Tuesday, November 06, 2012

6-Nov-12: The volcano that is Sinai

Sinai gunmen: "Unknown assailants"
While most of our readers are as pre-occupied as we are with elections today in the United States, the southern border region of Israel continues to show worrying signs of descending into chaos and even more violence.

Our last post about the spiraling-downwards state of the Sinai peninsula ["3-Nov-12: Sinai: Spinning out of Cairo's grip, creating major Israeli headaches"] went up only three days ago. Today, the situation there grew  a notch worse.

Gunmen critically wound Egyptian general in Sinai attack
Attackers shoot security officers and steal their cars in series of incidents against security forces
Associated Press | November 6, 2012
EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — A senior Egyptian police officer was shot and wounded Tuesday in the second recent attack of its kind on security forces in the country’s turbulent northern Sinai region. Security officials said Inspector General Selim Said el-Gamal was riding in a police car with other officers in the provincial capital of el-Arish when attackers in an unmarked white truck opened fire at their vehicle. Officials said el-Gamal stumbled out of the car after he was shot and that the driver and other officers ran for cover by fleeing the vehicle. Some of the assailants — who had fired from the bed of their truck — took off with the police vehicle. Later the same day, officials said gunmen ambushed an army truck in the town of Sheikh Zuweyid just outside el-Arish, stealing the vehicle that had been transporting fuel to nearby bases and checkpoints.
...el-Gamal was shot in the neck and is in critical condition. He was airlifted from el-Arish to Cairo for treatment... Since Mubarak’s ouster, militants have said they aim to create an Islamic emirate in Sinai... The attacks are the latest in a string of assaults on Egyptian military and police in northern Sinai, where militants have grown emboldened since last year’s uprising that left a security void in the Sinai Peninsula. The area borders the Palestinian Gaza Strip and Israel.
Oddly, or perhaps not, Al Ahram, Egypt's largest newspaper and entirely controlled by the Egyptian state [source], relegates its brief report of the attack to a minor, almost invisible location on its website. It says the attack was carried out on the Egyptian Inspector of General Security, whom it names as Lieutenant General Selim El-Gammal, by "unknown assailants". The rather laconic report ends with this sentence:
The Sinai Peninsula, a largely desert area bordering Israel, has been the site of several attacks by unknown assailants, generally believed to be extremists.
The events being reported are bad enough, but the news reporting, and what it signifies, is worse. AP frames these increasingly disturbing attacks as the work of 'militants' while Egypt's most widely circulated paper says they are 'unknown assailants' who might be 'extremists'. Neither one of them manages to use the "T" word.

Haaretz here in Israel is less delicate. It carries an analytical piece today by Zvi Barel entitled "With Egypt's Morsi distracted by politics, Sinai's volcano of terror is about to erupt". While the headline says it all, Barel explains what neither AP nor Al Ahram evidently will:
In August it really looked as if the Egyptian army and Morsi intended to operate intensively and continuously against the radical groups, and Morsi even obtained the support of Hamas’ Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh, who promised to confront these groups’ offshoots in Gaza. But apparently these armed cells have gathered in the mountainous regions of the central Sinai, in areas where it is difficult for the regular army to operate. It also seems that the relative calm in September led to a thinning out of the military forces... It’s difficult for Morsi to use the required measure of military pressure against the Salafist groups in the Sinai. He is trying to maneuver between these two Salafist streams, but Sinai can’t wait. Any day now it is liable to erupt beyond the “routine” violence to produce terror attacks against Israel and make managing foreign policy vis a vis Israel even more complicated for Morsi.

6-Nov-12: Mid morning rocket attack hits Eshkol region

Around 10 this morning (Tuesday), Ynet posted this newsflash:
A rocket was fired at the Eshkol Regional Council. The rocket exploded in an open area and no injuries or damage were reported.
We have not seen this Gazan-sourced rocket attack confirmed elsewhere but it's a reliable source and such attacks have become a daily event - and often many times in a day. And GANSO has just posted a note confirming it too:
06 NOV, 1045hrs: Isr. and Pal. media report that 1 HMR was fired toward the Green Line. No injuries reported. Updates to follow as received.
("HMR" is the EU-funded humanitarian group's quaint and misleading way of referring to deadly Qassam rockets. Their use of the term is an ongoing, but mostly un-noticed, disgrace.)

