October 6, 2014
An Ongoing Discussion About Fair and Honest Reporting in Israel
My Life As An AP Bureau Chief In Israel
by Steven Gutkin 25/09/2014
And the truth about bias
When I led coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the world’s largest news organization between 2004 and 2010, my colleagues and I knew we were writing about the globe’s most scrutinized story. But we tried to take it in stride. As long as we angered each side equally, we surmised, we were doing something right. So when we were falsely accused of “erasing” a video of a young Palestinian boy getting shot by an Israeli soldier, we decided not to give it credence by responding. And when these past few days, a former colleague stated, again falsely, that we buried key stories that made Israel look good, among other transgressions, my initial reaction was the same. Just let it go.
But there was something different about this accusation. For one, it came from a reporter whom I hired personally in 2006 in the middle of a war. And from a person who I thought then and still think now is a good writer.
Matti Friedman’s allegations, in a story in the Jewish publication Tablet, have gone viral, with more than 70,000 Facebook shares as of this writing. Eloquently written, it has the air of a ‘tell-all’ piece from a former insider. The article has struck a chord among Jews, despite its dubious central theme: that anti-Semitism thrives, even among non-Muslim communities in the West and especially among journalists. With Israel’s public image reeling from the recent war in Gaza – and Israel supporters everywhere eager to counter the widespread criticism of Israel – the story’s timing was perfect.
Unfortunately, the story was little more than well-written hogwash. Matti’s message was that Jews today – like their oppressed ancestors – have once again become “the pool into which the world spits.” Criticism of Israel, he argued, is the latest manifestation of old-style anti-Semitism, which has focused attention on Israel rather than the world’s true villains. The key to understanding this “hostile obsession with the Jews,” he wrote, “is to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues.”
Matti didn’t mention names, but he was talking about me, and other leaders of the Associated Press bureau in Jerusalem. I’m no longer in that crowd. I left the AP nearly three years ago (to start the publication you’re reading now), which gives me something in common with Matti, who resigned around the same time I did. Both he and I can say whatever we want about those momentous years, without having to consult the AP or anyone else. Matti’s article was essentially about bias – what he said was our bias against the Jewish state. If we are honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that bias, especially unconscious bias, is an inescapable part of the human condition. (The Nobel-prize winning Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman explained it elegantly in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow”, writing, “We are blind, and we are blind to our blindness.”)
It is true the conflict we covered can be framed in various ways: of downtrodden Palestinians facing off against powerful Israel, or of tiny Israel against the surrounding sea of 300 million Arabs. Often, I felt that attempting to “frame” it either way was not instructive. It was preferable to simply bear witness to what we saw unfolding before our eyes. During my six-year tenure in Israel and the Palestinian territories, our staff was made up mostly of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims, with a smaller number of foreigners who belonged to neither or those two communities. Matti provided valuable, fair-minded input during those years, a voice that often helped ensure the Israeli viewpoint got a fair shake without belittling the other side. I was grateful for that, and for the other voices in the bureau who did the same for the Palestinians.
As bureau chief, I knew it was one of my key roles to fight bias in our reporting. Was this achieved all the time? I doubt it. But I know an honest attempt was made at all times. I always told our reporters not to deliver “milk toast” and to lay bare the raw passions of each side in all their glory, rather than trying to tone down the arguments. While fairness was of utmost importance, I told them, not every story had to be 50-50 (if you were reporting in 1930s Germany, I asked, would you be compelled to give half the space to the Jewish side and the other half to the Nazis?)
Matti states that the AP’s Jerusalem bureau – like all other major news operations based in Israel and the Palestinian territories – employs too many reporters because of this hostile obsession with the Jews. The truth is the story of Israel is that of a nation rising from the ashes of the worst genocide in human history, being attacked from all sides upon its inception. Depending on your point of view, it’s also a story about the persecuted becoming the persecutors. All of this, of course, is happening to the people of the Bible, the descendants of the Hebrew slaves who were led out of Egypt by Moses and from whose ranks emerged Jesus Christ. It’s as if a new chapter of the Bible is being written in our times. Whether you think the Bible is mythology or the word of God is beside the point. The point is we are all human beings who love a good story, and this one is particularly good.
