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  Middle East & Africa
Palestinian Enmity Today
Special Contribution
By Zvi November
Yasser Arafat was a Palestinian leader. Being chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) he was also president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and leader of the Fatah political party.

MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute that scrutinizes the Arab and Iranian media on a daily basis hosted its latest information meeting at the Yad Ben Zvi center in Jerusalem on Dec. 11, 2014. Two speakers, Gal Berger (Israel radio's Palestinian affairs correspondent) and Shalom Harrari (a former Israeli army officer and Arab military power analyst who took part in some of the post Oslo accords negotiations with the Palestinians about fifteen years ago) were the two speakers who related to the current Palestinian offensive; terror attacks, demonstrations and diplomatic initiatives whose aim is to further delegitimize and isolate Israel. Some of the main points that emerged are as follows:

1) The Arab/Palestinian one-sided narrative claims that Jews are alien to the Middle East and have stolen Palestinian land. Israel therefore has no right to exist. Arabs/Palestinians must fight the Jews and drive them out of the country. Three frightening video clips of spokesmen enunciating this inflexible (no compromises, no peace) position were shown along with a selection of Jew-hate cartoons from Palestinian Websites.

2) The Arab-Israeli conflict is essentially a religious confrontation and has always been one. Most of the Arab/Palestinian leaders have been religious functionaries. Indeed, Hamas is a religious movement that asserts that all of Palestine (read Israel) is holy to Islam. Hamas bases its war against Israel on the Koran. This Islamic facet of the conflict also plays an important role in the secular Fatah's operations against Israel.

3) There may be truly moderate Arab Palestinians but they are few in number, do not represent many people and place their own lives in jeopardy whenever they suggest making compromises or ending the conflict peaceably.

4) The thesis that Palestinian economic development (foreign investments, full employment and a significant increase in the GDP) is a formula for promoting peaceful coexistence was refuted by both presenters. The Arabs are imbued with an intolerant Islamic ideology that emphasizes Jew-hatred (synonymous with Israel-hatred). Increased personal income does not and will not alter the Arab's comprehension of and disposition toward Israelis. It was recalled that the nineteen Arabs who perpetrated the 9/11 atrocity were all well off.

5) Lies and libelous slander are part and parcel of the Palestinian war against Israel. For example, last week's death of Palestinian Authority official Ziad Abu Ein (who suffered from heart disease) during a violent demonstration near Ramallah was blamed on Israeli troops even though the autopsy results indicate that Abu Ein died of a heart attack. Once Israeli actions are (falsely) condemned, no amount of reasoning can reverse Arab conspiracy theories.

6) The Palestinians from Abbas on down frequently distort reality and popularize alleged 'crimes against humanity' in order to falsely incriminate Israel. As soon as Israel is indicted in the Arab version of an altercation (and these lies are quickly spread around the world by the biased international media) there is practically nothing Israel can say or do to re-focus attention on the facts in the matter at hand.

7) With regard to the "peace process" it was pointed out that the Palestinians themselves are deeply split between the Fatah/PLO 'official' leadership led by Abbas and their more extreme Hamas antagonists who rule Gaza. So long as the Palestinians are divided no peace agreement is possible. Too many dissenters are in favor of armed struggle and deny Israel's right to exist.

8) Neither speaker was willing to predict what is going to happen when infirm eighty year old Abbas passes away. There are many contenders competing for Palestinian leadership and legitimacy will be crucial to whoever fills Abbas' shoes. Everyone at the meeting seemed to agree that we (i.e. Israelis) do a poor job of predicting new Arab orientations and courses of action. In fact, we are normally quite surprised by the turn of events.

Most of Shalom Harrari's talk focused on last summer's Hamas-Israel war in Gaza. Harrari feels that the war ended with a 7-2 Israeli victory for the following reasons:

All of the Hamas attack initiatives via 32 tunnels into Israel and naval commando raids along the coast were effectively repulsed. A substantial but unknown number of Hamas fighters (part of its 15,000 man terror army) were killed. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a significant number of rockets.

Hamas failed to lore Israeli forces into pre-prepared traps designed to kill large numbers of IDF soldiers and capture as many as possible thereby generating enormous national grief that would have put tremendous pressure on the government to sue for peace (on Hamas' terms). Hamas hoped to duplicate the Gilad Schalit trauma but on a much larger scale.

For the most part Hamas was and still is isolated in the Arab world. The Egyptians, Saudis, Arab League and the Iranians as well did not materially support their efforts against Israel. Abbas and his Fatah faction were quite happy to see rival Hamas take a beating.

Today Hamas is also challenged by a small but potentially potent salafi-Islamic State opposition that believes that Hamas is not aggressive enough in the war to destroy Israel. These jihadist terrorists in Gaza also launch attacks against Egyptian forces in the adjacent Sinai thereby provoking retaliatory measures against Hamas that include closing the Rafah border crossing terminal and destroying smuggling tunnels.

During the 50 day war Hamas tried to get a cease fire on its terms but, in the end, none of its demands were met.

Today, in the war's aftermath, the five billion dollars pledged for reconstruction are not flowing into Gaza. The local populace expects Hamas to rebuild Gaza but it is not really prepared for the task especially when funds are not forthcoming.

As a totalitarian regime, Hamas does not permit any form of criticism or complaints. During the war no foreign media representatives dared produce news items that documented Hamas' crimes. The employment of civilians as human shields, the use of schools and clinics as staging bases for rocket launches and the summary execution of suspected 'collaborators' received little or no media attention.

The Hamas-Israel war also served as a warning to Hezbollah in Lebanon. It showed that the IDF is capable of fighting a small terrorist army embedded in a sympathetic population even though it admittedly took a lot of time to overcome this inferior force.

Harrari also compared the IDF's performance to the US combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Harrari, these two US army campaigns ended in defeat by local insurgents whereas Israel's offensive resulted, for the most part, in victory.

It is true that the Hamas regime was not eliminated. But this fact, according to Harrari is actually a positive result because Israel does not want to govern Gaza (administering its 1.5 million hostile inhabitants), the Palestinian Authority with Abbas at its head is not particularly interested in returning to Gaza and the demise of Hamas could, very likely lead to an Islamic State in Gaza (aligned with the one in Syria and Iraq). Although Hamas seriously disrupted life in Israel for 50 days and even brought about the closure of Ben Gurion airport for three days, its loud claim of victory over the IDF is not valid.

The MEMRI conference, as usual, provided keen insights into the Arab-Israeli conflict that are not available in the mainstream media in Israel and abroad. If the international media reported accurately about the Middle East in general and "Palestine" in particular, then no European legislature would ever consider resolutions recognizing the imagined "State of Palestine".

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Zvi November, who grew up in New York, served as a Peace Corps' teacher in rural Philippines. He also taught at Hong Kong Int'l School. He earned his diploma from Univ. of Edinburgh, his MA from Syracuse Univ, both in anthropology. Now he is an activist in Israel's Media Watch and other civic bodies.






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