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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘tribes’

Stop Funding Tel Aviv University

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

One of Israel’s leading universities seems to have lost its way.

In a move that is as incomprehensible as it is shameful, Tel Aviv University (TAU) agreed to allow a student group to hold a ceremony commemorating “Nakba Day,” when Palestinians bemoan the establishment of the state of Israel.

The event included the reading of Palestinian poetry, a moment of silence and the recitation of an alternative version of the Yizkor prayer Jews traditionally say in memory of their loved ones.

In case their intent was unclear, the organizers of this anti-Israel hatefest went out of their way to elucidate the reasons behind it, with one telling Haaretz in no uncertain terms that Israelis need to realize that, “We’re talking about a disaster that must be known on a human level.”

Another student involved in planning the event said she saw it as a way “to remember the tragedy and great loss that befell the people who were here before ’48.”

Have these people lost their minds? What on earth would prompt Jewish students at an Israeli institution of higher education to lament the founding of their own country?

Clearly, something is very wrong at Tel Aviv University. Though ostensibly a Zionist institution, its administration ignored the pleas of various public figures and permitted this outrage to go forward.

Indeed, for an institution whose website states that it has “a deep commitment to Israeli society and the Jewish people,” it is hard to fathom what would prompt university officials to sign off on such nonsense.

After all, this has nothing to do with the boundaries of free speech or the fundamental right to criticize one’s government. It is about delegitimizing Israel and attempting to undermine its very existence.

Promoting Nakba Day is a crucial political goal of the Palestinians. Giving it a platform not only fosters a false narrative of history, but it also plays directly into the hands of those who wish to dismantle the Jewish state.

At a time when Israel is facing existential threats from its neighbors, there can be no excuse for allowing the publicly funded grounds of an Israeli university campus to serve as a staging area for assaults on its continued survival.

Clearly, university administrators have lost sight of one of the essential purposes of education. As the 18th-century political philosopher Baron de Montesquieu pointed out, the promotion of love for one’s country “ought to be the principal business of education.”

This is so patently obvious that it should not even need to be stated.

Then again, given some of the radical faculty that populates various departments at Tel Aviv University, it should hardly come as a surprise that this basic idea has been all but overlooked.

As Dr. Steven Plaut and the IsraCampus organization have been documenting for years, various TAU departments have become hothouses for anti-Israel hotheads.

These range from a professor who denies that the Jews are a nation to another who has referred to the residents of Judea and Samaria as “Jewish Cossacks.”

Yet another TAU instructor justified a Palestinian grenade attack on Israeli soldiers as a legitimate act of resistance while others have affirmed their support for efforts to boycott the Jewish state.

If you find this hard to believe, just go to the IsraCampus website (www.isracampus.org.il) and see for yourself how various anti-Zionist and Marxist loons have been indoctrinating Israel’s younger generation at TAU with toxic views. Anyone concerned for the future of Israel should be concerned by what is happening on campuses such as Tel Aviv University.

A growing cadre of Israeli academics are preaching extremist far-left views and turning the hallowed halls of higher education into profane pillars of puerile Palestinian propaganda.

There is no reason why the Israeli taxpayer, or pro-Israel Diaspora Jews, should continue to generously fund TAU even as it serves to undercut the values they hold dear.

For all their talk of principle, college administrators can be swayed if enough pressure is applied. And that is what needs to be done in order to restore some sanity, and Zionist commitment, to Israeli academia.

So the next time you reach for your checkbook and consider making a donation to Tel Aviv University, do yourself and the Jewish people a favor: stop and think whether your money is truly going to a good cause. In the current environment, chances are it isn’t.

Mordechai Kedar: The Failure of the Palestinian Venture

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Lately, there have been many rumors circulating about the intentions of the Palestinians, specifically Abu Mazen, to dismantle the Palestinian Authority and return to the pre-Oslo days, when Israel was responsible for all of the territories of Judea and Samaria, including the Arab cities. About one month ago, in March 2012, a conference including Egyptian and Palestinian notables convened in Cairo, and discussed this as a serious possibility, “because at present there is no political solution on the horizon.” The questions that the conference dealt with were: who has the authority to implement a decision to disband the PA, and whether the advantages of such a move would outweigh the disadvantages. According to the participants, the PA has failed because it has not achieved a full Israeli withdrawal from all of the territories “occupied” in 1967, and has failed to impose the refugees’ “right of return” upon Israel.

