INSIDE LOOK: HOW GAZA PROTESTERS ATTEMPTED TO BREACH THE BORDER FENCE

Over the past eight weeks, protesters in Gaza have altered their strategy as Israel has warned them to refrain from approaching the border fence.

Many questions remain about what led to the deaths of up to 58 Palestinians on Monday. One of the key issues surrounds how the protests are organized. Based on observation and discussions with sources close to the protests, the following presents a clearer picture of what has occurred over the last weeks, and attempts to paint a picture of how the May 14 protests unfolded.

Since the end of March, there have been mass protests along the Gaza border. These protests have been well organized and planned as part of an eight week “Great March of Return,” from the Palestinian Land Day on March 30, to the “Nakba Day” on May 15.

On May 14, the mass protests, which coincided with the US opening its embassy in Jerusalem and came a day before what was supposed to be the last day of the protests, resulted in 58 Palestinians killed and up to 2,700 wounded, according to Gaza-based Palestinian reports.

The protests have been organized around five locations next to Israel’s security fence. Over the eight weeks of demonstrations, protesters used a variety of different tactics and methods. For instance, protesters began lighting massive fires and burning tires during the second Friday, in early April.  Then they began launching burning kites to ignite Israeli farmland. They also tore down a section of barbed wire of one of the fences between Israel and Gaza on April 27. It was during this protest that a reliable source provided some insight into the methods employed by Hamas and the protesters.

The protesters have gathered every Friday with tens of thousands participating. At the very back of the protest, hundreds of meters from the fence, are tents and field hospitals, prayer areas and families. This is where some of the Hamas officials will show up in the morning or early afternoon to rouse the people and encourage them in their protest. Speeches will be made and prayers offered. It is well organized. Buses bring people to the protests. There are people selling food. There is even a macabre element of this, with protesters saying they’ll have a meal before they become “shahid” or a martyr at the front.

The masses of protesters who approach the actual fence are generally made up of young men and teenagers, including youth and children. There are very few women in the area closest to the fence. The protesters know how the Israeli security forces have been operating; they expect to be shot or are cognizant that this is a distinct possibility. There are ambulance teams and medics, as well as numerous spontaneous volunteers, ready to take away the injured, many of them shot in the legs.

As the young men burn tires, and others prepare Molotov cocktails or slingshots, some prepare kites to fly. The goal of the protesters is to get to the fence and, with select groups of young men who have brought wire cutters, to cut through. Most of them don’t make it this far, but some of them do.

Gazans who attempt to reach the main security fence first have to deal with other obstacles. There is a barbed-wire fence in sections to deter protesters from reaching the main fence. Israel has continuously warned since March that anyone approaching this kind of buffer zone would be shot. A section of barbed wire fence was torn down and dragged away in late April. The Palestinians cheered as they brought it back to the protest camp. A sign of victory.

According to reports, it takes about thirty seconds running between the barbed-wire fence and the main security fence.

But what happened in late April was not just the spontaneous chaos of rioters at the fence. Some of those wounded and killed by live fire, as shown on videos, have not been directly threatening the fence, but there are others groups whose sole purpose is to penetrate the fence.

The actual attempt to get closest to the fence and break through it has involved planning and coordination on the Palestinian side. Hamas members, unarmed but clearly directing some of the young men, are in the crowd. They watch for an area of burning tires and people, where the protesters have managed to get close to the fence or breach the first line of barbed wire.

Some of these professional activists are on motorcycles and they may come and go or drive along the line of protests or observe them from a high point. When they sense that a breach can be made, they gather together groups of young men, men who have prepared beforehand for the assault.

Like some kind of First World War charge of death, the young men then rush as a group toward the fence.

During the April 27 events, up to 700 men were reported by IDF spokesman Col. Jonathan Conricus to have assaulted the fence “in a way that we have not seen them assault it before,” according to a New York Times report.

An earlier Times report titled “300 Meters in Gaza: Snipers, Burning Tires and a Contested Fence,” summarized well the planning and details of the protests and confirmed later accounts.

Planning began ahead of the May 14 protests. Joe Dyke, the AFP correspondent in Gaza, wrote on May 10 that, at a “briefing to foreign media, Gaza head of Hamas told journalists today he would support thousands of Palestinians breaking through the border fence next week.”

On Sunday the IDF dropped leaflets on Gaza warning protesters to stay away from the fence. On May 14 Dyke, in Gaza, tweeted: “literally as the US embassy inauguration is beginning, loud speakers east of Gaza City are calling on protesters to prepare to seek to breach the border fence.”

By the end of the day, 58 had been killed.

