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Latest News – 14 August

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World
compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

UN asks Palestinians to explain hate speech, antisemitism

The Palestinian Authority was called to task for hate speech and antisemitism in its official statements and in its textbooks during the government’s first ever review by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination held in Geneva on Tuesday.

“Several NGO reports pointed out antisemitic and anti-Israel prejudice and incitement to hatred, especially in the [Palestinian] media and speeches of state officials. Can the state party [the PA] provide any explanation in this regard?” asked committee member Chinsung Chung of South Korea. She is the special rapporteur for the Palestinian Authority’s review by the committee. Its members paused to note the “historic” quality of the moment before tackling the more complex issues at hand.

Committee member Silva Albuquerque said he had been briefed by NGOs earlier in the day on examples of racism and antisemitism in the PA, particularly in its school books.

“Our convention obliges state parties to adopt immediate and effective measures, particularly in education, to combat racial discrimination and prejudice between different racial and ethnic groups, over jurisprudence,” he said.

Albuquerque asked the PA delegation in the room for specific examples of how it had tackled this problem. PA Foreign Ministry representative Ammar Hijazi, who led a delegation of over a dozen officials, spoke briefly at the end of the hearing. The meeting will continue on Wednesday to explore issues of discrimination in Areas A and B of the West Bank and in Gaza.

Such accusations of hate speech are “regrettable,” Hizjazi said. “We do not discriminate against any of our citizens based on ethnicity and religion or sex. We are a state that is trying to find its path and still formulating its laws,” Hijazi said.

He accused the committee members of accepting at face value charges by NGOs that were “founded and funded to deny Palestinians their rights, their narrative and to spread untruths about them.” These organizations are dedicating to attacking the integrity of the UN, he added.

Just accepting that “Palestine is a state” is a problem for them, Hijazi said. Providing these “propaganda” organizations a podium only politicizes the committee’s work, he said.

UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer told The Jerusalem Post in response that it was unfortunate the Palestinians sought to evade responsibility. “They wanted to sign treaties and now they are being held to account,” Neuer said.

NGO Monitor President Prof. Gerald Steinberg said the hearing had set a “major precedent.” He added that: “Palestinians are being forced to deal with their own antisemitism, including in their textbooks. And, unlike the usual procedures in the Human Rights Council, members of this expert committee listened to the presentations from NGO Monitor, UN Watch and Impact-SE, and challenged the Palestinians.”

In advance of Tuesday hearing, the NGO groups UN Watch and NGO Monitor provided the committee with information about hate speech and antisemitism in the PA, including in its text books. Members of both groups also spoke at an off-camera event with the committee prior to the hearing.

UN Watch’s legal adviser Dina Rovner told the committee that the PA media “perpetuates antisemitic stereotypes such as that Jews are greedy, that they are part of a conspiracy to control the world, that they are baby killers, and that they poison Palestinians and steal their organs.

“The Palestinian media also glorifies and encourages martyrdom in the fight to liberate Palestine from the River to the Sea – meaning to eliminate Israel – and broadcasts songs and videos advocating to kill Jews and Israelis,” she said.

Rovner explained to the committee that the minority population in the Palestinian territories was very small, that Christians were a persecuted minority there and that there was no Jewish community living under PA control.

During the formal meeting with the Palestinian delegation later in the afternoon, committee member Bakari Sidiki Diaby asked: “Is there a Jewish minority in Palestine, and how is the Jewish community represented in the media? How are the other minorities represented?”

Diaby added that, “I failed to find any reference to any laws that protect human rights defenders in the country. Many people will be rising to defend causes and human rights, and to counter hate speech and racial discrimination. Do you have a legal framework enabling you to protect these people?” he asked.

For over two hours, committee members posed questions to the Palestinian delegation about areas of concern regarding its report.

Chung noted that the delegation had focused at least a portion of its report on Israeli actions against Palestinians and the issues relating to the Israeli “occupation” and settlement building.

