When it comes to Israel, the Arab world isn’t a good sport
Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s relations with the Arab world were better than ever.
“There is cooperation in various ways, on various levels, but is not yet out in the open. But what is not yet out in the open is much greater than in any other period in Israeli history. This is a major change,” he gushed.
Indeed, there has been much security cooperation and intelligence sharing since Israel and the pragmatic Arab regimes found common enemies in Iran and radical Sunni Islamists. But even as Netanyahu seems to talk about it all the time, his Arab partners insist everything remain hush-hush.
For the time being, Arab countries are refusing to recognize the State of Israel and reject any overt manifestation of collaboration with the Zionist entity — no exceptions, no common courtesies, no fair play.
That’s why on Thursday, when an Israeli athlete won a gold medal at a judo tournament in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Israel’s national anthem wasn’t played and its flag wasn’t hoisted. Indeed, due to the Emirates’ boycott of Israel, the Israeli judokas in the tournament competed under the “flag” of the International Judo Federation (IJF).
After Herzliyah native Tal Flicker beat Nijat Shikhalizada of Azerbaijan to take the gold, the “national anthem of the International Judo Federation” was played in the hall. Meanwhile, Flicker mouthed his own “Hatikvah,” giving his Israeli compatriots a modicum of pride.
Israeli judoka Tal Flicker, who won a gold medal on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament, said he defied the host Arab state’s boycott on displaying Israeli symbols and playing Israel’s national anthem at the victory ceremony by shutting out the “background noise” and singing “Hatikvah” himself.
As tournament organizers played the anthem of the International Judo Federation’s (IJF) when Flicker stood on the podium with his medal, he sang the Israeli national anthem.
“The world federation anthem that they played was just background noise,” he told Channel 2 news. “I was singing ‘Hatikvah’ from the heart.”
“I’m proud of my country,” he said. “The whole world knows that we’re from Israel, knows who we represent.”
Flicker’s win in Abu Dhabi added to two previous championship victories he has already achieved this year.
He was born in 1992 in the central city of Herzliya, where he was also raised.
A judoka from the United Arab Emirates refused to shake the hand of the Israeli rival who defeated him at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament Friday, a day after the UAE refused to play the Israeli national anthem or fly the Israeli flag for medal-winning Israeli athletes at the competition.
Israel’s Tohar Butbul, competing in the men’s lightweight (66-73 kg) category, came up against the UAE’s Rashad Almashjari in the first round. After being defeated by Butbul, Almashjari refused the customary handshake with the Israeli.
Butbul went on to win a bronze medal in his category — by defeating Italy’s 2016 Olympic gold medalist; it was Israel’s third medal in the competition.
The no-handshake episode was reminiscent of one that occurred during the 2016 Summer Olympics, when Egyptian judoka Islam El Shahaby refused to shake hands with Ori Sasson after being defeated by the Israeli, and only begrudgingly made the obligatory end-of-match bow after being being called back to the mat by the referee.
A major Judo tournament organised by the International Judo Federation is taking place in Abu Dhabi between October 26th and 28th.
However – and not for the first time – members of the Israeli team taking part in that tournament have been barred from displaying the Israeli flag.
“The blue-and-white delegation to the final Grand Slam competition of the year is set to include 12 athletes, but Israel Judo Association chairman Moshe Ponte was informed by the organizers that they won’t be able to have the Israel flag on their judo uniform, as they do in every other event across the world. Instead of having ISR (Israel) by their names on the scoreboard and on their backs, they will have to take part in the contest as representatives of the IJF (International Judo Federation). The national anthem will also not be played, should an Israeli win a gold medal.”
The BBC Sport website (which usually displays an interest in reporting bigotry and discrimination in sport) has no coverage of that story either on its home page or on its Judo page. The BBC News website’s Middle East page similarly did not find this story of blatant discrimination in sport newsworthy.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Militias vs. Palestinian “Reconciliation”
Fatah has quite a number of militias in the Gaza Strip: Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Ahmed Abu Rish Brigades, Abdel Qader Al-Husseini Brigades, Martyr Ayman Judeh Groups and Nidal Al-Amoudi Brigades.
