More Ways the Right is Destroying Israel

I’m in a lot of pain. I’ve been a supporter of Israel for all my adult life. I think Israel’s claim to that area is just as legitimate as that of the Palestinians. The partition of Palestine and the establishment of Israel was followed almost immediately by the attacks of the Arab neighboring states. Palestinians left mostly–some were driven out by the kind of atrocities which happen in all wars, but most left, relying on the promises of the Arab countries. Moreover, Israelis were also driven out of through atrocity as well. In fact more Jews were displaced in Arab and Muslim countries than Palestinians in Palestine.

It also seems to me that the evidence is very clear. Hamas started the most recent Gaza conflict. Investigators have been regularly finding justification for Israel’s attacks on schools and other supposedly neutral facilities as they uncover caches of Hamas rockets and other weapons hidden in private residences, hospitals and schools. Hamas continues to pursue the goal of driving all Israelis into the Mediterranean and continues to state that ALL Jews are to be killed. Even some Arab countries are supporting Israel’s fight against both Hamas and Hezbolleh.

All of that is true and much more. But it is not a justification for the policies of Israel against West Bank Palestinians. Today, the latest land grab was declared. You can read the facts in this article from Reuters through Huffington Post. The “Settlements” are an abomination. The right-wing policies of Netanyahu are destroying Israeli credibility and fueling the delegitimacy movement.

The whole Settlement movement is the recipient of 100s of millions of dollars from US pseudo-Christians who call themselves Christian Zionists. There is no justification for this kind of exploitation. It is time to put an end to supporting the Israeli right. They are as bereft of moral standing as the right is in the US.

Sure it pains me to have to say all this. I have Israeli friends and colleagues whom I love. I continue to support their right to exist in that place, but not the continued theft of Palestinian lands nor the treatment Palestinians receive from the Conservative, Right-wing, UltraOrthodox Israeli government. I could not maintain my own integrity if I don’t speak out.

Israel Announces Massive West Bank Land Grab

Posted: 08/31/2014 8:30 pm EDT Updated: 2 hours ago
 

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014.  Israel's prime minister declared victory Wednesday in the recent war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, saying the military campaign had dealt a heavy blow and a cease-fire deal gave no concessions to the Islamic militant group.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Israel announced on Sunday a land appropriation in the occupied West Bank that an anti-settlement group termed the biggest in 30 years, drawing Palestinian condemnation and a U.S. rebuke.

Some 400 hectares (988 acres) in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem were declared “state land, on the instructions of the political echelon” by the military-run Civil Administration.

 

“We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” a State Department official said in Washington, calling the move “counterproductive” to efforts to achieve a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel Radio said the step was taken in response to the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teens by Hamas militants in the area in June.

Tensions stoked by the incident quickly spread to Israel’s border with Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, and the two sides engaged in a seven-week war that ended on Tuesday with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.

The notice published on Sunday by the Israeli military gave no reason for the land appropriation decision.

Peace Now, which opposes Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank, territory the Palestinians seek for a state, said the appropriation was meant to turn a site where 10 families now live adjacent to a Jewish seminary into a permanent settlement.

Construction of a major settlement at the location, known as “Gevaot”, has been mooted by Israel since 2000. Last year, the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 housing units at the site.

Peace Now said the land seizure was the largest announced by Israel in the West Bank since the 1980s and that anyone with ownership claims had 45 days to appeal. A local Palestinian mayor said Palestinians owned the tracts and harvested olive trees on them.

Israel has come under intense international criticism over its settlement activities, which most countries regard as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state in any future peace deal.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called on Israel to cancel the appropriation. “This decision will lead to more instability. This will only inflame the situation after the war in Gaza,” Abu Rdainah said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke off U.S.-brokered peace talks with Abbas in April after the Palestinian leader reached a reconciliation deal with Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates the Gaza Strip.

In a series of remarks after an open-ended ceasefire halted the Gaza war, Netanyahu repeated his position that Abbas would have to sever his alliance with Hamas for a peace process with Israel to resume.

The administration of President Barack Obama, who has been at odds with Netanyahu over settlements since taking office in 2009, pushed back against the land decision. It was the latest point of contention between Washington and its top Middle East ally Israel, which also differ over Iran nuclear talks.

“We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity,” said the State Department official, who declined to be identified.

“This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve and construction tender they issue, is counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians,” the official said.

After the collapse of the last round of U.S.-brokered peace talks, U.S. officials cited settlement construction as one of the main reasons for the breakdown, while also faulting the Palestinians for signing a series of international treaties and conventions.

Israel has said construction at Gevaot would not constitute the establishment of a new settlement because the site is officially designated a neighborhood of an existing one, Alon Shvut, several km (miles) down the road.

Some 500,000 Israelis live among 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory that the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Middle East war. (Reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem, Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Andrea Ricci)

Oh, Big Pharma, That Explains It

Really?  No surprise here. You wonder where all the phony anti Marijuana “data” comes from. It comes from the pocketbook of the pharmaceutical industry. This article is from Ring of Fire.

(Ring of Fire is one of the best commenting news sources on the Internet.

medicalmarijuana

Painkiller Drug Companies Are Funding Anti-Marijuana Research

Painkiller-producing drug companies have been paying top, scientific researchers to compile and publish skewed findings that overemphasize the dangers of marijuana, Vice Reported. But should that come as any surprise? Drug companies are powerful and ridiculously rich entities that will stoop to any low level to protect profits.

