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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Olmert's 'Christmas present' to Bethlehem: Deportees may be allowed back

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that the Olmert-Peretz-Livni government is considering allowing some of the thirteen 'Palestinian' terrorists who were deported in May 2002 after the siege of the Church of the Nativity to return to Bethlehem. For those who have forgotten, here is recap of what happened four and a half years ago from Wikipedia:
On April 2, 2002, approximately 200 Palestinians fled the advancing Israeli forces into the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. During the siege, the Church bellringer and 9 Palestinians inside the Church were killed and many more wounded. While the Israelis were preforming a psychlogical attack on the millitants, a fire broke out. According to a PBS doccumentary, an IDF flare was responsible. Following extensive negotiations, the Isreali forces laid siege to the Church for a total of 39 days, during which many civilians and Palestinian policemen left, some of whom were taken into temporary Israeli custody according to Frontline. Among the people still present in the Church in early May 2002 were 39 Palestinian men wanted by the Israeli army, as well as various civilians, clerics, policemen, the Governor of Bethlehem Muhammad al-Madani, and 11 people who caught the Isrealis by suprise and ran into the Church with needed supplies on 2 May - ten foreign activists of the International Solidarity Movement and Carolyn Cole, a photographer of the Los Angeles Times.

Negotiations over how to end the siege were arduous and broke down several times. Besides the Palestinian and Israeli negotiation teams, those involved included Greek Orthodox clerics from the Church of the Nativity and officials from the USA, the European Union and the Vatican. Finally, an agreement was reached to end the siege. Under this Agreement, 26 Palestinians from the Church of the Nativity were to be exiled in the Gaza Strip. Thirteen others were to be deported abroad.

On 9 May, 26 men, emerged from the Church into Manger Square, were taken on two buses to Gaza, under US escort, and passed through the checkpoint into Gaza on foot, after having been questioned at an Israeli army base. The following day, 10 May, the remaining 13 Palestinians left the Church. The 13 men were then taken on a bus to Ben Gurion Airport (outside Tel Aviv), from where a British military aircraft carried them to Cyprus. The remaining Palestinian policemen and civilians were released. Later the same day, the ten International Solidarity Movement activists were removed from the Church.

The 13 deportees arrived in Cyprus where they were to remain temporarily until the European Union, which had undertaken the will to receive them, would decide to which specific member states they would go....

On 21 May, The European Union finally decided on the host countries for 12 of the 13 deportees. Italy and Spain would each take three, Greece and Ireland would each take two and Belgium and Portugal would each take one. On 22 May, the 12 Palestinians were taken under police escort to Larnaca airport. In the following days, they reached their destinations. No agreement was found with respect to the 13th man, Abdallah Daoud, described by Israel as “the most wanted of the wanted”. He was eventually received by Mauritania on 25 November 2002.
The 'deportees' were all senior terrorists. Let's take Abdallah Daoud as an example:
Daoud was born in 1962. He is originally from the Balata refugee camp, in Nablus. Today, he resides in Bethlehem, and serves as the Head of the Palestinian Authority's General Intelligence apparatus in the city. He had previously served as the Head of the General Intelligence apparatus in Tulkarm and Kalkilya.

It has emerged that Daoud provided assistance and instructions to senior Fatah Tanzim operatives, such as Raed Karmi - a senior Tanzim operative responsible for fatal terrorist attacks in the Samaria region, Mohammed Naafa - a Tanzim terrorist operative and Abbas Alsaid - a Hamas terrorist operative.

Daoud provided courses and training to Tanzim operatives, and provided weapons and ammunition to Tanzim operatives. He encouraged them to carry out attacks, and chided them for not doing enough for the Palestinian struggle. He recruited operatives, and encouraged them to carry out attacks.

It emerged that he was personally involved in shooting attacks, together with Tanzim terrorist operatives. Daoud was personally responsible for operating a terrorist cell, for the execution of shooting attacks and the liquidation of collaborators.

Daoud was also involved along with others in the production of high explosives, for the use of Tanzim operatives. He also instructed his operatives in the preparation of bombs and high explosives.

