The Israel-Palestine Conflict

The times really are a-changing

The cross-party motion, an unusual demonstration of unity against Israeli policy, follows calls in Germany to being Hamas into the political process.

The German parliament is due to back a rare cross-party motion later on Thursday demanding that Israel lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip immediately, in an unusual demonstration of unity against Israeli policy.

The motion by lawmakers in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, her coalition partners the Free Democrats (FDP), and the main center-left opposition parties follows calls from Germany that Hamas, which controls Gaza, should be brought into the negotiating process.

Following the Nazi genocide of European Jews in World War II, Germany’s main political parties have staunchly supported Israel. They have also strongly criticized Hamas, an Islamist group which refuses to recognize Israel.

However, the 2008 Israeli invasion and blockade of Gaza sparked criticism of Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist organization and refuses to negotiate with it.

“The living conditions of the civilian population of Gaza must be urgently improved,” said the German motion, adding that the blockade – which the government has already said should be ended – was counterproductive and did not help to make Israel safer.

In response to Western criticism, Israel has eased the land blockade of Gaza where 1.5 million Palestinians live, allowing most civilian goods through, while continuing to enforce a naval embargo of the coastal territory.

The German parliamentary initiative also urges Merkel’s government to press for a resumption of peace talks in the region.

“The motion will be adopted. There’s no doubt,” Rainer Stinner, foreign policy spokesman for the FDP, told Reuters.

In parliament, only the Left Party did not help to draft the motion, but the far-left grouping would also support it, said its foreign policy spokesman Wolfgang Gehrcke. “This marks a profound shift in policy towards Israel in Germany, in my view,” he said.

This week, the opposition center-left Social Democrats (SPD) said dialogue with Hamas now looked inevitable due to support for them in Gaza, and the FDP’s Stinner agreed.

“If you want to achieve anything in the Gaza Strip, you can’t get around making contact with Hamas,” he said.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) were more guarded about the prospect of dealing with Hamas, saying the organization had failed to renounce violence unequivocally or recognize Israel.

However, they did not rule out talks categorically.

Ruprecht Polenz, a senior CDU lawmaker and head of the Bundestag’s foreign policy committee, said Hamas hoped to exploit talks to obtain international recognition.

“It doesn’t necessarily follow from this that you shouldn’t speak to Hamas at all,” he said. “But it follows you shouldn’t talk to them in a way which raises their international standing – unless they show a substantial change in their position.”

I prefer “Deutschland Uber Alles”

From Bilin

Dozens suffer from tear gas inhalation in Bil’in Friday 2 July 2010

Today the people of Bil’in were joined by internationals and Israelis in the weekly demonstration against the illegal apartheid wall that has stolen more than half of Bil’ins land. About 150 protestors carried out the message to the Palestinian leaders, expressing the need for unification, bringing a large banner showing a picture of Arafat and Yaseen together. The popular committee in Bil’in, represented by Iyad Burnat said there is a need for the Palestinians to unite to resist Israel’s illegal occupation. He welcomes internationals, this time a group from the “Palestine Summer Encounter” and others who want to show solidarity with the people of Bil’in and Palestine. Burnat stressed the fact that many people are coming from abroad to show support, and urged the Palestinian leaders to focus on solidarity instead of causing more suffering for their people.

The protesters went together singing, some dancing and saying slogans up to the wall. There the soldiers were waiting on the other side, and the protest went on for about ten minutes before soldiers started shooting tear gas and sound grenades into the crowd, and into the farm land. As people were moving towards the village, tear gas continued to be shot, and dozens of people suffered from inhalation. Soldiers crossed the gate, chasing the protesters towards the village; still they did not manage to arrest anyone.

Heat from tear gas canisters and sound grenades set fire to the dry ground several places. The smoke and the gas forced people further back, and in spite of the non violence and retreat the soldiers continued shooting. Ammunition causing fire is a serious problem this time of the year, when the ground is dry. Many olive trees have seen severe damage, with the result of dead trees and less olives to harvest.

