Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Israel and What it Really Wants from Ties with China and India

...But Israel can’t rule out the possibility that public pressure will eventually produce more stringent sanctions if Jerusalem continues refusing to capitulate to EU demands on the Palestinian issue that are antithetical to its security. In short, Israel could someday face a devastating choice between its economic needs and its security needs–unless it can diversify its trade enough to be able to weather EU sanctions if and when they occur. And that’s precisely what Israel seeks from China and India, two countries with a history of not allowing policy disagreements to interfere with business

Evelyn Gordon..
Commentary Magazine..
30 September '14..

Writing in Foreign Affairs last week, Rory Miller made the classic mistake of using accurate facts to jump to an erroneous conclusion. He gleefully pronounced the failure of Israel’s effort to convert burgeoning economic ties with India and China into diplomatic capital, asserting that while Israel had expected these ties to “help secure greater international support” for its positions, in reality, China and India have both maintained staunchly pro-Palestinian policies. But though Miller is right about the Asian powers’ policies, he’s utterly wrong about the diplomatic gains Israel hoped to reap from these relationships.

For instance, Miller makes much of the fact that China still votes against Israel on every conceivable issue at the UN. But you’d have to be an idiot–which most senior Israeli politicians aren’t–to expect it to do otherwise.

Flipping China into the pro-Israel camp might be possible if and when it democratizes, since it’s one of the few countries where public opinion actually leans pro-Israel. Indeed, as the Australian paper Business Spectator noted this month, China was among the few places worldwide where Israel was actually winning the social media war during the summer’s fighting in Gaza. And it certainly makes sense for Israel to cultivate this public support in preparation for the day when democratization occurs. But right now, China remains a Communist dictatorship that sees America as its chief foreign-policy rival. Thus as long as Washington (thankfully) remains Israel’s main patron at the UN, Beijing will naturally take the anti-Israel side–not because it cares so passionately about the Palestinian cause (which, unlike Miller, I don’t believe it does), but because it cares about the anti-American cause.

India, despite growing ties with Washington, also has a long tradition of anti-Americanism, as well as a large Muslim minority. Thus New Delhi was never a likely candidate for UN support, either.

And in fact, Miller doesn’t cite any Israeli politician who actually espoused such unrealistic expectations. He simply assumes, on the basis of vague bromides like Naftali Bennett’s “diplomacy can follow economy,” that they must have held such expectations.

But in reality, Israel is seeking a very different foreign-policy benefit from its trade ties with India and China–one it has never spelled out explicitly, for very good reason: What it wants is an economic insurance policy against European countries that it still officially labels as allies.

First and foremost by kicking our PLO habit by Caroline Glick

...Friday Abbas told clearly that he is our enemy, and indeed the enemy of the Palestinians whose lives he insists on imperiling and embittering by locking them into a perpetual war for the destruction of Israel. He told us to move on. And move on we must, first and foremost by kicking our PLO habit.

Caroline Glick..
30 September '14..

The signs are everywhere that the time has come for Israel to abandon the PLO.

So long as the PLO remains in power, the lives of Israelis and Palestinians will only get worse.

PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas’s speech last Friday at the UN General Assembly where he repeatedly accused Israel of committing genocide was not merely an abandonment of direct peace negotiations with Israel. Abbas abandoned the very concept of peaceful coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Abbas called for the UN to pass a resolution that will require Israel to cede Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria in their entirety to the PLO within a set period of time. No Israeli consideration can be taken into account. No Israel concern can be attended to.

As he put it, “Palestine refuses to have the right to freedom of her people, who are subjected to the terrorism by the racist occupying Power and its settlers, remain hostage to Israel’s security conditions.”

As is always the case, the immediate victims of Abbas’s blood libels are the Israeli Left. The politicians and media elite that have hitched their horse to the PLO were again left stuttering by the wayside.

For some, like Meretz chair Zehava Gal-On, stuttering is a fine option. So she pushed out an endorsement of Abbas’s genocide speech.

Gal-On said, “Meretz supports Abbas’s international efforts to bring the end of the occupation and to get international recognition as a [Palestinian] state and member of the UN before and as a corridor to reaching peace in bilateral negotiations between equals,” And she joined Abbas in blaming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for Abbas’s rejection of peace.