Ibrahim Hamami, head of the Center for Palestinian Affairs in London, who participated in the conference, stated: “The Palestinian Authority was established to serve the goals of the occupation by continuing negotiations, while the Palestinian citizen did not benefit from it at all. On the contrary: it was the Palestinians who were forced to withdraw because of the settlement activity and roadblocks. An additional reason to dismantle the PA is the Israeli “fear of deterioration in security that will occur in Israel because of the absence of Palestinian security organizations.” By saying it, Hamami implies that the whole raison d’être of the PA security organizations is to foster Israel’s security, and thus undermines the legitimacy of the existence of the PA. Hamami claims that six years ago, in 2006, Abbas had already hinted at the possibility of dismantling the PA after Israel broke into the Jericho prison and arrested Ahmed Sadat and his associates. Since then, the possibility of dismantling the PA has arisen from time to time, when Abbas has become frustrated with Israel.

As a result, Palestinian spokesmen have it easy: they just have to blame Israel for their failure. It’s convenient and it provides an explanation that the West will buy, because it doesn’t have a deep understanding of the problems of the Middle East in general, and the Israeli-Palestinian issue in particular. The truth of the matter is, there never was a chance for the Palestinian Authority to succeed, because of the innate problems that flow from the nature of the political culture of the Middle East. We will focus on a few of them:

1. The fundamental problem of any modern Arab state is the problem of its legitimacy to exist as a state, principally because the state does not reflect a well-defined ethnic unit, and therefore is not a nation-state in the European sense, e.g. France and Holland. Traditionally, there is no “Syrian people”, “Jordanian people”, “Lebanese people”, or “Sudanese people”. There is an “Arab people”, which is divided into tribes, clans, religious groups, and sects. Arab states such as Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Sudan are creations of colonialism, which was responsible for the arbitrary division of the Arab nation, without regard to demographic facts. The PA suffers from this problem too, because – traditionally – there was never a “Palestinian People”, and there is no trace of such an entity in any book or newspaper that was printed before 1920 – before the area of “Sham” (Greater Syria) was divided into four political units: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine-Israel.

2. Most of the members of the “Palestinian People”, the virtual collective upon which the idea of a Palestinian state is supposed to be built, are descendants of immigrants that entered the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River during the second half of the 19th century and the twentieth century. The Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, and the Jewish villages that were established in pre-state Israel were an attractive source of livelihood for the immigrant workers, who came from the surrounding areas. Many Egyptians fled to Israel in the 1860s in order to escape forced labor – digging the Suez Canal. Therefore even today, many “Palestinians” have names such as “Al-Masri” (The Egyptian), “Masarwa” (Egyptians), and “Fayoumi”, names which point to their Egyptian origin. Others are called “Al-Haurani”, because they were brought by the British from the Hauran, in Syria, principally to work in the port of Haifa. The inhabitants of the village of Jisr al-Zarqa are Sudanese, and therefore they did not participate in the 1948 War of Independence and remained in the place where they settled, between Caesaria and Ma’agan Michael. European geographers who visited the Land of Israel in the 19th century, as well as the international investigative committees which operated during the first half of the twentieth century, documented groups of immigrants from Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, North Africa, and the Balkans, who were residing in Israel. Residents of Rehania and Kfar Kama, two Galilee villages, are Cherkessian from the Caucasus. The Booshank clan, which lives in Kfar Manda, came from Bosnia. All of the residents of the Negev, most of the residents of the Gaza Strip, and some from Mount Hebron are Bedouins, who for centuries wandered between the deserts of Sinai, the Negev, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Their Saudi Arabian dialect clearly testifies to their country of origin. Some of the Armenians – who are Christian – fled to Israel from Turkey in the years 1915-1918, because of the genocide the Turks were perpetrating against them. Therefore, “Palestinians” are mostly a mixed people, various groups whose origin is not the Land of Israel.

