Israeli police arrested on Wednesday the top Palestinian Muslim religious leader in Jerusalem but released him without charge after questioning him about a fracas between Palestinians and Israelis at al-Aqsa mosque.
Israel’s rare move against Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, came a day after it celebrated the anniversary of its 1967 capture of East Jerusalem. Husseini’s detention was widely condemned by Palestinian leaders as an infringement of religious freedom in the holy city.
Hussein serves under the Palestinian Authority which exercises limited rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank as well as neighboring Jordan, long a custodian over Jerusalem’s Muslim holy places.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Hussein was arrested to answer questions about a “public disturbance” on Tuesday near al-Aqsa mosque, which overlooks Judaism’s Western Wall.
The incident began, Rosenfeld said, when Israeli police detained a Palestinian who wanted to enter the plaza but refused to present his identification card.
It developed into a scuffle in which Muslim worshippers threw chairs at Jewish visitors at the site, he added.
Rosenfeld said Hussein was questioned for six hours and released without charge.
On April 13, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority resigned. It was an easy development to miss, but not one to be ignored. It was very bad news, because Salam Fayyad was the “Arab Spring” before there was an Arab Spring. That is, he was what the Arab Spring was supposed to lead to: a new generation of decent Arab leaders whose primary focus would be the human development of their own people, not the enrichment of their family, tribe, sect or party. That Fayyad’s brand of noncorrupt, institution-focused leadership was not sufficiently supported by other Palestinian leaders, the Arab states, Israel and America is really depressing. It does not bode well for the revolutions in Egypt, Syria or Tunisia — none of which have a Fayyad-quality leader at the helm.
Who is Salam Fayyad? A former economist at the International Monetary Fund, he first came to prominence when he was named finance minister of the Palestinian Authority in 2002, after donors got fed up seeing their contributions diverted for corruption. Shortly after he became prime minister in 2007, I coined the term “Fayyadism” — the all-too-rare notion that an Arab leader’s legitimacy should be based not on slogans or resistance to Israel and the West or on personality cults or security services, but on delivering decent, transparent, accountable governance.
Fayyad “dried up all slush accounts and went against Yasir Arafat’s orders by insisting on paying all security officials by direct bank account (rather than with cash given to their commanders based on a questionable list of personnel),” wrote Daoud Kuttab, a prominent Palestinian journalist, in The Jewish Daily Forward. “Fayyad also became the first Arab government official to publish his government’s entire budget online, ushering a new transparency not seen in the entire Arab region.”
More: Goodbye to All That
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The mysterious death of a 30-year-old Palestinian gas station attendant in Israeli custody stoked new West Bank clashes Sunday, along with Israeli fears of a third Palestinian uprising.
A senior Palestinian official alleged that Arafat Jaradat was tortured by Israel’s Shin Bet security service, citing an autopsy he said revealed bruising and two broken ribs.
Israel’s Health Ministry said the autopsy did not conclusively determine the cause of death, but that the bruising and broken ribs were likely the result of attempts to revive the detainee.
Jaradat’s death came at a time of rising West Bank tensions, including several days of Palestinian marches in support of four hunger-striking prisoners in Israeli lockups. In all, Israel holds nearly 4,600 Palestinians, including dozens who have never been formally charged or tried.
Frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the recent re-election of Israeli hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a Palestinian cash crisis and the Palestinians’ sense of being abandoned by the Arab world seem to have created fertile ground for a third Palestinian revolt.
Over the weekend, Israel’s army chief convened senior commanders to discuss the growing unrest.
Jaradat’s death “is liable to become the opening shot” in a third uprising, Israeli military commentator Alex Fishman wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily Sunday, arguing that the “Palestinian street has been boiling with anger for a number of weeks now.”
However, Israeli officials have previously expressed concern about a new uprising, only to see bursts of Palestinian protests fizzle.
The first uprising, marked by stone-throwing protests and commercial strikes, erupted in the late 1980s and led to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The second uprising broke out in 2000, after failed talks on a final peace deal, and was far deadlier, with Israel reoccupying the West Bank in response to bombings and shootings.
In recent years, the West Bank has been relatively calm. Despite recent tensions, the Palestinian self-rule government has not broken off security coordination with Israel in their joint campaign against Islamic militants.
Palestinian activists also say they learned from the mistakes of the armed revolt a decade ago and are turning to more creative protests against Israel’s 45-year rule over lands they want for a future state.
Former Palestinian security chief Jibril Rajoub, speaking in Hebrew on Israel Radio, tried to reassure Israelis, declaring Sunday “on behalf of the entire Palestinian leadership that there is no plan to lead to bloodshed.”
Jaradat, a father of two from the West Bank village of Saeer, died in Megiddo Prison in northern Israel on Saturday, six days after his arrest on suspicion of stone throwing.
Jaradat’s attorney, Kamil Sabbagh, said his client told an Israeli military judge Thursday during a hearing that he was being forced to sit for long periods during interrogation. He also complained of back pain and seemed terrified to return to the Shin Bet lockup, although he did not have any apparent signs of physical abuse, Sabbagh said.
