Monday, October 21, 2013

21-Oct-13: Incredibly, maddeningly, convicted terrorists are about to be freed again

Convicted terrorists arrive back into Palestinian Arab society as conquering heroes, 2011 [Image Source]
Notwithstanding the protests, absence of public support, and illogic of the move, Israel is on the eve once again of freeing a second tranche (of an agreed four such tranches) of Palestinian Arab convicts from its prisons, at the behest of the US government (the evidence, for those in doubt, is offered here). Our understanding is this will happen during next week.

Alex Fishman, writing on Yediot Aharanot's news site today, says this coming round will involve 32 men, bring to 58 (out of the original list of 104) who will have walked free, long before serving the prison sentences to which Israel's legal justice system consigned them. (For the record, Times of Israel puts the number at 30. The government has not announced how many.)

Fishman writes that
As part of the preconditions for the resumption of peace negotiations, Israel is slated to release 104 prisoners who have been imprisoned since prior to the Oslo Accords, most of whom were sentenced to life and considered major terror participants, with blood on their hands.
It hardly matters whether this is in fact part of the "peace" negotiations. But for the record, in case there are still people out there who care to know when they are being spun and when facts truly are facts, we have pointed out several times [including here: "4-Sep-13: Futile and going nowhere: do we understand their peace strategy better now?"] that Mahmoud Abbas, the PA's president says it's not so:
Mahmoud Abbas has said repeatedly what every rational observer knows to be untrue: that Israel's decision to release 104 entirely unrepentant convicted killers is not connected in any way, no way at all, to the Kerry-inspired process ("peace talks") now underway. [Quoted here]
Fishman's argument deserves to be more widely aired:
  • He notes that in this round, some of the convicts (he calls them prisoners) "will be released to Gaza. This is regardless of the fact that Israel has had bitter experience with the release of prisoners in general, especially those headed for Gaza."
  • Bitter experience? Please explain. Fishman says that while Gaza is where many of the terror attacks in the past years have come from, "the brains and funding come from Turkey. Heading up terror activity for Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza is another released prisoner – Saleh Al Arouri. Among the founders of the military wing of the Hamas, Arouri did several stints in Israeli jails, before being released in 2010.  Upon his release, he was obligated to leave the area for three years, so he moved with Hamas’ command (which had left Damascus) to Turkey. Today, he operates out of Turkey, with the backing of the Turkish government."
  • Ismail Haniyeh called this week from his safe perch in Gaza "for a third intifada in the West Bank", says Fishman. Though he skips the details, we happen to have mentioned them in an interview we gave to a US blog site yesterday. In fact, Haniyeh of Gaza has some quite concrete plans for us according to a speech delivered this past Saturday. According to a report in the newspaper Islam Times, he praised the recent killings of Israelis in the West Bank, called for a "popular uprising", hailed the Gilad Shalit Transaction as "a historic victory, since it cancelled all of the Zionist entity's red lines", promised not to stop doing what it takes "until all of the prisoners are released" by Israel, told Abbas to "halt all peace negotiations with Israel", promised that "there would be no security or stability in the region "as long as Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger", and warned that "thousands of fighters above ground and underground are ready for the big campaign in which all of Palestine will be liberated". And Israel is now sending freed convicts into Gaza?
  • Fishman refers to a different Gaza figure, Issat al-Rishq, from Hamas' Qatar chapter, who also invoked te Gilad Shalit Transaction in threatening more kidnappings of Israelis The center of rioting has been the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where most of the past month’s ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations have taken place. 
  • Fishman says there are ongoing, evidently successful efforts, to once more incite the Palestinian Arab street, the latest focus being the "spontaneous" riots on the grounds of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, during the past month. Though he does not mention this, check out the bogus claims emanating in the past 24 hours from the usual fire-breathing source: "Iran Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham has condemned Israeli plans to build a synagogue in al-Aqsa Mosque in East al-Quds (Jerusalem)". Transparent nonsense, but only to those who know the facts.
  • Fishman refers to the Hamas partnership with the notorious Israel-based "northern branch of the Islamic Movement" which is calling once again for “days of rage” over Israeli misdeeds at their Mosque.
  • And he quotes the outcomes of the ongoing efforts to incite the Palestinian Arabs. Security source here perceive, he writes, "a significant increase in shooting incidents and throwing of Molotov cocktails at Israelis in the West Bank. This included five terror attacks which left three Israelis dead over the past month", and "an increase in general violence and terror activity". And as we and many others have pointed, "released prisoners have had their hands in this". Of course. But almost entirely unreported outside of Israel.
It's neither welcome nor uplifting to read these things. But very few Israeli observers are saying them, so it's important to give them some additional exposure. Fishman ends with advice with which we certainly identify:
At the moment, as Israel is about to release dozens of former major players in terror activity, it should consider that a portion, even if they are not young, will return to the armed Palestinian fight, predominantly those who will go to Gaza. These prisoners will be returning to a more explosive situation than earlier in the year. [Alex Fishman, Ynet today]
State Department spokesperson [Image Source]
Rarely afraid to harp on life-and-death themes, we take this opportunity to once again remind readers of the view that the Obama administration has of the killers and other convicted terrorists about to be launched back out onto the Palestinian Arab streets.