According to Lee Fang, leading companies Purdue Pharma (Oxycontin), Reckitt Benckiser (Nurofen), and Alkermes (Zohydro) are among the main culprits. Dr. Herbert Kleber of Columbia University is a well-known and highly regarding medical researcher who has produced anti-marijuana opinions for many news outlets, and he is paid by these companies to do so.

As medical marijuana support gains traction in America, drug companies have become very concerned for their profits as a surge of research has shown that marijuana is a much safer alternative to addictive and deadly, synthetic painkillers. Fang reported that painkillers kill 16,000 people a year while there has yet to be a single reported, official or unofficial, marijuana overdose.

Dr. A. Eden Evins is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, staunch critic of marijuana, and also paid by the drug companies. Her opinions on marijuana have been misguided by Big Pharma’s payouts. “When people can go to a ‘clinic’ or ‘cafe’ and buy pot, that creates the perception that it’s safe,” said Evins. However, she neglects to mention the hundreds, maybe thousands, of “pain clinics” spread across the country that give easy access to deadly painkillers.

Employing a handful of doctors, would-be patients could walk-in without an appointment and see a doctor with any supposed symptom or ailment; back pain, toothaches, depression, boredom, unemployment, and walk out with a prescription for synthetic, opioid painkillers.

As Fang noted, drug companies that produce these deadly medicines have remained as silent partners and financial contributors, Purdue and Alkermes being among the top funders for anti-marijuana initiatives. Recent studies have illustrated the impact that legalized, medical marijuana has had opioid use.

JAMA Internal Medicine published a study this week stating that states with legalized, medical marijuana have enjoyed a 25 percent decrease in opioid-related overdose deaths. Patients, who would otherwise be taking painkillers for their ailments, have turned to medical marijuana to alleviate their symptoms.

According to countless studies, medical marijuana relieves the same symptoms as painkillers with the same effectiveness without the harmful, and sometimes deadly, side effects.

Snowballing support and recent studies that are increasingly showing the benefits of medical marijuana are sure to be making the drug companies nervous. Marijuana has been proven numerous times to provide better, safer relief for ailments including: pain, depression, anxiety, nausea, loss of appetite, and many more. The drug companies seem to be fighting a losing battle, and in this case, public opinion has been beating about Big Pharma’s dollars.

Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.

Let’s Hear It For Ganja!

I’m becoming more and more unhappy about government curbs on many non-addictive drugs. We keep hearing about the use of psilocibin mushrooms in treating anxieties and depression. Studies at several university medical schools have shown that it is more effective than the psychotropic anti-depressants sold by Big Pharma with zero to few side-effects.

Now here is another study that shows the potential benefits of marijuana–even when not identified as “medical marijuana.”

This article is from the excellent source, Science Daily.

 

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations
 

Study finds less domestic violence among married couples who smoke pot

Date:
August 26, 2014
 
Source:
University at Buffalo
 
Summary:
New research findings from a study of 634 couples found that the more often they smoked marijuana, the less likely they were to engage in domestic violence. “These findings suggest that marijuana use is predictive of lower levels of aggression towards one’s

Hamas Discovered by Media

The major news media have been AWOL during the Gaza conflict. They have not reported on Hamas tactics, strategies or Hamas’ war crimes. Moreover Hamas has fed them large amounts of rabid propaganda and the news media have duly reported it as news.

Only now, as the reporters and photographers pull out of the way of the Hamas terrorist reach and threats are some of them releasing accounts that contradict what they were shown. These include videos of Hamas setting up rockets near hospitals and in residential areas. Now they are beginning to report on the extent to which Hamas ran the same victims in front of the reporters several times in order to increase the count of the wounded children. It is reminiscent of the widely published photo, also published by Hamas some years ago, showing what purported to be six different bomb craters, but quickly demonstrated to be nothing but PhotoShop.

This article is well protected so that I am unable to copy it. That’s okay as the link is here:

The New Republic: What Took So Long?

Please use the link to read this report.

An Intelligent Voice on Hamas

This evening I had an unpleasant conversation with a good friend who is also an extreme anti-Israel, pro-Hamas partisan. While he would say that he is pro-Palestinian, which he is, when I brought up the basic issues of the Hamas missiles and the wording of the Hamas Covenant including these clauses: ‘Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.’ and ‘The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him,’ he had some excuse that other documents don’t say these things and Hamas no longer holds them.

But if so, why don’t they change them? They don’t make the change because Hamas continues to be an extreme, fanatical terrorist group.

This was a very uncomfortable discussion with someone I respect and with whom I am often in agreement. But on this subject, he, and his church associates are fanatical supporters of the effort to delegitimize Israel.

This article has a much more enlightened view. It comes from Huffington Post.

Israel-Gaza: War, Terrorism and Change in the Middle East

Posted: 08/02/2014 12:30 pm EDT

The current conflict in Gaza has polarized the world and pitted those with Palestinian and Israeli sympathies against each other in a way that has rarely been seen before. Inundated by images of human suffering, people are understandably emotional about the conflict.

Still, as the crisis in the Middle East deepens, it is important to differentiate between the humanitarian aspect and the geopolitical one. On the humanitarian side, the loss of civilian life is deplorable and should be criticized. A dead child should stir our conscience no matter what our views on the religious and cultural history of Israel and Palestine.

