Saturday, October 06, 2012

6-Oct-12: What some of the Islamists have been up to this week

Abu Hamza in happier days
Sometimes the global efforts of the Islamists pay dividends for them. Sometimes they are frustrated by the authorities. Nothing happens very quickly in the battle against them. And no one can seriously claim they are being defeated; on the contrary. Some snapshots from the last 24 hours.


Reuters says one of several Islamists behind a September 19 grenade attack on a Jewish store in the Paris suburbs was shot and killed by police in the northeastern French city of Strasbourg today. Eleven other people were detained in what prosecutors called a "vast anti-terrorist operation". The dead French man, Jérémie Louis-Sydney, 33, had served prison time for drug-dealing and had been convicted of membership in a radical Islamist movement. When police entered Sidney's apartment around dawn, he opened fire. He was found to be equipped with a .357 Magnum revolver and reserves of ammunition. Reuters says that in the course of the round-ups today, the police found Al-Qaeda literature, 27,000 euros in cash, and a list of Jewish organizations in Paris (the French-language reports, according to a friend of ours in Paris, used the archaic term “israélite” leading to most of the news agency reports saying the targets were Israeli, but they were actually French-Jewish) at the homes of the suspects. Among the others taken in by police is a woman described as one of Sidney's two wives. Three of the others have criminal records for drugs, theft and violence. One of the men was arrested in the Paris region as he returned from morning prayers and was carrying a "ready to fire" 22-caliber pistol.


Melbourne's Age newspaper has an interview today (it's the lead story at this hour) with an Islamist preacher, Abdul Rahman Ayub, who acknowledges that he was sent to Australia in 1997 to recruit jihadists at the request of Abu Bakar Bashir, the notorious Indonesian terrorist currently serving a lengthy prison sentence. The Age calls Bashir "Indonesia's godfather of terrorism". Ayub co-founded the Australian wing of Jemaah Islamiah and says he personally "indoctrinated" a group of about 100 people in "the ways of violent jihad". One of them, an Australian Moslem convert called Jack Roche (alias Paul George Holland) was later convicted in 2002 for conspiring to bomb the Israeli embassy in Canberra. In today's interview he says he has gotten over his terrorism. There were about 30 active "radicals" in Australia when he left there in 2002, he says, and while ''I don't know about their recent development, whether they're still active or not... I believe they are still there." Ayub says he is no longer in favour of "violent jihad" and thinks Moslems "should fight only as soldiers in a war zone" whatever that means. Elsewhere in today's Age ["J is for Jihad"], one of its foreign correspondents in Asia points out that "Indonesia's prisons are a breeding ground for terrorists, and so are some of the Islamic boarding schools. But despite the ever-present threat of terrorism, the Indonesian state shows little interest in tackling this issue."

UK and US

The one-eyed Sunni Islamist cleric with a hook for a hand, Abu Hamza al-Masri (sometimes known as Mustafa Kamel Mustafa), was finally extradited to the United States on Friday after his eight-year legal battle to avoid deportation ended in failureHe was jailed by the British for incitement to murder (of "non-believers"). He became famous for his hate-filled sermons in the years that he was the imam of the Islamist hot-bed, the Finsbury Park Mosquein north London. He loved the UK, calling it "a paradise, where you could do anything you wanted" [source], and he meant it. British taxpayers have contributed several million dollars to the man in the form of welfare payments and government-funded legal services. The Americans have charged the preacher with hostage taking, conspiracy to establish a militant training camp in the US state of Oregon and calling for holy war in Afghanistan [source]. The British prime minister [source] marked the occasion with a brief appreciation of the man and his achievements:
"I'm absolutely delighted that Abu Hamza is now out of this country. Like the rest of the public I'm sick to the back teeth of people who come here, threaten our country, who stay at vast expense to the taxpayer and we can't get rid of them. I'm delighted on this occasion we've managed to send this person off to a country where he will face justice."

