Sunday, October 07, 2007

7-Oct-07: When you elect a jihadist government...

When you elect a jihadist regime into political office, you can expect certain sorts of extreme behaviour.
Palestinian Christian activist stabbed to death in Gaza
7th october 2007
By The Associated Press

A Palestinian Christian activist who had received repeated death threats was found stabbed to death in a street in Gaza City early Sunday. Rami Khader Ayyad, 32, was director of the Teacher's Bookshop, Gaza's only Christian bookstore, which is run by the Bible Society of Gaza Baptist church.

Health Ministry officials confirmed his death. Ayyad had been missing since Saturday evening. Over the years he had received repeated death threats from unidentified people displeased with his missionary work. The Interior Ministry run by Gaza's Islamic militant Hamas rulers condemned the killing and said it launched an investigation.

"This grave crime will not pass without punishment," the ministry said in a statement.

About 3,200 Christians live in Gaza, most of them Greek Orthodox. Relations with Gaza's Muslims are generally good, and have not deteriorated since Hamas wrested control of the strip in mid-June. But there have been occasional acts of violence, and in April, a bomb severely damaged the Palestinian Bible Society building in Gaza, which has been operating since 1999.
Barely two weeks ago, Khaled Abu Toameh reported from Gaza about an attack there on an 80 year old Christian woman and the steadily-worsening situation facing Christians wherever Hamas exercises control. His article was entitled: Gaza: Christian-Muslim tensions heat up. True to form, his politically-not-so-correct insights were read by the readers of the Jerusalem Post and almost no one else.

Meanwhile for those interested in a more optimistic viewpoint, there's a
July 2007 article "Yes, You Can Work With Hamas", authored by Prof. Augustus Richard Norton of Boston University, and Harvard University Middle Eastern Studies scholar Sara Roy, and carried in the Christian Science Monitor. Our $0.02 worth: working with Hamas is a fine idea, provided you're comfortable with the misery, the hatred and the terror engendered, encouraged, initiated and implemented by the jihadists on their neighbours across the fence and to a depressing extent to their neighbours down the street.

That may be a niche market. But sadly it's not a small one.

7-Oct-07: After the holidays begins today

In the Israeli idiom, "after the holidays" is a sort of alibi. I'll get to it "aharei hahagim" is another way of saying: Don't bother me right now because it won't do you any good. I'll do it [prepare the report, find you an appointment time, fix your washing machine, find that missing receipt etc] after the holidays.

Today is the start of "after the holidays". The feast of Tabernacles ended on Thursday night, then came Friday and the Sabbath, and this bright sunny Sunday morning Israel's roads are filled with traffic, school starts again after a break of nearly two weeks, and the country is on the move.

Reason enough for the terrorists to re-energize their deadly campaign of flinging bombs anywhere they can make them land, so long as it's on Israeli land and preferably on Israelis heads, no matter who or where. The media will largely ignore these attacks, which is why we try to record as many of them as we can find time to report.

So... so far today (and it's now 8:40 in the morning) there are already reports of eight mortars having been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel (one struck a home but no reports of injuries), and what are described as "several" Qassam explosive-rocket landings.

Keep in mind that Israel provides most of the electricity to the area from which the explosives are being despatched. Also, that there are multiple police forces at work on behalf of the local authority (the PA) in a compact area frequently, though inaccurately, described as one of the most densely populated places on earth, making the Hamas regime perfectly capable of stopping the attacks if they want.

Question: would you tolerate this sort of ongoing, daily Russian roulette with the lives of your family if you had the power to stop the perpetrators and/or to make their lives quite uncomfortable? We Israelis, anxious to see both our neighbors on the other side and ourselves living better, safer lives, ask ourselves this every day. So far, the reward seems to be pictures of terrorists released by the score in "confidence-building" "goodwill" gestures like those we saw a week ago.

Hard not to view today's under-reported attacks as post-holiday reciprocation for those expressions of goodwill.