As the center-left commentator Dan Margalit noted in Yisrael Hayom, Gal-On and Meretz are basically alone in their embrace of Abbas today.

But they are far from alone in maintaining their slavish devotion to the idea that the only way to improve the situation is by giving Abbas whatever he wants.

And here the circle of victims of Abbas’s hostility expands from the Left to the entire country.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Opposition leader and Labor Party leader Yitzhak Herzog latched all of Israel to the Left’s position by seeming to condemn Abbas while insisting that he is Israel’s only hope.

Herzog wrote that Abbas’s remarks, “were disappointing but not surprising.

“I have met with [Abbas, aka] Abu Mazen dozens of times: He is not a friend or a sympathetic ally. He is someone we have to make a deal with,” Herzog insisted.

Herzog then repeated the same points he and his fellow leftists have made for decades: that Abbas is better than Hamas, that Israel’s security cooperation with the PLO is really great, and that he only way to get the world to be nice to us is by maintaining our allegiance to Abbas and the PLO.

Herzog concluded by joining Gal-On and Abbas in attacking Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and blaming him for Abbas’s open transformation into Israel’s enemy.

The first problem withvHerzog’s statement is that if it is true that he has always known that Abbas is our enemy, then he just told us that he is a liar.

Like all his friends on the Left, Herzog has continuously embraced Abbas and insisted that he is a man of peace and a moderate and interested in making a deal with Israel.

Yet far worse than his apparent serial dishonesty is Herzog’s insistence that Israel remain in the same policy straitjacket of embracing the PLO.

Squandering humanity’s greatest treasure at the Metropolitan Opera

...We might someday be able to forgive the Met for decriminalizing brutality, but we will never forgive it for poisoning our music, for turning our best violins and our iconic concert halls into megaphones for excusing evil.

Leon Klinghoffer, 1916-1985
New York Times..
Opinion Page/Letters to the Editor..
22 September '14
H/T Israel Matzav

To the Editor:

Re “The Met Opera Stands Firm” (editorial, Sept. 20):

In joining protesters of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” I echo the silenced voice of our son, Daniel Pearl, and the silenced voices of other victims of terror who were murdered, maimed or left heartbroken by the new menace of our generation, a savagery that the Met has decided to elevate to a normative, two-sided status worthy of artistic expression.

We are told that the composer tried to understand the hijackers, their motivations and their grievances.

I submit that there has never been a crime in human history lacking grievance and motivation. The 9/11 lunatics had profound motivations, and the murderers of our son, Daniel Pearl, had very compelling “grievances.”

In the last few weeks we have seen with our own eyes that Hamas and the Islamic State have grievances, too. There is nothing more enticing to a would-be terrorist than the prospect of broadcasting his “grievances” in Lincoln Center, the icon of American culture.

Yet civilized society has learned to protect itself by codifying right from wrong, separating the holy from the profane, distinguishing that which deserves the sound of orchestras from that which commands our unconditional revulsion. The Met has trashed this distinction and thus betrayed its contract with society.

Surprise! Some Terrorists More Equal Than Others

...Though, as the prime minister pointed out, the two have common ultimate goals in terms of establishing Islamist rule over the region and the world as well as speaking a common language of terror and using many of the same tactics, the international community sees ISIS as threatening other Muslims and Westerners while clinging to the belief that all Hamas wants to do is to kill Jews. The former is rightly held to be unacceptable while the latter, when cloaked in the language of anti-Zionism, is somehow rendered palatable since denying Jews the same right to sovereignty, self-determination, and self-defense that others are routinely granted is considered debatable if not completely reasonable.

Jonathan S. Tobin..
Commentary Magazine..
29 September '14..

Last week, when President Obama denounced ISIS during his speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations and called for a concerted effort by the international community to defeat the terrorist group, he received some well-deserved applause. But when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called for the same body to judge Hamas and Iran by the same standard they use for ISIS, he might as well have been talking to a wall. At the UN, some terrorists are more equal than others, a double standard that was also present when Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas spoke to the world body on Friday.