6-Oct-12: Someone's drone manages to reach southern Israel before being shot down. Questions outnumber answers for now

An Iranian military parade in September 2010 showcased
the Ayatollah-rich regime's investment in what
it calls Karrar strike-drones [Image Source: Novosti]
The official statement by the IDF is laconic:
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was identified penetrating Israeli airspace this morning, and was intercepted by the IAF at approximately 10:00 AM. IDF soldiers are currently searching the area where the drone was downed, in open areas in the northern Negev, to locate and identify the drone.
That's the whole report.

Other newsagencies add additional minor details but the large questions remain unanswered for the moment. China's Xinhua news service says the unidentified drone flew over settlements and military bases in southern Israel briefly before being brought down by IDF fire over an open unpopulated area. It was spotted entering Israel's airspace from the Mediterranean sea heading from the west to the east. But there is no word on where the UAV originated.

The Daily Mail's website, published in the UK says this is not the first incident in which Israel has shot down drones entering its airspace:
The Iran-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah has launched several into Israel over the past few years. In the 2006 war, Hezbollah launched an Iranian-made drone capable of carrying explosives into Israel that was shot down. Another one launched two years earlier crashed in the Mediterranean.
The Mail also quotes the IDF's military spokesperson, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, saying no one was injured in the process of bringing down this morning's drone, and that Israeli ground systems alerted the air force to its presence, as a result of which IDF jets were given the order to scramble and intercept it. The Israeli air force "was in control throughout... We had monitoring contact from the ground and from the air". She said the drone flew over the Gaza Strip but did not originate there and declined to give more details. But Israel media reports have suggested this was an intelligence gathering drone and was not carrying explosives.

Times of Israel publishes video footage of the IDF bringing down the drone, and says the army is considering "the possibility that it originated in Lebanon. Hezbollah has flown drones into Israeli airspace a few times in the past, though not for several years".

Back in April 2012, the daily Yediot Aharonot reported that the terrorists of Lebanon's Hezbollah have  
"been allocating increased resources towards bolstering its drone unit... The Shiite terror groups reportedly plans to use its unmanned aerial vehicle to attack Israel in case it mounts a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Hezbollah is equipped with Ababil ("Swallow") drones, which are manufactured and provided by Iran.The Ababil has several models, including one that can carry a warhead packed with several dozens of kilograms of explosives. Defense establishment officials expressed concern that Hezbollah would be able to send multiple drones into Israel's airspace and have them crash into targets in the country's north. "Hezbollah is making a specific effort to acquire such (weapons) as part of its offensive lineup against Israel," a security source told Yedioth Ahronoth.
The Lebanon Daily Star reported that a Hezbollah drone crash-landed inside Lebanon in July. As far back as 2006, the IDF brought one of those Ababil drones down in the sea off the northern Israeli city of Akko [report].

A website called Arkenstone ["a comprehensive, open source, English-language database on the Iranian armed forces"] gives more background about Iranian drones. Keep in mind we still don't know the source of today's drone. And for the moment (it's 7:45 pm Saturday night here in Jerusalem) there are no reports about this that we can see in the online Iranian media.

Finally, a reminder from the BBC World Service that
"Iran has unveiled what it says is a new "indigenous" long-range unmanned drone capable of flying over most of the Middle East, state media report. The Shahed (Witness) 129 had a range of 2,000km (1,240 miles) and could be equipped with bombs and missiles, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said. It is reportedly capable of carrying out reconnaissance and combat missions."
There are certain to be more details in the coming hours.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

4-Oct-12: Placing Thursday night's Qassam rocket attack on southern Israel into a Turkish perspective

[Image Source]
Army Radio reported on the 9 pm news this evening (Thursday) that a Qassam rocket was fired by unknown parties in the Gaza Strip and crashed and exploded in open fields in southern Israel's Hof Ashkelon region. Additional details pertaining to the location of the crash are customarily held back by Israeli news editors to avoid giving any usable feedback to the terror groups who do the firing. As far as we know, there are no injuries and no serious damage since the Qassam appears to have landed in open fields. These weapons do not lend themselves to being carefully aimed, but that suits the terrorists. They don't really care what gets hit. That's why we call them terrorists.

