Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Settler violence

The article states:

In relative terms, the violence perpetrated by radical elements among the Jewish settler movement pales in comparison to the well-orchestrated, highly public, popularly supported lethal attacks of radical Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This fringe group of Jewish extremists has so far not carried out a fatal terrorist attack, while Islamist groups have killed hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians.
I am not sure it is so. Settlers killed a Prime Minister. That is pretty serious even compared to some of the things that the Palestinians do. Settlers carried out several fatal attacks and were convicted for doing them as I remember. They also tried to bomb a Palestinian girls' school. They got caught that time, but give them an "E" for effort. Moreover, each time they beat a Palestinian or level an olive grove or stone Palestinian kids on the way to school, they are doing far more damage to the state of Israel than a suicide bomber, for they are ruining our good name and turning us into a chaotic state of hoodlums.
Nor is it any use explaining that these people are "just a fringe." After all, that is the same excuse used by every violent movement, including the Palestinians. "We don't believe that. We don't support violence. They are just a fringe - outside agitators. Of course, we can understand their point of view." The same excuses were used for Ku Klux Klan violence in the United States. The fact is, no Kach people, State of Judea, Hamas, KKK or any other extremists could exist for long if others in their society did not support them and give them shelter and funds.
These people are an embarrassment to Zionism and a blot on the image and good name of the Jewish people. They are not serving any positive purpose and what they do is inexcusable. Anyone who cooperates with such people, gives them shelter or fails to report them is a traitor to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
Ami Isseroff  

Violence by Extremists in the Jewish Settler Movement: A Rising Challenge

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
November 24, 2008

Thirteen years after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli security officials are expressing heightened concern that a new wave of violent extremism among fringe elements in the Jewish settler movement threatens not only Palestinian civilians, but also Israeli national security and the future of any potential peace diplomacy.

Recent Trends in Violence by a Settler Fringe

The vast majority of the approximately 300,000 Israelis living in West Bank settlements are law-abiding citizens. An extremist fringe element within the settler movement, however, has been responsible for a substantial increase in violent incidents. According to a November 2008 report by Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, security officials recorded 675 cases of violent activity perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and Israeli security forces from January to November 2008. These incidents include assault, causing damage to property, trespassing, violating orders, using a weapon, and "causing death."

Prosecutors opened 515 of these criminal cases so far this year, an increase of 11 percent from 2007. Of these, 13 involved what the newspaper termed "left wing anarchists," while 502 involved "right wing radicals." The majority of alleged perpetrators were adults with no prior criminal record and were not, as widely assumed, teenagers. Of these, 197 people were jailed and 105 indictments filed, compared to 61 in 2007. Israeli officials are disturbed by the focus on Israel Defense Forces (IDF) personnel involved in dismantling settlement outposts; at times, they are being attacked or held at knifepoint.

This violence appears to be part of a deliberate campaign by a committed core of fringe settlers to prevent the dismantlement of settlements and outposts. They are using a strategy called the "price tag," which is a retaliation for government efforts challenging the settlement enterprise in the West Bank. Largely perpetrated by members of the "hilltop youth" -- a loosely organized group of belligerent young settlers -- this tactic attempts to pin down troops in various locations by blocking traffic, setting fields on fire, throwing rocks, and other acts of small-scale violence against local Palestinians and members of the Israeli security forces.

The price-tag strategy concerns Israeli authorities, since it encourages the radical fringe to take the law into its own hands, as demonstrated by the reprisal on the Palestinian village of Asira al-Qibliya on September 13. Riled by the stabbing of a young boy during a botched robbery in their settlement, about 150 Jewish settlers from Yitzhar stormed the village, damaged and set fire to property, and shot Palestinian residents. The raid's violence and lawlessness shocked Israeli leaders; Prime Minister Ehud Olmert condemned the attack as a "pogrom." More ominously, Israeli Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) chief Yuval Diskin has warned the cabinet that the radical fringe perceives the price-tag policy as successful and that the group is threatening to expand the use of violence outside the West Bank.