The article was published in The JPost


Israeli killed in West Bank drive-by shooting near outpost

The victim had several wounds to his neck and upper body, and was taken to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, where doctors pronounced his death.

A resident of the Havat Gilad outpost in central Samaria was killed on Tuesday night close to his home, in a drive-by shooting attack on Route 60.

Rabbi Raziel Shevach, 35, a mohel, was married with six children, four daughters and two sons, ages 11 to eight months.

Shortly after 8 p.m., Magen David Adom received a report of the shooting and dispatched paramedics and an MDA team to the site of the attack. The victim had several wounds to his neck and upper body from a reported spray of 22 bullets, and was taken to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba.

The hospital said Shevach arrived without a pulse, was not breathing and showed no signs of life. Despite the efforts of the medical team, he was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival at the hospital.

MDA paramedic Elyashiv Reichenberg, one of the first at the scene, said he was dispatched from nearby Kedumim.

“I saw a private vehicle at the side of the road close to the safety barrier which had been shot; the driver… was in the driver’s seat and semi-conscious with gunfire wounds to the upper body,” said Reichenberg.

“Civilians who live in the [Havat Gilad] settlement and heard the gunfire came to help, while the IDF medical assistance team, which also arrived at the site, gave him life-saving medical treatment and he was taken to hospital in serious condition.”

Channel 1 played a tape of a man, apparently in shock, calling police immediately after the attack saying, “They shot me, they shot me.”

Route 60 was closed following the incident and IDF units began searching the area for the attackers.

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi), who lives in Kedumim, was on Route 60 at the time of the shooting, and stopped and got out of his car to help at the site of the attack.

“Jewish blood is not cheap,” Smotrich declared following the incident. “This is an intolerable situation, when a subhuman comes to sow destruction,” he said, and called on Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to instruct the security services “to act with an iron fist” and to “clarify to the Palestinians that for every action like this they will pay a high price.”

Hananel Dorani, chairman of the Yesha Council, which represents Israeli settlements in the West Bank, said following the attack that “full and direct responsibility lies with the Palestinian Authority, which gives life to this terrorism and pays terrorists.”

Zionist Camp chairman Avi Gabbay had strong words for the terrorist.

“Rest assured that the security forces will catch the abominable terrorists and their agents. Wherever it is, terrorism will not achieve its goals and we will not surrender to it.”

Hamas issued a statement late Tuesday night praising the attack. “We bless the heroic Nablus operation which comes as a result of the Zionist occupation’s violations and crimes at the expense of our people in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”

The article was published on The JPost


Victory against terror in European Parliament

EP President declares that terror representatives and former terrorists will no longer be allowed to participate in parliamentary events.

About two months after the participation of terrorist Leila Khaled as guest of honor at the European Parliament, President of the Parliament Antonio Tajani on Wednesday announced that representatives of terrorist organizations or former terrorists would not be allowed to participate in the Parliament.

The announcement came after a move led by MEP Anders Vistisen – accompanied by legal counsel Yifah Segal, director of the International Legal Forum (ILF) – who handed to the President a letter signed by 60 members of Parliament, quoting European Union laws and guidelines proving that Khaled’s visit violated them.

In his reply to MEP Vistisen and the Legal Forum, the President approved the laws and understandings mentioned in the letter and confirmed that there would be no further participation of terrorist representatives or former terrorists, as defined by the EU’s list of terrorist organizations, in the Parliament.

“The fact that the Popular Front (PFLP) has been on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations for years has not stopped factions in the European Parliament from hosting representatives of the organization in parliament, providing a respectable platform for disseminating its messages of hatred, violence, and anti-Semitism,” said Yifah Segal, director of the ILF.

“In the process in which we had the privilege of taking part, we wanted to demonstrate how this practice blatantly violates guidelines and rules of the EU itself. This important decision defines what sounds to the Israeli ear as obvious, but which has been possible until now without any sort of limitation in EU institutions,” she added.

The article was published on Arutz 7 website


How Sweden supports terror against Israel

Swedish aid to Plestinian Arabs is not peaceful, to put it mildly. Supporting anti-Zionist plays that turn history on its head for unsuspecting Western audiences and calling it aiding culture, is a way to make peace unattainable.

In Sweden there is an ongoing discussion about whether Sweden is funding Palestinian terrorism or not. The truth is that Sweden supports Palestinian projects and NGOs promoting terrorism and violence. By doing so Sweden is in fact guilty of encouraging violence and extremism in the Palestinian society.The Swedish aid is not peaceful and we need to protest how it has been misused.

For years Sweden has, unfortunately, been promoting violence by funding NGOs which encourage violent resistance to the Israeli presence in the Middle East.