Now changing subjects entirely...
Pretty much everyone seems to understand why the Turkish government, faced with a mortar attack on innocent Turkish civilians living their lives on Turkish territory just across the border from the chaos of northern Syria and its endless fighting, would want to strike back. The US State Department said earlier today that it "considered Turkey’s response to Syrian mortar fire this week to be appropriate, proportionate and designed to deter any future violations of its sovereignty by Syria".

Al Arabiya quotes Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan saying today that his country "is a state capable of defending its citizens and borders. Nobody should try and test our determination on this subject”. Russia's RT news service quotes him saying: “Our armed forces in the border region immediately retaliated against this heinous attack… by shelling the targets spotted by radar... Turkey will never leave unanswered such kinds of provocation by the Syrian regime against our national security." Erdogan is reported to be especially irritated that the Syrians have not apologized.

Restrained, bordering almost on the noble. Sorely provoked by uncivilized behaviour of violent neighbours with a low value for human life, Turkey's leader says we need to give them some serious smacks so they will say sorry and behave themselves in the future.

Now here's our point.

Since Israel unilaterally handed control of the Gaza Strip in 2005 to the Palestinian Arabs living there, and ultimately to Hamas who violently muscled their way to political control of Gaza in 2007, more than 8,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israeli targets. 

This same Mr Erdogan, who reserves to himself the right to defend his citizens and his borders and warns malefactors that they should not even dream of testing his country's determination, has expressed himself quite differently when it was Israel that took defensive measures in the face of lethal terrorist behaviour that goes on and on. 

Think back to how the Turk spoke at the Davos Conference in Switzerland in January 2009. To the astonishment and embarrassment of the assembled heads of state and distinguished participants, he stormed off the stage at the World Economic Forum "red-faced from verbally sparring with President Shimon Peres over the recent fighting in Gaza" [source] [video]. Erdogan had "strongly criticized Israel’s Gaza offensive", according to the NY Times
Red-faced, and with one hand grasping the arm of the moderator, the columnist David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Mr. Erdogan turned to the Israeli president. “Mr. Peres, you are older than me,” he said. “Your voice comes out in a very loud tone. And the loudness of your voice has to do with a guilty conscience... When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.” [New York Times report]
Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister and at the time the secretary general of the Arab League, said [source] Erdogan's action was understandable. "Mr. Erdogan said what he wanted to say and then he left. That's all. He was right." Of Israel, he said, "They don't listen."

Amr Mousa was wrong. We Israelis do listen, and we recognize rank hypocrisy when we see and hear it.

4-Oct-12: With humanitarians like these, who needs militant barbarians? Revisiting the Mavi Marmara

From the IHH's Flickr Page: Providing humanitarian
support to Arakanese refugees in Bangladesh,
September 2012 [Image Source]
Remember the Mavi Marmara? It's the ship that tried to force its way past an Israeli naval blockade of the terrorist Gaza Strip in June 2010.

The deaths of nine men - mostly Turks and all of them invariably described in the media as 'activists' - in a commando raid on the vessel continue to be cited by the Turkish prime minister as the reason why he refuses to reconcile with Israel. He made the point again this past Sunday [source]. At a congress of his political party in Ankara and while standing beside Egypt's Moslem Brotherhood prime minister Mohammed Morsi, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Israel must lift its blockade of Gaza and must also apologize for the attack on the Mavi Marmara.

Let's note Israel's position: that it regrets the loss of lives, that an apology is not required, and that its commandos opened fire only after they came under violent armed attack by the 'activists'.

This blog post is not actually about the ship. It's about the organization that arranged it, financed it, sent it on its way and continues to thoroughly milk the public relations impact of what happened on board two years ago. We are referring to İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı. Translated from Turkish, the name means The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief. It's commonly called IHH [website here].

