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Crime and Punishment Part Five – Life in Gaza

Life in Gaza through the eyes of Vice News, the final part of a 5 part series.

Crime and Punishment Part Four – Life in Gaza

Part 4 of the series by Vice.com showing the life in Gaza under Hamas rule.

Crime and Punishment Part Three – Life in Gaza

Part 3 of the five part series about life in Gaza under Hamas rule – by Vice News

Who’s Responsible for the One Country for Two Nations Campaign in the PA?

Billboards of Palestinian and Israeli flags were raised recently in the Palestinian authority with the slogan: “One country for 5 million Arabs and 6 million Jews”. The Palestinians are speculating it to be a Fatah spin targeted to put pressure on Israel. Or are the Israelis themselves are responsible?

During the political deadlock between Israel and the Palestinian authority, a campaign calling to forsake the idea of two countries and suggests the groundbreaking notion of one federation, has recently appeared in the Palestinian authority. Behind it stands a mysterious group that refers to itself as “el-tachmul” – integration. The group’s campaign is echoed all over the Palestinian authority through billboards displaying the slogan: “One democratic country for 5 million Arabs and 6 million Jews”.

The vague campaign has generated rumors in the Palestinian Authority as to the people responsible; From the Fatah trying to do a political spin that will pressure Israel, to Israel itself that is rumored to plan to append most of the west bank and to civilianize the Palestinians that live there.

“It is unclear who is responsible for the campaign and there is no specific group that declared it as its own, it is believed that the people standing behind it are Palestinians academics and intellectuals” said Sammar Machluf, CEO of the “One Voice” organization, which supports the two separate countries solution.

Machluf also said that the Palestinian public is most curious regarding the existence of Israeli cooperation with the group behind the campaign. The mentioned billboards, however, have quickly been removed by Palestinian activists that oppose the Israeli flag being posted on the billboards and mere idea that stands behind it.

If said cooperation exists between the mysterious “el-tachmul” group and a similar organization in Israel, the same billboards are soon to be displayed within the state of Israel. One must wonder whether the Israeli publics accept the slogan “One democratic country for 5 million Arabs and 6 million Jews”.

Crime and Punishment Part 2 – Life in Gaza

Part two from Vice.com:

Crime and Punishment Part One – Life in Gaza

This is Vice.com’s version of life in Gaza under Hamas rule…

Palestinian elections move forward, but will this change anything?

A voter registration office was opened in the Gaza Strip by the political rivals Hamas and Fatah last week, bringing the region one step forward toward presidential and parliamentary elections. These are set to happen later this spring, and we could see once more the two rivals pit against each other in a democratic process. But as this step is taken, and Palestine moves toward yet another election, will this really change much of anything in the region? Will peace prevail? It’s hard to see that as a likely outcome with everything that goes on behind the scenes.

We all recall how the last elections went. In 2006, Hamas won the elections, and it took a year until they managed to get control over Gaza, which they had to wrestle by force. Meanwhile, nearly the whole world considers them as a terrorist group, because of a multitude of attacks on civilians, which they say were provoked by Israel military forces.

Meanwhile, Israel isn’t sitting by, and is arresting any member of Hamas it can find, accusing them of being terrorists, some of which were actually planning to be delegates in the coming election. Tensions aren’t any lower than they’ve been in decades, and while a few people actively work toward peace, there’s a lot of anger in the air. Regardless who wins this election, once again it won’t be done without violence, that much is certain. History is very plain, and tends to repeat itself, especially when it comes to this region of the world.

On the one hand, if Hamas wins, then the situation will be the same as in 2006, with few countries recognizing them as a legitimate organization, and few people willing to let them take power without violence. On the other hand, if Fatah wins, it will be hailed by the world as a victory for peace, which will anger Hamas and they are unlikely to sit still, prompting once again more violence. The situation has been going on for decades, and there seems to be no solution in sight.

