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Latest News in Israel – 11th January

Tel Aviv gunman shot and killed in northern Israel

Nashat Milhem, the gunman who killed three Israelis last week in Tel Aviv, was shot and killed by Israeli forces in an exchange of fire in northern Israel on Friday afternoon.

He was located near his home in the Arara area. Initial reports said he had been “neutralized.” It was later confirmed that he had been killed at about 4.20 p.m.

Milhem was tracked down to the building where he was hiding out, spotted the armed forces encircling the building, and attempted to flee when they burst in. During the confrontation, he opened fire on the forces, and was shot dead, Israeli security officials said.

Channel 2 reported that the Israeli forces, from an elite police unit and the Shin Bet, had sought to capture him alive, but were fired upon by Milhem, who was using the same weapon he used for last Friday’s shootings.

Channel 2 said he was tracked down to a building where his family had lived in the past. The building is very close to the family’s current home. An initial report that Milhem was killed in a mosque in Umm a-Fahm was inaccurate.

Hakim Younis told Channel 10 TV that he saw the shooting start. “I was sitting on my balcony with my cousin … when suddenly, shooting began, hundreds of bullets, like in a war,” Younis said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and other Israeli leaders praised the security forces for the operation.

Five people were arrested in relation to the case shortly before Milhem was found.

Several members of his family had been arrested in the course of the manhunt, and police and the Shin Bet were investigating which, if any, friends and relatives, had helped him before and after the January 1 shootings.

Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh said the case was not finished, and that police would continue to work to expose any and all others who had helped Milhem before and after the shootings. “All of those involved in terrorism,” Alsheikh said, “should know that we have the means, the determination and the patience to find them all.”

A Channel 2 report said Milhem was located in recent days via a “personal item” that was found in the area. The item was checked and found to match his DNA. He was then tracked down.

The TV report also said security authorities were investigating whether he had been affiliated to Islamic State, though there was no confirmation of this.

Channel 2 quoted security officials saying there was now “no doubt” that Milhem had opened fire in Tel Aviv on January 1 “for nationalistic reasons,” rather than for criminal or any other motives. Tellingly, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had referred to Milhem earlier Friday as a terrorist — a term Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not use when discussing the case in recent days.

Early indications were that Milhem had been in the Arara area for almost the entire past week, security sources said.

Hundreds of police officers had deployed in northern Israel and in the Tel Aviv area Friday, and inspection checkpoints were set up at several locations, a week after the deadly shooting attack by Milhem at a bar on Tel Aviv’s busy Dizengoff Street. Milhem killed two people in Tel Aviv’s Simta bar last Friday, before he went on to murder a cab driver whose taxi he hailed to make his escape.

Police on Friday had also descended in large numbers on a neighborhood in the Arab village of Arara, the hometown of Milhem. Authorities had warned he was armed, dangerous and capable of striking again.

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich indicated at a press conference Tuesday that Milhem was no longer believed to be in Tel Aviv, although he refused to elaborate. Alsheich said it was possible to “dramatically reduce the tension in the Tel Aviv area.” He said he could not elaborate “in order to not cause harm” to the ongoing investigation.

Milhem was known to have fled the scene of the shooting on Dizengoff Street on foot, and hailed a cab on nearby Ibn Gabirol Street. The cabbie drove to north Tel Aviv, where Milhem worked. There, Milhem is said to have killed the driver, Ayman Shaaban, outside the city’s Mandarin Hotel. He then drove the cab himself to Namir Road, where he abandoned it near a bus stop.

Milhem killed two people in a shooting attack outside the Simta Bar on Tel Aviv’s busy Dizengoff Street last Friday, New Year’s Day, before fleeing and disappearing. Shift manager Alon Bakal, 26, and patron Shimon Ruimi, 30, were killed in a hail of bullets as the gunman opened fire with a submachine gun he allegedly stole from his father. Seven people were also wounded.

