Celebrating Hanukkah, and Christmas, at a Druze Department Store Near Nazareth

Dec. 10 2018

Israel’s two Merkaza department stores boast an enormous selection of goods, competitive prices, and attentive customer service inspired, according to a spokesman, by the Druze ethic of hospitality instilled by Mounhal Hamoud and his son, the Druze who own and operate the stores. To Dore Feith, Merkaza represents something more profound than an example of economic vitality in the Jewish state:

This week, [the elder] Hamoud joined the mayor of Upper Nazareth—a mixed Jewish and Arab city in the lower Galilee that neighbors the all-Arab village of Nazareth—in lighting the first candle of Hanukkah in the Merkaza store that serves both cities. The Druze proprietor and the secular Jewish mayor were joined at the holiday celebration by a few other secular Jews, a handful of Orthodox Jews, and several dozen Arabs—some Muslim and others Christian. Several feet away stood an ornamented Christmas tree and advertisements for the store’s Christmas festival.

I watched an Arab Merkaza employee wish entering customers ḥag sameaḥ (the Hebrew holiday greeting) and distribute traditional Hanukkah candy and jelly donuts, while women in hijabs photographed their children bobbing to Hanukkah music alongside a dancing girl in a dreidel costume. Jewish musicians played Hanukkah classics while passing by tables laden with chocolate Santas and miniature Christmas trees. It was a sweet scene of casual, happy interaction among Jews and Arabs of various religions. It was not the standard image of violent intercommunal hostility that predominates in foreign news accounts of Israel.

What the Hamoud family has added to social health and tranquility in the lower Galilee is not accounted for in GDP calculations or economic analyses. But it is palpable and rich. They deserve credit for modeling how a business can give its customers material goods, but also goodness that transcends the material.

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More about: Druze, Hanukkah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli Christians, Israeli society

The Riots on the Gaza Border are Carefully Coordinated Attacks on Israel, and Should Be Treated as Such

Jan. 16 2019

On Friday, the weekly riots at the Gaza security fence resumed in full force: 13,000 people participated, and a Palestinian woman was apparently killed by Israeli gunfire. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) had established a commission of inquiry in May, not long after these riots began, “to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human-rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, . . . particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on March 20, 2018.” In a report to the commission, Richard Kemp, a retired senior British officer, concludes, after investigating the situation at the Gaza border, that there is no evidence whatsoever of Israeli wrongdoing, and that the commission is operating under faulty assumptions:

The terms of [the commission’s] mandate are self-evidently biased against the state of Israel and the IDF. The context cited—“the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests”—make clear that the UNHRC either failed to understand what was happening on the ground or deliberately misrepresented the reality. In addition, the commission’s mandate terms the Gaza Strip “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” which it is not. . . .

[T]he so-called “civilian protests” in reality were, and continue to be, a deliberate military operation, orchestrated and controlled by Hamas, [a] terrorist group that has been waging an armed conflict against Israel for many years. Their intention was and remains to kill and wound IDF soldiers, to break through the border fence, to murder and maim innocent civilians, to destroy property, and to compel the IDF to take defensive action resulting in the death of Gaza civilians for exploitation in the international arena. [Israel’s] “military assaults” were not what was implied by this prejudicial mandate. They were in fact lawful, proportionate, and restrained defensive actions. . . .

Suggestions that these demonstrations are [protests] against Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip are demonstrably false and easily refuted by cursory viewing of Hamas and other public statements made at the time of the events. . . . Further, it is clear that Hamas intended this violence to continue its long-standing strategy of creating and intensifying international outrage, vilification, isolation, and criminalization of the state of Israel and its officials. . . .

[T]he starkest indication that these events were entirely under Hamas control is the simple fact that, when it suited Hamas’s political interests, the [demonstrations] occurred and were of a violent nature, and when such actions did not serve Hamas’s interests, the border was quiet. As the most recent example of this, in November 2018, Qatar began to make large cash payments to Hamas in Gaza. The most recent payment of $15 million was handed over in December 2018. These payments are reportedly part of an agreement with Hamas to diminish violence along the Gaza border. [After] the first payment, the border violence [was] reduced [and the] demonstrations [became] far more restrained.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Laws of war, UNHRC