These issues are known and debated elsewhere, she said. “The Israeli settlements are not only illegal under international law but also present an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by the whole population,” Chung said.

But the purpose of this committee is to focus on “human rights problems among the Palestinians themselves,” which the Palestinian government is responsible for correcting, she said.

Chung particularly asked about treatment of Druze and Circassians under the PA.

Committee members asked for better data on minorities in the Palestinian territories; application of the convention; and the process of creating and applying laws against racism and discrimination, particularly with regard to hate crimes.

They noted the lack of clear involvement of non-governmental groups in the governmental report and the submission of only five independent reports to the committee, of which four came from outside the Palestinian territories.

They asked what steps if any had been taken to reduce the number of Palestinian refugees. Questions were also posed about human trafficking and discrimination against women, including with regard to marriage, domestic violence and property laws.

The PA delegation is slated to respond to those questions on Wednesday.

The UN does not recognizes Palestine as a member state. Since its UN designation in 2012 as a non-member state, however, the PA has had the ability to sign onto treaties and conventions, such as the one on racial discrimination. It has already signed onto seven out of nine UN human rights treaties that require a review of its human rights record, just as if it was any member state.

The PA’s record on its treatment of women was already reviewed in July 2018, and in January 2020, the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child will similarly review the PA’s record. (Jerusalem Post)

US signs contract to purchase Iron Dome system from Israel

It’s official. The U.S. Defense Department formally signed the contract to purchase two complete Iron Dome Systems from Israel, Defense News reported on Tuesday.

The contract was signed in the last few weeks, the site reports. Israel and the U.S. are currently in talks on transferring the systems to America.

“Now that the contract is set in stone, the Army will be able to figure out delivery schedules and details in terms of taking receipt of the systems,” Defense News reports.

Iron Dome is meant as an interim missile defense solution for the U.S., but Defense News says it could turn into a permanent solution depending on its performance in the field.

“While Iron Dome has been in operational use by the Israeli Air Force since 2011 and proven effective in combat, it should be noted that the U.S. Army will assess a variety of options for its long-term IFPC solution,” the U.S said in February when the deal was announced.

IFPC refers to the Indirect Fires Protection Capability program, which is developing missile defense against a variety of threats.

The deal has been described as historic, marking the first time Israel has sold a standalone weapons system to the U.S., which typically fields weapons that are superior to other countries.

The Iron Dome, which is built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and co-developed with U.S. firm Raytheon, protects against incoming missiles by shooting them out of the sky.

Most recently, in May, facing a barrage of some 690 rockets from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the system achieved an 86 percent kill rate. Only 35 rockets and mortar shells got through to score hits, the IDF reported at the time. The rate may have been higher if Israel had more Iron Dome batteries at its disposal.

In February, Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benjamin Netanyahu said: “A great achievement for Israel, this is yet another expression of the strengthening of our strong alliance with the U.S. and an expression of Israel’s rising status in the world.” (WIN)

Israel to build additional wall with Gaza to prevent infiltrations

Israel’s defense establishment will begin building an additional wall along the northern part of the Gaza border fence to protect communities after three infiltrations along the border in less than two weeks.

According to a report on Channel 12, the Defense Ministry is planning to build a 6 m. high defensive wall inside Israeli territory along a 9 km. stretch of Route 34 between the communities Yad Mordechai and Sderot.

It is expected to cost tens of millions of shekels. The Defense Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office are currently discussing where the budget for its construction will come from.

The wall, which is meant to provide nearby communities with additional protection from terrorist infiltration, comes in addition to another barrier of large sand berms and tree plantings to protect citizens from threats, such as anti-tank fire emanating from the Strip following the death of an Israeli civilian by a Kornet anti-tank missile fired at his car in May.

