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#DefundHamas

When the sorrowful news arrived about the discovery  in a field north of Hebron of  the bodies of 16 year old American-Israeli Naftali Frenkel, Israelis Gilad Shaar, 16 and Eyal Yifrach, 19 z”l (of blessed memory)  the immediate emotional reaction was to extend condolences  and expressions of rachmonis (compassion) to their  bereaved and grief stricken families.  Virtually all Israelis were praying hopeful of their safe return following their abduction by alleged Hamas supporters while hitchhiking home from a yeshiva on the evening of June 12, 2014.  With this yesterday’s announcement hope was tragically dashed.  We published  an NER article,Exposing Hamas’ Kidnapping Strategy: an Interview with Dan Diker”,  with formal statements from Israel’s PM Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and President Obama.  The common thread was the commitment to bring to justice the perpetrators identified by Israeli authorities as prime suspects in the murders of the three Yeshiva students.  PM Netanyahu declared that “Hamas will be punished… Hamas will pay”.

But the question arose, how can that be achieved?  When the announcement was made of a Palestinian Authority Hamas unity government, there was outrage. Hamas had been designated a foreign terrorist organization by our State Department. By law our government is barred from funding designated terrorist groups. Following the formal announcement of the PA-Hamas Unity government there was a groundswell of support among Congressional supporters of Israel to deny appropriation of $500 million in support of the PA.

Noted investigative author, Edwin Black, wrote in a  May 1, 2014,  Israel National News op-ed,”Financing the Flames III: Lawmakers Ready to Defund PA” :

At this point, the law is clear, their actions are clear, and the path forward is clear,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) told the JTA news service immediately after news of the Hamas union became known. Lowey is the ranking Democrat on the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee of the US House Appropriations Committee. Subcommittee chairperson Kate Granger (R-TX) echoed Lowey’s statements. Representatives Granger and Lowey, in many ways, control the purse strings.

[…]

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) released a statement that he would immediately move to defund the PA if the new Hamas-PA entity did not agree to recognize Israel in five weeks. Numerous other legislators have signaled their readiness to vote for similar legislation now being formulated with competing wording.  April 29, 2014,  House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) told a Jewish group assembled in the Committee’s Rayburn Building chamber that he would also support halting all PA funding if incitement is not curtailed.

Black cited calls for stopping aid to the PA-government from UK Parliamentarians and the EU:

 The U.K. Telegraph reported, “Sir Gerald Howarth, a Conservative MP, has called for Britain to suspend all aid to the Palestinian Authority until payments to terrorists cease.”

In Brussels, several members of the European Parliament, such as Poland’s Michal Kaminsky, demanded under Rule 117 that such funding be stopped. At the same time, a special report by the EU’s Court of Auditors discovered that more than 90 million Euros in fuel subsidies have simply vanished. Moreover, the EU report concluded, Europe is paying salaries for approximately 61,000 civil servants and members of the security forces–who do not even report to work. In one office, the National Audit Institute of Palestine, a check confirmed that 90 staffers out of 125 could not be located.

Additionally, there is also the matter of the annual Congressional appropriation for a donation in support of the UNWRA program that funds administration of 58 camps in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon housing an estimated 1.5 million registered Palestinian refugees covering four generations. Those UNWRA Palestinian refugee camps have been complicit in providing employment to terrorists and educating children in incitement to hate and violence towards Israel and Jews.

defund hamas websiteThat led my colleague Lisa Benson of the Salem Radio Network weekly Lisa Benson National Security Show to conceive of launching a campaign seeking to convince Americans contact the President, their Senators and Congressional Representatives with a message.  We called that message by its Twitter handle #DefundHamas. The website is:  http://www.defundhamas.com/.

Benson contacted Larry Ward at Political Media in Washington, DC to create a website, deploy the program’s and other e-mail lists to reach nearly a million people in the US and abroad. Ward, coincidentally,  was interviewed as spokesperson for Special Operations Speaks together with Roger Aronoff of Accuracy in Media’s Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi that appears in our July NER article, “Death in Benghazi, Part 2: Will the House Select Committee Find Truth?“ By 11:00 p.m. last night a website was up with links to donations and automatic letters to send to elected US. governmental officials.  We drafted a form letter  to request  those elected US government officials to support #DefundHamas.  Below is a copy of the letter.  Consider this our push back against the terrorist murderers of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrak z”l. May their memories live forever as guideposts for good thoughts and good deeds.