From a scan of the news reports hitting the web in the past hour, the only significant coverage relating to Gaza refers to reptiles - two kinds of them:
Police in the Gaza Strip on Monday captured a crocodile that roamed the sewerage system of a town in the north of the enclave, the Palestinian territory's Hamas rulers said. [Source]
The media and the Palestinian Arabs being what they are, it isn't a news story unless Israel can be kicked. So the Naharnet report concludes by blaming you-know-who for the crocodile infestation:
Gaza's water sewerage system has deteriorated over the years, notably because of the Israeli blockade on the Palestinian territory and its devastating 22-day war on militant rocket fire launched in December 2008.

Monday, November 05, 2012

5-Nov-12: Wall St Journal "Rockets keep coming from Gaza, not that the world notices"

Damage caused in a Gazan Palestinian Arab rocket attack on southern Israel's Hof Ashkelon region, June 20, 2012 [Image Source]. The explosive device was a Qassam rocket. The EU-funded GANSO office routinely, with a straight face, calls Qassams "Home Made Rockets" in its published reports. You - the reader from far away - are supposed to think that these are soft, nutritious objects that can barely hurt a fly. You are being subjected to cognitive warfare.
Israel Under Fire

Rockets keep coming from Gaza, not that the world notices.
[Wall St Journal editorial - November 5, 2012]

As the U.S. Presidential campaign races to the finish, the Middle East continues to boil. Not that the world seems to notice. Last week, Palestinian terrorists operating from the Gaza Strip fired 21 rockets and mortars into Israel. That followed a three-day, 77-shell barrage, in which two civilians were seriously injured and thousands of people were forced into bomb shelters. More than 800 rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel from the Strip in 2012.

If this incoming fire were landing in Texas from Mexico—or in southern Spain from North Africa—it would be a major story. Instead, the world has largely ignored the attacks while obsessing over a possible Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Iran is a principal arms supplier to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which operates out of Gaza and is responsible for many of the recent attacks. Iran's war against Israel, in other words, has long been underway.

Gaza has been governed for over five years by Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has done little to restrain the fire. In July, former Hamas leader Khaled Meshal met Egypt's new President in Cairo. "We have entered a new era in Palestine's relationship with Egypt," Meshal said after the meeting. "We were happy with what we heard from President Mohamed Morsi and his vision to handle all these issues."

Israel has been fortunate to suffer few fatalities so far from the Gaza attacks. Some of that owes to Israel's deployment of the Iron Dome air defense system, which recently intercepted eight rockets aimed at larger Israeli cities. But no defensive system is perfect and at some point a Palestinian barrage may take a large toll in lives, forcing Israel to respond in a major way.

When that happens, Israel will be urged to show "restraint" by the usual diplomatic suspects. We're writing this as a reminder of how much restraint Israel has already shown.

A version of this article appeared today, November 5, 2012, on page A16 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal.

5-Nov-12: Incoming missile alert at 11:30 this morning

We are seeing reports of incoming missile/s at 11:30 this morning (Monday) in three southern Israel regions: Eshkol, Sdot Negev, Shaar Hanegev. Initial indications, unconfirmed and unreported, suggest the crash and explosion took place on the Palestinian Arab side of the Gaza border, as happens frequently but as is almost never reported.

GANSO, an EU agency that provides security updates to the small army of foreign aid workers serving the population of Gaza, and whose reports soothingly refer to terrorist missiles as "HMRs", meaning home-made rockets, is saying nothing about it at the moment.

However the GANSO alerts page does report that much earlier this morning "A hand grenade exploded in Al Nuseirat, MA, killing 1 Pal". MA is how GANSO refers to the Middle Area of the Gaza enclave, and "1 Pal" is their very humanitarian way of referring to a dead Palestinian Arab Gazan resident who either mis-handled his own grenade or was the victim of some other bumbling thug.

If this morning's rocket or rockets did in fact explode on to a Palestinian Arab residential or industrial section of the Gaza Strip, it is highly unlikely we will get any reports via news channels. Such "fell short" explosions are common.

Meanwhile the hundreds of thousands of Israeli who live within firing distance of the Gazan terrorists are the victims of a terrifying encounter with lethal fire directed at them again today. But almost no one outside their own neighbours even knows about it.

5-Nov-12: Travel update: Additional things you might want to know about transiting through Dubai

Dubai UAE, but not the glitzy airport and the luxury hotel scene [Image Source]
An article in this week's Economist ["Waiting for justice"] takes up the infuriating case of Prof. Cyril Karabus about whom we have now written several times ["26-Sep-12: Dubai, Dubai, Dubai" ; "15-Oct-12: Back to Dubai: Australian travelers might want to factor this report into their plans" ; "21-Oct-12: Update on Prof. Cyril Karabus and his ongoing nightmare in United Arab Emirates"] in recent weeks. 