UPDATE Sunday 5:30pm: This morning's missile turns out to have been a Grad-type Katyusha, that struck near the Israeli town of Netivot. The Palestinian terror group called Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility during the day. Haaretz says: "The Russian-invented Katyusha has a longer range than the more makeshift Qassam rocket that has been fired by the thousands at Negev towns and villages. Most Katyushas fired in the region are fired by the pro-Iranian Lebanese Hezbollah organization. But Palestinians fired a Katyusha at the southern Israel city of Ashkelon a year ago. Israeli security officials have expressed concerned that Gaza militants could fire large quantities of Katyushas into Israel. Army Radio cited Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin as telling the cabinet that Israel viewed with gravity and concern the militants' ability to strike deeper inside Israel. While Sunday's attack was not the first Katyusha to be fired out of Gaza, such attacks are extremely rare. The Islamic Jihad militant group claims to have fired about a dozen Russian-made rockets at Israel since March 2006, and to have many in their possession."

Friday, October 05, 2007

5-Oct-07: On dialoguing with terrorists

Asymmetry.

It's a word that appears often in the ongoing dialogue on the subject of terror and how to keep civilized societies safe from its practitioners.

Most commonly, asymmetry is the way observers describe the relative positions of the terrorists and the counter-terrorists. The terrorists are characterized as lacking aircraft, lacking infrastructure, lacking resources and ultimately lacking power. The counter-terrorists - generally meaning governments - have all of the above. So there's an imbalance, and it's therefore to be expected that the "desperate" oppressed should turn to "militantism" to protect and assert their rights.

The shallowness of this justification for barbaric acts of terror may be chokingly, frustratingly, unbearably obvious - but it's out there nevertheless. And it's routinely promoted by brand-name media channels and front-line politicians, most of whom not only ought to know better but almost certainly do.

Here in Israel, we're seeing another manifestation of asymmetry lately - of a different sort. Our politicians are charged with protecting the civilian population from the demonic attacks of dozens of jihadist terror groups arrayed against Israeli societies on our northern and southern borders and within our cities and towns. The police, the Border Police, the army and various intelligence agencies are fully engaged in the national effort. They work tirelessly and with almost no fanfare. It's a tough, thankless job. Mostly they're effective, though not always. The terrorists are very far from defeated, and anyone who asserts otherwise is doing it out of hubris and not on the basis of facts. Israeli society is overwhelmingly in favour of energetic and focused efforts on neutralizing the terrorists, and see the battle as being beyond politics, separate from politics, an absolute imperative.

It would be satisfying to be able to say that the political leadership on the other side of the barricades have the same goal. This is what's sometimes implied or said in fringe elements of the media, but it's nonsense.

Just how nonsensical, and how asymmetric the two positions, is out there for all to see today.

Ashraf al-Ajrami who reports to the "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas as the Palestinian Authority's minister for prisoners affairs (as well as for youth and sport, which in their world are all tragically inter-related) is in today's media staking out his government's position in the war on terror. Speaking to Israel's Army Radio, the man leaves little doubt on the subject:
  • "...All Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails [must] be freed in the coming months".
  • He told Israel's Public Security Minister Avi Dichter this when they met this week.
  • "We want the release of all the prisoners within a few months", he quotes himself saying to Dichter.
  • And the PA demand explicitly includes the convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti, an appalling individual and an enormously popular political figure in Pal-Arab society. Barghouti was convicted in a highly-publicized wide-open trial and is now serving five life sentences for the murder of four Israeli Jews and the murder of Father Georgios Tsibouktzakis, 34, a Greek Orthodox monk from St. George's Monastery in Wadi Kelt near Jericho. The unfortunate bearded cleric was shot dead (some say because he was mistaken for a Jew) in a drive-by shooting by Barghouti's gunmen in 2001.
Haaretz quotes Dichter, who it says met with al-Ajrami this week, denying that they discussed the subject of freedom for the Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons. But this morning, says the paper, he softened his denial and now says only that he was unwilling to discuss the contents of the meeting. The Jerusalem Post however says Dichter denies even meeting with al-Ajrami. Whatever.