He coordinated the transfer of weapons from one town to another, for the use of Tanzim operatives. He purchased and transferred mortar bombs and landmines. He encouraged the recruitment of terrorist operatives into the ranks of the PA General Intelligence apparatus, in order to grant them protection, following their terrorist operations.

Daoud assisted in the handling of the terrorists responsible for the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rechavam Zeevi. During the questioning of Said Hassan Khalil Rabia of Abu Dis, it emerged that Daoud had contacted him by phone to clarify the whereabouts of his terrorist accomplice Hamdi Qoran.

Recently, he orchestrated the Tanzim operatives in Bethlehem in the execution of shooting attacks against Israelis, including attacks on the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.

He took part in directing the 25 February 2002 shooting attack at the Tekoa junction. In the attack, two people were killed, and one person was severely wounded.
And for those who have forgotten, while the terrorists hid in the Church of the Nativity, the Church's Christian owners and the church itself suffered. This is from a recent interview with one of the siege's leaders, Jihad Jaara, who is now in exile in Ireland:
Over 200 nuns and priests were trapped in the church after Israeli hostage negotiators failed to secure their release.


WND: Again, the church siege took place in front of the world media. There is plenty of video footage of the condition the church was in when the ordeal finally ended. It was a big mess. And the priests afterwards told reporters your group seized church stockpiles of food and "ate like greedy monsters" until the food ran out while civilians inside went hungry. They say you also guzzled beer, wine, and Johnny Walker scotch that your group found in the priests' quarters. Israel says it even found over 40 explosive devices inside.

JAARA: It is not a secret that inside the church there was a very serious lack of food. I don't remember that there were such problems as you describe. Still, we were 250 persons inside the church who suffered from the fact that the Israeli army prevented any food supply and we were obliged to eat the weeds of the gardens in the church. We did not blackmail the religious to give us their food. They kindly and with much generosity offered us to share their food with us.

As for the conditions in which we left the church, it is true there was a lot of dirt but it is normal to the conditions in which we were living. Thirty-nine days without any water and any possibility to move because of the snipers who were placed all around the church.


WND: Israel says it found documents after the siege that imply your group attempted to extort Church officials for money in exchange for their assured safety. Is this accurate?

JAARA: This argument is very funny. The officials of the church whom you say we tried to extort were the only ones who gave us money before our exile to Gaza and Europe. This is a very noble position that we will not forget. Secondly, why should we have needed this money during the siege? Were there malls inside the church [for us to shop in]? We did not know if we were going to survive the whole operation or not. So why should we need this money?


WND: Explain why Christians accounted for upwards of 90 percent of Bethlehem for years until the Palestinian Authority took control of the city in 1995. Immediately Christians started fleeing the city. Now the population is about 20 to 25 percent Christian. Just what caused the vast majority of Bethlehem's Christians to flee right after the Palestinians took control?

JAARA: This is the responsibility of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli cruelty. The Israeli occupation defaced Christian monuments and sites and this was part of the reasons that incited Christians to leave. The Christian emigration is not a new phenomenon. Muslims leave places too. I reject your attitude that makes a separation between Muslims and Christians.

WND: I am not referring to Israeli reports. I have personally talked to scores of Christians in Bethlehem who say they feel threatened by the Muslim population. Many were afraid to even give me their names for fear of Muslim retaliation. Should Christians in Bethlehem be afraid?

JAARA: I say that all these things are rumors and arguments that Israel brings in order to separate between the two communities hoping that these thoughts will infiltrate our society. Problems can take place between a Muslim family and a Christian one, yet this happens between neighbors all over the world. It is not in any way a planned aggression against Christians. It is true also that when there is a case of a Christian girl who gets married with a young Muslim it is a very sensitive affair that may create some tension but it is very natural now all over the world that couples from different religions get married. It is the occupation that feeds this tension.
Back to the Jerusalem Post. The Post is reporting that there are a lot of Christians in Bethlehem who would rather these people stay abroad:
On Saturday, Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat announced that the deportees would soon be allowed to return to Bethlehem. The announcement was made following the summit between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem.