Pipe Bomb Attack

The September 25 pipe bomb attack on Israeli professor and prominent peace activist Zeev Sternhell outside his Jerusalem home suggests that some extremists may already be engaging in price-tag attacks in Israel proper. Although Rabin's assassin was a lone gunman acting on the extremist ideology of unorganized fellow travelers, the Sternhell attack appears to have been the result of an organized group of right-wing extremists seeking to incite like-minded individuals to action.

According to Israeli public security minister Avi Dichter, the bombing was believed to be an ideologically motivated terrorist act perpetrated by radical Jewish extremists intent on killing Sternhell. In Sternhell's neighborhood, investigators found pamphlets, signed the "Army of Liberators," offering 1.1 million shekels (roughly $320,000) to anyone who kills a member of Peace Now, a left-wing Israeli group. The pamphlet stated, "The State of Israel, our 2000-year-old dream, has become a nightmare. This country is ruled by a mob of wicked people, haters of the Torah who want to erase the laws of God. . . The state of Israel has become our enemy. . . The time has come to set up a state of Jewish law in Judea and Samaria. The time has come for the Kingdom of Judea."

The pamphlet echoes long-stated fringe propaganda, but Israeli security officials fear it represents an extremist threat that has evolved since the days of the Temple Mount Underground (a Jewish terrorist group that plotted to blow up the Dome of the Rock mosque in the early 1980s). Although the perpetrators of this attack have not been identified, security forces state that a new, organized Jewish underground may be responsible for the bombing and could be planning additional strikes.

A Rising Threat

The threat of violent extremism among the fringes of the settler movement tends to be cyclical, based closely on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and unilateral Israeli government efforts to dismantle settlements and outposts. For example, the Yediot Aharonot article noted that the ISA recorded 300 strands of intelligence relating to extremist threats on people or public institutions during the July 2000 peace talks at Camp David, when Jerusalem was a centerpiece of negotiations. The number of such threats fell to 100 in the year after the Camp David talks, but in 2005, with the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza looming, the number rose again to 150. Authorities have not indicated how many possible threats they face today, but Diskin has assessed that the fringe elements are "preparing for war."

While violent extremism among the fringe of the settler movement is not a new phenomenon (see PolicyWatch # 470), Israeli authorities state that the most recent threat represents a new dynamic. According to Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, head of the IDF Central Command, the number of settlers willing to use violence against the state has grown exponentially, from a handful to hundreds. According to General Shamni, "In the past, only a few dozen individuals were implicated in [attacks against Palestinians and Israeli soldiers]. Today, we are talking about several hundred people -- a very significant change." General Shamni warns that "an extreme incident could happen at any time. These people are conspiring against the Palestinians and against the [Israeli] security forces."

Following the experience of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip -- Hamas's subsequent electoral victory, its military takeover of Gaza, and its use of northern Gaza as a launchpad for mortar and rocket attacks against southern Israel -- Israeli officials fear that the lesson learned by these fringe extremists in the settler movement is that withdrawal from any West Bank hilltop or community must bear a significant cost, or price tag, for Israeli security forces, decisionmakers, and those, like Sternhell, who support such policies. Shamni, for example, cited recent cases in which the radicals sicced a dog on an Israeli reserve commander, broke a deputy battalion commander's arm, and slashed the tires of reservist vehicles.

The outgoing Israeli government has recently spoken out against the rising violence, with Olmert stating, "An evil wind of extremism, of hate, of maliciousness, of violence, of losing control, of lawbreaking, of contempt for the institutions of state, is passing through certain sections of the Israeli public." Although the extent to which this violence represents the beginning of a new Jewish extremist underground is uncertain, the Shin Bet found "a very high willingness [among radicals]. . . to use violence -- not just stones, but live weapons -- in order to prevent or halt a diplomatic process."


In relative terms, the violence perpetrated by radical elements among the Jewish settler movement pales in comparison to the well-orchestrated, highly public, popularly supported lethal attacks of radical Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This fringe group of Jewish extremists has so far not carried out a fatal terrorist attack, while Islamist groups have killed hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians. Perhaps most importantly, the leaders of Israel's government and society repudiate these Jewish extremists, whereas Islamist groups are celebrated in popular media, supported by official institutions, and funded by governments throughout the Middle East.