Yamit: The Original Sin Of Expulsion

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

This month marks a heartrending anniversary, one with ruinous consequences that continue to plague the Jewish state.

It was thirty years ago, in April 1982, that uniformed soldiers pledged to defend Israel and its citizens were given the order to uproot and destroy the Jewish community of Yamit in northern Sinai.

The move came in the wake of the peace treaty with Egypt, when Menachem Begin agreed to a complete withdrawal from all 23,000 square miles of Sinai, which necessitated the forced evacuation of over 7,000 Israelis, including those in Yamit.

Years of toil and sweat, of pioneering spirit and determination, were mercilessly swept away by bulldozers, and by April 25, 1982, Yamit was no more.

Indeed, if you open Google Earth, the popular online mapping program, you can still see the barren site where a thriving community of 2,500 Jews had made Yamit bloom. It looks as if a giant eraser had rubbed away the terrain, leaving behind scars where homes, schools and synagogues had once stood.

This act of destruction was overseen by then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, and the agonizing scenes of Jewish soldiers dragging Jews from their homes in Yamit were seared into the nation’s consciousness.

The traumatic significance and symbolism of the expulsion from Sinai cannot be overstated. After more than 100 years of Zionism and settlement, Israel was vividly turning its back on some of its key core principles, all for the sake of a dubious peace with a dictatorial neighbor.

Many fail to realize just how important Sinai was. It constituted over 90 percent of the territory Israel had liberated during the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel had more than 170 military installations and dozens of early-warning stations scattered throughout its vast deserts, which were also home to the Alma oil fields.

Sinai provided Israel with strategic depth, the potential for petroleum independence, and new frontiers to explore.

But all that was torn away by the withdrawal.

And while it may have brought us three decades of a cold peace with Egypt, conceding the Sinai will likely prove to have been a colossal mistake.

Consider recent events in the region, which underline the perils inherent in turning territory over to our neighbors.

With the fall of the Mubarak regime, there is no telling who will be running Egypt a year from now, or whether they will feel bound to preserve bilateral relations with Jerusalem. The sweeping victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s parliamentary elections certainly doesn’t bode well for the future.

So despite having given up the Sinai for the sake of peace, Israel might end up with neither, which is the worst of all possible scenarios.

Moreover, look at how the territory Israel gave to Egypt has been transformed into a staging area for anti-Israel smuggling and terrorism, as the Grad rockets fired at Eilat from Sinai earlier this month clearly demonstrated.

And most of the weapons Hamas has succeeded in stockpiling in Gaza were smuggled in through the infamous tunnels connecting the strip with Sinai.

Needless to say, an Israeli civilian and military presence in Sinai would have prevented this from occurring.

But with no Israeli forces stationed in the area, there is little that Israel can do about the terrorist threat other than to plead with Cairo to act.

In retrospect, the pullout from Sinai also had still another catastrophic effect on the Jewish state: it set the stage for later expulsions and launched a three-decade long period rife with Israeli retreat. The domino that fell in Sinai would later topple Bethlehem, Hebron and Jenin, and ultimately Gush Katif and Amona.

And now the world wishes to see Judea and Samaria, and Jerusalem too, fall as well. But this is not a child’s game. It is about the very existence of the state of Israel and the Jewish people. Our future is at stake, and we must resolutely turn back the clock and forestall any more withdrawals.

The steady march of capitulation that began in Yamit and continued on through the Oslo process has brought this nation to the brink of disaster, resulting in increasing violence and bloodshed.

We must put an end to this headlong rush towards calamity.

Let us use this anniversary of the original sin of the Yamit withdrawal to draw a line in the sand, literally and figuratively, and declare once and for all: never again will Israel uproot Jews from their homes.

We cannot allow the mistakes of the past to dictate future events.

Yamit’s legacy is one of desolation and despair. Let’s make ours one of destiny and hope.

Michael Freund is chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which assists lost tribes and hidden Jewish communities to return to Israel and the Jewish people.

