Abbas denies mounting claims that Egypt has offered territory for a Palestinian state. Should we believe him?
What is Israel’s endgame in Gaza? It is a question that has been puzzling analysts and observers for some time. But belatedly, there are indications of the future Israel and Washington may have in mind for Gaza.
Desperately overcrowded, short on basic resources like fresh water, blockaded for eight years by Israel, with its infrastructure intermittently destroyed by Israeli bombing campaigns, Gaza looks like a giant pressure cooker waiting to explode.
It is difficult to imagine that sooner or later Israel will not face a massive upheaval on its doorstep. So how does Israel propose to avert a scenario in which it must either savagely repress a mass uprising by Palestinians in Gaza or sit by and watch them tear down their prison walls?
Reports in the Arab and Israeli media – in part corroborated by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas – suggest that Egypt may be at the heart of plans to solve the problem on Israel’s behalf.
This month Israeli media reported claims – apparently leaked by Israeli officials – that Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, had offered the Palestinian leadership the chance to annex to Gaza an area of 1,600 sq km in Sinai. The donated territory would expand Gaza fivefold.
The scheme is said to have received the blessing of the United States.
‘Greater Gaza’ plan
According to the reports, the territory in Sinai would become a demilitarised Palestinian state – dubbed “Greater Gaza” – to which returning Palestinian refugees would be assigned. The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas would have autonomous rule over the cities in the West Bank, comprising about a fifth of that territory. In return, Abbas would have to give up the right to a state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The plan, which would most likely result in significant numbers of Palestinians moving outside the borders of historic Palestine, was quickly dismissed as “fabricated and baseless” by Egyptian and Palestinian officials.
Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a spokesman for Abbas, accused Israel of using the proposal to “destroy the Palestinian cause”, referring to Abbas’ efforts at the United Nations to win recognition of Palestinian statehood on parts of historic Palestine.
But Abdel Rahim’s denial raised more questions than it answered. While rejecting suggestions that Sisi had made such an offer, he added that the plan originated with Giora Eiland, Israel’s national security adviser from 2004 to 2006.
Abdel Rahim appeared to be referring to a plan unveiled by Eiland in 2004 that Israel hoped would be implemented after the withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from Gaza – the so-called disengagement – a year later.
Under Eiland’s terms, Egypt would agree to expand Gaza into the Sinai in return for Israel giving Egypt land in the Negev.
Abdel Rahim also stated that a similar plan – the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in Sinai – had been advanced briefly by Sisi’s predecessor, Mohamed Morsi.
Morsi, who served as president for a year from the summer of 2012 until his ousting by Sisi in a military coup, headed a Muslim Brotherhood administration that tried to strengthen ties to the Hamas leadership in Gaza.
The idea of creating a Palestinian state outside historic Palestine – in either Jordan or Sinai – has a long pedigree in Zionist thinking.
“Jordan is Palestine” has been a rallying cry on the Israeli right for decades. There have been parallel suggestions for Sinai.
In recent times, the Sinai option has found favour with the Israeli right, especially following the outbreak of the second intifada 14 years ago. Support appears to have intensified after the disengagement in 2005 and Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian national elections a year later.
Notably, the scheme became the centrepiece of the 2004 Herzliya conference, an annual meeting of Israel’s political, academic and security elites to exchange and develop policy ideas. It was then enthusiastically adopted by Uzi Arad, the conference’s founder and long-time adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister.
He proposed a three-way exchange, in which the Palestinians would get part of Sinai for their state, while in return Israel would receive most of the West Bank, and Egypt would be given a land passage across the Negev to connect it to Jordan.
A variation of the “Sinai is Palestine” option was dusted off again by the right during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 50-day attack on Gaza this summer.
Moshe Feiglin, the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset and a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, called for Gaza’s inhabitants to be expelled from their homes under cover of the operation and moved into Sinai, in what he termed a “solution for Gaza”.
Did Morsi offer Sinai?
Given that the rationale of the Sinai option is to remove Palestinians from what the Israeli right considers Greater Israel, and such a plan is vehemently opposed by all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, why would Morsi have backed it?
Further, why would he have proposed giving up a chunk of Egyptian territory to satisfy Israeli ambitions, thereby undermining his domestic credibility, at a time when he was fighting for political survival on many other fronts?
One possibility is that Abbas’ office simply made up the story to discredit Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, and by extension Abbas’ political rivals in Hamas, and thereby win favour with Sisi.
But few Palestinians or Egyptians appear to have found the claim credible, and Sisi has shown no interest in pursuing this line of attack against Morsi. Why would Abbas fabricate a story that might rebound on him by linking him to such underhanded diplomacy by Egypt, Israel and the US?
There are two further pieces of the jigsaw suggesting that there may be more to the Sinai story than meets the eye.
The first are comments made by Abbas shortly before the Israeli media began reporting the alleged offer by Sisi. Abbas was responding to earlier rumours that began in the Arab media.
