media Watch - today]
Ehrenreich, who created what the editors at the Economist call "an elegant and moving account", came to our attention three years ago with a cover story he wrote for the New York Times Sunday Magazine - an appalling confection spun from fantasy, carefully-phrased half-truths, wishful thinking and adoration of the redemptive power of murder. 

We hated it. And not only because of the connection of the people of whom he was writing with the murder of our daughter Malki - a tight, meaningful, ongoing and ugly connection.

We wrote two responses at the time. One was in the form of a letter from Frimet Roth to the editors of the NY Times ["To See the NY Times Gloss Over this Travesty of Justice is Journalism of the Most Amoral Sort"] which they declined to publish. The other was a post on this blog - until today the most widely-read piece we have written ["17-Mar-13: A little village in the hills, and the monsters it spawns"].

Ehrenreich's previous round of
canonizing the Tamimi clan
Adam Levick's fine UK Media Watch piece today refers back to that, noting how Ehrenreich:
romanticized the culture of terrorism in the Tamimis’ ‘little village’ and whitewashed the crime of its most infamous resident, a woman named Ahlam Tamimi, one of the main terrorists responsible for the deadly Sbarro bombing in 2001. The Economist review makes no mention of Ahlam Tamimi or the disturbing fact that, according to Ehrenreich in his NYT Magazine feature, she is still quite admired in the town. It’s actually quite extraordinary that a publication which prides itself on peeling off the superficial layers of a story to reveal the story behind the story published a review of a book featuring the Tamimis without giving readers even the slightest inclination that the family, and the protests they stage, represents something akin to Palestinian street theater, a Pallywood production packaged as real news.
The village of Nabi Saleh, almost all of whose inhabitants are Tamimis (owing to a deep attachment to ensuring members marry within the small clan) is far from being an idyllic pastoral hamlet. But it very much wants to be seen as one and goes to extraordinary lengths to conjure up a Potemkin village facade, an illusion replete with contrived legends of a struggle for decency, respect, human rights and a beleagured little pond of spring water. 

It's mostly invented, and cultivated assiduously. We explained some of the how a few months ago ["11-Sep-15: How devoted to non-violence are the villagers of Nabi Saleh really?"].

The true facts are not hard to get at. Yet no journalist we have met or whose work we have read appears to have made that effort. In fact, we can't recall even one published mainstream analysis where highly appropriate and seriously troubling questions were raised about the Tamimi narrative.

We're left to ponder, and not for the first time, the manifest decline in the mass media's commitment to careful, factual, non-partisan, well-researched writing and respect for the common values of democratic societies - above all the value of human life.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

14-Jun-16: In the UK, law-makers (some) worry over the bloodshed funded by their taxpayers

From the UK Parliament's website
Here's a good news/bad news story. On Sunday, one of Britain's mainstream newspapers ran a major report that opened with this startling sentence:
A multi-million pound foreign aid project aimed at promoting Palestinian state building and peace has instead encouraged terrorism and led to an  increase in violence, The Telegraph can disclose. 
The article ["Multi-million pound foreign aid grant spent on encouraging terrorism", Telegraph UK, June 12, 2016] refers to an "official report" into a grant of some £156.4 million provided by the Department for International Development (DFID) to the Palestinian Authority. The context is a debate into the wisdom of Britain’s formal pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of its income on foreign aid. The parliament engaged in this yesterday (Monday). Daily Mail UK gave space last night to this formal defence of the British strategy:
International development minister Desmond Swayne insisted that money given to the Palestinian Authority funds specific civil servants, helping to prepare a government in the event of a two-state agreement... [He] insisted ‘British taxpayers’ money does not fund terrorism’ and defended the thoroughly scrutinised list of aid recipients. He said: ‘Our taxpayers’ money goes to build the Palestinian Authority so that it is able to morph into the government of a Palestinian state when that opportunity arises and we pay named civil servants for the provision of public services.’ 
It's a pathetic, old and by-now discredited line of self-justification. Now there are fresh reasons for rejecting it. The "independent evaluation", says Telegraph UK's report, "suggested" that this generous gift of British taxpayer cash has
led to civil servants being “more likely” to commit acts of terrorism... [T]he five-year project encouraged public sector employees to engage in "active conflict" since their salaries were paid to their families even if they were convicted and imprisoned for criminal acts, including terrorism... On completing jail sentences, civil servants were able to return to their  jobs which had been “kept open when they return from detention”, and  continue to draw a salary funded by the UK taxpayer... DFID’s grant failed to “promote peace or peaceful attitudes” and appeared  to lead to an increase in violence among Palestinians... [T]he more foreign aid money was spent on public sector employment, more “conflict-related” deaths occurred.  
The analysts who wrote this took an econometric view of the evil done with British money:
An increase in public sector employment by one per cent is associated with  an increase in fatalities by 0.6% over this time period." [Expressed in terms of an] “opportunity cost” hypothesis [this means" "conflict, and therefore fatalities, are more likely when the opportunity  cost of engaging in conflict is lowered... For public sector employees, the opportunity cost of conflict is lowered  as their employment will be kept open when they return from detention, and  their family will continue to be paid their salary.” 
Not too many people have looked at the Rewards for Terror phenomenon that way till now. We should. They should.