Conjurers and scarecrows

The scarecrow

There is a long tradition of frightening people over the release of terrorists. The suggestion of talking to the Palestine Liberation Organization was once an especially frightening scarecrow, as was the establishment of a Palestinian state.

By Gideon Levy

Our landscape is strewn with monuments, but there is one thing we have even more of: scarecrows. That sorry, ridiculous rag doll, hands stretched wide in a helpless gesture, intended to frighten (birds ). In recent years the birds have begun to fear the scarecrows less and less; they realize it’s just a trick. But in Israel, it’s the people who the scarecrows frighten, even the people who themselves put them up. The politicians and the generals invent the dolls to frighten, at home and abroad, until they themselves grow fearful of them, just like the Golem of Prague. The latest scarecrow: the release of terrorists “with blood on their hands.”

The dreadful numbers are being conjured up: The prisoners who were released in the past killed Jews again. The conclusion: no to a Shalit swap. But this is just another scarecrow. Terror ended after the Palestinian leadership came to the conclusion that it does not help move anything forward, and because Palestinian society is bleeding and desperate. Until the next generation of fighters grows up, there will be no significant terror – whether jailed terrorists go free or not. Even the term “blood on their hands” is only intended to daub the scarecrow with war paint. Both sides have blood on their hands – and we had better not compare whose hands are more stained.

There is a long tradition of frightening people over the release of terrorists. The suggestion of talking to the Palestine Liberation Organization was once an especially frightening scarecrow, as was the establishment of a Palestinian state. Abie Nathan went to jail for months because of his contacts with the PLO, yet later on five prime ministers spoke to the organization’s leaders and the PLO became Israel’s pet partner. Those who supported a Palestinian state were once considered traitors, until all of Israel, from Bibi to Tibi, began advocating this solution. The latest scarecrow is talks with Hamas, which quite closely resembles its predecessor.

Before Operation Cast Lead, we created the fear of Hamas arming itself, of Iranian weapons being smuggled through the tunnels and of Al-Qaida cells being established in the Gaza Strip. That all collapsed like a house of cards with the Israel Defense Forces’ brutal campaign, which encountered no real military resistance. Where were the Iranian weapons? Where was the arming? It was all a scarecrow.

And when every teenage boy with a pipe bomb is considered a “senior Hamas man,” and every armed man labeled the head of the military wing of Islamic Jihad, the country floods with scarecrows of our own making. A whole system of government and security propaganda, alongside the frightening chorus of the media with its abundance of pundits with an agenda, have seen to it that we never miss one fear-mongering campaign.

The song of the scarecrow also warned against lifting the blockade on Gaza, until it fell silent and nothing happened. Remember the roadblocks; for years they told us that the daily hindering and humiliating of tens of thousands of people were essential to security. Most of the roadblocks were eventually lifted and look what happened – the fear-mongering collapsed and nothing happened.

Right before the disengagement we erected another scarecrow: the specter of civil war. The evacuation of settlers will lead to bloodshed; Zo Artzeinu will block roads and paralyze the economy. But nothing of the sort happened. And yet the scarecrow did not give up: The fear of the settlers still hangs over our heads. Every successive government has been afraid of that paper tiger.

Looking for more? We were told that the withdrawal from Sinai would be a disaster; better Sharm al-Sheikh without peace, otherwise we’ll be left with a piece of paper. That died, too. But then another scarecrow was resurrected: Evacuating the Golan will lead to mortal danger. The Syrians will dangle their feet in the Kinneret. But the cold feet here were ours: Sowing that fear was enough to avoid reaching a peace agreement with the Syrians. When that scarecrow topples as well, no one will ask what we were afraid of – just like we were afraid for no reason for so many years of another scarecrow: withdrawal from Lebanon. The whole world wants to destroy us, another scarecrow.

And on the domestic front, we have also put up quite a few scarecrows: from “Israel is drying up” to swine flu. Remember the fear of the plague and the horrific descriptions of hospitals falling apart?

