PALESTINIAN PUZZLE: HAMAS BEFRIENDS HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS, REFUGEES, AND, ALONG WITH P.A., ASSAD

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Abbas, Hamas, Flirting With Syria's Assad: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 23, 2013— Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's gestures toward Syria's President Bashar Assad will only bring him closer to Iran, Hizbullah and radical Palestinian groups that oppose any peace with Israel.

Hamas: Benevolent Savior Of Syrian Refugees?: Nicole Brackman and Asaf Romirowsky, Forbes, Oct. 18, 2013 — Fiction and reality are often indistinguishably juxtaposed in the Middle East. This week, when Hamas called on Palestinians fleeing Syria to come to the Gaza instead of risking their lives at sea, it seemed a surreal caricature.

Hamas Strategy: Manipulate Human Rights Groups: Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Halevi, Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, Oct. 24, 2013—Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh delivered a speech at the Rashad a-Shawa Center in Gaza on October 19, 2013, detailing Hamas’ positions on various issues, including adhering to the armed struggle to liberate all of Palestine and pleading for a third intifada (armed insurrection), as well as discussing inter-Palestinian relations and Hamas’ ties with Arab states, especially Egypt and Syria.

How Hamas dug its Gaza ‘terror tunnel,’ and how the IDF found it: Mitch Ginsberg, The Times of Israel, Oct. 16, 2013— The tunnel stretching from the outskirts of Khan Yunis to the fields of Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha was meant to facilitate a complex terror attack involving an assault on soldiers or civilians, with the intention of seizing a captive Israeli and holding him or her as a bargaining chip.

 

On Topic Links

Turkey — Friend or Foe?: Sheryl Saperia, National Post, Oct. 24, 2013       Middle East Peace Talks Go On, Under the Radar: Jodi Rudoren & Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, Oct. 23, 2013

Israel-Palestine Peace Talks: Where Are They?: Neville Teller, Jerusalem Post,  Oct. 23, 2013

Palestinian Authority – Billions in Aid Go Missing: David Singer, Arutz Sheva News, Oct. 22, 2013

Tunnel May Signal Shift In Hamas-Israel Conflict: Adnan Abu Amer, Al-Monitor, Oct. 22, 2013

 

ABBAS, HAMAS, FLIRTING WITH SYRIA’S ASSAD

Khaled Abu Toameh

Gatestone Institute, Oct. 23, 2013

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's gestures toward Syria's President Bashar Assad will only bring him closer to Iran, Hizbullah and radical Palestinian groups that oppose any peace with Israel.

Recently, both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas seem to have changed their policy toward the Syrian conflict. Neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority wants to be seen as siding with Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, most likely out of fear that such support would cost the Palestinians Western sympathy and funding.

 

Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, relations between the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad regime and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have been tense. Hamas's public support for the opposition forces led to the expulsion of its leaders from Syria; and the Palestinian Authority's failure to support publicly the Assad regime resulted in tensions between Damascus and Ramallah.

 

After losing faith in the Syrian opposition, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are now trying to mend fences with the regime of Syria's President, Bashar Assad. The two rival Palestinian parties are hoping that Assad will forgive them for failing to support his regime against the rebels – a move that has resulted, since the beginning of the civil war, in the displacement and death of tens of thousands of Palestinians living in Syria. More than 200,000 Palestinians have been forced to flee their homes in several refugee camps in Syria, while another 2,000 have been killed in the fighting between the Syrian army and the opposition forces.

 

The shift in the Palestinian Authority's stance became evident during Mahmoud Abbas's recent speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Referring to the Syrian crisis, Abbas said, "While we condemn the crime of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, we have affirmed our rejection of a military solution and the need to find a peaceful political solution to fulfill the aspirations of the Syrian people." The Assad regime did not conceal its satisfaction with Abbas's comments, especially his opposition to a "military solution." That Abbas refrained from holding the Assad regime responsible for the use of chemical weapons was also received with a sigh of relief in Damascus.