In his article, Matti states that I personally suppressed stories that did not fit my narrative of Israel being bad, implying that I was a part of this worldwide media conspiracy against the Jews. It’s a large statement, and of course could only be true if I hated myself. The truth is I am not a self-hating Jew or any kind of Jew other than just a regular one. There was a time years ago when the large media outlets avoided appointing Jewish people to lead news operations in Israel. Wouldn’t such a person be prone to taking the Israeli side? Or perhaps over-compensate by being too pro-Palestinian? Experience has shown those concerns were largely unfounded, and that Jewish bureau chiefs in Israel have been pretty much the same as anyone else. In my case, I have no doubt that my Jewishness gave me a keener appreciation of the Israeli cause. I also know that my intense feelings about Jewish persecution – and the fact that much of my own family was murdered in the Holocaust – made me even more sensitive to the plight of the weak, no matter who they were.
I was present in Pakistan when another Jew, Daniel Pearl, was murdered. I was chasing after an interview with the same militants who brutally ended his life, and at first I thought he was “lucky” when he beat me to them. I knew his fate could have been mine. I did not know Steven Sotloff, the Jewish journalist recently beheaded in Syria, but his personal story, too, was not unlike mine. Yes, I have a strong Jewish identity. But what I believe in most is humanity.
One of my favourite memories of my time in Afghanistan is of a local AP colleague, a devout Muslim, driving around Taliban-ruled Kabul singing the Hebrew hymn “Shalom Aleichem.” I had taught it to him. In the morning, my children and I drink from ceramic mugs that were gifted to me by a Palestinian colleague in Gaza grateful that I secured him a hospital bed in Jerusalem when he suffered a medical crisis. The AP staff in Gaza and the West Bank all knew I was Jewish, and were all fiercely protective of me whenever I visited. Not unlike my colleague in Peshawar, Pakistan who helped me escape the clutches of the ISI when they detained me at the Afghan border, getting beat up for it in the process. One of my favourite Facebook messages is the one I receive every year from a former colleague in Gaza – no matter the situation on the ground – wishing me a Happy Passover. I do not believe in suppressing good stories, and would never do so. Nor do I think Israel is bad.
If an article didn’t appear that Matti thought should have, it was not because it didn’t fit a pre-ordained narrative or because we had it in for Israel. Deciding which stories to pursue involves news judgment, and rare events are more newsworthy than common ones. Reporters do not write about all the houses that DON’T catch fire, and corruption in Sweden is more noteworthy than it is in Nigeria. (Though it must be stated that Matti’s assertion that the AP ignores Palestinian corruption and other aspects of Palestinian existence is untrue). Matti stated that a female reporter in our bureau had access to maps showing the contours of a generous Israeli offer of a Palestinian state, but that the bureau’s leadership refused to run the story. The map he’s talking about was indeed shown by a Palestinian official to one of our reporters. It affirmed a longstanding Palestinian proposal for a land swap that had been part of the Geneva Initiative, and was old news.
During my years with the AP and other news organizations, I reported from some two dozen countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Colombia, Cuba and Israel. I have been threatened, shot at and shelled, and I have been present when colleagues were injured and killed. Were there times when we decided not to report a given fact because we thought it would endanger one of our reporters? Yes there were, and one of these incidents occurred when Matti was on the editing desk. But these events were extremely rare – perhaps only two or three times during my entire six-year stint in Israel/Palestine – and we withheld the information only after concluding that it would necessarily be traced to the reporter in question, thus jeopardizing his life. Matti and I were in Israel at the same time covering the same news. I am grateful for the acknowledgment he gave me in The Aleppo Codex, the wonderful book he wrote on the stunning fate of one of history’s most important Hebrew manuscripts. Of course I do question Matti’s belief that the international media is teeming with anti-Semitism. And I do wonder how a person with his intelligence and compassion can fail so completely to see the other side.
