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Featured Hebrew in the Heartland for haivri.com Jan. 25, 2017

A Hebrew in the Heartland – January 25, 2017 – Kenya, Jordan, and Video Activism

A Hebrew in the Heartland 25Jan2017 – PODCAST

On today’s show David Ha’ivri will be speaking Nejri Elizabeth about Israel Relations and building partnerships with Shomron. Nejri is a Kenyan Israel activist and author of “Israel and Kenya, 50 years and beyond“. Her book is available online on Amazon.

Guest Mudar Zahran will be speaking about the planned move for US embassy to Jerusalem.
Avi Abelow of http://www.israelvideonetwork.com will be speaking about video activism on Social Media and live-streaming from Israel. He will also share insight on the weekly Torah reading and its connection to current events and our expectations from newly elected US President Trump.

Featured Hebrew in the Heartland for haivri.com Jan. 25, 2017

 

REFUGEES? LET’S GET REAL

Since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, the Arab refugee claim has remained a core excuse for the Arab nations to postpone recognizing Israel and moving on to some type of normal existence in the region.

Until the 1967 Six Day War, Pan-Arabist dreamers, under the illusions of Gamal Abd el Nasser still believed that the Arabs would unite and be able to push the Jews into the sea. But since, they have realized their great disappointment (or “Naksa”), when they lost their hope of eliminating the uninvited non-Muslim state in their midst. Not only did the Jews succeed in surviving their enemies’ plans, but the Jewish army took control of the holy city of Jerusalem and the areas to its north and south, historically known as Judea and Samaria, now called “the West Bank” by some.

To recap the history of the  “refugee” situation, it first occurred as a result of Israel’s first war in 1948. Some 750,000 Arab residents fled areas in which the Jewish state had been formed. For the most part, the well-to-do leadership voluntarily left the area of conflict out of their own desire to take their wealth to safer pastures. The remaining bulk of those who moved did so mainly under the call of the Arab leadership, who advised them to stay clear of the war effort and promised them they could return after the Jews were defeated. Some also fled out of fear that they would be considered loyal to the enemy by the victorious Jewish army.

Blaming one side or the other for sixty five years has neither comforted those uprooted, nor brought about any type of permanent solution for them. It’s hard to argue against the fact that the policy of the neighboring Arab states has been to perpetuate the suffering of the refugees and all their offspring indefinitely as a means of blemishing Israel’s image. This conduct is should not be excused by the international community.

Since WWII, tens of millions of people, if not more, have lost their homes and been displaced as a result of wars and conflicts around the world. These people have been absorbed by and received citizenship in their countries of residence. There is no other situation in the world today in which refugee status is passed down to the second, third and fourth generations of those who were originally displaced. Again, this type of double standard is unacceptable.

Let us remember that it was not just the Arab residents of what is now Israel who were displaced in the founding years of the Jewish state, but some one million Jewish citizens of Arab countries were forcibly run out of Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, among others. These Jewish refugees left behind their properties and wealth. Most of them were taken in by Israel, where they rebuilt their lives. They have never been recognized as refugees by the international aid associations, and were never paid any damages by the countries who displaced them.

According to UNRWA, a total of 5 million qualify to be recognized as Palestinian “refugees” today. Talk of negotiations between Israel and the PLO and the issue of the refugees may give the impression that these negotiations are meant to find some way to resettle the descendants of those who fled at Israel’s founding.  But in fact, in 2011, it was revealed that even PLO chief Abu Mazen acknowledged that at the very most, Israel could be expected to admit no more than 100,000. Israeli negotiators are aiming for no more than 5000 over the course of five years.

Bringing five million people into the areas under PA control is highly unrealistic – not only due to limited physical accommodations as far as housing, water and electric infrastructure, but also realizing that the Palestinian Authority has not the means to provide work for its population today. As it is, residents of the PA areas are barely getting by on minimum wage, at $560 a month. How could anyone expect them to multiply their population by four?

In retrospect, 65 years in limbo was a means of advancing the goals, not of those people themselves, but of others. Behind the headlines and slogans, the best either side might accomplish for the five million UNRWA refugees is to help them financially resettle elsewhere, away from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

If this is the case, what are they waiting for?

All individuals born in refugee camps in the countries surrounding Israel should be granted citizenship in the countries they were born in immediately. Accepting the reality, UNRWA and all of the donor states should put into motion a program to resettle all of the residents of the refugee camps in other locations around the world. There is no reason to wait for results of endless negotiations that are not really dealing with a solution for this problem anyway.

HE MEANS THE JEWS!

Relaunching talks between Israel and the PLO chief Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas)

Many questions arise as these negotiations begin. What is the real goal of the “Two State Solution”? What does Abbas mean when he repeatedly declares,

“no Israelis will live in the future Palestinian state”? Why is Israel releasing 104 terrorist prisoners convicted of murdering Israeli citizens? Why is the Obama administration pushing Israel to concede to the PLO, and how does that relate to its impotency in the face of the extreme suffering and human rights violations in other Middle East countries?

Obviously, Israel exists in a reality totally unique in the world, in regard to the continuing threats both outside and inside its borders. Within its tiny geographical domain, it is the world’s only Jewish state, founded after a two thousand year exile, during which the Jewish people wandered from one land of persecution to another. In short, the countries of the world collectively had a very bad record on showing kind hospitality to the countryless Jews.

Some one hundred and fifty years ago, modern Zionism brought Jews together to devise a practical plan to establish an independent Jewish country. Thoughts of planting the new state in lands other than the historical homeland were considered by some, but quickly recognized as unviable. The unprecedented gathering of an exiled and dispersed nation could only take place if they were allowed to gather in the ancient homeland to which they dreamed and prayed to return.

At the time, Egypt was the only country in the region independent of the Ottoman Empire. The remaining lands of what are now considered the Middle East and North Africa were all administered by the Turks and were not divided by the borders nor represented by the countries we know today.

The impression that Israel is occupying “Palestinian” lands is incorrect. A Palestinian country did not exist in these lands, prior to its coming under Israel’s control. As a result of the 1967 Six Day War, Israel did capture Jerusalem, Samaria and Judea – not from Palestine, but rather, from Jordan. It is true that the PLO was established in Jerusalem in 1964, some three years before Israel’s defensive acquisition of these lands in 1967. Obviously, the agenda of the PLO was not to free lands from Israel which it did not even possess. Its mission then, as now, is to replace Israel on all of its land from the river to the sea. This is not a deeply concealed secret. It is taught in PLO and UNRWA schools and is proudly presented on maps and official emblems of the PLO and its branches.

The mission of the PLO is and always has been denial of the right of the Jewish people to their own county in their historical homeland. PLO spokespeople and negotiators are always very clear not to utter the words “Israel” and “Jewish State” together as one identity because they refuse to accept that it has any valid claim whatsoever. If you pay attention to the PLO narrative, you will notice that the Two State concept includes a Palestinian state with no Jews, alongside a binational state for all of its residents, regardless of their nationality. The Jewish state does not exist in the PLO concept.

Readers should take note that a Two State Solution was already implemented by the British in 1946, when they divided the area of the mandate and allocated two thirds of it to establish the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as a gift to the son of their Bedouin friend from Mecca. A second Two State Solution was set into motion in 2005, when the Israeli government removed all Israeli communities and interests from the Gaza region. Unfortunately for the PLO functionaries, the people of Gaza elected the Islamic Hamas in their place as government, and the PLO was thrown out right after the Jews.

And now on the table again for the third time, we have the Two State Solution. As Abbas states very clearly, his vision is to have no Israelis in the future Palestinian state. He means Jews! As a precondition of taking part in any discussions, he demanded that over a hundred convicted terrorist murderers be freed from Israeli prisons. Is there a statement that could better express the cheapening of the blood of Jews than that of letting their murderers walk free?

Next, he says that no Israelis will be allowed to live in the country he wishes to establish. This doesn’t sound very peaceful. Today there are about 750,000 Israelis who live in the areas that Abbas would like to see as his future state. That is between 25 – 30% of the total population, depending on how you count. East of the 1967 Green Line, in the area that Abbas sees as a future binational state, 20% of the population are Arabs. Why should the envisioned “peace-loving Palestinian state” be closed to Jews? Why would the suggestion of expelling 750,000 people from their homes be considered a legitimate narrative in international discourse?