And finally, perhaps the threat that Iran is going to drop a nuclear bomb on Israel – despite all of Israel’s deterrent strength – will also reveal itself to be a hollow weapon. After all, with our history, we cannot tell the difference between a scarecrow and a true threat. Meanwhile, experience reveals, hands down, that this country is awash in many more dangerous scarecrows.

Dutch to declare January 1-December 31 (excepting December 25) “Holocaust Remembrance Days”; replica of Auschwitz to be built on every city block; microwaves to be stamped “Remember the Holocaust!”

“The main problem relating to anti-Semitism is the lack of education.”

A Dutch police initiative to go undercover as Jews to combat anti-Semitism will be futile unless it is backed by a greater emphasis on education within the Dutch public, Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands Binyomin Jacobs said on Monday.

“The main problem relating to anti-Semitism is the lack of education,” Jacobs said in a statement. “Today, there are many schools which simply skip the lessons relating to World War II and the Holocaust, since many teachers and principals fear a negative reaction from pupils who are from Muslim backgrounds.”
“It is too easy, however, to blame the Muslim community, when I have witnessed Dutch non-Muslim youngsters also shouting at me in the street,” Jacobs added.

Jacobs also stressed that alongside the rising anti- Semitism in the Netherlands, “there are many Dutch people who openly sympathize with the Jewish People.”

While noting that all new initiatives to combat anti- Semitism were welcome, Jacob recommended that the Dutch national and local governments “organize rabbis or volunteers from the Jewish community to visit schools so that the students will be able to meet us and talk to us.”

What will Israel do then? Shoot the thousands approaching the fence?…One can already envision the headlines calling for the dismantling of the walls of the world’s largest prison. And just as the flotilla forced us to remove the economic blockade, so such demonstrations will break the limitations of Palestinian free movement, and force Israel to open the crossings to human movement as well….As Israel sees it, exporting from Gaza is a red line today. Strengthening the economy means strengthening and shoring up Hamas’s rule, and this is liable to obscure the distinction between Gaza and the West Bank. In the Israeli view, the West Bank must prosper and Gaza must wither, so that the Palestinians understand which is preferable.

Yedioth’s military reporter, with good ‘internal’ sources analyses the Gaza Blockade “easings” and gives his forecast

Preparing for Exports, Too/ Falling from One Pit into Another

Yedioth Ahronoth (25.6.2010 p. 8) by Alex Fishman – It is already possible to plan the headline for the next trap Israel is about to fall into in Gaza: “Palestinians on the Fence.” The phenomenon is expanding, but we have not yet begun to regard it as a threat. And the scenario of the Turkish flotilla will be played out once again bit by bit. Israel knew about the flotilla for months, yet understood nothing of it. They thought it was another group of peace activists with Scandinavian manners, maybe just a bit bigger. And this is the precise attitude these days concerning events alongside the fence in Gaza.

For several weeks now demonstrations have been held by Gazan civilians, mostly youth, women and children, along the separation fence. Sometimes these are a few dozens, sometimes several hundred, on occasion in one spot only, and sometimes scattered over several locations — but in each demonstration the same format is certain to be followed: the demonstrators attempt to enter the area Israel has defined as a “special security area” — a strip of 300 to 500 meters on the Palestinian side of the separation fence.

The procedure states the following: when a Palestinian enters this area he is shot, if there is a concern about explosives, ambushes, or a kidnapping attempt across the separation fence.

Like the flotillas, the demonstrations began earlier this year, fairly innocently: a farmer from Beit Hanoun organized a protest along with his family and neighbors, because he had not been allowed to cultivate his lands along the fence. An activist with the Popular Front in Rafah decided to appropriate the idea and established a popular movement concerning these lands. Then the idea grew, became institutionalized, became more violent, and each time the demonstrators become a bit more daring, and provoked the troops just a little bit more. Sometimes Hamas authorizes these demonstrations, and sometimes it intervenes to stop them.

The IDF has now developed a “removal from fence procedure,” which commences with smoke grenades and evolves into warning shots. Sometimes this escalates to a grenade aimed directly at the demonstrators. The Palestinians have already reported on dead and several wounded in one such event, and when the military began to realize that things were only getting worse, in view of the fact that troops started to find themselves firing on civilians, warning pamphlets were distributed, in which the forbidden areas were marked.