But on the geopolitical side, things are not so black and white. It’s tempting to cast this conflict as a battle between Muslim Arabs and Jews, but it is also inaccurate. This latest battle is really a struggle between a new Middle East and the old one. In other words, a Middle East trying to enter the modern world (however haltingly) of economic and social development and moving away from religious and tribal strife. The birth of this new Middle East, as the bloody and chaotic aftermath of the Arab Spring shows, has been a difficult one and the Israel-Gaza conflict is an extension of that.

While scholars, journalists, and political analysts routinely focus on historical and cultural context to explain the conflict, they often miss, or even deliberately ignore, the core issue of Islamic fanaticism that Hamas represents and which most of the world fears. That fanaticism, and the violence that accompanies it, is the real reason that the U.S., Egypt, and other moderate Arab nations are either rallying behind Israel or at least refusing to side with Hamas. Israel, for good or bad, represents a geographical and strategic defense against forces of Islamist extremism in the region.

The popular belief that U.S. support of Israel in the Gaza conflict is about oil is mostly fantasy. The U.S. is moving rapidly towards energy independence, driven by the proliferation of natural gas and renewable energy, thereby reducing its dependence on Middle East oil. Even the theory of ‘peak oil’, which postulates that American oil supplies are about to peak and then decline dramatically, is now viewed as doubtful as new technologies for drilling and untapped oil reserves increasingly reduce the shortfall from existing wells. It’s also equally fallacious to believe that U.S. policy is dictated by Jewish money in Congress since the Arab nations have plenty of money to counter any influence. The reason for the U.S. support of Israel is none of these things but about the need to curb the power of a militant organization like Hamas.

Equally telling is the Arab reaction to the conflict. Egypt, which shares a cultural and religious affinity with the Palestinians, is nevertheless refusing to back them and has even closed its border. As a CNN report points out, this is because Egypt has grown tired of religious violence and is afraid of being infected by the extremism of Hamas; and other Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, usually quick to blame Israel for any conflict, are clearly reticent to do so this time.

The Middle East (or parts of it anyway) are shunning fundamentalism openly by rejecting the narrative of Hamas as a group of freedom fighters and treating them instead as the military and political arm of an extremist religious faction which derives its power through conflict with Israel that it is. This is not a pro-Jewish stance but it is an anti-terrorism one.

To ignore this obvious fact is to turn a blind eye to reality and in the process make it impossible for a better future to unfold in Gaza. This also sidelines what could be a major step forward for the Middle East and an encouraging sign of a movement towards modernization and secularism. The stance against fundamentalism represents change and hope for the Middle East (and perhaps the world), and yet few observers are giving it its due – opting instead to focus only on the humanitarian aspect of this conflict while ignoring the geopolitical one.

Let’s be clear. The Gaza conflict needs to end soon, but it will not happen unilaterally. As Hamas’ irresponsible violation of the 72-hour ceasefire by killing Israeli soldiers shows, the group cares less about the welfare of Palestinians and more about its own religious and political goals of terrorizing Israel and establishing an Islamic regime along the lines of an ISIS. That does not mean that the Israeli government does not share blame for the humanitarian crisis created by this war, but given the incessant rain of rockets on its territory and the very real threat posed by the tunnels under Gaza, it is highly unlikely that Netanyahu can back down without the disarmament of Hamas.

The world now needs to exert pressure on Hamas to stop fighting unconditionally, and after that, on Israel to create a long term solution for the Palestinians that will almost certainly not give either side everything it wants but maybe enough to end the cycle of violence. The shift in perspective in the Arab world might facilitate this.

This dual viewpoint may not be satisfying for people who prefer to indulge their outrage instead but it is the only one that can resolve the situation.

Sanjay Sanghoee is a political and business commentator. He is also the author of two thriller novels. Follow him @sanghoee.

The Israelis are getting clobbered  in the media. All my progressive/liberal/leftist friends are cheering for Hamas.
This is a more realistic version of the Hamas atrocity.
Let’s be clear, it does not excuse Israeli right-wing policies against the Palestinians in the West Bank. It also does not excuse the Christian Zionists from the US, who donate large sums to establishing settlements in Palestinian territory. But to try to prevent the predations of Hamas is self-defense.
This column was found in Huffington Post. You may read the who thing there.

“We have urged them, implored them to use their influence to do whatever they can to get that soldier returned. Absent that, the risk of this continuing to escalate, leading to further loss of life is very high.”

So spoke a State Department official regarding John Kerry’s calls to Turkish and Qatari leaders regarding the Israeli soldier presumed to have been abducted. But one has to wonder to what end. The Qataris, in particular — who never met a radical Islamist group they did not like — fully understand the value of the abduction of a soldier to Hamas, and will do little or nothing, regardless of Kerry’s pleas.

Nor would a return of the soldier have the effect that Kerry imagines. If anything, the abduction itself will only steel the resolve of Israeli leaders, and the vast majority of Israelis themselves who now support the determination of their government to destroy the Hamas tunnel network. It is the abduction itself that emphasizes the risk to individual Israelis of the Hamas tunnels that are exactly designed to create a new threat of abduction and attacks within Israel proper. The return of the soldier will not mitigate the psychological impact of the abduction itself.