Police on Wednesday evening officially named Milhem as the killer of Bedouin taxi driver Ayman Shaaban some 60 minutes after the bar attack.

Israeli government and opposition leaders praised the security forces for bringing the week-long manhunt to an end. Local Arara municipal chief Mudar Younis expressed relief that the manhunt was over. “It is important to me and the residents of the village that this is behind us,” he said.

“This is our consolation, and we are pleased that none of our own were hurt in the neutralization. I was sure we would get him,” said David Bakal, whose son Alon was killed in the shooting at the Simta Bar.              (The Times of Israel)

Palestinian Authority joins Hamas in declaring Tel Aviv gunman ‘a martyr’

The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and other Palestinian groups declared Nashat Milhem a shaheed (martyr).

The PA Ministry of Health initially added Milhem, who is an Israeli citizen, to its list of “martyrs” who were killed by Israelis during the current wave of terrorism, which began in early October.

However, the ministry on Friday night removed Milhem’s name from the list. The ministry explained that it documents the names of Palestinian “martyrs” only in areas that fall under its jurisdiction, namely the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

However, the ministry did not offer any explanation as to why another Israeli Arab, Muhanad al-Okabi, is included in its list of “martyrs.” Al-Okabi, who carried out the October 18 terror attack at the Beersheba Central Bus Station, appears as number 31 on the PA ministry’s list of “martyrs.”

The ministry defended the decision to remove Milhem’s name from its “list of martyrs” by arguing that this does not mean that he is not entitled to be characterized as a “martyr.”

A statement issued by the PA ministry praised Milhem as “one of the most precious martyrs whose name has been inscribed with his pure blood that watered our the soil of our free land.”

The ministry dismissed criticism by many Palestinians for excluding Milhem from the list, saying he is no difference between him and any other Palestinian “martyr.”

“We are proud of our Palestinian people in the 1948 lands,” the PA ministry said, referring to Israel’s Arab citizens. “We are proud of their sacrifices and achievements. No one can deny their belonging to their homeland, Palestine.”

Hamas and Islamic Jihad condemned the killing of Milhem and praised him as a “hero” and “martyr.”

Hamas spokesman Hussam Badran praised Milhem for causing “panic” in Israel for a whole week. “Milhem is an example of a free Palestinian who defends himself and his cause,” the spokesman said.

Islamic Jihad said in a statement that Israel would “pay a price for its crime” of killing Milhem.

The two groups later set up a tent in Gaza City to receive condolences over the death of Milhem.                       (Jerusalem Post)

Police: Milhem may have had as many as 20 accomplices

Israel Police revealed on Sunday that the number of accomplices who helped hide Tel Aviv terrorist Nashat Milhem from security forces could be as high as 20 people.

According to police assessments, of those who aided Milhem or knew his whereabouts, several were actively helping the terrorist, while others simply recognized him and failed to report him to authorities.

After a week-long manhunt, Milhem was eliminated in a gun battle with security forces on Friday evening in his hometown of Arara.

Two days later, police investigators are still trying to determine Milhem’s movements within the Wadi Ara town as well as who exactly he was in contact with

Police remain puzzled about how Milhem managed to get from Tel Aviv to Arara, though they revealed Sunday morning it had taken him less than two hours after committing the deadly shooting attack at a pub on Dizengoff Street to arrive in his hometown.

A police official, meanwhile, rejected criticism of the Israel Security Agency and police’s handling of intelligence in the case.

“Intelligence coordinators did a good job here – they were cross-checking the flow of information,” he told Walla! News. “There was a group of individuals (who helped). The terrorist’s extended family was privy after the attack.”

Earlier on Sunday, the Haifa Magistrates Court ordered the restrictive release of Milhem’s father and brother; they were arrested last Tuesday on suspicion of aiding him after the attack.    (Arutz Sheva)

Terrorist cell plotted to assassinate PM Netanyahu

Two east Jerusalem residents were indicted Friday after allegedly plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Hazem Ziad Amran Sandouqa, 22, and Fahdi Daoud Muhammad Abu Qaian, 19, were charged with, among other things, assisting an enemy at wartime, contact with a foreign agent, plotting a terrorist attack and manufacturing explosives.