Does Hasbara Matter?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

As the U.S. election season enters into high gear, an important Gallup poll released earlier this month offers Israel and its supporters much reason to cheer.

For despite an onslaught of Palestinian propaganda and disinformation, the results demonstrate that the Jewish state continues to enjoy overwhelming support among broad swathes of the American public.

Each year, as part of its annual World Affairs survey, Gallup asks respondents about their views towards various countries around the globe.

The results regarding Israel could not have been more decisive.

A whopping 71 percent of Americans said they view Israel mostly or very favorably. This broad support extends across the political spectrum, with 80 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of independents and two-thirds of Democrats all standing behind the Jewish state.

By contrast, only 19 percent expressed favorable views of the Palestinian Authority.

And when Gallup asked people, “In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?” the results were similarly lopsided, with Americans favoring Israel by more than a 3 to 1 margin.

“Americans,” the findings concluded, “have consistently been more sympathetic to the Israelis than the Palestinians since Gallup started asking the question in 1988. Since the mid-2000s, Americans have become increasingly sympathetic to the Israelis, while the percentage sympathetic to the Palestinians has stayed the same.”

What makes this so remarkable is that this overwhelming level of American popular support for the Jewish state comes after decades of anti-Israel bias in much of the mainstream press.

Despite all the distortions, half-truths, misrepresentations and falsehoods that have been peddled over the years by the liberal media, a super-majority of the American public still views Israel favorably and prefers her over her foes.

Can you imagine what the poll results would look like if the media were truly fair and balanced?

Now, we all know Israel’s public diplomacy, or hasbara, has been woefully inadequate over the years in terms of explaining Israeli policy and highlighting Palestinian shortcomings and misdeeds.

The other side has succeeded in storming college campuses, exploiting international forums, and hijacking the narrative of what takes place in the Middle East, all in an attempt to turn public opinion against Israel.

Nonetheless, all their calls for boycotts and divestment, and their slanderous accusations about “apartheid,” have seemingly gotten them nowhere.

After all, the Jewish state still earns exceedingly high marks.

As Gallup further noted, “The United States has long been an ally of Israel, and Americans continue to show decidedly positive views toward that nation. As nations throughout the Middle East undergo tumultuous change, perhaps making the region more politically unstable, Americans still appear to see Israel as important, with large majorities viewing it favorably and many more giving their sympathies to the Israelis than to the Palestinians.”

In light of this, it seems fair to ask a simple yet important question: does hasbara really matter? Should we be investing so much time, energy and resources into the battle for ideas when we seem to have so much already going in our favor?

The answer, of course, should be crystal clear: we dare not rest on our laurels.

Public opinion is decidedly fickle and there is no telling over time just how it might change.

Just because we have been winning the information war does not in any way guarantee that this will continue to be so.

Even the best team on the field still needs to prepare methodically for each game it plays, if only to ensure that its performance will be top-notch.

Likewise, Israel and its supporters must not desist from making our case, fine-tuning our arguments and constantly looking for new means and methods with which to disseminate them.

Take, for example, the rapidly growing power of social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, whose reach and popularity make them ideally suited to spreading the truth about Israel and the Middle East.

A pioneering effort in this regard has been undertaken by a group called United with Israel, whose Facebook page has already garnered more than 1 million ‘likes’ since last autumn.

Founded by my friend Michael Gerbitz, an American immigrant to Beit Shemesh, it operates on a shoestring budget but manages to distribute quality information about Israel to a global audience on a daily basis.

Such efforts are crucial precisely now, when a younger generation that is not as familiar with Israel is coming of age and new mechanisms will be necessary to cultivate their support.

If we care about Israel and its standing in the world, it behooves all of us to join in such activities and support them.

That is the surest way of guaranteeing that in the eyes of the public, the Jewish state continues to win over many hearts and minds.

Michael Freund is chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which assists lost tribes and hidden Jewish communities to return to the Jewish people. He can be contacted at michael@shavei.org.

Mordechai Kedar: What’s Really Going on in Gaza?