This sense of proportionality, however, does not obscure the fact that Israeli security officials are increasingly concerned about the trajectory of recent events. This concern points to the substantial increase in the organization of the extremist elements within the settler movement and their willingness to use force to advance their goals. With the likelihood of Israeli-Palestinian reengagement in early 2009, Israeli security officials will surely devote additional attention and much-needed manpower to this potential threat.


Palestinian Forces try to calm Hebron

Ethan Bronner
The New York Times
November 24, 2008

It was a scene that revealed both its medieval origins and its contemporary significance. On one side of the concrete schoolyard sat the Rajabi clan, wearing their finest kaffiyeh headdresses. On the other side were the Ajnounis, similarly decked out.

These ancient Hebron families had been feuding in the lawlessness of this city, leaving nine dead in recent months. Yet here they were last week, brought together by the newly installed Palestinian security forces, and being obliged to reconcile.

Some 2,000 men sitting on plastic chairs looked on as a judge read the ruling — 9.5 kilograms of gold or $210,000, $70,000 now and the rest in four monthly payments to the Rajabis. Old men rose, signed their names and embraced. Wads of cash held by rubber bands were produced. The audience burst into applause.

Hebron, the West Bank's most explosive city, with a combustible mix of hard-line Jewish settlers and Palestinian militants from Hamas and other groups, is undergoing a shake-up through the introduction of hundreds of Palestinian security officers who over the past month have stopped car thefts, foiled drug deals and arrested scores of Hamas gunmen, even seizing explosives and suicide belts. They have also focused on quality-of-life issues like fighting clans and the sales of outdated food and medicine by criminal gangs.

The Palestinian commander, Brig. Gen. Sameh al-Sifi, has dubbed the deployment Homeland Rising. And while that may seem a lofty name for a law-and-order operation, he has a point. The injection of the newly trained security forces into Israeli-occupied Hebron is, both sides agree, a significant step if there is ever to be a Palestinian state.

"Our leadership wants us to foil terrorists," General Sifi, 62, said in an interview. "There will be no legal weapons here except those used by the Palestinian Authority. My ambition is the same as that of my Israeli counterpart — to see our grandchildren enjoying their lives like the rest of the world."

A senior Israeli officer in Hebron said of General Sifi: "He's a very serious guy. I'd happily take him into our army."

After years of rancor, despair and false starts, something significant seems to be happening in Israeli-Palestinian security relations.

This is the second phase of a plan to install in the West Bank a Palestinian security force sponsored by the United States and trained by Jordan. The first, begun in May in the northern area of Jenin, has been widely praised. But Jenin was selected as a pilot partly because it has neither Hamas nor Jewish settlers in any significant numbers. Yet here too the deployment is going better than expected.

"Some of the communities and neighborhoods in Hebron haven't seen a policeman since 1967," noted Dov Schwartz, aide to Gen. Keith Dayton, the United States security coordinator in the West Bank. "People have turned over criminals, drug dealers and militants. This isn't some temporary crackdown. It is a sustained and determined effort."

But it is one that will test the Israeli-Palestinian peace process like perhaps no other.

The Bible says that Abraham lived and bought property here to bury his wife, the matriarch Sarah, and that it was David's capital before Jerusalem, so observant Jews view Hebron as rightfully Jewish forever.

Indeed, nearly as much as Jerusalem, Hebron is, as the Haaretz newspaper writer Nadav Shragai put it recently, a fault line between Israelis "for whom the future of our sons is more important than the graves of our forefathers" and those who are convinced that there is no future for their sons in a place that is without the graves of their forefathers — "no physical-existential future, and most of all no spiritual future."

The Jewish settlers here — there are only 700 in the separated and heavily guarded center of the city, but a total of 12,000 around the area of 600,000 Palestinians — are among the most combative in the West Bank.