Abbas signalled at a meeting with Fatah loyalists on 31 August that a proposal to create a Palestinian state in Sinai was still of interest to Egyptian officials.
He reportedly said: “A senior leader in Egypt said: ‘a refuge must be found for the Palestinians and we have all this open land.’ This was said to me personally. But it’s illogical for the problem to be solved at Egypt’s expense. We won’t have it.”
The Times of Israel website said it had subsequently confirmed the comments with Abbas.
The Palestinian leader made similar remarks on Egyptian TV a week earlier, when he told an interviewer an Israeli plan for the Sinai had been “unfortunately accepted by some here [in Egypt]. Don’t ask me more about that. We abolished it, because it can’t be.”
What about Mubarak?
The second clue was provided in a barely noticed report in English published last month on the website of the Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, headquartered in London but with strong ties to the Saudi royal family.
It claimed that in the later years of his presidency, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak came under concerted and repeated pressure from the US to cede territory in Sinai to the Palestinians to help them establish a state.
The article, based on information reportedly provided by an unnamed former Mubarak official, stated that pressure started to be exerted on Egypt from 2007.
The source quoted Mubarak as saying at the time: “We are fighting both the US and Israel. There is pressure on us to open the Rafah crossing for the Palestinians and grant them freedom of residence, particularly in Sinai. In a year or two, the issue of Palestinian refugee camps in Sinai will be internationalised.”
In Mubarak’s view, according to the report, Israel hoped that, once Palestinians were on Egyptian soil, the combined area of Sinai and Gaza would be treated as the Palestinian state. This would be the only territory to which Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return.
Anticipating later statements by Abbas’ office, the Egyptian source said a similar proposal was put to Morsi when he came to power in 2012. A delegation of Muslim Brotherhood leaders travelled to Washington, where White House officials proposed that “Egypt cede a third of the Sinai to Gaza in a two-stage process spanning four to five years”.
US officials, the report stated, promised to “establish and fully support a Palestinian state” in the Sinai, including the establishment of seaports and an airport. The Brotherhood was urged to prepare Egyptian public opinion for the deal.
Pieces of the jigsaw
So what sense can we make of these various pieces of the jigsaw?
Each in itself can be discounted. The Asharq al-Awsat report is based on an anonymous source and there may be Saudi interests at work in promoting the story. Likewise, the Israelis could be waging a misinformation campaign.
But taken together, and given that Abbas appears reluctantly to have conceded key elements of the story, it becomes much harder to ignore the likelihood that the reports are grounded in some kind of reality.
There seems little doubt – from these reports and from the wider aspirations of the Israeli right – that a Sinai plan has been crafted by Israel’s security establishment and is being aggressively advanced, not least through the current leaks to the Israeli media. It also looks strongly like variations of this plan have been pushed more vigorously since 2007, when Hamas took exclusive control of Gaza.
Israel’s current rationale for the Sinai option is that it undermines Abbas’ intensifying campaign at the United Nations to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood, which Israel and the US adamantly oppose.
It also seems plausible, given the strength of its ties to Israel, that the US is backing the plan and adding its considerable weight to persuade the Egyptian and Palestinian leaderships.
Harder to read, however, is whether Egypt might have responded positively to such a campaign.
An Egyptian analyst explained the expected reaction from Sisi and his generals: “Egypt is relentlessly trying to keep Gaza at bay. Tunnels are being destroyed and a buffer zone is planned. Bringing more potentially hostile elements closer to Egypt would be a dangerous and reckless move.”
This is true enough. So what leverage do Israel and the US have over Egypt that might persuade it to override its national security concerns?
Turning the screw
Aside from the large sums of military aid Washington gives to Egypt each year, there is the increasingly pressing matter for Cairo of dire fuel shortages, which risk inflaming a new round of street protests.
Israel has recently discovered large offshore deposits of natural gas, which is it is ready to export to its neighbours. It is already quietly agreeing deals with the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, and is reported to be in advanced discussions with Egypt.
Is this part of the pressure being exerted on Egyptian leaders to concede territory in Sinai? And has it been enough to make them overlook their security concerns?
Finally, there is the Palestinian leadership’s role. Abbas has said firmly he will not countenance such a deal. How might Israel think it could change his mind?
One controversial possibility, which throws a very different light on the events of this summer, is that Israel may hope it can “soften up” Palestinian opinion, especially in Gaza, by making life even less bearable than it already is for the population there.
It is noticeable that Israel’s large-scale operations attacking Gaza – in the winter of 2008-09, 2012 and again this year – started shortly after, according to Asharq al-Awsat, Israel and the US began turning the screws on Mubarak to concede part of Sinai.
The massive and repeated destruction of Gaza might have an added advantage for Israel: it allows Cairo to cast its offer of a small slice of the Sinai to the Palestinians as a desperately needed humanitarian gesture.
The success of Israel’s approach requires isolating Gaza, through a blockade, and inflicting massive damage on it to encourage Palestinians to rethink their opposition to a state outside historic Palestine. That precisely fits Israel’s policy since 2007.