Like John Kerry, many American observers seem to bend over backward to not acknowledge the central premise of Hamas strategy. Media reports describing Israeli attacks on a school or a hospital leave a listener wondering at its abject cruelty. Democrat Hilary Clinton suggested that Hamas puts missiles in schools because Gaza is so small, suggesting there is not enough room for them elsewhere. Republican Joe Scarborough raged against Israel attacking a school, never questioning whether there was a reason for targeting the school other than to unleash carnage on the local population seeking shelter there. There is a better way, he states bluntly, but he does not suggest what that is.

Like the abduction of the soldier, which Hamas hopes will draw Israel deeper into a land war on its soil, each Hamas tactic is designed primarily around the Israeli response it will engender. Hamas places missiles in schools precisely because when Israel strikes to destroy the missiles, it will produce images of death and devastation that will be broadcast worldwide. Hamas places the entrance to tunnels into Israel beneath hospitals and mosques for the same reason. It may be a general principle of the laws of war that using civilian populations as shields against attack is a war crime, and that civilian deaths that result from attacks on military assets placed deliberately within civilian areas are the responsibility of the party that put the civilians at risk. Yet this is central to Hamas strategy, and the resulting outrage across the world is evidence that legal principles have little salience in the battle for the hearts and minds of the world audience.

And the Hamas strategy is working. At a time when Nouri al Maliki and Basher al Assad are dropping barrel bombs on civilian villages, at a time ISIS has expelled the entire Christian population of Mosel under threat of beheading — and in some areas reportedly implemented a policy of forced clitorectomies — it is the actions of Israel in Gaza that draws protesters into the street in cities across Europe. While the Shi’a and Sunni are massacring each other in far greater numbers, can it really be that the outrage of the world is only peaked when it is Jews who are killing Arabs? How can it be that in a Middle East that has erupted in turmoil, it is only Israel’s war with Hamas that the United Nations Human Rights Council has decided should be subject to a war crimes inquiry for “indiscriminate attacks on civilians.”

Last week, the United Nations made a mockery of itself and that decision. When a UN agency found that two of its schools were being used as missile bunkers by Hamas — schools adjacent to facilities for displaced Palestinians — the UN agency did not that the missiles be destroyed, or perhaps taken away by an international agency, but rather that they be removed from the school by Hamas. Thus, within the same week, the UN delivered back to Hamas missiles whose only conceivable use is for firing at civilian populations in Israel, thereby becoming an active co-conspirator in exactly the type of war crime it announced that it is seeking to investigate.

It is a terrible and ugly libel to suggest that Hamas’ actions are somehow evidence that Palestinian mothers and fathers love their children less than do any other parents. This point was argued vehemently by an Al Jazeera op-ed in the wake of an earlier Hamas war, and indeed to make such an argument is to deny the basic humanity of the victims of missile strikes in Gaza. The author scoffed at the words of Golda Meir to Anwar El Sadat as they moved toward a peace accord — “We can forgive you for killing our sons, but we will never forgive you for making us kill yours” — as a thinly veiled attempt to wrap the devastation Israel inflicts in a veil of moral piety.

But for all the author’s moral outrage — outrage that is mirrored now across the world — he declined to address the central charge that has been heard repeatedly over the years: How can Palestinian parents continue to support leaders within their community who would deliberately use their children as human shields? The fact that this Hamas war was provoked more to elevate Hamas’ own standing than to achieve any concrete results — beyond lifting an economic isolation that Hamas itself provoked — makes the question of Palestinian passivity in that regard all the more troubling. There is nothing new about Hamas’ tactics, and its leaders have been upfront about their willingness to sacrifice Palestinian children — along with the rest of the civilian population — in pursuit of their own strategic goals. Even as we watch image after image of stricken Palestinians mourning their dead children, we hear the corresponding words of a Hamas official: “What are 200 martyrs compared with lifting the siege?” Indeed, according to a paper in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Hamas–the elected government of Palestinians in Gaza–willfully sacrificed more that 160 Gazan children before any fighting in the digging of the tunnels themselves.

Within the progressive Jewish world — where the anguish expressed in Golda Meir’s words is deeply felt — there is always an outcry when Israeli bombs kill Palestinian civilians, both out of moral outrage for the death and destruction and because of the ultimate bankruptcy of an Israeli strategy for which there is no endgame. But with each successive conflict, as Hamas missiles reach deeper into the country and the tunnels are deeper and longer, those voices become less vocal. While for some the broader conflicts in the region have emphasized the importance of pressuring Israel to remove settlements from confiscated Palestinian lands and live within its internationally accepted borders, for others the emergence of ISIS has only emphasized the long history of conflicts in the region and made the Hamas commitment to the destruction of Israel the sine qua non of the conflict. It is neither a metaphor nor a bargaining chip.

It is hard for many to accept the implications of that stance, but with each war Hamas aids our understanding and acceptance of their commitment. Indeed, Hamas has achieved what Bibi Netanyahu could not: it has forced progressive Jews to understand, if not accept, the logic of Israeli policies that they have long fought. Progressive Jews might have objected to Israel blocking the shipments of building materials and concrete into Gaza, but in this war the world has seen the complex network of tunnels built with an estimated six hundred thousand tons of concrete that we were told was urgently needed for schools and hospitals that were never built. Progressive Jews might have objected that Israeli was needlessly undermining Gaza economic development by preventing the development of a Gaza port, but the vast store of missiles is evidence that the boarded ships found to be filled with armaments intended to be used to kill Israelis were but the tip of the iceberg. Thus, the voices on the Jewish left have become muted.

