Editor`s Note: Monday April 09, 2018

Nine killed during Friday ‘March of Return’
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Contents: (summaries below)
  1. The Hamas Gimmick that Failed, JCPA, Vol. 18, No. 5, Yoni Ben Menachem
  2. The Gaza Clashes: What's Really Happening, HONEST REPORTING, Daniel Pomerantz
  3. US blocks UN Security Council statement calling for investigation of Palestinian protesters' deaths, JTA,
  4. Why the First Amendment Is the Best Amendment: Part 5, CLARION PROJECT, Elliot Friedland

The Hamas Gimmick that Failed
Yoni Ben Menachem

JCPA, Vol. 18, No. 5, April 08, 2018

  • The “Friday of Tires” protest failed to achieve its main objective, which was to impede the actions of IDF marksmen on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.

  • The Palestinians did not manage to infiltrate the territory of the State of Israel in their vast numbers, and the Israeli deterrent was preserved.

  • The Palestinian “Return” campaign has also failed to mobilize Arab states and the West Bank. But there is still a month ahead for the campaign to run, on various notable dates, culminating in Nakba Day on May 14 and 15, the scheduled dates of the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and Nakba Day.

  • On May 15, the month-long fast of Ramadan, which is sacred to Muslims, is set to begin.

According to official statistics released by the Palestinian Health Ministry, 10 Palestinians were killed during the “Friday of Tires” in Gaza. Around 1,400 were injured, 33 of whom were in serious condition.

The second week of the “return” campaign organized by Hamas ended in failure, according to IDF estimations, which the Palestinians do not deny. Only around 20,000 people took part in these events, compared to 40,000 people who participated during the previous week.

Why Is This a Failure?

In fact, the first Friday of the campaign (March 30) was originally declared a memorial day for those who were killed on what was termed “Land Day” in 1976. However, this date has gradually become the “Friday of Tires.”

The Hamas leadership, who did not want to lose too many participants at its events, gave into pressure from the younger generation in Gaza, who brought up the idea of the old-new gimmick of burning thousands of tires, They wanted to use the tactic to hinder the actions of IDF marksmen across the border, thereby “protecting the lives of the protesters.”

According to Fatah sources in Gaza, the Hamas leadership believed that this new gimmick would succeed following the failure of the underground tunnels project.

Burning tires is not new. This tactic first appeared during the civil war in Lebanon from 1975-1990, and it was also used extensively during the first intifada in 1987 and the second intifada in 2000.

Using thousands of burning tires was intended to draw the IDF to a new front, where it would have to deal with thousands of protesting civilians in conditions of poor visibility, which will cause it to make mistakes.

However, an assessment of the results shows that the purpose for which thousands of tires were burned was not achieved. The IDF forces at the Gaza border were prepared in advance. Whenever necessary, they used water cannons, fans, and fire hoses, and they also used aerial drones to overcome the heavy smokescreen. Anyone who attempted to approach the border fence, damage it, cross it, or carry out terror attacks under cover of the smoke from the tires was hit by sniper fire.

The Palestinians did not manage to infiltrate the territory of the State of Israel in their vast numbers, and the Israeli deterrent was preserved.

Gazans attempted to pull down the Gaza border fence with Israel.

Gazans attempted to pull down the Gaza border fence with Israel.

From the view of Hamas, the campaign was an operational failure. The movement’s consent to use thousands of burning tires diverted the “return” campaign from its original objective. Also around the world, it is obvious that there is no connection between burning tires and the “right of return” for refugees. There were no great marches toward the border fence – only a massive burning of tires.

Hamas, which is well aware of the murmurings and mood on the Gaza street,  tried to boost participation in the events of the “Friday of tires” by promising financial incentives to those who took part and to those who were injured in the events of the most recent “Land Day.”...

Read more

The Gaza Clashes: What's Really Happening
Daniel Pomerantz

HONEST REPORTING, April 09, 2018

Since March 30, there have been intermittent protests, riots, and even armed attacks at the Gaza border.