Although they are affiliated with Abbas’s Fatah, these armed groups continue to talk about an “armed struggle” against Israel and their desire to “liberate Palestine, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river.” The unruly Fatah-affiliated groups have a history of angering and embarrassing Abbas and the Fatah leadership in the West Bank. The groups often issue statements applauding terror attacks against Israel, such as the recent shooting at Har Adar, near Jerusalem, in which three Israelis were murdered.
For the past few years, the Fatah leadership in the West Bank has sought to distance itself from the actions and rhetoric of those Fatah armed groups in the Gaza Strip. That effort reflects the desire of the Fatah leadership in the West Bank to present itself to the international community (and Israel) as a “moderate” party that opposes violence and seeks a peaceful solution with Israel.
Even more worrying for Abbas is that in addition to Hamas, the Fatah armed groups in the Gaza Strip are refusing to disarm as a result of the “reconciliation” agreement.
Now, not only does Abbas have to worry about Hamas and Islamic Jihad; he has his own Fatah gunmen saying that they too will not disarm. This headache for Abbas poses yet another obstacle to the implementation of the “reconciliation” agreement.
As Abu Mohammed, a spokesman for the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the Gaza Strip, said recently: “We won’t give up our weapons until all Palestine has been liberated.” His statement echoes the position of Hamas and all the other armed groups. If Hamas refuses to disarm, that is one thing, but when Abbas’s supposed loyalists also come out with similar statements, that is akin to spitting in the face of the Palestinian Authority president.
The “reconciliation” agreement has yet to be implemented on the ground, yet the issue of the militias in the Gaza Strip is already emerging as a major obstacle and a severe blow to Abbas. He will now have to decide: either to proceed with the “reconciliation” agreement and accept playing the role of president of a Gaza Strip filled with armed groups and militias — most of which are no friend of his, or to backtrack and realize that his wish to have one law, one police force and one authority in the Gaza Strip is nothing more than a pipe-dream.
The United Nations must “review Israel’s status as a law-abiding member of the United Nations” by declaring its “occupation as illegal,” UN Human Rights Council special investigator Michael Lynk said on Thursday.
Such a move would isolate Israel internationally by way of forcing it to end its “occupation” of Palestinian territories, Lynk said at a press conference in New York.
“Israel is not North Korea,” in that its economy is dependent on international trade, particularly the US and Europe, Lynk said. This fact can empower the global community to force change, he added.
What if, “all of a sudden Israelis wanting to travel abroad needed to have visas” or “if all of a sudden Israel wouldn’t get preferential trade agreements with the EU?” Lynk posited.
What if the many forms of military, economic or academic cooperation with Israel would now end? Lynk asked.
If that would come to pass, there would be sea change in Israel’s attitude toward the Palestinians, he said.
Lynk spoke in advance of a presentation he plans to make to the Third Committee on Friday, urging it to formulate a resolution to the UN that would give the international body a wider tool box to use against Israel.
Israel’s ambassador criticized a United Nations human rights official Thursday for urging economic and travel sanctions against Israel to force a withdrawal from the West Bank.
Danny Danon said the United Nations Human Rights Council had “lost its legitimacy,” after the comments by Canadian law professor Michael Lynk, who is the council’s special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories.
“Mr. Lynk is exploiting his position to spread hateful incitement against the State of Israel and is acting as a BDS activist under the auspices of the UN,” Danon said in a statement, using the acronym for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that seeks to pressure Israel into withdrawing from territories claimed by the Palestinians.
During a press briefing Thursday, Lynk urged sanctions against Israel, basing his recommendation on a report he released earlier this week that cited South Africa’s occupation of Namibia as a precedent and calling for the international community to step up pressure on Israel.
The United Nations and the Palestinian Authority have formulated a comprehensive plan for a joint struggle against Israel and for “a transition to Palestinian independence,” Makor Rishon revealed Friday, based on a report by Matot Arim, which has recently been focusing its efforts on exposing the United Nations’s mobilization against Israel.
The plan includes, for the first time, an active and visible participation of the UN in the PA’s diplomatic struggle against Israel. According to the plan, the UN, its organizations and affiliates, will offer financial support to the tune of $1.3 billion over the years 2018-2022, with the goal of “ending the occupation, mobilizing international support, blaming Israel, strengthening Palestinian ties around the world, and rousing UN support for a transition to Palestinian independence.”