A renowned and beloved medical specialist in paediatrics and oncology in his native South Africa, Dr Karabus visited the United Arab Emirates in 2002 after he formally retired, to work briefly as a locum at a government hospital in Abu Dhabi. He was back in the UAE on August 17, 2012 to make an overnight transit stopover at Dubai airport. As The Economist describes it,
At immigration the next morning however, Dr Karabus was separated from his family, arrested and marched off to prison to serve a sentence for manslaughter for which he was convicted in absentia in 2003. 
The background, as we wrote earlier, is that he had been called upon to treat a terminally ill three-year old girl who subsequently died of leukaemia. The child's father then apparently filed a legal case against the distinguished medico without his knowledge. The Economist takes it up from there:
Since his arrest, Dr Karabus has been hauled before the courts on four occasions and each time denied bail despite his original conviction being overturned on the basis that he was not told of the charges against him. A fifth bail application on October 12th proved more successful, with the court agreeing to release Dr Karabus to a friend’s address in Abu Dhabi for an AED100,000 ($27,000) surety. A court-appointed 12-man medical committee has now been tasked with examining Dr Karabus’s case and determining whether negligence played any part in the child’s death.

As details of the trial have slowly emerged, the English-language press in the UAE has diverged on its reporting of the case. The Abu Dhabi government-owned daily, the National, boldly claimed on August 28th that Dr Karabus had been arrested “two years after he fled the country”, implying that he was a fugitive on the run. However, the paper could not be sure, it said, of whether or not Dr Karabus had returned to hand himself in. Meanwhile, the best-selling English-language daily from neighbouring Dubai, Gulf News, while tying itself up in knots over whether Dr Karabus’s patient was a boy or a girl, reported that the court had accepted the doctor’s claim that he had administered a blood transfusion to his patient. Were this to be proven, Dr Karabus would be a free man again, given that the main accusation is that he failed to administer such a transfusion, thereby causing the little girl’s death.
The case of Dr Karabus, who is still stuck in the UAE up to and including today, is far from isolated.

The Economist refers to what it terms "the perils of living and working in the country"; of the opacity of the judicial system; the perceived excesses of the law itself; the local laws that consider bankruptcy to be a criminal offence; the fact that dozens of foreigners are currently behind bars awaiting trial for having issued bounced cheques - just one of those will get you a three-year prison sentence.

This week's edition of The Economist refers to the nightmarish experiences of a second doctor, Eugen Adelsmayr, at the hands of the Dubai authorities. According to a South African media source [here], he was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2009 after being convicted of premeditated murder after a quadriplegic patient died under his care. Adelsmayer is now somehow back in Austria and has written a book about the ordeal [source]. He calls the legal process under which he was tried and convicted “a farce”. Under UAE law, he cannot appeal the conviction unless he returns to Dubai [AFP]. The chances he will do that willingly are probably not so great.

We noticed that Dr Adelsmayer wrote a personal letter to the web version of the Economist article two days ago. In it he writes:
"I am the Austrian doctor you mention in your article. I am afraid that there is no chance for Dr. Karabus to get a fair trial in an ignorant and corrupt system. In my case the judge rejected medical experts for my defense saying he himself had good enough knowledge of Intensive Care. Most likely Dr. Karabus judge will be an expert in pediatric oncology. Even the fact that my case was built on a forged report from Dubai Health Authority did not help. I had revealed patient killings covered by an illegal hospital policy which put the final nail in my coffin." [More]
On the same page, another letter-writer describes his own bitter experiences of being framed by an employee, and notes that under UAE law,
"The witnesses were not allowed into court as Hindus they were not able to give evidence".
The 78-year old Dr Karabus is due back in court on November 20th to fight for his freedom.

Meanwhile a further reminder to Australian travelers that none of this is supposed to bother them a bit. Qantas is abandoning Singapore as its regional European transit hub in favour of Dubai, and has assured its customers ["Qantas soothes Jewish concerns"] that its new partnership with the Dubai-based Emirates airline is
"right for Qantas and will provide the best travel options for passengers heading to Europe or the UK. But we also respect that some customers may prefer to transit through Asia, instead of through Dubai..."
While Qantas is soothing one part of its customer base, do its Hindu customers know what the letter-writer above says about Dubai law and order?