Israel’s new, upgraded barrier with the Strip is expected to be completed by next summer – both above and below ground – to remove the threat of cross-border attack tunnels and stop terrorists from Gaza, who are intent on carrying out attacks from infiltrating into southern Israel.

But even as work on the barrier continues, six armed Palestinians were able to infiltrate into southern Israel in less than two weeks before being engaged by IDF troops and killed.

On Sunday, Israeli troops shot and killed 26 year-old Marwan Nasser, who opened fire on them while trying to infiltrate into southern Israel. No Israelis were hurt in the incident and surrounding communities were not placed under increased security.

During his funeral, Nasser was seen wearing a green bandanna associated with Hamas’ military wing, the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades.

The incident came 24 hours after IDF troops shot dead four heavily armed Palestinians who attempted to infiltrate with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), AK-47 assault rifles and grenades.

While the military hasn’t yet determined which group is behind the foiled attack, they put the responsibility of the attack squarely on Hamas.

The four militants were identified as former Hamas members: 21-ear-old Abdullah Ismail al-Hamaida, 19-year-old Abdullah Ashraf al-Ghomri, 20-year-old Ahmad Ayman al-Adeini and 21-year-old Abdallah al-Masri, all of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

On August 1, an IDF officer and two soldiers were injured and a Hamas militant was killed in an exchange of fire at the border in the area of Kissufim in southern Israel.

Identified as Hani Abu Salah, who was a member of Hamas’ border patrol, he was the brother of Fadi Abu Salah, a disabled Palestinian man who was killed by IDF fire during one of the weekly Great March of Return protests along the border last May. He had been wearing a uniform and was armed with grenades and a Kalashnikov when he infiltrated into Israeli territory from the southern edge of the Hamas-run enclave.

The Great March of Return border protests began on March 30 and have seen over half a million people violently demonstrating along the security fence demanding an end to the 12-year long blockade, congregating at points along the border range between several thousand to 45,000 every Friday.

Demonstrators have been burning tires and hurling stones and marbles as, well as other types of violence, which include the throwing of grenades and improvised explosive devices (including military-grade explosives) towards troops. Ball bearings and other projectiles are also launched by high-velocity slingshots towards forces along the border.

Approximately 70,000 Israelis reside the over 50 communities in the Gaza border area, and there was a marked increase of people moving to the area over the past five years following Operation Protective Edge in 2016.

But over the past year, there have been 10 rounds of violent conflict, causing residents to interrupt their daily lives and remain close to bomb shelters since they have some 15 seconds to find shelter from rocket and mortar fire. The last round of violence in early May saw over 700 rockets fired towards southern Israel, which killed five civilians. (Jerusalem Post)

Multiple attacks in Brooklyn: 3 Hasidic Jews assaulted within one hour

Three Hasidic Jews were “violently mugged” on Monday morning in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, CBS New York reported.

The ages of the victims were 56 to 71 and the attacks took place within one hour. They were either on their way to work or synagogue when they were ambushed, CBS reports.

The muggers snuck up behind the victims, punched them in the face and then went through their pockets. Two were taken to the hospital. Though suffering trauma, they’re said to be OK, the news outlet reports.

Police think there were three attackers, teenage boys, CBS reports.

“Obviously, might just be a run-of-the-mill mugging with the attempt as a bias crime, knowing that these people – just like myself, I go out of my house at 5:30, and many of them do, because prayer starts at six,” community activist Isaac Abraham told CBS.

The New York police’s Hate Crimes Unit is investigating.

Mayor Bill de Blasio took to Twitter to condemn the attacks. Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement saying “In New York, we have absolutely zero tolerance for such heinous acts; they are completely unacceptable and are repugnant to our values of diversity and inclusion.