Another clear objective is “dealing with the negative implications of the state of planning and construction in Area C,” which is under full Israeli control. In other words, this is also an attempt to abolish Israel’s powers of planning and building in the area of the settlements—powers that are based on the bilateral Oslo accords.
For example, on page 16, the plan states: “The UN will support efforts to protect the Palestinian character and identity of East Jerusalem, the future capital of Palestine.”
This ambitious plan is signed by PA Development Minister Ibrahim Al-Shaer, and UN Humanitarian Coordinator Robert Piper.
Benny Avni: Unlike some of your predecessors you haven’t in your report mentioned any violations by Palestinians – by the Palestinian Authority, by Hamas, and so on. So, why not, and is that part of your mandate?
Lynk: Ok I’ll answer both of your questions. I have been asked in the past as to my mandate with respect to human rights violations by either the Palestinian Authority, or Hamas. That’s not my decision to make. My mandate has been created by the Human Right Council in Geneva.
One of my predecessors did recommend – it was Richard Falk – to the Human Rights Council several years ago that his mandate be expanded to be able to include that. I also note that Amnesty International several years ago had also asked that as well.
I am actively considering whether or not, when I make my next report, which will be in March to the Human Rights Council, that I will ask for my mandate to be expanded. All I can do with respect to that is make a recommendation. The decision as to whether or not my mandate is expanded to be able to do that belongs to the Human Rights Council itself.
Avni: But John Dugard did include some reporting on Palestinian Authority violations…
Lynk: I am not going to dispute what you said. I am unaware of that. I read some but not all of his reports, with respect to that. If he did, I would be happy if you would want to show me.
Avni: I don’t understand the thing about the mandate because it says you are the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories..
Lynk: Right but if you kept on reading for the full description of the mandate it focuses on the Occupying Power, so for me to be able to expand that, and look I have heard arguments both ways and I think there are good reasons both ways, with respect to that. But watch what I do when I come in March.
Matthew Lee: To follow up, you had said that you’d never seen a John Dugard report that dealt with the other side of the issue. The site is A/60/271. That’s one of them.
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) October 26, 2017
A new report by the UN rapporteur for Palestinian human rights effectively calls for a boycott of all major Israeli companies (par. 65) but “completely fails to address any Palestinian human rights violations, giving a free pass to torture and terrorism by the forces of President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas,” says a UN watchdog group, in a letter sent today to Michael Lynk, UN chief Antonio Guterres, and U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley. (See full letter below.)
“By any definition of human rights, morality and logic, if Mr. Lynk is a United Nations human rights monitor for the Palestinian territories, he must address Palestinian Authority and Hamas torture and arbitrary arrest committed against their own people, and Palestinian stabbings, car ramming attacks and shootings committed against Israelis,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch.
The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is one shot across the UN’s bow.
And UNESCO — which has been notoriously hospitable to dictatorships hostile to Israel and other nefarious actors — deserves the warning.
But what is the US doing about UN member countries that consistently vote against it, and against Israel? The answer is not enough.
Many of the countries in question are not US adversaries, like Russia or Iran, that pursue policies inimical to American interests. Rather, these countries are either beneficiaries of US aid, or states whose own concerns would seem to parallel those of the US.
For example, according to the American Jewish International Relations Institute (AJIRI), in 2016, six countries ranking as major beneficiaries of US tourism and assistance — and lacking a policy pretext to do so — nevertheless voted overwhelmingly against the US on 67 roll call resolutions at the UN General Assembly.
These countries were the Caribbean states of St. Lucia (voting against the US 70.3 percent of the time); Belize (69.8 percent); the Dominican Republic (68.7); Bahamas (68.2); Jamaica (67.7); and Barbados (67.2).
And when it came to 18 anti-Israel UN resolutions last year opposed by the US, all of the above countries voted unanimously in favor of them — except Jamaica. It backed 17 of the anti-Israel measures, but abstained on one.
The result was a massive $17 billion deal to supply 80 aircraft to Iran Air, a company long suspected of participating in Tehran’s military airlift to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon, an enemy not just of Israel but also of the United States.