So how humanitarian is it, actually? On the face of it, quiteWikipedia says:
The IHH aims to reach every region hit by wars, disasters, poverty and human rights abuses, and believes that civilian initiatives play a complementary role beside intervention by states and international organizations in resolving humanitarian problems. It is also their goal to deliver humanitarian aid to all people and take necessary steps to prevent any violations against their basic rights and liberties...
Reuters (May 31, 2010):
...An Islamic charity group that was formed to provide aid to Bosnian Muslims in the mid-1990s. It has been involved in aid missions in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Iraq, Palestinian territories and other places...
Now to more recent disclosures.

Under cover of providing aid [source] to Syrian refugees, IHH is delivering heavy arms to the anti-government forces in Syria. In a report dated September 20, 2012 ["Flotilla group accused of Syria gun run"], London's Jewish Chronicle said IHH helped organize a ship carrying arms to Syria from Libya and that these were distributed to Muslim Brotherhood fighters in the Free Syrian Army.

In case Jewish news sources don't meet some people's credibility threshold, Iran's Ayatollah-dominated FARS news service is running with a story today that asserts pretty much the same thing: that IHH, collaborating with the Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu and with various Wahhabi groups from Saudi Arabia, is sending heavy weaponry to Syrian rebels under the guise of humanitarian relief aid.
There is corroborative evidence that IHH (under the cover of humanitarian aid) is providing the terrorists in Syria with heavy weaponry, including anti-aircraft missiles and Turkish newspapers and western officials in Syria have mentioned this help to the Syrian rebels.  On September 14, media reports revealed that a huge arms cargo had been shipped to Turkey to be delivered to terrorists and armed groups in Syria... On September 10, 2012, Turkish Airlines transited Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants from North Waziristan in Pakistan to the Turkish borders with Syria, sources had revealed. A new Al-Qaeda has been created in the region through the financial and logistical backup of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and a number of western states, specially the US," a source told FNA earlier this month... Syrian rebels and terrorist groups have received significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, a crime paid for by the Persian Gulf Arab states and coordinated by the United States. Since the beginning of unrests in Syria in March 2011, Turkey has tried hard to intensify the crisis in Syria by training terrorists and sending weapons to the Arab country [Syria]. [more
Back in 2006 a report [source] issued by the Danish Institute for International Studies said IHH was linked to al-Qaeda and other “global jihad networks” during the 1990s. In those years, Turkey was a different place with a secular government and in December 1997, that government launched an investigation into IHH, including a raid on its Istanbul offices in which weapons, explosives and instructions for bomb-making were found. The belief was that IHH was planning to take part in terrorist activities in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia, as well as sending money, firearms and explosives to jihadists there and elsewhere.

Some things change. Some stay the same.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

3-Oct-12: The Syrian carnage goes on and on, with wide agreement over who is pulling the strings