According to the indictment, Sandouqa and Abu Qaian were considering carrying out a number of terrorist attacks, including a plan to place an explosive device under the stage at the Jerusalem Arena while Netanyahu delivered a speech there.

Prosecutor Anat Greenbaum wrote in the indictment that the pair had helped Hamas operative Ahmad Jamal Mousa Azzam — who was arrested in December for plotting attacks — advance the terrorist group’s goals and to help carry out attacks using explosive devices.

Azzam, who is from Qalqilya, rented an apartment in the Abu Dis neighborhood of Jerusalem, where he brought tools and chemicals he had obtained, in part with Sandouqa’s help, to create explosive devices. Azzam instructed his recruit, Sandouqa, on how to manufacture bombs and asked him to suggest possible locations to carry out shooting attacks.

Azzam’s plan was to manufacture two liters of explosives by mid-December, transport it into Jerusalem in Sandouqa’s car, and to gather information about the best place to carry out an attack.

Azzam had Sandouqa help him both with preparing explosives and with logistical issues, like helping potential suicide bombers find safe houses and obtaining vehicles to use during attacks.

Sandouqa purchased dozens of kilograms of chemicals used to manufacture explosives, transporting them to Azzam in Abu Dis. He then recruited Qaian to help him.

Qaian has been identified as an Islamic State group supporter. He arranged to help Azzam smuggle weapons into and out of the West Bank in order to carry out murderous attacks against Israelis.

Greenbaum requested that the pair, Qaian and Sandouqa, be kept in custody until the end of the legal proceedings.

Meanwhile, in a separate incident, the Shin Bet security agency announced on Thursday that a kidnapping and murder attack planned by six Hamas operatives was thwarted in December.

The plan for the attack “was similar to the abduction and murder of the three teenaged boys in June 2014,” the Shin Bet said, referring to the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens Gil-ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach.

According to a Shin Bet statement, the thwarted attack was “in advanced planning stages, and a hiding place for the bodies of the abducted person or persons was already being prepared.”

Three of the six terror cell operatives arrested in connection to the plot live in Jerusalem, while the other three live in Hebron.

The cell leader, 30-year-old Maher Qawasmeh, is a Hebron resident who has served two years in prison for involvement in planning Hamas terrorist activities. Another leader in the cell, 20-year-old Ziad Abu Hadwan, lives in Jerusalem’s Old City and was released from prison this past October after serving time for participating in violent activities on the Temple Mount.

During the investigation, the Shin Bet learned that the terror cell had been holding meetings in Hebron over the last year, where they planned various attacks against Israelis.

One of their plans was to kidnap and murder a Jewish resident of Beit Hagai, a community in the Hebron area. They planned to bury their victim in land owned by the family of one of the cell members and to hold negotiations in Hamas’ name to free security prisoners in exchange for the body, including the brother of one of the cell members.

The abduction was to be carried out using two vehicles, with one of the Israeli cell members — Ammar Rajabe, 22, from the Old City of Jerusalem — driving the car with the victim, out of the reasoning that his superior Hebrew language skills would make the kidnapping and getaway run more smoothly.

Security officers also learned that over the past few months, the cell members had been searching for caves and had even tried to dig holes in various plots of land in the Hebron area, but were met with rocky terrain that made it difficult to dig as deep as they needed to.

The group ultimately decided that they would bury their future victim in a cave near the home of one of the member’s grandfather. While looking nearby, they found a pit that was two meters (6.6 feet) deep, where they decided they would bury the body.

In November, Abu Hadwan asked the other members to wait about two months before moving forward with the plot, as he suspected that Israeli security forces were tracking him. Indeed, the cell was caught only a month later, preventing the gruesome plan from going forward.