In Jenin, a town in the Palestinian controlled part of the disputed territories in Samaria there is a theatre called the Freedom theatre (TFT). The theatre very actively promotes BDS against Israel, glorifies terror and takes part in campaigns aimed against Palestinians who choose peaceful co-existence with the Israeli society.

Sweden supports TFT with hundreds of thousands of shekels every year. According to the theatre’s annual report of 2015 the Swedish government  payed salaries and student grants to the staff at the theatre for about  NIS 152 083 and supported  TFT with NIS 204 449 in total in 2015. In 2016 TFT received NIS 244 000 from Swedish funds. The money is transferred through PPAN a Palestinian BDS network which has been given over NIS 8 million from generous Sweden since 2016. This money cover the  TFT’s performances in Jenin’s refugee camp. And last year over 12 500 Palestinian children and adults watched its performances.

So what kind of plays does TFT perform that would promote Sweden’s official peaceful goals with development aid? Are these plays about peace, building bridges between people or ending violence?

No, no and no.

’The Siege’ is the title of one popular play TFT recently has been touring with in Palestinian towns and in  the US.

The play is based on an event that took place between April 2 and May 10, 2002, during which 39 armed terrorists occupied the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, taking 200 civilians and 46 monks, even children, hostage. According to some testimonies the terrorists used pages in the Bible as toilet papers and kept the food in the church for themselves while the hostages starved.

The Palestinian terrorists booby-trapped the church with 40 bombs and threatened to blow the holy site up and kill the hostages. The terrorist later agreed to leave the church as they were promised to be sent to freedom in Europe and Gaza.

However in ’The Siege’ the terrorists are portrayed as action heroes defending their homeland.  Terrorists like Ibrahim Moussa Abayat contributed  their narrative to the script. He is also featured in the promotional video clip for the play.According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abayat was involved in shooting attacks and killings of several Israeli civilians. On the poster advertising the play an actor playing one of the terrorists is seen smiling posing with a rifle.

Another play TFT is performing is ’Return to Palestine’. The play centres around Jad, a Palestinian Arab, who grew up in the US. One day he travels to the ‘Palestinian territories’. According to the Palestinian Authority Maan News Agency in the end of the story Jad reaches the conclusion that the land needs blood and sacrifice for its survival and for a free life. In an interview with Maan News Agency, Shireen Jarrar, secretary of the board of directors of the Freedom Theatre, says that the play presents a very beautiful message to all expatriates. She also says that the message of the play carries an invitation to the Palestinian Arab expatriates to ”return and challenge all difficulties”.  The performance is funded not only by  Sweden but by the PA ministry of Culture.

‘Return to Palestine’? I call it an invitation to terror and violence as the main character of the play concludes that violence (blood and sacrifice) is the way forward.

Terror organizations like PFLP have met with TFT. In 2014 it met with the terror organization. During the meeting TFT staff revealed to PFLP that TFT not only graduates artists, it also graduates ”performing resistance fighters”. The younger generations in towns like Jenin who come to TFT shows will be encouraged to perform acts of violence and terrorism as TFT portrays Palestinian terrorism as heroic and its terrorists as poor victims.

Some prominent members of  TFT have a background in terror organizations.

Palestinian online newspaper Donia Al-Watan has interviewed the late TFT member Rabea Turkman,  who was a Fatah militant in the Al Aqsa martyrs’ brigades since the age of 16.

Al-Watan asked Turkman if the theatre is an alternative to armed struggle. His answer was that the theatre is not an alternative to armed struggle but a complement to that. He also added to his answer, that in all revolutions art has been a form of resistance, without denying armed struggle.

So TFT does not see its ”cultural resistance” as an alternative to armed activities, it is merely a complement to terror activities. The cultural resistance is not replacing the armed struggle  but rather serves as a tool to keep the people fed with the ideas of armed struggle and hostility towards Israel. In Europe and the US ”the Palestinian cultural resistance” has the goal to change our Western perspective of Palestinian terrorists from viewing them as terrorists to viewing them as victims, freedom fighters and heroes. The end goal is to make Israel lose support in Europe and the US.

Another member of the Al Aqsa martyrs’ brigades active in the theatre is one of its co-founders, Zakaria Al-Zubeidi. He is described in Palestinian media as a local leader of the Fatah armed wing.During the second intifada he was the terrorists’ bombmaker. But he is also the co-founder of the local branch of the Fatah armed wing in Jenin. TFT also reveals that Al-Zubeidi allegedly has been hiding 50 weapons. The theatre in addition to this states that staff, students, and board members have been arrested multiple times.