In recent weeks the demonstrations have been covered by several media outlets, and European anarchists, who have made it through the Rafah crossing, have been taking part. And if until the flotilla Israel thought that this was an imitation of the Bilin demonstrations, so now the penny has dropped: the demonstrations are part of the battle cry that Hamas has been promulgating regularly through el-Aksa television: Break the Siege.

The worst case scenario is that the demonstrations will get continuously worse. The Palestinians will cause more provocations, the IDF will respond with fire, civilians will be killed and wounded, and the world will fail to accept, fail to understand, just as it failed to accept or understand the assault on the Turkish flotilla in international waters. It could even expand from this point, and reach the point of thousands of Palestinians storming the fence, just as was the case in Rafah, last year.

What will Israel do then? Shoot the thousands approaching the fence?

Northern Encirclement

Two years back Hamas also spoke about staging “demonstrations of the hungry” at the crossings, and Israel became concerned that thousands of civilians would storm the Erez crossing. Several demonstrations did in fact take place near the Erez crossings, the IDF fired shots — and people were wounded. Then too, Israel had no idea what it would do if the violence spread and instead of several dozen, several thousand would attempt to storm the fence.

This failed to materialize. International opinion was favorable at the time, Israel got the support of the American administration, and the United States of George Bush showed absolutely no leniency, which could be construed as weakness or obsequiousness on the part of the Arab world. We were the good guys, Hamas the bad. What’s more Kassam rockets were still falling.

And what’s more: negotiations were underway with the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s position was completely different.

The security establishment misses such days, or to put it as Ehud Barak did behind closed doors: had the Turkish flotilla taken place two years ago, international response to Israel’s actions would be far more comprehending.

This week, while visiting the United States, Barak attempted to rehabilitate Israel’s standing. The defense minister is pressing for a return to peace negotiations, mostly on the Syrian track, and it was no mere chance that he arrived in Washington when he did. These days there is a debate in the White House as to the next phase in American Middle East strategy, with many of Obama’s advisors pushing for a rapprochement with Bashar Assad, in order abet the American withdrawal from Iraq next year and in order to distance the Syrians from Iran.

The renewal of talks between Israel and Syria is part of this strategy, and in the American National Security Council there are those pushing for a major move with the Syrians and only minor continuations with the Palestinians. Barak arrived at Washington in order to put his weight in this debate. He believes that Netanyahu, in the present coalition, will have an easier time advancing with the Syrians than with the Palestinians.

The IDF General Staff also believes that the Syrians should be challenged by a dilemma of returning to negotiations, and senior sources in the IDF have taken this a step further: that Turkey should reassume its role in mediation. This will ease tensions, and allow everybody to get off their high horses. Israel, say such sources, has things to offer: the Golan Heights have already been returned to the Syrians, in one form or another, by every prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin, and in exchange Israel will demand a Syrian disengagement from Iran, without saying this explicitly in the first stage of negotiations.

So the military wants this, the defense minister wants this, no small part of Obama’s National Security Council wants this — but special US envoy Mitchell thinks this is a mistake, and that the Palestinian track ought to be the central one. In the course of his most recent visit, as part of the ongoing proximity talks, he left behind for both parties a questionnaire containing sixteen identical questions concerning the core issues. He was expecting to receive Yes and No answers to them, as in the American testing system.

But Israel failed the test. Instead of answering Yes and No, each question was answered with a question of our own.

And thus, the proximity talks are limping along, and appear to be beckoning for a presidential initiative that will serve only to weaken the Netanyahu government even further. So now we’re trying to go back to the “Syria first” idea.

On the weekend Barak returned from the heights of strategic thought over in Washington to the depths of tactical maneuvering here in Jerusalem, and he will now have to make far more practical decisions. For example, what one must do to avoid yet another fall into a Hamas-set trap. If Israel neglects events taking place by the fence, it is clear that we will be heading into a trap. Israel will again enter an international ring of pressure and be portrayed around the world as a force preventing the free movement of innocent Palestinian farmers.

