zaterdag 9 juni 2007

Six Day War and present: Five comments on the situation

3 comments about the Six Day War, 1 about a new war with Syria, and 1 about binoculars (?)
Five comments on the situation

By Yoel Marcus

1. The power of stuttering. When the "waiting period" that preceded the 1967 Six- Day War was at its height, and hundreds of thousands of reserve soldiers and Israeli citizens were sitting around in a funk, it was decided that the prime minister, Levi Eshkol, should get on the radio and speak to the nation. The speech was written by Yisrael Galili, who had tiny, cramped handwriting. The two Israel Radio secretaries had already gone home, and there was no one to type the speech. On top of that, one of the bulbs over the microphone was burned out.

While reading the text, Eshkol, who was known for his hemming and hawing (his nickname was "half-tea, half-coffee"), stumbled over a word. Galili had crossed out the word nesiga ("withdrawal of troops") and written over it hasaga (a fancier word for the same thing). Confused, Eshkol turned to his bureau chief and asked in Yiddish over the open mike: "What's this 'hasaga'?" The whole country heard him mumbling and got even more depressed. That was the turning point that led to the convening of an emergency government and Moshe Dayan being appointed defense minister. Within a few days, Israel went to war and won its greatest victory of all time. Looking back, Eshkol's indecisiveness put the Egyptians to sleep and allowed Israel to win big time. Wouldn't it be nice if we had leaders like that today, who would not go to war on two hours' notice and end up losing miserably? Sometimes, stuttering is also power.

2. The most justified war. As Haaretz's correspondent in Paris, I was at the Israeli Embassy when half a million people rallied in the streets to show their solidarity with Israel. There was a sense that the Arabs were about to wipe out the Jewish state. On television, people saw Egyptian troops marching into Sinai; they heard Nasser's warmongering speeches. Ahmed Shukeiry, the secretary of the Arab League, declared that the Jews of Israel would be sent back to the countries they came from and native Israelis would be slaughtered. Among the celebrities who showed up at the embassy to express their solidarity, the one who most touched our hearts was pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who wept aloud and infected everyone with his morbid prediction that Holocaust II was on the way. What those now denouncing the 40th anniversary of the occupation do not understand is that the Six- Day War was the most justified war Israel ever fought - because it knocked out of the Arabs' heads the idea that Israel could be destroyed by force.

3. Altitude sickness. After its victory, Israel came down with altitude sickness. By the eighth day of the war, this country of 21,350 square kilometers had become a country of 89,000 square kilometers - the same size as Austria. While the citizens of Israel were cheering and the victory albums were leaping hot off the press, only David Ben-Gurion and Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz advised giving the territories back right away. And that was even before the word "occupation" had rolled off anyone's lips. Not only that, but the government, and that includes Menachem Begin, voted on June 19 to return the territories captured from Egypt and Syria in exchange for recognition of Israel.

The Arab response came in September, in the form of the Khartoum summit's three big nos: no recognition, no peace, no negotiations with Israel. Actually, the real pioneer of settlement in the territories was the Israeli left, supposedly on the pretext of security. Yisrael Galili of the Ahdut Ha'avoda faction declared that Israel would never part with Gaza. And so, little by little, the victory turned into an occupation studded with wars, to the point where the myth of Israel's deterrent power and ability to win has been shattered in the eyes of Islamic extremists and the world as a whole.

4. Drowning its sorrows. So who invented the story about a war this summer? The weather forecaster? And what about the story that Syria is planning an attack on Israel? Did we get a fax from Damascus? Or is the army just covering itself in case it really happens because it cannot claim once again that it didn't know? I wonder what goes on at those government meetings in Damascus. Are they quaking in their boots or laughing their heads off? Are they saying: If Israel says we're preparing to attack, maybe that means they're planning to attack? Is it any wonder that they are sharpening their sabers over there? And in the middle of all this, the papers are reporting secret talks between Israel and Syria. But maybe that is camouflage, too. Maybe there is some surprise attack in the offing, and the Syrians are honing their defenses? Actually, it sounds more as if the Winograd Committee's final report is drawing near and the government is drowning its sorrows.

