Under the pretext of fighting Hamas: Israel launches all-out war on Islamic institutions in the West Bank

From Khalid Amayreh in Nablus

08/07/08
Palestinian Islamic leaders have called on Arab and Muslim
states as well as “all human beings who believe in justice”
to strongly condemn an ongoing Israeli campaign against
Islamic civilian institutions throughout the occupied West
Bank.

The Israeli army on Tuesday, 8 July, rampaged through the
northern town of Nablus, raiding schools, businesses,
charities, sport clubs and a major medical center.

Eyewitnesses said as many as 130 Israeli military vehicles
and armored personnel carriers stormed Nablus’s downtown
shortly after forces loyal to Palestinian Authority leader
Mahmoud Abbas were ordered by the town’s nominal governor
Jamal Muhesen to return to their barracks and stay there
until a further notice.

Thousands of American-trained Palestinian “national
security forces” are stationed in Nablus, but their tasks
are confined to fighting anti-Israeli activists,
particularly members of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad
organizations.

The targets of the latest Israeli rampage include a girl
school, which was thoroughly vandalized, an important
medical center which offers free or semi-free health
services to the poor and the unemployed, a commercial mall,
a recreational center, and an insurance company and the
offices of a number of NGOs.

One of these NGOs is the Nafha Society which monitors
Israeli treatment of Palestinian political and resistance
prisoners in Israeli jails and detention camps.

Local sources said crack soldiers and Shin Beth agents
confiscated dozens of computers and other office equipment
as well as undisclosed sums of cash. The soldiers also
seized a large amount of furniture. The Shin Beth is
Israel’s chief domestic intelligence agency which
effectively controls all aspects of Palestinians in the
West Bank. The operation which began shortly after midnight
lasted for nearly four hours, witnesses said.

Before leaving the city, Shin Beth officers gave
proprietors written statements informing them the ownership
of their businesses and property had already been
transferred to the Israeli army.

The statement also warned that any Palestinian venturing to
enter the closed premises would be imprisoned for a minimum
of five years.

The Israeli army claimed the targeted businesses and the
medical facilities were part of Hamas’s civilian
infrastructure and might have been involved in transferring
money to the movement.

However, proprietors and PA officials vehemently deny the
charges, saying they were ordinary businesses and
institutions functioning within the confines of the law.

A co-owner of a commercial department-store the Israel army
said it confiscated and ordered closed down told reporters
that “they are punishing us for being religious.”

“In any country in this world, people are innocent until
proven guilty. Here, in the so-called only democracy in the
Middle East, they arrest us, they destroy our homes, they
confiscate our property and destroy our businesses, even
without talking to us.

“So what is the difference between Israel and Nazi
Germany,” said the man who asked that his name remain
anonymous lest he be arrested.

The man who was visibly angry said “we are a religious
people, we pray and we give charity and fast during the
month of Ramadan, but we have nothing to do with Hamas or
any other organization. Destroying our businesses and
ravaging our lives on the mere suspicion that we might be
affiliated with Hamas is a dirty criminal act.”

War on Islam

One officials at the Tadamun Medical Center, which was
closed down and confiscated, accused the Israeli state of
waging an all-out war on Islam similar to the war the Third
Reich declared on Jews during the Second World War.

“I call upon all Muslims and Arabs in the world to respond
to this naked aggression on Islam and Muslims. Israel is
simply seeking to destroy Islam. They want to destroy our
mosques, they want to destroy our life, they want to
obliterate the Islamic religion from Palestine,” said Munir
S. Hanbali.

“The terrorist state claims that Hamas is the target. Don’t
you believe these lies. Their target is the very religion
of Islam, because Islam is the last-remaining obstacle
impeding the liquidation of the Palestinian cause by
Israel.”

Hanbali called on the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Qatar,
Mauritania and Turkey as well as other states that value
justice and humanity to immediately sever ties with “this
criminal entity which murders children and starves them to
death and then claims to do this on behalf of western
civilization.”