One can already envision the headlines calling for the dismantling of the walls of the world’s largest prison. And just as the flotilla forced us to remove the economic blockade, so such demonstrations will break the limitations of Palestinian free movement, and force Israel to open the crossings to human movement as well.

Of Lists and Lines

As of today, free movement along the crossings is a red line, and when a government declares a red line this is a clear sign that a day will come when its positions change and that the lines will be relocated. Therefore, an experienced statesman such as Tony Blair remains unimpressed by such red lines. Just as he remains unimpressed by the fact that half of the principles laid down for Israel by the Quartet were rejected.

So true, meanwhile there has been no opening of the crossings for human movement, civilian sector projects in Gaza have not been authorized, the Karni crossing is not to be opened, and no additional crossings are to be opened, international observers are not to be placed at the crossings, and the agreement to open the Rafah crossing by Israel, Egypt and Palestinian along with international observers has not returned to its previous status — but Israel has significantly expanded the quantity of goods entering the Gaza Strip, the crossings are operating at higher capacity, and construction is to be allowed in the Gaza Strip (though only under the tutelage of international organizations, committed to giving reports and supervision). For this purpose, Israel will allow the entry of raw materials such as metal, cement, etc., and more importantly: Netanyahu has accepted the principle of formulating a list of what may not enter Gaza, rather than a list of what may enter.

On the list of forbidden materials there are still a few thousand items. According to international charters a country may prevent only the entry of military goods, and regarded as such are sensors, lasers, computers, communication equipment, compasses, GPS gadgets, and so forth. And there is also a military decree from 2008 concerning material that cannot be entered into the West Bank, which is to be in place also in Gaza. Here the issue is dozens of basic and compound chemicals, which could be used as explosives. And as if this were not enough, also optical lenses, parachutes, surf-gliders, water motorcycles, engines for water gear of over 25 horse power, diving equipment, spare parts for workshops, and metal pipes over 50 millimeters in diameter. And the list goes on.

But as in the case of the red lines, neither does this long list fail to sink the mood of the Quartet envoy. Lists are destined to shrink.

On Tuesday Blair arrived at the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main crossing for goods into the Gaza Strip, in order to revel in the diplomatic achievement he had scored on the pages of history: the removing of the blockade and saving Gaza’s civilians from starvation and humanitarian crisis. The cilantro lie was able to cause the world’s heart to tremble, and the British gentleman arrived and took the pot.

The sun’s rays beat down on the working fields of the Kerem Shalom crossing, a dry wind spread sand all around the grounds, the men surrounding him are red-eyed and dripping of sweat, and he in a jacket, as fresh as the morning dew, frolicking easily across the area, and charming everyone with his grace, from the profound briefing by Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, all the way to a friendly conversation with Palestinian workers at the crossing, taking interest in office equipment, papers, coconut bags, the toys, the Chinese-made utensils, the Israeli manufactured food — all of which was to go through the crossing that day, and packed with the destination statement: “Gaza — Palestine.”

From there Blair moves on to the media outlets, with the movement of trucks in the background. Blair assumes the appropriate pose of the leader on the field. And still not so much as a drop of sweat. The man is a media-machine. Not a single mistake made.

In a conversation with the coordinator of government activities in the territories he wanted to hear a clear commitment, to get as many trucks loaded with goods into Gaza and as quick as possible. How many trucks a day can you get done, he asks. Two hundred and fifty, responds Dangot. So how quickly will you make it to 250? Blair presses on. A few weeks, responds Dangot.

And Blair does not let up, and strikes the iron still hot. A few moments later he declares the bottom line, and tells the world that Israel has given its commitment that it will allow 250 trucks to enter the Kerem Shalom crossing each day. Now we can start figuring out how the heck we are going to honor this commitment, in view of the fact that the Palestinians are not at all interested in receiving that many goods.

