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Israeli undercover police arrest a young Arab-Israeli citizen in Umm Al-Fahm, an Arab town in northern Israeli, after clashes broke out as extreme right-wing Israeli Jews marched through the town under heavy police escort, Oct. 27, 2010. wall and lower themselves by rope on the other side in order to get into Jerusalem. There they work as laborers on construction projects, sleeping outdoors all week and going home on weekends.They risk their lives in doing so. On Oct. 2 Israeli police shot to death 35-year old Izzedin Qawasmeh, a construction worker with five children, as he tried to climb over the wall. The Israeli amy regards Gaza as a free fire zone, shooting at Palestinians who come within 700 yards of the border and using air strikes to assassinate suspected militants, so that bystanders die as well. On Sept. 11, the day Americans commemorate an act of Islamic terrorism, Israeli tanks crossed the border into Gaza and fired mortar shells that killed 91-year-old Ibrahim Abu Sayed, his grandson Hossam, and a 16-year old neighbor as they tended their land and animals. A neighbor, Majdy Abu Oda, said, “The people here are farmers who have been living here for years. The area is full of observation cameras so the Israelis knew them.” Israel’s May 31 armed attack on the humanitarian flotilla to Gaza returned briefly to the news in late September when the U.N. Human Rights Council announced the results of its investigation. According to the Council, Israel used “unnecessary and incredible” violence in its attack on the Turkish vessel, the Mavi Marmara. Two of the men aboard were shot to death while filming the Israeli commandos, and four others were killed while trying to get out of the way. The Council concluded that the Israeli accounts were “so inconsistent and contrary to the evidence... that it has to reject 10

it.” A U.S. spokesman called the report “unbalanced” but did not deny its accuracy. The Israelis treated a boatload of Jewish peace activists, most of them over 60, only somewhat more gently. As their catamaran carrying humanitarian supplies, the Irene, headed for Gaza on Sept. 28, it was surrounded by Israeli warships and towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod. The captain, Glyn Secker, reported that Israeli commandos ransacked the boat and fired a Tazer directly into the heart of one passenger, former Israeli air force pilot and refusenik Yonatan Shapira. At Ashdod, Secker was arrested and charged with being “illegally” in Israel. “They didn’t laugh when they said it,” he said. Gaza remains a prison, its population living on the edge of destitution. Israel claims to have eased border restrictions, but in fact it allows only 240 truckloads a month to enter Gaza, compared to 5,000 before the closure. Still barred are construction materials and the raw materials and machinery needed for manufacturing. There is a total ban on agricultural exports. The continuing blockade has also caused a severe shortage of schools. At least 100 more are needed to provide for the growing number of Gaza’s children. Because new schools can’t be built, classes hold more than 50 children at a time and are held in shifts. Thousands of students have been turned away. The continued punishment of Gaza’s two million inhabitants is certain to continue until unity is restored between Abbas’ Fatah party and Hamas. Haaretz reported in late September that Hamas had again anTHE WASHINGTON REPORT ON MIDDLE EAST AFFAIRS

nounced it would accept a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, and asked the U.S. to open a dialogue and end its opposition to reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. The message was sent to Washington via a group of American academics and politicians who were visiting Gaza. There has been no public response from the Obama administration. Meanwhile, with help from the U.S., Abbas is cementing the divide between Hamas and Fatah. His 25,000-member security force, trained under the supervision of an American officer, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, cooperates closely with Israeli forces in rounding up, and sometimes killing, Hamas members and their suspected sympathizers. In the Oct. 14 issue of the New York Review of Books, Nathan Thrall writes that Palestinian and Israeli forces working together have “all but eliminated” Hamas’ social institutions, charities, and businesses in the West Bank. Some 1,500 Hamas members, many of them civil servants, are in West Bank prisons. Thrall writes that, shortly after Israel’s 2008-09 assault on Gaza, Dayton spoke before the pro-Israel think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and boasted of his force’s cooperation with Israel in working against Hamas during the war. Fortunately for Washington policymakers, the media’s collective memory is short. News reports seldom mention that Hamas won free and fair elections in 2006 in both the West Bank and Gaza, or that in February 2007 Fatah and Hamas leaders met in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and agreed to form a unity government. Shortly afterward, the Bush administration, in cooperation with Israel and Egypt, funneled arms to Fatah forces in Gaza to allow them to take exclusive control of security in the territory. But in the subsequent fighting, Hamas fighters defeated the Fatah forces and drove them out of Gaza. Thrall quotes former U.N. Middle East envoy Alvarao de Soto as saying the violence might have been avoided had not “The U.S. clearly pushed for a confrontation.” The exclusion of Hamas from peace talks may similarly backfire. If peace negotiations come to a standstill or fail once again to lead to a fully independent Palestine, Palestinians may lose faith not only in Abbas and Fatah, but in diplomacy and nonviolence as well. As Israel’s occupation becomes steadily more oppressive, the impatient are likely to turn to groups far more radical than Hamas—a result that could prove tragic for Palestinians, Israelis, and the entire Middle East. ❑ DECEMBER 2010

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs  

Published to help provide the American public with balanced and accurate information concerning U.S. relations with Middle Eastern states.