 

In his September 26, 2013 address to the UN General Assembly, PA President Mahmoud Abbas tried to improve damaged relations with Bashar Assad's regime, stating "while we condemn the crime of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, we have affirmed our rejection of a military solution and the need to find a peaceful political solution to fulfill the aspirations of the Syrian people." After Abbas's speech, Assad agreed to meet with senior PLO official Abbas Zaki, who relayed to him a letter from the Palestinian Authority president. The Syrian news agency Sana quoted the PLO envoy as telling Assad that the Palestinians support Syria in the face of "aggression." This statement means that the PLO has decided to support Assad against the various opposition groups fighting against his regime. Meanwhile, Hamas's efforts to patch up its differences with the Assad regime have thus far been less successful.

 

In the context of these efforts, Hamas leaders and spokesmen have stopped their rhetorical attacks on the Assad regime. In addition, Hamas has been working hard to distance itself from the Syrian "rebels," particularly those affiliated with Al-Qaeda. In a speech in Gaza City last weekend, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh assured Syria and other Arab countries that his movement does not meddle in their internal affairs. "We never sided with [Arab] country against the other," Haniyeh declared. "We are keen on a unified Arab and Islamic position toward the Palestinian cause." Like Abbas, Haniyeh also called for a "political solution and national understandings" in solving Arab disputes.

 

But while a rapprochement between Hamas and the Assad regime would only serve the Islamist movement's interests and help it rid itself of its growing state of isolation, especially in the aftermath of the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt, the renewal of ties between the Palestinian Authority and Damascus does not bode well for the future of the peace process.The Assad regime is not going to change its position toward peace with Israel to appease Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Abbas's gestures toward Assad will only bring him closer to Iran, Hizbullah and radical Palestinian groups that oppose any peace process with Israel.

 

Contents

HAMAS: BENEVOLENT SAVIOR OF SYRIAN REFUGEES?

Nicole Brackman & Asaf Romirowsky

Forbes, Oct. 18, 2013

Fiction and reality are often indistinguishably juxtaposed in the Middle East. This week, when Hamas called on Palestinians fleeing Syria to come to the Gaza instead of risking their lives at sea, it seemed a surreal caricature.

 

The call — made by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh — came after the Libyan coast guard opened fire at a boat carrying 374 Palestinian refugees from Syria. The irony is that the Syrian refugees are indeed facing a real human tragedy, but it's not just the Palestinians among them. The Hamas offer — on the surface a generous humanitarian gesture — is in fact a none-too-subtle attempt to refocus global attention on the Palestinian refugee issue while turning a blind eye to the plight of non-Palestinians fleeing from Syria.

 

By all accounts, over a million Syrians have crossed the border seeking safe haven from the deadly violence there, which has killed upwards of 100,000 people in the last three years. The refugees have largely poured into Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Iraqi Kurdistan. These are areas which can ill afford to either house the refugees or endure the destabilizing economic, demographic, and potential political forces for which they become a catalyst. Other Arab nations — Gulf states with the petro-dollars to finance substantial aid efforts — have either refused to host Syrian refugees altogether (Bahrain) or sent token amounts of aid (Qatar, Saudi Arabia) to assist them.

 

The influx of Syrian refugees entering Lebanon (by August 2013, over 670,000) has challenged all conventional wisdom regarding the Palestinians refugees. Lebanon is singularly unequipped to absorb the refugees; the long memory of the shattering effects of an influx of Palestinians displaced by the Black September (1970) campaign of Jordan's King Hussein, and the subsequent decades-long bloody civil war that followed, lingers. The consequences of that war — a total devolution of Lebanon's political, economic, social, and religious infrastructure, a long occupation by Syria's Assad regime, and a shadow-state run by Shi'a dominated and Iran-financed Hezbollah — reverberate through Lebanon.