5. Peretz's binoculars. This week, Amir Peretz was seen observing a military exercise without binoculars, while the generals standing next to him were all peering through theirs. The rumor about the army no longer handing out binoculars to guests was flatly denied. The truth is that Peretz is still observing military exercises, but now he uses contact lens binoculars that Rafael, the armament development authority, invented specially for him.

Tortured by the Palestinian police

Waar blijven de internationale veroordelingen en de verontwaardiging van Van Agt en Duisenberg over de mensenrechtenschendingen door de Palestijnse politie? Waarom zien we hier geen reportage over bij Een Vandaag?
Tortured by the Palestinian police
By Walid Batrawi
Life goes on for Wisam Hanna as the wounds on his body heal, but the painful memories remain.

Wisam and three of his relatives were interrogated by Palestinian police after a dispute with the mayor of their village. They were badly beaten.

"It was very violent in the prison in Ramallah, where there were five people. They held me down, they lay me on the table, took my trousers off and started hitting me on the back of my legs and the soles of my feet," Wisam said.

"Then they took my top off and made me stand in front of the window and started pulling my chest hairs out. Then they carried on slapping me and threw me onto the floor and started kicking me."

Lack of trust

Over the last few years, Palestinians have lost trust in their police force and the judiciary. Many of their complaints have never been answered.

Most violations of citizens' rights go unpunished, but Wisam and his relatives had the courage to file a complaint.

"[Wisam and his family] came to our offices in the late hours of that day. They exposed their bodies," Mamdouh Aker, civil rights commissioner-general, said.

"Immediately we contacted the person in charge of that security apparatus. He promptly came to the office and listened to them. His immediate reaction was to apologise to them.

"He suspended the officers who were involved and then they were totally dismissed from the [police] service."

Report findings

A recent report by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights shows that the number of violations against citizens has doubled in 2006.

The commission blames the rise in violations on the shortcomings of the different branches of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Torture in Palestinian police and security centres is an alarming phenomenon - the report documents 133 torture cases during 2006.

Sixty-eight incidents of torture have been reported during the first quarter of 2007 alone, suggesting an alarming rise on the previous year.

When Al Jazeera requested an interview with a police official over the torture allegations, we were told that the only person who can talk about the matter was out of the country.

Wisam's case may not change immediately change methods of interrogation in Palestinian police stations.

But human-rights organisations say the fact that action was taken in Wisam's case is a step in the right direction.

Source: Al Jazeera

Syrian 'hate' aimed not at Jews but at the Israeli government

Syria and its difficult relationship with the Jews
In the article below about the history of the Jewish community in Syria and the little that is left of it, it is unjustly suggested that Syria has nothing against Jews, and the hostility is only towards Israel. The distinction that some of the interviewed make between Jews and Israel is not typical for Syrian politics or media:
"Israel is one thing, and Jews are something else," Mahmoud Sharif, an English-speaking tour guide, told JTA in Aleppo. "We respect the Jewish religion and consider it one of God's religions, but we don't accept Israel."
For instance former minister of defence Mustapha Tlass wrote a book a few years ago in which the Jews are accused of using the blood of a priest for making matzes, the infamous Damascus blood libel of 1840. In Syrian media and also in Islamic prayer services such anti-Semitic accusations are frequent. It should not suprise that a guide showing an American journalist around in the old Jewish Quarter does not entertain such language, and claims to respect the Jewish religion. But even this remarc for Western ears is a far cry from acknowleging the Jews as a people with national rights.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, Syria's few Jews lived in fear, chafing under constant police surveillance and severe restrictions on business dealings, property ownership and overseas travel.
Those limits mostly ended in the mid-1990s, when then-President Hafez Assad - under heavy U.S. pressure - allowed more than 1,200 Jews to leave for new lives in the United States, Europe and, indirectly, Israel.

"There used to be a Jewish quarter in Damascus and maybe 20 synagogues," Kaplan said. "Today there's only one functioning synagogue, and they struggled to get a minyan the Shabbat morning I was there. We actually didn't make it. We got to eight."

JTA's attempts to interview Syrian Jews proved fruitless - no one seemed to know how to contact them. Jews here keep such a low profile that officials at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus won't comment on the subject.
Why did the Jews live in constant fear and did they need police protection? Because the Syrians all loved the Jews?? And why did they all want to leave when they were allowed to? Why is it impossible to talk to the few Jews remaining in Syria? Apparently they have something to fear. The Syrians seem less tolerant than the writer of the article wants to make us believe when he writes:
Despite Syria's official anti-Zionist policy -- and the state of war that has existed between Israel and Syria since 1948 -- a JTA reporter heard not a comment against Jews during his five-day visit to Aleppo last month.