Much of the media coverage has been so poorly informed or even outright misleading, that it can be almost impossible to understand what’s really happening. Israel has, in many cases, been made out to be a violent aggressor intentionally killing peaceful protesters.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

That’s why HonestReporting will be actively monitoring, analyzing and communicating throughout these events.

Here, for your use and information, is what we’ve seen so far:

Re-cap of events

  • On April 1, we posted this explanation and analysis of the events up to that date. It was immediately clear that the “protests” also included molotov cocktails, burning tires, rock throwing, and in one case even live gunfire at the IDF.  There were ongoing attempts by rioters to breach the border fence and enter Israel.

  • Of the 30,000 Palestinians present, 16 were reportedly killed by IDF sniper fire. The figure later increased to 19.

  • It was well known since April 1 that at least ten of the casualties had clear affiliations to terror groups, including Hamas. An analysis of open-source information from Palestinian media brought that number up to 15, and HonestReporting was the first to publish that new information on April 5.

  • Another protest/riot on April 6 brought 20,000 people and new violence: including the burning of what may have been 10,000 tires, and further attempts to both attack IDF soldiers and to  infiltrate Israel under the resulting smokescreen. Meanwhile, and this is not a joke, Hamas is now blaming Israel for what it claims is a “shortage” of tires in Gaza. Seriously. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

  • A number of Palestinians criticized Hamas for publicizing the deaths of its members, including holding military funerals and rallies. The main objection can be summarized as follows: by revealing that so many of the deaths were actually terrorists, Hamas undermines the PR illusion that this was a “peaceful protest.”

  • As of yesterday morning, Haaretz put the total number of Palestinian casualties at 29, while a slightly later AP story puts the number at 32. One casualty was Palestinian photojournalist Yaser Murtaja. Though not all the facts are known yet, this story is making some strong waves in the press. The IDF says it is investigating and that it does not deliberately target journalists.  Most of the information known so far is from the Hamas controlled Gaza Ministry of Health or from Hamas itself.

Read more

US blocks UN Security Council statement calling for investigation of Palestinian protesters' deaths

JTA, April 08, 2018

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The United States blocked a United Nations Security Council statement supporting the right of Palestinians to “demonstrate peacefully” on the border with Israel.

The statement, sponsored by Kuwait, which represents the Arab world on the council, also called for an independent investigation into the deaths of Palestinian protesters on two consecutive Fridays.

It is the second week in a row that the United States has blocked such a statement.

Nine Gazans were killed, including a Palestinian journalist and a teen, and more than 1,000 injured during the Friday protest on the Gazan border, according to Palestinian sources. About 20,000 Palestinians participated in Friday’s protest, dubbed the tire protest, due to the thousands of tires burned during the demonstration in an effort to thwart Israeli sharpshooters.

Prior to Friday’s protest, the U.S. State Department issued a statement on the Gaza protests in the name of Jason Greenblatt, the Trump administration’s special representative for international negotiations.

The statement said that the United States “strongly urges protest leaders to communicate loudly and clearly that protestors should march peacefully; should abstain from all forms of violence; should remain outside the 500-meter buffer zone; and should not approach the border fence in any way or any location.”

The statement also said that the U.S. “condemn leaders and protestors who call for violence or who send protestors – including children – to the fence, knowing that they may be injured or killed. Instead, we call for a renewed focus by all parties on finding solutions to the dire humanitarian challenges facing Gazans.”

Read more

Why the First Amendment Is the Best Amendment: Part 5
Elliot Friedland

CLARION PROJECT, April 08, 2018

(Photo: Nick Youngson/Alpha Stock Images)

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” — The First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The struggle against Islamism can be summarized as a struggle over whether or not the First Amendment is a good idea. The First Amendment enshrines freedom of religion and conscience as a matter of law. By contrast, Islamism is about control: over thought and deed.

But to understand how this conflict came about, we have to backup a little bit.

This is the fifth in an eight-part series explaining how and why the First Amendment came about, why it never developed in Islamic countries and why Islamists oppose the principle today.

Part Five: ‘Enlightened’ Absolutism 1648-1789

Starting with Louis XIV of France, kings — no longer encumbered by entanglements with a powerful papacy — concentrated power in their own hands and established strong, centralized states. After Louis’ death in 1715, the royal houses of Europe increasingly attempted to integrate Enlightenment ideas into their own absolutist rule.