As we've said before in many places, protecting society -- any society, every society -- from the terrorists is existential in the rare, literal sense of the word. It demands determination, clarity of purpose and real political resolve. This is not politics in the conventional sense because this is not about ideology but rather about hatred and barbarism and the battle to protect our lives from them.

We don't claim to know what's really going on in the dialogue between Israeli politicians and Palestinian Arab politicians. Nor do we presume to enter into the diplomatic and peace-making dimensions of those talks, if they exist (and like almost all Israelis, we sincerely hope they do). But we do claim that when one side calls for a wall-to-wall amnesty for terrorists, there can only be one response. It need not be shouted or even whispered; on this subject we cannot afford to even conduct a dialogue with the other side. They have their position; we have ours. Compromise is immoral and impossible.

Asymmetrical it may be, but that's the price of maintaining a democratic, life-affirming presence in the midst of a sea of primitivism.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

3-Oct-07: Getting a bit warmer here

With an international "peace" conference around the corner, we're seeing escalated levels of activity in the neighborhood, not all of it so easy to comprehend from the media reports.

Holy Moles: This morning, Hamas issued a text message to the effect that one of its operatives, a man called Hamed al-Rehel, was killed in a "holy mission" near the Israeli border. Turns out they meant the tunnel he was digging in northern Gaza, more or less in the vicinity of the Erez Crossing, caved in on him. Hamas said two other tunnel diggers were hurt; this afternoon it's reported that one of the two injured has also gone to his 72 virgins.

Gaza Bombing Last Night: Around sunset on Tuesday, four people were killed when something exploded near the Hamas marine police headquarters in Gaza City. One version says it was a car that blew up, while another version, quoting Hamas, speaks of a missile attack by an Israeli naval vessel. First reports said the dead men were the property of Hamas. Names were eventually named, and two of the 'martyrs', Youssef Hammada and Hodeibi Khader, both around 20, turn out to have been registered in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, i.e. following Abbas's orders. Eventually it transpired the dead were from Fatah, the killers were from Hamas, and the Israelis weren't involved at all; simply yet another round of brother-slashes-brother, Gaza style. A few observations:
  • Like us, you might not have realized Hamas has a marine police. Turns out it was announced back in August. It claims to be engaged in preventing drug smuggling and providing protection for swimmers and fishermen. But since it evidently has no ships or boats, their daily work is almost certainly just another expression of Hamas' endless preoccupation with acts of terrorism against Jewish Israelis and against Pal-Arabs who don't buy into radical jihadism.
  • This Israeli source, providing background we're unlikely to see elsewhere, says some 20 or more relatives of the three dead Fatah men were arrested by Hamas security forces near Gaza City early this morning. Ahab Ghussen, speaking for the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, is quoted gravely announcing that "We are not going to allow anyone to gamble and play with the security of our people." A very serious man indeed.
Qassam for Sukkot: Abbas is meeting today with Israeli leader Ehud Olmert in the prime ministerial sukkah (see picture above) for pre-conference discussions. To enhance the frivolity of the occasion, Arab terrorists fired several mortar shells today from northern Gaza into Israel. Separately, they fired a Qassam rocket into Sderot this morning. Fortunately, no reports of injury or damage. In fact almost no reports period. (No blood, no stories. Sadly, that's the media's calculus.)

Back-channels: Just to be sure not too many people start thinking that Abbas turning up in Olmert's sukkah actually means something, it's reported today from London that Fatah and Hamas have agreed in principle to launch a secret dialogue in Cairo. The source is the UK-based Arab newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat quoting the head of Egyptian Intelligence, Omar Suleiman. This helps us see how incredibly moderate Abbas really is. Gets along with simply everyone.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

2-Oct-07: Releasing terrorists - the track record so far

Israel's release of imprisoned terrorists today and yesterday can be understood against the decades-long historical background. This was not the first such confidence-building prisoner release. It might not be the last. But ignoring the past outcomes... that's not smart.