Friday, March 16th, 2012

A week of missiles was supposed to change the focus of interest in the Middle East from Homs to Gaza, from Syria to Israel, from Assad to Netanyahu. This was the plan of Iran and its few followers in Gaza. But it didn’t succeed, and for the usual reason – the sociological factors of the Middle East.

I have emphasized again and again the dominance of tribalism within Middle Eastern culture, and the important role played by traditional frameworks of relationship – such as ethnic, tribal, religious, sectarian – in private as well as in communal life. I downplay the influence of foreign ideologies that have been imported from Europe, from communism to democracy, and from nationalism to liberalism, which have all failed in the effort to formulate a culture of public domain in the Middle East. Dictatorship is the practical expression of the failure of these ideologies.

What remains is only the person, together with his family, extended family, clan, and tribe. This is the only thing which is real, alive and kicking, that functions as it always has, and the only framework that is capable of bestowing on an individual identity, a sense of belonging, a livelihood, and physical defense and security.

One of the foundation stones of tribal culture is the antagonism between the tribe and the modern state, a state which was imposed upon the tribe by foreign colonialism and its local derivatives. States have always tried to impose themselves upon the individual and upon the tribe; including their symbols, values, laws and leaders, and have tried to substitute these in the hearts of the people instead of those of the tribe, and its symbols, values, leaders, and laws. In Arab societies that have undergone dissolution and turned into more individualistic societies – Egypt and Tunisia for example – the state has succeeded in settling in the hearts of the people, and uproot the loyalty to the tribe. In the tribal societies of most of the other Arab states, the state is forced to yield part of its sovereignty and to accept the existence and limited authority of the tribe. In order not to confront the tribe, the state compromises and comes to an understanding with the tribe, in an effort to placate its members.

The Gaza Strip is no different from the rest of the Arab world, so tribal culture is alive and kicking in the Gaza Strip too. Ever since the Hamas movement took control of Gaza trip in 2007, it has transformed itself from a gang of jihadists into a ruling organization which has a state, government, advisory council, legal system, police, military and economic bodies. Thus, Hamas has turned into a standard Arab state, which is attempting to impose its agenda upon the tribes and the clans that live in the Strip. The State of Hamas serves the interests of the group that leads it, and therefore it is in constant conflict with the tribes and the clans and must reach agreements with them.

The minor movements – Islamic Jihad, the PRC (Popular Resistance Committees), the Salah-a-Din Division, the Army of the Nation, the Army of Islam and others – function like tribes, challenging the authority of the state, which is in the hands of Hamas. Today, these groups are doing to Hamas what Hamas did to the PLO twenty years ago when the PLO was in power. The widespread corruption among the top echelons of Hamas strengthen the influence of the small organizations that oppose Hamas. What encourages these organizations is the fact that Hamas has “hung up the gloves” and is trying to reach a calm with Israel. Hamas has not become a Zionist organization, and has not changed its covenant or its sole goal: to eliminate Israel and bring an end to the “occupation” of Jaffa and Acre, not only Hebron and Nablus. However, in the present historic phase it is suspending its battle against Israel in order to establish a state which, when the time comes, will be the basis from which the war of the destruction of Israel will be waged. The small organizations do not accept this suspension of jihad and call Hamas derogatory names such as “The Israeli Border Guard” and the “South Lebanese Army”.

From a practical point of view, Hamas is capable of eliminating the organizations, just as it dealt with the Army of Islam, of the Dughmush clan in August of 2008, and as it eliminated Sheikh Abd Al-Latif Moussa’s Islamic Emirate of Jerusalem in cold blood in August of 2009 in a mosque in Rafah, murdering him, his wives and children and 24 followers. As of today, in the year 2012, Hamas refrains from imposing itself on the small organizations by force of arms so that it will not become the “Israeli Border Guard”in the eyes of Gazans, and prefers to come to an agreement with them; to compromise with them and to calm them down.