Except for one reference to an Israeli transportation service in the “occupied” West Bank, Matti’s 4,000-word story in Tablet did not mention the word “occupation.” That a sizeable percentage of the population making up the Holy Land live under Israeli military rule against their will did not merit a mention tells us something about the prevalence of bias. No, media coverage of Israel is not the new face of global anti-Semitism. In every society I covered in my decades as a foreign correspondent, whistle blowers were dubbed traitors and defenders of the status quo were considered patriots. Matti seems to argue that Israel should be left alone because it’s not as bad as Bashar Assad or the Taliban. I believe there’s nothing wrong with giving voice to all those who believe the Jewish state can and should do better. And I feel the same way about the Palestinians.
Matti writes, “If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate.” During my time in the region, I worked hard to ensure the strength of AP’s coverage of the entire story, both in Israel and the territories. We upgraded our offices in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza City, and appointed a full-time senior staffer to oversee coverage of the Palestinian territories. Those moves continue to pay dividends, providing highly nuanced, well-researched insights into these areas (in recent weeks alone, the news agency ran stories on Palestinian nepotism, dissenting voices in Gaza, Hamas corruption and the arrest of a top Hamas official for financial misdeeds).
There’s no such thing as perfect balance and a complete lack of bias. Not when you’re dealing with human beings. But there is something called good faith, and I’m proud to say we had lots of it in Israel and Palestine. I say that in the spirit of fighting bias – not as a Jew, but as a journalist. For anyone out there just tuning into this mini-saga between me and one of my former employees at the Associated Press in Jerusalem, here’s the recap sequence: the employee, Matti Friedman wrote a tell-all piece in the Jewish publication Tablet that went viral, accusing me and other AP leaders at the time of unconscionable journalistic breaches. I responded with an assessment of my time as AP’s bureau chief for Israel and the Palestinian territories between 2004 and 2010, and the challenges we faced in fighting bias. Now Matti has written a response to my response. He’s taken his original accusation – that an anti-Israel bias fuelled by old-school anti-Semitism plagues the mainstream international media – a step further, stating that the editorial decisions we made have contributed to growing violence against Jews around the world.
While I did respond to Matti’s main accusations in my Sept. 17 piece, I decided not to write a detailed, point-by-point rebuttal because of the ludicrous nature of his assertions and because I didn’t want to subject my readers to yet another boring debate on Mideast politics. Instead, I attempted something different – a personalized account of what those years were like for me, as a Jew, a journalist and a person committed to fighting bias. I had never written anything like that before, as I never would have been allowed to while still an employee of the AP (I resigned three years ago to start the publication you’re reading now).
But a large number of readers responded by asking for that detailed rebuttal, so I will offer a brief one here. (I know this is a rebuttal to a rebuttal’s rebuttal, but I will try my best NOT to be boring). Matti’s original story did not mention me by name, but two of his principal accusations did refer to the period I served as bureau chief – what he said was a decision to suppress a story explaining a peace offer by then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and a decision to “erase” the detail that Hamas fighters blended in among civilians.
Let me state this unequivocally. At no point did the bureau suppress any story about an Olmert peace offer. We in fact reported this offer many times in various forms. Here is just one of those stories, as it appeared in the Jakarta Post, the newspaper of the world’s most populous Muslim nation. We had no “confirmation” of a major scoop from Israeli and Palestinian sources, as Matti claimed, and there was certainly no decision to reject any worthwhile story. As I stated in my last piece, one of our reporters was shown a map that did not refer to the specifics of any peace offer. Instead, it referred to a longstanding Palestinian proposal for a land swap that had appeared earlier in the Geneva Initiative, and was therefore old news. To claim that we sat on news of Olmert’s offer because it made Israel look good is preposterous. That’s not what journalists do. That’s not what we did. Making this claim betrays a basic misunderstanding so profound that it verges on the comical.
As for the second claim, I wrote on Sept. 17 that there was an incident in which we decided not to report a specific piece of information about Hamas blending in with civilians because of a threat to one of our reporters, whose life was in fact in danger. Matti states that this amounts to Hamas dictating our coverage. Again, that perhaps would have been true had we not reported this information in other ways (something Matti incorrectly said we failed to do). AP archives from Gaza and the West Bank contain numerous references to Hamas firing from civilian areas, and blending in with civilian populations. Here is one example, and one more. And the bureau’s commitment to covering this topic, contrary to Matti’s assertion, continues to this day, as evidenced by this recent piece.