“I am directing the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to immediately provide the NYPD with any resources needed to assist in the investigation of this incident and to ensure those responsible are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

“Anti-Semitism is a growing cancer that has been injected into the nation’s body but in New York we will continue to stand united and with one voice condemn any and all acts of hatred and intolerance.” (WIN)

(The overseas media, particularly in Israel, are focussing on what the stabber in Sydney yelled and some are even suggesting that he is a Muslim. This has been discounted at this stage by the Sydney Police and the stabber has a history of mental illness. RW)

One dead, one wounded as ‘Allahu Akbar’-yelling man goes on Sydney stabbing spree

A knife-wielding man yelling “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” attempted to stab several people in Sydney in broad daylight on Tuesday afternoon before being restrained by members of the public, with one person taken to a hospital, police and witnesses said.

Witnesses said the man was carrying a 30-centimeter (12-inch) kitchen knife as he attempted to stab multiple people near a busy intersection in Australia’s largest city.

New South Wales state police said in a statement that a man was arrested and a woman was taken to a hospital in stable condition.

Australia’s 10 Daily reports that a second person was found dead a city block from where the injured woman was found at around 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday. Police are looking into whether the death is connected to the stabbing incident, the news site reports.

“A number of members of the public physically restrained the offender,” police Superintendent Gavin Wood said. “I want to acknowledge those members of the public who got involved. They were significantly brave people.”

Wood said it appeared that the attack was unprovoked and the man had acted alone.

A witness told reporters that the man was screaming comments about religion before yelling to police that he wanted to be shot. Police said he used the Arabic phrase “Allahu akbar.”

A witness, Paul O’Shaughnessy, said he and his brother Luke were working in the office of their recruitment company when they heard shouting through an open window. They looked out and saw a Caucasian man, aged around 25, screaming “extremist” words, O’Shaughnessy said.

The brothers, fearing the man was conducting a terrorist attack, ran down to the street and began chasing the man, who was covered in blood.

Luke O’Shaughnessy and another man caught up with the offender and tackled him to the ground, Paul O’Shaughnessy said.

The effort to seize the man was caught on video. At one point he leaps onto a car. He is eventually pinned down with chairs and a milk crate.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised the citizens who stopped the stabber.

“Our thoughts are with all those who have been impacted by this violent attack,” he tweeted.

Paul O’Shaughnessy told The Associated Press that the man “didn’t show any remorse at all.” (WIN)

El Al flight attendant dies 4 months after contracting measles on plane from NY

An Israeli flight attendant who was hospitalized in April after catching measles on a plane has died, becoming the third fatality in an outbreak of the highly contagious disease.

The El Al flight attendant, named Tuesday as Rotem Amitai, 43, had contracted measles on a flight from New York in late March.

Her condition deteriorated later that month and she was moved to an isolated intensive care unit, after slipping into a coma and suffering brain damage.

She was diagnosed with meningoencephalitis — a complication of the measles virus that is similar to having both meningitis and encephalitis, respectively infections or inflammations of the lining of the brain and the brain itself.

Amitai, a mother of three, was working on board El AL flight 002 from John F. Kennedy Airport to Tel Aviv on March 26.

“Rotem was a wonderful person and a dedicated mother,” a statement from her family said.
Blood tests revealed that she had been vaccinated with only one shot against measles instead of the two inoculations recommended for her age group. Consequently, El Al instructed all flight attendants at the time to get measles shots.

A 10-year-old boy is in a coma at Schneider Medical Center in Petah Tikva with suspected brain damage and is attached to a ventilator, after similarly contracting measles.

In November, an 18-month-old toddler in Jerusalem died of the disease, the first recorded death from measles in Israel in the past 15 years. A month later, an 82-year-old woman became the second fatality.

Israel has seen an outbreak of measles in the past year, recording 4,292 cases between July 2018 and July 2019, according to the ministry.

Infections have mostly centered on the country’s ultra-Orthodox community, where inoculation rates have generally been lower than the rest of the population.

In New York, too, officials are struggling to contain a swelling number of measles cases centered in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods while battling lawsuits over their efforts to require vaccinations.