The Twelve Tribes At The Bialystoker Home

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

A quiet monument to the courage and determination of hundreds of thousands of Jews sits vulnerable on the Lower East Side of New York City at 228 East Broadway. This location was the former home of the Bialystoker Center, built in 1931. For many years it was primarily operated as the Bialystoker Home for the Aged that finally closed in November 2011. In its heyday it was one of the most important Jewish benevolent societies, a landsmanschaftenfor generations of immigrants from Bialystok. A groundswell of protest has arisen over the proposed sale of the building to a luxury residential developer with the possibility of its demolition. They are harnessing support to appeal to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to save the historic façade that boasts an Art Deco gem, roundels representing the 12 Tribes of Israel under the proud Bialystoker name.

Bialystoker Center Building Façade (1931); Henry Hurwit, architect

While initially easy to miss, especially since it is now partially covered with scaffolding, the façade leads to significance in two different directions. First it testifies to an enormously important aspect of Jewish immigrant history and secondly reflects the complex relationship between tradition and modernity, still playing itself out in the 21st century.

New York City, and specifically the Lower East Side, was in 1910 the largest Jewish city in the world. Moreover, the Lower East Side was arguably the most densely populated place on the planet. These facts alone set the stage for a momentous transformation of the downtown Jewish population. The predominately Jewish Bialystok suffered terrible depravations and violence during the Russian Revolution, World War I and subsequent upheavals. Therefore a mass emigration occurred both before and after WWI that resulted in a diaspora of Bialystoker Jews in Chicago, Buenos Aires, Melbourne and Tel Aviv.

The first Bialystoker landsmanschaften was established in 1886 and the Bialystoker Center in 1919. The current building opened to great celebration in 1931 with the Forward declaring, “Bialystok is now on East Broadway.” As the Bialystoker Jews banded together they offered services and collected money – not only to help their brethren here in New York – but also to help rebuild Bialystok in what is now Poland. This strong sense of identity, “forever a Bialystoker,” entered the complex immigrant mix in 1920’s – 1930’s Lower East Side. Many Jews resisted American values and assimilation and did not even become citizens or learn to speak English. They dug in and lived as if they had never left home, while others attempted to adjust to modernity, sometimes even completely abandoning Jewish life. It was complex and bewildering for thousands of immigrants and their descendants and the Bialystoker Center was at the center of much of it.

Bialystoker Center Doorway with 12 Tribes Roundels. Henry Hurwit, architect

The façade of the Bialystoker Center expresses much of this complexity. The grand doorway boldly proclaims “Bialystoker” in Hebreicized English lettering. The pride of Judaic-Polish ancestry is proclaimed simultaneously as the English language, and all it implies, is asserted. Above the entrance doorway the stone façade is capped by a grand balcony. Art Deco stylized reliefs ascend between the three central windows for the eight floors of golden brick. In its time it was one of the tallest and grandest buildings on the Lower East Side. It is clear the architect Henry Hurwit wanted to send as inclusive a visual message as possible.

The recessed doorway is concise, assertive and revealing. The 12 Tribal symbols flank the doorway: 4 on the right, 4 on the soffit above and 4 on the left. The images are ensconced in roundels that approximate a Hebraic formulation (right to left) of Jacob’s “blessings” found at the end of Genesis. They start on the right with the first born, Reuben, travel up, cross the transept and down the left side to the final child, Benjamin.

Bialystoker Doorway Soffit. Henry Hurwit, architect

The exact order and most of the images actually follows the Midrash Rabbah on Numbers 2:2 that expands on the arrangement of the tribes around the Tent of Meeting in the wilderness; “The Children of Israel shall encamp, each man by his banner according to the insignias of their fathers’ household.” This midrash codifies the information from Jacob’s blessings (Genesis 49) and Moses’ blessings (Deuteronomy 33) into a blueprint for the color and image for each tribe’s flag or symbol.

At the base of each side panel there are stylized representations of the Temple Menorah superimposed over a Star of David/pyramid design anchored by schematic sunrises. These images link this building on East Broadway with both the ancient Temple and the growing Zionist movement in Palestine. Reuben’s mandrakes, a gift of fertility for both his mother and Rachel, effectively sidesteps Jacob’s stinging castigation. Simon is represented by a massive city gate, alluding to the city of Shechem, while Levi gets off scot-free with a depiction of the High Priest’s breastplate, the Choshen HaMishpat that contained the Urim and Tumin. The right side panel is then completed with the Lion of Judah confirming Jacob’s blessing of kingship to his fourth born son.