After the court hearing, the judge ordered Jaradat to be examined by a prison doctor.
The Shin Bet said that during interrogation, Jaradat was examined several times by a doctor who detected no health problems. On Saturday, he was in his cell and felt unwell after lunch, the agency said.
“Rescue services and a doctor were alerted and treated him,” the statement said. But “they didn’t succeed in saving his life.”
On Sunday, Israel’s forensics institute performed an autopsy attended by a physician from the Palestinian Authority.
After being briefed by the Palestinian physician, Issa Karake, the Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs, told a news conference late Sunday that Jaradat had suffered two broken ribs on the right side of his chest. The autopsy also showed bruises on Jaradat’s back and chest.
Israeli officials initially said Jaradat apparently died of a heart attack, but Karake said the Palestinian physician told him there was no evidence of that.
Later, Israel’s Health Ministry said Jaradat did not suffer from disease and that it was not possible yet to determine his cause of death conclusively.
Jaradat “faced harsh torture, leading to his immediate, direct death. Israel is fully responsible for his killing,” Karake said.
Protesting Jaradat’s death, Palestinians threw stones at Israeli troops in several locations, including the West Bank city of Hebron and at a checkpoint near the military’s Ofer prison on Sunday. In two locations, troops fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel pellets.
In the clash near the checkpoint, troops fired live rounds, shooting the 15-year-old son of the commander of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service in the chest and stomach, said Palestinian health official Dr. Ahmed Bitawi. The teen, Walid Hab al-Reeh, was in stable condition, while another man was wounded in the arm, Bitawi said.
The Preventive Security Service is key to security coordination with Israel. The Israeli military said it was aware of a report that a Palestinian youth was seriously hurt by gunfire, but could not confirm that soldiers used live rounds to disperse the protest.
Kadoura Fares, who heads a Palestinian group advocating for prisoners, urged Palestinians on Sunday to keep demonstrating. He also said that one of the four hunger-striking prisoners, Jafar Izzeldeen, was moved to a hospital Sunday because his condition was deteriorating.
Recent West Bank protests have focused on the fate of prisoners, an emotional Palestinian consensus issue.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been imprisoned since Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in 1967, meaning virtually every Palestinian family has had someone locked up.
The detainees are held on a range of charges, from stone-throwing to deadly attacks. Most Palestinians embrace them as heroes resisting occupation, while Israelis tend to view them as terrorists.
Intifada to sweep away Hamas, Fatah and the Occupation! Welcome to the Arab Spring, Palestine!
The truth sometimes hurts; that is why the Palestinian Authority has been working hard to prevent the outside world from hearing about many occurrences that reflect negatively on its leaders or people.
In recent years, the Palestinian Authority leadership, often with the help of the mainstream media in the US and EU, has been successful in its effort to divert all attention only toward Israel.
Following are examples of some of the inconvenient truths that the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank do not want others to know about:
- Over 100 senior PLO and Fatah officials hold Israeli-issued VIP cards that grant them various privileges denied to most Palestinians. Among these privileges is the freedom to enter Israel and travel abroad at any time they wish. This privileging has existed since the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993.
- Out of the 600 Christians from the Gaza Strip who arrived in the West Bank in the past two weeks to celebrate Christmas, dozens have asked to move to Israel because they no longer feel comfortable living under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
- Dozens of Christian families from east Jerusalem have moved to Jewish neighborhoods in the the city because they too no longer feel comfortable living among Muslims.
- Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank continue to summon and arrest political opponents, journalists and bloggers who dare to criticize the Palestinian leadership.
Read the rest HERE (source).
Civil Administration funds bone marrow transplant for Palestinian child
A two-year old Palestinian boy from the Judea and Samaria region underwent a bone marrow transplant last month at Israel’s Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. The procedure was funded by the Civil Administration, after the Palestinian Authority declined the family’s request to fund it.
‘This procedure will save the child’s life,’ explained Dalia Bessa, the Health Coordinator for the Civil Administration. ‘When this sort of procedure is needed and the Palestinian Authority refuses to fund it, the Civil Administration steps in, in order to save lives.’
Palestinians have a moral right to statehood - but their wish will not be fulfilled until we engage Israel’s strategic security
Whenever it had the chance, Iran supplied extremist factions with weaponry and money to hit Israel: such has been the case with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. If the Israeli military withdrew from the West Bank, is there anything that would prevent Tehran from supplying rebellious factions there as well?
The question hints at a crucial aspect of the Middle East peace process: The recognition of full statehood and military independence for Palestine must necessarily go hand in hand with a new military security concept. Without such an element, an Israeli exit from the West Bank would not be the end of current problems but the beginning of new and deeper ones. The question of “defensible borders” has too long be deemed a “conservative” or “hawkish” issue. The Left should sincerely engage with the problem to pave the way for a feasible approach.