John Kerry hopes that the growing destruction might have brought a moment of greater clarity where each side would be looking for a reason to stand down. But instead, the cunning of Hamas strategy is evident as more of its constituents are killed or maimed, even as it claims victory over the forces of the occupation. With each such claim — and now with the apparent abduction of a soldier — Hamas only confirms the belief on the part of Israeli leaders — and Hamas antagonists in Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well — that the war has not yet reached is necessary political conclusion. While Kerry pleas for Hamas to undo its latest provocation, it is apparent that neither side is listening, nor willing to stand down. Israel and Hamas are engaged in a battle that each believes can only end with Hamas forcing Israel and Egypt to yield to its terms, or being destroyed as a political force. Unless, of course, the Palestinians of Gaza themselves finally stand up and demand an end to Hamas’ leadership, which has done so much to destroy their community.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Gaza: Another View

My “progressive” news sources continue to fall all over themselves to decry Israel’s part in the Gaza conflict. They ignore the fact that instead of building homes, schools, hospitals with the construction materials that were allowed into Gaza, Hamas diverted those materials to build a sophisticated and elaborate underground tunnel structure under many residential areas which end with hundreds of tunnels under the border into Israel for the purpose of kidnapping, and terrorizing Israelis. The extent of this tunnel system has amazed foreign observers. (And embarrassed Israeli intelligence and military who, while knowing about some tunnels, had no idea of the extent of the construction.)

This article from the New York Times provides a more balanced perspective including the political gains for which Hamas was aiming in starting this conflict. (Oh, you didn’t know that Hamas started it when they stepped up their missile and rocket attacks to over 100 a day and sent them even beyond southern Israel? You didn’t hear about the three Israeli teenagers abducted and killed by Hamas? You heard about the Palestinian child who was murdered and burned. Did you hear about the arrest and prosecution of the Israelis who perpetrated this crime?)

Hamas Gambled on War as Its Woes Grew in Gaza

GAZA CITY — When war between Israel and Hamas broke out two weeks ago, the Palestinian militant group was so hamstrung, politically, economically and diplomatically, that its leaders appeared to feel they had nothing to lose.

Hamas took what some here call “option zero,” gambling that it could shift the balance with its trump cards: its arms and militants.

Now, this conflict has demonstrated that while Hamas governed over 1.7 million people mired in poverty, its leaders were pouring resources into its military and expanding its ability to fight Israel. If it can turn that improved military prowess into concessions, like opening the border with Egypt, that may boost its standing among the people of Gaza — although at an extraordinarily high cost in deaths and destruction.

“There were low expectations in terms of its performance against the recent round of Israeli incursions. It’s been exceeding all expectations,” said Abdullah Al-Arian, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar who is currently in Washington. “And it’s likely to come out in a far better position than in the last three years, and maybe the last decade.”

Photo

 

Smoke trails rockets launched from Gaza towards Israel on Tuesday. Credit Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Hamas had been struggling. The turmoil in the region meant it lost one of its main sponsors, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whom it broke with over his brutal fight against a Sunni Muslim-led insurgency, and weakened its alliance with Iran. It lost support in Egypt when the Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted and replaced with a military-backed government hostile to Hamas.

Unemployment in Gaza is around 50 percent, having risen steeply since Israel pulled out its troops and settlers in 2005 and severely tightened border restrictions.

Hamas appeared powerless to end the near-blockade of its border by Israel and more recently Egypt. It could not even pay its 40,000 government workers their salaries.

The group was so handicapped that it agreed to enter into a pact with its rival party, Fatah, to form a new government. But that seemed only to make matters worse, sowing division within its own ranks, with some in the military wing angry at the concession, while providing none of the economic relief Hamas had hoped for.

Photo

 

A woman, center, was comforted after the missile attack in Yahud. Credit Dan Balilty/Associated Press

When Hamas sent a barrage of rockets into Israel, simmering hostilities, and back and forth strikes, erupted into war.

At first, when Hamas rockets were being intercepted mainly by Israel’s Iron Dome system as Israel hit Gaza with devastating force, the group strove to persuade its supporters that it was having enough impact on Israel to wrest concessions: Its radio stations blared fictional reports about Israeli casualties.

But as it wore on, the conflict revealed that Hamas’s secret tunnel network leading into Israel was far more extensive, and sophisticated, than previously known. It also was able to inflict some pain on Israel, allowing Hamas to declare success even as it drew a devastating and crushing response. Its fighters were able to infiltrate Israel multiple times during an intensive Israeli ground invasion. Its militants have killed at least 27 Israeli soldiers and claim to have captured an Israeli soldier who was reported missing in battle, a potentially key bargaining chip.

And on Tuesday its rockets struck a blow to Israel — psychological and economic — by forcing a halt in international flights. Hamas once again looks strong in the eyes of its supporters, and has shown an increasingly hostile region that it remains a force to be reckoned with.

Behind the Escalations in Gaza

 

Hamas, Mr. Arian said, has demonstrated that “as a movement, it is simply not going anywhere.”

But Hamas’s gains could be short-lived if it does not deliver Gazans a better life. Israel says its severe restrictions on what can be brought into Gaza, such as construction materials, are needed because Hamas poses a serious security threat, and the discovery of the tunnels has served only to validate that concern.

