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Khaled Mashaal, Eli Yishai and others

Dec. 14, 2012 5:58 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 25, 2012 11:10 A.M.)
By: Rashid Shahin
Eli Yishai is an Israeli Jewish cleric, the head of Shas bloc in the Israeli Knesset, occupying an official portfolio, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior.

Khaled Mashaal is a Palestinian Muslim cleric, chief of Hamas' politburo; he doesn't carry any official job title neither in the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip nor in the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

A video depicting Palestinian teenagers throwing stones during a protest against Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum has surfaced over the last week.

The video, which shows Israeli soldiers "fleeing'' the stone-throwing, received much attention in the Israeli media as well as in the Palestinian media.

Many comments and statements were made regarding this video by Israeli officials, including by the Israeli minister of internal affairs, Eli Yishai; no comments were published by Palestinian officials.

On Dec. 10, after the incident, Israeli media reported that Eli Yishai continued his extremely violent remarks and statements against Arabs, in addition to his call to "wipe out Gaza and demolish it"; Yishai also called for facilitating open live fire on Palestinian demonstrators and the use of maximum fire against them.

As a result of the incitement campaign, Palestinian teenager Mohammad al-Salaymeh was shot dead by an Israeli soldier in Hebron on Wednesday, his 17th birthday.

The Israeli newspapers published colored photos of the 20-year-old killer. In an interview with Israel Radio, she said "I was implementing the orders", orders which Shaul Mofaz and Eli Yishai were demanding in the last few days.

Yishai’s recent remarks and statements were not the first, not only against Palestinians, but against Lebanon and others.

Earlier this year, he made very racist statements against African migrants.

On June 3, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the interior minister said migrants do not recognize that Israel "belongs to the white man."

After the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that "their presence in Israel is very grave and threatens the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity", Yishai described the migrants as "cancer". He also said "most African refugees are criminals; they should be jailed or placed in detention facilities".

During the last aggression against Gaza, Yishai stated: "The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then, will Israel be calm for forty years". He was also quoted as saying, “We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water".

In his speech during his first-ever visit to the Gaza Strip, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said he would not legitimize the Israeli occupation, "We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation, no matter how long it will take."

Mashaal, who reiterated on many occasions that he accepts the two-state solution, and accepts a Palestinian state in the land occupied during the 1967 war, confirmed that "We’ve tried negotiations and politics for more than 20 years … let’s review the political program".

Hamas’ leader also said: "There are different types of struggle -- political, diplomatic, public, and legal, etc. -- but they are worthless without the resistance."

"We do not fight Jews because they are Jews, but we fight Zionists, because they are occupiers and abusers," Mashaal said.

With regard to what Mashaal said in Gaza, most of the world media have published that; comments were mostly criticizing and condemning what he said. The EU didn’t wait long to issue a statement criticizing his rhetoric.

It is worth noting that when Mashaal spoke about resistance, he mentioned all kinds of resistance, which is backed by international law against any occupation force, but he never threatened that he would wipe out Israel like Yishai threatened Gaza.

When Mashaal emphasized that he wouldn't give any legitimacy to the Israeli occupation, he didn't cross any red line, as it is believed that no country in the world would legitimize any occupation anywhere in the world.

About recognizing or not recognizing Israel, Mashaal's recognition will not change the fact that Israel exists, it doesn’t need his recognition; what about recognizing Palestine?

Many of those countries attacking Mashaal's speech or attitudes do not recognize Palestine, they don’t recognize the Palestinian rights at all, and some of them were inciting other countries not to recognize or support Palestinians in their bid for observer status, not even a real state.

Mashaal, who does not occupy any official position in the Palestinian Authority, reflects in his statements his representation of the Hamas movement which is part of the Palestinian political spectrum; he does not reflect the official position of the PLO or the PA; but what about Eli Yishai's statements and provocations? Yishai is part of the Israeli government and represents the official position of the State of Israel.

The Muslim cleric said "we will not recognize Israel", he didn't say we will wipe out Israel. The Jewish cleric said "we must wipe out and demolish Gaza''; there is a difference between the two statements.

Imagine if Mashaal had said we must wipe out and demolish Tel Aviv, what would be the reaction of Israel and the world?

What if any Palestinian, Arab or even Westerner, described the Israeli Jews as cancer? And what if anybody, whoever, wherever, dared to say most Jews of the world are criminals and should be jailed or placed in detention centers.

The speech of the leader of Hamas was circulated to the world media, and was widely published, and of course the Israeli propaganda machine used it as a "weapon" against Palestinians.

Palestinians wonder how many satellite channels or media outlets dare to publish the racist statements and threats of the Israeli Minister of Internal Affairs Eli Yishai.

The language used in the EU statement regarding Israel's plans to build new colonies in E1 was so weak and empty; Israel's supporters and Jewish lobbies in EU countries succeeded in making the statement so shallow and no more than a declarative statement.

In fact, the statement reflects how this bloc -- the EU -- bows to Israeli pressure and how the language used considered every single word or phrase when dealing with issues related to Israel. But when it is related to the Palestinians, the EU and other Western countries never hesitate to use the most powerful phrases and terms in the dictionaries of their languages; what can this be called? Is it hypocrisy or cowardice?

The author is a Palestinian writer and journalist based in Bethlehem.
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