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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

IDF Raids Seek an American and Two Israelis Allegedly Abducted by Hamas

Saturday night, the IDF and Shin Bet arrested more than 80 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad activists in Hebron in the disputed territories. This is in connection with the abduction of three youths, one American and two Israelis. The IDF has committed a paratroop brigade to the operation sealing off the area of the abduction. The IDF and Israel’s General Security Service (Shin Bet) launched a massive manhunt last Thursday for the alleged Hamas abductors of 16 year old American Naftali Frenkel and two Israelis, Gilad Shaar, 16 and Eyal Yifrach, 19. They were allegedly abducted while hitchhiking home from religious school in the Gush Etzion bloc between Bethlehem and Hebron.  According to a Washington Post report, one of the abductees got off a cell call saying, “we’ve been kidnapped”.

Hamas is believed to be behind their abduction.  At a Sunday Cabinet meeting, Israeli PM Netanyahu said:

Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas; the same Hamas that Abu Mazen (Abbas) made a unity government with. This has severe repercussions.

The WaPo report cited Israeli American Naftali Bennett, economics minister in the Netanyahu ruling coalition, saying: “We will respond with an iron fist to terror.”  Thousands of Israeli prayed for the safe return of the three youths at the Kotel, Western Wall, of the Temple in Jerusalem. The National Council of Young Israel in New York issued a call for a Prayer Service for the safe return outside the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan on Monday, June 16th. The announcement used the Twitter hashtag, #BringBackOurBoys.

Hamas issued a statement praising the abduction.   According to an updated report by The Daily Mail, Senior Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri in Gaza called the accusation by PM Netanyahu “silly”. Really?   While cooperating with the Palestinian security service, Israel also relies on their own resources in the West Bank to identify the abductors and the possible location of the three teens. This despite PA senior official Hanan Ashrawi cited  by The Daily Mail saying , “this is something we have no information on”.  However, what can you expect from the Palestinian unity government with Hamas.  Its Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah acknowledges that it has no control over Gaza.

Secretary of State Kerry issued a statement today saying:

The United States strongly condemns the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and calls for their immediate release. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families. We hope for their quick and safe return home. We continue to offer our full support for Israel in its search for the missing teens, and we have encouraged full cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services. We understand that cooperation is ongoing.

We are still seeking details on the parties responsible for this despicable terrorist act, although many indications point to Hamas’ involvement. As we gather this information, we reiterate our position that Hamas is a terrorist organization known for its attacks on innocent civilians and which has used kidnapping in the past.

Three Israelis? Frankel is a US citizen. The Daily Mail noted Frankel’s mother’s   public message to her son that reflected the concerns of many Israelis and Americans:

Mommy and Daddy and your brothers love you until the end of the world and you should know that the people of Israel are doing all they can to bring you back home.

Israelis and Americans are more than concerned about the fate of three abductees given prior occurrences, including former IDF Sgt. Gilad Shalit snatched during a cross border raid in 2006 and released in an exchange for more than 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in 2011.

Then there is the case of 13 year old Israeli American Koby Mandell and Israeli Yosef Ishran abducted and murdered while on a hike in the disputed territories near the Israeli settlement of Tekoa in May 2001. Mandell’s family had made Aliyah to Israel in the mid-1990’s. The US Congress passed the Koby Mandell Act in 2004 that authorized the Justice Department to arrest foreigners, including Palestinians, who had murdered Americans overseas.  The Koby Mandell Foundation was established in his memory to provide bereavement counseling to the parents and widows of terrorist victims.

In 2012, 52 members of Congress signed a letter sponsored by the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) urging the Department of Justice’s Office for Justice of Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OJVOT), which was formed in 2005, to implement The Koby Mandell Act.  Sarah Stern of EMET said that the letter was to “ensure that the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks against American citizens overseas remain a high priority within the Department of Justice.”  Z Street, of which this writer is a board member, was one of several sponsors of the EMET letter to prod Attorney General Holder to recognize the responsibilities of OJVOT.

Sherri Mandell in a Jerusalem Post oped during the EMET 2012 campaign cited the dismal OJVOT track record since the law’s enactment in 2004:

The OJVOT is supposed to investigate, apprehend, indict, extradite and punish terrorists. At least 54 American citizens have been killed, and 83 wounded here in Israel. Neither the OJVOT nor the Department of Justice has done anything to enforce American law in these cases. The only terrorist prosecuted under the law was the killer of a Christian missionary in Indonesia. I’m happy that the killers were prosecuted, but still one wonders. Why is there no communication, investigation, prosecution, or indictment here in Israel? The OJVOT is supposed to protect us. Instead it neglects us.

We sincerely hope the massive IDF-Shin Bet dragnet can free American Naftali Frenkel, Israelis Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and capture their abductors. In view of the abject failure of the US government to pursue justice for the families of the US victims in Israel and the disputed territories, we trust the Israeli government can bring these perpetrators to justice.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.