Now, two years later, a fascinating legal battle is taking place behind the scenes with the potential to not only kill Boeing’s multi-billion dollar deal with Iran, but also upend the entire nuclear agreement. It is a story that for the most part has stayed out of the headlines. But recent developments in a courtroom in Chicago seem to show that something bigger is brewing on the Iran-US-Boeing axis.
The story begins in 2003, when the Leibovitch family was on its way back home from a bar mitzva celebration in Jerusalem. As the car sped past the Eyal junction on Route 6, an Islamic Jihad terrorist cell, coming from nearby Kalkilya, opened fire, murdering seven-year-old Noam and seriously wounding her sister Shira, who had turned three that same day.
The Leibovitch family had recently returned to Israel from the US. The father, Shlomo, had taken a job as the deputy director of the Yemin Orde Youth Village in the Carmel Mountains, and as American citizens, they had the right under the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to sue a foreign country.
Represented by the Tel Aviv-based Shurat Hadin, the Leibovitch family filed a suit in 2008 against Iran for providing funding and logistical support for Islamic Jihad, the terrorist organization behind Noam’s murder.
In 2012, after years of proceedings, the court determined that Iran had supplied Islamic Jihad with “material support and resources for [its] campaign of extrajudicial killings” and awarded the family $67 million in damages.
Not surprisingly, Iran never paid. At the time, most of the Islamic Republic’s assets had already been frozen and seized in the US, though some of them were paid out in other rulings that had been brought against Tehran by Israeli victims of terrorism.
The US House of Representatives passed new legislation sanctioning Iran over its ballistic missile program on Thursday, marking the fourth measure adopted over a period of two days that targets both the Tehran regime and its Lebanese Shia proxy, Hezbollah.
Following the approval of the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act by a vote of 423-2, its sponsor, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), declared the new sanctions “will squeeze Iranian and foreign companies, banks and individuals that support the Iranian regime’s illicit weapons programs.”
“Iran must know that the United States will not tolerate its dangerous behavior,” Royce said after the vote. The new act penalizes all Iranian government agencies involved in ballistic missile development, along with foreign companies and other foreign entities that provide illicit assistance to Tehran. Anyone providing or receiving Iran with conventional weapons will also face sanctions under the terms of the legislation.
Pro-Israel groups reacted warmly to the raft of house legislation targeting Iran and its proxies. “We appreciate the House’s efforts to counter the dangerous aggression of Iran and Hezbollah, as well as to sanction those that support the terrorist organization with its fundraising and recruitment,” a statement from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said on Thursday. “We concur with imposing sanctions on those who assist Hezbollah with its reprehensible practice of using Lebanese civilians as human shields. And we support the House’s request that the European Union designate all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.”
Jason Isaacson — associate executive director for policy at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) — said, “[I]dentifying and targeting governments and firms that support Iran’s ballistic missile program, or that engage in conventional weapons transfers with Iran, is critical to containing this menace,” in a statement applauding the passage of the Iran act.
The US has no better partner in the region than Israel, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday, before his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
This is Mnuchin’s first visit here since becoming secretary in February, and is part of a Middle East trip the Treasury said was focused on combating terrorist financing.
According to the Treasury, Mnuchin’s visit is a follow-up to President Donald Trump’s Mideast trip in May, where – during a visit to Saudi Arabia – he announced the establishment of the Terrorist Financing Target Center. Trump has said that one of his top priorities is to go after the finances of terrorist networks.
Mnuchin arrived from Saudi Arabia, where the US and the other members of the center – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar – imposed sanctions on 13 people affiliated with Islamic State and al-Qaida in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula in an effort to disrupt terrorist financing.
Netanyahu thanked Mnuchin for the strong action the Treasury Department has taken against Iran, especially the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah. The US slapped sanctions on the two groups two weeks ago, when Trump did not recertify the Iranian nuclear deal. Mnuchin said at the time that the Guards “played a central role to Iran becoming the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror.”
The Trump administration will not oppose the “Greater Jerusalem Law,” reports say.
Speaking on Thursday to reporters, US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “My understanding is that the piece of legislation is in the early stages of development. Some of these would be internal matters that I wouldn’t want to comment on. I know that it has to go through several steps before it would even become law.”