That Netanyahu wouldn’t persuade a UN General Assembly that has repeatedly voted to demonize Israeli acts of self-defense against Palestinian terrorism was a given. But the real tragedy is not the indifference of a world body that is tainted by the same virus of anti-Semitism that is gaining strength around the world. It is that those who are supposed to represent the Palestinians are still so cowed by the Islamists that they refuse to understand that the Islamists are as much if not a greater threat to them than they are to Israel. Though much of the Arab and Muslim world is belatedly coming to grips with the fact that ISIS must be destroyed (a task they hope will be largely accomplished by the United States with minimal aid from local forces), if they are to avoid being swept away by a sea of murderous fanaticism, so-called moderate Palestinians must understand that Hamas poses the same threat to their survival.

Instead, when PA leader Abbas had his turn last week at the UN podium, he devoted his remarks to some of the usual calumnies against Israel. He spoke of “war criminals” and genocidal crimes against the Palestinian people having been committed during the 50-day war launched by Hamas this past summer. The problem with this speech wasn’t just that, in stark contrast to Netanyahu who spoke repeatedly of his desire for peace and willingness to compromise to attain an agreement, Abbas talked only about conflict.

More to the point, Abbas refused to point out that the only party that committed war crimes against the Palestinian people was Hamas, his erstwhile partner in the PA government following the signing of a unity pact last spring. It was Hamas, as Netanyahu rightly pointed out, which used Palestinian civilians as human shields behind which it launched thousands of rockets at Israeli cities. It was Hamas that sought to maximize Palestinian civilian casualties so as to create more anti-Israel talking points, not a Jewish state that was reluctantly dragged into the conflict and did its best to minimize the impact its counter-attack hand on the people of Gaza.

Abbas has repeatedly demonstrated that he is willing neither to make peace with Israel nor to confront Hamas. Instead, he wishes only to avoid an agreement while continuing to milk the international community for aid that keeps his corrupt government and the soulless oligarchy that runs it afloat. This is a tragedy for the Palestinians who have been abused by their leaders and so-called allies in the Arab and Muslim world for the past 70 years.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The NYTs’ Obsessive, Unsubstantiated Criticism of Israel Reaches New Depths

...As freedom and democracy continue to decline in much of the Middle East with the notable exception of Israel, The New York Times’ disproportionate, obsessive criticism of Israel drives the paper’s coverage into a journalistic tailspin.

Tamar Sternthal..
The Algemeiner..
28 September '14..

“Struggles for freedom continued across the Middle East and North Africa in 2013, but several countries faced worsening violence as antidemocratic forces asserted themselves,” according to a 2014 Freedom House report on the Middle East and North Africa.

If the Op-Ed in yesterday’s The New York Times is correct (“How Israel Silences Dissent”), Israel is not the one “free state” in the Middle East, a designation it received from Freedom House.

Rather, it is descending into the surrounding undemocratic Middle Eastern abyss. The Jewish state, one would conclude from The Times opinion piece, joins the likes of Egypt, where over 1,000 demonstrators were killed this year, and Libya, which saw the killing of 43 demonstrators last November in Tripoli.

“The aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies or expresses empathy with Palestinians is the latest manifestation of an us-versus-them mentality that has been simmering for decades,” laments Mairav Zonszein in her Times Op-Ed.

Zonszein’s hysterical polemic about new heights of “radical nationalism” and “erosion of Enlightenment values” (language which she attributes to Israeli political scientist Zeev Sternhell) suggest the mass killing of demonstrators like in Egypt or Libya, the widespread arrest of journalists like in Turkey, and the total crushing of dissent as in Syria.

Surely, then, in light of “the aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies,” the influential liberal Haaretz, whose publisher has defined the paper’s mission as “actively supporting the two-state solution and the right to Palestinian self-determination,” and whose editorials not infrequently accuse Israel of deeply entrenched, widespread racism, apartheid and war crimes, has been shuttered.

But, no, a visit to the lively Haaretz Web site reveals that it has miraculously evaded the otherwise unrelenting forces clamping down on any poor soul who dares to challenge “the narrative that Palestinians are enemies who threaten Jewish sovereignty and are solely to blame for the failure to achieve peace,” as Zonszein puts it.

