BY BARRY SHAW
Jerusalem Post AUGUST 24, 2019
Ilhan Omar tweeted, “Yesterday at Social Justice Day a student asked me, ‘How do I stay hopeful that change is going to come?’ This is tough to unpack,” she responded before going on to give a meaningless ramble.
More perceptively, @rdunnflorida tweeted, “Only weak people blame others. Strength is taking responsibility for everything that you do.”
This set me thinking. How about a different Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib itinerary for their tour of Palestine? One based on them educating Palestinians to take responsibility for themselves based on their social justice and civil rights principles.
So welcome to my Omar-Tlaib Palestinian social justice tour.
It will not be the hostile agenda devised by Hanan Ashrawi and her anti-Israel Miftah group that will never lead to normalization and peace. Instead, it is one that appeals to anyone genuinely concerned about social justice, civil and human rights for Palestinians. Hopefully, it will solve all the unsolvable problems and lead to a better future for those who Omar and Tlaib claim to care for.
This tour demands a high level of truth and honesty. A difficult but necessary commodity for these two new congresswomen.
It begins when their plane lands at Ben-Gurion Airport. This is their first test of honesty. The two Democratic delegates have to admit they have arrived in Israel. Don’t let them off the plane until they do. Honesty has to start with them. Without that, they have no chance of making the world a better place.
In fairness to them, my itinerary does not force them to meet Israel’s prime minister or president. Nor does it impose on them a visit to the Knesset, or to attend a wreath-laying ceremony in memory of Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem. They will have to struggle with their Jew-hatred on another occasion. Maybe it will come as they strive to establish lasting peace, which will sprout out of my itinerary.
They will head straight to Ramallah and, after a good night’s sleep in one of the five-star hotels there, their schedule will begin.
After breakfast, they will be driven to a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. After handshakes, hugs and kisses, they will be ushered in to a special assembly of the Palestinian National Council. After initial formalities, the ladies will stress the importance of civil rights and request to know how many Hamas members are represented in the assembly, based on the fact that in the last four-year national legislative elections, which took place 13 years ago in 2006, Hamas won a majority, 74 of the 132 seats.
The ladies will note than no Hamas representative has ever attended a council meeting since the Hamas-Fatah split in 2007 and the resultant Palestinian civil war, in which 600 Palestinians were killed and dozens more murdered or executed in the following years.
If Omar and Tlaib are insistent on pursuing a policy of civil justice, they will place a motion for both sides of the Palestinian political divide to come together and set a deadline to meet again in one year’s time. Good luck with that.
After lunch with the president, they will be driven to Birzeit University to meet the student body. Here, democracy reigns, with Hamas and Fatah each gaining 23 seats in April 2019 student elections. They will be disappointed to learn that a progressive movement in Palestinian student society does not exist. The Progressive Student Union received zero seats, while the student wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine won five seats. Which shows the way that future political winds are blowing around Ramallah.
ON THE second day, Omar and Tlaib will be taken to a UNRWA refugee camp to learn that the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians does not exist. UNRWA officials will be pleased to show the two congresswomen the success of decades of dedicated service to Palestinian refugees that has bloated the numbers from a few hundred thousand to the amazing figure of over five million registered Palestinian refugees. Enough to keep thousands of officials in gainful employment for decades to come.
Apart from the propaganda benefits, little has been done to lift Palestinians out of poverty. During their visit, they will examine schoolbooks to see that Israel does not exist.
From there, they will be taken to one of the summer camps where kids and youths are taught the importance of killing Jews, and then taken out into the open space to learn how to shoot guns and how to stab Jews to death.
To relieve the tension, they will be given an afternoon guided tour of Rawabi, the new Palestinian new city with its elegant shops and luxury homes built for families close to the corrupt plutocracy of the Palestinian leadership.
Hailed as “the flagship Palestinian enterprise” and built by Palestinian billionaire Bashar al-Masri, Rawabi is only 24 kilometers (12 miles) from the Balata refugee camp they had just visited.
The juxtaposition of such wealth with the dire poverty of Balata will give them pause. Rawabi cost 1.5 billion dollars to build. Balata, which houses 27,000 Palestinians, was described by Haaretz, Israel’s left-wing newspaper, as “a rat-infested Mumbai-like slum.”