So far, at least 620 Palestinians have died, around 75 percent of them civilians, according to the United Nations, including more than 100 children. Gazans did not get a vote when Hamas chose to escalate conflict, nor did they when Hamas selected areas near their homes, schools and mosques to fire rockets from the densely populated strip. At the family house of four boys killed last week by an Israeli strike while playing on a beach, some wailing women cursed Hamas along with Israel.

“It comes at an exceptionally high price,” said Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former adviser to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. “When the bombs stop and the dust settles, people might have different calculations about cost-benefit.”

Photo

 

A home that was destroyed by a Hamas missile near Ben Gurion International Airport in Yahud, near Tel Aviv. Credit Gideon Markowicz/European Pressphoto Agency

It is also unclear whether, when the fighting ends, Hamas will have the same kind of foreign support it has had in the past to rebuild its arsenal or its infrastructure; Egypt, under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has destroyed hundreds of the tunnels that were used to bring in arms, money and supplies, and has kept the proper border crossing mostly closed. There are also some diplomatic efforts underway seeking to force Hamas to surrender its weapons in exchange for a cease-fire, a demand it is not likely to accept.

Omar Shaban, an economist and political independent, sat in his walled garden in the southern Gaza town of Deir al-Balah as shells crackled nearby and said he fervently hoped, but also doubted, that both Hamas and Israel’s government would reach for a substantive deal.

“This war will end tomorrow or after tomorrow, we will have another cease-fire, we will have another siege and Hamas will continue to run the scene,” he said.

“Gaza is a big problem for everybody, for Hamas, for Fatah, for Israel,” he added, ticking off the list: shortages of water, housing and medicine, a population explosion, growing extremism.

Graphic

The Toll in Gaza and Israel, Day by Day

The daily tally of rocket attacks, airstrikes and deaths in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

OPEN Graphic

In exchange for a cease-fire, Hamas is demanding Israel and Egypt open their borders to end the restrictions on the movement of people and goods — the most immediate issue for ordinary Gazans. It is also asking for the release of prisoners — but avoiding the deeper political issues of the conflict.

Mr. Shaban said that Hamas, confronted in recent years with the often conflicting requirements of its roles as an armed resistance group and a governing party, for once was “being clever enough to demand conditions that are in touch with the people. The people are realistic.”

Bassem Naim, a member of Hamas’s political wing and a former health minister in Gaza, acknowledged that relations have soured with Iran and the Arab world, but said that it could survive.

“I can’t deny the difficulty,” he said in a recent interview. “But Hamas was active and operating here inside the country before the Muslim Brotherhood was in the presidential palace” in Egypt.

Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006, but an international boycott prevented it from governing. It returned to power in Gaza in 2007 after ousting the Fatah-led government by force.

Hamas overreached, Mr. Shaban said, more than doubling Gaza’s administrative budget to more than $800 million — not including the financing of the militant Izzedine al-Qassam brigades.

But as the recent fight with Israel has revealed, Hamas was importing tons of cement — desperately needed for Gazan schools and houses and construction jobs — to reinforce the tunnels it built to infiltrate Israel and hide its weapons.

“They have different priorities,” Mr. Shaban said of the military wing. “Don’t send rockets while we don’t have milk for our children.”

But, he added, “do we stop struggling with Israel? I believe in peace, a two-state solution, I never liked conflict. But Israel did not leave us anything. What Hamas is doing is partially supported by the people.”

Kareem Fahim contributed reporting from Cairo, and Fares Akram from Gaza.

(This article is copyrighted material distributed under the “Fair Use Doctrine”, permissible because of the small number of readers of this blog. Any reference should include credit and links to the original article in The New York Times.)

Wealthy Hamas Leaders Skim Donations

I found this information originally in a news source friendly to Israel, so I was skeptical. But after several hours of checking many other sites, here it is again on The Inquisitr, a member of a coalition of progressive news outlets including The Huffington Post. And on several other legitimate news venues.

Of course, why would we be surprised. Whenever there is some group claiming to be fighting a protracted war on behalf of the downtrodden, it is common for there to be those who are making money from the war.  In fact, every war seems to add to the wealth of some group; the “Drug War” has enriched the coffers of high-tech military manufacturers as well as police departments; the War on Terror has brought billions to military contractors.

Let me add,  this is not an excuse for the expansion of the Settlements in the West Bank. It is not an excuse for the real ill treatment of innocent civilian Palestinians. It is not an excuse for the “Christian Zionist” funding of the settlements.

Hamas Leaders Worth Millions Of Dollars From Allegedly Skimming Donations And Extortion: Is Anyone Surprised?

KHALED-MESHAAL-GAZA-
Update July 22

The website, ynet news.com has published another article detailing the luxurious five-star lifestyle of the Hamas leadership as exemplified in this photo of Ismail Haniyeh and his entourage traveling by private jet:

Haniyeh private jet

Original Story

While the Palestinian media endeavors to paint the blackest possible picture about conditions in Gaza by referring to such things as population density, unemployment rates, and generally poor living conditions of the population, it studiously avoids talking about the wealth of the Hamas leaders.

And it certainly doesn’t — and dare not — intimate how that wealth was acquired.