Political observers have little doubt who stands behind the
reviled al-Assad regime in the ongoing Syrian bloodbath
An update from the Lebanon Daily Star on the endless killing just north of our border with Syria.
  • Three car bombs tore into the heart of Aleppo (we know it better as Haleb here in Israel). It's Syria's second city, and 50 people are said to have been killed there today as the al-Assad regime launched an offensive against rebels near Damascus. "Aleppo, with a population of 1.7 million people, has been one of the focal points of the conflict since mid-July, when the army promised the "mother of all battles" to clear the city of rebels."
  • Since Thursday, the fighting has become more intense, spreading at the weekend into the centuries-old, UNESCO-listed souk in the histoc heart of the city and sparking a fire that damaged hundreds of shops.
  • Rebel fighters killed at least 15 soldiers in attacks on military posts in Syria's northwest
  • The bloodshed spilled across the Syrian border when several shells fired from Syria crashed and exploded in the town of Akcakale, inside Turkey. At least five civilians are killed (evidently a mother and three children plus a relative), and nine wounded. According to the New York Times, Turkey's government announced in the past hour (it's now after 11 on Wednesday night here in Israel) that "Turkey had fired artillery at targets in Syria, in retaliation for [the] Syrian mortar fire that fell in a Turkish border town and killed five Turkish civilians. It was the first instance of significant fighting across the Turkish-Syrian border since the Syrian uprising began last year, and raised the prospect of greater involvement by the NATO alliance, to which Turkey belongs."
  • Syria's civil war began in March 2011 when it looked more like a series of peaceful protests for reform. So far, more than 31,000 people have been killed.
The US and other Western countries have said they blame the Iranians for stoking the flames and equipping and training the Syrian al-Assad regime's forces. This past Friday in New York City, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said:
“Let’s be very frank here. The [Bashar al-Assad] regime’s most important lifeline is Iran... There is no longer any doubt that Tehran will do whatever it takes to protect its proxy and crony in Damascus” [more
Today, speaking to Iran's government-controlled news channel IranTV, Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi rejects those claims with a sadly typical piece of jihadist logic.
"Damascus does not need other countries’ weapons to fight domestic conflicts. Syria is country that had prepared itself for fighting the Zionists and has gathered enough weapons for this task,” Vahidi said during a press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Sadoun al-Dulaimi in Baghdad on Wednesday." 
Oddly, though his statement may sound right to many people, the reality is Israel's border with Syria has been entirely - and uniquely - devoid of hostile military action for several decades. Israeli governments have never harbored any illusions about the nature of the father-and-son al-Assad regime in Damascus in all those years. But you can't argue with the results: it was and still is this country's quietest frontier. And it's highly unlikely that the nature and quantity of Syria's military preparedness is all that helpful to the task of massacring its own citizens and destroying vast tracts of Syria's ancient cities and villages.

3-Oct-12: The Hamas terrorist regime has a criminal system and (gasp) it's abusive

Head of the Hamas regime, Ismail Haniyeh, speaking in Tehran
during February 2012 in front of portraits of deceased Ayatollah
Khomeini and Iranian "
Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Let the record show that a Human Rights Watch report on Hamas "justice" was issued today (Wednesday). It's downloadable from the HRW site [here]. 

In its brief summary, entitled "Human Rights Watch reports on ‘severe’ Hamas abuse of Palestinians" [Associated Press, September 3, 2012], AP says that "Hamas’ security forces in Gaza are committing severe abuses, including torture of detainees, arrests without warrants, forced confessions, unfair trials and mock executions". Egypt's Al-Ahram expands the list of Hamas abuses, adding
  • arbitrary arrests, and failure to inform relatives of the whereabouts of detainees
  • arrest, abuse and torture of lawyers
  • military courts are used to try civilians
  • several prisoners were put to death after military trial verdicts though there was "credible evidence they had been tortured".
In the past six hours, there have been similar reports in most of the major news channels, as you would expect: "Torture part of Gaza justice system" [Brisbane Times‎]; "Gazans face 'serious abuses' in criminal justice system" [BBC World]; "Hamas slammed over 'torture, unfair trials' [France 24] and so on. The embarrassing charges against the thuggish Hamas regime don't seem to have been reported at all by any of the major online Iranian news services. Not ABNA, not FARS News Agency, not Islamic Republic News Agency, not Tehran Times. We're open to readers' suggestions as to why... but we're not offering prizes.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

2-Oct-12: Gaza and the perils of Arab solidarity

[Image Source]
We posted here a few days ago [28-Sep-12: In Gaza, children die and families are outraged; their anger is channeled at Hamas] about the rising tide of anger directed at their Hamas overlords by parts of Gaza's oppressed and under-served population. 
Hamas-controlled Gaza is one of the world's most repressive regimes. The levels of fear and intimidation there are well-known to people who come into contact with ordinary Palestinian Arab Gazans, as we heard today from people who interact with Gaza and Gazans every day. The willingness of the 1.7 million population to continue to be cowed and held captive to a messianic-Islamist vision of over-running the hated Israelis and destroying their state at huge cost to the Gazans has limits... Whenever people take to the streets and scream their anger at the Islamist thugs of Hamas, there's hope for some degree of change in the future. [More]
In the past hour, the Bethlehem-based Palestinian news agency Maan has reported on more of the same:

Gaza: 5 hurt as officers remove illegal structures
Published Tuesday October 2, 2012 at 6:31pm    
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Five people including two police officers and a land authority officer were injured Tuesday in the northern Gaza Strip during clashes between police and locals. Security sources in the Hamas-run government in Gaza told Ma’an that police officers escorted a land authority officer to remove illegal structures erected on public lands. Suddenly, added the sources, locals started to pelt stones at the officers injuring two and a land authority officer moderately.
Spokesman of the Hamas-run ministry of interior Islam Shahwan said police officers were taken by surprise, and they tried their best to convince the stone-throwers to stop. As stones continued, he added, officers fired warning shots into the air and as a result two people were moderately injured. Shahwan said in a statement that police were carrying out its normal duties helping the land authority officers.
He expressed his sorrow for the drastic results asserting that police officers were obliged to do what they did because the citizens insisted to continue to throw stones at them. 
This might also be a good time to remind you of our posting from yesterday: "1-Oct-12: Hamas corruption: More-than-keeping-up with the Fatah kleptocrats". Take a look if you're not already familiar with the endemic corruption inside the terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, the ideological Tweedledum to Hamas' Tweedledee - namely Egypt's Moslem Brotherhood - has clarified its contribution to Gaza's plight today:

Hamas upset about new Egyptian policy towards Gaza [Xinhua]  2012-10-02 20:36:51            
GAZA, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- Islamic Hamas movement is upset about Egypt's mounting security campaign on the borderline area between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, a well-informed source in Gaza said Tuesday. The source, close to Hamas and speaking on condition of anonymity, told Xinhua that the movement watches with anger and disappointment the latest developments along the border. Dozens of smuggling tunnels underneath the borderline of Egypt and Gaza were sealed off or destroyed, the source said, adding that the Gaza Strip's interests would be harmed if Egypt finds no alternative to the tunnels, through which fuels and foods are brought to the enclave after Israel imposed a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Egypt intensified its security campaign on the tunnels after the deadly attack carried out by radical Islamists on Aug. 5 during which 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded.
According to other well-informed sources in Hamas, Egypt has either destroyed or shut down 350 out of 800 tunnels operating underneath its borders with the Gaza Strip... Hundreds of Hamas supporters have demonstrated for several days, calling on Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to help the Palestinians finding an alternative to the tunnels.
And while the Hamas inner circle are doing stunningly well from the tunnel economy and the wealth it generates [refer to "How Many Millionaires Live in the "Impoverished" Gaza Strip?"], here's another reminder of one aspect of its cost:

1 Palestinian dead in Gaza tunnel collapse
Federation of Arab News Agencies, October 2, 2012
Gaza City, Oct 2 (Petra) — One Palestinian died and another was injured on Tuesday in the collapse of a smuggling tunnel on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Palestinian sources said the tunnel in the border town of Rafah gave way killing a man in his twenties and injured another.
If you get to see the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings from up close as we did last week, you can hardly fail to be impressed by the massive (that's the correct word) humanitarian efforts Israel has made to open the gates of Gaza to an almost unlimited range of goods - in both directions. The capacity of Kerem Shalom (after a heavy Israeli investment funded by us ordinary Israeli taxpayers) to serve as a two-way gateway is vast - and greatly (and deliberately) under-utilized by the Gazan Palestinian Arab regime. It's a subject we're going to visit again here in the next few days.

President Haniyeh and his inner circle no doubt have their own reasons for playing public relations games instead of tapping into the export opportunities that Israel facilitates for their citizens and their economy. As to why the Hamas regime stands so firmly behind the tunnels for in-bound goods, that's the billion dollar question. No, on reflection actually it's not. Hamas and its favored cronies have been making out like bandits for years, thanks to those tunnels. And if it lets them keep hammering away at their "Gaza under siege" and Gaza-as-concentration-camp memes, then that's surely a bonus.