But the truth is that it is unfeasible. The number of Jewish residents in Jerusalem, Samaria and Judea has passed critical mass. The state of Israel was founded in 1948, with a total Jewish population of 600,000, and it survived the combined efforts of seven Arab armies to wipe it off the map. Today the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria (or “the West Bank,” if you like) is greater than the entire population of Israel on the day of its modern founding. The Jewish communities (or “settlements,” if you like) are permanent fixtures in the scenery here, with million dollar homes, shopping centers, schools, playgrounds and a full-fledged university. These are not things that can be packed away on moving trucks.

Abbas knows that he is stuck with us; the time has come for him to figure out how to live with us.

WHAT WAS STEINITZ TALKING ABOUT?

Intelligence Minister Steinitz has been quoted by news sources as saying that “if the trickle of rockets from Gaza continues, we’ll have no choice but to enter and eliminate the Hamas rule, allowing the Palestinian Authority (PA) to rule Gaza again”. His comments came following another rocket attack on Friday night emanating from Gaza and directed towards Eilat.

The question of whether or not Israel should attack Hamas, invade Gaza, or carry out an operation to replace the rule of the Gaza strip with the PA is flawed. If Israel intended to fulfill any of these objectives it should have done so already. As always timing of military actions is of the utmost important.

Some of the likely results from attacking Gaza at this point in the game should be clear.

1) Israel carries out a largescale operation against Hamas and other Gaza based terrorists: Such an operation will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the so called ‘peace process’. Abbas may be backed into a corner of pulling out of the talks when civilians are consequently caught in the crossfire.

2) Israel carried out a largescale operation to the point where Hamas is totally dismantled and other terror groups suffer significant losses: Such an eventuation would only take place with much loss of life on both sides. The duration from start to finish would be relatively long when compared to other operations that have only sought to deter Hamas.

Perhaps the most significant result would be increased US, EU, and world pressure for Israel to sign a ‘peace agreement’ with the PA since the latter would now be in control of all the territory it claims to desire and represent.

Regardless of what Israel chooses to do it will make their political positions more difficult to maintain. They will be unable to remain committed to the ‘peace process’ if they take the first option, and they will suffer from increased pressure and leverage if they elect to go with the second option.

Despite the downfalls of either of the two options, and the unacceptability of having rockets fired at its civilian populations, one has to wonder on what basis Steinitz has made such a bold declaration. If the trickle of rocket fire by non-Hamas affiliated groups is enough to warrant such comments and intentions then surely the same should and must be said of Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”). The number of casualties—whether injury or death—is far greater from terrorists based from these areas. They two are mostly unaffiliated with the PA, although many are affiliated with Fatah: the party that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas still heads.

If threat of injury from terrorists warrants a widescale operation to remove the governing body who Israel views as responsible for the area from which the terrorism emanates, then Judea and Samaria should be scaled well above Gaza on any ‘List of Priorities’.

Some would say that such a suggestion threatens the ‘peace process’. They would be correct. However it would only threaten the ‘peace process’ as much as Steinitz’s Gaza operation plan and with arguably more security and political benefit.

Originally posted on Times of Israel blogs

Is Abbas the last Palestinian Authority president? by Mudar Zahran

After Israel’s most recent military operation in Gaza, which ended with a cease-fire, Hamas has been claiming victory and enjoying popularity with the Palestinians, which comes as a setback for Hamas’s rivals; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction.

With Hamas popularity on the rise, Abbas was left with one desperate option to boost his image: pressing his quest for UN recognition of Palestine as an independent state.

Still, Abbas has other problems in his own house; there is friction within Abbas’s Fatah, as Abbas’s rival, Muhammad Dahlan, is still very influential and has a huge following.

Dahlan was a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee and the chief of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service. For years, he served as the main Palestinian counterterrorism coordination figure with Israel.

Abbas’s Fatah managed to expel Dahlan in June 2011 following allegations by Abbas that Dahlan had murdered Arafat using poison.

Dahlan lives in exile now, but he has the money and the followers to disrupt Abbas nonetheless, if not necessarily to topple him. It is not unlikely that rivalry between Abbas and Dahlan would evolve into further friction between their followers should Abbas exhibit further signs of weakness or step down.

In addition, the Arab Spring has drawn attention from the Palestinian cause as a whole and from Abbas as the poster child for the Arab-Israeli conflict; the media now has Syria, Egypt and other hot-spots to cover over Abbas’s heart-felt speeches, or his meetings with world leaders.

As a result, Palestinians in the West Bank are no longer seeing Abbas in the international media, or mingling with world leaders, and are therefore focusing more on their miserable living conditions, which, as revealed by a recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 70 percent of them believe are due to PA corruption.

Last October, prominent Israeli political scholar and Arabist Mordechai Kedar told a crowd in London that “the biggest victim of the Arab Spring is the Palestinian cause, as the world’s media is no longer occupied with it” – and with the fading significance of the Palestinian cause goes Abbas’s own significance.

Adding to Abbas’s woes is that the Palestinians in the West Bank do not seem to be too enthusiastic about his quest to gain UN recognition for Palestine as an independent state.

While Abbas’s UN stunt succeeded – Palestine is now an observer state in the UN – its very success could cause Abbas’s disappearance from the political scene, because the Oslo peace agreement requires the Palestinians to not unilaterally seek international recognition as a state, and therefore Abbas’s stunt gives Israel the full legal right to end Oslo altogether.

BUT SAY he does disappear, due to a “Palestinian Spring,” a coup by his rivals or even retirement – the man is 77 after all – would the PA survive? First of all, the PA is not favored within its own jurisdiction, as confirmed by the above-mentioned poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. In 2005, renowned scholar Daniel Pipes reported Palestinians under the PA were already saying that “Israel’s hell was better than Arafat’s paradise,” and considering that Arafat had much more credit with the Palestinians than does Abbas, one can only imagine how Palestinians would view a PA without even Abbas.

In fact, a 2011 poll conducted by Pechter Middle East Polls in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations, when asked if they preferred to become a citizen of Palestine, with all of the rights and privileges of other citizens of Palestine, or a citizen of Israel, only 30 percent chose Palestinian citizenship.”

True, Abbas’s second in command, Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, has a reputation for transparency and decency, but since Abbas appointed him in June 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council has not confirmed his appointment. It is therefore, unlikely he would be able to secure the presidency.

With no heir apparent for Abbas, who could secure public support and control the various military factions? With the PA’s reputation for corruption and the disapproval of it among the Palestinian public, it is possible that the PA’s future will be in jeopardy if Abbas steps down, quits, or retires.

While there are a few who argue that the West Bank should be handed to the Hashemite regime in Jordan, King Abdullah faces his own domestic challenges. Despite the media’s low coverage of unrest in Jordan, there is an on-going, relentless public call to topple the Hashemite regime. Those hoping the Jordanian regime could play a future role in the West Bank ignore the possibility that the Hashemite regime itself might not exist in the near future.

It is about time those concerned with peace and regional stability start considering contingency plans for a West Bank without Abbas, and possibly even without the Palestinian Authority. There is much to consider, and not necessarily as much time.

I Remember Moshe Tamam by Lenny Goldberg

The murderers of Moshe Tamam were released along with 26 other murderers this week.

Moshe Tamam was an IDF soldier who was kidnapped and murdered on the night of August 6,1984 by Arabs from Baka al-Gharbiya while on his way to the townof Havatzelet Hasharon.

His name is forever etched in my memory since the days Rabbi Meir Kahane, H”yd constantly used his gruesome murder as an example of the Arab terror which he predicted would only escalate. For us, the murder of Moshe Tamam was a symbol, the tip of the iceberg of what awaited us if we didn’t deal decisively with the Islamist Arab enemy.

These were the pre-Intifada days, and the problem of Arab terror was barely known. Sure, there were the murders of Danny Katz, Shaltiel Akiva, and other terrorist attacks, but they were too few and far between to make anybody notice. Rabbi Kahane was trying to get people to notice: “I’m sure nobody in this room even knows who Moshe Tamam is”, the rabbi would say. “But it is because of Moshe Tamam that I will become Prime Minister of Israel.”