“I tell these Arab and Muslims countries ‘ shame on you.’
You are watching these vile criminals destroy the
Palestinian community slowly and step by step while you are
looking on as if what is happening in Nablus and Hebron
were happening on a distant planet.

“Wake up! Kick their ambassadors out of your country. Show
them that you care about Palestine.”

Provoking Hamas

Hani al Masri, a prominent journalist and columnist from
Nablus, opined that the Israeli rampage in the city was
aimed at provoking Hamas to “break the truce in Gaza.”

“Israel wants to show that the relative calm in Gaza
doesn’t mean that Israel’s hands will be tied up in the
West Bank. Israel simply doesn’t want the Palestinians to
have a moment of peace.”

Al-Masri said while the Israeli crackdown on Islamic
institutions would undermine the “public service sector,”
in the city, it would also increase public sympathy and
support for Hamas.

“And it would also hurt the image of the PA because the
very same institutions targeted by Israel last night have
also been targeted by the Palestinian Authority.

“This would make people think that the PA and Israel are
colluding and collaborating against Hamas in broad
daylight.”

Hamas itself accused the western-baked regime in Ramallah
of conniving with Israel to destroy the Palestinian society
in order to enable Israel to impose capitulation on
Palestinians and liquidate the Palestinian cause.

“Hamas strongly condemns the unprecedented Zionist crimes
against the Palestinian society and its economic interests
and civilian constitutions,” said a statement distributed
by Hamas Tuesday.

The statement accused the PA of collaborating and closely
coordinating with the occupation forces.

“Even their food will be confiscated”

On Monday, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz quoted an Israeli
army spokesman as saying that the occupation army will
target Islamic charitable and educational institutions in
the West Bank.

The spokesman said the purpose of the occupation army
campaign against Islamic institutions was to strengthen the
American-backed PA and weaken the Palestinian Islamic
opposition.

“We are talking about strengthening the moderate elements,
that is the Palestinian Authority, but actually the PA has
little control over the area. The Palestinian public
prefers Hamas, because they are less corrupt and more
efficient.”

The spokesman bragged about targeting boarding schools,
health care centers, charities “and even soup kitchens and
orphanages..”

“Dozens of associations were shut down and food
confiscated.”

Earlier this year, the Israeli occupation army carried out
a particularly draconian campaign against orphanages and
boarding schools in Hebron, closing several institutions
and leaving thousands of orphans and poor children
un-catered for.

The confiscated objects included several buildings, school
buses, office furniture, educational aids, classroom seats,
sewing machines, clothes and shoes.

Many of the items seized by the Israeli army from the
Hebron institutions, including children clothes, kitchen
appliances, refrigerators, food and dairy products and
computers, were later found at a waste dump outside the
settlement of Kiryat Arba’a.

The campaign was widely condemned by human rights
organizations. However, Israel’s guardian-ally, the United
States, supported the Israeli measures.

However, as usual in such circumstances, Israeli flew in
the face of the world, saying that “no country can tell
Israel what to do. We do what we want.”

The visibly vindictive campaign against Palestinian
institutions such as schools, hospitals, orphanages and
businesses is generating a lot of hatred for Israel and
Jews among a people who already have been through more than
41 years of a Nazi-like military occupation.

Nael Salameh is a Palestinian businessman from Nablus. He
says that Israel is behaving like a mad bull.

“An army that targets soup kitchens and orphanages and
ordinary businesses doesn’t differ much from gangsters and
common criminals. A state that behaves like gangsters and
criminals will not live for long.”

Salameh said Israel was pushing the Palestinian people to
the edge.

“Besides, who says that the suicide bomber is the product
of the Palestinian society and culture? It is not.

“The suicide bomber is first and foremost an inevitable
by-product of Israel’s Nazi-like terror and cruelty against
the Palestinian society. This is what the world ought to
understand.”

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