The measles cases in Rockland and in Brooklyn have been traced to unvaccinated members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community who traveled to Israel. Orthodox Jewish leaders say a small faction of vaccine opponents in the community have allowed the disease to spread. (the Times of Israel)

Israel to Invest $8.6 Million in New Plastic Recycling Technologies

The Israel Innovation Authority has approved the establishment of a new consortium aimed at promoting the development of recycling technologies, and the use of recycled materials in Israel’s plastics industry.

Set to receive an investment of NIS 30 million (around $8,600,000), the CIRCLE consortium will enable companies in the recycling sector, plastic and polymer manufacturers as well as academic and research institutes in the field to develop innovative technologies to give Israeli industry an edge in international markets. The technologies developed by the consortium will allow for the expansion of the range of recycled materials and their applications.

The consortium’s establishment is aimed at leveraging Israel’s academic and industrial capabilities to close the existing technological gap and situate Israel’s plastics industry as a leader in the field of plastic waste management.

It will operate within Israel Innovation Authority’s MAGNET consortium, a nonprofit association of industrial firms and academic research institutes for the research and development of cutting-edge technologies.

“The world is moving toward a responsible industry and economy through the use of recycled or innovative materials for the sake of environmental protection,” said Israel’s Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen.

Meanwhile, a new project in cooperation with Rotem Energy Mineral in the Negev in Israel’s south is expected to create some 2,000 jobs and convert hundreds of thousands of tons of urban plastic waste currently buried in the Ef’eh landfill, Israel’s largest landfill, into electricity and fuel. (JNS)

An Israeli is murdered and the Palestinians rejoice

The Palestinian reaction to the murder of Israeli citizens forces one to more closely examine the Palestinian narrative.

by Steve Frank , JNS

Last week, 18-year-old yeshiva student Dvir Sorek was found stabbed to death near his village of Migdal Oz in Judea and Samaria. Sorek had gone to Jerusalem to buy books for his teacher as an end-of-year present and was returning home when he was apparently targeted by Palestinian terrorists. His body was found by the side of the road, still clutching the books he had purchased, by popular Israel novelist and outspoken left-wing activist David Grossman.

Sorek was murdered almost exactly 19 years after his maternal grandfather, Rabbi Binyamin Herling, was shot dead in a terror attack near Nablus in October 2000.

Palestinians celebrated Sorek’s death by handing out sweets in the streets and setting off fireworks from a nearby Palestinian village as he was laid to rest.

Celebrating the murder of Jews with sweets has become customary in Palestinian society and a tradition not generally noted in the American press. In November 2014, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip celebrated an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue that left four dead and others wounded.

Following an October 2015 stabbing and shooting attack at the Central Bus Station in Beersheba, during which a young Israeli soldier was killed and many other commuters wounded, candy was distributed to passers-by in the streets of Shuafat, in eastern Jerusalem, to celebrate the “victory.”

In January 2017, Palestinians took to the streets and social media to celebrate a truck-ramming attack in Jerusalem in which four Israeli soldiers were killed.

It is not surprising to hear the Palestinian leadership praising the murder of Jews in Israel, as it immediately did this week after the murder of Sorek, calling it “a heroic operation” and a “natural response to the Israeli occupation’s crimes.” But to see the Palestinian people repeatedly celebrating these murders by passing out sweets in the street gives one pause and raises serious questions about the likelihood of a two-state solution with each side living in peace next to the other.

The reaction of Palestinians to the murder of Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists helps to explain why Palestinians repeatedly have rejected legitimate and generous offers by the international community and Israel to establish their own independent state next to Israel (in 1939, 1947, 1967, 2000 and 2008). They simply have no desire to live in peace next to the Jewish state of Israel.

Their goal from day one has been the extermination of Jews “from the river to the sea” (from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including all of present-day Israel). The murder of Sorek is not an isolated incident but simply their latest effort to achieve this goal.