Some ten weeks ago, we wrote in this blog [see "14-Aug-13: Are the Palestinian Arab murderers who are being released at this moment, freedom fighters or terrorists? Let's check with the State Department"] about how the US State Department relates to Palestinian Arab convicts being released after a trial and some years of time in prison. 

The brief verbatim extract in the following paragraph comes from a media briefing [full official transcript and a video are linked herethat took place at the State Department on August 14, 2013:
Persistent reporter: ...Most of these people have been convicted of murder, of killing people. And the Israelis are very clear on the fact that they think that these people are terrorists, even though they’re releasing them. The Palestinians say that they are political prisoners and... have instructed their ambassadors, all their representatives around the world to refer to them as freedom fighters, political prisoners. And I want to know, if you don’t have a position... if there isn’t anything that you call them, do you object to the Palestinians referring to them as freedom fighters?  
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf: The answer is, I don’t know and I will endeavor to get an answer for you on that as well. 
Ms Harf and the State Department are not sure whether the convicted killers of Israelis, men who have been in prison for years, are freedom fighters and/or political prisoners, or whether they are terrorists. We think this ought to profoundly shake up anyone who wants to win the war against the people who place bombs in restaurants and on buses. 

(For the record, Marie Harf, currently Deputy Spokesperson for the State Department and former spokeswoman for the CIA and the Obama presidential campaign, is hardly a Washington newcomer. Our sense is that if she had wanted to know the answer, this would not have taken that much time or effort.)

We have been in touch with the State Department via several channels since August 14, trying to get this clarified. If anyone has heard the State Department's spokesperson clear up what she says she doesn't know about the terrorists, please tell us. As unbelievable as it sounds, we think the State Department's official spokesperson is still, today, officially confused about this painful and critically important matter. 

We also wrote an open letter to Secretary Kerry about it ["14-Sep-13: Memo to Secretary of State Kerry: Your staff need some urgent guidance"]. It too remains unanswered as of today, though his office confirms it was received.

As we have said here before, getting things right or wrong about terrorism and terrorists is a serious thing, and treating terrorists as freedom fighters or (after they are captured and imprisoned) as political prisoners has consequences. So long as the US operates, as it is currently doing, via a policy of cloudy vagueness and public statements like "I don't know and will get back to you" on this, they play into the hands of the people who deal in terror. 

And so does freeing them from prison, despite the determinations of the legal justice system which sent them there. When those first 26 unrepentant terrorists walked free, they walked straight into a series of official Mahmoud Abbas-hosted PA receptions where they were despicably feted as heroes, just as we feared and predicted. Why oh why would we ever want to allow this to happen again. It's maddening. And incredible.

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