A Farewell to Peace

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Earlier this month, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas made a fateful decision.

Thwarting renewed efforts by Israel to restart negotiations, Abbas flew to Doha, Qatar, and signed a unity agreement with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

With the stroke of his pen, the Palestinian leader sealed the fate of the peace process, effectively declaring an end to any chance of reaching an agreement with the Jewish state.

Under the terms of the Doha deal, Abbas will head an interim joint Fatah-Hamas government that will lay the groundwork for Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

The two sides also agreed to discuss the formal incorporation of Hamas into the PLO, which would transform the fundamentalist terrorist group into a primary component of the Palestinian leadership.

At the signing ceremony, Abbas and Mashaal both stressed that this was no charade. “We are serious,” said Mashaal, “in healing the wounds and ending the chapter of division and reinforcing and accomplishing reconciliation”, adding that Fatah and Hamas are determined “to resist the enemy [i.e. Israel] and achieve our national goals.”

Abbas also emphasized that “this effort will be implemented in the shortest time possible.”

The signing of the pact marks a critical stage in the implementation of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement initialed in Cairo just nine months ago, and it underlines the fact that the two groups are moving closer towards unity.

Make no mistake. The forging of this agreement constitutes a strategic choice by Abbas to embrace extremism and toss aside two decades of dialogue with Israel. It is a farewell to peace and there should be no illusions about its meaning or significance.

After all, Hamas remains an uninhibited enemy of Israel, dedicated both in word and deed to its destruction.

The group’s charter says unequivocally that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” And it champions the use of jihad as the only “solution for the Palestinian question.”

Moreover, ever since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, it has used the territory as a launching pad for attacks against Israel.

Just since the beginning of last year, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 390 rockets and 240 mortar shells into southern Israel. And Hamas continues to receive aid and support from Iran, which includes more advanced and precise weaponry.

Anyone who thinks Palestinian unity will have a moderating effect on the masked gunmen of Hamas is therefore deluding himself. If anything, the unity agreement will only further radicalize the already immoderate members of Fatah, as they will find themselves competing for support from the Palestinian masses.

This impact is already beginning to be felt. Since signing the agreement, Abbas has adopted an even harsher tone towards Israel.

Speaking to the foreign ministers of the Arab League in Cairo, the Palestinian chairman laid out a series of maximalist demands, insisting that Israel cease all housing construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, negotiate on the basis of the pre-1967 borders and release Palestinian terrorists from prison.

Failure to do so, Abbas warned, would lead the Palestinians to go back to the United Nations and seek unilateral international recognition of a Palestinian state.

This extreme and uncompromising stance is a recipe for failure. Abbas knows perfectly well that Israel cannot and will not accept such terms, and he refuses to make a single concession of his own, instead placing the burden entirely on the Jewish state.

Not surprisingly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was highly critical of Abbas’s remarks, issuing a statement that said, “Abbas’s speech showed he is turning his back on peace. Instead of engaging in negotiations that would bring an end to the conflict, Abbas prefers to link to the terror organization Hamas – the same Hamas that embraces Iran.”

And that is truly the case. We are witnessing a calculated shift in the makeup of the Palestinian Authority, one that will further strengthen the forces of rejectionism and pose an increasingly dire threat to the future of Israel.

If Hamas were to prevail at the ballot box in Palestinian elections, it would put the terrorist movement at the helm in Ramallah, just minutes away from the heart of Israel. The political, military and diplomatic ramifications of such a development would be frightening.

Ever since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, various commentators have warned that creating a Palestinian entity adjacent to Israel was a formula for disaster. In light of recent events, those predictions are now looking undeniably prescient. Before long, Israel may wake up to find an Iranian-allied Palestinian Islamist regime at its doorstep.

It is therefore time for the international community to stop deluding itself and accept the cold, hard truth: thanks to Palestinian obstructionism, the peace process has reached a dead end.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/fundamentally-freund/a-farewell-to-peace/2012/02/15/

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