The peace process highlights the classic conflict between morals and pragmatism. Few people would criticize the Palestinians’ right to enjoy full recognition as state entity (hence the moral justification of the claim), yet that moral conviction does not answer the question of Israel’s defense and strategic position. Retiring from Gaza in 2005 was a bold choice by Israel. Relocating settlements ignited a hard national discussion about “Jews evicting Jews”. The Gaza Strip was left to the Palestinians - and soon thereafter Hamas took control of the territory and increased its military activities. Israel’s fear is that reducing control on the West Bank may lead to an equal radicalization of military attitudes in the territory.
The problem isn’t so much the political choices made by the Fatah-led Palestinian authorities but the inability of any Palestinian state-like entity to control the West Bank. Let’s take Gaza again as an example: After a truce between Hamas and Israel had been decided, missile operations still went on, performed by uncontrollable maverick groups, some of Salafist inspiration. Moreover, it has become clear that the IDF lacked the capacities to reach the smuggling tunnels to Gaza in the Sinai - and Operation Pillar of Defense has further weakened Israel’s military capacity in the Gaza Strip.
Did Israel kill Yasser Arafat? That is the question being discussed as the Palestinian Authority exhumes his body this week for French prosecutors investigating his death. This follows the announcement by a Swiss institute that they found remnants of the poison polonium on Arafat’s clothes.
However, the more fundamental questions are why would Israel have wanted to kill Arafat and would it have been justified. The assessment must be based on the objective data as to Arafat’s role at the time. Was he just a political leader or was he also an archterrorist leading the most systematic and deadly terror war that Israel ever faced? Yasser Arafat died in November 2004 after four years of a PA terror campaign, also called the second intifada. One thousand Israelis had already been murdered in attacks coming from PA territory under Arafat’s leadership.
Was Arafat directing this terror campaign? If so, he would belong in the same category as terror leaders like Osama bin Laden and Hamas leader Ahmad Yassin, who were killed by the US and Israel respectively, as measures in the war on terror being fought by democracies.
Evidence abounds that Arafat was the force behind the terror war against Israel. First, the PA actively promoted terror and glorified terror through the structures under Arafat’s control.
Britain is prepared to back a key vote recognising Palestinian statehood at the United Nations if Mahmoud Abbas pledges not to pursue Israel for war crimes and to resume peace talks.
Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, has called for Britain’s backing in part because of its historic responsibility for Palestine. The government has previously refused, citing strong US and Israeli objections and fears of long-term damage to prospects for negotiations.
On Monday night, the government signalled it would change tack and vote yes if the Palestinians modified their application, which is to be debated by the UN general assembly in New York later this week. As a “non-member state”, Palestine would have the same status as the Vatican.
Whitehall officials said the Palestinians were now being asked to refrain from applying for membership of the international criminal court or the international court of justice, which could both be used to pursue war crimes charges or other legal claims against Israel.
Abbas is also being asked to commit to an immediate resumption of peace talks “without preconditions” with Israel. The third condition is that the general assembly’s resolution does not require the UN security council to follow suit.
In the daily demonstrations here of solidarity with Gaza, a mix of sympathy and anguish, there is something else: growing identification with the Islamist fighters of Hamas and derision for the Palestinian Authority, which Washington considers the only viable partner for peace with Israel.
“Strike a blow on Tel Aviv!” proclaimed the lyrics of a new hit song blasting from shops and speakers at Monday’s demonstration, in a reference to Hamas rockets that made it nearly to Israel’s economic and cultural capital. “Don’t let the Zionists sleep! We don’t want a truce or a solution! Oh, Palestinians, you can be proud!”
Pop songs everywhere are filled with bravado and aggression. But this one reflects a widespread sentiment that does not augur well for President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, which is rapidly losing credibility, even relevance. The Gaza truce talks in Cairo, involving Egypt, Turkey and Qatar, offer a telling tableau. The Palestinian leader seen there is not Mr. Abbas, but Khaled Meshal, the leader of the militant group Hamas, who seeks to speak for all Palestinians as his ideological brothers in the Muslim Brotherhood rise to power around the region.
Israel is also threatening Mr. Abbas, even hinting that it may give up on him, as he prepares to go to the United Nations General Assembly on Nov. 29 to try to upgrade the Palestinian status to that of a nonmember state. The Israelis consider this step an act of aggression, and even some Palestinians say it is somewhat beside the point at this stage.
“His people are being killed in Gaza, and he is sitting on his comfortable chair in Ramallah,” lamented Firas Katash, 20, a student who took part in the Ramallah demonstration.
For the United States, as for other countries hoping to promote a two-state solution to this century-old conflict, a more radicalized West Bank with a discredited Palestinian Authority would mean greater insecurity for Israel and increased opportunity for anti-Western forces to take root in a region where Islamism is on the rise.
The Palestinian Authority Saturday denied that PA President Mahmoud Abbas was considering postponing a request to the UN to upgrade the status of a Palestinian state.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for Abbas, said that the decision to present the Palestinian request to the UN this month has been taken by the Palestinian leadership and the Arab countries.
He pointed out that the Palestinians circulated over the weekend a draft proposal of the statehood bid to the UN.
“The decision has been taken and there will be no backtracking on it,” Abu Rudaineh said. “We will go the Un to ask for a state within the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.”