The Sinai option may be difficult to confirm at this stage but we should keep it firmly in mind as we try to make sense of unfolding events in the region over the coming months and years.
Clashes erupted Wednesday between Palestinians and Israeli forces in Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem after dozens of Zionist settlers– led by two government ministers and backed by Israeli police – forced their way into the holy compound, a Palestinian guard of the complex said.
“Ninety-three settlers protected by 40 Israeli police and special forces forced their way into the holy compound through the Al-Magharbeh Gate,” the guard, who asked not to be named, told Anadolu Agency.
The Zionist settlers were accompanied by Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, in addition to several Jewish extremist leaders.
In response, some 300 Palestinian Muslim worshipers converged near the Al-Qibali and the Dome of the Rock mosques to protest the intrusion, the guard said.
In a bid to disperse angry Palestinians, Israeli forces fired rubber bullets and teargas, he added.
“At least 16 Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets, including one in the head and two in the abdomen. Around 45 others suffered teargas inhalation,” the guard said.
According to Sheikh Omar al-Qiswani, the Palestinian director of the Al-Aqsa complex, the two ministers took a tour of the compound’s courtyards, passing by the Dome of the Rock, Qibali and Marawani mosques before leaving through the Al-Rahmeh Gate.
Israeli security forces withdrew from the compound after the clashes, the guard said.
“Israeli police and army troops pulled out of the compound after attacking Palestinian worshipers,” he said.
Israeli police have stepped up security at the gates of the Al-Aqsa complex for the second day in a row, barring a number of Palestinians from entering the compound, al-Qiswani said.
“Except for the Al-Magharbeh Gate, where [Jewish] settlers regularly force their way into the complex, the Israeli police closed all other gates with chains,” al-Qiswani said.
Jews will celebrate “Rosh Hashanah” on Wednesday, which will mark the first day of the new Jewish year of 5775.
Groups of extremists called for marking the holiday by storming the Al-Aqsa compound and performing Talmudic rituals.
In recent months, groups of extremist Zionist settlers, often accompanied by Israeli security forces, have stepped up their intrusions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, the world’s third holiest site for Muslims.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming Jerusalem as the unified capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.
In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli leader Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada” – a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed and injured.
Along one of the roads in the city of Ariha in the north of the occupied West Bank, merchants Khaldoun and Hassan regularly receive 30 tons of dates produced in the neighbouring Israeli agricultural settlements, in preparation for their transfer to one of the packaging factories built on the outskirts of the city, Anadolu news agency reported.
Inside the factory, about 13 minors are working on “screening” the dates and repackaging them in bags that read “dates of the Holy Land” in both Arabic and English and “Made in Palestine” in order to market them locally, in the Arab states and in Europe.
This is what one of the farms that is owned by Israeli settlers does in order to market its produce of dates to customers of European Union countries after the enforcement of a decision earlier this year to boycott any products of settlements in the West Bank.
Anadolu cited a statement issued by the Palestinian national economy minister saying that members of the ministry have found dozens of tons of produce coming from the settlements in this way, on its way to either the local market or to the packaging factories in the city of Ariha and the neighbouring villages.
Merchant Khaldoun, 45 years, told Anadolu’s reporter, “We do trade in dates of the settlements, which we buy at prices that are 40 per cent lower than the market price. And in order to be able to market the dates, we clean and re-package them and choose the best in preparation for selling them in the local market, as well as the Arab and European markets.”
He added that the annual volume of his seasonal sales of dates is nearly 350 tons, pointing out that other merchants who work in this field and in other varieties of vegetables and fruits, such as citrus fruits, nuts, and medical herbs have similar practices.
His fellow trader Hassan said that he has a licensed company that is registered officially. The export process takes place after the official bodies check the quality and specifications of the product, ensuring the product’s conformity with European specifications and international standards. It is then exported under the “Made in Palestine” label.
The minister of economy said in its statement that any truck carrying dates must also be carrying a transfer permit to move the dates from inside the farm of production to the factory that will process the packaging, noting that it has begun to take stricter steps over the trade of dates through listing the names of the farmers who grow dates, the number of trees they own and their annual average production.
Palestine enjoys customs exemptions and export-related facilities in trade with the countries of the European Union, so the Israeli companies cooperate with Palestinian merchants to export the dates produced in the settlements illegally established in the West Bank to the European Union, while benefiting from such exemptions.
In the beginning of 2014, the European Union announced its decision to boycott economic, scientific and academic relations with institutions, factories and farms that have any investments or presence in the Israeli settlements established in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Earlier, the ministry of economy confiscated more than 20 tons of corrupt and damaged dates coming from the Israeli settlements while on their way to one of the factories for repackaging to later sell them as a product of Palestine.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Violence broke out on the streets of Hebron’s university district (al-Khalil) this morning when Israeli soldiers opened fire on unarmed demonstrators who had been protesting the murders of two Palestinians earlier that day.