Perhaps someone reading this might consider sending a gift subscription of the Economist magazine to Qantas management, or even just email them a link to our blog. Could it be that at Australia's truly great airline, one or another of the decision makers have their heads in the sand?

Sunday, November 04, 2012

4-Nov-12: Middle-of-night rocket attack - yet again

A Gazan rocket was fired off in the general direction of Israel around 01:30 am this morning (Sunday) by the usual sources.

Tzeva Adom incoming missile warnings were heard in the Sdot Negev and Eshkol regions of southern Israel, followed by a crash and explosion. Reports so far say no injuries, no serious property damage. And no media reports other than the usual Israeli channels which means that in the war for public opinion and understanding, the middle-of-the-night terror experienced by thousands of Israeli families never happened.

We track the incredible numbers of Palestinian Arab terror-attacks-by-rocket via the counter on the right side of every page of this blog.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

3-Nov-12: Sinai: Spinning out of Cairo's grip, creating major Israeli headaches

From Friday's WSJ article about the new face of law and order in Egyptian Sinai [Image Source]
Just three days, we wrote here about the great landmass on Israel's southwestern border that "given its physical proximity to Israel, Sinai is not only an Egyptian challenge. That it gets such a small degree of media attention is a puzzle." [See "30-Oct-12: Egypt's Sinai problem and ours"]

Tonight, there's a new set of Sinai developments to absorb. Under the headline "Islamist gunmen kill three Egyptian policemen in the Sinai | Assailants ambush cops in El-Arish, shout ‘God is great,’ then flee", a Times of Israel report says "suspected Islamic militants" carried out an ambush in the northern Sinai today, Saturday, murdering three Egyptian policemen.
The gunmen pulled in front of a police vehicle in an unmarked truck in the area’s main city of El-Arish, before standing up on the truck bed and opening fire, the officials said. They then raised a black flag associated with jihadis and shouted “God is great.” Intelligence officials said the suspects then sped off. The head of security in northern Sinai, Ahmed Bakr, confirmed that three policemen were killed in the Saturday attack. The incident was the most serious since terror cells killed 16 Egyptian security personnel in an attack near the Egypt-Israel-Gaza border in August. Since then, the government of President Mohammed Morsi has moved to try to quash the cells in the unstable Sinai Peninsula, which borders the Gaza Strip and Israel. [More]
Even before today's terror attack, Britain's Foreign Office had issued an elevated terror threat level warning for the Sinai on Friday. The British are advising against all but essential travel to the peninsula. They say [according to Daily News Egypt] that ”the terror threat level has risen from ‘general’ to ‘high’ in response to a number of incidents in the Sinai.  There are also reports that police in the Sinai thwarted a terrorist plot organised by Al-Qaeda last week."

The Wall Street Journal happens to have run a serious investigative article on Friday dealing with events behind the scenes in Sinai, and focusing on El-Arish, scene of today's shootings. WSJ's Matt Bradley writes  ["Makeshift Islamic Courts Fill Void in the Sinai"] about the Sinai phenomenon of "a fast-expanding network of unofficial courts meting out Islamic law" in Egyptian Sinai.
"The rise of such Shariah courts is one measure of just how far the remote Sinai Peninsula has drifted from Cairo's orbit and into the hands of fundamentalists intent on imposing a strict form of religious order. The revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak and his secular-leaning regime early last year emptied this vast desert region of police and most normal government services, leaving a rush of kidnappings, smuggling and terrorism in its wake. Partly filling the justice void are judges such as Sheikh Abu Faisal, who punish offenders with fasting periods instead of prison sentences and levy fines paid in camels rather than cash... Shariah courts have a centuries-long presence in Sinai as arbitrators over small disputes in which contesting parties agree to follow the judges' verdicts, say legal experts and local politicians. But since the revolution, and with the election of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, that system of mixed tribal and religious justice has begun to expand its role... The Shariah judges' expanding ambitions threatened state sovereignty in the mostly rural Sinai Peninsula, a regional flash point bordering Israel and the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip... The government tolerates but doesn't monitor the Shariah courts, said Ministry of Judiciary spokesman Ibrahim Abdel Khaleq. While Cairo hasn't acted to tamp them down, Mr. Khaleq said their expansion "could be dangerous" if they challenge state authority... Some legal activists in Cairo said they were concerned about the proliferation of Shariah courts in Sinai because of their radical outlook. They offer no appeals, women's testimony holds half the weight of men's and some Shariah judges, including Sheik Beek, say they hope one day to impose Islamic hudud - punishments such as stoning for adultery and cutting off the hands of thieves."
Al Arabiya's coverage of today's El-Arish terrorist killings points out what all of this implies for Israel's security and safety:
"On September 8, an Egyptian official said there were about 225 tunnels in Sinai, 31 of which were destroyed. The tunnels are used to smuggle various kinds of products into the besieged Gaza Strip and the Egyptian authorities have often turned a blind eye to the cross border activity. Efforts to impose central authority in the lawless desert region are complicated by the indigenous Bedouin population's ingrained hostility to the government in Cairo."
Israel's security establishment does not need much reminding of how easily and quickly the south can heat up and cause very serious problems.