Last week, a group of them, told by the Israeli Supreme Court to leave a building, defaced a Muslim cemetery and mosque, drawing Stars of David in blue ink, writing "Muhammad is a pig" and scrawling the slogan of their radical movement — "price tag," a policy of exacting a price for any attempt to rein settlers in.

David Wilder, spokesman for the Jews of Hebron, condemned the defacing but said it was the result of endless provocation and expressed surprise that it did not happen more often. He called the new Palestinian security force "armed terrorists in uniform" and said it was "inconceivable that we could be making the same mistake again, letting armed Arabs into the center of Hebron."

Mr. Wilder was referring to what happened eight years ago when the Palestinian police turned their guns on Israelis in the second intifada and Israel responded with enormous force, destroying most of the nascent Palestinian infrastructure and reoccupying much of the West Bank. The current security cooperation is an attempt to try again as leaders of both nations assert that a two-state solution is the only way forward.

It is complicated not only by settlers but also by the internal Palestinian tensions between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and the militant Hamas group, which runs Gaza and rejects Israel's existence. Efforts to reconcile the two groups are faltering, and the continued arrest of Hamas gunmen here by Palestinian troops has increased tensions.

A recent day spent with the new Palestinian security services revealed the range of their work.

For example, they have filled warehouses with outdated food — canned meat, chocolates, baby formula — and medicine, seized from Palestinian gangs who buy the goods at cut price from Israelis and then stamp new dates on them to sell them to local shops and hospitals. The gang leaders, some with Hamas links, are awaiting trial.

General Sifi says the arrests are not political but aimed at any group that considers itself above the law. By shutting down criminal gangs, he says, the ground for terrorism becomes infertile. But from its power base in Gaza, Hamas views things differently and threatens revenge.

Word of the change is spreading fast among Palestinians in the Hebron area — a quarter of the West Bank population and its economic center.

"Forget politics, I am happy about one thing — that now there is law and order here, that you feel more secure," said Zein Abu Shkhedem, a 67-year-old tailor, when asked his view of the change as he sat in his shop. "I heard about the reconciliation and the expired food and drugs."

General Sifi said his security officers had even been greeted by residents with sweets and rice. Outside of his office are dozens of recovered Israeli vehicles, including a cement mixer, on their way back to Israeli authorities. He agrees with Mr. Wilder, the settler spokesman, about one thing: the intifada was an error.

"The main mistake was that Palestinian forces used their weapons, and as a result the Israelis dealt with us like an army facing an army," he said. "Today the settlers want to provoke us, but we will not be provoked. Our forces have clear and firm instructions — don't give in to provocation."

The Israeli officer in Hebron, who spoke on condition of anonymity but with full permission of the army, said that he and General Sifi often sat with maps to coordinate activity, and that they were especially careful about settlers. "Any place near an Israeli settlement, we put a line on a map and they don't cross it," the officer said of the Palestinian forces. "They have been very disciplined so far."

General Sifi has lived in the West Bank for only a few years. Born in a village near Jerusalem — destroyed in Israel's independence war — he spent his life in exile wandering the Arab world with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The father of two sons — an engineer and an accountant — and five daughters, General Sifi said he had been among the most fervent backers of armed struggle for most of his life. But in the past decade, that changed. "I started to realize that Israel cannot be abolished," he said, "and that political and diplomatic work was required for us to get our homeland within the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital."

Referring to the decades of Palestinian employment throughout the region, he added: "We helped build all the Arab countries. Why shouldn't we build our own?"

Officials say the next stage in the rollout will be in Bethlehem, in time for Christmas.

Holy Land Foundation conviction gives American Muslims Pause

ATFP is doing the right thing. We cannot blame innocent people who wanted to help the poor and got  swindled to inadvertantly support terrorism. We can on the other hand, certainly blame those who continue to yell "discrimination" and "Islamophobia" even when it was crystal clear that Holy Land supports Hamas.