Residents of Aleppo, asked for directions to the Harat al-Yahud, the former Jewish quarter, pointed the way without a hint of hostility. In fact, a sign in Arabic at the entrance to the abandoned Joab Ben Zeruiah synagogue warns against dumping trash "in front of this holy place of worship."

Wow, you are shown the way to the former Jewish Quarter without being called a 'Jewish dog'. That's a relief. Would they have pointed the way as friendly to a thriving Jewish Quarter?
Even in Germany in 1936 most people would probably have kindly shown you the way to a Jewish neighbourhood. It is a pity that the people this JTA journalist spoke with did not tread the Jews better when they were still in Syria.

Syrian 'hate' aimed not at Jews but at the Israeli government

ALEPPO, Syria (JTA) – From the roof of a nondescript, four-story apartment building in downtown Aleppo -- amid a jumble of water tanks, power lines and satellite dishes -- one can gaze down at the last remnant of one of the world's oldest Jewish communities.

Hebrew gravestones, partially obscured by weeds and garbage, occupy a plot of land adjacent to the historic Joab Ben Zeruiah Synagogue, whose stone archways and grand interior walls hint of a prosperous and lively Jewish past.

The shul, in continuous use for more than 1,600 years, sits deserted. The families living in nearby apartments have no clue that this ancient building once housed the most influential center of Torah learning in the Middle East.

This rooftop perch offers the only view of the synagogue's restored interior because its front door is always locked. A sign at the entrance provides a phone number in Damascus for tourists, but the man who answers says military police must arrange all visits.

Syria is home to probably no more than 50 Jews among a total population of 18.5 million. Nearly all live in Damascus, except for perhaps two or three Jews in Aleppo.

"The Jewish community is quite elderly at this point. Nobody bothers them," said Seth Kaplan, a New York-based researcher who visited Syria recently for three weeks. "In fact, many Syrians told me they miss the Jews on some level."

Despite Syria's official anti-Zionist policy -- and the state of war that has existed between Israel and Syria since 1948 -- a JTA reporter heard not a comment against Jews during his five-day visit to Aleppo last month.

Residents of Aleppo, asked for directions to the Harat al-Yahud, the former Jewish quarter, pointed the way without a hint of hostility. In fact, a sign in Arabic at the entrance to the abandoned Joab Ben Zeruiah synagogue warns against dumping trash "in front of this holy place of worship."

But the attitude changes on Israel.

"Israel is one thing, and Jews are something else," Mahmoud Sharif, an English-speaking tour guide, told JTA in Aleppo. "We respect the Jewish religion and consider it one of God's religions, but we don't accept Israel."

Aleppo, an ancient metropolis of 1.5 million, is Syria's second-largest city and is renowned for its walled Citadel, which stands on a hilltop in the middle of town. From a Jewish point of view it's also famous for the Aleppo Codex – the earliest known manuscript containing the entire text of the Bible.

The Jewish presence in this city dates back some 2,500 years, to the time of King David. It peaked in the late 19th century, with Aleppo's 10,000 Jews representing 20 percent of the Jewish population in Syria, but started to decline before World War I as young Jewish men fled to avoid serving in the Ottoman army. Thousands of Syrian Jews ended up in Mexico City, Buenos Aires and New York City.

Massive emigration continued after the war, and intensified in 1947 as Syria, having gained independence from France a year earlier, encouraged pogroms against Jewish-owned shops and synagogues. Rioters in Aleppo that year burned the city's Jewish quarter and killed 75 people.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, Syria's few Jews lived in fear, chafing under constant police surveillance and severe restrictions on business dealings, property ownership and overseas travel.

Those limits mostly ended in the mid-1990s, when then-President Hafez Assad – under heavy U.S. pressure – allowed more than 1,200 Jews to leave for new lives in the United States, Europe and, indirectly, Israel.

"There used to be a Jewish quarter in Damascus and maybe 20 synagogues," Kaplan said. "Today there's only one functioning synagogue, and they struggled to get a minyan the Shabbat morning I was there. We actually didn't make it. We got to eight."

