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Qassam Logic:
Israel must take the lead

David Kellen *

Jerusalem - The Qassam rocket has never been more powerful than it is at this exact moment. It’s no more accurate or explosive than in the past, but with Israel’s hands tied as we investigate the accidental obliteration of almost an entire family, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are able to fire the rockets unfettered on the poor citizens of Sderot. The situation has many Israelis seething for a response. One of them is MK Avigdor Lieberman.

In an interview on Reshet Bet radio Monday morning, Lieberman called for a dramatic response to the Qassam launchers in Gaza such that the price of each Qassam becomes so high that firing them is no longer "worthwhile." Lieberman’s logic is essentially economic: increase the price, and the demand will go down. The only trouble with it is that terrorism isn’t motivated by the laws of the free market.

This kind of logic ignores two basics facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First, there is a large number of Palestinians willing to give their lives for the continuation of the violence. Not just to risk their lives, but knowingly give them. Any logic that imagines that a bigger price tag on the use of violence will decrease its demand is ridiculous. The Palestinians are willing to pay whatever it takes.

Second, drastic responses don’t work in our conflict. The second intifada saw several massive military incursions into the Gaza Strip and West Bank (Defensive Shield, Days of Awe, Colorful Journey, etc.) that failed to produce long-term reductions in violence. We may have temporarily crippled the terror groups, but all of them invariably grew back stronger than ever. Drastic force is nothing new and has never worked against the Palestinians. And at this moment, when Hamas has cancelled the temporary calm and is calling for renewed suicide bombings, the last thing we need is a headlong dive into escalation that we know is only temporarily effective at best.

MK Lieberman doesn’t understand this, most likely because he doesn’t understand why the Qassams are being fired in the first place. The Palestinians believe they are fighting against oppression and occupation; that they are fighting for their rights. That kind of commitment can’t be snuffed out by turning northern Gaza into a buffer zone and tightening our grip over the Palestinians’ daily lives. Those kinds of tactics will only reinforce the perception of oppression and motivate continued violence.

Yes, the Palestinians are engaging in terrorism and yes, we have the right to defend ourselves. But defending ourselves from Qassam rockets shouldn’t come at the price of creating suicide bombers. Different solutions are called for, solutions that reward the Palestinians for choosing peaceful means.

At this moment Ehud Olmert should do his utmost to bring us back from the brink of renewed violence. That includes issuing a personal apology to the Ralia family, making a direct appeal to PA President Abbas to bring calm and safeguard impending negotiations, and the cessation of all targeted assassinations (except for ticking bombs). It may not be our turn for concessions, but we can expect neither restraint nor compromise if we fail to show either.

If Israel wants to avoid a third intifada, then we’re going to have to take the lead and renew the ceasefire, this time bilaterally. Renewed violence is not in Hamas’ interest either, and with the help of a third party’s good offices (e.g. Turkey or Russia), a ceasefire could be reached. Not because we are weak and not because we are scared, but because it is in our best interests; the only effective solution against the Qassam rocket is diffusing it before it’s fired.

* David Kellen is a graduate student in Conflict Analysis, Management and Resolution and researches peacekeeping operations at the Truman Institute. David Kellen is also an intern at IPCRI - The Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.

Source: Ynet, June 14, 2006
Visit Ynet Online: www.ynet.co.il


Behind the Veils of Hamas
Khaled Duzdar *

Jerusalem - Once again, the domestic Palestinian Internal chaos and anarchy has hit the headlines and the hearts of the Palestinian public. The possibility of the coming Palestinian civil war has become the focal concern and worry of all analysts and the Palestinian public. This internal confrontation and challenges to authorities and powers in Gaza might eventually lead the Palestinians to the worst future they ever envisaged.

The Palestinian public’s stand should be taken seriously in any dialogue between the confronting parties, particularly when all public sectors have taken the initiative and presented their vision for a unified Palestinian position. All of these initiatives followed the same framework: rejecting the deterioration of the situation and calling all parties to adopt a joint political agenda that will achieve a viable, secure, and sustainable Palestinian state, thus averting civil war.

Various Palestinian individuals, factions and organizations claim that the two states solution is the only possible acceptable solution and that the Palestinian National Declaration of Independence from November 1988 is the best basis for any government. These initiatives are a clear call to the Hamas government to adopt this Palestinian National vision and nothing else.