She did not express opposition to the law, which will be brought on Sunday for the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s approval.
The law, if passed, would expand the municipal borders of Jerusalem to include the city of Maaleh Adumim to the east, which is currently home to nearly 38,000 Israelis. In addition, the town of Givat Zeev to the northwest, the city of Beitar Illit to the south, the town of Efrat, and other communities in Gush Etzion would all be incorporated into Jerusalem.
It would not, however, officially annex these areas to Israel.
A Houston suburb has removed a requirement from a hurricane repair grant program that homeowners must agree not to boycott Israel as a condition of receiving money.
The Galveston County Daily News reported that the Dickinson City Council on Tuesday voted to remove the requirement from the application of the city’s Hurricane Harvey repair grant program.
Dickinson had initially included the boycott requirement to comply with a new state law that prohibits Texas agencies from contracting companies that boycott Israel.
City management assistant Bryan Milward said businesses in Dickinson will still have to refrain from boycotting Israel in order to get relief funds because the city interpreted that as a requirement of the new state law.
Former US president George W. Bush accepted an award for his commitment to Israel and the Jewish people, presented by the international leadership of United Israel Appeal.
Bush received the Isaiah Award at a ceremony held last week at the biannual International Leadership Reunion Conference in Toronto, honored for his economic, diplomatic and security cooperation with Israel during his time as president.
Former recipients of the award include prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and former US president Bill Clinton.
The prize was awarded by 2015 Isaiah Award recipient Mikhael Mirilashvili, who serves as vice president of the World Jewish Congress, president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and is one of the key supporters of UIA.
Along with the prize, Mirilashvili gave the former president a Hebrew Bible and repeated the traditional Priestly Blessing: “May God bless you and keep you; May God make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; May God turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Israel’s ties with New Zealand are set to improve following the appointment of a foreign minister in Wellington critical of its sponsorship last December of an anti-settlement UN resolution that set back ties between the two countries.
The Labor Party’s Jacinda Ardern named the New Zealand First party’s head Winston Peters as deputy prime minister and foreign minister earlier this week. After a close election, it was Peters’s decision to join a coalition with Labor and the Greens that allowed Ardern to form a government, instead of her predecessor Bill English. Ardern was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday.
Peters insisted on inserting in the coalition agreement a clause noting the “lack of process” that led to New Zealand’s sponsorship of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 last year. Peters has been critical that the decision to sponsor the resolution was not taken to the cabinet for its approval.
Politik NZ, a New Zealand news and analysis website, wrote that “the argument about the process has become a proxy for opposing the resolution altogether. Hence, Labor’s concession to Peters amounts to an indirect acknowledgment that the resolution was wrong.”
Argentina’s embattled former president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, struck a defiant pose in a Buenos Aires courtroom on Thursday as she defended a secret pact negotiated by her government with the Iranian regime in 2011.
Kirchner was appearing before a federal inquiry into the allegation of Alberto Nisman — the Argentine prosecutor who was murdered in January 2015 — that by signing the deal, the Kirchner government exonerated Iran of its responsibility for the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires. The bombing — in which 85 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded — remains one of the worst single acts of terrorism since the Second World War.
Kirchner’s appearance at the court was the latest in a series of testimonies given by key ministers and political aides from her previous administration — including her foreign minister, Hector Timerman, who has been accused of finalizing the agreement at a January 2011 meeting with his Iranian counterpart in in the Syrian city of Aleppo that was personally hosted by President Bashar al-Assad. Last week, former spy Ramon Bogado told the inquiry that the pact included provisions for the transfer of technology and expertise from Argentina’s domestic nuclear program to the Tehran regime.
Reporters inside the court commented that Kirchner was ill at ease during her appearance, reading from a prepared statement and declining to answer questions. Early on during the proceedings, the former president refused the glass of water provided by the court, instructing the ushers that its replacement “has to be thick glass.”
A personal claim of NIS 30,000 was filed against a Waqf employee on the Temple Mount for attacking a Jew and kicking him in the stomach.
The Jewish man had participated in a visit to the Temple Mount six months ago. During his visit to the holiest site in Judaism, the man bowed.