Well, not only did Rabbi Kahane not become Prime Minister (he was banned from the Knesset in 1988 and murdered in 1990), but the murderers of Moshe Tamam have been set free. Nothing can epitomize more than this how low the state of Israel has sunk.

Rabbi Kahane had been at the trial of Moshe Tamam, and would recount the details of the murder quite graphically, in order to wake us from our slumber. Moshe’s body was mutilated and hacked to pieces. You will not hear such details from the Israeli media – it would make the release of the murderers even more unsavory.

These Arab terrorists didn’t just murder, but savagely tortured their victims. But let’s not get into the details. Let’s call them “terrorists”, or “prisoners with Jewish blood on their hands” and hope that the Israeli public doesn’t remember too much. After all, it was a long time ago.

But I remember. I remember the name of Moshe Tamam and what happened to him. He symbolized what the future holds in store for us if we don’t get our act together. The release of his murderers (who receive money and a hero’s welcome), however, symbolizes much more. It means that the rulers of Israel have chosen madness and we stand before tragedy as those Islamist knives come closer.

Washington’s arm twisting campaign

We have already lost count of the number of times that US Secretary of State John Kerry has visited Israel over the past few months. Is it ten or eleven times? Israeli patriots resent the intensive American pressure coming from the Obama administration to force Israel into yet another agreement with the PLO. Twenty years into the failed Oslo Accords, the dreamy ideologues still refuse to face the facts and acknowledge that this course for “peace” was built entirely on false assumptions.

The PLO leadership makes no effort to hide the fact that they refuse to recognize any right of the Jewish people to a state of their own. Actually, they don’t even acknowledge the Jews as a people at all, but rather as a religion that does not require a state – and surely not on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, in any case.

Kerry’s stated goal for this shuttle diplomacy is to see a final agreement between Israel and the PLO within months, but calling his conduct “diplomacy” is questionable; it is really more like an arm twisting campaign.

“The US’ careless policies in other MENA situations over the past two years should raise major concerns”The question that all local players should be asking is: “On what basis does the US administration flash around their ‘wisdom’ on how things should be done in this region?” If you examine the seemingly endless list of American fiascoes in MENA, Bengazi, Egypt and Syria, not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan, you will notice that US policy hasn’t recently provided any positive accomplishments to point to or uphold as winning concepts to copy.

America’s strongest argument is “Well, we have a lot of money to flash around…” But is that still really the case? With the USA now in debt 17 trillion dollars to China and still counting, maybe the time has come for MENA countries to start to face east and ignore the obnoxious pressure from the western countries that can hardly pay their own bills.

Secretary Kerry’s arrogance and unconcern for the people who live here has been exposed in new dimensions, as reported by Maariv’s Shalom Yerushalmi. He shares his personal experience of being one of hundreds of Jerusalem drivers forced to wait in their cars at police roadblocks set up in Jerusalem to provide clear passage for Kerry on his return from Ramallah to Jerusalem in the first hours of the worst snow storm to hit this region in the past one hundred and fifty years.

Ultimately, the heavy snow locked many cars on the highway and made it impossible for the city’s limited snow plows to access and clear the roads. These cars lay stuck in the middle of the road until after the snow storm on Sunday, four days later. Drivers had no choice but to abandon their cars and attempt to reach their homes by other means.

Kerry’s insistence on coming here uninvited again and again, with no regard for the discomfort that this causes to the local population is a microcosm of the current US administration’s disregard for the well-being of our local population. In addition, the US’ careless policies in other MENA situations over the past two years should raise major concerns for our regional leaders, whom the Americans are trying to push around.

Published on YourMiddleEast.com

Who Is Destroying Al-Aqsa Mosque? by Mudar Zahran

In a recent visit to Jerusalem, where I visited and prayed at Al-Aqsa, it occurred to me that perhaps we, the Arabs and Muslims, are the ones causing harm to Al-Aqsa, and not, as we claim, the Jews.

“You see these scaffoldings? They [the officials] put them up to claim maintenance work is being done in order to beg donors for money. These scaffoldings have been here for years with nothing done….The sheikh here just takes photos of them to show to donors. Look at the donation boxes here; they collect an average of one million shekels ($284,000) per month. We have no idea where that money goes…The poor and the needy never see any of it.” — Members of the Muslim security staff of Al-Aqsa Mosque

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, was built on the Temple Mount — which is the holiest site in Judaism, where the Temple that was destroyed nearly 2000 years ago stood.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque has been one of the items at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Almost every known Arab political organization has vowed “to liberate Al-Aqsa from the Jews.” In a recent visit to Jerusalem, where I visited and prayed at Al-Aqsa, it occurred to me that perhaps we, the Arabs and Muslims, are the ones causing harm to Al-Aqsa, and not, as we claim, the Jews.

In 1948, when the Jordanian government occupied Judea and Samaria, the Al-Aqsa Mosque was placed under the Jordanian Waqf Ministry, which oversees Islamic sites. In 1967, when Israel won the Six-Day-War and regained control over Jerusalem, it did not take control of Al-Aqsa. Instead, Israel transferred control of the mosque to the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf [trust], an independent religious body to oversee the Islamic holy sites there.

The Hashemite regime in Jordan continued to pay the salaries of the managers and the staff members of Al-Aqsa, in accord with what Jordan’s King Hussein described in 1988 as a religious duty he had inherited as the alleged descendent of the prophet Muhammad.

Israel’s responsibility has been limited to providing security and, when necessary, conducting patrols and searches. In addition, the Israeli security forces conduct a strict policy of refusing to allow non-Muslims — including Israeli Jews — into Al-Aqsa except for tourism purposes and only at certain hours of the day.

Upon entering the silver-domed mosque, one can quickly notice how neglected the mosque is, and badly in need of maintenance, with dirty walls, dust-covered ceilings and worn-out chairs, including the one on which the Imam sits. Fire equipment, tossed randomly in a heap in a corner, looks as if it has not been touched in a long time.

When they were asked about the shocking condition of the mosque, its staff members, although audio-recorded, spoke on the condition of anonymity:

“The officials themselves and the staff members are the reasons,” one of the Mosque’s Muslim security staff said. “This chaos and indifference rolls down from the senior officials here who enjoy huge salaries compared to the average staff member.”

He pointed at scaffolding stretching to the Mosque’s dome, “You see these scaffoldings? They [the officials] put them up to claim maintenance work is being done in order to beg donors for money. These scaffoldings have been there for years with nothing done… The sheikh here just takes photos of them to show to donors. ”

He points to two large donations boxes at the center of the mosque. “Look at the donation boxes here; they collect an average of one million shekels ($284,000) per month. We have no clue where that money goes…The poor and the needy never get any of it.”

At the center of Al-Aqsa, two glass cupboards exhibit tear gas shells used by the Israeli police during riots of the first Palestinian Intifada, which began in 1987. “We’ve had these since the first Intifada,” an Arab security guard said. “The managers here use these to make visitors sympathize and give donations, they are beggars’ tools, that is what they are.”

At the mosque’s washrooms where worshipers get cleansed according to Islamic precepts, graffiti on the wall states: “Sheikh Azzam Al-Khateeb has destroyed Al-Aqsa.” Al-Khateeb is the mosque’s general manager, who handles all financial and administrative affairs.

The custodians of the washrooms did not allow photos taken of the graffiti. Nonetheless, an elderly man beckoned and said: “They are slackers, we just have slackers in this place … This mess you see here is our responsibility; the wrongdoers are from us…among us… We cannot properly pray here, they [the staff] are bad people.”

When asked to name names, he refused, but said, “The wrongdoers are from our own folks, son. We are the ones who have destroyed Al-Aqsa… I have worked with the Jordanians, with the Jews, and the Palestinians, I have seen them all, and I know what is really happening.”

Another of Al-Aqsa’s custodians said: “There are no more Muslims left in the world who care for Al-Aqsa…. The money comes from Jordan not to the poor people, but just to be handed to those running it. They are all thieves. Al-Aqsa is like a plate of food that all dogs are attacking for a bite…. All of those inside the Waqf are thieves…. They all blame each other while actually they are working together. You should see the trash that mounts up here during Ramadan [when people come to visit]; the officials are not committed to their responsibility at all. All the donations and aid money paid for Al-Aqsa by Arab states do not filter here; we do not see any of it here. Jordan provides the money for salaries here, but it provides zero accountability for the staff handling the money.”