Abu Hadwan and Rajabe, two of the three Israeli Arabs in the group, are cousins. They were both indicted at the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday.

“This case demonstrates once again Hamas’ goal to carry out serious attacks, even now,” the Shin Bet said in a statement. “The purpose here is to turn the recent wave of terrorism into a violent intifada.

“This case also demonstrates that Hamas cells in the territories seek out assistance from Israeli residents living in Jerusalem, due to their ability to move freely through Israeli territory and their command of the Hebrew language.”                         (Israel Hayom)

Shin Bet busts Hamas cell in Hebron that plotted shooting attacks against Israelis

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) broke up a Hamas cell recently that plotted shootings on Israeli targets around Hebron, the intelligence agency said on Sunday, marking the third disrupton of Hamas terrorism plots in recent weeks.

According to the intelligence agency, a joint operation with the IDF led to the arrest in November 2015 of a three-man Hamas terror cell based in Hebron, whose members planned to fire on Israeli traffic on Route 35 near the West Bank city.

Operatives allegedly purchased an M-16 rifle and a handgun. The cell was allegedly headed by Muhammad Ali Kawasme, 38, who recruited members of the cell. Kawasme’s brother, Hassam Ali Kawasme, orchestrated the kidnap and murder attack on three Israeli teenagers in June 2014 in the Hebron area

Kawasme was joined by Imad Hashamun, 32, a Hamas operative, who served time in prison for past Hamas activities, and two additional Hamas members named by the Shin Bet at Amar Awiwi, 29, and Hasam Hashalmun, 24, according to the investigation.

During questioning by the Shin Bet, it emerged that the suspects drove along Route 35 on a number of occasions to locate the best place to fire on Israeli vehicles, and purchased firearms during their preparations.

Kawasme also “recruited logistical assistants to the cell, who were supposed to acquire a stolen vehicle, to be used in the attack, and assist the cell’s members after the attack, when they would become wanted men by the security forces,” the Shin Bet said.

Military prosecutors charged the three at the Judea Military Court with conspiring to cause deliberate death, and membership in a terrorist cell on behalf of Hamas. The suspects have been kept in custody until the end of legal proceedings.

“The thwarting of this terror cells, which had a high level of readiness to carry out an attack, exposes, once again, the unending attempts by Hamas members in Hebron to carry out severe acts of terrorism,” the Shin Bet added.

Last week, the Shin Bet intelligence announced that it had thwarted a Hamas plot to kidnap and murder Israelis to trade their bodies for Palestinian prisoners.

Residents of Hebron and Palestinian Jerusalem residents were arrested on December 15 in a joint Shin Bet, IDF, and Israel Police operation.

The six suspects allegedly planned to copy the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014.

And at the end of December, the Shin Bet announced it had disrupted a large-scale Hamas terrorist cell that was based in the Abu Dis area of the West Bank, near Jerusalem, and which plotted bombings and suicide bombing attacks in Israel.

Had the attacks not been thwarted, they would have led to mass casualty incidents and plunged the region into a security escalation the agency warned.

Security forces, including the IDF and Israel Police, arrested 25 Hamas operatives, most of them students at the Al Quds University campus in Abu Dis, in connection with the plot.  (Jerusalem Post)

Police open criminal investigation of far-left Israeli activist

The Israel Police have opened a criminal investigation into a far-left activist who was shown on an investigative journalism TV program last week boasting about how he helps Palestinian security forces find Palestinians who sell land to Jews.

In the hidden camera footage aired by Channel 2’s “Uvda” on Thursday night, Ezra Nawi can be seen boasting about how the Palestinian land owners are tortured and later killed after taken into custody by the Palestinian Authority’s Preventative Security Service.

“Straight away I give their pictures and phone numbers to the Preventive Security Force,” Nawi is heard saying in reference to the Palestinian Authority’s counterintelligence arm. “The Palestinian Authority catches them and kills them. But before it kills them, they get beat up a lot.”