Let Us Count the Ways - The Lies and the Flaws of Mahmoud Abbas

...Abbas came to the United Nations to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people - that I believe and after 66 years (I have no clue where the idiot came up with the number 63...do the math, Abbas), of ongoing terrorism and war that began in long before 1947 when the Arabs chose war, it is, indeed, time to say enough.

Paula R. Stern..
A Soldier's Mother..
29 September '14..

Much is being made of the speech that Mahmoud Abbas made at the United Nations. A lie told often enough, said Vladimir Lenin, becomes the truth. It is ironic that the Arabs hold so much faith in this notion and it is even more ironic that much of the world is stupid or ignorant enough to believe it.

Abbas at UN.No, it's not true. No matter how many times you tell a lie - it remains a lie. A situation can change to make something into a truth. For example, I can say I am 60 years old...I'm not, but God willing, eventually I will be. So, on my 60th birthday, it isn't that the lie becomes truth, but that the situation changed.

The Soviet Union was built on a lie - and you'll note it no longer exists. Lenin's great theory never really worked - ultimately, the lie that people could live better under a totalitarian, dictatorial regime failed. Except the Arabs never learned the lesson, never got the memo and so Abbas unashamedly stands before the United Nations and lied for all he was worth.


Updates throughout the day at http://calevbenyefuneh.blogspot.com. If you enjoy "Love of the Land", please be a subscriber. Just put your email address in the "Subscribe" box on the upper right-hand corner of the page.Twitter updates at LoveoftheLand as well as our Love of the Land page at Facebook which has additional pieces of interest besides that which is posted on the blog. Check-it out!

Broadening the question a bit, we might ask “what is the alternative to what Israel is doing now”

...Logic can tell us where a solution does not lie, and one place is negotiations with today’s Palestinian leadership for another partition of the land into Jewish and Palestinian states. A truly sovereign Palestinian state in the territories is inconsistent with Israel’s security, and anyway there is insufficient overlap between the bottom lines of the parties to reach an agreement.

Vic Rosenthal..
Abu Yehuda..
29 September '14..
Link: http://abuyehuda.com/2014/09/what-is-the-alternative/

All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer. – Machiavelli

Recently, in response to my saying that the Palestinian Authority was more trouble than it is worth, a reader asked “what exactly is the alternative?”

To broaden his question a bit, we might ask “what is the alternative to what Israel is doing now,” which is essentially as little as possible — reacting to threats, but taking no initiatives.

I hate to disappoint him, but I don’t have a detailed solution worked out. I don’t know enough to develop one. I will leave the details to the experts, like Caroline Glick, Yoram Ettinger, and others.

I am a former logic teacher so I am not good at coming up with new plans. What I am good at is showing where ideas are contradictory, and deducing the implications of facts. So here is some logical thinking about Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.

Logic can tell us where a solution does not lie, and one place is negotiations with today’s Palestinian leadership for another partition of the land into Jewish and Palestinian states. A truly sovereign Palestinian state in the territories is inconsistent with Israel’s security, and anyway there is insufficient overlap between the bottom lines of the parties to reach an agreement.

Even more so (a fortiori or adraba) is it not possible to reach such an agreement in the framework of mediation or arbitration by entities hostile to Israel, like the Arab League, the UN or the Obama Administration. If somehow a partition were imposed by external powers, it would certainly, sooner or later, lead to the end of the Jewish state.

Since most of the nations of the world seem to favor partition, either they consistently believe that there should not be a Jewish state, or they — for various political reasons — assert two contradictory propositions: that the Jewish state should exist and that the land should be partitioned. The latter is the public position of the Obama Administration.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why exactly does the Guardian portray Hamas as a victim of Israeli aggression?

...a morally intuitive and historically accurate way to explain the ‘root cause’ of the summer war that Guardian journalists and editors will never provide, which explains why scores of Guardian readers will continue to feel sympathy for Hamas, impute the worst motives to the Jewish state, and never, ever be able to assess the region soberly, objectively and accurately.

Adam Levick..
CiF Watch..
28 September '14..

“Our narrative has gained the upper hand in the media” – Hamas deputy political leader Ismail Haniyeh

As Jews in the UK and across the world were welcoming in the new year on Wednesday evening, the Guardian Group published yet another official editorial reminding readers which party was to blame for the 50 day war between Israel and Hamas.