Imposing peace has never worked without a strong military presence behind, and everyone is careful not to appear biased or to provoke the anger of the world powers. As a result, the same things keep happening, with Israel trying to bring some order to what they consider their lands, prompting retaliation strikes on civilian populations, which in turn brings more violence. It’s a circle that won’t be broken by yet another round of elections.

Overall, it’s still nice to see a peace process go forward, and this action of a new voting booth should be applauded. But in reality, it’s unlikely to change much at all.

I ran for my life, a Syrias Situation and PA sings the blues


Journalist and talk radio host Aaron Klein wrote a piece for Arutz Sheva in which he posits rumors that Israel is about to attack Iran, not exactly correct. Klein wrote:

“The visible Israeli military preparations, including this week’s missile tests, most likely are related to the strong possibility of a U.S.-NATO-led campaign against Israel’s Syrian neighbor to the north. The regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad – a key partner to Iran – has been accused of major human rights violations, including crimes against humanity…”

Meanwhile, United Press International reported:
“Speculation a recent air force exercise and rocket propulsion system test are linked to a debate on a strike against Iran is “nonsense,” an official said.

Israel Radio quoted an anonymous Israeli defense official as saying Thursday it is “absolute nonsense” to presume a recent air force exercise with the Italian air force and the testing of a rocket propulsion system are linked to reports Israel is preparing for a possible airstrike on Iran’s nuclear sites.

The official’s remarks come amid intensive public debate over reports Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are pushing for a strike. The army’s Home Front command conducted a drill Thursday simulating missile attacks in the center of the country. Sirens also were tested.

In other news, the Associated Press reports that Israel is threatening to suspend the transfer of tax payments to the Palestinian Authority totaling some $100 million in a protest of the PA’s recent admission to the United Nations’ cultural agency…

Saeb Erekat was quoted saying, “I think it would be easier for Mr. Ban Ki-moon to ask the Congress to change their laws…I don’t think Palestine’s admittance to any of these agencies will bring harm.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said: “We want to make sure that we will succeed there, and the moment we will succeed there, our membership in the remaining U.N. organizations becomes an automatic one…”

Palestinian Authority Telephone Network Hacked

According to reports from the Palestinian military, the main phone network in the West Bank and Gaza has suffered a sustained attack by computer hackers…

As a result, most of the Palestinian territory has lost internet service.

The PA claims that the crash has been caused by computer hackers sabotaging the Paltel telephone network.


In other news, Israeli troops rearrested Hassan Yusef, a senior Hamas official this week along with his son. Yusef was released from jail in August after serving a six-year term for “membership of a terrorist organization,” however he was rearrested in early September before being released a week later.

“The occupation raided Hassan Yusef’s house in Ramallah and arrested him with his son Owais…”

Hamas condemns the move and warns that there will be “consequences.” “We strongly condemn this arrest campaign against leaders of the movement, particularly Sheikh Hassan Yusef,” Hamas official Ismail Abu Radwan told Associated Press.

Yusef was freed on August 4 as part of a mass release of Israeli and Palestinian prisoners due to overcrowding. He had just six weeks left in his sentence.

Last March, Yusef disowned yet another son after he had admitted to spying on Hamas for Israel and playing a major role in the arrest of senior militants.

Mosab Hassan Yusef – 32 –was a top informer for Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency and was known by the codename “The Green Prince.” And he authored the bestselling book, Son of Hamas.

Reportedly, Yusef worked for the Shin Bet at the height of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which began in 2000, when Hamas carried out dozens of suicide bombings and Israel waged a war on the group.

The senior Yusef was elected to the Palestinian parliament in 2006, while still in Israeli custody.

Mazal Tov to the Palestinian Authority!


On Monday, they became a full member of the U.N. cultural and educational agency. As a result, U.S. lawmakers have threatened to withhold roughly $80 million in annual funding to UNESCO if it approved Palestinian membership. Currently, the United States provides some 22 percent of UNESCO’s funding.

Huge cheers went up in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after delegates approved the membership in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions. Eighty-one votes would have been required for approval in a hall with 173 UNESCO member delegations present.