Another staff member joins the discussion: “Jordan and all Arab countries that give money to Al-Aqsa must be collecting much more donations than what they actually give out, otherwise, trust me, they wouldn’t be giving anything at all. Look at the washrooms, the government of Turkey provided $2 million dollars to fix and expand those, and then Al-Aqsa’s administration collected $2 million more in donations [for the project]…still, nothing was ever fixed or built.”

When a group of staff members having lunch was asked why Al-Aqsa was in such a poor state, one of them answered: “You should ask Azzam Al-Khatib [Al-Aqsa’s manager]; ask him why Al-Aqsa is dirty and full of flies. All Arab countries donate money for Al-Aqsa; ask Azzam Al-Khatib where does that money go?!” Another man said: “We do not even have proper loudspeakers for the worshipers to hear the Imam. Would those Jews do that to us if Al-Aqsa were under their management?”

A staff member at the nearby Dome of the Rock, where the Quran states that Prophet Muhammad ascended to the sky and met God, said: “The staff here is careless, they play a role in all of this bad state of affairs.” He added, “This is all the fault of the Jews; they are to blame for all of this.”

When asked how the Jews were responsible for the dirty walls, the worn out furniture, and the neglected facilities, he did not answer.

At the Al-Aqsa Mosque manager’s office, located within the mosque, there were no executive staff members with whom to meet. I was told no one was there.

Repeated calls to Al-Aqsa’s designated office at the Palestinian Authority Waqf Ministry, to request a comment, were never answered, not a single time.

As a practicing Muslim, I was sad to hear that those managing Al-Aqsa were more concerned with donations and their personal welfare rather than with the mosque itself.

Which prompts the question: Is Al-Aqsa is an Islamically sacred site, or is it a tool to collect donations by trying to elicit global Islamic sympathy — just a goose that lays golden eggs for its managers?

It seems that it is we Arabs and Muslims who are harming Al-Aqsa, not Israel or the Jews.

Al-Hiwar TV: Islamists’ Loudspeaker in Europe by Mudar Zahran

Al-Hiwar is not “just” your friendly neighborhood Arab TV station. As its founder, Azzam Al-Tamimi, states, “We must refrain from violating these [Western] laws because this might… ban us from the air…At the end of the day; you want to convey a message.” Oh? And what message is that?

The British communications regulator and watchdog organization, Ofcom, recently fined an Islamic TV £105,000 ($158,000) for airing a speech that condoned murder as a punishment for blasphemy.

In its explanation of the fine, Ofcom said the TV channel, DM Digital, had aired a speech by an Islamic scholar who made remarks “likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder.”

DM Digital, however, is not the only Islamic TV station in the UK “likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder.”

When mentioning Islamic stations in the UK, Al-Hiwar TV, based in London, is usually the first to come to mind. Established in 2006 by Azzam Al-Tamimi, author of the book Hamas from Within, Al-Hiwar has been described by the website Crehi Plethi as the Muslim Brotherhood’s “main medium.”

Although the Muslim Brotherhood denies any connection to Al-Hiwar, according to journalist Elizabeth Blade, the Muslim Brotherhood does in fact run it.

Al-Hiwar’s founder and manager, Azzam Al-Tamimi, has been described by the journalist Patrick Poole, as a “well-known international Muslim Brotherhood operative and Hamas insider.”

Al-Tamimi has expressed his willingness to become a suicide bomber “if he had the opportunity.”. He is also a member of the Muslim Association of Britain [MAB], which had been described by British parliament member, Louise Ellman, as “a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood—an extremist fundamentalist organisation founded in Egypt in 1928, and the spiritual ideologue of all Islamic terror organizations.”

A former Al-Hiwar staff member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity , confirmed that MAB operates an office inside Al-Hiwar TV, with Muhammad Sawalaha, who has been described as a “Hamas operative”, serving as MAB’s liaison officer.

The Muslim Brotherhood, despite having officially renounced violence, has been known for inciting often-violent political and social instability; it also openly claims responsibility for the installation of Hamas, a terrorist organization committed by its charter to the destruction of Israel.

Ofcom, in 2009, found Al-Hiwar in breach of British broadcasting regulations after the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood leader, Rachid al-Ghannouchi, used the channel to praise Hamas’s military operations and “the use of bombs.” In explaining its decision, Ofcom said Al-Hiwar’s fault was to be guilty of “not challenging” Al-Ghnnouchi’s statement. Al-Ghannouchi nonetheless remained a regular guest on Al-Hiwar TV, delivering his messages to millions of viewers.

In an interview with Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV in Gaza, Al-Tamimi confirmed that his focus was “conveying the message” while keeping within the regulations to remain on the air: “There are those who lie in wait for the Arabic TV Channels …they seek loopholes in order to stop you from broadcasting, therefore my advice to my brothers in Al-Aqsa TV and other Arab channels is that as long as we are broadcasting on satellites we do not own, these satellites are owned by the West, we must refrain from violating these laws because this might be a platform to ban us from the air ….At the end of the day you want to convey a message…” Oh? And what message is that?

Al-Hiwar TV has also led a campaign against the United Arab Emirates [UAE] for their crackdown on Islamic fundamentalists and Muslim Brotherhood operatives on their soil. Al-Hiwar has continued its targeting of the UAE, by running a live show entitled, “Is the UAE Responsible for What is Happening in Egypt?”, in which Al-Hiwar’s anchor claimed, “If the UAE is involved [in Egypt’s events] I will declare this publicly: the UAE has a hand in exploding the situation in Egypt.”

Such messages succeed in making the UAE a target for the wrath of Islamists and Muslim fundamentalists, and could easily lead to disorder on UAE soil.

The larger problem here is one of freedom of speech, and how it can easily be subverted to spread messages of hate and even death threats. Yasser Arafat used to say, “I don’t have to tell you what to do. You know what to do.” A Muslim who decided to flee the Middle East has been receiving anonymous phone calls saying, “We know where your children go to school and what time the school lets out.” The words themselves are innocent, but there is no question about what is meant. So at the end of the day, if “you want to convey a message,” the question then becomes: “How do you skirt the rules to convey it?”

Al-Hiwar, not “just” your friendly neighborhood TV station, is privately funded. Two of its former staff, who spoke to this author on the condition of anonymity, claimed Al-Hiwar’s annual budget exceeded £3 Million ($4.82 million). Nonetheless, Al-Hiwar does not seem to publicly disclose where the funding comes from. The question then arises, in public communications, as with a public utility: if something is broadcasted to the public, should not the public have a right to know who is backing it?

For the sake of peaceful Muslim countries such as the UAE, and in the interests of maintaining airwaves free of hate and intimidation, Ofcom might do well to look at Al-Hiwar — and the UK might look at its foreign influences laws — a bit harder.

Is the British Establishment Legitimizing Apartheid? by Mudar Zahran

Permitting the niqab in the British legal and educational systems not only further legitimizes Islamist fundamentalism, but also opens the door for enforced apartheid: veiled women would keep looking at unveiled women as different or even immoral, while Muslim men would look at veiled women as dehumanized creatures to be isolated from the world by the veil. The government would not only limit the ability of British Muslims wishing to integrate into civil society, but worse, it would officially reinforce the view that women wearing a veil are indeed inferior.

Is the British establishment giving in to a harmful aspect of Islamic fundamentalism? On 16 September, a British judge said a Muslim defendant could wear the veil for all parts of her trial, expect when giving evidence to the jury. According to the British newspaper, The Daily Mail, the judge’s decision made “legal history” .

The judge also said the defendant did not have to testify in open court with her face uncovered. Instead, she may choose to give evidence via live video link or behind a screen shielding her from the wider courtroom, with only the judge, jurors and her counsel able to see her face. He also ordered that there be no artist’s sketch of the defendant while her face is uncovered.

In addition, Judge Murphy’s decision was at odds with a previous ruling; in March last year a judge at the same court told a woman wearing a niqab that she could not sit as a juror for an attempted murder trial.

The judge’s decisions came after the defendant — a Muslim convert — claimed it was against her beliefs to allow any man other than her husband to see her face — even though she only started wearing the veil last May.