JTA's attempts to interview Syrian Jews proved fruitless – no one seemed to know how to contact them. Jews here keep such a low profile that officials at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus won't comment on the subject.

A Syrian-born rabbi who left in 1960 and now leads a prominent congregation in New Jersey said the community is nearly nonexistent. The rabbi returned in 1977.

"It was a memorable trip," the rabbi said, "but it's not a free country so we had to be careful."

Waddah Tabshow, owner of the Jafra House Oriental Souvenir Shop in the Souq al-Madinah marketplace here, told JTA he knew a number of Jews growing up, though he had lost contact with them over the years.

"Jewish people here had friendships with many people, but the families we know left in the early '90s because they got permission from the Syrian government to leave," he said.

Sharif suggested that the Jews left "because Syria wasn't a good country to live in, and because there were more opportunities in other countries."

As to Israel, the 31-year-old college graduate said the problem is not with its people but its government.

"Israel uses heavy weapons against children," said Sharif, who did his army service on Syria's border with the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the Six-Day War of 1967. "They've forced Palestinians from their land. The Palestinians have a miserable life, and many [refugee] families in Syria still think of their villages. If you ask them about Palestine, they will cry."

Assad has signaled that he wants to hold peace talks with Israel, but at the same time Syria has been engaged in an unprecedented upgrading of weapons' systems and large-scale troop maneuvers. Also, the Syrians are said to be transferring long-range rockets to Hezbollah with the ability to strike targets in central Israel.

Talking about politics – even when criticizing Israel – is risky in Syria, where police seem to be nearly as numerous as the ubiquitous posters of President Bashar Assad and his late father.

For example, a 20-foot-high statue of Hafez Assad towers over the main highway from Damascus to Aleppo, while an enormous billboard of Bashar Assad guards the entrance to the al-Hamadiyya market in Damascus, with the Arabic text "God Protects Syria."

At the Omar Khawatmi Elementary School in a poor neighborhood here, more than 1,000 boys and girls in blue uniforms assemble on the outdoor basketball court every morning to sing patriotic songs and shout slogans in Arabic.

Asked what they are shouting, the headmaster carefully replies: "They are praising our president."

Even so, things apparently have lightened up a bit since the younger Assad took over in 2000 upon the death of his father.

"We feel we can talk more freely now and criticize things that are wrong," Sharif said. "For example, three days ago on a television program called 'Let's Talk,' people were speaking frankly about Parliament, saying that politicians are only for themselves and that we want them to do something for the people. I never heard such words on TV before."

One thing Syrians talk quite a lot about is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The ongoing violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip dominates TV shows, coffee-shop conversation and headlines in the newspapers – all of which are state-controlled, including the English-language Syria Times.

"People here don't like Israel," Sharif said. "They think about this situation every day. It's our daily problem. They think Israel won't last forever."

Asked what it would take to change people's attitudes, Sharif thought for a moment.

"If Israel gave us back the Golan, it would be a good sign they really want peace," he suggested. "[But] whether the government makes peace with Israel or not, the people will not agree. And if they agree, it's because they'll be forced to agree. They hate Israel."

In the meantime, Aleppo shopkeeper Salaheddin Abbas has his own take on the situation.

"It's obvious that America and Russia are making trouble in the region, so that Russia can sell weapons to Syria and Iran, and the U.S. can sell weapons to Israel and Saudi Arabia," said Abbas, 36, who sells antique brassware and carpets. "I believe poor people in Israel want peace, not rich people. It's all about business."


vrijdag 8 juni 2007

Poor Samson: The IDF between 1967 and 2007

Poor Samson: The IDF between 1967 and 2007

  Uri Bar-Joseph

Approximately six months before the Six-Day War, the IDF rejected an American proposal to assist Israel in finding technological solutions to the intensifying infiltration of Palestinian guerillas into Israel. Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin and his generals expressed the view that the right answer to the problem was increasing military pressure on Syria, rather than electronic fences that would turn Israel into another ghetto and consume the scarce manpower and financial resources that were needed to reinforce the army. Forty years later, the IDF--by far the strongest army between Morocco and the Indian subcontinent--failed to defeat a few thousand Hizballah fighters who kept launching Katyusha rockets until the very last moment of the Second Lebanon War.