To compound the corruption and criminality of Palestinian wealth and poverty, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib will be invited to dine with Abbas. That was supposed to have been at his $8 million, 50,000-square foot mansion complete with helipad, until uproar and embarrassment at the gross waste of foreign money turned it into a “national library.” Instead, Abbas will host them at his more modest several million-dollar address.
In 2018, Mahmoud Abbas ordered a $50 million private jet from Boeing. It will be a specially-converted 737, though where he is going to park it is another matter. The only airport under Palestinian control is in Gaza, occupied by Hamas, his deadly political enemy, and that runway was bombed by Israel to prevent weapons being flown in and used against the Jewish state.
This economic waste would make interesting conversation for the Palestinian-supporting, American social justice socialists and the PA leader over dinner.
Day three will be a compulsory visit to Jericho for the justice warriors. Their visit will include a tour of the detention camp mentioned in a 2019 Human Rights Watch report.
According to HRW, “Both the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and Hamas authorities in Gaza are arbitrarily arresting peaceful critics and opponents. From January 2018 through March 2019, the Palestinian Authority admitted detaining more than 1,600 people based on their peaceful expression, while Hamas authorities arrested more than 1,000 during the March 2019 protests against their rule.”
“The Palestinian Authority and Hamas remain bitterly divided, but unified in a common approach to crushing dissent,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Leaders who have been in power for more than a decade without elections should, at the very least, listen to criticism, not punish it.”
In the HRW report, the Palestinian Authority admitted detaining 65,415 Palestinian in the West Bank in 2018 and the first three months of 2019. I bet you didn’t read that in your mainstream media.
It must be an issue for the concerned Tlaib and Omar to investigate and report on to Congress?
IT GETS worse.
Tlaib and Omar insist they are champions for Palestinian human rights. Let them examine this.
Under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, people are being detailed, imprisoned and tortured because of their political affiliations.
The Independent Commission for Human Rights has received 455 complaints from Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza of “torture and mistreatment” in 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. The incidences number 242 by Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and 213 by Hamas in Gaza.
Human Rights Watch recommended that, “other countries should suspend assistance to Palestinian security agencies that routinely torture dissidents including, for the Palestinian Authority, the Intelligence Services, Preventive Security, and Joint Security committee, and, for Hamas, Internal Security, as long as systematic torture and other serious abuses continue.”
Issam Akel, a Palestinian-American, was sentenced on December 31, 2018, by a Palestinian court to life imprisonment with hard labor for the crime of selling his Jerusalem property to a Jewish buyer.
He was part of a roundup of 44 Arabs arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security forces for selling property to Jews.
This is an opportunity for Omar and Tlaib to act against this human rights and civil rights abuse of Palestinians by Palestinian authorities.
It took the protests of the Israeli and American governments, including the personal intervention of David Friedman, the US Ambassador to Israel, to force the Palestinian Authority to release Akel into the hands of US authorities in late January.
Akel is one case. He was lucky. There are at least another 43 other Palestinians who are suffering incarceration for the antisemitic and racist policies of the Palestinian Authority that Omar and Tlaib must examine.
DAY FOUR will take them to a place that was on their original program. They will visit Khan al-Ahmar, the makeshift Bedouin village, but this time they will visit it with Regavim, the Israeli NGO that will not give them propaganda. Regavim will give them the facts and show them the maps and the aerial photos to back up their truth.
Khan al-Ahmar is a real example of “illegal occupation.” This one is being carried out by the Palestinian Authority with the connivance of several European nations and the EU in clear breach of the signed Oslo Accords. The land is in Area C which, according to all parties to the agreement, remains in Israeli administrative and security control until a future permanent peace agreement.
The Palestinian Authority have deliberately transferred in from other areas tribes of Bedouin families, dumped them down in a barren spot and given them free makeshift housing. The Europeans have brought in prefab structures, provided solar panels and constructed a school. All in blatant illegal breach of international agreements.
Regavim will then take Omar and Tlaib to visit the empty lot in the Mishor Adumim industrial area which once housed SodaStream, the soft drink company that employed more than 600 Palestinian workers enjoying Israeli wages and social benefits. They worked alongside and often above Jewish workers as supervisors. That was before the BDS Movement and the Palestinian Authority began to exert pressure and threats against this normalization designed to lead to cooperation and a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians. SodaStream moved out of the area and opened a new factory in the Negev, north of the Israeli city of Beersheba, where Palestinian workers have been replaced by local Bedouin, who now enjoy the Israeli good life.