In his latest piece, Matti stated that my article conceded his central thesis – that the media are obsessed with the Jews. In fact this is not a point I concede. Of course Israel gets a lot of coverage, but whether it’s too much is a matter of debate. In my last article, I explained in some detail what I believe is one of the key factors behind this phenomenon – the ongoing saga of the people of the Bible. But there are many other reasons as well. Military occupations around the world are, in fact, rare. Israel is a Jewish-majority country in a Muslim-dominated region. Israel’s contributions to science, technology and other pursuits are disproportionate to its small population. The list goes on. Does Israel receive the exact amount of coverage it deserves? I don’t know. But I do know that the crucial error in Matti’s analysis is that he assumes the media houses have dictated this reality rather than reacting to the desires of readers around the world.
In his latest piece, Matti took issue with my observation that his 4,000-word story contained no meaningful mention of the Israeli occupation (sorry, the cursory allusion to the “occupied West Bank” in the context of pointing out an Israeli transportation service there does not constitute such a mention). Matti explained this omission by stating that his essay was about “the media, not the occupation.” Fair enough. But if you’re writing about media coverage of Israel and the Palestinian territories, and you cannot find it within your soul to mention the occupation, then the truth is your essay “about the media” is just not a very good one.
Both of Matti’s articles are brimming with errors. He states, for instance, that the Hamas charter calling for the destruction of Israel “was never mentioned in print when I was at the AP.” That, again, is untrue. In fact, the charter was mentioned repeatedly during Matti’s tenure at the bureau, including here. Matti states in his latest piece that he wrote “the only serious settlement-related investigation” during the period I was bureau chief. His argument, therefore, was that there was no serious coverage of the Palestinians “as agents of their own fate” AND no serious coverage of the Israelis, either. I appreciate his happiness at basking in the glow of Rick Santorum’s praise, but Matti’s sentiment is not shared by the Associated Press Managing Editors or the Pulitzer Prize committee, both of whom bestowed major awards on the bureau’s coverage during those years.
And now Matti has taken his accusations to new heights, stating that editorial decisions like the ones I made helped cause mob attacks in Paris against Jews and a rise in anti-Jewish incidents in Britain. Matti is preaching to the choir. The deluge of supportive commentary following his essays doesn’t necessarily mean his fans are more numerous, just more vocal. And yet it must be said that the opinions of the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd, those who are incapable of seeing any Israeli culpability, do matter. These are people with the power to make and break politicians, and alter the foreign policy of the United States.
Yes I, like everyone else on the planet, do have a political stance. As a former, not current, AP journalist, I am now free to reveal it. That does not mean I let my personal opinions affect our coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The truth is the real danger does not come from the media reporting the news. But there does seem to be something dangerous about a persuasive writer feeding a beast that keeps Israel on a disaster course. By pandering to the worst fears of those who feel the world is out to get the Jews, Matti and the recent slew of other journalists who’ve written similar pieces help stoke the fires that prevent a two-state peace, doing little to further the Zionist goal of a Jewish and democratic Israel.
And here is Matti's response:
Ongoing Controversy Around ‘The Most Important Story on Earth’
Responding to critics of my essay about Israel media coverage
By Matti Friedman|September 16, 2014
My essay “An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth” touched a nerve far beyond my expectations—I didn’t think that in our times a 4,000-word essay would be shared 750 times on Facebook, let alone 75,000. A second essay will appear here soon. The article drew a series of interesting responses. Richard Miron, a veteran of both the BBC and the United Nations, published a reflection on his own similar experiences. In Jerusalem the Israeli historian Gershom Gorenberg, from the left side of the local political spectrum, called it a “must-read, must think about,” and Rick Santorum endorsed it on Twitter from Pennsylvania. Some accused me of being an apologist for the Israeli right, and worse. A few former colleagues thought practicing journalism on journalists was a kind of betrayal; others were discreetly thrilled. I have made friends and enemies I’m not sure I need.