The footage was part of a segment on Uvda about a group of Israelis who posed as far-left activists in order to infiltrate Israeli human rights NGOs working in the West Bank.

Nawi can be seen in the footage holding pre-arranged meetings in his vehicle with prospective land owners, and handing over their details to authorities. In one part of the program he tells one Palestinian about the land owners, and they try to arrange for the men to meet them in PA territory so they can be arrested.

One of the men seen working with Nawi in the video to ensnare the land dealers is a Palestinian man who is also an activist with B’tselem.

In the Palestinian Authority, the penal code reserves capital punishment for anyone convicted of selling land to Jews. This law, which Palestinian officials defended as designed to prevent takeovers by settlers, has not been implemented in Palestinian courts, where sellers of land to Jews are usually sentenced to several years in prison. However, in recent years several Palestinian have been murdered for selling land. Their murders have remained unsolved.

Nawi was also documented obtaining information from a Palestinian who believed Nawi was a Jew interested in purchasing land. Nawi is seen saying he intends to give that information to Palestinian security officials as well.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on Facebook Friday that the report “unmasked radicals among us, whose hatred for settlements has pushed them over the edge to the point of delivering innocents for torture and execution. Those who encourage murder cannot continue to hide behind the hypocritical pretense of caring for human rights.”

(Jerusalem Post)

IDF thwarts stabbing at West Bank checkpoint, 2 assailants killed

Soldiers at the Bekaot checkpoint killed two assailants who tried to stab them on Saturday morning.

The Bekaot checkpoint connects the Jordan Valley area and Samaria.

The soldiers were carrying out routine security activity at the crossing when they were confronted by the two assailants, the army said. The soldiers, who were not injured, shot and killed the men.

The dead men, both from the Jenin area, were Ali Abu Marim, 26, from Kafr Jadida, and Said Abu Wafa, 38, from Zawiya, according to Palestinian media reports.

Earlier on Saturday morning, the IDF announced that it demolished the home of a terrorist who killed two Jewish men and wounded a mother and son in the Old City of Jerusalem during a stabbing and shooting spree in October. (Jerusalem Post)

Awed by his grandparents’ lives, Japanese man joins IDF

Daniel Tomohiro is not the typical Israeli soldier. His Hungarian grandparents survived the Holocaust, made aliyah, and fought in the War of Independence, but they then moved to Australia, where his mother met and married a Japanese man and moved to Iwata, Japan.

Now Tomohiro has come full circle and is serving in the Israel Defense Forces, undergoing basic training with the Nahal Brigade’s 50th Battalion. On Wednesday, his unit was scheduled to take part in a swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem.

“My 88-year-old grandfather Ivan lives in Sydney, Australia,” Tomohiro said. “He told me that he fought in an artillery during the War of Independence, in the Palmach [the Jewish paramilitary organization in the pre-state years], and was an instructor in an officer training course. My grandmother died when I was a child and I still don’t know what she did in the Palmach.”

Tomohiro’s parents met when his father was on a business trip to Australia.

“My parents married and moved to Japan, but at home they kept talking about Israel,” Tomohiro said. “My family is very pro-Israel and loves the state, and I believe the Israel Defense Forces is the most moral military in the world.”

According to Tomohiro, his grandparents imbued him with a sense of curiosity about Israel.

“I felt very connected to the state, but I arrived here for the first time only when I was 18, with my parents and younger brother,” he said. “My older brother had already made aliyah and was in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. After I graduated high school in Japan, I returned to Israel, and four months ago I joined an IDF Hebrew course and later started basic training.”

Tomohiro said he was enjoying himself, despite the intense training.

“But the service means a lot to me and my family,” he said. “My grandmother was in Auschwitz. She survived only because a German nurse covered her with a blanket when Dr. Josef Mengele came to visit. He thought she was dead and this saved her life, because he didn’t perform experiments on her. I realized, after hearing such stories, that the Holocaust happened because there was no State of Israel. I am happy to contribute to the security of the state, to make the IDF and Israel strong, and to prevent another Holocaust.”