The Telegraph quotes a senior parliamentarian, Sir Eric Pickles, taking down the Palestinian Authority as "the cheerleader to acts of violence to, at worst,  the operator of a revolving door policy for terrorists... [operating] an  equal opportunity employment policy for convicted terrorists". He restrained himself. 

He is quoted, as well, in a Daily Mail UK report from yesterday, making a key point that Norway's government ministers have self-defeatingly failed to comprehend [see "04-May-16: The PA's Rewards for Terror scheme: Abbas, fobbing off Norwegian criticism, incriminates self"]
[F]unding sent to the Palestinian Authority is used to free up money to pay prisoners who have committed attacks in the Israeli conflict.
It's an important point. Sir Eric added that there were "worrying reports" that certain British charities were "promoting violence on social media pages", and added this common sense observation:
"Surely it is not unreasonable to ask the minister and officials to check what is going on, and to say if you’re going to receive money from the British Government you should unequivocally denounce violence in all its forms... I don’t think it’s unreasonable in times of stringency that we should address the quality of that aid as well as the quantity..." [DailyMail UK]
The author of the official report to the parliament is Overseas Development Institute, "...the UK's leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues" with a mission "to inspire and inform policy and practice which lead to the reduction of poverty, the alleviation of suffering and the achievement of sustainable livelihoods in developing countries". 

It's a pity their services were not sought at an earlier point.

The reality "disclosed" by the Telegraph is not good news, of course. It's tragic at multiple levels. British cash, in very large doses, are found - long after they have been handed over and spent, and despite endless public assurances that nothing could possibly ever go wrong because of all the care being taken to ensure happy endings - to be the enabling factor behind malevolent activities of the most horrible kind - the kind that bring tragic deaths, maimings and despair into the lives of innocent people. 

What's good in a relative sense is that these things are finally being said, and in a serious place, the parliament at Westminster. 

Much less good is that, as "disclosures" go, this is not news. There's evidence of that in many past blog posts of ours - these three for instance (four and five years old) among many others and naturally we're not claiming to be the only people who knew: 
We were glad to see that another parliamentarian, Joan Ryan, made that point. The ODI report and its findings, she said to the parliament,
“adds to the mounting concerns about the support  which DFID [the British government's foreign aid agency] is providing to the Palestinian Authority”, and that she has “no  confidence” in DFID's internal review into UK spending in the Palestinian territories. “This is an issue which has been put to the department repeatedly over  recent years and which it has consistently and repeatedly failed to act  on," she said. 
The reality is the money is gone and cannot be unspent. And there's more being spent on identical programs at this very moment by the very same people. And not only by the British government, enabled by its mostly-trusting and unwitting taxpayers, but by numerous other governments enabled by their taxpayers. 

For British readers seeing our comments for the first time, please know we can offer plenty of context. 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

09-Jun-16: The convicted killer, the churchman, the prize

Murdered on Marwan Barghouti's 
orders in 2001: Father 
George Tsibouktsakis
Twelve years ago, the career of an ambitious Palestinian Arab gang leader, a member of Arafat's inner circle, ended when he was convicted in Tel Aviv District Court in relation to the deaths of five innocent people.

There were other charges as well: attempted murder, membership of a terror organization and conspiracy to commit a crime; he was convicted of those as well. He was acquitted on technical grounds in relation to 33 additional counts of murder. Our impression (we were present in the court room for part of the trial ) was that the prosecution could have pressed those extra charges. Evidently a decision was taken that the accused would be imprisoned for a long-enough term if convicted on those charges where technical factors did not play a role. And indeed, that's what happened.