There has been no serious public response to the piece, however, from inside the system I’m criticizing—no denials of the examples I gave, no explanations for the numbers I cite, no alternative reasons for the problems I describe. This uncomfortable silence is an admission. Here I would like to reply briefly to the closest thing to an official explanation that has emerged so far. This is a short essay published by Steven Gutkin, the AP’s former bureau chief in Jerusalem, in the paper he currently runs in Goa, India, and highlighted here at Tablet last week. The article is important for reasons I believe its author did not intend.
Steve, who chose to identify himself as one of the editors who appeared anonymously in my account, responds to my concrete examples with generalities, musings about the human condition, anecdotes, and much discussion of his own Judaism. He seems to believe this is about character—he is an experienced journalist, he writes, and is a Jew, albeit one who believes most in “humanity” (as opposed to the ones who, you know, don’t). We should thus believe him when he says my essay is “hogwash,” even if he can’t be bothered to actually disprove anything. I was a junior member of the staff, we are to understand, and spent less time in the international press corps than he, and I am Israeli. Of course all of this is true. But so what? I’m making a case about the coverage. Anyone hoping to dispute what I wrote has to provide, as I do, concrete information about the coverage.
What I want, he thinks, is for Israel to be “left alone,” which is the usual response from people called out for their Israel obsessions. But of course I want no such thing: I want Israel to be covered, as I wrote, “as critically as any other place, and understood in context and in proportion.” Steve wants to believe that my argument is that the press corps is “teeming with anti-Semites,” because that makes me easier to dismiss. In no way is that my argument. What I believe, and wrote, is that old thought patterns centered on Jews are reasserting themselves in the West. I do not think anyone sensitive to events this summer, particularly in Europe, can believe otherwise. I think the press is central in all of this, consciously or subconsciously, and I show how this works using examples.
Steve would like readers to think that my criticism of the media’s failures has something to do with being “blind” to the Palestinians, and wrote (incorrectly) that I had not once referred to the occupation of the West Bank in my article. In fact I had (he later corrected that detail), and I also wrote that the settlements are “destructive” and a “serious moral and strategic error on Israel’s part,” which doesn’t leave much room to err about my politics. The reason I don’t dwell on the occupation is not because I’m unaware of it, but because my essay is about the media, not the occupation. It’s also worth pointing out here that the only serious settlement-related investigation published by the AP’s Jerusalem bureau during Steve’s tenure, an article very critical of Israeli actions, was written by me. I’m proud of it.
Most strikingly, Steve is happy not only to confirm the media’s obsession with Jews but to endorse it. If he thinks there’s any journalistic problem in a news organization covering Israel more than China or the Congo, he doesn’t say so. He thinks, in fact, that Jews—the “people of the Bible,” or perhaps the “persecuted who became persecutors”—are really, really interesting. His piece is, in other words, a confirmation of my argument mistaking itself for a rebuttal. As for two of the most serious incidents I mentioned, a careful reader will note that Steve concedes them. Both have ramifications beyond the specifics of this story.
1. To the best of my knowledge, no major news organization has publicly admitted censoring its own coverage under pressure from Hamas. A New York Times correspondent recently saidthis idea was “nonsense.” Responding to an Israeli reporter asking about my essay, the AP said my “assertions challenging the independence of AP’s Mideast news report in recent years are without merit.” But the AP’s former Jerusalem bureau chief just explicitly admitted it. He confirms my report of a key detail removed from a story during the 2008-2009 fighting—that Hamas men were indistinguishable from civilians—because of a threat to our reporter, a Gaza Palestinian. He goes even further than I did, saying printing the reporter’s original information would have meant “jeopardizing his life.” The censored information in this case is no minor matter, but the explanation behind many of the civilian fatalities for which much of the world (including the AP) blamed Israel. Steve writes that such incidents actually happened “two or three times” during his tenure. It should be clear to a reader that even once is quite enough in order for a reporter living under Hamas rule to fall permanently in line. This means that AP’s Gaza coverage is shaped in large part by Hamas, which is something important that insiders know but readers don’t.