 

Jordan, which had (in August 2013) absorbed over half a million Syrians, has set aside separate refugee camps for Palestinians and forcibly repatriated some others. Accommodating by far the greatest number of Syrians, Turkey's resources are stretched to the limit and its government has begun accepting international resources; but Ankara is acutely concerned about the potential unrest fomented by the refugees (as well as Syrian rebel and Assad loyalist forces lurking among them).

 

Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey share another dilemma – that of how best to house the refugees. Refugees placed in camps are more easily organized and provided with services. Funding can be more transparently accounted through recognized agencies like UNHCR as well as other NGOs such as the Red Cross. The host countries also seem to believe that such camps can limit the potential political destabilization that rampant assimilation of the refugees into mainstream society may cause.

 

To date the United States has pledged more than $800 million in humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees. None has been specifically earmarked for Palestinians. Yet UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) continues to press for more money, arguing that its mission to 'provide emergency assistance to Palestine refugees' is endangered by the crisis. Another illustration of how UNRWA attempts to highlight the Palestinians as a "privileged group" that is the only group deserving attention from the world.

 

Unlike Lebanon, the 470,000 Palestinians in Syria have over the decades been granted the right to work in any profession; yet they are not citizens and cannot own property besides the houses in which they reside. Most Palestinians in Syria have never known another home and are effectively Syrian, as other groups in that country's ethno-religious patchwork. Unlike Christians, Druze and other groups now being turned into refugees or internally displaced persons, Palestinians have UNRWA to provide support and act as their advocate.

 

The Syrian refugee crisis highlights not only a temporary jurisdictional conflict between UNRWA and UNHCR; it also brings into focus questions over UNRWA's continued role. More than a bureaucratic snafu, the mandate of UNRWA – to protect and (at least ipso facto) perpetuate the status of Palestinians as refugees – is sharply at odds with that of UNHCR, which seeks to protect, integrate and resettle refugees so that they are no longer considered refugees. It is incumbent on the United Nations to reevaluate UNRWA's continued role. Hamas' exclusive offer reflects a larger 'truism' in global politics: Palestinian refugees – and the Israel/Palestinian dispute – are the fulcrum of conflict in the region and should necessarily draw special attention. The violence in Syria (as well as in Egypt) and the very real human tragedy visited upon over a million people, vividly underscores the spuriousness of the myth of Palestinian centrality.

 

Contents

 

HAMAS STRATEGY: MANIPULATE HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS

Lt. Col. Jonathan Halevi

Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, Oct. 24, 2013

 

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh delivered a speech at the Rashad a-Shawa Center in Gaza on October 19, 2013, detailing Hamas’ positions on various issues, including adhering to the armed struggle to liberate all of Palestine and pleading for a third intifada (armed insurrection), as well as discussing inter-Palestinian relations and Hamas’ ties with Arab states, especially Egypt and Syria.

 

In his address, Haniyeh expounded the strategy of Hamas, the largest Palestinian terrorist organization and offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Hamas has established a political entity in the Gaza Strip, and supports a long list of terrorist groups, among them those ideologically identified with al-Qaeda. One of the significant means for attaining Hamas’ goals, according to Haniyeh, is a reliance on human rights organizations and Western left-wing groups whom he termed “liberals,” which, in his view, help the Palestinian people tackle the State of Israel in the political, legal, and public affairs arenas.

 

“We place our confidence on the support of the liberals in the world who oppose the occupation and iniquity caused by the Zionists to our people….Blessings to all the commissions, individuals, civil society groups, and human rights organizations that worked to break the siege on Gaza and who fought against the fence and the settlements. Moreover, we bear in mind those liberals of the world who stood by our cause and against the Zionist war on our land, and this reflects the consciousness of the nations regarding our just cause and the level of transgression and racism undertaken by the Zionist entity against our people,” Haniyeh said.