Protestors took to the streets after Marwan Kawasme, 29, and Amar Abu Aisha, 32, were killed and burned by Israeli soldiers in the very early hours of this morning. The Israeli military alleged that the two men were behind the deaths of the three settler teenagers in June of this year.
The soldiers used tear gas canisters and live ammunition bullets during the clashes, with numerous injuries including a 15-year-old boy who was shot in the head and is now in a critical condition in hospital. A representative of the Red Cross stated to ISM that there were over 30 injuries, though the exact number is still unknown.
The building where the murders took place was also set on fire and destroyed.
Tensions had been high all morning as word of the two dead Palestinians spread throughout the area. By 8 am around 200 Palestinian residents had gathered to show their frustration at the senseless taking of life. Although stones were thrown, the protesters were unarmed and did not pose a threat to the violent occupying military. The Israeli army, still present after the earlier incident, unleashed dozens of canisters of tear gas leaving many people unable to breath and in need of medical help. Hemmed in and with nowhere to escape to, the protestors hid behind what ever they could find.
The situation further deteriorated when the Israeli soldiers, without warning began to fire live bullets at the protestors, hitting one boy in the head and injuring a number of others.
After an hour of further violence by the Israeli soldiers, the protestors cleared and the injured were taken away.
Throughout the earlier afternoon however similar incidents of unrest were reported around Hebron (al-Khalil).
RAMALLAH – Israeli forces detained 11 Palestinians overnight and a total of 152 during the third week of September, a rights group said Sunday.
The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said in a statement that Israeli soldiers raided Jenin overnight and detained Mahmoud Tawfiq Yahya.
In the Bethlehem district, forces detained Hamza Maali, Muhammad Maali, and Baha al-Teen.
Additionally, in Hebron, Wahid Sabarna, Faris al-Titi, Ahmad al-Qaqasmeh, and Muhammad al-Adra were arrested overnight, the statement said.
Soldiers also detained three Palestinians in the Nablus district — university lecturer Raed Abu Badawiyya, human rights activist Abd al-Rahman Rihan, and Fahd Sharaya.
Israeli forces have detained 152 Palestinians across the West Bank last week — 50 in Hebron, 40 in Jerusalem, 17 in Bethlehem, 16 in Ramallah, seven in Jenin, six in Tulkarem, six in Nablus, and ten in Salfit and Tubas, according to PPS.
As-Sawia, Occupied Palestine – On the evening of the 10th September, unknown assailants broke into the As-Sawia Secondary School, forced open the door and set the school on fire. Bedouins living close to the school saw the fire and alerted the fire brigade. By the time it was put out, the principal’s office and teachers’ rooms were completely burned.
“We lost six computers, four printers, all the teachers’ books and materials, but most of all, the administrative documents and files of the students and about the school situation over the past years. The whole damage is around 140,000 shekels,” the principle Adnan Hussein told ISM. The school was closed for three days after the arson attack.
As in many schools in the occupied West Bank, the students and staff of As-Sawia Secondary School suffer from constant settler and military harassment. Three days before the arson, armed settlers who called themselves “security” from one of the nearby hilltop illegal settlements stood at the school gates. When the principal spoke to them, they claimed that children threw stones at the settler cars on their way to school.
The school is located by Road 90, which was paved in 1944 and runs across the West Bank. The road is used by Palestinians and by illegal settlers. The children have to walk alongside it to get to school in the mornings and to go home after school.
“Our school is suffering both for the settlers and the army,” explained Hussein. “We constantly have the army at our gates, checking ID’s and bothering children”
On the 3 September, armed settlers stopped in a car marked as the illegal settlement Eli’s “security” at the gate of the school. One of the settlers came out of the car, jumped over the fence and started following some of the children, who have finished their classes and were leaving for home. The principle approached the settler and told him that he is not allowed in the school with weapons, and the settler responded that he was looking for a child who threw stones and shouted at the settler car earlier.
After agreeing to move outside the school gate at the head teacher’s insistence, the settler with the machine gun was joined by another settler and they insisted that the boy in the red T-shirt was brought to them. They also wanted the head teacher’s mobile phone number so that they could call him in the future.
“I had a bad feeling that something horrible will happen and that they will start shooting,” related Hussien. “I left some teachers with the settlers and with other teachers went to escort children through another gate and send them home, when three soldiers appeared. I went to speak to them. I told them that they cannot be in school with their weapons and in their uniforms but they insisted that they wanted to speak to a boy in the red T-shirt for 10 minutes.”
The principal and staff stood between the soldiers and settlers and the pupils to protect them while they were leaving the school. By this time worried parents were at the gate and they took the children away.
Throughout 2013, the army entered the As-Sawiya 51 times and children and the staff had to put up with teargas, sound bombs and arrests of pupils.
Hussein explained, “It is a constant worry that the settlers and the army will come. It is hard enough to control 350 teenagers even in the countries where there is no occupation. It is not easy and we do what we can to try to do our best keep the education for our children going. We have no problem with Jewish people and I can say that many of them are nice and honest, but settlers are generally dangerous people. I know that people should be able to choose where they live, but that does not include taking someone else’s land without permission.”