The United States, Canada and Germany voted against Palestinian membership while, Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa and France voted in favor. Britain abstained.

Meanwhile, the NGO, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions has presented the United Nations with a case that Israel targeted Palestinians by demolishing homes, revoking residency and spoiling the quality of life. Israel made no comment.

Since Saturday, Israel has been under a constant salvo of grad missiles. With upwards of ten Israeli civilians killed and dozens wounded.

As a result of Israel’s response, 12 Palestinians have been killed, all of them members of the terrorist organization, Al Ahrar and Islamic Jihad and among them one of the group’s chief bomb makers. Islamic Jihad has vowed revenge saying ‘Our response shall be in the depths of the Zionist entity.’

Palestinian Bid Under Nigerian Foot, Grapel to be Freed by Panetta and more!

Last Sunday, Israel guided by Bibi welcomed parts of an international plan for resuming the long-dormant peace talks with the Palestinians; however, much warranted caveats were issued.

Mediators from the Mideast Quartet – an organization made of the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia – put forth its plan late last month after the Palestinians bypassed negotiations and asked the United Nations to recognize a state of Palestine in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The Palestinians said they will not be resuming talks until Israel halts all settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. However with renewed building in towns to the east of the widely disputed “green line” and aUN statehood by Abbas that bombed, this will likely not be the case.

Meanwhile, Nigeria refuses to say how it will vote when the United Nations Security Council decides on the Palestinians’ bidfor UN membership.

Ynet reported:

“Nigeria appears to be a crucial vote as Palestinians try to secure support from at least nine of the 15 council members. The US has said it will veto the request. However, the US could avoid that if Palestinians fail to get those nine votes.”

The oil-rich Nigeria is under the strong influence of the United States, which is one of the country’s top buyers of crude oil pumped from its southern delta.

In other news, last Saturday Egypt said it was considering releasing Ilan Grapel, an American Israeli who has been incarcerated in Egypt since June 12.

Grapel was falsely charged by local authorities with spying for Mossad.
Cairo authorities are reportedly considering releasing the 27-year-old in exchange for “greater US political and financial support.”

So who will deliver Grapel back to the Promised Land?

It will be United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who is scheduled to arrive in Egypt and will “take Grapel back with him at the end of the visit.”

The same source that disclosed this information added that “what Grapel did during the revolution did not amount to spying and by this logic he can be released in exchange for financial benefits.”

Ynet reports:

“Grapel immigrated to Israel from the US and served as a lone soldier in the Paratroopers’ 101 Battalion. He enlisted in the IDF in March 2005 and was injured during the Second Lebanon War. He had been traveling in Egypt during the popular revolution and was reportedly intrigued by the ongoings. Arab media reports suggested he tried to spark a civil war between Egypt’s Muslims and Coptic Christians.”

al-Zahar vs. Mashaal: a rocky road for Hamas

The recent conflict between Mahmoud al-Zahar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Gaza, and Damascus-based Hamas political bureau leader Khaled Mashaal demonstrates the animosity within the Hamas leadership in Gaza and Syria.

Al-Zahar demands that Hamas-Gaza be given a more authoritative role in decision-making, while the Hamas leadership abroad contends that the axis of power is better kept outside of Palestine-proper.

Since Israeli’s tragic 2005 Gaza disengagement, Hamas’ victory in the Israel-granted parliamentary elections of 2006, and Hamas’ military takeover of the region in June 2007, the Hamas government has secured notable political and economic power, as evidenced by foreign relations and has imposed taxes on imports from Israel and Egypt. The result is a deteriorated dependence of Hamas-Gaza on the Hamas leadership abroad.

