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Where Terror Rules By: David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Ariel Sharon's government added a specific clause to the final version of the Disengagement Plan, a plan that was ratified by the Israeli government on June 6th, 2004 after an earlier version had been rejected by Sharon’s own Likud Party referendum on May 2nd, 2004. That clause mandated that all properties from evacuated Israeli communities be transferred to "a third, international party which will put them to use for the benefit of the Palestinian population that is not involved in terror." The Prime Minister’s Disengagement legislation in English can be found at www.pmo.gov.il.

With such legislated assurance that all assets given over to the PA would not be handed over to any terrorist organization, Prime Minister Sharon was able to win successive Knesset (Israel’s parliament) votes and numerous suits in the Israel High Court of Justice that challenged the legality of the Disengagement Plan.

But open sources in the Palestinian Authority, monitored by the Israeli government, contradict that assurance that Israel's real estate assets would not be handed over to terrorists.

In an interview with the popular "Islam On Line" website, on July 25th, 2005, at www.islamonline.net, three weeks before the Disengagement, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath boasted that the United Arab Emirates had offered a 100 million dollar grant to transform one of the evacuated settlements into a housing project that would honor suicide bombers and provide housing for the children of suicide bombers.

Meanwhille, WAFA -- the Palestinian Official News Agency -- confirmed on August 24th, 2005 (www.wafa.pna.net) that the Hamas terrorist organization would indeed receive these assets. The agency quoted senior Hamas leader Yunis al-Astal as saying that he had been assured that "The colonies' lands" will indeed be awarded to the "families and relatives of the martyrs (shahaida)" in honor of their suicide bombing attacks against Israelis.

At the same time, the Palestinian Authority has raised Hamas's profile in its tightly controlled official media. Reports have highlighted the rising prominence of Hamas and its expanded role in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Perhaps the most important step was the PA agreement to share authority with Hamas in a working committee that was formed with the PA's dominant Fatah Movement. [1] That committee was established to monitor the Israeli withdrawal and the Palestinian takeover of areas of the Gaza Strip evacuated by the Jewish state.

That decision was regarded as one of the most important in the PA's new policy of bringing Hamas into power. This new committee's responsibility is to review all information and all PA plans for the Israeli areas of the Gaza Strip, and to access the $500 million in international funds allocated for development of the area. [2]

The most telling sign of Hamas's power was not the committee itself. It was where Fatah and Hamas met to decide on the panel. The meeting took place on August 13th at the home of Hamas spokesman and titular leader Mahmoud A-Zahar in Gaza City. [3]

A-Zahar has become to the Palestinian Authority what Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah is in Lebanon -- a leading non-state actor. "The Palestinian Authority has the right to administer the land [evacuated by Israel] after consulting with the committee, which consists of representatives of the national and Islamic factions," A-Zahar is quoted as saying.

Unlike PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, A-Zahar does not occupy a daily presence in the PA media. But when he appears, A-Zahar's views are given the utmost prominence.  PA dailies have been either quoting A-Zahar directly or reprinting the interviews that he gives to other Arab media.

Perhaps the most important article was an interview that A-Zahar gave to the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat daily on August 18th, just as Israel was evicting its citizens out of its settlements.

The interview was reprinted the following day in Al Ayyam, a newspaper owned by the PA and edited by a leading Fatah operative. In that interview, A-Zahar outlined Hamas's strategy of maintaining attacks against Israel until its complete destruction. He added that his movement would seek to destroy the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The publication of Hamas's platform in a Fatah-aligned newspaper would have been unthinkable even a year ago.

The Hamas platform declared that the PA had failed in its attempt to force the Islamic movement to end attacks against Israel or surrender Hamas weapons. A-Zahar continued that Interior Minister Nasser Yusef sought to confront Hamas operatives in the United Nations Jabalya refugee camp north of the Gaza City with armored vehicles, "But he quickly realized that he could not resolve the situation through military means.” A-Zahar further stated, “Now they seek dialog, which we welcome.”