Last Wednesday Israeli Police filed an indictment against an officer who was filmed beating Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15 year old Palestinian-American teenager from Florida. He was beaten and arrested during a demonstration to protest the brutal murder of his cousin Mohammed Abu Khdeir. On 2nd July 16 year old Mohammed was abducted and burned alive by Israeli extremists in supposed revenge for the killing of three Israeli teenagers.
Tariq’s bruised face caused outrage in the United States and the State Department called for a “speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force” used against the American teen. As a result of mounting pressure from the US, Tariq was released and able to fly home just under two weeks after the ordeal.
Speaking at a press conference following the news of the charges filed, Abu Khdeir and his mother called it “groundbreaking.” Suha Abu Khdeir, the boy’s mother, said it was “a shame that in order for [Israeli authorities] to take action it had to be an American citizen that this happened to.” They believe that the charges were only filed because the incident was recorded and because Tariq is a citizen of the United States.
In sharp contrast, at the time US pressure was mounting for the soldiers behind Tariq’s beating to be held accountable, Israeli General Danny Efrni, closed the investigation into the killing of Yousef Sami Shawamreh.
In March, Yousef and his two friends had gone to pick the thistle like plant gundelia which farmers from his village in the South of Hebron harvest at the same time every year, when he was fatally shot in the hip by an Israeli soldier.
According to the army, three Palestinians approached the fence and started cutting it. The guards performed the standard procedure for stopping a suspect, shooting first in the air and then toward the Palestinian. According to local residents, the separation wall annexed some of the villages land, including the land of Shawamreh family, and so the boys had crossed over to harvest the crop on the other side of it, a routine that the soldiers were aware of.
The two boys who were with Yousef claim they heard three shots, causing them to get down on the floor. Yousef then reportedly got up to cross back over into the village, when another shot was fired causing him to fall. One of the boys, Muntaser, attempted to carry him to safety, but was told by 6 soldiers who arrived at the scene to put Yousef down, threatening to shoot him if he did not obey.
The prosecution, however, found that, “the force prepared for the operation professionally and acted in line with rules for opening fire”- concluding there was no suspicion of a criminal act on their part.
Yousef’s case joins the hundreds of cases that fail to end in an indictment. An Amnesty International report found that 41 Palestinians had been killed by live ammunition in the West Bank between 2011 and 2013 alone. The same report found that between September 2000 and June 2013, only 16 investigations ended in indictment of Israeli soldiers.
According to statistics released last week rights group Yesh Din, in 2013, out of the 239 notifications submitted to the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID), the body which deals with complaints regarding offenses committed by Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldiers, only six resulted in indictments.
Neta Patrick, Executive Director of Yesh Din said: “Every year, we caution against the sorry state of the investigation system. However, it appears that Israel refuses to deal with these structural failings or take minimal steps to correct them, despite harsh criticism voiced by public commissions and by civil society organizations.”
She added: “The inescapable conclusion is that the Government of Israel is not willing to investigate harm caused to Palestinians.”
At Tuwani – On September 14th, two Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian shepherd and two international near the Israeli outpost of Mitzpe Yair, in the South Hebron Hills area. During the aggression, the settlers stole video cameras from the internationals and broke one of their phones. Israeli police detained the Palestinian shepherd and one of the internationals for six hours. There were no consequences for the settlers.
At about 9:00 a.m. four Palestinian shepherds from the South Hebron Hills village of Qawawis were grazing their flocks accompanied by two internationals, on Palestinian owned land nearby the Israeli outpost. Two settlers from Mitzpe Yair crossed a closed area (where the access is forbidden to everyone else) in order to attack one Palestinian shepherd, starting to chase away his flock. The two internationals present taped the scene.
Afterwards the settlers assaulted the internationals: at first they grabbed one by the neck and knocked him down, they snatched his camera and broke his phone; subsequently the settlers attacked the other one twisting her arm and also seizing her camera. The settlers ran back to the outpost holding the stolen cameras, and the Palestinian and the internationals went to Qawawis village.
The Israeli police came to the Palestinian village and asked the shepherd and internationals to follow them to the Israeli Police station in Kiryat Arba settlement, due to one settler claiming that they threw stones at him. The Police officers detained both of them for six hours and questioned them about the incident. Israeli police released them at 5:00 p.m. without consequences.
The South Hebron hills area has suffered from the presence of Israeli settlers’ since the 70′s. Eight Israeli settlements and outposts (among which Mitzpe Yair is one) almost completely isolate 16 Palestinian villages from the rest of West Bank. The settlers’ violence includes overt violent attacks on Palestinians and their animals, damages to private properties, and limitations to freedom of movement with many consequences on their daily life. Since the beginning of 2014, Operation Dove registered the arrests of 15 Palestinians, including minors, because they were on lands near the settlements. During the same period there were no consequences for Israeli settlers involved in the incidents occurring in the area.
