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Israeli Publicist: How Could Jewish State Strike Deal With Those Who Don’t Want it to Exist?

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The rocket attacks by Hamas started on 10 May targeting areas near Jerusalem, Ashkelon, and Tel Aviv. The major escalation was preceded by clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian Arabs at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which left at least 300 Palestinians and several dozen Israeli police officers injured.

The clashes in Jerusalem served as the trigger point while the major reason behind Hamas’ attacks against the Jewish state is that the organisation does not recognise Israel’s right to exist, according to Jerusalem-based Israeli publicist and political commentator Avigdor Eskin.

Two Hamas Docs Say Israel Has No Right to Exist

“The reason for the conflict is their raison d’etre – the destruction of Israel and killing of the Jewish people,” the commentator argues, citing the 1988 Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). 

Hamas was founded in 1987 as a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood*, an international Sunni Islamist group. The 1988 charter explicitly called for the destruction of Israel and “jihad” against Jews as well as the creation of an Islamic state in Palestine.

Article 13 of the 1988 document stipulated that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.” “Initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavours,” the covenant underscored. 

Since then, a number of countries have designated either Hamas or its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as a terrorist organisation, condemning its calls for violence against Jews as “racism.”


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REUTERS / Mohammed Salem

A picture taken with a drone shows Hamas supporters taking part in a protest against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to postpone planned parliamentary elections, in the northern Gaza Strip on April 30, 2021.

In 2017, Hamas attempted to rebrand itself as an Islamic national liberation movement rather than a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot in a bid to break the movement out of its international isolation. The new 2017 programme stated that “Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”

Despite dropping the explicit language of the original covenant, the document retained:

·         the goal of “liberating” Palestine – the geographical area covering the State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip;

·         non-recognition of Israel;

·         justification of the struggle against Israelis by all means possible, arguing that “resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws.”

“The establishment of ‘Israel’ is entirely illegal,” claimed the document, rejecting all the agreements, initiatives, settlement projects, and international resolutions “that are aimed at undermining the Palestinian cause.”

While the document calls for “liberation” of Palestine in its entirety, Article 20 remarks that Hamas “considers” the establishment of “a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967.” This comes in an apparent contradiction with the spirit of the programme as the 1967 lines leave part of Palestine’s territory out of Hamas’ claim.

Still, the document does not explicitly supplant the previous charter of the founding fathers. Presenting the new political programme in 2017 Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh stated publicly that it would undermine neither the organisation’s principles nor its strategy. 


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AFP 2021 / HATEM MOUSSA

Masked Palestinian Hamas militants display their weapons during a parade in Gaza City. File photo.

Hamas, Suicide Bombing & Qassam Rockets

Since its inception Hamas has engaged in attacks against Israel. Between 1993 and 2000, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) carried out more than 30 suicide bombings, while the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) negotiated peace with Israel within the framework of the Oslo format.

During the Second Intifada (2000-05) which claimed the lives of 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinian Arabs, various Palestinian groups conducted 25,000 assaults against the Jewish state, including 151 suicide attacks, according to the Israel Securities Authority (ISA). Hamas and PIJ were responsible for 65 percent of suicide bombings, which claimed the lives of 515 Israelis.

In addition to this, Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, started firing self-made Qassam rockets, largely targeting Israeli civilian areas, since the early 2000s. Indiscriminate attacks by Hamas against Israeli civilians have been repeatedly condemned by international human rights organisations.

Israel’s decision to dismantle Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and completely withdraw from the region in 2005 did not end the violence, says Avigdor Eskin. According to the observer, since then Hamas has only improved its military capabilities and stepped up strikes against Israel. 

In the subsequent years, the Islamist militant group and the Israeli Defence Forces have repeatedly engaged in armed conflicts, with the latest military standoffs among the fiercest.

While some media routinely pins the whole blame on Israel for the civilian casualties, it remains overlooked that Hamas on many occasions uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, argues Eskin.

“Hamas fires the deadly missiles towards Israeli towns and villages targeting almost solely civilian targets,” says the Israeli commentator. “Also, Hamas fires from the heavy populated areas and this is another crime against humanity. When Israel hits the very sources of fire – civilians suffer sometimes. If these facts are ignored, the whole picture would be distorted.”

Eskin notes that it also remains underreported that “when Israel strikes back at Hamas, Palestinian civilians in the area are getting calls from the Israeli side with a warning to leave the area in order to save their lives.”


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REUTERS / AMIR COHEN

Streaks of light are seen as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards central Israel as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 16, 2021

What’s Behind the Timing of the Clashes?

Apart from fighting with Israel, Hamas has also clashed with other Palestinian political and militant movements, such as the Fatah Party – formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement. The Fatah-Hamas conflict also referred to as the Palestinian Civil War erupted in 2007 and resulted in the split of the Palestinian Authority.