TFT also has cultural activities for children, which may look innocent on the surface. The ”soft” activities with small children however are there to create a positive image of TFT and to divert attention from TFT’s focus on graduating ”performing resistance fighters” and showing solidarity with terrorists.

TFT is just one of many many organizations Sweden is currently funding with millions of shekels from the Swedish tax payers’ money. Another organization is the anti-Semitic Miftah which until just recently made neo-Nazi material available on it’s webpage (now removed). Miftah has also been promoting violence in its contests for youths.Yet another organization Sweden funds is the Abu Dis Youth Club which honors acts of terrorism with championships and teams named after terrorists while hosting PFLP events inciting the youths to violence.

Sweden needs to wake up and realise that its foreign aid projects in the Palestinian territories are immoral and wrong. So on November 5I invite the Swedish tax payers to protest the irresponsible way in which Swedish development aid has been used. We will protest the government for inciting to violence with its destructive aid policy. For the very first time in history a demonstration against the Swedish government’s anti-Israel policies will take place in the heart of our democracy, outside the Swedish parliament.

May the truth liberate the Swedish people and ignite democratic resistance against Sweden’s immoral and destructive aid policy that creates terrorists instead of peacemakers.

Tobias Petersson is the director of Swedish think tank Perspektiv på Israel (Perspective on Israel)

The article was published on Arutz 7 website


European Commission to suspend all payments to Muslim Aid, OLAF examining issue

The European Commission intends to suspend all payments to Muslim Aid. The revelation comes after New Europe’s uncovering of over 14 million Euro of Humanitarian Aid financing to Muslim Aid, a UK-based charity that has among other things, been banned in Israel for fundraising for Hamas, an organisation recognised as a terrorist organisation by the European Union.

Responding to New Europe, a European Commission spokesperson confirmed that “the Commission has already notified Muslim Aid of its intention to suspend all pending payments and in line with contractual obligations is currently waiting for Muslim Aid’s reply to the suspension”.

Despite the fact that Israel considers Muslim Aid a fundraiser for Hamas, the European Commission clarified that, “The concerns regarding Muslim Aid of which the Commission has been informed of are not in any way related to allegations of financing terrorism.”

This suggests that the grounds on which the Commission has called for the suspension of funding to Muslim Aid is on different grounds. The Commission was vague – but told New Europe that “The Commission has taken measures to prevent EU taxpayers’ monies from being unduly spent or diverted.”

In a letter dated 22 September to New Europe, after our initial publications, the CEO of  Muslim Aid wrote that, “Our Charity is categorically not being investigated for terror ties or any misappropriation of funds.  It is therefore incumbent on you to remove your article from your website with immediate effect as it is wholly untrue.”

Muslim Aid has even more problems, as the European Antifraud Office, OLAF, told New Europe that they “are aware of reports regarding possible irregularities involving European Commission Humanitarian Aid managed by Muslim Aid.” As a result, OLAF is currently conducting a preliminary assessment as to whether or not to launch an in-depth investigation into Muslim Aid’s use of EU funding. The OLAF press office told New Europe that “OLAF fully respects the presumption of innocence.” If OLAF opens an investigation that concludes that there was mismanagement of EU funding by an organization, they could be called upon to return some or all of the funding previously received.

 

The Article was published on New Europe


EU-Israeli relations: A new year, a new era?

 

This week, a five-members Knesset delegation, headed by MK Yaakov Perry, will visit the European Parliament in Brussels. It is always a great pleasure to welcome Israeli friends, especially now, around the start of the Christian and Jewish new years. It makes it an opportune moment to reflect on the state of EU-Israel relations and highlight some positive and worrying tendencies.

The recent EU-Israeli cooperation on Creative Europe, to increase jobs and growth by supporting the cinema, cultural and creative sectors in Europe and Israel, is to be welcomed.

While such efforts and other EU-Israeli cooperation on mutually beneficial subjects are to be supported, they may not be overshadowed by two worrying security trends in Europe.

The first worrying trend is to not call a spade a spade, or rather, call both the “military” and “political/social” wings of terrorist organizations terrorist organizations. It is part of the Oriental naiveté through which the EU views the Middle East.

In the case of Hezbollah, the EU included solely the military wing in its terrorism list, on July 22, 2013. The theoretical assumption came after strong evidence was uncovered pointing at Hezbollah’s fingerprints all over the 2012 Burgas bombing.

One does not need to look far to see Hezbollah and trouble.

Hezbollah plays a significant role in Syria (as do Russia and Iran), which is a critical cause of the Syrian refugee crisis. Some of these refugees turn up on the shores of Europe. Therefore, it is not only a regional or Syrian interest, but also a European interest to stand strongly against Hezbollah. Those are, sadly, Hezbollah’s facts (or boots?) on the ground.

