Monday, September 15, 2014

18 questions for Hamas leaders in wake of Gaza war

Had the IDF not prohibited Israeli journalists' entry into the Gaza Strip and had the leaders of the Islamic movement agreed to be interviewed in the Israeli media, this is what Amira Hass would have asked.
By Amira Hass, Haaretz

A Hamas militant and supporters celebrate what they claim was a victory over Israel, in Gaza City, August 27, 2014.Photo by Reuters

1. Are you still insisting that the past war ended in a victory for you?

2. A Palestinian victory or a Hamas victory?

3. You managed to confuse the strongest army in the region. Is that the victory?

4. Israeli tourism suffered losses. The Israeli education budget will be cut. The defense budget will increase. Residents of the “Gaza envelope” communities are frustrated, and feel betrayed and insecure. If that is the victory, was the price paid by Gaza and its inhabitants worthwhile, and why?

5. You knew in advance that the West would hasten to promise to bear the cost of rehabilitating Gaza and its inhabitants after the destruction caused by Israel. That’s what it has been doing since 1994 
(in the West Bank as well), partly for humanitarian motives, and mainly for political calculations: In order to keep the Palestinian Authority in place (in the role of the agent of rehabilitation) in order to guarantee that the system of balances with Israel will not be overly shaken. Had you not known that the West and the United Nations would mobilize for rehabilitation – would you have acted exactly as you did?

6. You preserve the right to choose the path of war (the armed struggle) for the Palestinians. But for every civic task that must be carried out you reply: That’s the job of the reconciliation government. Isn’t that contradictory and hypocritical?

7. The cost of rent in the Strip has increased, due to the decline in supply (houses demolished by Israel) and the fact that at least 100,000 people have become homeless. The rates of poverty and unemployment have also increased. What is your plan for reducing them?

8. The combat skills of your fighters improved as compared to 2008-2009 (although at the time you boasted of such skills, and didn’t convince anyone except for Hamas followers). Clearly you learned from your mistakes and devoted a great deal of time to military exercises. Have improving your combat skills and developing your arsenal become an end instead of a means, and therefore when they were achieved – you consider that a victory?

9. You said that the cease-fire agreement with Israel is a great achievement. What exactly does it include that makes it such an achievement? We laymen fail to understand. Meanwhile the closure has not been lifted and Israel has no intention of lifting it, the Israel Navy continues to fire at Gaza fishermen and to arrest them when they sail out to make a living from the sea, and the inhabitants of Gaza are still living in the same prison that Israel created for them about 20 years ago.

10. Why did you give up the original demand for international guarantees to ensure that Israel would abide by its commitments?

11. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found in its last survey that Palestinian support for you has soared. Do you think that the outcome would have been similar had you not managed to exempt yourself in advance from the burden of responsibility for civic rehabilitation and to impose it on the reconciliation government, which emerges very poorly in the sampling?

12. Your status before the war was at a nadir. Is that your victory – that support for you has soared?

13. When you were deliberating whether to begin a military escalation (in my opinion both you and Israel chose the direction of military escalation, not only Israel), did you have in mind the reasonable chance that your public status would be rehabilitated, as is always the case after military campaigns?

14. According to the survey, 43 percent of the residents of the Strip under your rule want to emigrate (as compared to 20 percent who want to emigrate from the West Bank). Are you shrugging off responsibility for this high rate of potential emigrants?

15. You presented the disengagement (the evacuation of the settlements in the Strip in 2005) as a victory for your military track. But what has happened is that Gaza has become totally cut off from the West Bank, a goal that that has been the pillar of Israel’s policy since 1990. Your military track only helped to realize Israel’s original intention of imposing a regime in Gaza that is different and separate from that in the West Bank. What is your reply to that?

16. Due to the disengagement, Israel permits itself to disseminate the lie that the occupation of the Strip is over (which it doesn’t permit itself to claim regarding the West Bank). Therefore, just as it did in its attacks against sovereign Lebanon, in the Strip too it is crossing borders and red lines: destroying, crushing and killing indiscriminately. Isn’t it your obligation to take into consideration the fact that the occupier that pretends to be attacked has no God?

17. You claim (rightly, in my opinion) that the path of negotiations chosen by the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) has proven its futility and its failure. The World Bank screams that without Area C there is no Palestinian economy, and Israel could not care less. It continues to rob land, to demolish Palestinian homes. The army and police do as they wish: They kill young and older demonstrators who do not endanger the lives of their armed men. East Jerusalem is one huge slum. What do you propose to do instead of negotiations?

18. The military path and the militarization that you have chosen since the 1990s is older than the years of negotiations. What has it accomplished? During the first intifada you pushed for the use of firearms and explosives, but only in the occupied territories. After the massacre perpetrated by Dr. Baruch Goldstein in Hebron in February 1994 you began your suicide attacks against civilians in Israel. During the first decade of the millennium you greatly increased your militarization and began to improve your rockets. And still everything is worse than it was: The Palestinian territory is more fragmented. Not only have the settlements expanded, so have economic gaps among the Palestinians. There is great despair. So perhaps the conclusion is that your armed resistance has also proven its failure and futility?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Israel holds first conference for 'gingers'

Children attend a redhead convention at the Kibbutz Gezer (Hebrew for carrot), Aug. 28, 2014. (photo by Yuval Avivi)

Israel holds first conference for 'gingers'

"Having a conference for redheads on Kibbutz Gezer [Hebrew for carrot] is like having a conference for the elderly in Kfar Saba [literally Grandpa’s Village]."