Friday, November 02, 2012

2-Nov-12: Scenes from the front lines, courtesy of the Tayar Report

Jerusalem's Line 99 sightseeing bus: scene of one of
this week's numerous rock-throwing attacks
The chronology below is a continuation of the reports we have published in recent months based on information received via the Tayar Security Report, with some editing and annotating by us. Yehudit Tayar produces her invaluable bulletins on the basis of first-responder, police and army reports.

Sunday October 28, 2012
  • Benjamin Region: Highway 443 near Bir Nabala, on the northern fringe of the capital, Jerusalem, Arabs attack Israeli vehicles with rocks.  Border policemen who responded to the attacks arrest two of the rock throwers
  • Vicinity of Ain Yibror, north-east of Ramallah: IDF spokesman reports that Arabs attack yet another Israeli bus, causing damage.
Monday October 29, 2012
  • Gaza: Multiple rocket attacks on Ashkelon, Sderot, Be'er Sheva and the Eshkol region.  Thousands of innocent Israeli citizens are under constant threat from the terrorist cells in Gaza. In response to the continued rocket attacks from Gaza, IAF carried out counter-attacks against terrorist positions in the Gaza Strip.
  • Near El Fuar in the Southern Hevron Hills: Arabs attack Israeli vehicles with rocks, causing damage.
  • Near the Israel village of Ma'aleh Shomron, close to Azun: Arabs attack Israeli vehicles with rocks  causing injuries to one of the Israelis who is treated by IDF ambulance team for his injuries.
Tuesday October 30, 2012
  • Between Kiryat Arba and Hevron: An Israeli school bus with children on board comes under rock attack by Arabs
  • Jerusalem: Two young female tourists aged 18 are injured by rocks hurled at their bus (the famous Jerusalem Line No. 99, designated for tourists and other sightseers) as they pass Dung Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. They are rushed to Sha'are Zedek Medical Center for treatment.
Wednesday October 31, 2012
  • Communities surrounding Gaza: During the night, rocket fire from Gaza into communities in the Eshkol Region; by miracle no injuries.
  • Arabs attacked Israeli truck with rocks near Abud, northwest of Ramallah. IDF investigating.
  • El Fuar, an Arab village located south-west of Hebron: Another Israeli bus comes under rock attack. Property damage results.
  • Turmus Aya north-east of Ramallah in the Benjamin Region: Israeli vehicles come under rock attack from Arabs; property damage is caused.
  • Husan Bypass, close to Beitar Ilit: One more time, Israeli vehicles are attacked by rock-hurling Arabs causing damage.
  • Benjamin Region: Molotov cocktail attacks by Arabs, reported between Nili and Na'ale (adjacent communities located close to the city of Modi'in). IDF investigating.
Thursday November 1, 2012
  • Vicinity of Beitar Ilit, located just west of Gush Etzion: The IDF reports that several Israeli vehicles once again have come under rock attack by roadside Arabs near the village of Husan (an Arabic name that translates to goodness and beauty - yes! - according to the dictionary and Wikipedia).
Yehudit writes: These reports are translated and publicized by Hatzalah Yehudah and Shomron with the clearance and confirmation of the IDF.  Hatzalah Yehudah and Shomron is a voluntary emergency medical organization with over 500 volunteer doctors, paramedics, medics who are on call 24/7 and work along with the IDF, 669 IAF Airborn Rescue, the security officers and personal throughout Yesha and the Jordan Valley, and with MDA. We, the volunteers of Hatzalah Yehudah and Shomron go out to rescue anyone who needs our emergency medical assistance; including civilians, military and Arabs also those within the PA territories. (with IDF presence) To us a life is precious and we go out at risk leaving home and family or stopping on the road to rescue anyone in need.