A few instances to mull. (And more here.)

Marwan Barghouti
Arrested first in 1976; released and became a leader in the first Arafat War ("intifada"). Arrested and expelled to Jordan; then allowed to return in 1994. Became head of the Tanzim terrorists in 2000, supervising multiple terror attacks, and the deaths by murder of 35 Israelis. Arrested again in 2002, sentenced after a highly-public and full criminal trial to five life sentences. Current status: PA is demanding his release. The Israeli security service (Shabak) objects, but numerous Israeli politicians believe nothing good will come from the dialogue with the Palestinians until Barghouti is released and takes his place as their leader. Many Israelis believe this is hopelessly misguided. Meanwhile he's in prison.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
First arrested in 1983. Released a year later as part of the Ahmed Jibril exchange. Became a founder of Hamas in 1987. Then arrested for ordering the kidnapping and killing of two soldiers and sentenced to life in prison. Israeli government decided to release him in 1997 as part of the apologies that followed an unsuccessful assassination of Khaled Mashaal, an arch Hamas terrorist. Yassin continued to organize terrorist attacks until he was killed by an Israeli pin-point rocket attack in 2004.

Saleh Shehade
Released from prison in 2000. Went on to head the Hamas military wing from where he oversaw multiple terror attacks, including the infiltration into an IDF outpost in which four soldiers were killed, and the terror attack on Atzmona where five young students were killed. Was quoted in May 2002 on the Islamic Online Web site saying: "One should prepare children carefully before carrying out attacks and recruit them into a special military section of [Hamas] in order to teach them the culture of jihad". His career ended in an IDF air attack on his home in 2002.

Abdullah Kawasme
First arrested in 1988 and then exiled by Israel to southern Lebanon in 1992. Upon his return to Israel he was imprisoned, and when released in 1994, he returned to his home in Hebron. Although arrested by the Palestinian Authority, he was released and allowed to return to his Hamas operations at the start of the Intifada. Kawasme became commander of Hamas's Izz-a-din al-Kassam military wing in March 2003. Supervised many terror attacks and more than 40 Israeli deaths: nicknamed "Father of the Ticking Time Bombs. Killed in an Israeli operation while trying to escape arrest in June 2003.

Karim Ratab Yunis Awis
Sentenced to life in prison in 1991 for intentionally causing the deaths of several Palestinian Arabs regarded by his circle as 'collaborators'. Released in another "confidence-building' gesture by the government of Israel. Subsequently in November 2001, he despatched two terrorists to fire on Afula's central bus station: 2 killed, 84 wounded. In March 2003, he despatched a human-bomb to Jerusalem's King George street where he murdered three and wounded 81 others. Re-arrested, and at his trial the court observed that his release led to the murder of additional innocent people. "The level of danger the accused poses was clear after he was found guilty the first time. The need to remove him from human society forever was obvious. After his release, the accused proved that this gesture was not justified, and a very high price was paid by many Israeli families". Now serving multiple life-sentences in an Israeli prison. Until...?

Nasser Abu Hameid
Spent 13 years in Israeli prisons after being sentenced to several life sentences for murder. Released by Israel in September 1999 in the Sharm-a-Sheikh 'understanding'. Subsequently was personally involved in the lynch mob that murdered two Israeli servicemen in 2000, personally murdered several other Israelis in 2000 and then in 2002 seupervised a series of terror attacks that cost the lives of several more. Sentenced in Jerusalem's District Court in December 2002 to seven life sentences and 50 years imprisonment after confessing to the murder of 7 Israelis and convicted on 12 counts of attempted murder and other crimes. Still in prison for now.

Abbas Mahmoud Al-Said
Imprisoned for his role in riots in Tul Karem in 1993. Released in 1996 and then convicted in 2003 of supervising the Passover massacre at Netanya's Park Hotel (30 killed, 144 injured) and other attacks. Still in prison for now.

The full list is a good deal longer.