And by the way, yet another bogus siege-busting convoy arrived in Gaza on Sunday with participants from Egypt (!), Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon and South Africa. The news report (here, if you have an appetite for it) offers up the customary mantra about "the Arab people and the international activists... challenging the illegal Israeli siege". We're assuming the unadorned truth would simply be unpalatable to their readers.

2-Oct-12: Monday night incoming Gazan rocket

An unconfirmed report last night (Monday, about 20:45 local time) of an incoming rocket from Gaza, accompanied by Tzeva Adom warnings throughout the Hof Ashkelon region [eyewitness source], is now followed up by a report (also unconfirmed) this morning that traces of that rocket have been found close to Gaza's northern-most border with Israel. An AFP report says no injuries, no damage.

How does the Tzeva Adom system work? Wikipedia describes it this way:
When the signature of a rocket launch is detected originating in Gaza, the system automatically activates the public broadcast warning system in nearby Israeli communities and military bases. A two-tone electronic audio alert (with a pattern of high, 2 second pause, high-low) is broadcast twice, followed by a recorded female voice intoning the Hebrew words for Red Color ("Tzeva Adom"). 

Monday, October 01, 2012

1-Oct-12: Hamas corruption: More-than-keeping-up with the Fatah kleptocrats

Head of the Hamas regime, Ismail Haniyeh
For years, there has been a widespread perception, echoed in countless media articles from the troubled Palestinian Arab sphere, that Fatah is losing influence and power to Hamas because Fatah is corrupt. There was some truth to this, but the situation today is more complex.

Fatah's corruption, starting at least with the leadership of the catastrophically tainted but now terminated Yasser Araft regime, is legion. Far from improving under his successor Mahmoud Abbas, the problem became more acute. Exemplifying the customary brazenness of the ageing political elite who have dominated the lives of ordinary Palestinian Arabs for three generations, the two Abbas sons have amassed a fortune during their father's term [see "The Brothers Abbas" in Foreign Policy, June 2012], and the ineffectiveness of Fatah rule in the PA-controlled parts of the region continues to bedevil efforts to improve the lot of ordinary  Palestinian Arabs. Poll figures released a month ago by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 79% of the population ruled by the PA say there is corruption in the PA's institutions in the West Bank.

And Hamas?

In a status report back in 2007, shortly after Fatah lost power in the 2006 Palestinian Arab parliamentary elections to Hamas, the BBC said "Fatah officials came to be perceived as corrupt and incompetent", and there have been endless variants of that mantra ever since. But the Islamists and jihadists of Hamas have been astute students of their Fatah rivals, and have more than made up for Fatah's head start.

We recently posted here about the hundreds of newly-minted Gazan millionaires who owe their fortunes to the clean-as-a-whistle Islamists of Hamas [see "30-Aug-12: How close to hell is Gaza? Depends whom you want to believe"].

Today, the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper [background here] reports on what close observers in the region have known for years: Hamas is riddled with corruption, graft, breathtaking inefficiency, violent repression and the pursuit of illicit personal wealth. The victims - as always - are the ordinary Palestinian Arab masses.