The gap between the aggressive, lean military machine of the 1960s and the far bigger, bureaucratic and less effective army of the early twenty first century was, to a large extent, the result of the 1967 war. Before the war, the IDF had to defend a vulnerable state, most of whose territory was within the range of Arab artillery. The territorial outcomes of the war turned Damascus, Amman, and Cairo into prey for the Israel Air Force, and the Suez Canal and its industrial area into an easy target for Israeli artillery. Most importantly, the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip made the IDF responsible for administering the lives of nearly a million Palestinian civilians.

In the first decade after the war, when Israel's main challenge was still conventional Arab forces, the IDF succeeded in maintaining its professional quality. This was proven in 1973, when the IDF came back from a near defeat in the first days of the war to a situation where only a UN resolution saved the Egyptian army from complete destruction. But the Yom Kippur War was Israel's last conventional conflict. The peace treaty with Egypt rendered the Arab conventional military option more remote than ever. And even though, in the short run, the traditional threat was replaced by that of the eastern front coalition headed by Iraq, Saddam Hussein's 1980 attack on Iran almost completely nullified that, too. The collapse of the USSR, Syria's strategic ally in the late 1980s, and the 1991 Gulf war that destroyed much of the Iraqi army completed this process. The end of the Cold War left the IDF with no real enemies.

In parallel to the decline of the conventional threat, the non-conventional challenge of Arab guerilla and terrorism began to rise. The Israeli war initiative against the PLO in 1982 was the first Arab-Israel war in which the IDF fought a relatively low intensity conflict against a far weaker opponent. As a number of studies show, the IDF's performance-level in this war was quite low in comparison with past conventional conflicts. The outcome of the war was frustrating as well. Although most of the Palestinian force was destroyed and the PLO was expelled from Lebanon, the IDF suffered many casualties. And when it withdrew from the territory it had occupied three years earlier, it left behind a new type of enemy: Hizballah.

The outbreak of the first intifada in late 1987 intensified the process of decline in the quality of the Israeli army. If until then policing the occupied territories was only the IDF's secondary mission, it now became its primary one. This type of activity can erode the quality of any army and the IDF was no exception. The brilliant military historian Martin van Creveld warned in the aftermath of the intifada: "The troops now look upon mostly empty-handed Palestinian men, women, and children as if they were in fact a serious military threat. Among the commanders, the great majority can barely remember when they trained for and engaged in anything more dangerous than police-type operations; in the entire IDF there is now hardly an officer left who has commanded so much as a brigade in real war."

This analysis fully materialized in the years that followed. The unilateral withdrawal in 2000 from Israel's self-proclaimed security zone in southern Lebanon ended the low intensity conflict with Hizballah that had proven to be an effective rival, leaving Palestinian terrorism of the second intifada as the IDF's sole military activity. Since September 2000, thousands of soldiers have spent their entire military service at roadblocks, patrolling refugee camps or guarding settlements, far away from their tanks, artillery pieces and APCs, thus becoming a professionally degenerate military force. The final outcome was vividly exposed in the Second Lebanon War. In this sense, the seeds of the IDF's failure to decisively defeat Hizballah were planted in the refugee camps of Jenin and Balata and in numerous roadblocks along dirt roads in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The performance of IDF ground forces in the Second Lebanon War triggered a considerable effort to upgrade their professional quality. At the same time, however, the continuation of the occupation is likely to undermine this effort. Thus, the irony of history is that one of the long-term results of the Six-Day War is the constant deterioration in the quality of the proud and professional army that in 1967 achieved one of the most brilliant victories in history.- Published 7/6/2007 ©

Dr. Uri Bar-Joseph is a senior lecturer in the Division of International Relations at the School of Political Science, University of Haifa. His most recent book is The Watchman Fell Asleep: The Surprise of Yom Kippur and Its Sources (SUNY Press, 2005).

The goading of Israel (Arnold Wesker)

The goading of Israel

Arnold Wesker

February 8, 2007 4:00 PM

I was approached to be part of the new group, Independent Jewish Voices, and declined. I couldn't quite see how one could be independent being part of a group, especially as there is a third group, unattached, unclubable, who prefer to feel free to both criticise Israel when the time is right, and to express outrage that since the creation by the UN (Resolution 181) of the state of Israel, the Israelis have been ceaselessly goaded in one form or another.