 

This reliance of a terrorist organization on human rights and left-wing groups as well as other international elements is but a stage in a general strategy by terrorists to employ diplomatic tools to serve as a complementary means to achieve the ultimate goals of Hamas’ Islamic ideology. According to Haniyeh, “It is well known that realizing the project of national liberation on the basis of the experience of peoples and nations requires the combination of (armed) struggle and diplomatic and political action, and diplomatic activity is no less important than armed conflict, and each aspect complements the other. Yet for this to succeed there must be no conflict between these policies and the struggle, the diplomatic action cannot be taken in isolation, neither can it be executed in a careless manner or at a distance from the basic tenets of this issue.”

 

On the basis of these principles, Haniyeh expanded on Hamas’ strategy, which is committed to conducting an all-out campaign against the State of Israel, which, in addition to Jihad (holy war), also has diplomatic, legal, media, and popular aspects. These measures, with boycott being one of the operative aspects most favored by Haniyeh in this context, are intended to wear down the State of Israel, eroding its staying power and resilience, and thus assisting in bringing about Israel’s ultimate elimination…

 

At the conclusion of his address the Hamas prime minister referred to the dire consequences of the “firm hand” policy employed by the military regime in Egypt vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip, manifested by curtailing the passage of people and goods through the Rafah crossing and the destruction of hundreds of tunnels that enabled uninterrupted imports from Egypt at a level above $1 billion annually, constituting an important source of revenue for the Hamas government.

 

 “In light of this negative development we emphasize the following,” Haniyeh stated. “We place full responsibility for this siege on the Israeli occupation and its consequences and we register a violation of international law, which is tantamount to crimes against humanity, and we appeal to reopen all crossing points and allow all goods into the Gaza Strip, especially construction materials and raw materials according to international law.” Thus, Hamas, which supports an all-out struggle against Israel and backs a boycott of Israel, demands that the State of Israel supply the Gaza Strip with Israeli products.

 

Haniyeh also saw fit once again to plead with left-wing Western organizations to help Hamas on this point, not versus Egypt, which has curtailed exports to Gaza, but with regard to Israel, which he portrayed as the enemy Hamas strives to annihilate. “We call upon our people and our nation and liberals around the world, in Europe and in other places that support our cause, to continue their activity to break the siege and expand them (these activities),” Haniyeh stated. He called on “human rights organizations, civil society groups and the liberals of the world to condemn the Zionist siege of Gaza,” noting that “we call on anyone who can to press legal charges in the International Criminal Court against the Israeli occupation on grounds of war crimes against our helpless Palestinian people.”

 

Regarding the genocide of the Syrian population and the wide-scale massacres taking place in the Arab world in recent years (in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, etc.), the Hamas prime minister did not request the assistance of left-wing groups and human rights organizations. To him, these are merely “internal issues” of these states.

 

Contents

 

 

HOW HAMAS DUG ITS ‘TERROR TUNNEL,’ AND HOW THE IDF FOUND IT

Mitch Ginsburg

The Times of Israel, Oct. 16, 2013

 

The tunnel stretching from the outskirts of Khan Yunis to the fields of Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha was meant to facilitate a complex terror attack involving an assault on soldiers or civilians, with the intention of seizing a captive Israeli and holding him or her as a bargaining chip. Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk confirmed as much on Tuesday, two days after Israeli authorities revealed their discovery.

 

“The tunnel which was revealed was extremely costly in terms of money, effort and blood,” Abu Marzouk wrote on his Facebook page. “All of this is meaningless when it comes to freeing our heroic prisoners.” He went on to detail the lucrative nature of the Gilad Shalit deal, in which 1,027 prisoners were released after the Israeli soldier was kidnapped in just such an attack.