Jack Straw, British Parliament member and former Home Secretary wrote an article in which he confirmed: “I also spoke to a national group of distinguished Islamic scholars and learnt that the injunction to wear the veil did not come directly from the Prophet Mohammed but was based upon a much later interpretation of the message of the Koran.”

What Mr. Straw said is right. Not only that, but Islamic Sharia law bans women from wearing the niqab in Mecca during worshiping rituals. A hadith (teachings of Muhammad) says: “a woman in Mecca is not allowed to wear a niqab nor gloves. This text was confirmed by Islamic scholars as Saheeh [exact] by renowned Islamic Scholar Al-Albani [Al-Sahih Al-Jami’i, number 7445].

Women who want to wear niqab in British courtrooms and schools, then, comfortably ignore the fact that they are not allowed to do so in Mecca?

On 11 September; Birmingham Metropolitan College was forced to drop its campus ban on the niqab, a rule since 2005. This reversal came after an anonymous prospective student complained to her local paper; she said she was being discriminated against by the college because of the ban on the niqab. Nonetheless, the college had to drop the ban after Islamists in the UK launched an online petition attracting 9,000 signatures for protests against the college,

The ban had originally been in place for security reasons, to make sure “students were always ‘easily identifiable.'” The ban also included hoodies and hats, and therefore did not target either Muslims or the veil in particular.

Since security concerns over the niqab can be justified, as several attacks have been carried out by criminals wearing a niqab, the college therefore compromised the security of its staff and students in to appease Islamist fundamentalists.

In February of 2013, a 20 year old Victoria’s Secret’s worker was scarred for life and nearly blinded when a niqab-wearing attacker threw acid in her face as she walked home from work. Her attacker has not been identified yet because he or she was wearing a niqab.

Further, on 5 May 2010, two men wearing niqabs threatened guards outside a British bank and ran off with a box full of cash.

In addition to security concerns, tolerating the niqab in the British legal and educational systems would raise more legal dilemmas, for example: Will niqab-wearing women want their faces not shown in their passports’ photos and driving licenses?

The Conservative Party’s backbencher in the British parliament, Dr. Sarah Wollaston, said the veils were “deeply offensive,” were “making women invisible” and called for the niqab to be banned in schools and colleges. She said: “It would be a perverse distortion of freedom if we knowingly allowed the restriction of communication in the very schools and colleges which should be equipping girls with skills for the modern world. We must not abandon our cultural belief that women should fully and equally participate in society.”

As a practicing Muslim, I fully agree with Dr. Wollaston.

The niqab does not seem to have any foundations in Islamic texts; it rather seems to have come from fundamentalist Islamism, which looks down on women both in its religious texts and its unequal justice regarding women its application of Sharia law.

Permitting the niqab in the British legal and educational systems, therefore, not only further legitimizes Islamist fundamentalism, but also opens the door for enforced apartheid, in which veiled women would keep looking at unveiled British women as different or even immoral, while British Muslim men would look at women as dehumanized creatures to be isolated from the world by the veil.

Such a fundamentalist view — if legitimized by the British establishment — would not only seriously limit the ability of British Muslims to integrate into British civil society, but worse, worse, it would reinforce even more emphatically an official view to British women wearing the veil that they are indeed inferior. In officially hardening this view that a woman’s worth is lower than that of a man — in men’s eyes, in society’s eyes, and in the eyes of these girls and women themselves — the British government would be committing a horrendous injustice.

As a Muslim living in the UK, I believe British Muslims have not been successful in integrating into the British society; if the niqab were to be allowed officially at schools and courts, British Muslims would fail to integrate even further.

The UK must not give in to fundamentalists who tamper with the British way of life and thereby make it even harder for moderate Muslims who do want to belong and integrate.

While freedom of religious practice is held dearly by British laws, and should be, the British legal and educational systems must not be compromised by Islamist ideology, which is deemed extreme and oppressive by so many Muslims.

Gaza – What Now?



After eight days of what Israel called the “Pillar of Cloud Operation”, can any side involved claim even a small victory? It’s hard to offer a positive answer to that, although many are proclaiming themselves to be the heroes of the day.

Israel claims that their operation “severely impaired Hamas’s launching capabilities.” According to Hamas, their rocket strikes led to the ceasefire deal. The USA, the UN and Egypt each claim that their own interventions led to the ceasefire agreement. If all of this is true, then this operation was a Win – Win (and Win – Win – Win). Everyone involved can turn to their constituents with pride and pat themselves on the back, saying “We are great.” But is that the case? I think not. It seems that all involved have major doubts about what really went on behind the scenes, and wonder how this ceasefire will benefit their people in the long run. 



Israelis ask, “Will this ceasefire just allow the Islamic terrorists more time to heal their wounds and restock their stash of rockets for the next round of fire on Tel Aviv? And if so, why did Israel’s defense mechanism stop short of crushing Hamas?”



Those who feel they gained from this operation are mainly public figures who received a lot of free airtime on TV. For Israeli officials, that airtime is crucial now – only weeks ahead of the elections here. With more than half of Israel’s population under rocket fire, anyone who can get on TV and promise to do whatever he can to stop the rockets knows that he is speaking to many potential voters about the most acute problem they are facing.  



On the flip side, Khaled Mashaal and the Hamas leaders were given a major platform to present themselves as the protectors of the people of Gaza while under attack by Israel’s Air Force planes and warships. But this also upgraded Hamas to being the relevant representatives of the Palestinians on the international negotiation table. 



Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (and his Muslim Brotherhood party) achieved much-sought international recognition as a key regional player and mediator between Israel and the Arab world.  



US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the UN General Secretary and the Arab League Chief all made their own runs for the TV cameras, to appear as if they are somehow effective here, while in fact, they have all proven to be totally impotent in offering any relief to the people of Syria, who are facing genocide by their own government.

While all parties are up in arms about the current exchange of rocket fire between Israel and the Islamists in Gaza, all efforts are focused at halting the rockets now. Not enough consideration is given to long-range solutions to this very serious problem. 

According to the CIA World Fact Book, the population of Gaza is 1.7 million people in an area of 360 square kilometers, with no access to any natural resources. Half of the population is under age 17, and they have a 40% unemployment rate.

Those who do find work can expect low wages as a norm. They are ruled by the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement, which terrorizes its own population, and due to its rocket attacks on Israel, has forced Israel to monitor and limit its imports. Gaza’s citizens have not been able to work in Israel since the 2005 disengagement, which saw the forced removal of all Israeli citizens from that area and closed its border crossings.



The disengagement saw 7,000 Jewish residents of Gaza displaced, while their homes and businesses were destroyed. Many of those Jewish-owned businesses and farms also provided workplaces for Palestinians. Those workplaces no longer exist. 



Pushing Israel out of Gaza did not improve the situation of the local Palestinians, but on the contrary, has worsened their ability to provide for their families. Their security and Israel’s have both deteriorated. Worst of all, all involved in forcing these “arrangements” seem to ignore the fact that there is no hope on the horizon. Are 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza meant to live off of international aid forever? Or are they to be forever hungry and enslaved to radical Hamas? 



Mothers in Israel and Gaza will breathe easily and rest in comfort knowing that rockets are not threatening their tranquility this Shabbat, knowing that their children are safe and that their sons are not on the battlefield this rainy weekend. But all are left asking, “How long will this last?”

Published on YourMiddleEast.com

Jeffrey and Abdullah II in Wonderland

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a piece from his recent exclusive interview with Jordan’s monarch, originally titled “Monarch in the Middle,” which seems to be a spin on “Monkey in the Middle,” or maybe a Freudian slip. However, only an hour after that first release, the article appears under a more serious title. Goldberg paints Abdullah II as a dynamic, young and intelligent leader working to bring Jordan into the 21st century.

In a script that seems taken out of an episode of Mission Impossible, he writes:

“One morning last fall, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, the fourth Hashemite king of Jordan, rolled up to a helipad situated close to the royal office complex in Al Hummar, on the western edge of the capital, Amman. He stepped out of an armored Mercedes—he drove himself, and drove fast, like he was being chased—and hustled to one of his Black Hawks. The king, who as a young prince served as a commander in the Royal Jordanian special forces, climbed into the pilot’s seat, talked for a moment with his co pilot, a trusted member of the Royal Squadron, and lifted off, pointing us in the direction of the rough, unhappy city of Karak, about 80 miles to the south. A second Black Hawk, filled with bodyguards, lifted off a moment later.”