At the conclusion of Marwan Barghouti's trial in May 2004, the prosecution sought a sentence of one life term for each murdered victim and he was sentenced to - and is currently serving - five life terms behind bars:
The court said in its verdict that "the defendant most of the time did not have direct contact with the field operatives who carried out the attacks. That connection was maintained through associates close to the defendant. Barghouti was responsible for providing the field units with money and arms via these associates..." The judges said Barghouti's orders for terror attacks were sometimes "based on instructions" from Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. "Arafat would never give explicit instructions for attacks but he let it be known when the timing was right," the judges said. "He made sure his subordinates understood very well when he was interested in a cease-fire and when he was interested in terror attacks against Israel," the verdict said.
["Barghouti Convicted in Deaths of Five People", Haaretz, May 20, 2004
Barghouti was one of those Arafat subordinates. And when we wrote above that his career ended, we were engaging in what seems more and more to be wishful thinking. We'll get to that in a moment.

A few brief words about his victims, none of whom has been honored with even a tiny fraction of the often-fawning media coverage of their convicted killer:
Murdered on Marwan Barghouti's orders 
in 2002: Yoela Chen, mother of 2, 
shot dead at a gas station 
on her way to a Jerusalem 
family celebration
  • The court ruled that Barghouti was directly responsible for a January 2002 terror attack on a gas station in Givat Zeev in which an Israeli woman, Yoela Chen, 45 and a mother of two, was murdered. The attack, the judges said, was carried out at his direct order in revenge for the assassination of another Palestinian Arab terrorist called Carmi who had been responsible for a long list of murderous attacks on Israeli civilians. Barghouti admitted his responsibility for Yoela Cohen's killing.
  • The killing of a Jewish-looking, traditionally bearded man, driving his car in the early summer of 2001 along one of Judea's intercity desert roads was carried out on Barghouti's orders, the judges said. That man was in reality not Jewish. Shot dead from a distance by Barghouti's sharp-shooters and a volley of 13 bullets, he was in fact a young, bearded Greek Orthodox monk, George Tsibouktsakis, also known as Father Herman, a religious devotee, one of two monks who lived in, and maintained, the ancient St. George Monastery perched on the edge of Wadi Kelt. Tragically, shot dead while looking Jewish.
  • The court found that Barghouti explicitly approved the murderous March 2002 shooting and hand-grenade terror attack at Tel Aviv's Seafood Market restaurant where three people were murdered in a frenzied assault just after 2 in the morning. The victims were Police Sergeant-Major Salim Barakat, 33, from the Israeli-Druze community of Yarka - killed by one of the attackers who fled the restaurant; and Yosef Haybi, 52, of Herzliya and Eliyahu Dahan, 53, of Lod - both of them killed inside the restaurant.
  • He was convicted as well for masterminding a car bomb attack in Jerusalem.
The 2004 Barghouti trial in Tel Aviv District Court was public,
transparent, and definitive: the accused was convicted on multiple
charges of murder and sentenced to five terms of life
imprisonment [Image Source]
None of these convictions in a non-military court and in front of an overflowing and often unruly crowd of witnesses, many of them Arabs, and overseas observers who flew in especially for the trial, prevented tendentious media coverage before, during and after Barghouti's conviction. Much of it is just as tendentious today.

Of all the many distortions, inaccuracies and open lies connected with that coverage, none is as galling as the way this vicious, violent man is routinely - and dishonestly - called a "political prisoner", and sometimes a "detainee". He has never been either. As a matter of objective reality, he ought to be called convicted murderer. And taking into account his undisputed role as head of the Tanzim shooting-and-bombing division of Fatah, he fully qualifies to be termed a terrorist.

Associated Press, as we wrote in an earlier blog post ["21-Mar-14: Allegedly objective journalism"] produced one of these distorted, politically-spun articles two years ago. That AP piece, entitled "Jailed militant key to Mideast talk" (March 19, 2014), sought to depict Marwan Barghouti as a Mandela-like man of peace who, if only he were sprung from jail, would take his natural place in the pantheon of Palestinian Arab statespersons and blaze a path to whatever peaceful destination they believe the Palestinian Arabs are heading. (UKMediawatch documented similar news-media efforts in an excellent analysis in 2013.) 