“Next year,” Ofri said at the end of the event, “we’ll organize a gathering that is open to everyone.”With that joke, Ofri Moshe, a sweet 9-year-old redhead, opened Israel’s first conference for gingers, an event that she initiated and organized. Some 200 redheads from across the country registered in advance — a requirement made by the Home Front Command — to participate in this special event on Aug. 28.

Then, all 942 people who expressed their desire to attend on the event’s Facebook page could actually show up. This year, most didn’t make the 200-person cutoff. Even after the cease-fire was announced on Aug. 26, the limit on the number of participants was not lifted, much to the chagrin of many redheaded Israelis. “Is there any chance that the event will be open to everyone now that there is a cease-fire?” wrote Nir Amichay on Facebook. “There are a lot of disappointed redheads out there who would love to take part.”

Ofri was inspired to launch this special convention after hearing about the famous conference for redheads in the Netherlands. She was unable to attend, so she decided to organize a similar event in her home of Kibbutz Gezer. “I said to myself, that's a great idea,” she said, and then, “I bugged my parents about it until they realized I was serious.”

In the end, Ofri’s project took off and became a reality. Yes, the event was amateur, but the mood was polished and refined. Given Ofri’s energy and charisma as event moderator, it was obvious she enjoyed the attention.

It was a lively event, and often funny. Together with her mother Meirav, Ofri led the artistic session, which began, of course, with the popular Hebrew children’s song, “I’m a Redhead.” From there it continued with the “Giness World Records,” which Ofri explained was “like the Guinness Book of World Records but for gingers.” It included the redhead with the longest hair (measured using a carrot); the person with the most freckles; the oldest redhead (Esperans, 82, who was born in Iraq, and who excitedly told the audience, “Never dye your hair!”); and the youngest redhead (David, 1, named after the most famous biblical king and redhead, of course). Then there was a carrot-sharpening contest, using a special sharpener, and a bagpipe performance as a tribute to Scotland, home of the redheads.

One young woman said that she came to the gathering “to find a redheaded Jewish husband, preferably a Chabad [Hasidic movement] follower.” It’s hard to imagine that she found one, if only because so many of the participants were children. Some parents explained, “We wanted them to see other children who looked like them, so that they’ll be like everyone else for a moment.” Those children, however, don’t seem to be suffering because of their red hair. Sure, there are stereotypes and insulting nicknames, but most of the kids there said they were proud to be redheads. It is actually their parents who have the painful memories.

The Koniak family brought three generations to the event. Grandma Malka, who encouraged everyone to attend, said, "I suffered a lot. In school they called me ‘Malka the Ginger’ [in Hebrew, 'ginger queen'], with a negative connotation. After years of being looked down on, I wanted them to have an experience that will strengthen them instead." When her grandson Tom, 9, said he is called “Red Tom,” his mother Sharon was quick to add, “I think it’s a nice nickname.” Tom changed the topic: “The only thing I agree with is that redheads get angry easily. I really do get angry too quickly.”

Plenty of parents actually do complain about a frenetic energy. Ayelet Helerman, the mother of Alon, 10, said that in their house they often use the code words, “Danger! There’s an angry redhead in the house.”

Mirit, 17, and Sigal, 15, are redheaded sisters from Jerusalem. “It’s true. We really do get angry,” they said, but note that despite their hot tempers, they aren’t bothered by all the red in their lives. “People will always reference the color, but it should be taken with a grain of humor and good fun. My nickname is ‘Sweet Ginger,’” said Sigal. “And mine is ‘Beloved Ginger,’” said Mirit.

Tom, Sigal and Mirit are the only redheads in their schools. Statistics show that redheads are becoming increasingly rare, which may be why they are showing so much pride. Alon Helerman, for instance, is very proud of his orange hue. “I raised him to take pride in it,” said his mother Ayelet. “It’s true that I always tried to hide it about myself, but when Alon was born, he liberated me.”

Alon really is proud. He first learned of the event just a day before it was supposed to take place. When he heard it was invite-only, he didn’t give his parents a moment’s rest until they managed to finagle him an invite. On the morning of the gathering he made special shirts for himself, his mother and Ofri, with the slogan, “Redhead is a state of mind.” He plans on celebrating his bar mitzvah three years from now at the redhead conference in the Netherlands.

Danielle Nayer grew up in the United States, where, she said, she was subjected to nasty names. Some of these were unpleasant. “I’m not worried that it might happen to my children, too. I’m sure it will happen to them. It’s the first thing that people will notice about them. That’s what they’ll laugh at. But there’s also something good about it. It means that people won’t laugh at anything related to their true inner beings.” Her children, Nes, 4, and Max, 3, are fourth-generation redheads and absolutely beautiful.

As the event came to an end, some shouted, “Redhead selfie! Who’s in?” Ofri closed the conference with a brief speech, saying, “Let’s hope that this becomes a tradition.”

“Hold on a minute,” someone shouted from the audience. “When do we take over the world?”

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