2-Oct-07: Serious question: who's winning the war on terror?



Israeli effort to build trust
Israel on Monday released 57 Palestinians, all of them convicted of terror-related crimes, "in an effort to build trust between the sides ahead of a U.S.-sponsored peace summit in November." (Source: Haaretz). Today (Tuesday) 29 additional Palestinian prisoners were released into the Gaza Strip. According to Yediot Aharonot, the chief of staff and senior officials in the security establishment approved the release of Palestinian prisoners after deciding such a move would not pose a threat to Israel’s security. President Shimon Peres held up the release for some hours over the Palestinian refusal to release an Israeli hostage. (Since the IDF left the Gaza Strip in 2005, the president's authorization has been required for the early release of Gazans from Israeli jails.) But after a short delay the release went ahead.
The pictures above/below show some of the celebrations that greeted the return of the terrorists. Most of the people in these pictures are themselves freshly-freed practitioners of terror - though, in the highly technical Israeli use of the term, they do not personally have blood on their hands at this stage.


Trust-building reciprocated (Gaza edition)
Two more Qassam rockets were fired by Palestinians from Gaza into Israel this morning. (Source: JPost)
Trust-building reciprocated (Diplomacy edition)
The Palestinians announced they will participate in next month's US-sponsored "peace" conference only if general agreement is first reached with Israel on all the fundamental issues. Palestinian Authority officials said Monday that those issues include the status of Jerusalem, the borders of the future Palestinian state, what to do about the "refugees", and agreement on water, security and settlements. (Source: Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post). Leaving what issues for the conference? The breakfast menu?
Trust-building: A different view
Israel's Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who opposed the release of 90 Palestinian prisoners in the cabinet discussions, and who is a former chief of staff and defence minister, said that "[Israel] is working against terror, paying the price for terror, and nevertheless making a gesture towards the Palestinians." The step "showed weakness." Israel "didn't get anything for releasing 256 prisoners [in July], and we won't get anything this time," he said.
Trust-building: Still another view
In a letter written by the IDF's Chief of General Staff's office "the release [of 86 Palestinian security prisoners] is unethical while [kidnapped IDF Cpl.] Gilad Schalit is still being held in the Gaza Strip". (Source: JPost)
Trust-building reciprocated (Egypt edition)
Egypt caused immeasurable harm yesterday to Israel's security interests by allowing at least 80 Hamas militants to cross into Gaza a day earlier (Sunday). Some of the Islamic group members have recently undergone extensive military training in Iran and Syria, security sources said. (Source: Haaretz)
An Israeli spokesman said Egypt appeared to want to play down its level of coordination with Hamas, telling the Israelis that those who crossed on Sunday had "broken through the border fence".
Note that despite the widespread claims of Israel "imprisoning" the Gazans, the fact is that since reaching agreement with Egypt on the crossing points to and from Gaza in 2005, Israel lost effective control over who enters the territory from Egypt. Then after the Hamas takeover in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, the work of the European Union observers controlling the crossing points between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula stopped. Israeli influence on the activities at the crossing today is zero. Haaretz says that in the past four months, the Egyptians had prevented the group of Hamas members from entering the Gaza Strip, in part due to Israeli pressure. They were stranded near El-Arish, in northern Sinai. Earlier this week, Cairo altered its position and allowed them to reenter the Gaza Strip. Among those entering the enclave are Hamas legislators Mushir al-Masri, a high-profile spokesman for the movement and Farej al-Rul. Taleb al-Kawasme, former Interior Minister was also in the group, as were were members of Iz al-Din al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, who had undergone training in camps in Iran and Syria.
"Israeli security sources expressed concern that these "experts" were allowed into the Strip because of their ability to bolster terrorist organizations in specialties such as rocket and mortar attacks, sophisticated explosive devices, sniping, and commando raids.
"These are definitely people we would prefer not to see in the Gaza Strip. They did not sneak into the Gaza Strip, but entered through the main gate, with permission and coordination with the Egyptians," an Israeli source said.
While the crossing was the result of an apparent agreement between Hamas and Egypt, the exact circumstances were left vague by those involved, presumably because of the political sensitivities that have been raised.
However, the independent Palestinian news agency Maan reported Monday that Egypt had agreed to the crossing of the Hamas members following a deal that had been struck between Egyptian intelligence and the group. According to the report, an Al-Qaida militant who had fled to the Gaza Strip from Asyut, a city in southern Egypt, had been handed over to Egyptian authorities by Hamas. In return Egypt allowed the entry of dozens of Hamas members into the Strip. According to other sources in the Strip, during the weekend an Egyptian intelligence official, Ahmed Abd al-Halk, met with representatives of the Hamas military wing and of the Popular Resistance Committees. Following the meeting, the Egyptians allowed as many as 87 militants to cross, including members of Islamic Jihad."
The terrorists had been brought to the border area at dawn on buses and crossed Rafah into the Gaza Strip, several kilometers north of the normal crossing point at Rafah. Sources in the defense establishment said Monday that the entry of well-trained extremists into Gaza is just another chapter in Hamas' growing strength with Egypt's active connivance.
Haaretz says: "According to the sources, dozens of experts in paramilitary activities and terrorism have crossed into the Gaza Strip during the past year and have passed on to members of Hamas and other, smaller terrorist organizations the lessons Iran and Hezbollah have learned from the fighting in southern Lebanon during last summer's war... An Israeli spokesman said that Israel has already allowed about 6,000 Gazans who were stranded in Egypt after the Hamas takeover to return to their homes via Israel."