Tomohiro said he was very grateful for the help he received from Tzvika Levy, he head of the Kibbutz Movement’s Lone Soldiers Program, who found him a host family on Kibbutz Evron.

Daniel Tomohiro

Daniel Tomohiro made aliyah from Japan and now serves in the IDF                                  (Israel Hayom)

Is an armed intifada underway?

Rate of shooting incidents has been increasing in recent weeks, alongside a gradual drop in number of riots and stabbing and vehicular attacks. Hamas, seeking to create an escalation that will lead to PA’s collapse, is behind institutionalized terror threatening to take over conflict.

by Alex Fishman        Ynet News


It’s a ritual which defense establishment officials have predicted, feared and tried to curb – but it’s already here.

This ritual repeats itself in most violent rounds between Israel and the Palestinians. It starts with protests, riots and Molotov cocktails, continues with knifing and vehicular attacks, slowly moves to individuals firing personal weapons, and from there – in a quick quantum leap – it turns into an armed conflict operated by institutionalized terror. We have almost reached the last stage of this ritual.

The weekend events join 32 shooting incidents which have occurred since the current wave of terror began, and 80 similar attacks which have been thwarted by the Shin Bet in the past year, mostly in recent months.

In the past few weeks, the rate of shooting incidents has been increasing. At the same time, there has been a gradual drop in the “quality” of disturbances, the protests are smaller and shorter and attract fewer participants, and the number of lone wolf terrorists who mainly carry out stabbing and vehicular attacks appears to be stabilizing and even decreasing.

One of the reasons for the drop in the number of disturbances stems from the Palestinian Authority’s conduct. PA officials have realized that Hamas, which wishes to bring about the PA’s collapse, is behind the institutionalized terror that is crawling into the conflict and threatening to take over it. That is why the Temple Mount issue, which was the greatest motive for the riots, has suddenly disappeared from the PA’s discourse in the territories.

In general, the PA’s leaders and its representatives on the ground are keeping a low profile: They are not encouraging the wave of violence as much, and not inciting as much. In the past two weeks, the PA’s security forces have even been instructed to stop protestors from flocking to areas of friction with Jews like the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Gush Etzion Junction, etc.

It’s not by chance that the PA is not referring to the recent wave of violence as an intifada. Hamas is the only one using that term. The PA has been calling the current wave “hiba” (leap), “harak” (transfer) or “ghadab” (a fit of anger). The multiple names show that at the meantime, there is no pivotal idea or one leadership for the events. The PA fears the possibility that Hamas will use this wave of events to lead it to an armed intifada in order to bring the PA down.

Israel’s defense establishment and capital have also been discussing this possibility intensively in the past few weeks. The Shin Bet’s activity in the West Bank – in cooperation with the Palestinian security apparatus – is to prevent the PA’s collapse by curbing the effort made by Hamas’ military wing to move to an armed intifada.

Only last month, the Shin Bet arrested a Hamas military infrastructure in Abu Dis, of which most members are students in the local university. This infrastructure, which received money and was operated by Hamas in Gaza, built labs, recruited two suicide bombers and recruited Israeli Arabs to lead the suicide bombers into the Green Line in a bid to reenact the events of the second intifada, including the exploding buses and explosive belts, etc. This infrastructure was located at a mature stage. At the same time, the Shin Bet arrested additional groups in earlier stages of organization.

One of Hamas’s main recruitment and operation centers in the West Bank is based in Turkey. It has recently been reported that Salah Aruri, the person in charge of Hamas’ terrorist activity in the West Bank, was deported from Turkey to Qatar as part of the improving relations with Israel. But this is actually a hypocritical game played by the Erdogan regime vis-à-vis Israel. The Turks asked Aruri to leave several months ago following American pressure.

