The imperative to counter libelous statements and untruths about Israel is always with us. But at this moment in time the situation—in terms of libels, distortions and untruths—has intensified as a function of the “protest” at the Gaza border. One way in which the Palestinian Arabs and their supporters attempt to weaken us is by challenging our legitimacy and morality.
And so, I offer facts here that are important for everyone who cares about Israel to know and to share.
We begin with the “photo journalist” Yasser Murtaja who was shot dead at the border on Friday. He was wearing a “Press” badge and there was outrage because “journalists” who are visibly identified as such are not supposed to be shot – they are presumed to be innocent and above the fray. Defense Minister Lieberman’s response at the time was that he didn’t know if Murtaja was a journalist or not, but he was operating a camera drone over the IDF forces and thus presented a risk to Israel soldiers.
Now we have a more complete story:
Israeli security forces have revealed the fact that Murtaja was a long time member of Hamas, and held the rank of neqqib, or captain.
“He was an activist who was involved with activities as part of [Hamas’] security apparatus on a daily basis, and provided a great deal of aid for their activities.”
He brought a drone into Gaza in 2015 with the intention of garnering information for Hamas.
Not only does this information vindicate Israel, it sheds a light on how the Arabs operate.
The sniper who took him out acted appropriately, and served the IDF well.
Here you see the crowd, composed in good part of members of Hamas, at Murtaja’s funeral.
Then there is the matter of an unfortunate one-minute video clip that has been making the rounds. It ostensibly shows an unarmed Palestinian Arab shot by an IDF sniper who then yelled in delight at having hit his target. The charge from the left was that this was evidence of something that happens routinely but is usually not filmed – it was said to prove that the IDF is killing innocent Arabs in Gaza.
Now we have preliminary results of an IDF investigation into the matter:
This shooting did not happen in the last two weeks, during current protests. Rather, it happened on December 22, 2017, when there were violent disturbances at the border fence with Gaza. The riot lasted two hours and included stone throwing, firebombs and sabotage of the border fence.
According to the IDF spokesman’s unit:
“In the course of this breach of the public order, many measures were taken to disperse it, including a public announcement and a call to stop, the use of means to disperse demonstrations, and firing in the air. After none of these efforts had been successful, a single bullet was fired at an individual suspected of organizing and leading the disturbance, and only when he had been a few meters from the fence.”
The Arab who was shot was only wounded in the leg, not killed. He had been warned several times before being shot.
We learn again how misleading these brief snippets of video, which fail to provide context, can be.
The photographer of this incident was not part of the sniper’s unit and fault lies with him for capturing and sharing it. His actions were inappropriate and I assume he will yet be dealt with.
As to the sniper, he behaved properly and did Israel a service. We might, in ideal circumstances, hope that such a shooter would be more circumspect in his overt response to having taken down his target. But he was under stress and undoubtedly enormously frustrated by this mob leader who would not heed warnings and stop his advance to the fence. One can hardly blame him for his rather jubilant cry of “Alright!” (Yesh!)
I share here a quote by an IDF officer that is exceedingly relevant. It tells us more than a little about what we are dealing with in our confrontation with Hamas at the Gaza border (emphasis added):
“There were armed cells among the protestors that wanted to break through the fence to set it on fire, to kidnap soldiers and perhaps break into one of the kibbutzim. There are several people within the crowd, members of Hamas’ elite Nukhba force, who are hiding guns, knives, explosives under their clothes. Their intention was to turn into a fighting force…
“One-third of the dead are armed terrorists. Another 40 percent are members of the organizations, including a Nukhba company commander. Most of the others were identified as key instigators…
“Let’s assume that 400 people had broken through the border fence. We would have had to stop them with fire. At least 50 of them would have been killed. It would have been a strategic event. They would have had to retaliate. We would have had to retaliate. In fact, we are preventing war through our surgical activity….”
If only the world got this. They will not as long as they prefer to buy Hamas PR about “innocent civilians” attacked wantonly by Israel.
On Monday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed that the protests would continue until their goals are achieved and the Palestinian Arabs return to all of Palestine.
Haniyeh’s words are likely part rhetoric, as he knows these goals cannot be achieved. But the fact is clear: The demonstrations are not peaceful in intent: they contain the germ of enormous violence against the Jewish state.
That said, it is imperative for Israel to deal with this situation with a strong hand.
If taking down all of Israel is not really the goal of Hamas in sparking the “protest,” the question remains as to what is motivating Hamas leaders. I have written about their desire to delegitimize Israel by provoking the IDF into killing a sufficient number of Gazans so that the world will respond harshly. It has also been suggested that they hope to spark a new intifada in PA areas. These are not mutually exclusive goals.
But there is another theory, offering a different perspective: The PA is stumbling and Abbas is on his way out. Hamas might be eager to call attention to itself – among Arabs and Arab sympathizers – as the key promoter of legitimate protest on behalf of the Palestinian Arab people. Haniyeh has boasted that the Hamas-organized “demonstrations” have catapulted the Palestinian Arab issue back to the center of the international stage.