The picture above is from Gaza this afternoon. The man in the blood-red wrap was an imprisoned terrorist until freed this morning.

Trust-building: What we've learned about how it works
A petition presented to Israel's High Court last week, but rejected, sought to prevent the wholesale release of prisoners because of the history of past "trust-building" releases. The petitioner was the Almagor organization, one of several which say they speak in the name of terror victims. Here's their summary of what the past can teach us if we care to take note:
  • Between 1993 and 1999, 6,912 terrorists were freed.
  • As of August 2003, 854 of them (12.4%) had been re-arrested for murderous activity.
  • Another two-thirds of them returned to terrorist activity - in command, training or actual perpetration of attacks.
  • Among the attacks perpetrated by freed terrorists were: the lynching of two soldiers in Ramallah (Oct. 2000); the shooting deaths of Binyamin and Talia Kahane (Dec. 2000); the suicide explosions in Netanya, 8 dead (March and May, 2001); the Sea Food Market suicide blast in Tel-Aviv, 3 dead (March 2002); the shooting in the Atzmona yeshiva that left 5 young men dead (March 2002); the Park Hotel bombing during the Passover Seder, 30 dead (March 2002); the bus blasts at Megiddo, Karkur and Jerusalem, 55 dead (June 2002 - June 2003); the double bombing attacks in Be'er Sheva, 16 dead (August 2004).
  • We'll name names in our next posting.
We've quoted George Santayana before, but it bears repeating: "
Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." And as George Bernard Shaw added: "We learn from history that we learn nothing from history".

Monday, October 01, 2007

1-Oct-07: About carrots and sticks

Innumerable international organizations and NGO's one way or another sit in judgment on Israel. It's exceptionally rare for any of them to admit to shortcomings. Such a pigs-do-fly moment came this week via the current chairperson of the UN Human Rights Council, Doru Costea.

His council has failed to handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a balanced fashion, he said in the French daily Le Temps. It concentrates too much on abuses by Israel and he's dissatisfied. "The council has failed... The council must remain simple, and concentrate on the human rights dimension, but it must look at the stance of all sides, not only one country." The fact that a majority of the Council's 47 seats are held by Asian and African countries "gives a certain power, but that does not mean that this power is always used wisely" said the man who ought to know, with straight-faced understatement.