Jordan has no natural resources and its economy relies on foreign aid from the west and the Gulf states – and taxes. Still, the unelected ruler of this poor state and his family manage to live like royalty. Abdullah is praised in the west for being “modern” (mostly due to the fact that he was educated in the west). His neighbor to the north, Bashar al-Assad, also lived and studied in the west until he too was called to the throne. Both of these western-educated men now head undemocratic totalitarian regimes that greatly limit the freedoms of their peoples.

Goldberg goes on to tell of his day hovering up above it all with the hero king. Together, they land in Karak to have lunch with the leaders of one of Jordan’s larger Bedouin tribes. For those who are not familiar, he explains that the Jordanian monarch’s power base comes from the elite Bedouin community, which makes up a minority of the kingdom. Although up to 60% or 70% of the population are only 2nd and 3rd generation Jordanians of Palestinian descent, they are stripped of rights and pay higher taxes to support the monarchy (for more on that, Google Jordanian writer Mudar Zahran).

So the king and his reporter companion enjoy customary Bedouin hospitality, after which they sit with the Bedouin leaders to discuss the progress of the country. Goldberg tells how Abdullah looked “wide-eyed” at him when one of the Bedouin leaders suggested implementing a new type of government paid job:

“Leader after leader—many of whom were extremely old, many of whom merely had the appearance of being old—made small-bore requests and complaints. One of the men proposed an idea for the king’s consideration: ‘In the old days, we had night watchmen in the towns. They would be given sticks. The government should bring this back. It would be for security, and it would create more jobs for the young men.’

I was seated directly across the room from the king, and I caught his attention for a moment; he gave me a brief, wide-eyed look. He was interested in high-tech innovation, and in girls’ education, and in trimming the overstuffed government payroll. A jobs plan focused on men with sticks was not his idea of effective economic reform.

As we were leaving Karak a little while later, I asked him about the men-with-sticks idea. ‘There’s a lot of work to do,’ he said, with fatigue in his voice.”

The interaction that Goldberg saw but didn’t understand is basically a simple Bedouin negotiation. Abdullah needs the support of the tribal leaders to retain his position of power and his lavish lifestyle, and they, in return, are asking for part of the action. They are actually asking for very little in return – a few jobs for some young men in a poor country that still humors a royal family and its toys.

What Goldberg overlooks is the fact that Abdullah himself is really just another Bedouin getting paid by America to hold a stick. His toy Mercedes, Black Hawk and lavish palaces are subsidized by American taxpayers’ money and supplemented by the taxes of his Palestinian subjects. Goldberg does mention in passing that the Hashemite dynasty were originally immigrants to Jordan themselves (Abdullah is a 2nd generation Jordanian, just like many of the Palestinians he rules over). The sons of a Bedouin tribe leader from Mecca (in Arabia – some 1200km away) were awarded part of the territory taken from the failing Ottoman Empire. This was their prize for assisting the British in their plot against the last Muslim caliphate and also a way out of their local conflicts with other tribes in Mecca.

To gain some perspective, remember that the country of Jordan did not exist 100 years ago. The Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan first came into the pages of history in 1922, after the British Empire invaded the holy land. In order to form the state of Trans-Jordan, the British carved away 70% of the Palestine Mandate that had been marked out for the establishment of the Jewish national homeland by the British Balfour Declaration of 1917. This then – the original “Two State Solution” – left only the area west of the Jordan River for the future Jewish state. That’s the history.

Who knows what the future holds. Goldberg does not hint that the king is losing his support, even among the Bedouin community. The alternative is to open the country up for democratic elections, in which all citizens would vote for their leadership. While there is doubt whether the Bedouins would all line up in support of Abdullah, there is no doubt that, given the opportunity, the Palestinians will vote him into unemployment.

In light of the Arab Spring phenomenon sweeping through the Middle Eastern countries currently, the future of the Hashemite monarchy becomes even less clear. How much longer will the people of Jordan agree to being stripped of their rights while Abdullah lives it up at their expense? Many believe that Abdullah is next in the line of dominoes whose turn will come after Assad’s fall. Abdullah woos the west with words of concern over the Muslim Brotherhood, who – he warns – could pose an alternative to his leadership. To western ears, he calls the Muslim Brotherhood a “Masonic cult,” while he doesn’t bother to mention that in all the Arab countries Hashemites like himself have been exceedingly cooperative with their local branches of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Brotherhood’s leaders have enjoyed their support.

It is not clear how much longer Abdullah will be able to play with the nice toys the west provides him with, but it seems that if he doesn’t start giving a share of the stick to some of the other Bedouin guys, he might lose the hold he has on his own.

Published in YourMiddleEast.com April 2013

The Jaabari Peace Option

Sheikh Farid Khadar Al Jaabari is the head of the largest clan in the Hebron region. Over the past few years, stories emerging from Hebron have revealed unexpected positive interactions and cooperation between the local Jewish and Arab communities there.

Anarchist activists who have come from afar to try to ignite tensions between the two local communities have been banished from the city. Plans to destroy a synagogue have been stopped. New water lines have been installed to provide for both Jewish and Arab residents.

These and other signs of cooperation have been made possible by Jaabari’s initiative and policy of neighborliness.

Recently, at an alternative peace conference held in the EU Parliament in Brussels, I had the opportunity to meet Sheikh Jaabari personally. There, and at follow-up meetings back at home in Israel, I learned firsthand about his platform. Jaabari represents a traditional local leadership that was common pre-Oslo before the PLO was brought in from Tunis 20 years ago. He views the Palestinian Authority administration as a bunch of corrupt criminals, and blames Israel for bringing them in and appointing them as government.

Jaabari is considered the Sheikh of Sheikhs, a powerful and high-ranking tribal adjudicator. He is one of few in the region whose authority entitles him to prevent revenge killings in family feuds. He is reputedly sought out to resolve disputes – not only by Arab residents in the Hebron area – but also throughout Israel and even Jordan.

A few years ago, a teenage member of the Jaabari clan was shot and killed by the Palestinian police. Sheikh Jaabari demanded that the shooter be turned over to him, but his requests were ignored. That night, Jaabari’s men took over the PA police station, burned 14 jeeps and held 34 PA police hostage. As a result, Mahmoud Abbas declared the killed boy a martyr and awarded his family a lifetime compensation pension.

Man of faith, and a realist

Jaabari’s independent power base enables him to take a unique stand, voicing a call for coexistence with the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria. This position runs counter to the official PLO policy, which claims that any Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is an obstacle to peace.

Make no mistake: Jaabari is not a Zionist; he is a devout Muslim leader who believes that the entire land of Israel is holy to the Muslim people. That being said, in his eyes, the holiness of Hebron and Shechem are the same as the holiness of Jaffa and Haifa. In his opinion, those (PLO and Hamas) who consider signing away any part of the land to the Jews in an agreement are traitors to Islam.

He recognizes that the PLO has failed his people, and that Hamas is not a better option. He would rather be realistic and live with the understanding that the Jews control the land de-facto, than willingly sign an agreement of consent. He is a man of faith, but a realist as well.

Jaabari calls on Israel to end the occupation by imposing Israeli law on all parts of the land that it controls and naturalizing all its residents, as was accomplished by Israel’s government in Jerusalem and the Golan through the Jerusalem Law in 1980.

As in the case of Arab residents of Jerusalem, Jaabari is calling for citizenship without the right to vote for Knesset. This could be the basis for a one state solution in which the demographic threat has been neutralized.

This plan might not be the ultimate dream of the Jewish people, but on the other hand, it might be a much better program than any currently on the table, and it deserves consideration.

Published on Ynetnews July 2012

Tile by tile, Palestinians build Israeli settlements

Rebecca Collard GlobalPost June 26, 2012

High unemployment, low wages and the loss of traditional agrarian livelihoods compel Palestinians to make a difficult choice.

NILI SETTLEMENT, West Bank — In the hilltop Israeli settlement of Nili, a 44-year-old Palestinian mounts electrical fixtures onto freshly painted walls.