Whilst nobody familiar with the political leanings of the media group would be surprised that they judged the Jewish state guilty, their September 24th polemic (The Guardian view on the human, economic and political costs of the Gaza war) is noteworthy as a reminder that their top editors in London believe that even the most extreme elements within Palestinian society aren’t responsible for their actions.

The Guardian editorial parrots Hamas talking points in claiming that the movement was strengthened by the war; sows doubt over Hamas culpability for the murder of three Israeli teens, despite a claim of responsibility from one of their leaders as well as an admission by the cell’s ringleader that Hamasniks in Gaza funded the “operation”; falsely characterizes Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli cities as a “response” to Israeli aggression; and challenges “Israel’s reasons for going to war“, completely erasing the history of the conflict.

In response to their claim of Israeli responsibility for the start of hostilities, it’s notable that, even the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent acknowledged that Netanyahu “had shown a marked reluctance to be drawn into a military operation” in the first place, and that Hamas rejected a July 15th ceasefire initiated by Egypt (accepted by Israel) which would have prevented the IDF ground invasion as well as roughly 90% of the total fatalities in the war. (Remarkably, this July 15th proposal was essentially the same terms as the ceasefire that was accepted by Hamas on Aug 26th.)

So, two important questions need answering:

What are the Guardian’s reasons for portraying Hamas as victims of Israeli aggression?

What was Hamas’s reasons for going to war with Israel?


Updates throughout the day at http://calevbenyefuneh.blogspot.com. If you enjoy "Love of the Land", please be a subscriber. Just put your email address in the "Subscribe" box on the upper right-hand corner of the page.Twitter updates at LoveoftheLand as well as our Love of the Land page at Facebook which has additional pieces of interest besides that which is posted on the blog. Check-it out!

The New Year Op-Ed Call For the End to Jewish State at the Washington Post

...So why doesn’t Patricia Marks Greenfield just come out and say what she really wants to see – the end of Israel as a Jewish state. And why does the Washington Post choose to publish a piece calling for an end to Israel’s Jewish identity on Rosh Hashana of all days?

Simon Plosker..
Honest Reporting..
28 September '14..

The Washington Post has chosen the day of the Jewish New Year to publish one of the most disingenuous opinion pieces we’ve seen in a long time. While Patricia Marks Greenfield sounds eminently reasonable in calling for equal rights for all in Israel, she stops short of telling the reader what she is really calling for – the end of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

According to her:

it seems more important than ever to state two things clearly and forcefully: Israel is a full-fledged multiethnic, multireligious society, and it must provide equal legal and day-to-day treatment to all its citizens, no matter their ethnic or religious background. Unfortunately, this is not the case for those who are Arab or Ethio­pian or whose religion is Muslim or Christian.

In this respect, Israel is out of step with much of the world. Over time, nations have become more ethnically and religiously diverse; populations have become more urban and educated; and economies have become more commercial. In response to these social and economic changes, many nations have left behind the notion of a favored state religion.

It is time for Israel to do the same. It must be a fully secular state.

In fact, Israel’s citizens, irrespective of their religion or ethnic background are equal in the eyes of the law. In addition, there are many countries around the world that have a state religion. Why should Israel, as the only state for the Jewish people, be singled out?

But Marks Greenfield goes further:

Gaza and the West Bank must inevitably become part of Israel; there can be no two-state solution. And Israel must leave behind its official Jewish identity to acknowledge its multiethnic, multireligious character by providing equal treatment for all.

Having explicitly rejected a two-state solution, the call for Gaza and the West Bank to become part of an Israel without a Jewish identity is a call for a one-state solution.

Iranian Twelvers and insuring that the coming year will indeed be a Year of Life

...Because the response to Iran hinges on coming to grips with that critical truth: that people, acting on their beliefs, can even do very terrible things to themselves.

Dr. Aaron Lerner..
IMRA Weekly Commentary..
25 September '14..

People can do terrible things.

That’s nothing new.

People, acting on their beliefs, can even do very terrible things to themselves

Also nothing new.

What is new is that in the last year we are being flooded with graphic proof of this on YouTube and other places on the internet.

My fervent hope for the coming New Year is that this very important message is now being driven home to the decision makers of the world.