 

Slightly less clear was the manner in which such an “extremely advanced and well prepared” tunnel, as the Gaza Division commander called it, was dug and, later, detected. “They’d begin with a shaft, drilling straight down,” said a former Southern Command officer who served in the IDF’s geology unit. “Then they’d start to move horizontally.” The earth in which the tunnelers began drilling, in the eastern Gaza Strip, he said, is characterized by calcium carbonate – a sort of sand that is fossilized with sea shells. Other parts of Gaza have simple sand layers – beneath dunes – and shallower water tables, and are thus, on both accounts, less conducive to tunneling. In the Rafah region, for instance, he said the water table was perhaps 20 meters beneath the surface. In the Khan Yunis-Ein Hashlosha region, northeast of Rafah, the water table, which sits at around sea level, was roughly 60 meters beneath the surface. The Ein Hashlosha tunnel, which was discovered on October 7 and revealed to the public on Sunday, was 20 meters at its deepest. Counterintuitively, the deeper one digs the more stable the tunnel.

 

“Tunneling is a question of stability of the rocks or soils surrounding the underground cavity,” said the IDF reserves officer. “In principle, the deeper the tunnel, the greater the stability.” To illustrate the difficulties of tunneling just beneath the surface in sand, he suggested recalling days at the beach as a child and the constant caving in of all holes “at the face of the excavation near the surface.” Tunneling through uncemented sands, he said, “can be a nightmare in terms of stability.” The fossilized dunes are more difficult to dig through but are likely to be more stable. He said that the tunnelers in the Gaza Strip have “a very good knowledge” of the ground conditions and would likely have chosen the more stable soil as their surface of choice. Nonetheless, the diggers, whom he deemed professionals, took the unusual precaution of supporting the tunnel with cement arches all through its length. “More often one sees wood used as a support structure,” he added.

 

All told, some 3,400 cubic meters of soil were excavated from the earth in carving the tunnel, the geologist estimated. A mountain of earth that size, even if carted away daily on trucks, leaves a traceable signature and is one way in which the IDF is able to spot the hallmarks of a tunnel. Other ways, according to an academic tunnel-detection expert, include devices that measure sub-surface sound, the strength and direction of a magnetic field, and the propagation or spread of radio and light waves. The seismic method is the most intuitive and monitors the tremors created by people moving and digging underground…

 

Finally, Israeli researchers Asaf Klar and Raphael Linker, both of the Technion Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, developed a system based on fiber-optic cables that can detect a tunnel at a depth of more than 20 meters. The system forms an underground fence that could “analyze the tunneling-induced changes in the optical fiber,” according to the Technion’s literature, and, on the basis of computer software models, pinpoint the location of the tunnel. The tunnel detection expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the Technion-developed system analyzes the shift in the wavelength of a laser beam that travels through a fiber optic cable and in that way detects tunneling activity. And yet, he said, each technique has its drawbacks and “what usually works is a combination of all of these approaches.”

                                                Contents

On Topic

 

Turkey — Friend or Foe?: Sheryl Saperia, National Post, Oct. 24, 2013  Is it time for Canada to designate Turkey as a state sponsor of terror? The question may strike some as surprising.  

                                                                                                        Middle East Peace Talks Go On, Under the Radar: Jodi Rudoren & Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, Oct. 23, 2013 A recent Israeli editorial cartoon depicted the lead Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators beleaguered on treadmills, with Secretary of State John Kerry between them. Hands on the controls, Mr. Kerry was shown saying, “I’m upping the tempo a bit more.”                                                                                                                                                                                              Israel-Palestine Peace Talks: Where Are They?: Neville Teller, Jerusalem Post,  Oct. 23, 2013: It does not seem beyond the bounds of possibility that, far from breaking up in failure and recrimination, the peace discussions may indeed yield something positive.                                                                                                                            

 

Palestinian Authority – Billions in Aid Go Missing: David Singer, Arutz Sheva News, Oct. 22, 2013: A European watchdog reports that billions have disappeared into PLO leaders coffers.     

 

                                                                                                          Tunnel May Signal Shift In Hamas-Israel Conflict: Adnan Abu Amer, Al-Monitor, Oct. 22, 2013:  There has been a lot of talk in the Gaza Strip about the Israeli army’s announcement on Oct. 10 that it had discovered a tunnel dug by Palestinians from east of Abasan, in southern Gaza, to the nearby kibbutz of Ein Hashlosha, in Israel.
 

 
 

 

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