In the mid-sixties, nearly 40 years ago, I was one of the guests of honour at a fund-raising event for The Jewish Quarterly magazine. The Israeli ambassador was another guest of honour. In my speech arguing the need for support for the arts I made the passing observation that there would never be peace in the Middle East until the Palestinians had their own state.

The air was tense with hostility from my Jewish brethren, applause for my speech was thin. I fear it may have affected the amounts donated. The point I'm making is that I did not need an IJV to speak for me 40 years ago any more than I need a Jewish Board of Deputies to speak for me now.

The Israelis may not have turned out to be the wise Jews many of us hoped for, but I don't believe that they have been allowed to create the climate in which wisdom flourishes. Had the poor, constantly occupied Palestinians, like the desperate, war-ravaged Jews, accepted partition in 1947, then a combination of the Israeli and Palestinian states alongside one another might have by now transformed the Middle East; they might today together have been the leaders in the area.

I shall never cease to wonder how a generous people - the Palestinians - could not have found it within themselves to concede a small tract of desert to a people who had such vivid historical roots in the land, who had bought most of what they claimed anyway, and who had worked its deserts into fertile stretches.

Somewhere an Arab voice is whispering: "Keep goading the Israelis, they'll react in a way that will anger the world who don't much like Jews anyway, keep goading, even Jewish intellectuals will have sympathy for us, it works! Keep goading, keep goading!"

Click here for a full list of articles in the Independent Jewish Voices debate.

donderdag 7 juni 2007

The Real Palestinian Catastrophe (Philadelphia Daily News)

This item is available on the Middle East Forum website, at

The Real Palestinian 'Catastrophe'

by Cameron S. Brown and Asaf Romirowsky
Philadelphia Daily News
May 29, 2007

On May 15, the Palestinians commemorated the 59th anniversary of al-Naqba ("the Catastrophe"), a day of "mourning" the establishment of the modern state of Israel on May 15, 1948.

In a sense, al-Naqba is the quintessential event that separates the Palestinians' historical experience from that of other Arab Muslim groups and forges their unique national identity.

It is worth noting that the Palestinians use the same day Israel declared its independence to mark their national day. As is the case with so much of Palestinian society and culture, it is the actions of their Jewish neighbors - not anything of their own doing - that's the constant focus of their attention.

Which brings us to the question: What exactly is the real "catastrophe"? Given that this year's al-Naqba commemoration has been overshadowed by the anarchy and infighting in Gaza, many Palestinians say that the real Naqba is the lack of unity in their society. Indeed, this internal factionalism is often cited by Palestinians as one of the key reasons they lost in the first place during the 1948 war opposing the formation of Israel.

Perhaps. But it looking at a different aspect of this year's Naqba events might give us a better hint of what the real Palestinian problem is.

In the early morning of May 15, Hamas used mortars, missiles and machine guns to attack a Presidential Guard contingent belonging to Fatah that was stationed near the Karni border crossing with Israel. Hamas then hit a jeep carrying Fatah reinforcements, and ensured their targets were dead by shooting them in the head at close range.

When the shooting was over, 10 Fatah members were dead, with a similar number wounded.

Suddenly aware that their unprovoked massacre may have gone too far, Hamas claimed it was Israel who had actually killed the Fatah people and threatened any journalist who dared report otherwise.

Then, in a truly perverse twist, Hamas launched more than 20 rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot "to take revenge" for the massacre they themselves had committed.

Given the overwhelming evidence and eyewitness accounts of those who were there, it was clear to most Palestinians that Hamas had committed the massacre. Still, when trying to explain the cause of the current infighting, several Palestinians, including Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, insisted that Israel was somehow to blame.

This is the real Palestinian Naqba, the disaster at the root of Palestinian suffering since even before 1948.

Instead of taking responsibility for their role in shaping their destiny, on virtually every occasion, the Palestinians have twisted their worldview to put the blame solely on Israel.

There is no self-awareness, not to mention self-criticism. No sense of accountability.

Since the Six-Day War of 1967, this tendency has only become worse. All too often, Palestinians claim that living under Israeli occupation has "driven" them to terrorism, as if they had no choice but to walk into a café and blow up people sitting there.