U.S. Muslims Taken Aback by a Charity's Conviction

The New York Times
November 25, 2008

American Muslim groups responded with uncustomary silence on Tuesday to the news that leaders of a Muslim charity shut down by the federal government had been convicted in a retrial of money laundering, tax fraud and supporting terrorism.

The case against the charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, had long revealed a divide among Muslim Americans, leaders say. Some saw the prosecution of the foundation primarily as evidence of anti-Muslim bias by the American government, while others suspected that the charity might indeed have operated as an overly politicized money funnel for Hamas in the 1990s.

The federal government declared Hamas to be a terrorist group in 1995. When the government shuttered Holy Land, which was based in a suburb of Dallas, and seized its assets in 2001, it was said to be the largest Muslim charity in the United States.

"I do believe the community was divided, and I believe the community will continue to be divided," said Dr. Ziad J. Asali, a retired physician who is the founder and president of the American Task Force on Palestine, an advocacy group in Washington that supports a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.

The jury's conviction of five Holy Land leaders on all 108 criminal counts took many Muslim leaders by surprise because a previous trial last year ended in a hung jury.

"So far, the reaction has been one of shock more than anything else," said Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, an advocacy group based in Bethesda, Md. "Even the people who are usually very quick to comment on events, positively or negatively, are so stunned by this that they seem to be at a loss for words."

Mr. Ahmad said the verdict would further confuse donors to Islamic charities, many of whom have been wary of giving to Islamic groups since Sept. 11.

"It seems to give a green light for further intimidation of Muslim charities," he said. "It makes people even more unsure of what they are supposed to do to avoid having a problem."

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the government designated dozens of Muslim charities, mostly international relief agencies, as financiers of terrorism. Muslim groups struggled for years to persuade the Treasury Department to produce some kind of seal of approval for legitimate charities that adhered strictly to humanitarian work. For Muslims, giving to charity is a religious obligation.

Part of the reason for the silence from Muslim leaders on Tuesday, some of them said, is that the government publicly named more than 300 individuals and American Muslim organizations as "unindicted co-conspirators," without allowing them to hear the evidence against them or defend themselves in court.

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing two of those groups, the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust, in trying to get a judge to strike their names from the list.

Hina Shamsi, a lawyer with the National Security Project of the A.C.L.U., said, "The Islamic Society of North America does a lot of outreach and interfaith dialogue, and works in cooperation with the F.B.I., and yet, as a result of this stigma, its reputation has been deeply harmed."

"The irony is obviously that this is the very community whose cooperation the government most needs for effective counterterrorism," she added.

Since the indictment of the Holy Land leaders, Muslim organizations have been working with the government to create mechanisms to ensure that humanitarian aid to Palestinians is not diverted to terrorism.

The American Task Force on Palestine recently created the American Charities for Palestine, and signed an agreement with the United States Agency for International Development in August, Dr. Asali said.

Under the agreement, American Charities will only make donations to educational and health institutions in the Palestinian occupied territories that have been vetted and approved by Usaid, Dr. Asali said. He just returned from taking the first donation, of 1,000 laptop computers, to Palestinian students.

"We wanted to be able to go to the donors and say, if you donate to this entity you don't have to worry about someone accusing you of terrorism," Dr. Asali said.


Human Rights in Iran: Culture Ministry Closes Tehran Gallery

This news will be welcomed no doubt by all the right thinking progressive forces. All the works have been removed because they contradict Islamic codes. This is in line with the recent UN resolution that forbids blasphemy. A great victory for the forces of light and reason.
Culture Ministry Closes Tehran Gallery
News number: 870906088014:17 | 2008-11-26
TEHRAN (FNA)- Tehran's Asar Gallery was closed by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

The decision to close the galley was made as it was playing host to an exhibition by Iranian photographer Peyman Hushmandzadeh.

"All the works have been removed from the gallery for their contradictions to Islamic codes and social values as well as for its negligence of sanctities," the ministry's Center for Visual Arts announced on Tuesday, MNA reported.

The exhibition had been organized without any previous agreement with the center, the center added.

All art shows should be authorized by the center, which is an affiliate of the Culture Ministry.

The center's director is officially the curator of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.