President Abbas was very right in stressing the need to go back to public with a referendum regarding this issue in this sensitive and crucial stage. The referendum might be the right and only possible tool to alleviate the internal Palestinian dispute and the conflict between Hamas and Fateh. The National Conciliation Document of the Prisoners has received wide public support for presenting a united Palestinian stand, but it lacks vision. It would be much more significant if the referendum would present a new joint Palestinian strategic vision, or "a new Palestinian platform," outlining Palestinian interests that could be used to promote a Palestinian platform globally.

Public opinion polls indicate the preferences of the public’s needs and insights. The ultimate support of the public was the pedestal behind the President's statement to the national dialogue opening meeting. The need now is to reach a consensus on a realistic Palestinian strategy and policies for the future.

The outcome of the National dialogue has apparently not yet brought the Palestinians anything more than a modest sign of good will between the different factions. It seems that it did not achieve a consensus on the basic conflict issues, and it does not look like it will present substantial and sustainable solutions for the crisis.

At the same time, the new Hamas government and its Minister of Interior are more determined to bring the situation to a bloody confrontation between the two heads of the Palestinian Authority. For both Abbas and Haniyeh it is a matter of "to be or not to be," a chance they should make the best use of. The Minister of Interior is revisiting his previous wrong decision on redeploying the so-called "support unit" in the streets of Gaza.

The mistaken decision of using unofficial forces to maintain security in Gaza is wrong and it will not bring security for the Palestinian public. This hasty decision came only as a challenge to Fateh and its affiliated members. The message is that "Hamas and only Hamas are in power and control the Authority." This has created the worst kind of situation that the Palestinian public needs these days. The unasked and unanswered questions remain, why do we need all of these armed militias in Gaza and who exactly is the enemy there?

Governing the people doesn’t mean deploying armed guerillas in the streets under the name of "creating security". The enforcement of law and order has to be carried out by an official, legitimate, constitutionally-recognized authority, not by those who are themselves considered outlaws.

The deployment of these well-armed guerillas has proven that Hamas has worked intensively on their army. They have made great efforts to prepare this army for defending Hamas and its existence. They used the period of calm with Israel to do all their preparation in training and equipping it with personnel and arms necessary for ruling the Palestinians. This army was not prepared to fight the occupation; they were only prepared to fight the Palestinian leadership and to take over from Fateh, the Palestinian Authority, and the PLO.

President Abbas should be aware that the Palestinians do not need a new army or "new Presidential force," which will only bring additional and unnecessary financial burdens. The solution lies not in hiring more fighters, certainly not while the Palestinian leadership is unable to pay the salaries of former forces and incapable of integrating the militias into existing forces.

The new Hamas government should concentrate more on bringing substantial solutions for daily public concerns, which is the internal security in its broadest meaning - not guns in the streets. The Hamas-led government would be much better off focusing their attention and energies on the financial and economic solutions for the devastating economic situation. The Hamas-led government should start thinking of effective, realistic steps to end the Palestinian crisis. The Palestinian people and their existence should be on top of their agenda. Sacrifices are needed and the Government should start by adopting the right policies, not by sacrificing the lives of the people.

Hamas must consider changing its dogmatic stands. First they could concentrate on how to unify the Palestinian people, and if that isn’t possible, they should think more on how to prevent a civil war, even if that requires the government to resign and to call for new elections. This is not the time to challenge ourselves with dangerous internal wars. The collective interests of the Palestinian public should always be above the particular interests of any one group or faction.

Further enhancing the chaos, it seems that Hamas itself isn't unified under one leadership and one agenda. There seems to be real contradictions between the positions of the internal Hamas leadership and the external leadership in Damascus. It is becoming more apparent that there is a growing crisis inside Hamas. Moreover, it is now obvious that PM Haniyeh has not won with the full support of the Hamas leadership.

The external leadership of Hamas that controls Hamas’s militia (Al-Qasam brigades) seems to remains a higher authority than the local leadership. The local hardliners and the external leadership are working together on a different agenda which is incompatible with the National Dialogue and that will lead very soon to serious divisions inside Hamas.

Hamas’s external leadership, which is hosted by the Syrian government, is playing into the hands of Syria and Iran to serve their regional interests. This policy will exacerbate the Palestinian position and cause, and once again, the Palestinian cause will be utilized by outsiders to serve their own strategic and regional interests.

If the attempts of reaching national consensus fail, the Palestinian President should think seriously about dissolving the government and calling for an emergency government. This is not to counter Hamas and its strategy, but rather for saving the Palestinians from total destruction and an endless internal conflict. The Palestinian public is patient enough to give Hamas a limited carte blanche to prove that they are capable, but as long Hamas is not making progress, they should not forget that they are accountable to the public and the public will not wait forever while the entire society is deteriorating. They would be wise to make decisions in the best interests of securing peace and security for Palestinians and in advancing what most Palestinians want – the creation of an independent, sovereign and viable state that will live in peace with its neighbors.