He is putting the finishing touches on the office of a real estate firm that will sell new homes in this Jewish settlement in the heart of the Palestinian West Bank. More Palestinian workers frame new houses just down the hill.

Tile by tile, beam by beam, they are among tens of thousands of Palestinians laboring illegally to help Israeli settlers colonize the very land these workers hope will be part of their future sovereign state.

“We have no work. If there was another work, we wouldn’t come here,” says Ziad Abu Nar as he hangs the front door of the new office.

With their traditional farming economy disrupted by the Israeli occupation and the unemployment rate above 30 percent, West Bank Arabs like Abu Nar are left with increasingly limited options for supporting themselves. Although billions of dollars in international aid have helped turn the de facto Palestinian capital of Ramallah into a boomtown, the average West Bank resident hasn’t benefited.

“If I make 50 shekels a day, I cannot afford life.”

~Ziad Abu Nar

Abu Nar lives in the Arab village of Beit Ur al-Tahta, has three children and says work in the Arab villages is both scarce and poorly paid.

“If you want to buy anything — hummus, a sandwich — it is very expensive. If I make 50 shekels a day, I cannot afford life.”

While the wages are low, prices in the West Bank are not. A liter of milk costs 12 shekels ($3.15), electricity is substantially more expensive than in the US and fuel is nearly twice the price.

Settlement construction jobs pay substantially more than most of the other jobs available, said a 21-year-old named Issa who recently quit his job at a Palestinian food-packaging factory to work in the Nili settlement.

“It’s three times as much,” says Issa, cleaning the grout from between the recently laid floor tiles.

Unsettled

There are now nearly half a million Israeli settlers living in among 225 Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank, captured from Jordan by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967. In 2011 alone, there were 1,850 new buildings started in the settlements.

Some Israelis come to the West Bank guided by the belief that God promised them land, but others move there for more earthly reasons: Cheap, suburban homes and discount living. Housing, taxes, buses and some goods are more affordable here than in urban centers like Tel Aviv.

These settlements occupy hilltops across West Bank, while in much of the territory Palestinians must ask Israeli authorities for permits to build their own homes.

Israel has relatively good legal protections for Israeli workers, but loopholes allow the exploitation of Palestinians in these settlements. Shawan Jabarin, director of Al Haq, a Palestinian rights organization, says Israeli settlers have often hired Palestinians using Jordanian labor law to avoid the worker protections offered under Israeli law — including minimum wage as well as health and employment benefits.

“These laborers have a big fear. They don’t want to speak about [abuses],” says Jabarin.

David Ha’Ivri, director of the Shomron Liaison Office, which advocates on behalf of Israeli settlers, says Palestinians do get the same rights as Israelis.

“All workers who work within Israeli communities are entitled to the same rights. Regardless of ethnicity,” says Ha’Ivri. He argues Israel is strict in enforcing labor law and that anyone suffering abuse should report it to the authorities.

The substantially higher wages offered by settlers, says Ha’Ivri, benefits Palestinian communities. “If the Israeli minimum wage is three times greater than the Palestinian, obviously it’s a benefit. It’s simple math,” says Ha’Ivri. “Which is why so many choose Israeli employers.”

While the Israeli courts have said settlers must respect rights of Palestinian workers, Eyal Hareuveni of the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, says, “there is nobody to enforce it … it has turned Palestinians into second-class citizens.”

More from GlobalPost: Worked Over: The Global Decline of Labor Rights

More than 100,000 Palestinians —including Abu Nar — once legally entered Israel proper for work. With the outbreak of the second Intifada, and frequent attacks and suicide bombings by extremists against Israel, Abu Nar and thousands of other Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza had their permits cancelled.

Now many are given permits to work in Jewish settlements but are not allowed to enter Israel.

Israel replaced most of these Palestinian laborers with foreign workers primarily from Thailand, the Philippines and the former Soviet Union. It seemed like a quick, efficient fix, but now Israel is struggling to deport thousands of these workers — who want to stay in Israel — unable to simply send them back across the Green Line each night.

Good Neighborliness: Jabari and Mesika Present an Alternative

A tour of the Samarian mountains led to an unusual conference at the European Parliament in Brussels. Sheikh Jabari of Hebron spoke of trust between himself and the Hebron settlers, and the Vice-Chair of the (European) Union related his positive impressions of coexistence in Barkan and at Ariel University. Not a word about occupation or apartheid.
by Asaf Gabor, Brussels
(Makor Rishon, “Yoman”, p. 20)
——-
The Bibi-Mofaz trick that produced a unity government instead of elections, again brought to the fore the issue of contacts with the Palestinians. PA head Abu Mazen sought to return to dialog, but conditioned it on stopping construction in the settlements, agreement to form a Palestinian state within the ’67 borders and release of prisoners. Attorney Yitzchak Molco, the Prime Minister’s emissary, sent a letter to the Palestinians making Netanyahu’s position clear, that he is willing to return to negotiations without preconditions. In the end, the usual political ping-pong ended with a promise to hand over 100 terrorist corpses to the Palestinian Authority as an Israeli gesture.
Jabari and Mesika Present an Alternative

Jabari and Mesika Present an Alternative

As if divorced from the political reality on the ground and from the cycle of negotiations sunk deep in the mire, the European Union this week decided to ratify Barack Obama’s two-state solution.

On Tuesday, a day after the Union’s decision, a historic visit by a remarkable delegation took place at the home base of the Union in Brussels. No, not another delegation of human rights or Israeli leftist organizations, together with members of the PLO Executive Committee or senior officials of the Palestinian Authority. This time, it was a unique group of people who daily live with the problems and challenges in the area.
The chairman of the Samaria Regional Council, Gershon Mesika, was an unusual character on the European Parliament scene, being the first settler to speak from the conference stage. Another figure attracting the eye of the Europeans was Sheikh Farid al-Jabari,”leader of the Palestinians in Hebron”, according to the description of him in the program. The conference, titled “Peace in the Middle East”, for the moment abandoned the terms “occupation”, “territories”, “illegal construction” and the rest of the terminology routinely bandied about in the European dialog on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and turned over the stage to the parties who live side-by-side.
The special get-together was directed by the Vice-Chair of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the European Union, Fiorello Provera. He opened the conference with a purview of the chaos in Arab states after the revolutions, and the threat of extremist Islam prevailing in those countries – as well as in ever-expanding areas in European countries. “We see ourselves as fighters for human rights and democracy, and at the same time we in Europe are being threatened by extremist Islam”, said Franz Obermayr, a member of the European Parliament, before the conference. “Israel is in a reality of perpetual threat from the terror organizations, and this reality needs to be solved, but the solution of two states for two peoples is making headway everywhere, so we must try to find alternative ways.”
Small Steps on the Ground
At the dinner preceding the alternative summit conference, one could have the personality of Provera dominate, as an Italian from the province of Portalina. It was evident that he believes in people. His warm Italian temperament blended in with the Middle Eastern temperament, the Arabic on one hand and the Israeli on the other.
Later on, wearing a necktie, Provera explained on the speaker’s platform how he sees the conflict: “Contrary to the popular opinion that we hear all the time, the suffering of the Israelis and the Palestinians is not caused by arguments over land. The fact is that the steps Israel has taken, such as the Israeli withdrawals from Lebanon in 2000 and from the Gaza Strip in 2005, have not brought it any closer to peace or improved the lot of the Palestinians. The reality in the Middle East will not necessarily change with the help of territorial compromise, but with confidence building steps taken by people.”
Provera, who four months ago toured Samaria, underwent an “awareness revolution”, according to the definition by the Strategy Unit of the Samarian Regional Council. The Unit deals with public relations, spokesmanship, visits and tours in Samaria, and in the words of Unit head Yossi Dagan, “everything that is out of the box”. The Liaison Office, which operates under the auspices of the Strategy Unit, has maintained contacts for a year and a half with tens of European Unity Parliament members. Thirty of them, belonging to the conservative stream, came for a condensed visit. Twenty more, among them Provera, came for a private visit. “He’s a very busy man. In the original plan, he agreed to dedicate half an hour to a tour, no more”, says Dagan. “We decided to take him straight from the airport on a 20-minute trip to the observation point in the town of Tzofim in Samaria. From there, he could see the lights of the Samarian settlements on one side, and on the other side the lights of Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport. He was astounded, and he immediately called to cancel the meetings he had planned during the next two days. We took him on the routes that we take for senior media officials, leading opinion makers and foreign leaders. The reaction was the same. At first, people’s eyes are opened to a reality that they were not familiar with. Afterwards, their minds open up to different ideas, which become clear to them once they feel the reality on the ground.”
Jabari and Mesika Present an Alternative