Hamas’s military wing, however, continues to operate from Istanbul, and Aruri himself comes and goes between Qatar and Turkey. This week, by the way, he is in Istanbul under the protection of the Turkish intelligence, which is also securing him.

BDS and the power of storytelling

by   Annika Hernroth-Rothstein                      Israel Hayom


On Wednesday, there was a multiparty discussion in the Knesset on the threat of anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and how to counter it hosted by representatives from both politics and civil society, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Kulanu MK Michael Oren and Likud MK Anat Berko, among others.

The meeting was meant to focus on the BDS movement that has gained ground throughout the world in the past year, with a wave of new BDS initiatives targeting all aspects of Israeli life from the economy to culture and academia. The EU initiative to label Israeli products made in Judea and Samaria has gotten the most attention, alongside FIFA’s short-lived consideration of the Palestinian motion to exclude Israel from international competition. However, the real battle is smaller in scale but monumental in impact, and it is taking place on campuses across the Diaspora.

The strength of the BDS movement has always been the appearance of it being a grass-roots movement and the David and Goliath effect that BDS activists have spun into their narrative. The fact that they have played the role of the underdog has attracted a youthful set of minions. Campuses are setting for these dramas, filled with young people looking for a cause but lacking the depth of experience and maturity to question the flaws of the theory or the ulterior motives of those peddling the lie. With the BDS movement, they are getting a package, a villain and a downtrodden hero in chains. The anti-Israel machine, and it is surely a well-oiled machine, is handing these kids a story too good to be checked, and faced with the young crowds reminiscent of actual freedom movements of old, most of world media are eating it up with a spoon.

The Israeli anti-BDS initiative is focusing on the wrong thing. One of the factors that has made the BDS movement so successful is the typical lefty collectivist homogeny, but it could never be achieved without a Diaspora Jewry detached from its center — its home.

The BDS movement is attempting to divide and conquer (and nearly succeeding), and this is where the first aid needs to be administered. Jewish students on campuses across the world, and particularly in the U.S., need closeness to the story of Israel, and to have that, they need closeness to Israel itself.

Hasbara (Israeli public diplomacy) has been historically awful, perhaps because Israel does not trust the magic of the story it was literally born to tell. Obsessed with startup nation and Tel Aviv coolness, it has forgotten that the history we hold is the only thing strong enough to compete with the lies the BDS movement peddles. The Palestinian cause is focused on land, peoplehood and oppression, and there is no way we can fight that with IT wonders or pride parades. Only our original truth can compete with their original lie, and rather than commissions and meetings, we need the plainness and honesty to tell it. This is the true test for the Foreign Ministry and the government — to connect campus leaders with the country they, like it or not, represent, and to make them feel that when they are attacked, there are millions of us backing them because we share that very same story.

Stories get handed down in history for a reason. There is real power in the black-and-white narrative, in the seemingly simple and good-and-bad trope. There is big money and big power behind the BDS movement, but it stays hidden and lets its work be done through the innocent and the mundane. To think that we can fight that through committees or legislation is sweet but misguided, because we are sending suits to fight hoodies, which only reaffirms their ideas. Sure, we can take on companies that boycott Israel and go the legal route to stop the flow of madness, but that does little to stem the tide and even adds to their base of recruitment. They work in ideas, and we have to, as well.

When it comes to storytelling, the one who is telling the truth is always limited, but although Israel may be held back by facts in a way the BDS movement never will be, we can certainly use their methods in order to bring the message home. They have promoted their lie as a freedom movement, so we need to remind ourselves that we are the original freedom movement, freed from bondage and brought back home.

We don’t need more hasbara because it really isn’t that complicated. What we need to do to fight BDS is teach our history so that our story can be told, and we must have the back of everyone who tells it.

Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Responsible for Torture

by Khaled Abu Toameh           The Gatestone Institute


For the mainstream media and human rights organizations, human rights violations are news only when they come with a “made in Israel” sticker on them.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has used international aid funds to build prisons and detention centers in the West Bank where torture has become the norm.