A-Zahar came across in the interview as the leader of Palestinian jihad or holy war. He stressed that Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank would influence the Arab and Muslim world in jihad. He said the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would galvanize the Sunni insurgency in Iraq and the Taliban and Al Qaida campaign in Afghanistan.

A-Zahar said Israel did not choose to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Instead, A-Zahar emphasized that  it was Hamas missiles, mortars and boobytrapped tunnels that drove the Israeli military out of the area. That message was consistent with that of Mahmoud Abbas who talked of jihad in the struggle against Israel, but had stressed that armed resistance was no longer necessary after the Israeli withdrawal. "[Hamas] wants to spread the culture of resistance," A-Zahar said in a reference to suicide strikes. "We will enter the settlements and soil Israel's dignity with our feet. We will stand on the ruins of the Israeli settlements and tell our people we have won."

A-Zahar hasn't been the only Hamas official given major publicity in the PA media. Sheik Hassan Yusef, regarded as the leader of Hamas in the West Bank, was given prominence in an interview with Al Hayat Al Jadida, the most ardent of pro-Fatah dailies.

Yusef reiterated the Hamas position that the movement would not surrender its weapons to the PA after the Israeli withdrawal. Instead, Yusef said the PA, including Abbas, never raised such a demand in meetings with the movement. The Hamas leader said the two sides would continue to coordinate.

"There are no moderates or extremists in Hamas," Yusef said. "Our coordination with the PA has not been severed and talk of disarmament was not proposed." [4] In essence, Hamas has become a full-fledged partner of the Palestine Authority--on a par with or even beyond that of Fatah. Hamas's activities are deemed as legitimate and important. Indeed, PA-owned newspapers report on Hamas in greater detail and with greater prominence than Fatah.

The best example of the new PA policy was highlighted in Hamas preparations for the Israeli withdrawal. All of the three PA-aligned dailies [5] have reported on Hamas rallies to mark the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The reports have been prominently placed in all of the dailies and often include photographs.

As a result, readers of PA newspapers now learned of Hamas rallies throughout the Gaza Strip and West Bank. All of these rallies were described as "huge" and included photographs of masked Hamas operatives in dune buggies in Nablus. [6]

In contrast, coverage of Fatah activities in the Gaza Strip appears marginal. Most important, articles on Fatah celebrations to mark the Israeli withdrawal do not include photographs, an acknowledgement that these events did not match the crowds at Hamas-sponsored marches.

Hamas, however, doesn't need the PA to get across the message of jihad.

Abbas has enabled Hamas to maintain its own radio station in the Gaza Strip where it is free to preach holy war against Israel. Indeed, Hamas has launched an intensive media campaign to win support for the continuation of the so-called "armed struggle" in the goal to destroy Israel. The campaign has also been highlighted in the pan-Arab media as part of an effort to raise its profile in the months leading to the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, scheduled for January 2006.

The PA, which pledged to Israel and the United States to stop incitement, has not shut down the Hamas radio station. The PA has also not moved against Hamas's Internet site, which encourages terrorism. The Hamas website provided data to support a claim that it has been the most active Palestinian group in the war against Israel.

The website said Hamas had conducted 145 out of the 215 insurgency operations in the Gaza Strip. [7] At the same time, Hamas claimed to have killed 646 Israelis since September 2000.  Hamas has also used its website to promulgate anti-Semitism. [8]

Hamas's Voice of Al Aqsa radio station said the movement would continue to fire Kassam-class, short-range missiles toward Israel after its withdrawal. The message was accompanied by a song that praised Hamas operatives and called for "the raining of rockets on the settlers, preparing missile launchers and aiming them at settlements. Strap on the belts [of suicide bombers] and load them with TNT." [9]

Hamas has used Voice of Al Aqsa to encourage Palestinians to launch holy war against the United States and the West too. The radio has broadcast interviews with Palestinian experts that asserted that the holy war against Israel would help what they term the global jihad.