They may be seeking to make the PA irrelevant.
This theory is bolstered by an interesting post from Palestinian Media Watch:
“Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Abbas’s Advisor on Islamic Affairs and Supreme Sharia Judge, delivered a sermon on Friday from the PA headquarters in Ramallah, in the presence of Mahmoud Abbas. He accused Hamas of deliberately encouraging civilians to endanger themselves: ‘… go and die so that we’ll go to the TV and media with strong declarations.’
“Al-Habbash claimed that the Palestinian population [is] not being fooled by Hamas any more, and ‘sides with the PLO.’ (Emphasis added)
So the PLO-Hamas competition is clear. Hamas activities threaten the PLO.
What is also clear, however, is a jaw-dropping hypocrisy. For when it suits the PLO, they side with what Hamas is doing.
See the picture below, put out on the official Fatah Facebook page, on April 6, bragging that this is the youngest baby to participate in the demonstrations. We can assume that the child was removed from the tires before they were set aflame, but this picture sends chills up the spine nonetheless.
Israel has announced that tires will no longer be permitted to enter Gaza; the rationale underlying this hardly needs explanation.
But it wasn’t Hamas that protested this decision, it was the PA:
“We have been informed by the Israeli side that imports of tires have been halted until further notice,” Muhammad Hamdan, a spokesman for the PA Transportation Ministry told The Jerusalem Post.
“There is no doubt stopping tire imports will have a negative effect on Palestinians in Gaza especially considering there is shortage of them there. We are going to exert all efforts so that Israel reverses its decision.”
And the kicker: On Saturday, the PA Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Ramallah called for a “new formula” in the Security Council to be devised, that would “invalidate US vetoes and objections if they are found to be in violation of the goals, principles, and conventions on which the international system was established.”
Explains the Ministry: the US “bias” constitutes “…direct covering of the ongoing massacre perpetrated by the occupation authorities against our people…participating in the peaceful March…”
Now it is “our people” who are participating in a “peaceful march.”
Underlying all of this is not just competition, but fierce tension between Hamas and the PA, having to do in large part with control of Gaza.
I am reading opinion pieces that suggest that the people of Gaza will thrive if the PA takes over. But I hardly think so. They might be a tad better off, but only a tad. It seems these commentators have not taken a close look at what Arabs living in the PA areas must endure: poverty caused by massive corruption, a dearth of human rights, education for violence.
As for the people of Gaza, Abbas has such deep concern for their wellbeing that he has been willing to shut off funds necessary for even a minimal quality of life to be sustained, in an attempt to strangle Hamas. Just a couple of days ago, it was revealed that the PA has now withheld payment of salaries to its people in Gaza.
I make no secret of the fact that I, along with many others, harbor an eagerness for us to be rid of Abbas and the entire Palestinian Authority structure. For reasons too complex to explore in this post, Israel has stopped short of declaring Oslo dead: It was Oslo that established the PA as an interim administrative entity. But it feels as if now is the time, finally, to be done with the whole thing.
What I want to mention here, only in passing now, is that for the first time there is the possibility of something evolving in this regard:
Not so very long ago, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman made a comment concerning the intransigence of Abbas to enter a “peace process”:
“If Abbas is not interested in holding negotiations, I’m sure someone else will want to. If Abbas creates a vacuum, I am convinced that someone will fill it – and then we will move forward [with the peace process].”
My response, at first blush, was that he was terribly naïve, for no one in the PA would step up to those negotiations – eliminating Abbas from the equation would not solve the problem. Major contenders to replace him in the PA are at least as intransigent as he is.
But then it was suggested that Friedman had something altogether different in mind: Jordan stepping up as a negotiating partner with Israel in lieu of Abbas, so that the PA is entirely by-passed. This is still within the realm of speculation, even if informed speculation. There has been nothing official forthcoming on this. But as matters might move in this direction, I want to mention it here.
There are some obvious advantages to such a scenario; it would, as I suggested, eliminate Abbas and company from the scene and void all expectation of a “Palestinian state.” Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria would be the responsibility of Jordan, not Israel, and they would be enfranchised via Jordan.
But I think the old adage of being careful what you wish for might apply here, for there are also potential drawbacks:
King Abdullah, expecting a quid pro quo, would likely demand more than we would be willing to give, or should give.
The first issue, and it is paramount, is with regard to the Temple Mount, which he seeks to control. But also with regard to Judea and Samaria. Israel should concede only the areas of Palestinian Arab residence, and most certainly neither Area C, which is where all the Jewish communities are situated, nor the Jordan Valley.
The second issue concerns the fact that the king is shaky on his thrown. Were he to be overthrown by jihadist radicals, which constitutes the greatest likelihood, we would not want to find them controlling portions of Judea and Samaria.
This speculation may remain just that. If it does evolve into something significant, there may be ways to address the drawbacks. Stay tuned on this.
There was a bombing in Syria this week, which I had hoped to discuss. But as this post is already of considerable size, I will return to this soon.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.