The Palestinian reaction to the murder of Israelis forces one to more closely examine the Palestinian narrative. That narrative includes many claims to support their cause: statelessness, occupation, refugees, violations of human rights. And yet the Palestinians are not unique in their circumstances. It is well-documented that there are well over 300 peoples in the world today with legitimate claims to statehood, and many of these people live under brutal occupation and deprivations far in excess of anything suffered by the Palestinians.

And yet despite their legitimate claims and grievous living conditions, none of these other stateless peoples have resorted to the kind of mass murder that Palestinians have subjected the world to over the past half-century.

This is where the Palestinians are unique among the world’s independence movements. Palestinians virtually invented and perfected the art of political terrorism by hostage-taking, plane hijackings, stone-throwing, stabbings, shootings, and suicide bombings.

Among the attacks they are noted for are numerous plane hijackings in the 1970s; the 1979 Nahariya attack; the 1980 Paris synagogue bombing; the 1981 Antwerp bombing; the 2000 Ramallah lynching; the 2004 Sinai bombings; the 2008 Dimona suicide bombing; the 2011 Itamar attack; the 2001 Dolphinarium discotheque suicide bombing on the Tel Aviv beachfront which killed 21 Israelis, 16 of them teenagers; the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship and murder of Leon Klinghoffer in his wheelchair; the 1996 Jaffa Road bus bombings which killed 45 people; the 1972 Lod Airport massacre; the 1974 Maalot massacre which involved a two-day hostage-taking of 115 Israelis and ended in the murders of over 25 hostages; the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre resulting in the death of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes; the 2001 Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing in which 15 people were killed, including seven children and a pregnant woman, and 130 wounded; the murder of Ari Fuld last year and of Dvir Sorek last week.

These are just examples and do not constitute a complete list.

It is estimated that approximately 4,000 Israelis have been killed in terrorist attacks since the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. This is the population equivalent of 200,000 Americans.

Despite this notorious history of Palestinian violence, there are those in America and Europe who, for their own reasons, continue to enable and normalize Palestinian terrorism by their support of the Palestinian “narrative.” In response to the brutal murder of Dvir Sorek, the progressive American Jewish magazine The Forward published an opinion piece which urged its audience not to “politicize” Sorek’s death but to remember the message of peace he was carrying when he was slaughtered (books by a peace activist). The opinion writer fails to even admonish Sorek’s killers or note that they, too, must have missed his message of peace.

At the end of the day, the terrorists who murdered Sorek, and their families, will likely get a sweeter deal than treats in the street. The Palestinian government has created a “Martyrs Fund” to pay a monthly stipend to the families of Palestinians killed, injured or imprisoned for involvement in attacking Israelis.

It is a system called “pay for slay” and it was reported that the fund paid out over $300 million in 2017 in amounts often exceeding $3,000 a month, at a time when the Palestinian government was struggling to pay its own civil servants. Sorek’s killers and their families are set for life, further incentivizing the murder of Jews.

The Shin Bet security agency announced Saturday that it had arrested two Palestinian cousins suspected of Sorek’s murder. The suspects hail from the Palestinian village of Bayt Kahil near Migdal Oz, and at least one is a member of Hamas. The Israel army said that over 100 residents of Bayt Kahil began hurling stones at troops while they were carrying out the arrest raid.

Can Palestinians in Gaza Revolt Against Hamas?

by Khaled Abu Toameh The Gatestone Institute

  •  “Fifteen years ago, Hamas raised the slogan of ‘Islam is the solution’…. Now, there is rampant corruption [under Hamas]. The corruption is in all institutions, including the judiciary and the police. Today, the corruption is organized and managed by Hamas. The corruption is at the top of the pyramid. It is the corruption of politics, the corruption in the administration, the corruption in employment, the corruption in relief aid.” — Abu Safiyeh, a representative of the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in the Gaza Strip, in a Facebook post that caused his arrest.
  • The voices emerging from the Gaza Strip are anguished and reflect the Palestinians’ growing sense of disillusionment with Hamas. These voices, however, are still small in numbers. Hamas’s brutal methods of suppression and torture have deterred a large number of Palestinians from speaking out. These voices will grow only if the international community heeds them and calls out Hamas for its brutal crackdown on Palestinians.
  •  Hamas is carrying out its current crackdown against Palestinian activists because it knows full well that the world will probably not utter a word. Why would it? Bashing Israel is much more rewarding than identifying Palestinian leaders as the champion violators of human rights that they are.