In spite of the violence suffered by the Palestinians from the South Hebron Hills area, they keep on grazing and farming on their lands, resisting in a non-violent way to the Israeli occupation.
Operation Dove has maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills since 2004.
[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma'on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]
Israeli forces took at least 127 Palestinians across the occupied West Bank into custody, during the first week of September alone, according to recent statements by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).
PPS said, according to Ma’an news, that most detainees came from the Hebron district, where 28 Palestinians were taken by Israeli forces.
PPS further stated that 23 of the detainees were from the Jenin district, in the northern West Bank, 21 from Ramallah, 20 from Jerusalem, 12 from Bethlehem, eight from Tulkarem, six from Nablus, three from Qalqiliya, and six from the Tubas/Salfit district.
Israeli forces abducted 10 Palestinians overnight, on Saturday, seven of whom were taken from Hebron, with one from Bethlehem, and two from Beit Sira village, western Ramallah district.
More than 7,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, including some 2,000 detained during the massive arrest campaigns which have taken place over the last three months.
See also — 08/31/14 PPS: 597 Palestinians Arrested During August
Once the surveillance cameras of Palestinian shopkeepers in East Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood revealed the images of the Israeli abductors of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, the fabricated Israeli propaganda that the 16-year-old Palestinian boy had been gay and the victim of an honor killing perpetrated by his own people became completely unsustainable. Soon after, hoping to contain the resulting clashes that erupted in Shuafat and extended to many nearby neighborhoods, Israeli police announced that they had captured six suspects involved in the crime.
Just days later, however, it was announced that three of them already had been freed. The others were described as two minors and a mentally unstable adult with a dominating personality who is on psychiatric medication, according to Yediot Ahronot.
That has a familiar ring to it! In 1969 Dennis Michael Rohan, an evangelical Protestant from Australia, set fire to the al-Aqsa mosque in order to hasten the second coming of the Messiah and create an opportunity to rebuild the Jewish Temple. Rohan was later declared mentally ill and exonerated for his actions.
In 2007 Julian Soufir confessed to having murdered Palestinian taxi driver Taysir Karaki, saying he did not feel guilty because he considered Arabs the equivalent of cattle and he was simply slaughtering one. Soufir had entered the victim’s taxi in Jerusalem and asked to be driven to Tel Aviv. He then persuaded Karaki to come to his brother’s apartment with an offer of coffee and the use of the bathroom, and attacked the Palestinian with a knife he had obtained ahead of time. At his 2008 trial, the court accepted the testimonies of two defense witnesses who claimed that Soufir was not fully “conscious” at the time of the murder—despite the fact that he had explained his motive for murdering Karaki—and Soufir was acquitted.
A few years ago, I testified as an expert witness at the Jerusalem district court regarding the case of one of my psychiatric patients who, while suffering an acute psychotic episode, stabbed an Israeli soldier. My patient was 30 years old; after sustaining severe injuries during his arrest, which required 12 surgeries and left him handicapped, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison! The insanity defense certainly did not do my patient much good.
It is one of many pretexts used to avoid the prosecution, imprisonment or punishment of Jewish Israelis who murder Palestinians—but not the other way around. When a Palestinian minor attacks an Israeli, the youngster appears in court with bruises and fractures. Nor are charges dropped because he is a minor. We shall see what happens to the minors who tortured Abu Khdeir and burned him alive.
For many years—in Hebron, especially—radical Jewish settlers have been attacking Palestinians under the very noses of Israeli soldiers, who only intervene to defend the settlers from Palestinians responding to their attacks. In 1994 American-born Dr. Baruch Goldstein massacred 30 Palestinians praying at Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque, which he entered under the eyes of Israeli soldiers who—instead of acting to stop the massacre—fired live ammunition into the fleeing crowd, killing even more Palestinians!
In 2008 Ze’ev Braude, a settler from nearby Kiryat Arba, was caught on camera as he shot at close range two Palestinians from the Matariya family during the evacuation of a Palestinian house in Hebron. The film was provided to Israeli police as evidence, but the indictment against Braude was dropped. In his ruling, Judge Elyakim Rubinstein held that “in this instance, the right of the accused to a fair trial outweighed the harm to national security!”
These and similar actions are the consequences of ideologies held by Gush Emunim and other radical movements that encourage the building of settlements in the belief that the coming of the Messiah can be hastened through Jewish settlement of occupied Palestinian land that God promised the Jews. Rather than working to eradicate these beliefs, the Israeli government instead has endorsed them through such vehicles as the Sebastia agreement, which encourages Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Israeli intelligence, so effective in hunting down every Palestinian boy who so much as throws a stone, remains inept at imposing limits on the actions of Jewish Israelis—from the fanning of anti-Arab sentiment and racist slogans by the Beitar football team, to attacks on Arab employees of Israeli restaurants, to settler “Price Tag” vandalism and assaults, with graffiti boasting “Price tag blood vengeance.” The official Israeli response to these and other outrages is one of indulgence, and actions to counteract them are minimal. But these groups are inspired by the undercurrent of hatred and dehumanization of Palestinians—a sentiment expressed by Israeli politicians, rabbis and the arbiters of public opinion. Israel’s consistent unwillingness to bring settlers to justice for their violent actions against Palestinians only encourages and incites further settler violence.