Roron Peskin, writing on the Ynetnews website, throws some light on the subject. Firstly, he wonders about the rapid growth in the financial fortunes of former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Prior to Hamas winning the election of 2006, 51-year-old Haniyeh was not regarded as a senior member of the Hamas hierarchy. Now he is a millionaire, which is very surprising considering that he was born to a refugee family in the al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza.

By 2010, Haniyeh was able to buy a piece of land in an upmarket beachfront neighborhood for $4 million, according to a report in the Egyptian magazine Rose al-Yusuf. In order to hide what he was doing from the scrutiny of the media and his own voters, he employed the age-old trick of registering the purchase in the name of his son-in-law.

Since then, it has been reported that he has purchased several other properties in Gaza in the names of his children. He should soon be able to amass a sizable property portfolio — he has 13 of them!

Gaza_City

In the past, Haniyeh’s son was arrested by the Egyptians for trying to enter Gaza through the Rafah border crossing point with millions of dollars in cash — which he claimed was for Hamas.

Gaza sources allege that Haniyeh, together with other members of the Hamas “Mafia,” personally benefited from the 20 percent levy they demanded on all goods smuggled through the hundreds of tunnels which Hamas and other groups had built. In more enlightened societies, that is called “extortion.”

Things really took off for Haniyeh and his cronies when former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was ousted by the Muslim Brotherhood — the sister organization of Hamas.

Then, the Hamas leadership was not afraid to display its ostentatious wealth. There was a property boom for villas costing $1 million and more. A Gazan resident commented wryly about a member of Hamas who he knew had recently bought one of these villas saying, “Two years ago, he couldn’t afford a packet of cigarettes.”

With President Morsi in control, Khairat a-Shater, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — who was also personally wealthy — transferred tens of millions in cash to senior administration officials in Gaza, as well as to some of its military commanders.

Many Hamas members kept their assets outside Gaza, and one of the founder members of the group, Ayman Taha, ensured that they received all their dividends in cash. In 2011, he bought himself a villa in Gaza for $700,000.

Another scam employed by the Hamas leaders for generating cash was to re-sell the highly subsidized fuel received from Egypt for eight times the real price.

Professor Ahmed Karima of Al-Azhar University in Egypt claims that Hamas has some 1,200 millionaires among its members, but is unwilling to reveal his sources.

Khaled Mashal, the leader of the so-called “Political Wing” of Hamas, resides in luxury in Doha, Qatar. It was reported by a Jordanian website in 2012 that he controlled $2.6 billion of Hamas funds. Hamas has invested in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Dubai.

According to reports, Mashal did not always separate Hamas money and his own. Companies linked to Mashal in Qatar are registered in the names of his wife and daughter. A considerable amount of real estate development in Qatar, including a 10,000 meter shopping mall, is being undertaken by his companies.

A World Bank report in November 2013 said that the Gaza Strip ranked third in the Arab region in terms of poverty; only Sudan and Yemen were lower. It also stated that the poverty rate in Gaza is 38 percent. Gaza was the 44th poorest out of 144 countries surveyed.

Obviously, Gaza is in need of some hefty wealth re-distribution. However, it’s unlikely that the Hamas leadership will agree.

Without getting into politics, or what is currently taking place in Gaza, it would appear that the actions of the Israeli military has somewhat diminished the value of certain properties belonging to the leadership.

Gaza City after

But they are not worried. They’ll just have to skim off their percentage of the money which be donated by the world for “humanitarian purposes” when the dust has settled — literally!

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/1359383/hamas-leaders-worth-millions-of-dollars-from-allegedly-skimming-donations-and-extortion-is-anyone-surprised-update/#7gKeDHuyQBb4MZZ8.99

Hamas got rich as Gaza was plunged into poverty

With multi-million-dollar land deals, luxury villas and black market fuel from Egypt, Gaza’s rulers made billions while the rest of the population struggled with 38-percent poverty and 40-percent unemployment.

 

Another View Based On the Evidence

We “liberals” and “progressives” are rightly appalled at the devastation being brought to Gaza and its people. As the bodies pile up, we want Israel and Hamas to stand down. We want Israel to stop its attacks and we want Hamas to stop sending hundreds of missiles and rockets each day into Israel. We want Hamas to stop using hospitals and schools to store its rockets and missiles, making children and the wounded into human shields.

Israel, as the side which has the most tanks and heavy armament bears the burden of world opinion. Combined with a wide-spread anti-Judaism sentiment world-wide. It also bears the the worst press.  And no, that’s not fair, but it is true.

However, there is another side. Written into the founding documents of Hamas is the statement that they will not be satisfied until all Jews, anywhere in the world, are killed and Israel pushed into the sea. Hamas has been sending hundreds of rockets a day into Israel, and not just since the incursion. This has been going on for years, but was stepped up just before this war.

(On a personal note: I have had a client, an Israeli psychologist, who had been treating children in Sderot [southern Israel] where over 25% of young children suffer from PTSD from the rockets which have kept them running to shelters all their lives. After years of service helping them, he just finally burned out and had to quit.)

This article, which came from Huffington Post, provides another viewpoint that we rarely hear.

The Disgustingly Predictable Death Game of Hamas

Posted: 07/20/2014 8:14 pm EDT

The saddest part is the predictability of it all. The death stench is a deja vu of a deja vu that made you physically ill the first time around. At some point, children always pay the price with their innocent lives. By now, you would think everyone would understand this horrific routine and stop, but somehow it still works. Everyone keeps playing their part.