The police arrested the man for exercising his freedom of religion. As he was put in handcuffs, the Waqf employee approached him and kicked him in the stomach.
The kick was recorded on video by another one of the visitors on the tour. The Waqf employee, a resident of the a-Tur neighborhood in Jerusalem was arrested by the police on the spot.
The lawsuit was filed by attorney Haim Bleicher of the Honenu legal organization.
Bleicher explained that the Waqf employees have no authority over the Jewish visitors Temple Mount, and certainly have no right to assault and physically abuse them. He argued that if the Waqf employees have an issue with a Jewish visitor, they must report it to the police and not become involved themselves.
The Foreign Ministry on Thursday lodged a formal complaint with the Polish Embassy in Israel in response to proposed Polish legislation that would make it difficult for Holocaust survivors and their relatives to receive compensation from the Eastern European country.
Israeli Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari plans to file a similar complaint with the Polish Foreign Ministry on Sunday. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely is also set to travel to Poland to discuss the matter with officials there.
Under the proposed legislation, those seeking restitution must be Polish citizens and provide documentation that they lived in the country when their property was confiscated by the Nazis or after the war by the communist regime. Only survivors themselves or their children or grandchildren are eligible to submit claims. However, with 90 percent of Polish Jewry wiped out by the Nazis, in many families there are no direct heirs, and siblings, nieces or nephews, or cousins may be the sole surviving heirs.
Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz has demanded that the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee hold an urgent meeting to discuss the proposed Polish legislation. Peretz said the 3 million Polish Jews murdered in the Holocaust left behind a great deal of private property and that authorities in Poland have made it difficult for survivors and their heirs in Israel and around the world to receive compensation.
The Meretz party confirmed that the word “Zionism” was removed from its platform in 2015, Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon confirmed. Israeli media reacted with shock to the disclosure.
Journalist Yishai Friedman spoke with several official sources in the party, and these sources confirmed that the word “Zionism” had been dropped intentionally.
“Meretz is an Israeli party, and it has Jewish and Arab members,” Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon tweeted. “My ‘Zionism’ is not Makor Rishon’s Zionism. The Jewish people are not the only ones who have a right to self-determination. The Palestinians have this right, too.”
Two weeks ago, Arab MK Hanin Zoabi (Joint Arab List) said that Jews are “not a nationality and therefore have no right to self-determination.” She also said the Right of Return belongs to Arabs – not Jews.
In late September 2017, Fatima Abu Miyala, aged 14, arrived at an Israeli military checkpoint in the city of Hebron. The Palestinian media initially reported that she had been arrested for carrying a knife with the intention of stabbing Israeli soldiers, but it later transpired that she had fled from the home of her husband following a forced marriage.
The Palestinian news agency WAFA reports that Miyala’s case, which shed light on the phenomena of underage marriage and “customary” marriage in Palestinian society, sparked extensive public debate on this topic. The report quoted Sumoud Al-Damiri, head of the personal status department at the office of the Palestinian chief qadi, as saying that there has recently been an increase in such marriages in the Palestinian Authority (PA) territories, and that her department has handled three such cases in the last few months, one of them involving a girl who had given birth at the age of 13. Al-Damiri added that Fatima’s husband admitted during questioning that he had paid NIS 2,000 (about $570) to the matchmaker and a further sum to Fatima’s father, and that the marriage ceremony had been performed by a sheikh unauthorized to conduct marriages.
In response to the incident, Muwaffaq Matar, a columnist for the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, penned an article in which he scathingly condemned the phenomenon of urf (i.e., “customary”) marriages, which are performed as a way to avoid conducting the marriage at the state’s official religious or civil institutions, inter alia in order to facilitate underage marriage. Titled “Don’t Forgive Us, Fatima,” the article states that the young girl preferred to risk her life by approaching an Israeli military checkpoint rather than stay in her husband’s home and continue living within Palestinian society, which is responsible for her suffering. Matar noted that, while talking of national liberation and seeking to join international human rights bodies, Palestinian society and institutions violate the rights of women and children by tolerating benighted customs, like the one permitting underage marriage.
Saeb Nazif, head of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Land Authority, said on Thursday that he and his staff had returned from Gaza to Ramallah because the head of the Hamas-appointed land authority, Kamal Abu Madi, insisted on remaining in his post.