While most Muslim residents here welcomed the news about the impending return of the gunmen, some Christian families expressed fear that the deportees would once again impose a reign of intimidation and terror in the city.

"What a wonderful Christmas gift from Father Christmas, Ehud Olmert," commented a local businessman. "These men were responsible for a spate of attacks on Christians, including extortion and confiscation of property." [/sarcasm CiJ]

He said the biggest threat came from those gunmen belonging to Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, whose members often targeted "peaceful" Christians.

"I'm aware that most Christians living here are afraid to speak publicly about the issue, but the overwhelming majority was not unhappy when these thugs were deported from the city," he added. "Now some people here are once again worried because of the reports that they will return. They remember all the bad things that happened to the Christians when these gunmen were roaming the streets. People also remember how the gunmen mistreated the monks and nuns who were held hostage during the raid."

The families of the Bethlehem deportees have been campaigning for the past four years to allow their sons to return home. The issue has been raised several times during meetings between Israeli and PA officials, but no solution was ever found.


Mary, who works in a local tourist agency, said not all the deportees were involved in anti-Christian actions.

"Some of them were good boys, but there were a few who used their guns and rifles for criminal purposes," said the 44-year-old woman. "Some residents are now worried that these guys will return to the streets of Bethlehem. We heard that one of them, who is now in Europe, was involved in the murder of two Christian sisters in Beit Jala."

Tony [not his real name], who owns a small souvenir shop near Manger Square, said he and many of his fellow Christians used to live in fear when the gunmen were around.

"They used to take cigarettes and other goods for free from my neighbors," he recalled. "When they were deported from the city, there was a sigh of relief not only among Christians, but some Muslims as well. Let's hope that when they come back, they will return to normal life."

The few Christians who agreed to go on the record had only words of praise for the gunmen.

"They are heroes," said Bishara Hazboun, a 22-year-old university student. "There's no difference between Christians and Muslims and we are all one people. Some people have been trying to defame the fighters by spreading all kinds of lies against them. I never saw them do any harm."
To my Christian friends abroad: How do you think Bethlehem's Christians really feel about having these terrorists back in their midst? And to all of you, why would any Israeli government willingly take back these criminals? Those who are kind to the cruel are eventually cruel to the kind. Allowing this gang of terrorists to return to Israel will only bring more terror and violence. Let's keep them away.


At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The main problem that most people here in Israel and around the world don't realize with Olmert, is that this is just the beginning of his term as PM.

This is probably the scariest and most devastating statement possible but it's something most people don't notice. The primary reason is that while Olmert was only offically elected PM a few months ago, he has been the official PM since Sharon went vegetable.

The problem with this continuation is that most people still have it in their minds that when took over it was part of his current term. This is also why people are laxed about Olmert staying because most feel that it's just another few months since Olmert has been around for so long.

Until this idea is really stuck into peoples heads and and really remember the disaster that was the Summer of '06 (I know what it was because I live in Haifa). People won't get out there and push for new elections.

My only hope is that new elections will take the form of regional or constituencies. In my opinion one of the main reasons why the north was so badly ignored was that practically everyone in the Knesset lives in Gush Dan or Jerusalem area.

It's true that Peretz is from Sderot and doesn't do crap, but lets be real it's Peretz.

The fact is that until suicide bombers make Ramat Aviv and Gevatime malls feel insecure, nobody in the Knesset is going to do anything. This is also why nothing happened in the war, unless it was for Gush Dan's best interest.

The problem today is that Israel is really like the UK is some ways. The Gush Dan area holds the control, Jerusalem is the administrative capital, and the North and South are the buffers to be traded away as needed for the two central provinces protection.

At 11:54 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


If you search NotInMyBackYard, you will find that I have discussed this several times over the last year. But for the psychological effect of losing the Temple Mount, Jerusalem would be treated the same as the North and the South - in fact, our problem is that the average Israeli has no clue what he is fighting for in Jerusalem.


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