Murdered on Marwan Barghouti's
orders in March 2002: Yosef Haybi
Here's some of what we wrote two years ago:
We personally sat through the [2004] murder trial of Marwan Barghouti... The hearing was in Tel Aviv, in the Magistrates Court complex that rarely gets the kind of lavish media attention in evidence that week. Aljazeera's TV crew were there along with reporters from all over. A motley assemblage of lawyers from Israel, the PA and overseas were too, intent on defending the 'great' man from the lowly offenses of which he was charged. Some of the most entertaining moments on the trial's first day involved one of those would-be advocates, an unusually boorish individual intent on making a splash, being physically picked up by the security people and thrown out the door of the court room and onto the floor of the adjacent lobby. (You dream of moments like that.) 
Two main factors (among many) persuaded us to be there. One: Marwan Barghouti had personally given post-massacre shelter and money to members of the Hamas gang that planned and carried out the bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in which our teenage daughter was murdered three years earlier. He was, in legal terms, an accessory after the fact to the terrorism...  
For us as recently bereaved Israelis, grieving for the lost life of a fifteen year-old daughter with such goodness and potential, it was almost unbearably painful to observe the lengths to which Israel's organs of justice bent over backwards to give this prominent member of the loathsome Palestinian political 'elite', a first-degree Arafat inner-circle insider, the fairest and most transparent of trials.  
One of lawyers in the defense counsel team was the self-parodying (and subsequently disgracedShamai Leibowitz, grandson of one of modern Israel's great religious philosophers. Leibowitz proposed to the court, with chutzpah that brought some of us to point of choking with rage, that the cold-blooded Barghouti with those deeply blood-drenched hands ought to be viewed as a warrior in the service of freedom, challenging the Pharaohs of his time. The court ought to think of him as being like Moses, Israel's great Law Giver. There were less bizarre moments too. 
Murdered on Marwan Barghouti's
orders in March 2002: Police Sgt Major Salim
Barakat, 33, an Israeli Druze, father of a
3 year old daughter
It appears we are now facing a fresh round of bizarre Barghouti moments, the theological equivalent of fashioning a silk purse out of a female pig's aural orifice

As reported by a church news site a few hours ago [Episcopal Digital Network
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has endorsed the nomination of Palestinian political prisoner, Marwan Barghouthi, for the Nobel Peace Prize. In the nomination letter sent by the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, he said, “I decided to support this campaign alongside seven other Nobel Peace Prize laureates as a reflection of our belief that freedom was the only path to peace… I hope the Nobel Committee will take a bold decision bringing us closer to the day this holy land, charged with unique symbolic value, can stop being a living testimony of injustice and impunity, occupation and apartheid, and can finally be a beacon of freedom, hope and peace.”
Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, is, to put it mildly, not one of our favourite church-people - or people of any kind - on the basis of his years of explicit support for Palestinian Arab terror and for Barghouti. He has been a member of the modestly-named International High Level Committee of the Campaign for the Freedom of Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian Prisoners, launched in October 2013.

Nine years ago we noted [here] what he said when Gaza erupted in an Arab-on-Arab bloodbath with Hamas and Fatah battling it out for winner-takes-all control of the rich-in-absolutely-nothing enclave: Tutu, watching the thuggery and the slaughter from a safe distance, said he was "in despair over these events", though he claimed to understand why the rival factions were at each other's throats:
"When you are oppressed, it is so very easy to turn on yourselves," he said.
Murdered on Marwan Barghouti's
orders in March 2002: 
Eli Dahan, 53
And so easy, we reminded ourselves at the time, to blow up innocent women, children, men, schools, hospitals, restaurants. So easy. And to have church leaders slobber their sympathy all over your poor oppressed heads.
The only thing more appalling about what the Palestinian Arabs have done to themselves is the unforgivable forgiveness, the incomprehensible understanding emanating from such ill-informed, theologically-addled, hand-wringing, high-profile individuals as the pious church-man quoted above. Without him and the many others like him, the devastation and misery of the Pal-Arabs could have ended decades ago. [Our June 2007 blog post]
Painful as this is, Barghouti and his terrorist handlers must be quietly confident the crimes of the bigoted, violent Fatah apparatchik will recede into the past as a groundswell of support builds for the frankly absurd notion that he is a peacemaker - perhaps the peacemaker - who can bring the Palestinian Arabs into a meaningful dialogue with the despised Israelis. The moral gymnastics involved in seeing things in that upside-down, black-is-white fashion are reality in this part of the world, and explain why we find it necessary to spend so much time reminding audiences of the catastrophic Shalit Deal and the ongoing suffering it has delivered.

The idea that Barghouti is now a serious contender for the same award that the Nobel Committee gave to Tutu - and with Tutu's enthusiastic endorsement - is an indictment of Tutu's twisted values and the values of the ideologues promoting this ugly initiative.