I’m not saying the decision to strike the information was wrong—no information is worth the life of a reporter. But I am saying that the failure to get it out some other way, or to warn readers that their news is being dictated by Hamas, is a major ethical shortcoming with obvious ramifications for the credibility of everyone involved. The AP should address this publicly, and all news organizations working here need to be open about this now.
2. I wrote that in early 2009 the bureau wouldn’t touch an important news story, a report of a peace proposal from the Israeli prime minister to the Palestinian president. This decision was indefensible on journalistic grounds. A careful reader will notice that Steve does not deny this. He can’t, because too many people saw it happen, and a journalist as experienced as Steve might assume, correctly, that at least some of them vetted my account before it was published. He merely quibbles with a marginal detail—the nature of a map that one of the reporters saw. I repeat what I wrote: Two experienced AP reporters had information adding up to a major news story, one with the power to throw the Israeli-Palestinian relationship into a different light. Israelis confirmed it, and Palestinians confirmed it. The information was solid, and indeed later appeared in Newsweek and elsewhere. The AP did not touch this story, and others, in order to maintain its narrative of Israeli extremism and Palestinian moderation.
Failing to report bad things that Hamas does, and good things that Israel does, which is what these examples show, creates the villainous “Israel” of the international press. That these failures mislead news consumers is clear. But they also have a role in generating recent events like a mob attack on a Paris synagogue, for example, or the current 30-year-high in anti-Jewish incidents in Britain. There are several causes behind such phenomena, and editorial decisions like these are among them. But this is one subject about which the AP bureau chief, for all of his Jewish ruminations, has nothing to say. The press corps is obviously not “teeming with anti-Semitism.” But neither is it teeming with responsibility or introspection, and the kind of thinking that has taken hold there should have all of us deeply concerned.
October 3, 2014
Some Thoughts from Romans 1:16-18
Familiarity is not always helpful. There are times when we are some familiar with a text that we don not pay attention to its details. Such, I think, is often the case with Romans 1:16-18: I am not ashamed of the gospel,because it is God’s power for the salvation of everyone who believes, of the Jew first and of the Greek as well. For in the gospel God’s righteousness is being revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The righteous will live by faith.” For God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness and wickedness of those who in their wickedness suppress the truth. In fact, we are generally accustomed to referring to verses 16-17, without reference to verse 18. However, you might notice that verses 15 and 16 are connected by the same word which connects verse 18 is to verse 17: "for."
Of course, "for" means "because". God's righteousness verse 17) is revealed by the Gospel in that the Gospel God saves Jews and Gentiles by the same means and, at the same time, the Gospel has more immediate reference to the Jews because it is the fruit of God's promise to them. So, on the one hand, God is shown by the Gospel to be true to his promises and on the other to treat all men on the same basis of grace by the exertion of that powerful grace. That is why Paul is "not ashamed" of the Gospel.
But God's righteousness is also revealed by the Gospel in that the Gospel declares God's anger at sin. If you want to understand how much God hates sin, listen to the Gospel; look at the cross and see the horrible anger of God poured out on his Son for our sake. A truly biblical Gospel is not the wimpish, "come to Jesus and be happy/healthy,satisfied" that is often preached nowadays. It is, rather, the robust "flee to Jesus from the righteous anger of God, who hates sin with a perfect, righteous hatred and perceives of man's refusal to worship and obey him as the height of sin. Flee God's terrible wrath to his surprising, powerful grace." That is another reason why Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel.
A low view of sin is the product of a low view of God, both of which lead in turn to a low view of the cost and value of salvation as well as of the kind of obedience the Gospel demands. God is glorified when we make most of him and least of ourselves; more of his will than of our happiness; more of his glory than of our comfort. That is one of the important ways the righteousness of God is revealed by the Gospel.
We need not apologize for the Gospel. Nor do we need to seek ways to make it more attractive. In an of itself, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. That is an aspect of its beauty.