On Tuesday, the first day of the lifting of the blockade, 4,500 tons of fuel, animal feed, construction material, on 130 trucks entered the Gaza Strip. Prior to this there were 3,000 tons being carried to Gaza Strip, and according to the commitments given to Blair Israel will have to reach 9,000. Far beyond what the Palestinian economy is capable of using. What’s more, the Gazan economy has developed substitutes for many materials, some of which are cheaper. When the gasoline coming through the tunnels from Egypt cost NIS 2 per liter, who needs the costly Israeli fuel?

Crowding the Gazan economy with Israeli goods will cause an economic war in the strip. The crossings threaten the smuggling industry, which have made the southern Gaza Strip — Khan Yunis and Rafah — the most affluent area, whereas the north has become poorer. It seems that Israeli goods will make it only to the north, and the south will maintain its monopoly on “imports” from Egypt.

This is also the root of the concern that the nouveaux riches people from the south will attempt to strike the crossings. And beyond this, there is growing view in Gaza that states: why are we consuming Israeli food? While our brethren in the West Bank are boycotting Israeli products.

Incidentally, during the first days after the blockade was broken, the big hit was not food but rather spare parts for cars. This week Israel will finally get rid of goods arriving on the flotilla. Hamas agreed, out of the goodness of its heart, to receive them.

Exports Too

What about the next stage of your plan to break the blockade, I ask.

Blair looks at me as if he doesn’t understand the question.

I am referring to the stage of exporting goods from the Gaza Strip. If Israel lets in raw materials, Gaza will want to export fruits and vegetables as well as goods from light industries, which atrophied in the last three years and 95% of which are shut down.

We are thinking about this, he replied.

So what is the plan, I ask again. Blair smiles, doesn’t fall into the trap: you’re the expert, you make a recommendation, I’m just a politician.

The truth is, the Quartet states already have a very concrete plan for the next stage: international pressure on Israel so that it also allows the export of goods from the Gaza Strip. True, Blair counts trucks as a symbol, but what truly interests him is reviving the Gaza economy and the professional figures who cooked up for him the ideas for breaking the blockade are now preparing papers for a breakthrough also in the opposite direction.

It will go more or less like this: at first, Israel will agree to allow the exit of agricultural products, which were also allowed out, although in small amounts, even during the blockade. In the second stage, Israel will agree to the export of consumer goods from Gaza.

As Israel sees it, exporting from Gaza is a red line today. Strengthening the economy means strengthening and shoring up Hamas’s rule, and this is liable to obscure the distinction between Gaza and the West Bank. In the Israeli view, the West Bank must prosper and Gaza must wither, so that the Palestinians understand which is preferable.

But the nature of red lines, as we’ve said, is to fade and to shift, and if Israel does not begin also to prepare for exports, it will be forced into doing this, too.

When in doubt, say “Auschwitz”

Turkey has barred an Israeli military flight from Turkish airspace, in apparent retaliation for Israel’s raid on an aid convoy bound for Gaza.

Turkey’s prime minister confirmed that a “ban” had been implemented after the raid, which left eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-US citizen dead.

Military flight bans are now being considered on a case-by-case basis, Turkish officials said.

The banned flight was carrying Israeli officers to Poland to tour Auschwitz.

The plane was denied permission to cross Turkish airspace and was therefore forced to fly an alternative route.

Meanwhile, Israel’s commission of inquiry into the flotilla raid opened on Monday.
Diplomatic fall-out

A senior Turkish foreign ministry official told the BBC there was now an official policy in place of banning Israeli military aircraft from Turkish airspace, but on a case-by-case basis.

He said it was not necessarily a blanket ban, but would depend of the kind of flight and the state of relations between Turkey and Israel at the time.

The official said this particular flight was banned purely because it had been the first such request from Israel and had nothing to do with the nature of the flight.

Civilian flights are unaffected.

Reports first surfaced in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot that an Israeli military cargo plane, carrying more than 100 officers on their way to Auschwitz, was barred from Turkish airspace.

At the G20 summit in Toronto, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was asked by a reporter if the ban was related to the flotilla raid.

Mr Erdogan confirmed that “we started the ban after these events”, according to a report by Turkish news agency Anatolia.

The Israeli raid on the aid flotilla drew international condemnation.