In an interview with the PA’s Wafa news agency, Nazif said that he had traveled to Gaza in accordance with PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s instructions to unify the Palestinian institutions between the two parts of the “homeland.” He noted that he was surprised by the refusal of the Hamas leader to cooperate with him and hand over land authority to the Ramallah-based PA.
Nazif said he updated the PA leadership on the developments and expressed hope that this problem would be resolved through the intervention of the officials responsible for dealing with the issue of reconciliation.
“We regret that these developments are taking place and thwarting the efforts to allow the national consensus government to operate in the Gaza Strip, and we are making it clear that the refusal to hand over powers contradicts the reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo between Egypt and Fatah,” he stressed.
Hamas is treating the issue of reconciliation with the Fatah movement and the Palestinian Authority as a strategic one, according to the organization’s Gaza chief, Yahya Sinwar, who added during a meeting with unions in Gaza that divisions will not be allowed to continue.
“We won’t be just another side of the division,” said Sinwar, “and we don’t want to turn into an alternative for the PLO.”
According to Sinwar, Hamas’ politburo chief in Gaza, “We want the PLO to rightfully become the legitimate representative of all the Palestinians and to be the umbrella above all of us.”
Sinwar said that his organization rejects and opposes the terms Israel has set for Palestinian reconciliation.
“We won’t recognize Israel and we won’t give up our weapons and we will continue to be committed to the mindset of liberation and the return of the Palestinian people,” he said.
In his comments regarding the weapons of his terrorist group, Sinwar repeated and stressed, “The weapons of the resistance collected by Hamas don’t only belong to Hamas. They are the property of every one of Gaza’s residents. We won’t give up our weapons and they will be under a national umbrella that includes all of the Palestinians, and that is the umbrella of the PLO.”
The head of Hamas security apparatus in Gaza, Tawfiq Abu Naim, was wounded on Friday when his vehicle was the target of an “explosion,” according to Iyad Dozm, the spokesperson of the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza.
“General Tawfiq Abu Naim, the general director of internal security forces, survived an assassination attempt Friday afternoon, after his car was targeted by an explosion in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp in the middle of Gaza City,” the statement read, adding that Abu Naim suffered moderate wounds but was doing well and was being treated in the hospital.
“Security forces immediately carried out an investigation to understand the mysterious circumstances of the incident,” the statement continued.
The Palestinian Information Center, a Hamas-linked news site, reported that according to a security source, Abu Naim had just finished Friday prayers at the Abu Al-Hasin mosque when he opened his car door and was blasted by an explosion and suffered minor shrapnel-related injuries. Several other people were reported wounded, as well.
Hezbollah on Thursday denounced new U.S. measures designed to thwart the militant group’s cash flow, calling a bill targeting its finances an “aggression” against Lebanon.
In a statement, the Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist group said the new measures are a “blatant intervention in Lebanese internal affairs, a violation of Lebanese sovereignty and an unacceptable targeting of the Lebanese people.”
The statement was issued following a weekly meeting of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc. It came a day after the U.S. House approved legislation to block the flow of illicit money to the group and to sanction it, with lawmakers calling it Iran’s leading terrorist proxy.
The bill targeting Hezbollah’s finances, sponsored by Reps. Ed Royce and Eliot Engel, directs the Trump administration to sanction people and businesses engaged in fundraising and recruitment activities for the group.
Hezbollah is a member of Lebanon’s coalition government, and the House measure touched off alarms in Beirut, where officials feared major damage to the country’s banking sector if the bill is signed into law.
A new UN report finds that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime was responsible for the sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province this past April.
“The panel is confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Sheikhun on 4 April 2017,” states the report, seen by AFP on Thursday.
More than 87 people died in the nerve gas attack on the town.
Horrific images from the immediate aftermath of the attack drew global outrage and prompted the United States to fire cruise missiles at a Syrian air base from which the West says the assault was launched.
Last month, UN war crimes investigators said they had evidence that the Syrian air force was behind the attack.
The Syrian regime denies having any connection to the April attack and, in general, to any chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
Assad has even claimed that the Khan Sheikhun attack was fabricated by the United States.
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