Candor of this sort is not so common. How have other NGO's been dealing with the extremely hostile stands of some of their office-holders, constituents and members in relation to Israel and the Jews? It's a bleak picture. Look at how Israel's decision this past Wednesday to impose further economic sanctions on the Gaza Strip was treated.

The Israeli government's security cabinet sat down last week to formulate a response to the steadily increasing scale of acts of terror directed at Israel from Gaza. Its well-publicized decision raised for the first time the explicit possibility of cutting off electricity to Gaza's inhabitants. The decision defines Gaza as "hostile territory"and says that if more Qassam rockets are launched from Hamas-controlled territory, there will be possible fuel and power cut-offs down the road.

A word of background. In 2005, Israel under prime minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally pulled its forces out of Gaza and uprooted all the thriving Israeli towns that had been created in the area. The entire Gaza Strip was now in Palestinian hands. (The entry and exits remain under Israeli and Egyptian control.) The stated expectation was that this would end terrorism from the area. The result of course was the opposite: a violent, jihadist Hamas regime took over, and rocket attacks on Israel have consistently increased.

The decision last week is a carrot and stick strategy where the ass is the Hamas regime which until now has shown zero responsiveness to logic, political good sense or humane behaviour. In practice, nothing has changed yet while Israel sits and waits to see whether - against all the odds - some rare good sense prevails in Gaza's halls of power. But as the authoritative NGO Watch points out, the practical and legal ramifications of Israel's new stand are unclear. No action has yet been taken. This is about future cut-offs of Israel-originating electricity; future cut-offs of Israel-originating fuel; future firings of Gaza-originating Qassams.

But even though Israel has done nothing so far to give effect to the threat of sanctions, let's pay a moment's attention to the mature and sober judgments of the international community.

Oxfam: Jeremy Hobbs, executive director - Israel's actions are "immoral and contrary to the Geneva Conventions."

Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) calls for one-sided international action to "prevent the starvation siege Israel plans to impose on Gaza." Note: ICAHD is funded by the EU under its “partnership for peace” budget.

Human Rights Watch (which NGO Monitor observes has a history of instant condemnations before the facts are known) says "Israel’s threat to impose additional sanctions on the Gaza Strip would constitute unlawful collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population... Israel has the responsibility to protect its citizens, but not by collectively punishing the people of Gaza, which seriously violates the laws of war."

Israeli NGO B'Tselem: "Cutting off electricity to a civilian population is collective punishment and a violation of international law… It doesn't really make a difference whether it's cutting off the supply from Israel or bombing the power station."

The list goes on.

NGO Monitor observes that all of these statements ignore the context of terrorism and downplay Israel's legitimate right to self-defense. The orgs and their spokespeople have little apparent interest in the rocket attacks and in the waves of terrorism emanating from Gaza. Instead they focus narrowly on Israel’s efforts to find a means of deterring these attacks, and that's the problem.

The reaction of Hamas is no surprise. Israel's threat is “a declaration of war against the Palestinian people, an attempt to target resistance forces and to undermine Hamas politically”. Hamas asserts that Israel "must supply humanitarian needs" and the security cabinet's decision “shows that Israel is not ready for political compromise with the Palestinians” in peace talks.

Putting this in some context, Gaza needs about 200 megawatts of electricity. It gets 80 Mw from Egypt, and almost all the rest (except for some minor supply from a Gazan plant) from Israel. A full shutdown of the Israeli supply would leave Gaza with adequate energy for its hospitals, government offices and other vital services. Its 1.5 million inhabitants would inevitably suffer periodic blackouts; these would be more severe if a fuel cut-off were also implemented. Life would be uncomfortable but not threatened.

Israel, which has always had the power to do so, says it will implement this plan if Palestinian terrorists continue to fire rockets into Israel. The overwhelming sentiment among Israelis is: why hasn't such a step been threatened before? Where else, other than in Chelm, would a government provide its enemy with enough power to allow business as usual?

And where else, other than in the context of the well-orchestrated, relentless Arab-driven campaign of delegitimization of Israel and its actions, would so many otherwise sober organizations make such jackasses of themselves?