Hamas corruption weighs heavily on Gaza             
Recently, an official of the Finance Ministry in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip announced that since 2006 the office had not received a single report of corruption. Whether or not this is true, the fact is that Hamas corruption is not only pervasive in Gaza, it has also been detrimental to the greater social and economic good.The principal vehicle of Hamas corruption is excessive taxation. One of Gaza’s biggest revenue cows, tunnel smuggling into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, has borne the brunt of this graft. For the over 1,200 tunnels, tariffs of up to 15 percent are imposed on the thousands of tons of goods being brought in daily. Yet most are collected off the books, and of the 2,400 near-millionaires in Gaza, most are Hamas affiliates responsible for monitoring tunnels, according to Palestinian Authority officials. This is why when private tunnels began drawing business away from tunnels run by those close to Hamas, the movement declared them illegal, and implemented a mandatory $3,000 license to continue operation.Excessive levels of taxation and licensing are not unfamiliar to Gazans. The Peace Research Institute Oslo reports that in the last six years municipality taxes in Gaza have quadrupled, reaching up to 60-70 percent. Fees on birth certificates have been instituted, and vocational licenses have become mandatory for all small business owners. Water, electricity, and other basic goods also continue to be taxed.So when Palestinian parliamentarian Jamal Nasser claimed that of the $540 million in spending in Hamas’ 2010 budget, only $60 million would come from taxation, analysts raised red flags. Unfortunately, taxation is only a part of the story of Hamas corruption.Fraud is just as prevalent in Hamas institutions. One of the main avenues for financial assistance to Gazans, personal finance programs offered by banks, is entirely run and regulated by the Palestinian Monetary Authority in Ramallah. In fact, the authority has barred these banks from doing business with Hamas. Nevertheless, Hamas officially takes full credit and responsibility for these important services, according to various intelligence sources.No different is the case of electricity. Since 2007 the Palestinian Authority has footed the bill for creating and distributing power in Gaza, and yet Hamas collectors continued to go door-to-door demanding bill payment from constituents. According to a July 10 U.S. House of Representatives hearing, titled “Chronic Kleptocracy: Corruption within the Palestinian Political Establishment,” this practice has existed for some time. However, Hamas continues to convey the message that electricity is a Hamas-provided service, and it continues to pocket bill payments that Ramallah has already footed.Aside from the excessive taxation and fraud, Hamas is also guilty of large-scale bribery. While more than a third of the Gaza population remains unemployed and below the poverty line, sources report that between 40,000 and 77,000 Hamas loyalists are on the party’s payroll. According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, these employees often do not work, but receive paychecks nonetheless. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to sell land exclusively to Hamas members, further alienating any prospects of civilian economic development.So what are the consequences of this rampant graft? For one, the public sector is deteriorating. Since 2007, educators have been on strike as their paychecks were cut (1,500 employees have stopped receiving pay altogether). Experienced and qualified Fatah supporters have been replaced with Hamas loyalists. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has intervened, offering an annual $200 million for education services that reach one in three Gazans.Health care is not much better off. In 2007, 50 percent of doctors and nurses went on strike, with Palestinian Authority-bankrolled employees primarily holding down the fort. Despite exorbitant taxation and a per-capita budget about equal to that of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas continues to find itself unable to pay its most important employees. The social services that it is purported to provide are meanwhile being bankrolled by outside entities.Perhaps most importantly, as fraud goes unheeded and Hamas continues to take credit for any social successes that foreign parties provide, the party continues to remain in power. Through bribes, Hamas buys Palestinian support through its 77,000-large bureaucratic army and fraudulently takes credit for the good that is provided by outside organizations or the Palestinian Authority. Many continue to believe that public funds are actually being used in their favor, while others find no advantage in speaking otherwise. Hamas has been known to stifle not only business competitors, but those who speak out against it.Three months ago, 57 percent of Gazans reported to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research that they perceived widespread corruption in their governing institution. So when the Finance Ministry announced that it had no recent corruption reports, maybe it was telling the truth. After all, despite the corruption that has shattered Gaza, the authoritarian state does not leave latent whistle-blowers many options. And Gazans continue to pay the price for it.
The Lebanon Star article mentions a US Congressional report on systematic Palestinian Arab corruption. If you can stand it, the details are here in this House Committee on Foreign Affairs report: "Chronic Kleptocracy: Corruption within the Palestinian Political Establishment", published July 10, 2012.

Hamas corruption and the bald-faced hypocrisy of its elite [example] has a direct bearing on terrorism and the ongoing absence of peace in this region. We have some further thoughts that we plan to post on this shortly.