Omar and Tlaib should visit the 600+ unemployed Palestinians, thrown on the scrapheap thanks to BDS and anti-normalization Palestinian officials, many living the luxury life in Rawabi.
Miftah was determined to take them to Bethlehem. They should go there to visit the miracle checkpoint that “imprisons” the Muslim Palestinians of Bethlehem, but not the Christians.
When Israel governed the holy Christian town of Bethlehem, the population was 80% middle-class Christians. Tourism was good and Bethlehem folk lived free and productive lives. Then came the peace agreement and Yasser Arafat’s men moved in. What followed were threats and violence against the Christian community and terrorism from Bethlehem against Israeli civilians in Jerusalem, Hebron and other places.
A security barrier was built in the north of the town and a checkpoint was needed to stop armed terrorists infiltrating into Israel. Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, Christians were harassed and threatened by their new Muslim neighbors and fled.
Today, the Christian population of Bethlehem is below 20% and falling. Omar and Tlaib would learn a lot by listening to those who barely escaped with their lives.
Bethlehem is a once-Christian town with an overwhelmingly Muslim majority. Those who have been “ethnically cleansed” have been the Christians by the Palestinian Muslims. Fact.
In other words, the “oppressive” Bethlehem checkpoint is a place that lets Christians out and lets Muslims in. It’s a new form of replacement theology.
Simply put, since Israel moved out and the Palestinians moved in, Bethlehem has gone from being a thriving Christian town to a poverty-ridden Muslim town. This is due to corrupt and lawless Palestinian occupation, not a non-existent Israeli occupation.
NEXT STOP, Hebron.
Omar tweeted, before she had visited the place, that Hebron was, “Once a bustling economic hub, settlement expansion has resulted in a two-tier city, with Palestinian living under military occupation forced to walk on the other side of the street from Israelis.”
Who is giving her this propaganda crap? How dare she write such nonsense, as if she is an expert and before she has even visited the place?
Hebron is the place where the Jewish Abraham bought a plot of land and where the Jewish Patriarch and Matriarchs are buried. A truly significant Jewish town.
Jewish did I say? Jewish “settlement expansion” in Hebron?
Only 3% of Hebron is Jewish today. That may be because Hebron is the place where Arabs massacred the Jews in 1929, and continue trying to kill them.
Settlement expansion? Today, there are 220,00 Palestinian Arabs living in Hebron and barely 700 Jews. Who is expanding? Palestinians or Jews? You decide.
The few Jews are protected by IDF soldiers because Hebron Arabs, affiliated to Hamas, want to kill them. Jews dare not set foot in 97% of Hebron. You wouldn’t know that from the anti-Israel propaganda.
But how about Omar’s “once a bustling economic hub”? Today, Hebron accounts to 30% of the West Bank’s GDP.
Omar tweeted on August 16, “77% of shops have closed bc of military occupation.” In my tour, Omar will visit the thriving shopping malls and markets of Hebron. In fact, Hebron has more shops than any other Palestinian town. So much for 77% shops closed.
I told you I would bring you facts and truth in my Omar-Tlaib tour of Palestine.
Throughout their Palestinian tour to Ramallah, Jericho, Birzeit, Rawabi, Hebron, Bethlehem, they will not meet a single Jew. Jews are banned there. This is genuine racist apartheid. It is also the official policy of the Palestinian Authority.
But, when my tour demand that they walk through the Jaffa Gate to the most holy site for all three of the world’s great religions, they will be blown away, peacefully, as are all tourists who visit Jerusalem, at the intermingling of Jews, Muslims, Christians and others, walking freely among each other in the bustling alleyways of the Old City.
When they approach the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, they will see hundreds of Jews praying with Muslims passing by undisturbed. But when they reach the plaza of the al-Aqsa mosque, they will witness Muslim women abusing any Jew that may have ventured there due to a personal sense of holiness in being on the spot of the ancient biblical Jewish Temple. The harmony they may have enjoyed in arriving at this location is ended by Muslim hostility to Judaism.
And this is the core of the whole problem.
Solve that, and you solve everything.
The writer is the international public diplomacy director at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. He is the author of Fighting Hamas, BDS, and Anti-Semitism.