Such an approach not only ignores the pre-1967 (and indeed pre-1948) Palestinian terrorism. (It also fails to recognize that history has numerous examples of non-violent movements that were much more effective at achieving their aims.)

But the most unfortunate part of the Palestinians' fate is that they have had so many supporters around the world (including significant segments of the Israeli public) that they were by no means destined for the poverty and misery they find themselves in today. They certainly weren't destined to remain stateless almost 60 years after the United Nations passed the partition plan.

The lesson is that only when Palestinians, leadership and public alike, start to consider how their own actions have been the primary cause for the sorry state they're in will there be a chance for it to improve.

And once that true soul-searching finally takes place, and they begin to take responsibility for their collective destiny, the Palestinian people will be able to help themselves far more than all the other nations of the world have ever been able to.

Cameron S. Brown is deputy director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel. Asaf Romirowsky is a Campus Watch Associate Fellow for the Middle East Forum and the Manager of Israel & Middle East Affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

This item is available on the Middle East Forum website, at

dinsdag 5 juni 2007

Aid to PA nearly tripled in 2006 despite international boycott

Last update - 11:53 16/05/2007  

Aid to PA nearly tripled in '06, despite international boycott

By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent

Donations to the Palestinian Authority almost tripled last year as a result of the international boycott of the Hamas government, according to a report published this month by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Aid in 2006 totaled $900 million, up from $349 million a year earlier.

The boycott meant that most countries refused to channel money directly to the PA, and Israel refused to transfer the tax revenues it collects on the PA's behalf.

However, Arab and Western nations continued and even increased their donations, channeling them through either a "Hamas bypass" mechanism known as the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM), or the office of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. This money, which compensated entirely for the halt in Israeli tax transfers, partially financed the salaries of PA employees and was used to make welfare payments to the needy.

Normally, Israeli tax transfers cover about two-thirds of the Palestinian Authority's budget. Had economic activity in 2006 continued at the same level as the year before, they would have reached an estimated $800 million last year. But in fact, the PA's gross domestic product fell by 8 to 10 percent in 2006.

According to the report, the biggest contributor to the PA last year was the Arab League, which gave $448 million.

The European Union gave $219 million and the World Bank gave $42 million. In addition, the government obtained an estimated $180 million by smuggling in cash from abroad.

The report noted that, in part because less money was funneled directly to the PA, the trend toward greater financial transparency was reversed in 2006, even though the PA's donors have pushed for transparency for years.

For instance, instead of monthly reports on the utilization of the PA's budget, reports were published only semiannually, violating the PA's budget law.

Abbas' office issued no comprehensive data on its expenditures or receipts of money from abroad, while the Palestinian Investment Fund did not fully report its dealings with either the banks or Abbas' office.

Overall, TIM meant that the PA Finance Ministry had no control over income and expenditures and could not draft a budget for 2006, while its 2007 budget proposal lacked relevant data such as income and expenses for 2006 or the number of public-sector employees. It also caused other government offices to lag in payments to suppliers and resulted in the government's total expenditure falling 31 percent in 2006 to $1.37 billion. Its payments for salaries in particular dropped from $1 billion in 2005 to $655 million.

TIM also resulted in bureaucratic duplication and financial uncertainty for the recipients, the report said. For example, many employees did not receive their salaries regularly.

The document was written by Dr. Karim Nashashibi, who until two months ago was the International Monetary Fund's representative for the West Bank and Gaza.

Lebanon 1982: "What I saw at the Islamic revolution" (Hezbollah)

Baltimore Sun
What I saw at the Islamic revolution
By Hussain Abdul-Hussain,0,910940.story?coll=bal-oped-headlines

May 20, 2007

"Enough soccer; we should go occupy the army barracks," said Ali, whose dad, a religious scholar, had sent him to get us. I was 8 and didn't want to stop playing, but we reluctantly followed Ali to the top of the Sheik Abdullah hill, the site of the biggest Lebanese army barracks in the country. There we saw hundreds of women, all in black cloaks, shouting, "Death to Amin Gemayel" - the former Lebanese president - "Death to America," and "Death to Israel."

It was the summer of 1982, and I had no idea that I was about to take part in the birth of a movement that would shake the Middle East and the world.