Jabari and Mesika Present an Alternative

The visit to the European Parliament is in fact a reciprocal visit by the Samarians. That visit certainly left its mark, according to Provera’s words. The senior European parliamentarian went on with his speech, relating his experiences in Israel: “During my latest trip to Israel I visited extensive areas of Judea and Samaria, and also Ariel University, where I saw scenes that many of those who speak of a two-state solution don’t see. Jewish and Arab students studying side by side there, working on joint academic projects which in the end will improve their economic situation. At the Barkan Industrial Park I saw enterprises where Palestinians and settlers worked together in one factory. As opposed to that splendid reality, the head of the Palestinian Authority Abu Mazen is working with all of his might to prevent joing projects between settlers and their Arab neighbors. Ever since Sala’am Fayad’s call to boycott goods produced in the territories, many Palestinians who used to work in such places, have joined the ranks of the unemployed and sit at home doing nothing. In my opinion, small steps towards partnership such as these, lead to far more significant progress than speeches about far-reaching agreements.”

“The Oslo Agreements have failed”
Sheikh Farid al-Jabari, a man of action, not words, attacked the Oslo Agreements that in his view have failed the test of reality, taking their toll in blood from both sides and leading to a worse-than-ever state of affairs for the Palestinians. “To our dismay, for the last 20 years we have not succeeded in making peace, and the two peoples have paid a heavy price in blood and loss of life. The Oslo agreements have proven themselves to be agreements leading only to conflict. The fact is that every five years there has been either a war or an intifada. For 64 years we have tried all different ways to defeat each other in war, conflicts that led to loss of life and in failed talks, too. War will not lead to a solution, and neither will terror. We want peace with dignity”, said the Sheikh.
A few days before the Brussels summit, Jabari invited me to his tent in the Ziv desert and let me in on his preparations for the meeting. “The reality is that we live without basic medical services, money to feed our children, and most importantly – without dignity. The corrupt Palestinian Authority plays a significant part in this. The money sent by the European Union to the PA does not get to us. The only hospital in the Hebron area has  no basic equipment, such as ultra-sound.”
A few days later on the Brussels stage, the Sheikh announced unequivocally: “I deny the view that land justifies killing innocent people. We cannot negotiate about this land, because it does not belong to Arafat, to Abu Mazen or to me. This land is holy according to religious faith. Islam teaches us that you cannot cancel me out and I cannot cancel out your reality. If this is the reality imposed on us, then let’s learn how to live in real peace, not with the illusions that people coming from outside try to sell us, in the wake of the Oslo Agreements.
“Education of our children needs to be changed on both sides. We must build trust, not slogans. When you guard the honor of the other person, you are preserving your own honor. The Jews living in Hebron have been labeled with the stigma that they are the most extreme Jews in the State of Israel. In spite of that, we have proven that we can come to a mutual understanding, and today they say that if the Sheikh says something, we stand behind him. I respect their leadership’s word, too. When people want to live together, it’s possible to help one another. Problems can’t be solved by filling pockets with money and hoping the reality will change and that the “other” will just disappear from the scene. We are here together, let’s learn to get along together in one state.”
The words of the Sheikh and of Fiorello Provera stirred up the Parliament members. The conference, which at first went smoothly, took on an interesting and exciting nature, and the extraordinary words spoken caused those present to sit up straight in their cushy seats.
“Turn off the faucet”
Gershon Mesika opened by making it clear that just like the speakers from the Palestinian side, the settlers are also working against the security fence, which is hurting the settlement movement and is forcefully attempting to change the reality on the ground. He clarified before the attendees the strategic importance of Samaria from an Israeli viewpoint. “This is the cradle of the Jewish people’s homeland, a place of strategic importance to the State’s existence. Israel’s width from the sea to the river is only 70 kilometers. Of this, Samaria takes up 55 kilometers. Whoever visits Samaria – and some of the distinguished MKs were with us on tours of the area and can confirm my words – sees with his own eyes Samaria’s importance as the safety belt of the State of Israel. Those in Europe who are pushing the idea of forming a Palestinian state, are in fact sticking a knife in Israel’s heart and putting Israel in real existential danger. Just like what happened with the expulsion from Gush Katif, when we settlers leave, terror comes in to replace us.
“Israel is the only democratic country in the region, and it is essentially the dam that blocks the Islamic flood threatening Europe, too. Without settlement in Judea and Samaria, the existence of the State of Israel is not feasible.”
Mesika also asked the representatives of the European Union to turn off the faucet to the extreme Leftist organizations working against the settlement enterprise. “These are extremist organizations that have a minimal influence on the public, trying with all their might to incite the world against the State of Israel by means of false accusations against it. The funds that the European Union sends them for purposes of peace, in fact are used by them as weapons against the State of Israel. I don’t see the logic, in a difficult economic reality where some European countries are on the brink of collapse and their stronger cohorts are forced to part with considerable funds to rescue them, that specific bodies in Europe consider it right to spend billions of Euros on the activities of these organizations”, said Mesika.
The children of our father Abraham
During the coffee break, people walked all around us – the strange ones with kippas on their heads, people thirsty for information. The size of the population in Samaria, the height of the mountains, water problems in the Hebron area and the cooperation between the settlers and Sheikh Jabari – all of these topics replaced the usual dialog on the ’67 borders, apartheid and occupation.
“The reality you are experiencing today in your home country, already exists in specific areas by us, too”, says Carla, an intern in one of the European lobbies. “The policy of two states for two peoples is still the leading policy of the Union, but the internal Islamic problem is starting to cause young people to speak and to see the problem in a different way.”
Right before MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas), who was also present at the event, raised the painful issue of the Jewish refugees who escaped from Arab countries and left behind all their possessions, Gershon Mesika related in his speech the story of his two older brothers who perished in the Holocaust in Libya: “I, Gershon the son of Yosef and Gita Mesika, whose two older brothers Amos and Ya’akov were murdered by the cursed Nazis in the Jado concentration camp in Libya, stand before you and declare to the whole world that the Jewish People have a state of their own, and not only are we not selling it out, but we are buying it again and again with our blood and are paying for the right of our state to exist, to protect it and to settle it.”
Ze’ev spoke about the Arab Spring and the chaos prevailing in the Middle East, in the context of the Union’s position on the Israeli-Arab conflict. “The European Union needs to take their blindfolds off and look at the realities before them”, he told the MKs. “There is still education towards violence and terror. The leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniya, announced that his organization has no intention of honoring any agreements signed with Abu Mazen. Therefore, the European Union should understand the complicated situation and not make the general-regional solution dependent on the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Ze’ev emphasized that the Arabs in Israel today enjoy security and possibilities for development that don’t exist for them in other places, and certainly nowhere else in the Middle East. “We can’t ignore the fact that in Arab countries there is poverty, corruption and violence by the authorities. This is the main obstacle to the peace process, not the building of a balcony in Ramat Shlomo. The European Union must recognize the rights of the Jews to the Land of Israel as the children of father Avraham who was in Israel long before Islam.
“Just as it cannot be that an outside country decides that a specific region in Europe does not belong to Europe, it also cannot be that outside countries will decide that Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem are outside the homeland of the Jews. They must encourage the Jews and the Palestinians to come to an agreement that will satisfy all the children who live in the region. Two million Arabs live safely within Israel. There is no reason that Jews cannot live on their land, in the cities mentioned in the Torah – Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Hebron.”
Sheikh A’ataf Krinoway of Rahat, spoke of the ability of the Beduins to serve as a bridge between Israel, Egypt and Jordan. “Peace is made with people, not with politicians. We ourselves need to work for the sake of peace”, said Krinway.
(photo captions)(p. 20) To live in peace, not in illusions that outsiders are trying to sell. Jabari.
 “Israel is a dam holding back the Islamic flood threatening Europe, too”. Mesika
(p. 22) “Reality will not change with territorial compromises, but with confidence-building measures between peoples.” Provera (center) and his guests.

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