Because the response to Iran hinges on coming to grips with that critical truth: that people, acting on their beliefs, can even do very terrible things to themselves.

Let’s walk through this:

Why again is the PA worth keeping?

...Practically speaking, Abbas is nobody. He and the PLO have little support among Palestinian Arabs, who see Hamas as a more effective way of ‘resisting occupation’. The IDF protects him from Hamas, and the US and Europeans support him financially. The primary reason that Israel, which was willing to give up territory in return for peace for so many years, was unable to do so was because Abbas did not have the ability to deliver on any deal.

Mahmoud Abbas vilifies Israel
at the UN, Sept. 26, 2014
Vic Rosenthal..
Abu Yehuda..
27 September '14..
Link: http://abuyehuda.com/2014/09/is-the-pa-worth-keeping/

Mahmoud Abbas made a vile speech to the UN yesterday. To “long applause,” the head of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the PLO and Fatah accused Israel of aggression, apartheid, racism, colonialism, terrorism, war crimes and genocide. He accused Israel of threatening the al-Aqsa mosque and “attempting to give a religious nature to the conflict.” He found it “inconceivable” that anyone could place Israel’s right to defend itself above “thousands of [Palestinian] victims (probably a reference to US State Department statements during the Gaza war). Israeli UN delegates were saved from the need to walk out by the Rosh Hashana holiday.

The speech was full of the inversions of reality for which Palestinian leaders are famous. For example, he described the state that he wants as

a sovereign and independent State living in peace and building bridges of mutual cooperation with its neighbors; that respects commitments, obligations and agreements; that strengthens the values of citizenship, equality, non-discrimination, the rule of law, human rights and pluralism; that deepens the Palestinian enlightened traditions of tolerance, coexistence and non-exclusion; that strengthens the culture of peace; that promotes the role of women; that establishes effective administration committed to the standards of good governance; and that cares for the needs and interests of its people …

and declared that

We will not accept to forever be the ones being demanded to prove their good intentions by making concessions at the expense of their rights …

He even blamed Israel for Da’ash [ISIS]:

Confronting the terrorism that plagues our region by groups – such as “ISIL” and others that have no basis whatsoever in the tolerant Islamic religion or with humanity and are committing brutal and heinous atrocities – requires much more than military confrontation. … It requires, in this context and as a priority, bringing an end to the Israeli occupation of our country, which constitutes in its practices and perpetuation, an abhorrent form of state terrorism and a breeding ground for incitement, tension and hatred.

Delivering a message to the US and other peace processors, Abbas said that he would not return to negotiations that did not take as their starting point the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state in all of Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, as well as a “just solution” to the refugee issue. Israeli security is not his problem:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Palestinian Corruption, Refugees and the "Death Boats" Scandal

...As the past few weeks have shown, hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians would rather risk their lives at sea than live under Palestinian governments and leaders whose only goal is to enrich their bank accounts.

Khaled Abu Toameh..
Gatestone Institute..
27 September '14..

Over the past few weeks, dozens of Palestinian immigrants from the Gaza Strip have been killed or injured while trying to reach Europe by sea.

At least 500 Palestinians have gone missing after the boats carrying them sank in the sea. Some reports have suggested that rival gangs deliberately sunk the boats. The gangs are fighting for the cash the Palestinians are prepared to pay to leave the Gaza Strip. Palestinians refer to the situation as their "Death Boats" scandal.

The Palestinian immigrants are said to have paid thousands of dollars to Hamas officials and Egyptian smugglers to facilitate the exodus from the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki claimed that each Palestinian paid $1,000 to Hamas personnel at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Others are believed to have paid $5,000 each to leave the Gaza Strip.

Malki said that preliminary investigations have revealed that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have fallen victim to Hamas and Egyptian gangsters who managed to lure them with false promises.

According to various reports, some 13,000 Palestinians have already fled the Gaza Strip to Europe with the help of the gangsters. Most left through Hamas's smuggling tunnels or by bribing its security officials at the Rafah terminal.

Another 25,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have applied to various European countries for immigration.

Although Hamas has denied any connection to the mass exodus, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip revealed that the Islamist movement had set up special offices to register those wishing to start a new life in Europe. They said that Hamas officials are providing the emigrants with forged visas and travel documents to enable them to enter Europe.