For a young boy spending the summer at his mother's village in Baalbek, in eastern Lebanon, the scene was disorienting. I had no clue who Amin Gemayel was, or the point of the protest. Coming from Baghdad, I was used to schoolteachers taking us to the streets to shout slogans praising Saddam Hussein. But Lebanon was different.

Ali's dad told us to go stand behind "the sisters" and shout "Death to America," which we did. After some time, the barracks' guards gave up and opened the gates. As soldiers left, bearded men with khaki outfits in Toyota Jeeps and on motorcycles sped into the compound and occupied the emptied barracks.

This was the first takeover of a state building by a new group I had just heard of: Hezbollah. The non-Arab-speaking, bearded men in khaki uniforms were their trainers and mentors, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

This story of how Hezbollah came to be is quite different from the account given by most scholars and observers.

It was the end of the summer, and we were due to fly back home. But my dad was required to join the Iraqi army, and in order to avoid conscription my family decided to stay in Baalbek, where we lived for the next five years.

In 1982, seven years after the start of the civil war, the Lebanese government was too weak and fragmented to stand in Hezbollah's way. After taking over the barracks, Hezbollah occupied the House of Public Teachers, another state-owned building, and turned it into the Imam Khomeini Hospital. Around that time, Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards had occupied a 19th-century building, the Khawwam Hotel, and turned it into their headquarters. Most walls around the city were painted with murals of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini along with quotes from him promising the destruction of Israel and the end of America, or urging martyrdom.

The owner of the only liquor store in town was shot dead and his business closed. Women wearing outfits deemed un-Islamic risked young militants throwing acidic material on the uncovered parts of their bodies . Celebrations with loud music were usually greeted with the explosion of a frightening "sonic bomb."

Meanwhile, loyalists were rewarded. Word had it that women wearing black chadors and men growing their beards received $300 and $100 a month respectively. The unemployed were given jobs at the newly founded hospitals, schools, militia and radio station.

This was an Islamic republic in formation. Hezbollah's slogan at the time was "the Islamic Revolution in Lebanon." But the Syrian regime was in control of most of Lebanon, including Baalbek, and was unwilling to see an Iranian seed sprout in its backyard. Syria therefore inspired its loyalist Shiite group, Amal, to wage battles against Hezbollah, and these continued until the conclusion of the Lebanese civil war in 1990, when Iran and Syria reached a deal over the role of the party. According to the deal, Hezbollah would be allowed to maintain its arms, but its role would be limited to "resistance."

Hezbollah became a joint Iranian-Syrian venture and turned its slogan into "the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon." Hezbollah was also integrated into the Lebanese political fabric. Later, it would win a parliamentary bloc and gain a say in all of the nation's affairs.

Its history was rewritten. Today, most academics have it that Hezbollah was founded in Beirut in 1985 as a resistance movement against Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. The truth is that Hezbollah was founded in Baalbek in 1982 as the nucleus of a hoped-for Islamic republic in Lebanon.

Hezbollah is often depicted as having stayed away from the Lebanese civil war, which is also a fallacy. The truth is that Hezbollah clashed with Amal, the Lebanese Communist Party and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party during the war.

The history of Hezbollah and its intentions for Lebanon should be reexamined. The Lebanese media reported that Hezbollah had taken all compensation money that the government had paid to the people whose houses were destroyed during last summer's war with Israel. The party plans collective reconstruction for the southern suburb that has become its territory since the mid-1980s and will be replacing the destroyed units with new ones - a role that should be reserved for the Lebanese state.

With its own militia, foreign alliances and reconstruction plans, Hezbollah today maintains its own state at the expense of the Lebanese state and its elected government.

When I last visited Baalbek, this winter, I saw Ali. He had broken with the party long ago. He complained that Hezbollah now has banks, schools, hospitals, radio, TV, grocery stores and housing plans. Ali, who owns a grocery, told me that if you were not with them, they would keep you out of their network, and you could barely make enough to survive. I asked him whether he would join a Hezbollah protest today like we did 25 years ago.

"I will join a protest to make them leave us alone," he replied. "We have been pious Shiites since the days of our ancestors, and we do not need the Persians or their money to teach us how to keep our faith."

Hussain Abdul-Hussain, a media analyst, is a former reporter for The Daily Star of Lebanon. His e-mail is hahussain @

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