"When all of Palestine has been liberated, the weapon of the jihad warriors can be moved to a different region where Islamists will wage war for the sake of Allah against the Crusader [Western], enemies of Allah -- in Iraq, Chechnya and Afghanistan," Salih Al Raqab, a senior Hamas official and lecturer at the Gaza City-based Islamic University, said. [10]

Hamas's radio said Islam's goal was to return Christians and Jews to their "natural state." This state -- promised by the Koran -- was one of "humiliation and poverty." [11]

For his part, Abbas has adopted the language of Hamas and made it clear that the movement would be a partner in government. Abbas, who also refers to "Jihad,” says that the PA has decided to allocate five percent of all government positions to the injured in the war against Israel. Given Hamas's leading role in the war, that would mean Abbas would reserve the largest portion of government jobs to the Islamic opposition. [12]

Abbas's policy of sharing power with Hamas, particularly regarding the future of the Gaza Strip, has not sat well with leading Fatah operatives. They see such a policy as encouraging Hamas to take over the Gaza Strip with its army of thousands of armed fighters. They said the PA-Hamas confrontation is one step away from blowing up into a major killing spree.

Yayha Ribah, a leading Fatah operative, asserts that Egypt prevented a Hamas-PA war. Yet he declared that Hamas has been violating all of the agreements with the PA, including the "ceasefire" announced by Abbas in February 2005.

To the question as to whether the PA or the Hamas will control the Gaza Strip. Ribah said the situation in the area has become volatile. "Today, we see a game being played in the arena, and it is a very dangerous game," Ribah said. "Any simple violation could lead to a real tragedy." [13]

At the time of writing of this piece, after the Israeli government has removed its citizens from the Katif districts of Gaza, and before Israel hands over any assets to the Palestinian Authority, our news agency asked Israeli government spokespeople about enforcing Cause Seven of the Disengagement Plan that forbids Israel from handing over any assets to Palestinians "involved in terror".

An Israeli government spokesman said in response that Israel would be "watching very carefully to monitor every move of the Palestinian Authority in this respect." However, the Prime Minister's office has altered the Hebrew version of the web site version of its disengagement legislation to present only the April 18th version of the Disengagement Plan, a plan that  did not include Clause Seven forbidding Israel from handing over real estate assets to Palestinians who are "involved in terror."  A version of the Prime Minister’s plan can be found in Hebrew at: www.pmo.gov.il.

So the question remains: will the government of Israel enforce Clause Seven of the Disengagement Plan to the letter of the agreement since Israel has removed every Jew, every Jewish home, every Jewish farm and even every Jewish grave in good faith gestures toward peace? Israel stuck to its part of the bargain and the message from the Palestinian Authority is that once again they will not do so.

Stay tuned for more in The War on Terror.

Notes:

1. Al Hayat Al Jadida. August 14. Pg. 1
2. Al Ayyam. August 23. Pg. 1
3. Al Hayat Al Jadida. August 14. Pg. 1
4. Al Hayat Al Jadida. August 20.
5. Al Quds is not owned by the PA, yet it is influenced by PA policy.
6. Al Hayat Al Jadida. August 23.
7. The data was supplied by Hamas's military wing Izzedin Kassam on the Hamas site.
8. Hamas website contained a poster headlined: "Our Koran was right and your Talmud lied."
9. Voice of Al Aqsa on August 18
10. Voice of Al Aqsa. August 21.
11. Voice of Al Aqsa broadcast on August 19
12. Al Hayat Al Jadida. August 21
13. Al Hayat Al Jadida. August 14

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David Bedein, author of the forthcoming book, "Swimming Against the Mainstream", has run the Israel Resource News Agency. www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com, since 1987, at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and serves as the Middle East correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, www.thebulletin.us.


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