Hamas leaders are scared. Of what? That Palestinians will return to the streets of the Gaza Strip to demand that their leaders govern rather than tyrannize. The living conditions of Palestinians in Gaza have gone from abysmal to worse.

That is why the leaders of Hamas recently ordered their security forces to detain several Palestinian activists for allegedly planning another wave of protests similar to those that swept the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

Last March, Hamas security forces used excessive force to break up demonstrations held in various parts of the Gaza Strip under the banner “We Want to Live!”

The demonstrations were organized by Palestinians to protest the longstanding economic crisis, including soaring unemployment and increased taxes imposed by Hamas on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Dozens of Palestinians were injured and arrested during the demonstrations, including human rights activists and journalists.

Hamas managed to crush the March protests, thereby drawing strong condemnations from many Palestinians who accused the rulers of the Gaza Strip of acting like ruthless dictators against peaceful demonstrators.

Palestinian journalist and political analyst Hamadeh Faraneh said that Hamas has shown that it is not capable of ruling its people. “By resorting to repression and brutal force, Hamas has emerged as the loser,” he said.

Palestinian professor Abdel Sattar Qassam denounced the Hamas crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations as “disgraceful,” while several commentators in the Arab world lashed out at Hamas’s “policy of breaking the bones” of its critics.

Hamas’s rivals in Fatah, the West Bank-based ruling faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also joined the chorus of critics. Osama Qawassmeh, a senior Fatah official, described the protests in the Gaza Strip as a “revolution of the hungry” against Hamas’s corrupt and failed administration.

Since then, the situation in the Gaza Strip has seen no improvement, mainly because Hamas cares a great deal more about investing millions of dollars in amassing weapons and preparing for war against Israel than about its own people.

Hamas’s leaders have nothing to offer their people other than fiery anti-Israel rhetoric and empty promises, such as the pledge to “thwart” US President Donald Trump’s upcoming Middle East peace plan, also known as the “Deal of the Century.”

Aware of their embarrassing failure to alleviate the economic crisis or offer their people any kind of hope, Hamas leaders, once again, appear to be wary of the possibility that another wave of protests could erupt in the Gaza Strip.

As experience has shown, when the Hamas leaders are feeling unsettled, they issue instructions to their security forces and militiamen to act quickly against potential “troublemakers.”

Several Palestinian political activists have been taken into custody by Hamas security officers in the past few days. They include: Amin al-Hajeen, Mohammed Kheir al-Din, Samed Abu al-Jidyan, Ghassan al-Arabeed, Mohammed Daher, and Shawkat Abu Safiyeh.

The detainees, known as outspoken critics of Hamas, are currently being interrogated by Hamas security forces on suspicion they were planning fresh protests against extreme economic hardship.

Abu Safiyeh, a representative of the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in the Gaza Strip, was arrested after he published a Facebook post criticizing Hamas’s corruption. Here are some of the things he wrote that landed him in prison:

“Fifteen years ago, Hamas raised the slogan of ‘Islam is the solution’ — the solution to liberate all Palestine and not give up an inch; the solution to eliminate cronyism and corruption; the solution to bring economic and social security; the solution to a happy and enjoyable life. Hamas came to power through deception and after having misled the people. Now, there is rampant corruption [under Hamas]. The corruption is in all institutions, including the judiciary and the police. Today, the corruption is organized and managed by Hamas. The corruption is at the top of the pyramid. It is the corruption of politics, the corruption in the administration, the corruption in employment, the corruption in relief aid.