These days are the High Holidays in Israel, when Jews all over the world prepare as best they know how for the most awesome of days in the Jewish calendar: the Day of Atonement. Please pray with me that God would open the eyes of many to recognize the beauty of Christ in the Gospel and turn to him for salvation.
September 7, 2014
Hamas' Performance from Palestinian Eyes
(culled from various sources)
On Saturday, September 6, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in Egypt with journalists and took Hamas to task for "the humanitarian disaster it imposed on Gaza and its civilians." He estimated 15 years will be necessary to restore Gaza to its abject state prior to recent hostilities. "What kind of victory is it of which they boast?!" he asked. Abbas further insisted that Hamas must follow through on the agreement reached between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas: “we will not accept the continuation of a situation in which Hamas remains as it is now. There must be one authority, one armed military and one government.”
Abbas has accused Hamas of breaching reconciliation agreements with the Palestinian Authority by running its own shadow government in the Gaza Strip. “They have 27 directors-general of ministries,” he said. “The national consensus government cannot do anything on the ground.”
In the course of the recent conflict with Israel Hamas killed 120 Palestinians who left for safety after Israel warned of intended bombings, Abbas said, defying the curfew imposed by Hamas to ensure civilian homes remained populated. “This in addition to the extra-judicial execution of 30-40 people during the Israeli assault.” These were added to the number of casualties reported by Hamas during Israel's assault. More than 300 Fatah members were confined to their homes in the Gaza Strip during the war. Hamas also shot dozens of Fatah men in the legs by Hamas militias, in some cases merely for criticizing Hamas' policy during the flareup.
Fatah’s central committee also accused Hamas authorities in Gaza of confiscating donated materials from the West Bank (clothing, mattresses, water, food, etc.) and distributing them at a price to their own supporters. During the fighting, Hamas complained that aid distribution was not coordinated with its own officials rather than with Palestinian Authority officials.
Palestinian Authority security agencies in the West Bank on Saturday stepped up their crackdown on Hamas activists. Hamas claims more than 40 of its members and supporters have been rounded up by the PA since the end of Operation protective Edge and another 30 were summoned for interrogation. On Saturday, Hamas representative Hussam Badran condemned the PA clampdown and called on all those who have been summoned for interrogation not to report. All such arrests are related to recent claims that Hamas planned to stage a coup against the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. As part of the crackdown, the PA prevented a number of pro-Hamas preachers from delivering sermons during Friday prayers in West Bank mosques.
In recent weeks, Palestinian Authority security personnel have forcefully dispersed Hamas protests in Gaza, which have been marked by an abundance of green separatist flags. Over the last week, Palestinian security forces in the West Bank arrested 10 Hamas activists – some of them university students; broke into Islamists’ homes and offices, including the offices for the student movement associated with Hamas at Al-Quds University; and summoned another seven activists for questioning.
Hamas has claimed this constitutes political persecution. A statement published on Wednesday read, “These arrests and attacks are done as part of Fatah and Palestinian Authority attempts to slander and distort the victory of the resistance [the armed factions] in the Gaza Strip, and an attempt to steal from it [the resistance] the fruits of victory.”
Israeli intelligence forces point to a large-scale Hamas terrorist movements in the West Bank and Jerusalem designed to destabilize the region through a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Israel and then topple the Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said Monday for its lack of response to the expected Israeli retaliatory efforts. The plot was orchestrated by overseas Hamas operatives in Turkey, led by senior Hamas leader Salah al-Aruri, the head of the West Bank sector in Hamas’s overseas wing.
Khaled Mashaal, Hamas’s overseas leader in Qatar, was aware of the plot, the sources said, though there was no involvement from Hamas in Gaza. “The terrorists planned to undermine security and launch a third intifada. They planned disturbances on the Temple Mount to rile the Palestinian masses. They were waiting for talks between Israel and PA to collapse,” the source said. Meanwhile, they had readied cells in 46 Palestinian towns, cities and major villages. “The exposure of this infrastructure, one of the largest we have encountered, underlines the high danger posed by Hamas’s overseas headquarters,” a spokesperson for the Israeli intelligence forces said.