If you’ve been lucky enough to miss the previous episodes, Hamas started the current conflict by firing at Israel, and has refused all cease-fire attempts, including ones called for humanity relief of the Gazans, because this is exactly what it wants. In the past year or so, Hamas has become secluded: it was rejected by Egypt and its fund sources dwindled, Abbas has become the legitimate leader of the Palestinians in the world, and Hamas was cornered. It needed war and death around it, otherwise it would become irrelevant and lose its place.

The tactic of Hamas is quite simple, since terrorists have come to know how to seep through the cracks in the strength of the free world. Hamas knows that if it will fire hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians IDF would have to retaliate, and from there – the situation will only escalate, while the Palestinian people are no more than pawns in the Hamas deadly game.

Why has Hamas threatened Gazans not to evacuate their homes despite repetitious warnings by the IDF? Because it uses residential neighborhoods as fronts, while underneath it hides headquarters, weapons and a sophisticated network of terror tunnels. If the Gazan human shields live, it is because their presence puts the IDF in a moral dilemma and Hamas is protected. If they die, their bodies become gory photos that are used against Israel as poisonous propaganda so Hamas can gain some legitimacy and continue the game.

As an Israeli, I already know this vicious circle by heart. Personally, I do not like Netanyahu and didn’t vote for him, but in this case – he did everything he could to stay out of a violent war. He couldn’t simply let Hamas bombard Israeli civilians every day and not respond. Netanyahu is far from perfect, but he did not want this bloody conflict. Hamas did.

The hatred towards Israel and towards Jews around the world is horrifying, because this is how the terror of Hamas gets its way. Most people outside of the region do not know the difference between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Hamas is a murderous terror regime which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and even worse – cruelly exploits the desperation of its own people, the Palestinians that it’s supposed to lead and protect.
For nine years Hamas has been using the deprived Palestinian society in Gaza in order to raise funds. This money was not invested in building an infrastructure of an independent country, but in the purchase of arms and in an infrastructure of tunnels underneath the city for its terror regime.

The terrible truth is that Hamas thrives on Palestinian misery, while its corrupted top officials have become rich men of means.

Why don’t the Palestinian people say anything against Hamas? Because Hamas is not someone you want to mess with, unless you’re willing to risk being slaughtered. It’s as simple as that. The Palestinians are their captives, prisoners with no hope and no way to win.

On the surface there are only two sides to this conflict, but reality is a bit more complex than what Hamas wants the world to think. The Palestinian people and Hamas are not one and the same. One pays dearly with its children’s lives so the other can keep terror alive once it’s managed to duck the blame.

Even the Arab world has already washed its hands from these endless manipulations, and its support for Hamas is the lowest it’s ever been. If the free world really wants to help heal the Palestinians’ pain, it needs to help free them from Hamas. Israel has been off Gaza land for nine years. Hamas is the one captivating and ruthlessly exploiting them.

 

Where is Religion Going?

I’ve been a part of organized mainstream religion for over 50 years. This article is not wrong–though also not very sophisticated. Religion is a very broad category. It ranges from uneducated, self-ordained preachers who gather 10 or 12 people in a home somewhere and preach a literal reading of the bible, all the way to very well-considered communities like the Unitarian-Universalists, Quakers and Unity. It also includes Sufis, and a variety of forms of Buddhism.

Despite that wide range, the majority of Americans fall into two camps, both claiming the name “Christian”. No matter their official denomination, on the one hand are the evangelicals and fundamentalists, who tend to rigidity, reading the bible as though it had been written in English rather than translated from Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, read it as a rule book rather than the metaphoric expression of ancient spirituality. For them, religion is an escape from reality, a magic source of rescue. This is something that they have in common with other cults whether Christian, Buddhist, Pagan or Muslim or Atheist.

(I must say that I do have great sympathy for them. Whether in Brazil where conservative religion is flourishing or in the US bible belt, it is the poor who are set upon by economic forces decreed by the wealthy.)

On the other hand, there are those who use their religion as a locus to search for the purpose of their life, as a community of support and as a community of caring for the world. They eschew doctrine and dogma, but have a sense of a deeper reality within them that connects them with all that is.

While this article is on point about the religion and the ideas of god which are from the first camp. It does not adequately take into account the many who do find themselves in the religions of the second.  We see this division within the denomination of which I am a part, the Presbyterians. At the recent General Assembly, the assembly voted 61% to authorize gay marriages. The Progressives have become a dominant force in the denomination. It is not because they are growing greatly in numbers, though there is some growth, it is because the Conservatives have been diminishing. It is almost beyond debate that the Presbyterians are breaking in schism. We already see many congregations walking away from the denomination. This is true in most denominations.

The local congregation where I go most weekends, is non-dogmatic, non-doctrinal, very progressive. It is flourishing and increasing its membership month-by-month as young, upwardly mobile, well-educated individuals and couples make the choice to join.

My conclusion is that while education and youth are the forces which are behind the overall decline in religion, they are also the forces that are feeding the growth of progressive religion. Progressive Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism are not “Scared” by this trend, but the conservative Evangelical right is and should be. In the conflict between ignorant conservatism and liberal, progressive ideas, Progressivism is winning in secular and religious arenas.

By Amanda Marcotte [2]

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