The readers of this blog who disagree with me and who seem to think that I relish criticizing Israel are wrong. I don’t relish bringing to your attention heart-rending stories like this one written by Gideon Levy. I wish I could bring you stories about a military attempting to use its power temperately, defensively, and wisely. Instead, you’ll read here tonight about an Israeli military which sees a threat in Palestinian charity and which steals food literally from the mouths of orphans. A military force which loots not from private homes or public offices, which would be bad enough, but from charities. Do you think I enjoy this? No. It breaks my heart as it may yours:
The ovens have been brought downstairs, into hiding. The two bagel and cake bakeries have already been closed by army order. The Israel Defense Forces confiscated the ovens in one of them, but the employees in the other bakery managed to rescue and hide theirs. The popular clothing shop Pretty Woman, in the heart of the bustling mall in Hebron, and its neighbor, Mama Care, the high-end shop for baby clothes, are about to close. The same is true of the new and spacious supermarket, the modern physical-therapy institute, the beauty salon, the barbershop and the library: Everything will be closed by order of the GOC Central Command. Local food and clothing warehouses were also emptied out by the IDF last week, with an inventory worth about NIS 750,000, designated for the impressive orphanages of the Islamic Charity Movement. The goods were loaded onto trucks and confiscated.
In the well-kept orphanage we visited this week, the hundreds of children were eating only majadera (a rice-and-lentil dish) and yogurt for lunch: There is no meat, no chicken, no fish; everything has been taken away. The gates of the movement’s new school, a handsome stone building designed for 1,200 pupils, have also been welded shut by the IDF.
The army has declared war on the Islamic Charity Movement in Hebron, in the context of the war against Hamas, the war against terror. After emptying the offices of the city’s money changers of cash reserves several weeks ago, the next strategic target is the private bakeries and shops in the city, whose owners happen to lease their places of business from the owner of the buildings: the Islamic Charity Movement.
How pathetic is an occupation army that empties out warehouses of food and clothing earmarked for orphans; how absurd is GOC Central Command Major General Gadi Shamni, who signs closure orders for beauty salons and clothing shops; how outrageous is the confiscation of industrial refrigerators in which food for children is kept; how cruel is a military regime that closes libraries used by young people; how ridiculous are the excuses that closing bakeries contributes to the war against terror; how foolish is the battle against dairies whose products are earmarked for these children; and how difficult is the situation of the Israeli occupation in the territories if it must resort to such contemptible activities in order to establish its status.
Ah, you’ll say–it’s because the Movement is run by Hamas. Right? Wrong:
The Islamic Charity Movement in Hebron was established in 1962, long before the birth of Hamas, shortly before the beginning of the Israeli occupation. Since then the organization has established a ramified network of educational and welfare institutions, and has acquired a great deal of real estate all over the city, with the declared aim of providing assistance to the needy – mainly to local orphans and the children of the poor. The legal adviser of the movement, attorney Abd al-Karim Farah, young and energetic in an elegant suit and a well-kempt beard, who does not hesitate to shake women’s hands and is now studying Hebrew at a local ulpan, says that in the early days of the occupation the Military Administration helped and encouraged the activity of the charitable movement. He himself is a product of its institutions.
Today the Islamic Charity Movement cares for 7,000 orphans and children in distress from Hebron and surrounding villages. There are 350 youngsters at its boarding schools and 1,200 pupils attending its three city schools; another six are in outlying towns. The children have lost one or both parents, or come from severely distressed homes. Only a small percentage are children of the fallen. The movement’s institutions employ 550 people, assisted by hundreds of volunteers. Their monthly budget is 400,000 Jordanian dinars, over NIS 2 million. Attorney Farah says everything is supervised by accountants and the Palestinian Authority’s welfare and education ministries. Also, the curricula in the movement’s educational institutions are identical to those of the PA, according to Farah, who emphasizes that “everything is legal.”
Most of its budget comes from donations from abroad – from Arab countries, and European and American agencies – but the charitable organization also has quite a number of independent sources of income: from buildings and modern commercial centers all over Hebron that it owns and leases to private tenants and businessmen, two bakeries, a sewing workshop and a dairy, whose products are used by the children in the institutions and are also for sale in the open market. The movement has a board of directors that is elected biannually and was headed by Dr. Adnan Maswadi, an ear, nose and throat specialist, who was recently released from detention in Israel and was forced to resign. About 30 additional employees are presently under arrest for belonging to the organization.
“I would like to emphasize,” says Farah, “that our movement has no official connection with Hamas. Perhaps some of our workers belong to Hamas, just as in other institutions such as the municipalities, but there is no formal connection. Nor are there transfers of money to Hamas, as Israel claims. Our financial reports are open and transparent. We are in no way the infrastructure of Hamas.“
The IDF has declared war on orphans. And you wonder why the IDF couldn’t defeat Hezbollah during the last war. It’s too busy carting away computers from offices like this one to learn to fulfill its mission to actually defend the homeland. How it grieves me as a Zionist to read about such shameful behavior. But the next time Israel is forced to fight a war against Lebanon or Gaza or Iran and loses as it did in 2006 think back to this incident and you’ll begin to understand why.
For those who want to read it Levy has provided the IDF’s justification for this lunacy:
The IDF spokesman’s response: “During recent weeks forces of the IDF, the Shin Bet security services and the Civil Administration have been operating in order to strike at the institutions of the Islamic Charity Movement, which belongs to the Hamas terror organization and works to increase support for the organization, to disseminate its ideas, to find and enlist activists, and to transfer money for terrorist activity.
“Hamas activity is carried out under the civilian cover of support for the population and charity, but in fact the goal of the movement is to strengthen the power and control of the terror organization Hamas, as part of the expansion of terrorist activity against the State of Israel and its attempt to increase power in Judea and Samaria.
“In the context of the activities and protests of the Islamic Charity Movement in Hebron, the movement has transferred money to terror activists and their families, educated young people in the spirit of jihad, supported the families of shaheeds [martyrs] and prisoners, and worked to disseminate Hamas principles among the Palestinian population. By these acts the Hamas terror organization has exploited the Palestinian population and its weaker elements, in order to harness them to the terror network.
“In the context of the activity, the IDF operated against a number of economic assets of the Islamic Charity Movement in Hebron, and ordered their closure and the confiscation of some of their property. These assets constituted a source of income for the Hamas terror organization, which earned substantial sums of money from them for terrorist activity. The IDF will continue to adopt all the means at its disposal against the terror organizations and those who help them, and against Hamas in particular, in order to provide security to the inhabitants of the State of Israel.”
There you have it. Not a single shred of evidence. Show us a document or anything that authenticates the claim. Besides, how likely is it that the PA would allow a Hamas charity to operate unhindered in the heart of the West Bank given the enmity that exists between Fatah and Hamas?
The Islamic Charity Movement protests that its books are open and subject to scrutiny of the Palestinian Authority and prime minister Salaam Fayyad, well-known for his probity and honesty. It says it has nothing to do with Hamas and certainly doesn’t provide any funding for it. As the cheating husband said to his wife when caught in flagrante delecto: “Who are you gonna believe–me or your lying eyes?” The IDF has been caught red-handed and expects us to believe its unsupported charges.
If you’re the Israeli army and you intend to punish orphans about the only thing you can do to justify it that sounds half-way plausible is to accuse the charity of supporting terrorists. And some credulous Israelis and their supporters will believe it. The rest of us believe our “lyin’ eyes.”
Thanks to Rupa Shah for alerting me to this article.