“As for economic security, this is a major calamity that befell the Palestinian people in Gaza. Palestinians are lamenting their poverty. There are no businessmen left: they have either been arrested for unpaid debts or have fled the Gaza Strip or are standing in line to receive relief aid. As for Hamas officials and their affiliates, they have become owners of real estate, agencies and companies.”

These are powerful words coming from a Palestinian living under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. In fact, after his critique of Hamas, Abu Safiyeh is lucky that he is still alive.

Last week, reports surfaced that a Palestinian activist detained by Hamas had been rushed to hospital in critical condition. He had apparently tried to commit suicide while in Hamas detention. Palestinians who have spent time in Hamas detention say they were subjected to various types of physical and psychological torture.

A human rights group in the Gaza Strip called for setting up a commission of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the detainee’s purported attempt to take his own life. The appeal, however, is unlikely to leave an impression on the rulers of Hamas, whose only concern seems to be to ensure that no Palestinian dares to raise his or her voice against the corruption and repressive measures.

Commenting on Hamas’s growing predicament and paranoia, former Palestinian Authority minister Hassan Asfour concluded:

“Hamas is well aware that its isolation in the Gaza Strip is increasing, and that it has become a burden on the people there. Hamas has totally failed in ruling and administering the Gaza Strip. Were it not for its security force, Hamas would have been uprooted without mercy.”

The voices emerging from the Gaza Strip are anguished and reflect the Palestinians’ growing sense of disillusionment with Hamas. These voices, however, are still small in numbers. Hamas’s brutal methods of suppression and torture have deterred a large number of Palestinians from speaking out.

These voices will grow only if the international community heeds them and calls out Hamas for its brutal crackdown on Palestinians. This opposition, though, would require a shift in perspective: from obsession with the faults of Israel – whether real or imagined – to an interest in the real and deadly world of Hamas.

Unless Hamas’s violent repression of its own people sparks some concern among the international community, the prospects of Palestinians revolting against their Hamas leaders are slim. Hamas is carrying out its current crackdown against Palestinian activists because it knows full well that the world will probably not utter a word. Why would it? Bashing Israel is much more rewarding than identifying Palestinian leaders as the champion violators of human rights that they are.

The Emerging Gulf-Israel Alignment Fundamentally Changes the Palestinians’ Geo-Political Paradigm – R. David Harden (The Hill)

Trends are accelerating an emerging regional alignment between the Gulf States and Israel. First, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Israel collectively regard Iran as an existential threat to their states. The differences with Israel over the future of Palestine are less consequential than the perception of the Iranian threat and the need for a tacit collective counter-strategy.

Second, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel are much more confident regional actors than they were in the mid-1990s. The UAE projects immense economic strength and Saudi Arabia has similar aspirations. Aside from its regional military strength, Israel has become a technology power that is attractive to global finance, investment, and talent.

Lastly, the political and economic elites in the Gulf and Israel desire these deepening economic and technological ties and are creating conditions on the ground where their citizens are increasingly open to these opportunities.

Israel’s inability to resolve its conflict with the Palestinians and its drag of regular wars in Gaza undermines its ability to assert the nation’s full potential. But this potential historic Gulf-Israel alignment fundamentally changes the geo-political paradigm for the Palestinians. The region is moving beyond a “post-1948” period where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dominated nation-state relationships in the Middle East.

The next generation of Palestinian leadership will have to adopt a new strategy – one which will be quite uncomfortable for the old PLO guard. Freed from the dogma of the last 70 years, the Palestinians could envision a very different role for themselves in the Middle East.

The writer, managing director of the Georgetown Strategy Group, was former Assistant Administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, and led the USAID Mission to the West Bank and Gaza in 2014-2016.