Also, the consolidation of the Hamas regime in Gaza, where the central military forces of the al-Qassam Brigades are stationed, gradually has shifted the balance of power inside Hamas. Al-Zahar challenged Mashaal’s authority to lead the movement, arguing that the center of power should be moved from abroad to “inside” Palestine. After the creation of the

Palestinian Authority in1994, Fatah underwent a similar process.
The current main interest of Mashaal is to promote reconciliation with Fatah in order to pave the way for Hamas to join the PLO and take over the organization, however, such issues such as Hamas’ not backing the Abbas-led bid for statehood at the UN are prolonging the rift between the geopolitical Palestinian factions.

On May 17th, al-Zahar was asked by the Palestinian daily al-Quds for his reaction to Mashaal’s statement:

“The position of the [Hamas] movement regarding the negotiations and the resistance has not changed. We’re in favor of the way of resistance, and the way of negotiations was and still contradicts the position of the majority of the Palestinian people, who voted for Hamas in the 2006 general elections. Today, there is someone saying that we’re giving Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] the option to hold a new round of negotiations [with Israel]. We did not agree to the negotiations and we did not encourage him [Abbas] to hold negotiations. On the contrary, we embarrassed him day and night on this issue of negotiations. Therefore, what happened on the day in which the reconciliation agreement was signed was not agreed upon [within Hamas], we don’t recognize it and I think that it does not express the position of the movement, whose platform is based on resistance, not negotiations…. ”

…We did not agree to these statements and we were surprised when it was said. The world should know that there was no change in the position of the movement regarding resistance, as it is the only way. We can only negotiate issues within the framework of resistance.”

Palestinian Permission

On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers opened a thoroughfare in Nablus for the first time in nine years. On Monday, Palestinian liaisons of the Israeli army presided over the opening of the road that stretches from Nablus to the Palestinian village of An-Naqura. The governor of Nablus has made re-paving the road a priority in hopes that it will be fully functional as soon as possible.

The road being shut down in 2002 forced villagers to take long detours, and even prevented many villagers from accessing their fields so that they can go to work. With the road open, villagers in the north should have direct access to Nablus and to their livelihoods in the fields.

During the Second Intifada, the IDF closed many roads and built many checkpoints, a number of which, despite a lull in violence, are still in place. However, with terrorism such as what happened to the Fogel family a few months ago, it is no wonder the IDF opts to closely patrol roads throughout the area.

In other news, the Palestinian general consul in Alexandria Jamaal Al-Jamal said Tuesday upwards of 2,000 Palestinians have returned to live in the Gaza Strip from Libya, yes, Libya. More than 34,000 Palestinian families live in Libya, numbering in the ball park of 160,000 persons. Some who are trying to flee the war zone have visas which permit them to return to their jobs in Libya.

President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered PA authorities to facilitate the return of more Palestinians in Libya. Palestinian embassies in Tripoli, Alexandria and Cairo are coordinating with each other assisting their return.

In Alexandria, the Palestinian consulate has appointed a team to coordinate the arrival of passengers at the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is even offering health care and meals to assist Palestinians in Libya fleeing from the war there.

Al-Jamal says that he is grateful for the assistance of the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations before thanking the Egyptian authorities for helping to facilitate the return of Gazan Palestinians.

Republican Bill to Curtail Middle East Spending

Last Wednesday, United States Republicans moved to cut aid to “several of Israel’s neighbors” and to stiffen control of assistance to Pakistan, swearing to go medieval on militant Islamism and curtail US spending in the region, even if for security interests.

The Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee pushed a slew of concerns in a spending bill for the fiscal year commencing in October, including cutting US contributions to the United Nations and putting a restriction on funding for abortion.

Aid to Egypt in TroubleThe new House spending bill will end decades of security aid to Egypt – that is unless the new leaders implement a peace treaty with Israel to replace the treaty destroyed along with the ousting of Mubarak and of course forbid the Muslim Brotherhood any influence over cultural infrastructure. While Mr. Mubarak, who is now on his death bed was held by his people as a loathed dictator, his relationship with the Jewish State benefited Israel in maintaining some control over Hamas terrorism, weapons smuggling from Iran and al Qaeda and the oil trade.