Dr. Ammar Dwaik, Director General of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, a Palestinian group, revealed that his group received 782 complaints regarding torture — 168 in the West Bank and 614 in the Gaza Strip.

Both Hamas and the PA each fears that in a free election it could lose some of its power. Why hold an election if you are not sure about the results?

Needed desperately: scrutiny of Palestinian society by international media and human rights groups — beginning with Palestinian prisons. Anyone stepping up?

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are torturing Palestinians. Still.

The two Palestinian governments, the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, are both major violators of human rights. Assaults on public freedoms and crackdowns on political rivals are just the first chapters of a very long story.

Yet this narrative does not appeal to the international community, especially the mainstream media and human rights organizations in the West. For them, human rights violations are news only when they come with a “made in Israel” sticker on them.

Yet their obsession with Israel might just kill the Palestinians. Particularly at risk are those who daily put their lives on the line to halt Hamas and PA violence against their own people.

The Palestinian Authority has used international funds to build prisons and detention centers in the West Bank where torture has become the norm. And Hamas, which in 2007 seized control over the Gaza Strip, transformed the area into a radical Islamist emirate with a startling disregard for human rights and public freedoms.

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), a Palestinian group that seeks to promote “inherent values of justice, equality and human rights,” reports a dramatic rise over the past two years in the number of complaints about torture in Palestinian prisons run by Hamas and the PA.

Dr. Ammar Dwaik, Director General of ICHR, revealed that his group received 782 complaints regarding torture — 614 in the Gaza Strip and 168 in the West Bank. Dwaik noted, however, that the large number of complaints does not necessarily indicate a “big violation” of human rights. Dwaik explained that the torture inflicted upon detained Palestinians by Hamas and PA investigators during interrogations is related to the absence of advanced equipment. “They have to rely mainly on extracting confessions (by force),” he said.

Dwaik means that Palestinian security services lack modern technological tools that could facilitate their work, such as the ability to conduct DNA tests or eavesdropping. That is why interrogators have to resort to violence and torture sometimes to extract confessions from suspects.

Reporting that the number of complaints about torture in the Gaza Strip had sharply increased in 2014 and 2015, Dwaik also blamed economic hardship for the grave human rights violations. He noted the anger and frustration of security officials in the Gaza Strip, many of whom have not received salaries for months. Still, he added, this does not justify torture.

Dwaik also stated that the ICHR received complaints about the detention by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas of 35 Palestinian journalists in 2015. At least another 15 Palestinians were summoned for interrogation or briefly detained for posting controversial comments on social media, especially Facebook.

In recent years the ICHR has made some progress toward raising awareness of human rights among the Palestinian security forces, according to Dr. Dwaik. Yet this progress is likely to be a drop in the proverbial bucket until the international community and media start showing serious interest in the human rights abuses perpetrated by Hamas and the PA.

These undemocratic and repressive regimes have proven themselves utterly incapable of mustering even a minimal degree of tolerance for dissent.

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority also deprive Palestinians of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. In Hamas- and PA-run areas, the right to hold free and fair elections is a dream. For an entire decade, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been unable to vote for a new parliament and president. Neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority desires such elections, each for excellent reasons of its own.

Each side fears that in a free election it could lose some of its power. Why hold an election if you are not sure about the results?

In addition, how can the elections be fair and free when the two parties are cracking down on each other’s supporters?

For both of these regimes, the status quo works. Hamas has within its clutch the entire Gaza Strip, while the Palestinian Authority is sitting pretty in the West Bank, under the protection of the Israel Defense Forces. As every Palestinian child knows, whither the IDF goes, so goes the Palestinian Authority.

Sixty years of failed leadership: that is the true Palestinian tragedy.

Needed desperately: scrutiny of Palestinian society by international media and human rights groups — beginning with a good look Palestinian prisons — to jump-start a Palestinian street intifada against its true oppressors, its leaders. Anyone stepping up?