To highlight the absurdity of the flawed EU logic, one could view al-Qaida as having an urban planning wing because of its desire to level tall buildings, as once suggested by Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor in Foreign Policy, February 2013. The EU’s position on Hezbollah’s military and political/ social wings is just as startling and futile. As Hezbollah mixes its political and social welfare activities with its terrorist and criminal ones, any clear distinction between its activities can no longer be made. Deputy secretary general of Hezbollah Naim Qassem has said it himself: the Party of Allah (Hezbollah) does not have a political/ social wing on the one hand and a resistance (meaning military) wing on the other. Therefore, without delay, the EU should include Hezbollah as a whole on the EU’s terrorism list.

The second worrying trend is the recent advice given by advocate general Eleanor Sharpston in the opinion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to not include the Hamas movement on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations. The issue is part of an ongoing legal confrontation between the ECJ and the European Council; the latter favors such an inclusion.

While the ECJ opinion is not binding, various insiders note that in most instances – citing figures as high as 80% – it is followed in the final ruling, which is expected before 2017.

Hopefully the Hezbollah and Hamas cases do not foretell the beginning of a new era in which EU-Israeli/Arab views on regional security further diverge. It is glaringly obvious that, in the EU’s quest to combat terrorism, it would be counterproductive and counterintuitive to not include Hamas, or Hezbollah in its entirety, in the EU terrorist list. Stronger European-Israeli cooperation in all areas of mutual interest should be nurtured, to enable our regions to be safer, more innovative and more prosperous. The upcoming Knesset delegation could not come at a more perfect time.

We look forward to welcoming our Israeli friends at the 42nd inter-parliamentary meeting and may there be many more years of warm fruitful cooperation!

Bas Belder is a Dutch member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group at the European Parliament. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, serves as vice-chair of the Israel Delegation and is a member of Europe Israel Public Affairs Advisory Committee.

Elise Coolegem is a policy adviser on the Middle East for the ECR Group at the European Parliament. She has lived in the Middle East for several years and obtained her MA in conflict resolution and mediation from Tel Aviv University.
The article was published on The Jerusalem Post on the 16th of November 2016

Biden: US condemns international failure to denounce Palestinian terror attacks

US Vice President Joe Biden denounced those in the international community and in the Palestinian Authority who have failed to condemn Palestinian terror attacks against Israel.

“Let me say in no uncertain terms the US condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts,” Biden said in Jerusalem on Wednesday at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He spoke just one day after a Palestinian terrorist went on a stabbing spree in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, killing a Vanderbilt graduate student, Taylor Force, 29, and wounding 12 others.

Force was a US veteran who had served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan only to be killed on the Jaffa boardwalk by the Mediterranean sea on Tuesday evening.

The attack occurred  just a short distance away from where Biden was meeting former president Shimon Peres.

Biden noted that his wife and his grandchildren who have joined him on this trip, were having dinner on the beach nearby.

“It just brings home that [terror] can happen anywhere at any time,” Biden said.

When the issue of the attack came up during his meeting with Netanyahu, they had wanted to jointly visit with the other Vanderbilt students who had been with Force, but learned that the group had departed or were departing.

Such violence, he said, “can not be accepted. This can not be viewed by civilized leaders as an appropriate way to behave. It is just not tolerable in the 21st century.

“They are targeting innocent civilians, mothers, pregnant women, grandfathers [and] American citizens.

“There can be no justification for this violence. The US stands firmly behind Israel’s right to defend itself,” Biden said.

Force is the second US citizen to be killed while visiting Israel since the wave of terror began. In November, Ezra Schwartz, 18, was killed by a Palestinian terrorist who shot at cars that were stuck in traffic at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank.

Netanyahu thanked Biden for his strong support and denounced the PA for failing to condemned his people’s terror attacks against Israelis, including the one in which Force was killed.

“Unfortunately President Abbas has not only refused to condemn these terrorism attacks. His Fatah party actually portrays the murderer of this American citizens as a Palestinian martyr and a hero. This is wrong. This failure to condemn terrorism should be condemned itself by everyone in the international community,” Netanyahu said.

Palestinian society itself persistently incites against the Jewish states and glorifies those who kill its citizens, Netanyahu said.

Civilized societies must stand together to fight terrorism, said Netanyahu who added that his country had not better partner in this battle than the United States.

“I look forward to continuing to work together with you and President Obama to strengthen the remarkable and unbreakable alliance between our two countries,” Netanyahu said.