Impunity for Israeli Soldiers
In 1984, during what became known as the Bus 300 affair, Shin Bet officers first allowed Israeli Jews to beat up two Palestinians who had hijacked a bus, then executed the two men on the spot—after the hostages had been freed and the hijackers captured and handcuffed. The Shin Bet initially claimed that the hijackers had died when the hostages were being rescued. But these lies were exposed when photos were released showing the hijackers alive after their capture. Nevertheless, Shin Bet head Avraham Shalom and all the officers involved received a presidential pardon for unspecified crimes—before any charges were even brought against them.
In 2004, Iman al-Hams, a 13-year-old Gaza student, lay injured on the ground after having been shot by Israeli soldiers when she entered a “closed military zone” on her way to school. Captain “R,” a Givati Brigade soldier, approached her and shot her at point-blank range. (See Jan./Feb. 2005 Washington Report, p. 9.) According to transcripts of radio exchanges between the soldiers during the incident, Captain “R” said he did this “to confirm the kill.” In court he later claimed that he believed the young girl posed a serious threat and that he had opened fire, not directly aiming at Iman, as a deterrent. Haaretz later reported that Israel would award Captain “R” 80,000 NIS in compensation, after he was acquitted of a charge related to the shooting.
In 2005, Israeli soldier Eden Natan-Zada opened fire on Palestinian citizens of Israel at the border of Shafa Amre, killing 4 and wounding 21. When he paused to reload his rifle, those who survived the massacre overpowered and killed him. The state of Israel, however, chose to indict 12 of the town’s residents! Many were charged with attempted murder for “taking the law into their own hands.”
Last year, Arafat Jaradat, a young student from Hebron, died five days after being detained for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli forces during a protest. An autopsy revealed three broken ribs, severe contusions on his legs and forehead, and blood in his mouth and nose. A Turkish forensic specialist found the injuries consistent with torture. The Israeli medical examiner described the same wounds on Jaradat’s body but was unable to determine a cause of death. The Israeli Foreign Ministry released a statement claiming that Jaradat died of a heart ailment—even though none of the medical specialists, including the Israeli medical examiner, had noted any evidence of a heart condition!
Just a few months ago, on March 10, Israeli troops at Allenby Bridge killed unarmed Palestinian-Jordanian Judge Raed Zeiter, 38, who was on his way to the West Bank to collect rent money to pay for the treatment of his ill son. The Israelis alleged that he tried to snatch a weapon from a soldier, but eyewitnesses told a different story: When the judge lit a cigarette while waiting to be searched; a soldier pushed him, yelling that he couldn’t smoke; Judge Zeiter pushed back, shouting, “Don’t insult me!” The soldier then shot the judge, who was left bleeding for half an hour at the feet of a crowd of Palestinians who waited in line, paralyzed by fear. Judge Zeiter finally died of his wounds. Israeli officials claim surveillance cameras were not functioning on that particular day, and the investigation is now closed, leaving the Israeli officials’ version unchallenged.
Palestinians who kill or even attempt to kill Israelis invariably receive heavy sentences. By contrast, Israelis who kill Palestinians get away with their crimes or receive very minimal sentences, suspended sentences, or fines—if they are not given medals and awards! We have seen soldiers who film themselves while they abuse Palestinians. Many of my own patients who have been tortured under interrogation describe appalling events that took place within four closed walls. Who pays for that? Who is held accountable? Israel makes it impossible to document or track these cases, destroying the evidence and hiding the truth.
The Israeli army, Israeli institutions and individual Israelis violate Palestinians’ human rights with complete impunity. International laws have been created to provide an effective remedy to victims of human rights abuses, but Israeli laws are carefully designed and amended to make Jewish Israelis immune from them. For example, Law 5712 of 1952 was amended to make it impossible for a Palestinian who has sustained damages at the hands of a state agent in any area of the West Bank or Gaza Strip to claim compensation. While “national security” is invoked to drop all charges against Israeli Jews, “secret evidence” is used to prosecute and detain Palestinians through administrative detention without disclosing the charges against them, thus depriving them of the right to due process.
Julian Soufir did not consider himself a murderer because he believed Arabs were like cattle and he was just slaughtering one; Captain “R” felt threatened by an injured 13-year-old schoolgirl and shot her at point-blank range. Not only does the Israeli government and public opinion share these delusions, but the international community supports Israel’s paranoia by endorsing its “right to defend itself.”
After “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008-09 and “Operation Pillar of Defense” in 2012, in July Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge.” We have witnessed three wars in less than six years, all on the pretext of weakening resistance groups. The failure of the international community to set limits and hold Israel accountable for its actions and the inertia of the official Palestinian leadership in going to the International Court of Justice will only invite young people like the friends of Muhammed Abu Khdeir to overcome their fear and act on behalf of the victims of Israel’s insane policies. ❑
Samah Jabr is a Jerusalemite psychiatrist and psychotherapist who cares about the wellbeing of her community—beyond issues of mental health.