The Republicans would also like to jettison security assistance to Lebanon where the Hezbollah rules, as well as the Palestinian Authority (partly ruled by the wicked Hamas) and yes, even Yemen.

The bill would also see the United States move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The United States government still does not see Jerusalem as the official capitol of the Jewish State. In 1995, Congress pushed to move the embassy to Jerusalem, from its beach front location in Tel Aviv, but three presidents deferred the shift. Under the new House bill, the president would lose that waiver right come 2014.

The Republican bill on foreign affairs would cut $6.4b from Obama’s requests. The bill would also impose tighter restrictions on assistance to Pakistan; after Obama suspended one-third of its $2.7b annual defense aid to the country that probably aided and abetted one Osama bin Laden, terrorist mastermind (his body now being held in a cryogenic freezer in a top secret CIA cell).

Obama assures Pakistan that the United States is committed to a five-year, $7.5b civilian package that was originally approved in 2009 aiming at infrastructure, building schools and other “democratic” institutions. The new Republican bill would make the civilian aid “contingent on measurable progress by Pakistan in fighting Islamic militants.” writes Shaun Tandon from the Associated Press, however, a strong argument can be made to the contrary of Pakistani progress in helping the war on terror cause, as I just mentioned.

The committee voted along party lines to curtail the $44m in US funding for the Organization of American States, a regional bloc of some 35 nations.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants more than this though. He said that the bill didn’t go far enough to halt cost overruns on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and contains “unrequested pork-barrel projects…”

He said:

“This nation is at a critical juncture of decisions concerning our conduct of three wars, our record deficit spending, and the dynamic state of world affairs…I cannot, as it is currently drafted, give it my full support, but I will continue my efforts to improve the bill as it moves through the process of consideration by the Senate and conference negotiations with the House.”

He continued:

“This bill uses a similar ruse — putting hundreds of millions of dollars into what amounts to slush funds of undesignated spending to be steered by powerful members to their pet projects and special interests as a means to back door earmarks…To avoid this predictable result, I offered a series of amendments to strike all unrequested funding increases that ignored and contradicted the President’s budget request. I regret I was not more successful.”

The Palestinian Authority: How It Looks From Here

Perhaps it is time for the Palestinian Authority to call off suicide picketing and get to work on life in their own borders. They will find this is the root to independence!

Swift economic growth in the West Bank is not enough to keep up with population growth, says a new UNRWA report. The jobless rate rose in the second half of 2010 to 25% of the region’s workforce from 21.7% in the first of the year and 23.6% in the second half of 2009. Unemployment increased even as the gross domestic product rose 7.6% last year.

Salem Ajluni, a UNRWA economic consultant said:

“There is fairly robust population growth and fairly robust labor force growth, so you need a pretty rapid rate of job creation to absorb it…You need tens of thousands new jobs each year sustainably just to maintain unemployment rates at existing levels.”

UNWRA figures however show that the number of jobs in the West Bank increased over 14,000 in 2010, or 2.6%, while, the number of people in the labor force, which the agency defines broadly to include people employed, actively looking for work as well as those who have given up, rose 4.6%.

However, the Palestinian Authority’s calculations are different.

They put the rate at 17% and say the jobless rate has been falling.

In the Gaza strip, an easing of Israel’s and Egypt’s blockade has had positive fiscal affects and foreign assistance to the West Bank, threatened by the Hamas-Fatah merger, has actually spurred a consumer and building spike.

After the threat to the PA’s foreign aid, which does make up the majority of its cash assets, it is vital to realize how the building of Jewish settlements will only increase Palestinian employment in the West Bank.

As it stands, employment in the public sector, which has been the direct beneficiary of foreign financial aid, grew by 3.6% in the second half of 2010. And in the private sector, the number of jobs declined by 1.7% while employment in Israel and in Israeli communities located in the West Bank it fell 3.6%.

Also, to further put life into the economy, all boycotts on Israeli trade must be called off.

Hey, a little self-reliance never hurt!

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