* Khaled Duzdar is the Co-Director of the Strategic Affairs Unit of IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information www.ipcri.org. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.

Source: The IPCRI News Service, June 1, 2006.

Visit The IPCRI News Service Online: www.ipcri.org

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service.

Copyright permission has been obtained for publication.



One bowl serves many
Rachel Shabi *

Tel-Aviv - Israeli and Palestinian artists have joined forces to send a message of reconciliation. Their exhibition, which opened on Saturday, drew more than 2,500 people to at the Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan, in suburban Tel Aviv.

‘Offering Reconciliation’ showcases the work of more than 130 Israeli and Palestinian artists, who took part in the project for the Bereaved Families Forum for Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance. The group hopes to spread its message to a wider audience through art.

"To reach a different people, you need different mediums," says Aziz Abu Sarah, one of the forum directors. "Even people who disagree with our message were able to come to the exhibition and see what we are doing."

The exhibition features artists such as Menashe Kadishman, Dani Karavan and Mohammad Said Kalash alongside emerging talents.

Each artist was given an identical ceramic bowl from which to create their work.

"The bowl is connected with the basic gesture of feeding, or giving," says Dafna Zmora, one of the exhibition curators. "It is something that contains – a message or an idea." Some artists smashed the bowl and presented a work from its pieces. Others built sculptures with the bowl as a base or used the bowl as a canvas for paintings.

"They each took the commission in a personal direction, each with their own interpretation of the reconciliation narrative and the elements that derive from it – co-existence, pain and loss, fracture and unity," says Orna Tamir Shastovitz, who led the initiative.

"Each one of the artists is presenting a special bowl of reconciliation, a bowl of peace and hope, of art instead of animosity."

Aliza Olmert, wife of the Israeli prime minister, contributed to the show. Her plate is painted black, with the Hebrew words: "Jews do not evict Arabs do not evict Jews do not evict..." in a continuous loop covering the bowl.

Dalia Riesel, an Israeli artist, sculpted a pair of human hands emerging from coiled rope onto a blood-red bowl. The hands are trying to grasp olive leaves, the symbol of peace, which are scattered on the plate."The piece is a woman's womb, covered with rope, with the hands emerging and trying to reach the olive leaves," says Riesel. "The leaves are just out of reach, but hopefully the hands will get there one day."

Jalal Kamel depicts a Palestinian man chiseling the word "peace" in three languages on to a large stone. The stone is intended as a symbol of Palestine – representing its buildings and its famous export, Kamel says. "The message is very clear. The man is writing peace on the stone, a solid thing in the ground that nobody can take out – no force, no state can remove it," the Bethlehem artist says.

Kamel was one of the many Palestinian artists who could not attend the exhibition. He was not granted a permit to enter Israel. Abu Sarah says only about 20 Palestinians attended the opening."That's the sad part," he says. "The government claims to want a peaceful solution, and then fights the peaceful attempts of people such as ourselves."

The organisers plan to take the exhibition on tour, in Israel and Palestine and then overseas.

The original idea had been to auction the pieces to raise funds for the project – taking reconciliation workshops into Israeli and Palestinian schools. However, James Wolfensohn, who stepped down recently as the special envoy to
the Quartet to the Middle East, donated money to the forum so the works could remain together.

The bereaved families forum started in 1994 and is made up of hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones in the conflict. The forum has organised study days and seminars for adults and dialogue meetings and summer camps for children.

Just after the start of the second intifada, the group took 1,200 fake coffins bearing Israeli and Palestinian flags to the UN office in New York. "We wanted to show that people dying is not just a number," says Abu Sarah.

At the opening of this latest show - which, according to the museum drew one of its largest attendance figures - visitors crowded to see the display of bowls, often lingering over a particular piece. "When I heard that there are people who were willing to sit and speak and work together, I had to come and see their exhibition," says Sarah Breitberg-Semel, a curator and lecturer from Tel Aviv. "It is so much the opposite of what is happening on a political level. I can't tell you how much of a strong impact that has on me."


* Rachel Shabi is the Tel-Aviv correspondent for Aljazeera. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.

Source: Al Jazeera, May 16, 2006.

Visit Al Jazeera Online: http://english.aljazeera.net


hagalil.com 29-06-2006



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