The six-ship flotilla was trying to break a blockade of Gaza that Israel says is needed to prevent weapons reaching militants in the territory.

Israeli commandos descended from helicopters on to the largest ship, the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara, in international waters about 130km (80 miles) from the Israeli coast.

The activists say the commandos started shooting as soon as they hit the deck. Israeli officials say the commandos fired in self-defence.
PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the G20 summit PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the ban at the G20 summit

Turkey reacted angrily to the raid, withdrawing its ambassador and cancelling joint military exercises.

It wants an apology from Israel and an international investigation.

Israel has refused to co-operate with an independent international inquiry. Its own inquiry opened on Monday.

Commission head Jacob Turkel said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would appear, as would the defence minister and military chief of staff.

There are two international observers.

Song of The Day

From a South Korean correspondent

Dutch police to undergo mandatory circumcision and will expose their traumatized “members” in public

AMSTERDAM – A hidden-camera video showing Jews being harassed on the street in a Moroccan neighborhood of Amsterdam has led Dutch authorities to consider combating hate crimes with “decoy Jews” — undercover police officers wearing yarmulkes.

Enthusiasm for the unusual idea is a sign of the ongoing tension between the Muslim minority and the rest of the Dutch population over issues of immigration and crime.

The idea of using “decoy Jews” to detect and arrest bigots has been embraced by both a prominent Moroccan politician and by Amsterdam’s acting mayor, who is Jewish. Law enforcement officials say the idea is feasible but would only be of limited practical use due to entrapment concerns.

“It’s important that it not provoke any intent to commit a criminal act that wasn’t there in the first place,” Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin told parliament in a debate Thursday night on how to combat discrimination.

Of course “it would be wrong to consider wearing a yarmulke itself a provocation,” he said.

The idea of using police disguised as Jews was first mooted by member of parliament Ahmed Marcouch in a speech earlier this month.

“We’ve done similar things with other kinds of crime,” he said. “I’ll act as a decoy Jew myself if necessary.”

But the idea gathered momentum after the hidden-camera video aired on television last week. It was produced by the Joodse Omroep, a small Jewish broadcaster that gets an allotted amount of airtime each month on Dutch public TV stations.

For the video, two youths and a Rabbi wearing yarmulkes went walking in a primarily Moroccan neighborhood in Amsterdam. The footage showed them quickly being subjected to a range of ill-treatment, from dirty looks to insults — and even, from one man, a Nazi salute.

Decoy Jews are “not a solution to fighting anti-Semitism in general,” said Ronny Naftaniel, the head of the Center for Information and Documentation Israel, a pro-Jewish group that has lobbied for the idea.

“But they could be used to fight a certain aspect: that Orthodox Jews are becoming unable to walk in public without being afraid of intimidation,” he said.

Naftaniel said the main problem in policing hate speech crimes is that they are difficult to prove after the fact. With an undercover agent, offenders would be caught instantly, he said.

The number of instances of reported anti-Semitism in Amsterdam rose in 2009 from the previous year, according to government data, from 17 to 41. Discrimination cases on the basis of skin color or country of origin rose from 232 to 336 in the same period, while anti-gay cases rose to 89 from 55.

But those rises may reflect a public campaign encouraging people to report hate crimes. Hirsch Ballin told parliament Thursday police had seen no real increase in anti-Semitism.

“The number of incidents rises and falls, and is connected to tensions in the Middle East,” he said.

He promised to devote more resources to investigating hate crimes, as well as to more education in schools and a quicker legal process for discrimination-linked cases.

His spokesman Wim van der Weegen said Friday that it would be up to individual prosecutors to decide whether or not they wanted to use decoy Jews. He said such sting operations need be approved in advance by a judge.

Using surveillance cameras in certain areas is another option, Van der Weegen said.

Amsterdam Mayor Lodewijk Asscher told a local television station this week he was open to the idea of using decoy Jews and other “unorthodox methods” to combat racism and homophobia.

However, his spokeswoman, Tessel Schouten, said Friday the city doesn’t yet have any specific plans to do so.