Following Louis’ death, monarchs like Frederick II of Prussia, Catherine of Russia and Joseph II of Austro-Hungary saw the duty of a monarch to guide the state by reason and attempted to introduce reforms based on their interpretations of philosophy. From 1648-1776, this notion of enlightened absolutism ruled Europe and was already expanding around the world.

Let us admit the truth: the arts and philosophy extend to only the few,” Frederick II wrote in a letter to the famous French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire, summing up the attitude as, “the vast mass, the common peoples and the bulk of nobility, remain what nature has made them, that is to say savage beasts.”

Thus they perceived that the population was in need of the guiding hand of the all powerful ruler, advised appropriately by philosophers who knew what was best. Reforms involved setting up a central state administration, standardizing tax and criminal codes and restricting the powers of the nobility.

But it also involved governing in the interests of the people, or at least in the interests of the people as conceived of by the ruler.

Education, promotion of science and culture were cornerstones of this idea aimed at improving the minds of the citizenry. Religious toleration, too, was encouraged, but only up to a point.

Frederick William II (also of Prussia), for example, in his 1788 edict on religion, reaffirmed that only Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism would be supported by the state. All proselytism was banned, as was any deviation from the official doctrinal understandings of those sects. This was done, according to the king, in order to preserve religious toleration as well as the purity of the Christian church.

“According to our opinion,” King Frederick William II said, “every Christian ruler has only to see to it that the people are correctly and faithfully instructed in the true Christianity by the teachers and preachers, and thus to give everyone the opportunity to learn and embrace it.” Governments also widely implemented strict censorship, especially of political thought and publications.

There was, as yet, no understanding that toleration might extend beyond specifically mandated sects of Christianity, nor that such toleration might be considered anything approaching a “right.”

Therefore, despite the progress made in science, education, culture and the arts, the ordinary people were still very much at the mercy of the individual monarch who ruled them. If he (and it was normally a he, although there were some outstanding female rulers in this period, in particular Russia’s Catherine the Great and Marie Therese of Austria) decided, he could silence anyone and strip away rights on any pretext.

This had a negative impact both on the citizens as individuals, but also on the development of the broader society. Firstly, every country was at risk from constant pointless wars waged for the personal aggrandizement of the ruler. At the same time internally, censorship and repression meant that innovation was stifled. At least scientists and academics were not censored, unlike the preceding period where the Catholic Church shut down the innovations of Galileo and others.

It was during this period, however, that ideas about universal rights, religious liberty and freedom began to push back. The American revolution of 1776 and the French revolution of 1789 were based on European enlightenment thinkers who held that reason meant the right of the people to have a say in how they were governed and to have representation. These principles were articulated firmly in France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man, voted on by the National Assembly in 1789. That document declared in Article One “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.”

What that freedom entails, and what rights people are equal in has dominated political debate since.

More radical thinkers went still further, pushing for the abolition of monarchy altogether. “Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived,” American Founding Father Thomas Paine thundered in his revolutionary 1776 pamphlet Common Sense.

It was as a solution to the problems of absolutism and theocracy that the First Amendment was formulated. It correctly places the freedom of the press, the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances and the right to religious freedom together in one amendment. In so doing, it recognizes the connection of those three rights as essentially one right: freedom of conscience. Then it places that amendment first in its list.

By placing it first, the founding fathers of America recognized that if they had any pretensions to establishing a truly free society, in what was then a radical experiment hitherto unheard of in human history, primacy had to be placed on the freedom of the individual.

The best way to achieve this was by enshrining freedom of conscience as the most important principle of their new society.

Looking at the success of America as a country and as a society since the Revolution, not to mention the successive waves of millions of immigrants who came to America to experience a chance at freedom and financial opportunity, one is inclined to conclude that freedom might just be a good idea after all.

In the next part, we will assess how the world of Enlightenment Europe interacted with the Muslim world during the colonial period, and why the Muslim world did not take on the ideas of the First Amendment.

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