Following the victory of Hamas’ Change and Reform Party in elections for the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) in 2006, Fatah and Hamas engaged in a series of disputes and sporadic over power-sharing. After a military standoff between 10 and 15 June 2007, Hamas ousted its rival from the Gaza Strip.

Since that time the PLC joint legislative activities have been frozen. The new parliamentary and presidential polls as well as the Palestinian national council elections were scheduled to be held this year for the first time since 2006.

Some observers wonder as to what prompted Hamas, which is seeking to win in the 2021 vote, to engage in a direct conflict with the Jewish state. A number of American conservative politicians and pundits allege that Donald Trump’s defeat could have “emboldened” the militant group.

​Trump conducted a series of policies in support of Israel including the recognition of Jerusalem, Golan Heights, and the West Bank as Jewish territories. For its part, the Biden administration and the Democratic Party are leaning towards a two-state solution and are expected to recalibrate some of Trump’s Israel policies.

​”Hamas is hoping the Biden administration will pressure Israel to stop the military operation. It remains to be seen if their hopes will come true,” presumes the Israeli commentator.

Currently, Israel’s primary aim is to destroy Hamas’ military infrastructure in order to prevent their attacks for the coming few years, Eskin says. It’s likely that the Israeli operation will stop in a week or two. However, it might lead to yet another temporary cease-fire which would not solve the problem, he argues. The Israeli commentator believes that the disarmament of Hamas’ military wing as well other jihadi militants in Gaza would have improved the odds of resolving the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict and paved the way to peace in the region.

*The Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries.



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Russia to lose Swift access, pipeline if it invades Ukraine

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“Work is already underway for … disconnection of Russia from the Swift banking system, sanctions on the Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 [to Germany],” if it invades Ukraine, Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs said in The Guardian Tuesday. “If [Russian president] Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flow through that pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine,” US national-security adviser Jake Sullivan told Reuters.

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Can artistic freedom survive in Sudan? The writing’s on the wall… | Global development

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In the new dawn of a heady post-revolutionary era, Suzannah Mirghani returned in 2019 to the country of her birth for the first time in years. Her mission was to shoot a short film on Sudanese soil. It proved unexpectedly straightforward.

“When the revolution happened, there was this exuberance,” she says, from her Qatari home. “When we came to make our film, we were given the green light. We were told: ‘Anything you want’.

“Nobody harassed us. Nobody told us what to do. Nobody asked us for the script. I call this time in the history of Sudan ‘the honeymoon’,” says Mirghani.

Sudanese director Suzannah Mirghani at this year’s Tribeca film festival in New York.
The Sudanese director Suzannah Mirghani at this year’s Tribeca film festival in New York. Photograph: Michael Loccisano/Getty

More than two and a half years after the toppling of the longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir, Mirghani fears the honeymoon is over, at least for her. The turmoil into which Sudan has again been plunged means she feels unable to return safely.

On 31 October, as her film, Al-Sit, won the latest of many awards, Mirghani had to give an acceptance speech that was anything but celebratory.

Six days before, the military had seized power in a coup, detaining the civilian prime minister and bringing the country’s fragile transition to democracy to an abrupt halt.

In a video address from Qatar to the Africa in Motion film festival in Scotland, Mirghani said “the only reason” she and her crew had been able to make Al-Sit was the active encouragement given by the civilian-military partnership government. “Now,” she added, “we’re in very serious danger of going back to the bad old days of military rule and stifling creative expression.”

Since the coup, a lot has happened: huge pro-democracy protests thronged through Khartoum and other cities, with at least 40 demonstrators killed.

After almost a month, the prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, was released as part of a deal struck with the coup leader, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

A still from a film, with a young girl talking to her grandmother as they sit next to a lamp at night
A still from Mirghani’s film, Al-Sit, about a young girl’s arranged marriage in Sudan. Photograph: Courtesy FilmFreeway

But the protesters, who want the military out of politics for good, are not convinced, and even less so as security forces fire teargas into the crowds that continue to gather despite Hamdok’s return. With the creative gains made after the revolution now hanging in the balance, Sudanese artists feel they have to speak out.

“We artists will be the first to be targeted if the military government continues in power,” writes Aamira*, a painter, in an email from Khartoum. “We are demonstrating in the streets, facing guns, unarmed. There is nothing to fear any more.”

In an interview with the Financial Times last week, Hamdok defended his decision to strike a deal with the military, saying it was essential to stop the bloodshed and “preserve the achievements of the last few years”.