Another incident of nationalist crime in the village of Yasuf, but the media only paid attention to the unimportant part: the graffiti
Atallah Yassin Muhammad Gouda lives in the village of Yasuf, which has known quite a few attacks by Jewish felons; perhaps the most notorious being the torching of its mosque in 2009, which introduced the phenomenon of the price tag attacks into Israeli consciousness. Gouda lives in a neighborhood that is adjacent to the outpost Tapuach Maarav, and according to the testimonies of its residents, they suffer from frequent attacks by Israeli civilians. The residents attribute the burning of several vehicles, as well as stone attacks on the houses in the neighborhood to their Israeli neighbors.
At the beginning of August, Gouda was woken by noise, and when he hurried to see what happened, he saw the family car, which was in the courtyard, on fire. He alerted the rest of the household, and together, they managed to prevent the fire from spreading to the house, which was only two meters away from the vehicle. After dousing the flames, which had caused severe damage – estimated at several thousand NIS – to the car, they discovered a gasoline can and several rags soaked in gasoline there also. The police were called and arrived at the scene, collecting evidence and taking fingerprints. Given the record of the SJPD, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for an indictment.
The torching of the car caused the family significant damage: not only would they have to pay for fixing it, but as the only provider, the father, is a taxi driver, and as the car (bought 18 months ago) was his work vehicle, there would also be time in which they would have no income.
So, the attack by the unknown felons achieved three goals: significant damage to the car, and damaging the Gouda family income. The third goal is the wider goal of settler violence: spreading fear and despair among the Palestinian residents, in an attempt to convince them by violent methods to abandon their lands, so that Israeli civilians can take them over. A fourth, collateral, goal – the spreading of the fire to the house and its sleeping residents – was not achieved. We note this isn’t the first time that Israeli civilians are suspected of torching a vehicle in dangerous proximity to a house, as its residents are sleeping.
And, oh, yes: there was also some graffiti. When the bedlam ended, after the fire was extinguished, and the smoke and panic settled, the residents found that someone had sprayed the wall of the house with a “price tag” graffiti. Anyone following the issue through the Israeli press, might have mistakenly concluded that the graffiti is the main issue. Here is a Ynet newsflash (Hebrew): “A price tag slogan was sprayed on a house in the Palestinian village of Yasif (error in the original – Yesh Din). A Palestinian vehicle nearby was set ablaze.” And then you have Mako (Hebrew): “The residents of the Palestinian village of Yasuf in Shomron woke up this morning to a new-old troubling sight – slogans sprayed on the walls of a house and significant damage caused to a vehicle.”
Which is weird. Every journalist learns that you open your piece with the most important part, and go on to the less important. In any reasonable measure, the setting of a vehicle on fire – especially one which is close to a house – is significantly more serious than any graffiti daubed on a nearby wall. The slogan cannot kill anyone or destroy anything: a few brushes of paint, and it is gone. So why is the media obsessed with the graffiti?
Because to a certain extent, the media has swallowed the myth spread by the settlers: that their crimes are not severe, it’s merely spray paint. Nothing to write home about. When the Israeli media puts the slogans in the spotlight, it puts the fire in the background. But as we’ve already shown, the great majority of nationalist crimes in the West Bank do not include slogans – and when these are present, there is a clear correlation between them and cases of arson. That is, the slogans accompany arson, and not vice versa. And arson is the spreading of terror par excellence.
It’s time we remembered that.
RAMALLAH – A Palestinian prisoner has been moved to a hospital ward after undergoing torture at Israel’s Russian Compound detention center, a Palestinian Authority prisoners committee said Wednesday.
Muhammad Hussein Rabee, 33, from Beit Anan village near Ramallah, suffered health complications as a result of being tortured while being held at the Jerusalem detention center for 40 days, the committee said.
He was first moved to Hadassa hospital last week, and is now in the Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
Rabee was detained on July 27 and his family did not find out his whereabouts until 30 days later.
“We did not know where Muhammad was until after a month of his detention, and his lawyer was not allowed to visit him until after 35 days of being at the Russian compound,” his brother Usama told Ma’an.
Rabee’s lawyer said he had been “harshly tortured.”
Former prisoner Khaldun Jumhur, who was being held in the Russian Compound with Rabee, said that interrogators used a method of putting pressure on the victim’s neck, as well as beating him on his hands, legs and head.
A doctor at the detention center requested an x-ray for Rabee, but was refused by the Shin Bet agency.
The Prisoner Affairs Committee demanded human rights organizations to hold Israel accountable for torturing Palestinian prisoners.
Some 4,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails launched hunger-strike action in 2013 to protest the death of Arafat Jaradat, who died in Israel’s Megido jail after being tortured by Israeli interrogators.
Around 7,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, more than 2,000 of whom were arrested over summer alone.