2-Nov-12: Understanding the term 'Palestinian elections' and what lies behind it

PA police face off against protestors
Those of us who live in countries where freedom of opinion, of worship, of political viewpoint and the right to express ourselves as we wish are core values tend to lose sight of life is like where those values don't exist. In the towns ruled by the Palestinian Authority, for instance.

They held elections of a sort there two weeks ago. As the Palestinian Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh writes ["Palestinian Elections: Which Fatah Won?"], the Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas won a majority of seats. 

To understand, let's carefully define some terms. Like "president", "Fatah", "elections" and "won".

These municipal elections, held in 93 municipal and village councils across the PA's fiefdom (historically called Judea and Samaria) but not for the so-called Palestinian parliament, were the first voting opportunity in the PA-controlled region in more than six years. 

They were boycotted by the opposition, meaning the Islamist terror group Hamas. However there was a different sort of opposition, and they did well. As Abu Toameh points, the candidates who were fielded by the Abbas-controlled Fatah leadership found themselves running against Fatah members who formed themselves into an independent ticket. Guess how it turned out?
"The Fatah "rebels" scored major victories in important cities, such as Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah, as well as many villages. Abbas and the veteran Fatah leadership tried up to the last minute to dissuade the disgruntled members of his faction from running as independents, but to no avail. The Fatah Central Committee, a body dominated by Abbas loyalists, later decided to expel all the Fatah candidates who insisted on running in the election separately... Many of the Fatah candidates who were dismissed scored significant victories. Candidates who were expelled from Fatah defeated those who expelled them: Abbas and old guard Fatah leaders. Even in places where Abbas's Fatah candidates won, the vote was on the basis of clan affiliation. Many Palestinians voted for Abbas's Fatah candidates not because they were satisfied with the old guard leadership of Fatah, but simply because the candidate happened to belong to their clan. What is perhaps most worrying for Abbas is the fact that a large number of his policemen and security officers voted for the dissident Fatah candidates who ran against the Palestinian Authority's nominees." [Abu Toameh]
As for president Mahmoud Abbas, we've posted numerous times about the absurdity of calling this lifelong denier of the Holocaust and booster of terrorists/terrorism a moderate. (Many journalists and their editors don't agree with us.) But beyond that, he's also an illegitimate political fraud. As Sultan Knish points out
Western media outlets insist on referring to Mahmoud Abbas as the President of the Palestinian Authority, even though he’s currently on the 7th year of his four year term... Abbas has no political legitimacy since his term expired in 2009. Salam Fayyad has even less legitimacy since he was never elected by anyone and his appointment to Prime Minister was never even confirmed by the Palestinian parliament, who have no legitimacy either because their last election was in 2006. But even though the Palestinian Authority’s president, prime minister and parliament have not been elected by anyone, the terrorist democracy experiment is still going on with with local councils.
This has consequences. Abu Toameh says "Palestinian analysts are convinced that had Hamas participated in the elections, turnout would have been much higher and the Islamist movement would easily have defeated a divided Fatah". This is quite worrying, but not new.

If you have the misfortune to live under the control of Abbas and his henchman, here's a taste of what you can expect (hat tip to Challah).

A gentleman with the not-so-gentle name Jihad Harb is a newspaper columnist. This past Tuesday, the head of the PA's Department of Public Prosecutions called him in for a conversation. He was informed that a complaint had been filed against him under the Jordanian Penal Code (in force under PA law) by no less a personage than "the Chief of Staff of the Palestinian presidency". The charges: libel and slander and directly insulting the employees in the Office of the President arising from an article he had written two months ago. There's outrage in certain very specific corners of the Palestinian Arab world - at the optimistically named Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, for instance. But otherwise, it's an invisible story - as if it never happened.

Sultan Knish, reflecting on the 'elections', points out some things that the rest of us ought to take away:
If Fatah can’t win local elections, it certainly can’t win anything bigger. Its political institutions have no legitimacy and derive their support entirely from the backing of Western diplomats. If the Fatah regime has no democratic legitimacy, then on what basis is it regarded as the legitimate representative of Muslims living within the West Bank and Gaza? And on what basis is Israel being asked to negotiate with it? And finally, on what basis is any bid that it makes at the UN being taken seriously and on what basis are American tax dollars being funneled into a two state project, when the the West Bank and Gaza are already two states, one run by Hamas, one run by Fatah, and neither holding any real elections?