It may not have been uppermost in his mind, but one of those achievements was the flowering of an artistic community that had long been harassed, censored and forced into the shadows. Assil Diab, a street artist, says: “I painted Omar al-Bashir as the [face of] coronavirus in a stadium in Bahri during the daytime, which would have been just impossible; my whole family could have been killed two years ago.”

Street artist Assil Diab’s depiction of former dictator Omar al-Bashir as the face of coronavirus on a stadium wall in Bahri, Khartoum.
The street artist Assil Diab’s depiction of the former dictator Omar al-Bashir as the face of coronavirus on a stadium wall in Bahri, Khartoum. Photograph: Assil Diab

Feeling compelled to return amid the revolutionary fervour, Diab returned to Sudan in 2019 and made her name painting the faces of the revolution’s “martyrs” on the outside of their families’ homes, with a getaway car close by in case the notorious paramilitary Rapid Support Forces saw her.

For Mirghani, the “absolute elation” of the revolution yielded creative results. Al-Sit is the beautifully observed story of a Sudanese village girl whose parents want her to marry the sharp-suited son of a wealthy cotton trader in Qatar. “To finally be able to express yourself, to say what you had wanted to say to these people for 30 years: it’s amazing.

“My film is about women’s rights. It’s social commentary on arranged marriage. I don’t think we could have said that a few years ago,” says Mirghani.

The “honeymoon” was not without its challenges. The dictator was gone, but social and religious conservatism – and a reluctance to champion the arts – remained. Artistic freedom was patchy: in 2020, the renowned film-maker Hajooj Kuka and several others were detained during a theatre workshop.

Asim*, a documentary film-maker in Khartoum, says that, although in the capital the “direct censorship” of the Bashir era has eased, the rest of Sudan is not as relaxed. “It’s partially freedom and partially censorship,” he says. “It is a battle about 10% won.”

Khalid Albaih, a political cartoonist based in Qatar, returned after the revolution to launch the Sudan Artist Fund (SAF), to provide budding creatives with money and mentors, and with an ambitious plan to create a public art and design library. He says: “I thought: this is it. All doors were open and this is what we were going to do.

a cartoon of a protester draped in Sudan's flag painting a red line through a street sign showing a U-turn
The political cartoonist Khalid Albaih makes his point about the recent coup attempt. Photograph: Khalid Albaih

“I took all my papers, and for the first time in 10 years I’m in Sudan walking around, not scared of any police, or secret police, or anything. I went to every business owner in Sudan and everyone that can donate money to these causes. And I got nothing but rejection – for a library and for an artists’ fund.”

Finally, Albaih secured $7,000 (£5,300) from CultuRunners, a cultural exchange organisation, and the SAF awarded its first grant of $500 in October – just before the coup. “It was incredible because the internet cut out [after the coup leaders imposed a nationwide online blackout] so the artist didn’t even know he had won. We had to call him. It took two or three weeks to send the money to him,” says Albaih.

The cartoonist knows there will not be any more funding for a while. “Now everything is rocky. No one knows how things will go. It’s going to be really hard for artists and these kinds of initiatives to move forward.

Women walk past a hoarding with graffiti of silhouetted protesters
Women walk past graffiti reading in Arabic: ‘Freedom, peace, justice and civilian’ in the Burri district of Khartoum in 2019. Photograph: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

The coup, says Diab, left the creative community feeling “disappointed and just broken down … because we finally thought we were free and then this happened.” She intends to apply for political asylum in the US, where she is studying, feeling she “can be of better use to Sudan” from overseas.

Those in the thick of it cannot afford to give up hope. Asim was at a protest in Khartoum against the post-coup deal last week and was “teargassed the entire afternoon” amid chants of “no partnership, no negotiation, no legitimacy”. He is realistic about future challenges but knows that people have made up their minds.

“I feel like there is a grip on power and it will not end today; it will not end tomorrow. Whether those power-hungry authoritarians will roll with democratic transition and allow people to express their freedoms, allow journalists and film-makers to operate or not, that is something that is still [up in] the air, because you never know with the ever-changing dynamic of power in this country,” he says.

The momentum towards democracy is undeniable, he says. “I believe that is possible and I believe there is hope. The people will not stop asking for what they really want. [Will] that future come tomorrow? The day after? In two years? In five? We never know. But it seems like the consensus is that people agree it has to happen.”

*Names have been changed to protect their identity

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EU agrees to sanction Russian mercenaries

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EU diplomats have provisionally agreed to blacklist three Russian nationals and one entity, the ‘Wagner Group’ mercenary outfit, on grounds of human rights abuses in Africa and the Middle East, diplomatic sources said. The decision will be formalised by foreign ministers next Monday. The move comes amid Wagner’s increasing presence in Mali, threatening French interests in the region. Europe earlier sanctioned a Russian oligarch, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said to fund Wagner.

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